Friday 12 November 2021

The Ogboni Society

This writing expresses the personal thoughts, private views, opinions, perspectives and reflections of Olu-Awo Ifanla Ogbe-Ate.

Let's start with the definition of society:

An organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity.

The question to ask:

What's the purpose of Ogboni? Does it have any spiritual values?

Right from the creation of Ogboni until the present days of their enlightenment that led to the development of different names such as Osugbo, Aborigin, Awopa, Saala, R.O.F etc., the mode of practice or operations have been in the form of a club just like a social club because they only share ideas or provide solutions to members in trouble, but some later added traditional rites to make it look like a cult, such as the way of greetings, the songs they sing and most especially, the way they praise themselves and also cutting the head of dead members as part of burial ritual rites, but the reverse is the case in R.O.F, they don't cut off any part of their members body, in fact they added the christian wake to their burial ritual rites.

I won't fail to talk about the aspect of Ogboni society in the pre-colonial Yoruba political system in which they played the role of judiciary. The Ogboni was the third organ of government of old Oyo Empire. It was a society pertaining to old Oyo empire alone, made up of prominent great traditionalist and headed by the Oluwo. 

One of their constitutional functions was to check the excesses of the Oyemesi, such as the rejection of an Alaafin, in most cases to checkmate or Sanction Alaafin to leave power (i.e the power to dethrone the Alaafin [the king]  and could order him to kill himself [or would give him poison]. Another duty was to mediate between the Alaafin and the Oyemesi. The Ogboni performed judicial functions especially on cases involving the spilling of blood.

Although there was a claim that the name Ogboni was mispronounced  from the original Yoruba word "O gbo ni", "O gbo ni" which means "he listened and took immediate action".

And the name wasn't Ogboni initially, although the name O gbo ni originated from the action taken on Alaafin, and whenever people ask them how they dealt with Alaafin, their response will be O gbo ni which was mispronounced to be Ogboni.

Ogboni was formed as a result of deep faith in Christ, during the period of pre-Colonial Era in Nigeria, when the white Christians were oppressing the black Christians, an example was in 1864, Samuel Ajayi Crowther was ordained as the first African bishop of the Anglican Church. He was consecrated a bishop on St Peter's day in 1864, by Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral at which time the white Christians revolted.

Ogboni was used to curb the oppression from the white Christians on the black Christians. The blacks were able to regain their respect as the owner of the land through Ogboni. This Ogboni was so deep in the Anglican church to the extent of taking over which made the white to handed over because they were not aware of the aims and objectives of the creation of the Ogboni of the black Christians. This was so great that people adored the practice and it later collapsed because people who are not Christians, people from other religions were added as members and this led to the traditional Ogboni society. Today the traditional Ogboni is known as Osugbo, Aborigin, Awopa, Saala etc. If you look at this fact  which prove that their is a  difference between them, even if you are a member of the Aborigin and not initiated to Rof, you can't just say because you are initiated into Aborigine you can go and join Rof when they are performing. If you do, you will suffer the consequence. That is the way it is with all both of them.

Traditional Ogboni comprises difference religious practices and that is why they were allowed to share difference ideas such as political influence on decisions making, economy or financial assistants, job suitability, involvement in authority of the state or country, ceremonies or celebrations to attach more members. Other concepts include spiritual protection and general assistance, traditionally and other religious means such as qur’anic verses, biblical verses for spiritual work to solve problems, including charm and fetish things, herbs or traditonal spiritual materials and training of members.

Due to large practice or involvement in traditional activities or ritual rites, the society failed to recognise the pastors and the imams among them and regarded them all as traditionalist because only little of their activities are from Bible or Qur'an.

Hmmm, then come the era of Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (R.O.F).

The Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF) was actually founded in 1914 by a Christian, Deacon Jacobson Ogunbiyi, to promote Christianity and the fear of God among people.

Another question to ask:

Why did a Christian Deacon found the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity in 1914?

The only benefit of all Ogbonis is that both scholars emphasized that Ogboni members are members of Nigeria's financial elite and that Ogboni membership is often used as a networking tool in order to come into contact with persons who can improve one's financial position and/or power.

They worshipped the goddess of Earth as she gave them the real power of unity. Ogboni used to be the highest court in Yorubaland because judges, lawyers, policemen, doctors etc., are all members. No person was punished without their judgment or consent. They were so powerful, that they had the ability to choose or remove kings as said early during the pre-colonial era and after, even, till recent time until Ogboni lost their supremacy and renounced their recognition.

They all regarded themselves as Omo Iya, belonging to the same mother in oath. It is believed the soil reproduced to give birth to human beings, the soil was blessed by Olódùmarè to bear fruit and we are originated from the soil, the earth was seen as mother [i.e the secret of the universe]. 

Another aspect to touch is the general elections that were held in Nigeria for the first time on 20 September 1923. The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) won three of the four elected seats in the Legislative Council.

This led to involvement of elites in Ogboni to serve as decision making in choosing their candidate or candidates. Things were going on well due to the oath taken, every member was warned not to go against the society rule and laws. Such as to include, to help one another, never fight one another, and always accept the decision of the society irrespective of the effect on any of their members, or whether the outcome of the decision is positive to one member and negative to another member.

Some members were not happy with the decisions. This led to some members going against the rules of the society, then the loyal or faithful members got a way to deal with the so claimed unfaithful by using the liver of a tiger which serves as a poison to kill the unfaithful members. Although they won't give any notice or sign of fighting with the so called unfaithful members and non-member. In fact they will show them more love which will lead to trapping the unfaithful members and non member to death.

When this act failed, they sought another means of killing the unfaithful members by initiating their political thugs and their assassins simply to keep their secret whenever sent to kill the unfaithful members or non member. 

This later backfired due to the thugs and the assassins misbehaving in the communities, but they were being covered up by the society that they belonged to, because the society had the connections to take them out of any crime committed to make them look like they are above the law.

When they realised people were seeing them as just a society without any spiritual values, they then convinced some traditionalist to be their members. Their main target were the Babalawos, so that they helped them with spiritual activities. spiritual attack on unfaithful members or a non member, to help them with divination(s), feeding of Ori and other Orisas, while the other traditionalist helped with charms and herbs etc.

It's regrettable that despite the curse placed on Babalawo by Òrúnmìlà that no Babalawo must join any cult that will forbid him to see the Orisa they worship, If any Babalawo engages in such act, he will die disgracefully.

The other person that mustn't be initiated into Ogboni is the Ogun devotees, because they are the ones who made the Edan that the Ogboni uses and it is regarded as Iya. How then can they be forbidden to see the material made by themselves?

This article is dedicated to my love Mary Telly.

By Olu-Awo Ifanla Ogbe-Ate Temple

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