By Sodiq Lawal
The Obaship institution has been the genesis of rulership and government of the Yoruba nation.
By tradition, it was the belief of the Yoruba that the Oba (king) represents God on earth, and in whichever community he might be, he is a personification and symbol of that community, it is a fact in Yoruba history that any Oba in Yoruba community represents “Oduduwa” the progenitor of the Yoruba race.
Besides, whoever is selected as Oba in a community becomes the father of all and acts for all.
There is traditional evidence that in the ancient days the king of Ile-Ife was the one in whom resided all authorities, religious and secular, and that he hear “political” sway over the entire Yoruba race and the Benin kingdom.
The monarch is known as the head according to tradition, has a divine essence, therefore, making him the god head of Oduduwa dynasties.
To the Yoruba people, the Ooni is not only God’s chief representative on earth but earthly head of his people who has spiritual, civil, social, cultural and political power over them.
The Ooni, as the father, political and spiritual leader of the Yoruba race generally, believes that he derives his status from Oduduwa, the progenitor and ancestor and king of Ile-Ife
The authority and authenticity of the Yoruba Obas ruling today derive their “Sceptre” from Ile-Ife. The temple of Oduduwa, which is specially connected with the institution of kingship of the Yorubaland is situated in the palace of the Ooni.
The authority of genuine crown of the Yoruba Obas is rested in the hand of the Ooni of Ife. Ooni has a special crown called “ARE CROWN”, it is the symbol of uniqueness fixed on the original crown worn by the first king of Yorubaland and something of which has been included in the crown worn by each successive Ooni of Ile-Ife, to emphasize his succession to the spiritual headship over the Yoruba people.
No other king in Yorubaland my wear the same kind of crown, as it is a sign of supreme headship which is worn only on coronation day and only once a year, the Ooni is instantly transfigured into his true-nature that of Orisa , his visage too becomes dreadful to behold.
From the beginning, both the ancient and modern world, the kingdom of Ile-Ife was governed and administered by the Ooni and his chiefs until the advent of the British occupation in Nigeria.
Ooni as the paramount ruler and head of state ruled the territory and governed through the chiefs. These chiefs are in two groups, the inner and the outer chiefs; they operated as the executive or privy council for the government and for general Administration of the kingdom.
The first group of the outer chiefs consists of Obalufe, Obajio, Obalaran, Jagunosin, Wasin, Ejesi, Obalaye and Akogun. They are eight altogether. The inner chiefs comprise: the Lowa, Jaran, Aguro, Arode, Isanire, Ladin, Lowate and Erebese; they are also eight altogether. On state matters, it is the outer chiefs who sit on the right hand of the Ooni, while the inner chief occupies the left hand.
Ooni presides over the council of state, the state acts only with his authority. The members of the council are collectively referred to as ILU. Their areas of responsibility of include; religion, public safety, customary legislation, administration of justice, etc.
All villages, wards and even compounds, the head at each village level being called Baale or chiefs are usually supported by sub-chiefs. They together form sub council for the management of Ife town.
Another important institution and part of kingmakers are (ISOROS). They are traditional priest, they are divided into three groups;Oduduwa group, Obatala group and Oranfe group.
Their leader is Obadio, the chief priest of Oduduwa, they are important kingmakers and administrators with Ooni in the aspect of spiritual administration of Ile Ife.
Also, the Bead crown kings (OBAS) in Ifeland, they are very important and indispensable Body of administrators in governance of Ife kingdom, they are like Ooni’s Governors in their own jurisdiction, towns and settlements. Ooni is their president and they are accountable to him directly on the activities, development, security of their domains. These Obas are more than forty in number and they have their different domains.
The Ajo Ife mefa, these are the assemblies of Six Quarters of Ife, Ajo Iremo, Ajo More, Ajo Ilode, Ajo Ilare, Ajo Okerewe & Ajo Iraye . Each Ajo has representatives from family compound, and they have joint Ajo known as Ajo Ife ‘Mefa ’. They are the voices of grassroot people of Ife. They are the general congress or general Assembly, they also play major role in governance of Ifeland.
However, the present postmodern democratic government in Nigeria has re-introduced in Ile-Ife just like other places with modification where necessary in accordance to the advancement of people, political, economy and social lives which leads to the introduction of professionals, Business- moguls, politicians, academia in the administration of Ile-Ife, which came up through different registered organizations and body corporates in the administration of Ile-Ife to mention few; Ife Development Board (IDB), Ife Action Council, Ife Youth Vanguard, National Ife Descendants Students Association (NIDSA), Ife Voice International Organization, Ife Elders Council, these and many more have the mandates of Ife people and Ooni in Council for the purpose of development, peace & progress of Ifeland.
Therefore, Ooniship as the core of government in Ile-Ife has distinguished and extra-territorial roles as the “father”of of the Yoruba Obas and chiefs, his extra-territorial roles at the Local state National and International level. Ooni is the greatest of the symbols of Black heritage and Ooni is an Ambassador General of Yorubas world