The institution of the Oba in Yorubaland is still very entrenched and powerful. The role of the Oba is that of the father figure of the community. He (she) also has a spiritual covering over his (her) people. Bearing these in mind choosing the king places a huge a responsibility on kingmakers.
In most Yoruba communities there are more than one ruling house to choose from. While the choice of the king could rotate among the ruling houses, some towns or cities don’t have that privilege. Rather than praying and fasting over who becomes the next Oba, these communities go spiritual but in another manner. They don’t consult the imam nor do they ask the clergy for divine inspiration. Yes! its 2014, but some communities still believe it’s ‘‘better keeping it real’’.
Historical records state all ruling houses in Yorubaland take their origins from five (5) routes i.e. titles namely Aleyeluwa, Owa, Adimula etc. The titles of the kings which are represented by unique names are linked to the source of the crown (the authority to rule).
In Mushin, Lagos state, there are two ruling houses with one of the houses tracing its source from the ancient kingdom of Benin, while the other brought its crown from Ile-Ife, the spiritual home of the Yoruba race.
The choice and coronation of the kings in Yorubaland still has its origin in the Ifa divination and other deities. In the ancient town of Oyo, choosing the Alaafin requires its unique process of enquiring from Orunmila. This enables the Oyomesi, the kingmakers to make ‘‘the right choice’’. In the heart of Osunland, the Atooja of Oshogbo (the king) emerges through the help of the deity of river Osun.
After such divinations the inquisition follows, though not as thorough as the Spanish’s own. The aim of the investigation is meant to crosscheck what the divination may have revealed. The investigation presents the democratic process of choosing the head of a community. When the final choice is made, the Oba still does not rule absolutely. His regime is under checks and balances.
When the selected prince or candidate who eventually becomes the Oba has been chosen unanimously by the kingmakers, he is in some instances shown to the community in form of a parade around the town. The aim is to ensure that ordinary folks have an input or say in whom eventually rules over them.
The choice and coronation of the Ooni of Ife the ”representative of God on earth to the Yoruba race” is significant in the sense that there is the recognition that although different Obas had and still have political power over their respective kingdoms and empires, spiritual power is believed to reside in Ile-Ife, it is this spiritual power that makes it possible for them to rule successfully over their kingdoms and empires.
For instance the coronation of the current Ooni, Olubuse II on Saturday, 6th December, 1980 like that of the 49 preceding Oonis is believed to have been ‘‘specifically chosen and ordained by the gods’’. However, this coronation was different from previous coronations of an Ooni as it was the first to take place in independent Nigeria.
The coronation of the Ooni and other Yoruba kings are usually celebrated as carnivals which stretch over a number of days. Each day of the ceremony signifies something special to the community. From masquerades making special appearances to age groups parading the town or city. Some days are set aside for deities.
Interestingly the Oba is meant to be the father of all religions practiced in his locality. This means apart from taking part in traditional rites of passage, the Oba must also identify with both the Muslim and Christian communities whilst they put up elaborate coronation ceremonies to welcome their new king.