ARABA/OBASHIP SAGA: OUR POSITION

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ARABA/OBASHIP SAGA: OUR POSITION.

ARABA/OBASHIP SAGA: OUR POSITION
The recent trend among some Ifa/Orisa practitioners in regards to abuse and misuse of Oba crowns has reached an embarrassing point at which the credibility of Yoruba traditional institutions has continued to wane and with no significance anymore. Some charlatans and impostors in Nigeria and in the diaspora have found Ifa/Orisa tradition as a solace to either perpetrate, redeem or conceal their past misdemeanor. Some went to the extent of installing people as individual Ọba without subjects or community, individual Àràbà without community, Ọba Ẹ̀dú, Ọba Ẹgbẹ́, Ọba Òrìṣà, Ọba ètùtù, Ọba Oṣó, Ọba Àjẹ́, Ọba Ajé, Ọba Ògbóni, Ọba Obìnrin, etc. with beautifully decorated crowns like a typical Yoruba monarch. Examples can be found in places such as United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and in some parts of Nigeria. Findings have indicated that some of these charlatans are of questionable character and have turned the chieftaincy conferment into a money making venture. As the custodian of Yoruba tradition and culture, THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR IFA RELIGION (ICIR) will no longer fold its arms and accept this to continue. In view of this, we have made clarifications on certain aspects and have presented our position on the issue.
The Oba is a recognized head or ruler of a town collectively chosen by the whole community through the council of chiefs and in most cases through Ifa divination. The Oba elect undergoes a royal seclusion called “Ìpèbí” for a particular period of time usually three months. During this period, the Oba elect is given the necessary leadership training, up to date lectures on the history of the town, significance of various traditional practices including customs, traditions, and belief systems, and spiritual protection. Thereafter, the full coronation is made which confers on the Oba, the title of the “Aláṣẹ Èkejì Òrìṣà.”
The Araba image is used for a dependable and supportive Babalawo (Ifa priest) in a Yoruba community. This dependable recognized babalawo is made the Araba of a town through the authority of the following:
1. The mutual agreement of the Ifa/Orisa Priests in the community
2. The Baale (local/district head) of the community
3. The Oba (king) of the community.
The appointed Araba is always well received by the Ifa Priests and the community and he will serve his tenure for life (until he joins his ancestors). In other parts of Yoruba land, he is also known as Olu Awo (Lord of the Awos). When the Araba is given the necessary rites, rituals and spiritual backing, he becomes the ultimate “MY LORD SPIRITUAL” endowed with unlimited Ase. The Araba is the chief diviner and spiritual adviser to the Oba. He also acts as a spokesman for all other Orisa priests and adherents in the town. He liaises with other Orisa priests in the town in order to ensure security and tranquility in the town. It is impossible for an individual to become Araba without the mutual agreement of the Ifa priests, Orisa priests and endorsement of the Oba of the community. Similarly, it is impossible for anyone to go to another country to receive the title of Araba for his country of residence and impose it on other practitioners. The community in which he resides must have recognized him as a dependable, charismatic, and supportive Babalawo and then recommends him to the appropriate authority for endorsement.
The Arabas of various towns, counties/Local Government areas usually converge together to form the council of Arabas in the State or in the country.
This Council oversees the affairs and practice of Ifa in various towns, counties/LGAs. At the helm of the hierarchy is the Araba Agbaye (the traditional Pope to Ifa and traditional community) in ile Ife who automatically assumes the status of a spiritual leopard (Ekun). This is due to the fact that it was Orunmila himself that installed Araba n’Ife as his representative to oversee the spiritual affairs in old Ife and this has remained so till today. For that reason, reverence is also given to Araba n’Ife as we have seen in the Odu, Ose Otura. The other individual that was also installed with the title of Agbaye is Prof. Wande Abimbola as Awise Agbaye by the past Ooni of Ife. Apart from these two individuals, there is no other person worthy of being ascribed to as “Agbaye”. The fact that one is installed by Araba Agbaye does not confer on the person the appellation of Agbaye. The original title of Araba Agbaye is Araba n’Ife and this is buttressed by so many Ifa stanzas, but by virtue of his position as the paramount Araba, he is automatically ascribed to as “Araba Agbaye”. All other recipients of the title of Agbaye should bear in mind that they are merely representatives of their local issuing authority in their country of residence on international matters.
