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Preserving the Yorùbá Heritage: The Role of the Obaship and Traditional Institutions

Yoruba crown

The sacredness of the Monarchy system in Yorùbá land is one of the few reasons why Yoruba traditional systems and values have garnered so much respect and admiration over the years.

The Obaship inspires nothing short of reverence. The almost magical and legendary feats of Yorùbá Oba’s in times past have also blessed the chapters of oral history, with in-depth documentation of historical accomplishments. In the often larger-than-life narrative surrounding royalty in Yoruba land, these Obas didn’t rule their domain as mere mortals, but like gods and custodians of art and culture. One part as a King and one part as a father to all living and non-living creatures; including the beings that abide in the forest, under the sea and below and above the different layers of the heavens.

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The Oba’s power is likened to that of the gods!

Kabiyesi Oba alaase ekeji Orisa; this paean places the king on the same pedestal as the gods. Still, the Oba is accountable to his people and the gods of the land. His primary duty is to develop his domain, as well as protect and develop every aspect of the socio-cultural well-being of the land.

Oba Ademuwagun Adesida II, the Deji of Akure,in the courtyard of Akure Palace | Photo Learninglab

In 1817, the relegation of Alaafin Aole of Oyo Empire by his War General; Afonja caused a big dent on the Yoruba nation and in later years, the Yoruba nation would be plunged into a 16-year civil war, which would later become the longest civil-ethnic war in world history. This was known as the ‘Kiriji or the Ekitiparapo’ War.

The future of heritage, culture and arts of a nation rest on the shoulders of the traditional rulers and the traditional institutions around them. As guardians of culture, they are the first and last line of defence against foreign interruption and infiltration.

But over the years, the culture and heritage of the Yoruba nation have not been as vibrant and elegant as it used to be. Infiltration and dilutions in so many ways have caused people to abandon the old ways. Traditional values and morals laid down by our forefathers have been jettisoned for western and modern ways of life which have brought us nothing but decay and a breakdown of order and values inherent in our traditional systems.

Is it safe to say that Obaship and Traditional Institutions in Yoruba land have been compromised and stained because of the aim of amassing wealth and affluence?

This is due to the influence of Politicians in selecting their candidates for Obaship and regulating traditional institutions as a way of controlling traditional powers.

The appalling breakdown of law and order and the moral decadence in Yoruba land calls for urgent attention and resolution.

There is a Yorùbá adage that says, “An elder doesn’t sit in the market and watch the end of a newborn get twisted”. The weight of Obaship in Yorùbá land is more than just the throne; it calls for proper education and preservation of the culture of the Yoruba nation.

John Adetoyese Laoye I, Timi of Ede, Ede, Nigeria, | Photo – Elisofon, Eliot

Traditional royalty and politics are like oil and blood; the two don’t mix well and should not be allowed in any union whatsoever. Everything must be done to preserve Yoruba culture, art and heritage and this goes for the right positioning of the Obaship in the entire Yorùbá Nation.

In a country where history is not taught in any academic curriculum, it’s the duty of the Obaship and Traditional leaders to ensure that our culture, morals and heritage are preserved and nurtured. The empowerment of youths in the society and also ensuring peace and protection of lives and property in the community falls on the shoulders of the one who is considered as the “second in command to the gods”.

The future of any developed Nation and country depends on his preservation of its history, culture, heritage, arts and culture. The richness of the Yorùbá culture and heritage connects the world just as the Atlantic Ocean connects diverse countries. Its level of wealth is multi-layered, hence, it must be protected at all cost and the role of the Obaship and traditional institutions in delivering this duty is important.

The legacies of great Monarchs such as HRM Oba Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the late Ooni of Ile-ife who gave the land for the establishment of Africa’s Most Beautiful University, Obafemi Awolowo University, The Late Olowo of Owo, Oba Sir Olateru Olagbeji II, Oba Oyekan of Lagos, HRM Oba Peter Adeniran Olatunji Agunlejika II, Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesha-Land cannot be erased from the pages of history.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our culture, heritage and arts must be preserved, not also not forgetting that every son and daughter of the Yoruba Nation must strive to be an outstanding

‘Omoluwabi’; an upright and well-nurtured individual in the community.

The Obaship and Traditional Institutions should not just care about rituals and traditional worship but should look inward and see how the land can be developed socio-culturally, morally, and in every way possible. This must be done with diligence, respect and an open mind. Consider: time and seasons have changed and in moving forward we have to create a flexible channel of communication to enable us to bridge the gap between the old ways and the new ways.

Ire ooo.

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