Ile Ife is thought to be the ancestral home of the Yoruba and the Ooni of Ife is believed to be the spiritual leader of the ethnic group.
Statue of Obalufon, a shadowy Ooni believed to have had a long reign Ile Ife is thought to be the ancestral home of the Yoruba and the Ooni of Ife is believed to be the spiritual leader of the ethnic group. Daily Trust finds out just how seriously this claim is held when it discovered the 364 deities in Ile ife and the many shrines in the palace Despite the modern facelift being given the palace of the Ooni of Ife in Ile-Ife, it is common to see relics fall over the ancient palace. The palace at Enuwa in Ife, described as an architectural masterpiece, is a hub of activities and excitement. Influential people often visit the palace to receive royal blessings from the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi. Locals also visit to catch glimpses of the Ooni’s guests and witness other events at the palace. The sight of food vendors offering their merchandise to visitors around the premises is not uncommon while other retailers take opportunities of the crowd to make quick business. Amidst the throngs the palace is guarded by conventional and traditional security men, providing water tight security for the royal and his palace. Inside a big hall where the monarch usually receives his guests, entertainers including drummers, dancers and praise singers sing and dance, eulogising and praising Oba Ogunwusi to the admiration of the guests. Ile Ife is the ancestral home of the Yoruba people and so it is no surprise that there used to be a large number of deities worshipped in the ancient town. An indigene of Ife, Mr Macdonald Oladipo told Daily Trust just how many deities there were. “In Ile-Ife, different deities are worshiped each day throughout the year except only on one day set aside as break. So, there are 364 deities and each day is dedicated to one of them. The only day reserved as break is not known to anyone except the Ooni himself,” he said.
The major deities are located at the palace of Ooni and the devotees visit the palace to worship them there. Though, access to these shrines are restricted depending on the nature and characteristics of each god, Daily Trust visited some of the ones that are accessible to non devotees at the palace. These include Ogun Laadin, Yeyemoolu, Orikii and Obalufon. Other shrines arevscattered in different locations in the town. At the palace, the sacred temple of the god of iron called Ogun Laadin is manned by High Chief Awofiranye kayode. The temple is meant to administer oath. Awofiranye told Daily Trust that the god of iron does not tolerate falsehood and that whoever makes false claim at the temple would die within seven days. “If there is a dispute and people failed to agree among themselves, they would be brought to this temple to swear before the god of iron and whoever lied among them must die within seven days. The god of iron does not tolerate lies and whoever tells lies must die within seven days,” he said. Also, at the palace, the Yeyemoolu, according to myth, is very significant. A wife of one of the past Ooni who was barren turned to water and became a goddess of fertility, giving children to women who seek from it. One of the palace emissaries told Daily Trust that successive Ooni must marry Yeyemoolu and take her as a wife. “She was a wife of an Ooni and she was barren. Because some people embarrassed her over her condition, she turned to water. The site became a shrine. The water is very pure. She is a goddess of fertility. Any barren woman that visits this shrine and drinks from this well would have children,” he said. Another shrine at the palace is called Orikii and it draws devotees from far places as traditionalists from different parts of Yorubaland visit the palace of Ooni to worship the Oriki god. “This shrine is very important,” a palace emissary said. “Herbalists and traditionalists from different places come here to worship it. They come as pilgrims. Orikii is a special deity and the herbalists come here annually to renew their powers,” he said. Also, the statue of Obalufon, a former Ooni who was said to have had a very long reign is strategically positioned in the palace. It is also one of the significant shrines at the palace. However beyond the fact he was a former Ooni, the emissary had no details about his reign. The palace is a world of its own given its various features especially the traditional way of life that does not conflict with modernity. One of these features is the justice system that rests mainly on mediation but could also impose extreme measures depending on the dispositions of the parties involved. At the palace, there is a lower court, known as Emese Court. The palace emissaries are known as ‘Emese’ in local parlance. Chief Sule Elenpe is the Loogun Emese, the leader of the emissaries and a judge in the Emese Court. In a chat with Daily Trust, Elenpe said “if there is a conflict between two parties and one of them brings the complaints to the palace, emissaries would be sent to the other party to invite him or her to the Emese court at the palace.We will listen to both parties and try to resolve the matter. But if any of the parties is not satisfied with the outcome at the Emese Court, such person could take the matter to the court of High Chiefs (traditional High Court). The decision of the Emese (lower) Court could be upheld or upturned by the High Chiefs’ Court and if any of the party is still not satisfied, the matter goes to the traditional Supreme Court presided over by the Ooni himself.” Meanwhile, there is a police station within the palace for those who may wish to take their complaint to the police instead. A resident of Ife, Taiwo Isaac said, “It is not compulsory that you take your case to the Emese Court if you are not comfortable with that arrangement. This is a police station and if you bring a report to them, they will investigate and prosecute normally and charge the matter to court if necessary.” All efforts to speak with the incumbent Ooni were unsuccessful as his media aide, Moses Olafare said the traditional ruler was not available during several attempts by Daily Trust.