It is a proven fact in Ifa that the Araba is on the same pedestal with the Oba as we have seen in several stanzas of Ifa. One of which is Okanran Ogbe (Okanran Nsode):
Mo gbọ́ pé wọ́n nsodè
Mo bá wọn so
Díá fún Ọ̀rúnmìlà
Níjọ́ tí òun àti Ọba jọ njìjàdù àgbà l’Ótù Ifẹ̀
Ẹbọ ni wọ́n ní kí wọ́n wáá ṣe
Wọ́n gbẹ́bọ, wọ́n rúbọ
Ǹjẹ́ tèmi Ọba lọ̀gbọ̀ọ̀gbà
Ọba mà ńdádé, mo gbédè bọ ọrùn
Tèmi Ọba lọ̀gbọ̀ọ̀gbà
Translation
When I learnt that they were tying ide beads
I joined them in tying mine
This was the Ifa cast for Orunmila
When he was in contention for superiority with the Oba in Otu Ife
They were advised to offer ebo
They both complied
I and Oba are equals
Oba is adorned with a crown on his head
While I am adorned with beads on my neck
I and the Oba are equals
Orunmila, in his infinite wisdom and humility had to concede to the Oba on the issue of wearing the same crown despite being on the same pedestal with Oba. That is why the Araba crown is designed differently and decorated with otutu opon beads. Also in a stanza of Eji Ogbe, Ifa says:
Ṣokiti Sómbó
Ṣombo Ṣòkítí
Àyàn ta pàrà pàrà jákùn
Okùn ọlà lokùn Eríwo
Òlùgbóndóró p’ajá májẹ̀ẹ́
Ilẹ̀ dindin nilẹ̀ àkùrọ̀
Bí sọ̀rọ̀sọ̀rọ̀ bá sọ díẹ̀ níbẹ̀
Ẹ jẹ́ ká báa yín sọọ́
Àwọn ni wọ́n dífá fún Ọ̀rúnmìlà
Baba ntọ̀run bọ̀ wáyé
Ó kó Adé mẹ̀fà lọ́wọ́ látòde ọ̀run
Nígbà tó délé ayé
Ó gbé ìkan fún Alárá ọmọ Ògbólú Ajé
Ó gbé ‘kan fún Ajerò ọmọ Ògbólú ọ̀kọ̀rọ ìjà kanlẹ̀
Ó gbé ‘kan fún Ọwárè l’Ókìtì Ẹfọ̀n
Ó gbé ‘kan fún Ọba lálède Ọ̀yọ́
Ó gbé ‘kan fún Ọọ́ni Alànàkàn Èsùrú
Ó wá gbé ‘kan tókù fún àwọn ọmọ rẹ̀
Ọ̀kan tókù làwọn Àràbà ńdé lónìí.
Translation
Ṣokiti Sómbó )
Ṣombo Ṣòkítí )
Àyàn ta pàrà pàrà jákùn )
Okùn ọlà lokùn Eríwo )Names of Babalawos
Òlùgbóndóró p’ajá májẹ̀ẹ́ )
Ilẹ̀ dindin nilẹ̀ àkùrọ̀ )
Bí sọ̀rọ̀sọ̀rọ̀ bá sọ díẹ̀ níbẹ̀ )
Ẹ jẹ́ ká báa yín sọọ́) )
These were the babalawos who cast Ifa for Orunmila
When coming from heaven to the earth
And would bring along six crowns
On getting to the earth
He gave one to Alara, the offspring of Ogbolu Aje
He gave one to Ajero, the offspring of Ogbolu okoro ija kanle
He gave one to Oware in the land of Okiti Efon
He gave one to the Oba in Oyo
He also gave one to Ooni Alakan Esiu
And he gave the remaining one to his children
That remaining one is what the Arabas are using till this day
Nevertheless, the title “Oba” will not be accepted to be misused by practitioners of Ifa, Orisa, and Ogboni. THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR IFA RELIGION as the custodian of Yoruba spirituality, culture, and tradition hereby advises all practitioners of Ifa, Orisa, and Ogboni to desist from this act and maintain boundaries of practice as related to the conferment of chieftaincy titles. For example, the Àràbà or Olú Awo is the head of Ifa practitioners, Àrágberí – the head of Ọ̀sányìn practitioners, Ọlọ́pọndà or Alágbáà – Égúngún, Babamogbà or Ọnàmogbà – Ṣango, Oluaye/Olórí Olúwo – Ògbóni, Bàbá Ọ̀ṣun/Yèyé Ọ̀ṣun/Lóógun ẹ̀dẹ – Ọ̀ṣun, Olúwin or ‘Balèésùn– Ọbàtálá, Àjànà – Olórò, etc. Of course the word “Oba” depicts the head or ruler of a community or town.
