The present Aláàfin of Ọyọ is His Majesty, Iku Baba Yeye, Kabiyesi Alaiyeluwa Ọba Dr. Làmídì Ọláyíwọlá Atanda Adéyẹmí III and his prestige as a person and of the ancestral throne he occupies is so enchanting that it has enthralled millions of adherents and admirers across the world. But what is not revealed to the rest of the public are the elaborate ceremonies, rituals and the incredibly-detailed and sophisticated processes that are involved in the selection of a new monarch for the Ọyọ Kingdom.
Whenever an Aláàfin transforms from this plane of existence to the next to join his ancestors, the process to select a new king is instantly activated. As you might have expected, this is a very elaborate mechanism but one that works so well that it has endured for centuries even in the face of internal and external onslaughts. Several people are involved in the nomination, selection and eventual crowning of an Aláàfin. The goal of this piece is to shed more light on three of them and precisely who they are and what they do: the Three Sacred Fathers of the Aláàfin. If you are ready, then let us roll!
Even before the news pervades the entire kingdom that the Aláàfin is no longer in the earthly realm, the seven powerful members of the Ọ̀yọ́ Mèsì would have swung into action immediately. They have to ensure that from the surviving princes, the most suitable of them all is identified to wear the great crown. But at this point, not even the immensely powerful Ọ̀yọ́ Mèsì can make any move until the Three Sacred Fathers of the Aláàfin commence work. And this is where you have to pay serious attention.
Who are these Three Sacred Fathers of the Aláàfin?
They are three titled members of the royal family itself and they are called:
- Ona Ishokun: On the 12th of March 2015, the death was announced of the Ona Isokun of Oyo, Oloye (Chief) Emmanuel Olanire Adeniyi at the ripe age of 96. A prominent educationist, community leader and also a Christian leader, Oloye Adeniyi joined his ancestors after an illness in Oyo. He had been installed the Ona Isokun in 2013.
Below are photos from the installation of the current Ọna Ishokun of Ọyọ at the Aganju Hall of the Palace of the Aláàfin of Ọyọ in September 2016. Please note that the Ishokun here is the same Ishokun that is used in relation to the twins (Ibeji) in Yorubaland. The Ọna Ishokun is also regarded as the head of one of the three branches of the royal descent group, one of which the Aláàfin is actually chosen from.
- ỌNA AKA
- ỌMỌ ỌLA
They are usually the uncles or even cousins of the deceased Aláàfin but they are mainly called Awon Baba Oba meaning ‘Fathers of the King’. Following the demise of an Aláàfin, this trio then scours the entire length and breadth of the kingdom and compile the names of the most eligible princes.
After they have finished this compilation, they will then prune the list by nominating the most suitable of them all. When they feel satisfied, they will then submit or simply suggest the names to the Ọ̀yọ́ Mèsì to either accept or reject via an election (the voice of the Bashọrun is the loudest once the nomination reaches the Ọ̀yọ́ Mèsì, in fact, it is so loud and influential that he alone can veto the decision of the Ọ̀yọ́ Mèsì).
So, while the Ọ̀yọ́ Mèsì cannot choose a new king without the fine-tuned nominations from the Awon Baba Ọba (Fathers of the King), the King’s Fathers too cannot simply impose a new Aláàfin on the entire populace. This is another brilliant illustration of the checks and balance of power inherent in the government of the empire. Thus, it is more of a constitutional monarchy or a democratized kingship where no arm is too powerful. This is one of the distinguishing features of a civilized society, and it is one that has stood tested and trusted for centuries.
Therefore, as you can see, selecting a new Aláàfin is not just a simple process in which the crown is simply passed from the father to the son, all the proper due processes have to be followed. It is such a beautifully advanced concept, one of the many that evolved from within the tropical forests of Africa.
Now that we know the primary roles of the Fathers of the King as nominators, the next step is to provide some clarifications on what follows once a new Aláàfin has been finally selected. Before any Aláàfin can accede to the throne, there are ‘curious’, intensely colourful, vibrant and elaborate ceremonies that must be carried out.
Once all the preparations for these events have been made, the ceremonies are officially kicked off with a sacrifice that is taken from the house of the Ọna Isokun by a group of men called the Omo Ninari. These men are from a family whose principal duty is executing all the duties that are connected with the offering of sacrifices in addition to waiting upon the Aláàfin and the priests for other tasks that might be assigned to them.
Once they enter the house where the Aláàfin-Elect (King-In-Waiting) is staying, they will call him out then tell him to stand up with an attendant by his side. The Aláàfin-Elect is then touched on his chest, and on the right and left shoulders with the bowl of sacrifice. As this is done, the attendant by his side recites some incantations. At this stage, the signal is out that the Aláàfin-Elect has been called to the throne officially and has become the new Aláàfin.
At evening of that same day, the Aláàfin is quietly taken to the house of the Ọna Isokun and this is where he spends his first night as a king. In order to ensure that the new king avoids the crowd, the attention of the eager populace is cleverly diverted by the slaves of the Aláàfin and others who organize a colourful procession with a lot of noise, music and fanfare in a vibrant atmosphere.
They will do this in a manner that suggest that they are escorting the new Aláàfin but in real sense, the new king, accompanied by the Aregbedi (a titled eunuch) and few of the other Ọmọ Ninari noiselessly trudge along far behind.
Upon reaching the Ọna na Isokun’s house, the Aláàfin is attended to solely by the Ọmọ Ninari. He is then admonished and advised by the Fathers of the King and other respected elders who play the role of a father to the fresh monarch.
That is not all. Some ceremonies of purification are then carried out alongside propitiatory sacrifices again are offered – these are carried to the various quarters of the entire city by the Omo Ninari.
The next night, the Aláàfin is taken to the house of the Otun Iwefa (the second in command to the chief of the Royal Eunuchs) and it is here that the Aláàfin spends his second night. Otun Iwefa, by the virtue of his role as a priest of Sango, it is believed that the Aláàfin passes the night there so as to be initiated spiritually to his office and to be imbued with powers that will make him a King and Priest for his people at the same time.
Another reason the Aláàfin spends his second night with the Otun Iwefa is to learn of the complexities of the vast inner precincts of the palace. After this is done, the Aláàfin-Elect is then ushered into one of the chambers in the Outer Court of the Palace (called Omo Ile) and it is here that he resides for three months, called the Period of Mourning, until the time of his coronation – that will be the story for another day.
Upon the demise of an Aláàfin, the main gateway to the palace is closed but during the Period of Mourning, a private opening is made for the Aláàfin-Elect in the outer wall and it is via this opening that he meanders his way in and out of his temporary residence.
Throughout this period, the Aláàfin-Elect remains strictly in private, doing nothing but learning the ways of his ancestors, meditating, practicing the timeless styles and graceful comportments of a King. He also learns the details of the crucial roles, duties and functions of his high and divine office. During the Period of Mourning, the Aláàfin-Elect wears only black and he can use a Cap of State called Orikogbofo (That The Head May Not Remain Uncovered). For the entire three months, the affairs of the state are run and conducted by none other than the powerful Bashọrun (Iba Oshọrun).
Original Article written by Abiyamo