Lagos (dpa) – Thousands of Nigerians on Friday attended funeral
services for a venerated traditional monarch in the south-western
city of Ife, witnesses said.
Dignitaries paying their respects to the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade –
known as the ooni, or king, of the large Yoruba ethnic group –
included Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and state governors,
said senator Jide Omoworare, who also attended the event.
Sijuwade died in London at age 85 in July. His death was only made
public on Wednesday, allegedly to give the court time to discuss the
choice of his successor.
Mourners wearing white attire and colourful beads thronged to the
ceremony, which included Christian, Muslim and traditional Yoruba
rites. Sijuwade was then buried privately.
Businesses meanwhile remained closed in Ife, which had declared seven
days of mourning.
Ife is regarded as the cradle of the Yoruba nation – numbering about
35 million – where its mythical founder Oduduwa is believed to have
descended from the sky.
Regarded as descendant of Oduduwa, Sijuwade – in power since 1980 and
a businessman by profession – was an influential figure in Nigeria.
He was respected also by Yorubas living in Benin and Togo, as well as
by some people in Cuba and Brazil, where African slaves imported the
Yoruba spiritual tradition.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo described Sijuwade as a “voice of
honesty and fortrightness in national affairs.”
Nigeria’s traditional rulers are influential figureheads acting as
intermediaries between politicians and their communities and as
custodians of the cultural heritage.
The Yorubas – Nigeria’s largest ethnic group after the Hausa-Fulani –
have several traditional monarchs, including the alafin of Oyo and
the ataoja of Oshogbo. But the ooni of Ife is regarded as the most
“Baba ooni cannot die. A king does not die in Yorubaland. He can only
join his ancestors,” the newpaper Daily Trust quoted traditional
priest Adigun Olosun as saying.