A video showing a mild drama between the Ooni of Ife and the Oba of Lagos surfaced online wherein the latter snubbed the courtesies extended to him by the former. I’m aghast by the public show of ridicule and disregard.
What Oba Akiolu did is shameful and unworthy of royalty. That he even did that to the Ooni Adimula is sacrilegious and more alarming. However, Oba Akiolu did not embarrass the Ooni in my opinion. He embarrassed himself and brought his own stool into ridicule. While I concede that we do not know what may have transpired between both before now and the need to give Oba Akiolu a fair hearing, I make bold to say that irrespective of whatever got on Eleko’s nerves, he behaved badly and his conduct was extremely disrespectful to the cradle of Yoruba race.
There was another King from a different tribe right in their middle (report says the king is the Obi of Onitsha), who greeted the Ooni warmly and saw everything that transpired. What must he thinking at that point? I bet he would have retorted that:”Oh boy, did Oba Akiolu just did keep me Eden Hazard against Manchester United to the Ooni of Ife”? Abomination! Couldn’t Akiolu have kept his anger to when he and the Ooni were alone? By his actions he has insulted his own crown and brought ridicule to his office.
Folks have argued that the Ooni should have simply avoided exchanging courtesies with anyone entirely and should have gone straight to the seat provided for him. That line of argument is not entirely fair to the Ooni in my opinion. Yes he’s a primus inter pares when it comes to Yoruba monarchs, yes he’s the reference point as he sits on the cradle of Yoruba race, yes he’s widely respected within and outside Nigeria but that alone does define a royalty as important as the Ooni of Ife neither does it make a King dignified and worthy. It should be noted that the Obi of Onitsha and the Oba of Lagos were already seated at the event which was the World Conference of Banking Institutes hosted in Lagos yesterday by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).
Three chairs were placed right beside one another; the one on the far right was understandably meant for the Ooni, the middle for the Obi of Onitsha and the one on the left for the Oba of Lagos. That last two were already seated before the Ooni came in. As soon as the Oonirisa came in, he went to where his seat was and while his aides were cleaning the seat, it is only right that he extends courtesies to both Obi of Onitsha and the Oba of Lagos who were already seated. He could have snubbed them while sending emissaries to both saying ‘The Ooni sends his greetings’ and that would have been seen as arrogance befitting his office and status as a god but he didn’t. He showed he was a true royalty who understood the importance of his stool and the need to lead by example to his numerous subjects which includes first class Obas by reaching out in person.
The Obi of Onitsha, a very honourable monarch responded well to his greetings but Baba Fuad (Oba Akiolu) decided to employ the tactics we use with our friends when we have a disagreement over football. Some have also suggested that the Ooni should have greeted the Obi of Onitsha alone and waited for Akiolu to leave his sit to come say ‘Hello’ to him. This is not plausible in my opinion. Both kings were one inch from each other and the Ooni did well to extend to both without leaving anyone out. Had he done that, the cries would have been that the Ooni ignored a fellow, albeit lower, ranked Yoruba Oba (Yes Oba of Lagos is lower rank Oba in Yoruba land. Come and beat me!) and greeted only the Obi of Onitsha who’s not even Yoruba.
So in essence, the Ooni did well. The one who should be ashamed of his conduct is Baba Fuad. I’m all for the Ooni of Ife showing the brashness and arrogance that comes with his stool but lest we not conflate that with the important need for the Ooni to lead with dignity and example and show the smaller kings how not to conduct themselves in public.
What could be the reason for his contemptuous conduct? Some have said the Oba of Lagos is jealous of the Ooni’s status and how he has been received by all and sundry. Of course anyone should be after all he’s younger, more respected, far richer, admiringly savvy, extremely stylish, widely acknowledged and a reference point for the Yoruba nation. Oonirisa just came back from London where he visited Queen Elizabeth and was hosted the Prince Charles and the Duchess, he also met with the Ghana president and King of Ashanti, Ooni signed billion dollars cultural heritage with United Kingdom and yes he also visited the United States and we were all in awe of how he carries his stool. Perhaps we are seeing the effect of these happenings. Who knows?
The only monarch I can compare to the Ooni Ogunwusi in terms of the characteristics I raised is the Emir of Kano. But I don’t want to think the Oba of Lagos his jealous. Nah! I will give the Eleko the benefit of the doubt. In any case, his conduct is reprehensible and should be condemned. Had he sought an audience with Ooni in private to share what is making him angry, this Ooni I’m sure would have listened to him as he only cares about bridging the gap and dismantling the cords of dispute between Yoruba monarchs. Not this public display of contempt which only brings dishonour.
The Ooni of Ife did well to side step his childish tantrums and went on to share a joke with the Obi of Onitsha. That alone is embarrassing in itself for the Oba of Lagos. The Ooni does not need to fight back. He has enough foot soldiers that will stand for him. Respected Obas, Afenifere and respected Yoruba elders must call Oba Akiolu out and demand that he apologise to Ooni Ogunwusi. Knowing Baba Fuad for who he is, that may seem a far call but if anyone deserves that apology, it is the Ooni Adimula.
Regardless of the age of the present occupant, the Ooni’s crown and the stool must be respected by all Oba kerejes (small kings). And no one has displayed that more than President Obasanjo who prostrated before Ooni Ogunwusi to show his respect. If anyone is jealous of his age and affluence, too bad. He is here to stay.
Oba Rilwan Akiolu will surely be paid back in his own coin and when that happens, we will reconvene to debate the appropriateness or otherwise.
Bakare lives in Washington DC. He tweets at @Backarray