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I didn’t eat my predecessor’s heart –Awujale burst popular myth of Yoruba kings eating human hearts & more

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The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Dr. Sikiru Adetona, has reacted to a controversial issue on the coronation and burial rites of traditional rulers. It is popularly believed across most traditional societies that a King does not die, instead, he joins his predecessors in the spiritual realm to continue looking over his subjects.

In Yoruba land, the expression “O je Oba” (literally, he ate a king or on the surface, he became king) meant that the new Oba ate the heart of his predecessor!

However, the octogenarian monarch, Awujale of Ijebuland whose coronation took place on Saturday, 2 April, 1960, that is 60 years ago, has said he did not eat the heart of the Oba who died before he ascended the throne. The Oba who marked his 60th year on the throne and 86th birthday reacted when The Nation, in an interview, asked about the much talked about fortification of a new oba by the Osugbos while in the Ipebi (seclusion):

“Have you been to the Osugbo before as a king-in-waiting? No. Ok, I was there for three months and I am telling you I never saw any Osugbo there. The people talking, have they been there? So, who should know if not me? What we did in seclusion is nothing secret. We were just there making merry and enjoying ourselves while relatives, friends and other well-wishers come around to visit and rejoice with the king. What is the fortification they are talking about? No Osugbo came to do anything to me while I was there. Let them come here and tell me who it was that did that for me. Osugbos are mere messengers, I repeat.

The newspaper further asked him to speak on the role of traditionalists in the crowning of an Oba in Ijebuland – especially, in the behind-the-scene ceremonies or rites leading to the coronation. He said further:

“They have no role to play at all. Be it the Osugbos or any other traditionalists. I am telling you they play no role. It is the Ogbenis, the Odis, the government officials, the princes and the royal house. That is all. I can recall that Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola, all of them were involved in my own ceremonies. So, where were the traditionalists you talk about then? And what rites are you referring to? I cannot recall any rite that was done behind the scene. Let them come and tell me. It is all lies. Nothing like that. They even tell you that they give the heart of a deceased oba to the new one to eat! They are crazy. Nothing like that.

Okay, which heart did Orimolusi eat when Adeboye died in Tripoli? Besides, when Gbelegbuwa died, I wasn’t in the country. I was abroad and didn’t return until about a year after his death. So, which heart was given to me? I didn’t eat anything oooo. So, no such thing happened. That is why I am asking you to tell me those rites that are the preserves of the traditionalists or the Osugbo as you claim. People must learn to seek knowledge before contributing to issues they lack information about. And they say I want to alter tradition. Which tradition? What is tradition? Who determines tradition?

Tradition is the way we live. It is not custom that makes people; it is the people who make custom. It is what we are doing today that becomes tradition. The burial of an oba is the duty of the Odis and not the Osugbos. The bill is not against the Odis performing their functions. This is the draft bill and you will see it there that nobody is objecting to that. And the mention that the obas should be buried according to their belief is largely to go in line with the constitutional provision. Whatever goes against the constitution can no longer be done. It is because of ignorant people like this that it is written that way.”

He was asked further to throw light on such practices as human sacrifices. The Awujale replied:

“It was done in those days, before the advent of the British people. The killing of people for sacrifice stopped. So, kings were no longer being buried traditionally since then. And then we don’t want them to be buried decently. Can you imagine? It is these ones, and not any concerned stakeholders, who are refusing to accept the realities of today. You say traditionalists. Who are they? Let them come out and publicly tell the world what they are opposed to. Who are traditional worshippers? What are they worshipping? Is it these Jeremiahs and Ismailas that claim to be worshiping Ogun and Obatala? Let them come out. They’re just some never-do-wells, who are either James or Dauda.”

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