… OR JUST A FRAUD?
… Written by Crown-creed Comfortina
It all started about 2 weeks ago, when on social media (Facebook in particular), it was “announced” from the grapevine that the highest ranked traditional ruler of the Yorubas, the Ooni of Ife, Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse IIhas died in a hospital in the United Kingdom. In a swift response to the “rumour”, the Ife Royal Traditional Council through an official statement vehemently denied it.
Sadly what many people fail to realize and quickly come to terms with is that these days social media has now assumed the number one spot for the phenomenon known in our news infested world as “Breaking News!”.
Lately, most of the important news about whoever and whatever gets to be heard first on the so called new media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsup, Instagram etc. Once it leaks on to any of these platforms, it is only a matter time before its authenticity or otherwise is confirmed by those involved and in some instances details added.
Traditional media (Radio, Television, Newspapers etc) is forced to take second place in informing the populace of anything “Breaking” now, which often comes from them hours or days later than such news has become broken and spread on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
Thus, as with many newsworthy cases before it, the truth about the death of the Yoruba king was only a matter of time and soon it was formally confirmed on Wednesday August 12 by the royal palace of Ife that indeed their Oba has passed on to join his ancestors. Again as is tradition, the royal icon is to be buried after all preparations have been concluded.
Now, part of these cultural preparations in the old Yoruba kingdom, though now no more in practice was the inclusion of an Abobaku, a slave of the king who would be buried together with the king as an escort to the great beyond when his royal highness dies and upon arrival there, his role was to immediately serve the Oba as a domestic hand.
This slave was usually appointed when a new king was crowned and made fully aware of his status and role in the royal setting and Yoruba society. In fact it is reported that he was constantly in the company of the kingdom’s ruler and so made a man of importance, affluence, esteem and showered with lots of the pleasures of life.
All was set for the body of the highly revered Yoruba king to commence its trip to the hereafter land, only for a delay to be caused due to the absence of something very crucial. It was announced by the royal undertakers that a vital ingredient for preparation of the Oba’s journey has been discovered to be missing. What that was exactly, was not stated.
This usual approach of making a public announcement, yet keep a very important part of it a secret, use to give room for updating, correcting or retracting part the information when the need arises at a later date and time in the recent past. But that does not seem to work anymore, most especially in this modern age of social networking, where sharing information is a simply phone call or a text message away.
So what such hoarding of details does is provide a platform for an information-hungry society to promptly assume, speculate, introduce, paraphrase, re-phrase, add or subtract and even fabricate etc and spread their assumptions quickly and effortlessly via technological devises. And that seems to be what happened in this case, where one of the speculations which caught an immediate fancy of the social public was the idea that perhaps the Abobaku has ran away, absconded, vamoosed, disappeared etc.
Once this was made available online, it immediately became viral and many found the old, archaic traditional practice condemnable, disgraceful and unacceptable in this time and era, using it to embarrass the Yoruba ethnic group. Many of the south-west of Nigeria ethnic group came forth to say, yes it use to happen in ancient times, but has long been abandoned and stopped. But were people listening? Of course, most were not.
Out of further mischief and as a prank or what some would choose to look at as a satire, someone got a picture of a fat naked man circulating on the internet for some times now (this writer has a copy of the image in his system since 2012), then added another image of similar import and posted them, captioning the images as that of the absconded Abobaku!
At DesignWorld International, we decided to trace the origin of the fat naked men and our verification of the pictures on the internet revealed that the man or men are not even Nigerians, but from Ethiopia. They are from a tribe called Me’en or Bodi people located in a remote part of Ethiopia’s Omo valley. To these natives, being fat is something to covet and cherish, a status symbol and therefore highly prestigious. So, as part of an event to choose the fattest man in the tribe, young men go on a special feeding spree on cow blood and milk for almost six (6) months.
Thereafter, they come forward and compete stark naked. It is said that women among them would come to select potential husbands from the competitors at the event. The eventual winner gets crowned and honored for life in the clan as a very important personality. These are the people, whose images were deliberately depicted in mischief as the man or men who was to be buried with Ooni of Ife as his Abobaku.
The dead deserve some respect and we believe this Yoruba king deserve some honor, if not because he is an Oba, but because he was a person who has died. His family and people do not deserve further pain and anguish about his lost through these online humiliations and attacks, but should be accorded some sympathy and condolence for losing a very dear and respectable ruler not just among them or in the country, but the continent of Africa as a whole.
The Ooni of Ife, Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II has since been buried on Friday 14th August, 2015 in accordance with the Yoruba traditions, a burial befitting a royal monarch of his status. Many dignitaries graced the occasion, which is followed by a seven days curfew imposed on the populace to mourn their king and bid him farewell.
So, we join others all over the world and the Yorubas in particular in saying adieus to the Ooni of Ife Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse IIhas.