The Yoruba world is agog as the newly selected Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi the Ojaja II makes his triumphant entry into the sacred Yoruba town of Ile Ife.
The Ojaja II is the 51st Ooni traced back to Oduduwa in the 11th Century. His ancestors ruled over the ancestors of every single Yoruba person in the world at one time. May his reign be peaceful. Ase.
He lives in peaceful times anyway. He will not have many of the weighty decisions some of his forebears had to make. Besides modernising Ile – Ife and improving the lot of the common Ile Ife man and woman he will have to finely balance sacred ancient traditions with recently acquired foreign beliefs and customs.
Once he can manage that and keep the Modakeke people happy as well, he’s home free.
What would have been this young new king’s role had his coronation been during the period from the 16th to the 18th century?
Back in the day, kings were overthrown for being seen as weak ( Oba Ajaka was said to have been ” deposed because he lacked Yoruba military virtue and allowed his sub-chiefs too much independence.”) – Peoples and Empires of West Africa page 291. Communities would have demanded strong warrior kings in a West Africa that was seen by the outside world (both Arab and European) as a hunting ground for slaves.
Oonis, Alaafins and Obas of times past took decisions like obtaining firearms, calvary, war strategies, preemptive slave raiding, defensive and offensive sacking of perceived and real enemy communities, extracting tributes both human and material; joining forces against common enemies etc etc. Life or death or slavery matters.
Since the colonial times, the role of Obas in Yoruba society has been much diminished, with some Obas disgraced, exiled by the colonising forces, stripped of their authority, made examples of and demystified. Through it all the Yoruba people still believe in their Obas and continue to hold them in high regard despite frequent social media aided exposes of their human frailties.