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Thursday, July 21, 2016
Yoruba Obas’ crowns: The mystic, the taboo
Aside the long staff and horsetail, one important paraphernalia of Yoruba traditional rulers is the crown which affirms and also asserts the monarch’s authority. TUNDE BUSARI, in this piece, examines the history, significance and the making of the crowns.
There are different Yoruba versions of the history of Yoruba Obas’ crown. What the versions, however, share in common is their acknowledgement of the primacy of Ile-Ife as the source of the crown from where other Obas received theirs.
The Olugbo of Ugboland, Oba Frederik Obateru Akinruntan would always declare that his town, which migrated from Ile-Ife, owns the first ancient crown.
Although his claim is open to debate given the fact that Oduduwa, the progenitor of Yoruba race is regarded as the first to wear beaded crown, Oba Akinruntan says his crown predates the arrival of Oduduwa to Ile-Ife.
Regardless of the side the argument swings , the crown is an important insignia of the stool in Yorubaland.
It comes in two types. One, Are Crown, regarded as the ancient one, is worn only by the Ooni of Ife. It is put at coronation and on annual basis. It is also called Adenla and conically shaped and attached with heavily beaded veil that covers the face of the Oba.
According to the Alayemore of Ido-Osun, Oba Aderemi Adedapo, the Are crown is a supreme crown which spiritual essence cannot be over-emphasised. Until certain sacrifice is made, it is not put on the head of the Ooni.
“Another side of it is that it must be worn once in a year. It is important to clarify that it is forbidden not to wear it in a year. In lieu of not wearing it, sacrifice needs to be made also. The Ooni must not see its interior. It is so powerful a crown to be desecrated,” he said.
crownsThe second type is what is commonly seen on traditional rulers at social functions. Sometimes shaped in a Lawyer’s wig, it carries no spiritual importance because it is more of fashion than tradition. Even at that, without a crown on his head, an Oba is not different from his subjects.
Yoruba Obas in Nigeria, Benin Republic and the Diaspora are easily identified with their crown and so revered as a symbol and indeed custodian of custom and tradition.
In one of his articles, Afro-American Art Historian, Robert F. Thompson writes, “the crown incarnates the intuition of royal ancestral force, the revelation of great moral insight in the person of the king, and the glitter of aesthetic experience.”
With crown, complemented by horsetail and a long staff, the Oba is an authority over his subjects who also see him as their royal father whose word is binding on them.
Irrespective of modern system of government which has arguably eroded significant power of traditional ruler and turns them to ceremonial personage; the position of Obas is still sacred to the extent that modern government officials often result to them for grassroot mobilisation.
However wealthy a man is, he is forbidden to wear crown despite the fact that he can afford as many as his appetite demands in his wardrobe. It is against chieftaincy law for one who has not been approved or is not qualified to wear the crown. That is the rule which has survived many generations.
But the flip side is that Obas are not expected to wear their crown everyday. This seeming restriction is recommended to underscore the sacredness of the crown. The evidence of this is seen is in the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Olayiwola Adeyemi, who does not often appear with his crown.
The monarch, widely acclaimed as chief promoter of Yoruba culture and tradition, is rather seen in a cap called abetiaja which sits comfortably on top of his head at both private and public’s functions. The abetiaja has arguably become the Alaafin’s dress code and his identity and signature.
To analysts, the Alaafin’ s act might be informed by his better understanding of all that surround the use of the crown. An analyst revealed that many Obas in Oke-Ogun appear to have taken after the Alaafin in this regard.
The Shabiganna of Iganna, an Oke-Ogun community, Oba Soliu Oyemola, described the crown as a special paraphernalia of the stool which should not be reduced to ordinary cap worn on a daily basis. Oba Ikuomola argues that wearing it to every outing is an abuse of the crown.
“Traditional rulers should always guide against the abuse and desecration of the crown. Crown is what separates an Oba from his chiefs and subjects. The crown is, therefore, synonymous with the stool. Unfortunately,
“it suffers abuse today as you see some traditional rulers putting it on with less regard to its sacredness. It is turned to a fashion and style thing. But we are making effort to let them see reason this should not continue to preserve the significance of the crown,” he said.
As beautiful as the crowns appear on the heads of traditional rulers, only a handful know the details of its making and efforts that go into its beautification.
crowns2Tools used to make crown include, Tape rule, scissors, needle, thread, beads, sharping stone, knife and others. Without the above, crowns cannot be made.
An Ile-Ife-based crown designer, Owojori Asinde, dismissed spiritual connotation of making crown, stressing that he does not need to perform any sacrifice to make a crown. Conducting this writer round his workshop located in Ile-Ife, Asinde made a mock display of how a crown is made and asserted his strict adherence to his Christianity faith.
On the contrary, an important event during the annual Osun Osogbo festival is called Ibo Ade (Sacrifice for the crown). The event includes display of the Ataoja’s crowns of different sizes in the presence of the sitting Ataoja, the Arugba Osun and priestesses who offer prayer in the memory of the past Ataoja and also bless the sitting Ataoja.
The Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun explained that Ibo Ade is an integral part of activities marking the Osun festival, saying that on no account should the event be skipped before the grand finale of the festival which draws thousands of tourists to the town.
“We have to perform Ibo Ade as a matter of obligation. It is about the history of the town and a way to bless the past and present Ataoja. It is done in such a manner that does not attract much attention of the outsider. But there is secrecy in it because people who are supposed to be there must be present,” Oba Olanipekun said.
THE IGBO RANT
BIBLICAL TRADITIONS OF NDI IGBO BEFORE THE MISSIONARIES CAME TO AFRICA* IGBO 101.
THE IGBO TRIBE AND ITS FEAR OF EXTINCTION
The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities
Written by Emeka Maduewesi
~on fb. 28th September, 2016.
The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.
The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.
In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.
Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.
In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.
The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.
Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.
The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.
The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.
The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.
This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.
RT. HON. DR. NNAMDI AZIKIWE TO DR. CHUBA OKADIGBO (1981)
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