Thursday 6 June 2024


This idea that Ọọ̀ni is a priest and not a king started with the battle of supremacy between Ọọ̀ni and Aláàfin. The two camps were frantically searching for anything that could lessen the status of his rival. Many elders who knew the truth kept quiet because both Ọọ̀ni and Aláàfin are highly respected monarchs in Yorùbáland. Fair enough, some elders did not keep quiet, chief among them is Aláké of Ẹ̀gbá and other notable Ọbas. Now that some inconsequential group are using it to throw shades at Ọọ̀ni, it is high time we revisited the notion.

First of all, the idea is a dead-beat ab-initio. It is a sorry case of sword destroying its own sheath. If Ọọ̀ni was not a king, but Aláàfin agreed Yorùbá came from Ifẹ, (Johnson, Samuel) the question is can a chief give rise to a mornach that became an emperor? Trust the smart Aláàfin, he reworded it by saying Ọ̀rànmíyàn took political power out of Ifẹ and left a priest administrator to oversee the rituals to the 401 gods. This claim is also dead on arrival.

Ifẹ and Ọ̀yọ́ narrative about Ọ̀rànmíyàn both agreed Ọ̀rànmíyàn after his war-mongering years retired to Ifẹ, his ancestral home where he died and was buried. Then the question is, did Ọ̀rànmíyàn lived his later life in Ifẹ as a subject under a priestly administrator? Capital no. Ọ̀rànmíyàn lived his life as a king in Ifẹ while his son Àjàká ruled as king in the newly founded Ọ̀yọ́. He also died probably during the first reign of Àjàká.

Now in Ifẹ tradition, Ògún reigned as Ọọ̀ni after Ọ̀rànmíyàn. Ṣàngó reigned as Aláàfin after the dethronement of Àjàká who was dethroned for being too soft for a king. Both Ṣàngó and Ògún were incarnate of the actual Òrìṣàs, so that was why there were suggestions that their human form(kings) were rivals during their time. The reason for the dethronement of Àjàká also became meaningful if Ògún was the king at Ifẹ̀. The elders of Ọ̀yọ́ were also warned of the impending Ṣẹ́lẹ̀rú war that Ifá predicted was coming. That was also why they saw it necessary to replace Àjàká with someone more commanding. The key to understanding this is in the meaning of Ṣẹ́lẹ̀rú.

Now to the picture being distributed all over the place with the caption that Ọọ̀ni was an Ifá chief or priest. First, ask yourself why the picture is older than the label on it. We have seen different versions of this picture bearing different fonts for the caption and different labels. Some call Ọọ̀ni Ifá priest, some say he is Ifá chief. Some even make Times New Roman and fade it a bit to make the character appear old. We can only laugh at the lies.

First, ancient kings double as priest because most of the deities worshiped are mostly royal personage. This has been the tradition from dawn of civilization in Egypt. Pharaohs perform rituals and lead processions. As society evolved division of work becomes more pronounced as aged kings started delegating their roles to assistants. These are found in the Dead Sea Scroll and other ancient scrolls. Ifẹ retain this practice to this day.

Spartanic idea of king, in which king must be leading warrior infiltrated Africa through Arab incursion and later Portuguese. Ancient Egyptian model, which influenced Greek predate all.

When white man came, they could not understand the concept of a ritual performing King. Their concept of king is Spartan model warrior king. That was what brought about the contention that Ọọ̀ni is a chief/priest. And since Ifa is the only thing to them that has semblance of religion, they concluded he must be priest of Ifa. The fact remains Ọọ̀ni performs his own duty during the ritual and the festivities of Ifa, but Ọọ̀ni is not priest of Ifa. Ọọ̀ni did not perform divination for any of these white men that misguided the world. Likewise, Ọọ̀ni has his role to play in the ritual of Ọbàtálá and all the 401 gods in Ifẹ. Does that make him priest of Ọbàtálá? Or of Ajé, or of any of the gods? Each of these Òrìṣà has his own chief priest till date.

To conclude this, Ọọ̀ni has always being a king with some roles attributed to priests nowadays. As it was in the beginning, so it is till today.

When two brothers fight, this is the kind of thing that happens.

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