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Ile Nla : The Ile –Ife Cultural and Mediation Hub

By Sodiq Lawal

On a brick wall and above a black, solid panel door within a built-up section of the palace called Ile Nla hangs a black-and- white (8’ by 10’) photograph of the king wearing the Ade Are.

Ade Are ( Are’s crown) was believed to have been first worn by Oduduwa, is in his territory, there is no other crown like that in the world. It is very heavy and the king wears it only once in a year, during the annual Olojo festival.

It can never dirty and it is never washed. All the 51 Oonis since the time of Oduduwa have worn it during their reign.  The crown is worn only after some sacrifices have been performed. And that sacrifice is what makes the crown lighter for the king to move about in and must be done days before the king is to wear the crown.

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By the left of it is a metal work of an elephant; and to the left of that stands tusk. An elephant in the Yoruba world view symbolizes strength and it is a component of some royal emblems I have seen across Nigeria’s south-west region; it is believed that for an individual to aspire to kingship of his community he has to be brave, sturdy (in mind and body) and fearless.

And once a prince is enthroned in Yorubaland, he has to report to Ife to receive a royal sword from the Ooni — so long as he traces his ancestry to Oduduwa.

The sword-giving ritual takes place at a spot called Idi Oranyan, one of 200-plus ritual sites scattered around Ife. A typical sword hangs on the wall in Ile Nla, just below the elephant.

In the past, Ile Nla was where the Ooni sat to listen to and address all domestic and civil cases brought to him by the locals.

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Back then, the Oba’s court was like a Supreme Court. The judgment at the court is final. It could not be appealed anywhere again.

Nowadays, however, to meet with the volume of cases that pour into the palace and to give room for fair hearing, that responsibility has been spread over four distinct ‘courts’, each a step higher than the one preceding it.