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Ile Ife and the King of the Yorubas (the Ooni of Ife)

brand new royal carpet
brand new royal carpet
The King of the Yorubas lives in Ife, 200km north east of Lagos, not too far from Ibadan. He is known as the Ooni of Ife. He has a palace and has obviously a few houses in town. No one is supposed to know where he spends the night. The Ooni is in his early forties. He was recently elected following the passing on of the late Ooni of Ife - le roi est mort, vive le roi!
The burial ceremony of the late Ooni, called Oro festival, fueled rumours because traditionally a man, associated to the Ooni and called Abobakun, is supposed to be buried with the Ooni to accompany him in the afterlife. That man, reportedly fled, as the late Ooni passed away, in the hope to escape his fate. This was a few weeks ago. As we visited Ife, some people told us the Abobakun had since died but maybe we did not understand it quite well?
a beer brand celebrating the new Ooni of Ife
a beer brand celebrating the new Ooni of Ife
However we got to understand that the Ooni occupies a prominent role in the Yoruba world and acts as a judge within his people. There are two level of courts to solve disputes, if the two levels are not enough the matter is reported to the Ooni. If none of the disputing parties acknowledges then they are sent to the Temple of Wisdom, a temple where Ogunlaadin will judge if the man has lied. The person who has lied is expected to die within the next seven days. The last time a case was referred to the Temple of Wisdom was about three years ago. It was the story of a man who paid a handsome price to another one to procure a large dog for sacrifice. However he got only a small one not worth the money paid. The seller who said the small dog had cost all the money died after a few days of making a vow that he had not lied in the Temple of Wisdom. He was hit by a truck on the street. Interestingly death is given by God and not by the Yorubas among themselves; there is no human death penalty as such.
the erection of a new palace for the Ooni
the erection of a new palace for the Ooni
The Ooni, prior to be Ooni was a successful businessman who lived in America for a part of his life. He is now sponsoring a grand project of resort at the entrance of Ife that is announced to cost about thirty million dollars and employ up to twenty thousand people according to a local media source! A good project to boost the popularity of a new king.

a carved wooden door of the old palace
a carved wooden door of the old palace


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