I had the honor of meeting with the Ooni of Ife during our last trip to Nigeria in April 2017. This is a huge deal considering who the Ooni of Ife is. The “enomouritiy” of our seeing him seemed to heighten with each person we would tell. So quite naturally, you can imagine my elevated anxiety coupled with nervousness upon arriving at the palace. Yes, I said palace! First, let me just tell you a little bit about just who the Ooni of Ife is.
The Ooni of Ife is referred to as the “king of kings” throughout the entire Yorubaland. He is viewed as the paramount ruler and spiritual Head of Yorubaland. Ile-Ife is a century old city located within southwest Osun State, Nigeria and is regarded by many Yoruba people as their spiritual home.
The 51st Ooni of Ife is Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, and he is a successful, young entrepreneur in his early 40’s born from the Royal Compound of Giesi Ruling House, Ojaja Royal Compound of Agbedegbede. He succeeds the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade. Some of his responsibilities include holding court proceeding concerning land & matrimonial issues and chieftancy disputes within the palace as well as designating new chiefs.
Much excitement surrounds the new Ooni as he remains dedicated to causes of the people. His House of Oduduwa Foundation is dedicated to advocating for those who are less privileged through education and innovation initiatives centering on healthcare, empowerment, and agricultural development.
Heavy accents influenced our way of speaking and to keep from being ridiculed, I often found myself desperately trying to be as “black” as I could be. I even sought a name change from my Dad to something more “urban” like Shaquita, Chiquita and then Naomi. Why couldn’t my last name be Johnson, Jones or Williams; something easy to pronounce by teachers doing roll-call?
Turning “impossibilities into possibilities,” Ooni Ogunwusi brings his strong business acumen, open minded, out-the-box thinking equipped with fresh ideas and youthful vigor. So far he has proven himself to be a man of action and not just words.
A tradition and culture buff, he has committed to the reconstruction and renovation of key heritage spots in hopes of promoting the rich cultural heritage of Ile-Ife and bringing forth tourism to the area.
So… understanding the rich history and prominence, I think I stopped breathing for a second as we drove into the palace gates. The compound was full with people adorned in traditional attire. There was lots of men clothed in white garments around us. Oge and I were the only women present in our entourage and we too under the suggestion of Oge had come in our shades of white. Upon entering into the palace, we had to immediately remove our shoes.
Ahead of us, you could visibly see the Ooni hearing out the plea of two women. I couldn’t quite hear what they were discussing but they must have got what they wanted because they were no longer kneeling but smiling as they walked towards the exit of the palace.
We were escorted to our seats by the Special Advisor to the Ooni, Mr. Akin, who did his best to brief us with what to expect and how to approach the Ooni.
I’m always nervous, but I was particularly careful to be particular about my presence, speech, walk and interaction in fear of violating some unknown custom and being forced to pay a fine of some sort.
Oge of Naijavibes was on my right side as we kneeled before the Ooni. Introductions were made and I was given the opportunity to share my vision of “a celebrated Africa” and the need for his support for our upcoming Nigerian Experience trip happening in December.
To my surprise, the Ooni of Ife, who is strikingly handsome, expressed his pride and approval in our being in the Diaspora and wanting to share our culture with the world. He promised his full support and asked that we bring back this message to you. His call is for us to “COME HOME!” He wanted those African, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean to remember that this is home. It is the home in which you belong. The Ooni of Ife wants you to remember that although at one point you were captured and enslaved, you hail from Kings and Queens and royalty runs through your veins.
This December 27th, 2017 through January 6th, 2018, “The Nigerian Experience” trip will be your opportunity to meet the King of Kings of Yorubaland, the alleged largest black race population on the planet. Soak in the history, rich culture, and traditions of Ile-Ife. You will have the opportunity to meet the Ooni of Ife yourself and share your experience with others. He is excited to receive all those interested in learning about the culture that is ultimately all of ours.
I’m sure you can imagine, I left the palace that night resolved to get you all home so that you can “experience it” yourselves. I’m focused, man!
See below just what he has to say to those of us living in the Diaspora and on the Continent.
For more information on how you can join us this December, click on our events page to learn more about the Nigerian Experience trip coming up.!