WHEN THE OONI OF IFE STORMED OXFORD
Were it not for the composure and discipline age has imposed on the individual, I could easily have been on my feet shouting "say it out loud, I am black and proud", as the Ooni of Ife eloquently reeled out a string of achievements and attributes that should ordinarily make any black person proud of his or her heritage. I bet it would not have been a disrespectful interruption of an ecstatic speech, for His Imperial Majesty Oba Babatunde Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife, had created such an atmosphere of excitement and pride for his large audience of black people, lecturing them as he did on the centrality of the place and culture of the black race in world civilization.
The visit of the Ooni on 22nd March, was a rare opportunity to receive a lecture from the "source". As the much talented Professor Chris Imafidon would declare in his introduction of the foremost traditional ruler, "Universities usually teach students History but today all of us are experiencing History. We have a living monarch in the flesh".
The Ooni's lecture at Oxford University was preceded by a tour of the institution's museum where he and his entourage, which included prominent traditional rulers, saw well-preserved artefacts and documents of historical significance, the type we have misguidedly disregarded in the Nigerian society. Some of these historical collections had to do with us. Maybe, the importance of preserving and celebrating history would be one of the lessons the Nigerian potentates took away from Oxford.
Of course, the city of Oxford recorded history. Historians might reminisce about the glamour of royalty in the medieval period but it is doubtful if citizens of the "contemporary" city of Oxford had ever seen anything as colourful as they saw with the charismatic and youthful Ooni, resplendent in full regalia and paraphernalia of office – beads, crown, large umbrella and, of course, a retinue of white-dressed praise singers – flaunting the richness and beauty of our culture. The community of Nigerians in Oxford, dressed especially for the occasion, were on hand to give the Ooni and the accompanying traditional rulers a befitting welcome.
The Ooni of Ife, as we have come to know of him, would seize upon any occasion to plead for unity among Nigerians. He proudly described the Nigerian Federation as unique, harbouring the largest concentration of black people in the world. He praised the intelligence of Professor Chris Imafidon, just as he poured special encomiums on the mild-mannered Professor Attahiru Jega, erstwhile Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission , for the competent manner in which he conducted the Nigerian 2015 elections. The warm reception of Jega by traditional rulers and ordinary folk alike, shows the respect Nigerians have for those who have demonstrated integrity in the face of daunting challenges and temptations.
"Jega must talk, Jega must talk" rent the air, compelling a brief response from our articulate professor of politics. The launch of the Ooni's book, "Venerated", and a message from the Lord Mayor of Oxford delivered by Nigeria-born Councillor Ben Lloyd-Shogbesan concluded what was a memorable occasion.
I had the privilege of conversing with one of the prominent traditional rulers who had accompanied the Ooni to Oxford, His Royal Majesty Oba Adejimi Adu-Alagbado, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti. This gracious oba would appear to share the same passion as the Ooni of Ife regarding community development. He revealed to me that he intended to embark on the massive empowerment of youths,-something the Ooni has been doing and talked about- as well as facilitating the psychological and emotional integration of his subjects into the mainstream politics and culture of the Ikere community. I understand the oba has been doing exceptionally well in many spheres.
There can hardly be any doubt that the Ooni and his entourage had a great day in Oxford, just as their colourful visit will have Oxonians talking for a very long time.An historic once-in-a life-time grandiose,otherwise skeptics or critics would want to be concerned only with the financial cost.