There is palpable apprehension among residents and travellers through the ancient city of Ile-Ife in Osun State as it is believed that the rites of passage of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II has commenced.
Major markets in the town shut down early and motorists said it is risky to embark on a journey through the town at dusk because of the prevailing situation in the town.
It is believed that rites that would herald the announcement of the death of traditional rulers in many Africa communities involve human sacrifices.
The esoteric tradition of Ile-Ife, where about 401 deities are worshipped all-year round competes with Egypt as origin and custodian of a robust civilisation. Tradition permits that the Ile-Ife Traditional Council is the only body that has the right to announce the demise of a sitting monarch and they are also saddled with the responsibility of nominating the successor.
Reports indicating that Oba Sijuwade had joined his ancestors have been trending since Tuesday with the town’s chief denying that it happened.
The State government has also kept mum.
After the closed door meeting with Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola in Osogbo on Thursday, the RTC members returned to Ile-Ife to commence the arrangements that will culminate in the formal announcement of the revered monarch.
Two noticeable features of the rites of passage were the closure of markets for business and the activities of Oro cultist in the evenings.
Since the news of the demise of Oba Sijuwade filtered into town, people close from businesses in Ile-Ife early.
But a palace source denied that the rites had commenced and that these were mere coincidences.
The chief hinted that it is the annual traditional Oro festival that chanced in on the prevailing uncertainty about the Ooni’s health.
“People normally close from business during Oro festival because women are not allowed to witness Oro festivities,” he said.
He also said ringing of a special bell to announce the death of the monarch had not been done and the early closure of markets cannot be misconstrued to be a sign to show that the monarch has joined his ancestors.
However, it is said that the second in command to the Ooni of Ile-Ife, 83-year-old Chief Samuel Omisakin, the Obalufe of Ile-ife is also seriously ill.
It is traditionally the responsibility of the Obalufe to coordinate the announcement of the death of an Ooni when the latter joins his ancestors.
The ancient city of Ile-Ife remained calm while people went about their normal businesses Friday despite the anxiety generated by the death of the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade.
Although residents closed early for business, this, according to sources, was due to a seven-day annual traditional Oro festival.
The media had announced the demise of the frontline monarch at a London Hospital where he had gone for medical treatment.
Though the Ife Traditional Council has insisted that the monarch is hale and hearty, the community remains confused about the correct situation of things.
Sources hinted that while the people are almost convinced that the monarch had joined his ancestors, significant physical changes that usually herald the demise of an Ooni are not on ground.
A palace source hinted that when an Ooni dies, the big trees in the heart of the town must be cut down.
Besides, there is a door that remains closed during the lifetime of a sitting monarch adding that since the door has remained closed, it means that the monarch is presumed to be alive.