Culture has a way of identifying a people, race or clan. From the North down to the East and South, cultural differences confer a form of identity not in terms of social status but most importantly in terms of origin and ethnicity.
Traditional rulers are the custodians of African culture and tradition and if you are to be enthroned as an Oba in Yoruba land, you will have to undergo a three-month seclusion in the native shrine.Even among the progressive elements, they pride themselves with different beliefs just as they do everything possible to preserve their culture. Its dynamism however offers a sense of pride not only as a distinct tribe on the one side but also as Africans on the other.
In Yoruba kingship, the royal seclusion otherwise know as Ipebi in Yoruba parlance is the focus in this edition. Right from the day a man is selected as a King, either by the oracle or by the unanimous decision of the Council of chiefs and kingmakers, he assumes total dignity befitting royal office. He is always imbued with the ritual powers. No doubt the traditional paraphernalia of royal office make him thick beyond ordinary person and thus he is addressed as the Kabieyi, meaning ‘your authority or action cannot be questioned. He becomes the Oba, alase, ekeji Orisa (King, the ruler and the gods’ lieutenant)
According to HRM, Oba Aremu Aromire, Ojora of Ijora, ‘’an Oba is not an ordinary person, that is why they don’t have to talk anyhow.”
However, the royal prerogatives of wearing the crown do not come so cheap. There are processes- restrictions, seclusions, and transformation between the period of selection and coronation. Ipebi, which is common with virtually all the Yoruba kingship processes, is usually a three-month seclusion in a native shrine where the Oba would undergo training in custom and tradition of the land. He is not allowed to see any member of his family within the period.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard in his palace, the Ojora of Ojora said: “Before, he will not be allowed to see anybody, not even his wife. I did not see my wife during my time in Ipebi but only my male child. You will not sleep on the bed but on a bare floor. Then you undergo training on customs and traditions. That is all I can tell you”.
When asked about the kind of food an Oba eats in Ipebi, he said: “You eat all kinds of food prepared by traditionalists. The food must not be prepared by a woman. This is the period you will be praying to your ancestors for your reign to be peaceful. You must have quality time with the ancestors because after leaving the Ipebi, you are going to meet different people. I will not say more than that.”
Ojora stated further that the Oba in council and a group of traditionalists are those who are saddled with the responsibility of grooming the new Oba on the customs and traditions as well as other things he said he would not mention.
He noted that some Obas have been carried away with politics and do not observe the Ipebi, describing the trend as ‘very dangerous’.
In the same vein, HRH, The Ranodu of Imota, Oba Ajibade Agoro in his own submission said: “During the Ipebi three lunar months period, the historical antecedent of the town; of various families and what they stand for will be shown to you.
It is not out of place to say what goes on in Ipebi during a Kingship process is shrouded in secrecy. Other traditional rulers we spoke with either responded with clear reservation or out-rightly declined comment on it. The newly installed Oba of Ikorodu, HRM Oba (Engr) Kabir Adewale Shotobi who returned from the Ipebi recently described the Ipebi as “our traditional house for spiritual cleansing and prayers.” When prompted further on his experiences during his spiritual cleansing, he stated: “I went through a school and I was given a certificate.”
Oba Shotobi’s journey to the traditional royalty seclusion (Ipebi) began in June 2, 2015. According to a source in Ikorodu, “the new Oba arrived ‘Agbo Ile’, (Royal Compound) around 3am and after performing necessary rites left at 4am for ‘Awofin’ (old palace at Ajina, Ikorodu) where another rounds of activities and rites were also performed till 6am when the Oba and his entourage left for ‘Osugbo’, the Chamber of highest traditional authority in Ikorodu, which combined both executive and judiciary powers.”
He came out of ‘Osugbo’ shrine with some high priests to the sound of ‘Gbedu’ (traditional) drum at 10.26am and left back for ‘Awofin’, the ancient palace. After necessary rites, Oba Shotobi embarked on the final journey to ‘Ipebi’. He arrived old ‘Ipebi’ at 11.59am and at 12.05pm, entered the modern ‘Ipebi’.
We also gathered the first port of call for an Oba coming out of his spiritual cleansing would be to visit all the shrines in the community. The source added that he would thereafter dance to the palace where the process of the coronation will climax.
However, Oba Shotobi returned from the Ipebi on August 1, 2015 marking the end of the 60-day period of his spiritual cleansing leading to his final coronation ceremony today.