The supremacy battle between the Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo has been going on for years now. The arguments about which of these two kings is more popular in Yoruba land still lingers. Here is our opinion on the matter.
Some facts about Obas in Yoruba land
Yoruba lands in ancient times were ruled and controlled by kings. The ruler of a Yoruba town is known as the Oba which means 'king' in the Yoruba language and some other West African languages. In ancient times the Oba was a mighty figure and the head of the government in his town. Some Obas had supreme powers over their lands and their decision was final on any matter on their land. In fact, the Obas are referred to as the Igbakeji Orisa which means the second in command to the gods. Everything including the land and the people belongs to the Oba. However, with the coming of the colonial government and institution of democratic government after Independence, their role and power have been reduced significantly. Now it is more of a ceremonial title. However, the Oba is still held in high esteem and is influential in Yoruba land.
Now let’s talk about the Ooni of Ife and the Alaafin of Oyo
The Ooni of Ife
The Ooni of Ife is the traditional ruler of the Ile-Ife town. The Ooni of Ife is believed to be the direct ancestor of Oduduwa who according to history was the first Ooni of Ife. Oduduwa is considered to be the father of all the Yorubas, and the one who has created the land Ile-Ife. Every other Yoruba clan and settlement is said to have originated from Ile-Ife. Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II is the current Ooni of Ife. He was crowned king after the demise of late Oba Okunade Sijuwade. Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II is a successful accountant and real estate developer.
The Alaafin of Oyo
The Alaafin of Oyo was formerly the title of the ruler of the ancient Oyo Empire. But since the fall of the Oyo Empire, it is now the title of the traditional ruler of Oyo town. It is believed that Oranmiyan, the last son of Oduduwa, founded the Oyo kingdom after splitting up with his brother on their way to battle. He became the first ruler of the Oyo kingdom as the Alaafin (meaning the owner of the palace). Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III is current sitting Alaafin of Oyo.
So, which Oba is more popular?
If we are to go by history, the Ooni of Ife is more popular than the Alaafin among the Yorubas. Even the most influential of the monarchs of other Yoruba lands agree with this. They believe that since the Ooni throne is the direct throne of Oduduwa, then whoever sits on that throne is the greatest among the Yoruba kings. In an interview, one of the monarchs, the Oluwo of Iwoland, said that though not all the facts from history are true. However, the fact that the Oduduwa is the first is true and that his sons and grandsons therefore can not be greater than him.
Also, looking at the current Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo, the Ooni is more recognized and influential, not just in the Yoruba lands but in Nigeria. He is held in high regard in the society and even among politicians and government officials in the South-West and beyond. So we can say the Ooni of Ife is more popular in Yoruba land.
However, this should not be an argument or controversy as the current Ooni visited the Alaafin and said that the most important thing for the Yoruba people is to live in harmony.
These views vary from person to person. An Ife indigene will agree that Ooni is more popular while someone from Oyo will hold a different perspective. Whatever view you hold, the most important thing, as the Ooni has said, is to propagate unity among the Yoruba clans.