Despite this, all Yoruba communities have their peculiar and historical names or terms to depict their Oba. For example, Olofin or Ooni of Ife, Alaafin of Oyo, Osemawe of Ondo, Awujale of Ijebu land, Akarigbo of Ijebu Remo, Alake of Egba land, Olubadan of Ibadan, Ewi of Ado ekiti, Alara of Ilara Ekiti, Ajero of Ijero land, Alaketu of Ketu, Ataoja of Osogbo, Timi of Ede, Orangun of Ila, etc. The only town that uses the word Oba is the Benin kingdom with the title “Oba of Benin”. Because of Benin connection with Lagos,
the king’s title is also “Oba of Lagos”. Conferring the titles of a leader or head on any individual in any group does not entitle such person to use the Oba crown.
It is important to let us know that “Ade” (Oba crown) in Ifa and in Yorubaland is an Orisa on its own and not for decoration or for honorary purposes. That is why special rites and rituals are performed before an Oba can be able to wear it. This is why a well coronated Oba with all necessary rites and rituals is called “Aláṣẹ Èkejì Òrìṣà” meaning “The Authority next to Orisa.” For an ignorant person who adorns himself without going through the normal rites and rituals is breaching a taboo with grave consequences and sometimes result in premature death. In Owonrin Otura (Owonrin Elejigbo), Ifa warns anyone who is stubborn and who doesn’t like to hear the truth to be careful and desist from such act. It is therefore in this person’s interest to listen and change his/her wrongful act. On this, Ifa says:
Ajá táa bá wí fún tí kò gbọ́
Níí d’ajá Ẹlẹ́gbára
Àgbò táa bá wí fún tí kò gbà
Níí d’àgbò ‘mọlẹ̀
Ọ̀tọ̀ọ̀tọ̀ èèyàn táa wí fún tí kò gbọ̀
Níí fọwọ́ àjárì bomi
Díá fún Aláwìígbọ́
Níjọ́ tó ńlọ kọ oko a kìí kọọ́
Wọ́n ní kó má kọọ́
Ó ní òun ó kọọ́
Ẹbọ ni wọ́n ní kó wáá ṣe
Ó kọtí ọ̀gbọnyin sẹ́bọ
Èrò Ìpo àti Ọ̀fà
Ẹni gbẹ́’bọ níbẹ̀ kó rúbọ
Translation
The dog that was warned but which refuses to heed warning
Will become the dog of Esu (will be used to feed Esu)
The ram that was advised but which refuses to accept the wise advice
Such ram will become the ram of the Imọlẹ̀ (will be used to feed the deity)
And a human being that we advised who refuses to listen will regret his action
Ifa’s message for a self-conceited and stubborn person
When he was going to cultivate the farm that was a taboo to cultivate (doing the forbidden)
He was advised not to do so
He refused to comply
Travelers to Ipo and Ofa land
Let those advised to offer ebo do so accordingly
Concerns and reactions were raised in some quarters that the Council should have brought down the statement when they saw that names and pictures had been attached. But, on the other hand for instance, if someone bought a new dress with unique design, does the person refuse to wear the dress on the account that others have added some labels to the dress and they chose to wear the ones designed for themselves? To the Council, that is a distraction that must not be allowed to dilute the seriousness of the issue on ground. THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR IFA RELIGION (ICIR) has not at any time attached names or photos of any individual in our previous statements on this issue. The Council knows nothing about that and we will continue to maintain our neutrality. The Council is more interested in highlighting the societal problems and seeing how we can collectively resolve those issues. However, the Council is reiterating that those involved should endeavor to make necessary amends as soon as possible as it shall not hesitate to use appropriate means at its disposal to take disciplinary action to frustrate the emergence, installation, and perpetration of such act.
In conclusion, It is our suggestion to the Council of Obas or Baales to liaise with the “Asinde-made”, the crown makers to curb the unbridled production of beaded Oba crowns especially to these charlatans and impostors. If possible, letters of authorization or order need to be sought from the Council of Chiefs, Obas, or Baales in each community and presented to the Asinde-made before any beaded Oba crown can be knit. For those crown makers (Asinde-made) who fail to adhere, the appropriate discipline rests with such council, Oba, or Baale. This, we believe will go a long way to sanitize the uncontrolled production of beaded crowns to the wrong people.
Aboru aboye.
Chief Solagbade Popoola
The President, ICIR.


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