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Traditional Vs Modern Way Of Choosing King: A Reminder Of Epic Movie, “Saworo Ide” -By Peter Ojelabi

“Saworo Ide” was the most informed epic story as written by Professor Akinwumi Isola in the 60s before it was adapted for the screen by Tunde Kelani. In the story, Lapited, the Jogbo king, ascends the throne of a village endowed with mineral resources through manipulation, he refuses to perform the rites as it demanded by the traditions of the land. He trades the tradition for wealth.

The current battle for filling many prominent stools of traditional rulers in Yorubaland goes in line with the assertions: the head that wears a crown comes from the brace bell; the neck that wears coral beads also comes from the brace bell and likewise the waist that wraps a good garment that shines comes from the brace bell. All of these assertions are a pointer to the Yoruba belief about kingship, which holds that no one becomes king by mistakes. Kings are always destined to be kings and there is always a trace from birth, though this belief is based on equity and fairness. However, there is always a boundary to this assertion slaves should know themselves as slaves (ki eru o se bi eru, ki iwofa se bi iwofa).

After a king joins his ancestors, it is the responsibilities of the kingmakers to consult with elders and the oracle on who becomes the next king. In some cases, the first male child of the deceased automatic ascends the throne if that is their tradition. In others in which there are families that have right to the throne, the next family in succession line will be summoned by kingmakers to call all their princes to the palace to know and consult the oracle (Ifa) to know the next gods representative through Orunmila (the all-knowing god).

In some occasions, kingmakers will send the princes to a thick and scary forest to look for crown or staff and anyone who is able to come home with it will be crowned. This proves to be a success for many generations until the system was hijacked by the crooked who manipulate it to their own advantage. But are the gods to be blamed? No! But there is an assurance that nemesis will always catch up with evil doers, although it may be delayed. It will surely boomerang; the gods always have a way of dealing with manipulators, either through leprosy, disgrace, or death.

“Saworo Ide” was the most informed epic story as written by Professor Akinwumi Isola in the 60s before it was adapted for the screen by Tunde Kelani. In the story, Lapited, the Jogbo king, ascends the throne of a village endowed with mineral resources through manipulation, he refuses to perform the rites as it demanded by the traditions of the land. He trades the tradition for wealth. There is a strong tie between Onijogbo (King of Jogbo) and poverty which cannot be broken. Usually in the land, the king lives a wretched life, though it is a minus for anyone aiming the stool but a plus for the town and its inhabitants. The tradition helps the kings to put the love of the town above amassing riches and wealth.

Lapite becomes king without performing the rites for the love of money without knowing the implications of such action. He later discovers that his refusal to perform the rites means saworo ide should not be beaten while ade ide (brace crown) is on his head. If this happens, he will die of headache. To avert this, he then seeks to kill all those who are in the position to beat the drum and all the potential kings so that the revered stool will be meant for his family alone. Unfortunately for him, an old man (the custodian of the drum) called Ayangalu, together with a kid and the drum escape through whisper which later hunt King Lapite. At the end, he dies and peace is restored to Jogbo.

But the advent of civilisation has abolished this because of the speculations it raises afterwards and the failure of the kingmakers and traditionalists to prove beyond reasonable doubts that it works. The modern way of choosing kings also generates accusations and counter accusations unlike the case of Olubadan which is systematic in that the next king would have been identified even before the transition of the present King. Many Yoruba towns have different ruling houses that have entitled to the throne and identifying the next ruling house is always ‘a thug of war, let alone picking king in the family. There is always an avalanche of court cases flying around like wildfire against many kings after the installation. We have seen a situation where a court of competent jurisdiction declared the installation of a king as illegal after years on the throne. A recent case of this nature is the sack of the Eleruwa in Ibarapa axis of Oyo State after reigning for 20 years.

There are well over 20 princes aspiring the coveted throne of Soun of Ogbomosoland which became vacant from December 12, 2021 following the demise of Oba (Dr) Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III. The aspirants have been screened by the kingmakers and other representatives; nine months after Soun of Ogbomoso transition, the revered stool is still vacant because of rift in the internal caucus and lack of mutual understanding among the princes. This, in a way, hinders the growth and stability of the town since the demise of Oba Oyewumi. Since then, Ogbomoso has been moving from ruckus to hubbub, from kidnapping menace to theft, among other social vices. However, no seer can predict when the next king will be announced after the uproar that greeted the rumour of Pastor Afolabi Ghadi Olaoye’s appointment. As it stands, there are over 15 vacant stools in Ogbomoso and its environs: Soun, Aresaadu, Onijeru, Onikoyi, Alayede, Alaasa, Baayaoje, Onisapa, Baale Yaku, Oloko Ile, to mention just a few. It was also reported that over 86 princes have signified interest in Alaafin’s venerated stool.

It interests one to know that no matter the strive between culture and civilisation, culture always triumphs, for either modernity chooses screening, competition, debate, interview, even manifesto, it will always generate controversies. In “Saworo Ide”, the next king after Lapite is enthroned without any controversy and peace returns to the community. It is not unlikely that all the brouhaha generated by the battle for successions to many of the coveted ancient thrones may have far reaching implications on the peace, stability, progress and development of the communities.

Peter Ojelabi writing from Ogbomoso.

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