Though the remains of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade have been finally laid to rest in the palace where other monarchs from the ancient town were buried, the drama and thrills surrounding his death and burial will for a very long time continue to live in the memory of the people.
One of these was the drama on the campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife on Wednesday, 12th August as students of the institution mimicked the Oro festival just about the same time the traditionalists of Ile-Ife were also performing their rites on the passage of Oba Okunade Sijuwade.
The management of the university had ordered the students to remain indoors in compliance with the directive of the council of Chiefs of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade.
The Awara of Iwara-Ife, Oba Layi Adereti on Monday, 10th August, 2015 said the Oro festival would be the final rite of passage for the late monarch. That Wednesday, the hours between 9am and 4pm were fixed for the final pronouncement of the demise of Ooni.
Oba Adereti who is also the head of Oro cult in the entire Ile-Ife directed all residents of the ancient town whether male or female to remain indoors during the Oro rite.
He declared that after the Oro rite and proclamation, subsequent rites will follow, appealing to all residents of the ancient and historical town to obey the restriction order from the palace.
He added that although only females used to be barred whenever Oro festival was on but in that case, it has no respect for any gender.
But, on the Wednesday around 7am, the entire OAU community appeared desolated as there was no human and vehicular movement on campus.
There were no lectures either while banks that operate on campus were under lock and key. Business outfits around the student Union Building were equally closed in an unusual manner. But the male undergraduates residing in Awolowo Hall, one of the eight halls of residence on the campus brought back the life that had fled from the university environment hitherto.
Awo boys as they are fondly called performed a replica of the Oro festival which they described as part of their rite of passage for the late Oba Sijuade.
Some Awo boys had assembled around 8am, dressed in white gowns laced with red veil, armed with bells and kong while chanting occultic songs in a ritualistic manner. In what they termed ‘oro’ – a funny way of saying jokes, playing pranks using Yoruba and English Languages, the students carried objects like carton, wood and teddy that served as fetish ingredients for the “rites.”
With a large crowd, the “Oro worshippers” visited all the halls of residence on campus one after the other while students took photographs of them in excitement.
Lecture free days
The students had crowded the eight halls- Awolowo, Angola, Mozambique, Moremi, AlumniAkintola and ETF halls.
One of the male students was dressed up in red cloth and laid on the floor like a corpse as rituals were performed on him in a comical manner.
Speaking after the parade, the leader of the students Oro cult, Alarape Akinsola said it is the tradition of Awo boys to make the campus lively on lecture free days.
Lecturers and workers on campus laughed to stupor on sighting the students when they got to the academic areas.
With this, the students of the institution in their own way also paid their last respect to the departed monarch who did not only bring royalty to the exalted position, but also candour, dignity and panache to the office.