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INSTITUTION OF ALAAFIN

IKU BABA YEYE, ALASE IKEJI ORISA...The Owner of the Palace

The ALAAFIN is the supreme head o f all the kings and princes of the Yoruba nation , as he is the direct lineal descendant and successor of the reputed founder of the nation . The succession as above said is by election from amongst the members of the royal family , of the one considered as the most worthy , age and nearness
to the throne being taken into consideration . It might be mentioned also in passing that the feelings and acceptance of the denizens of the harem towards the king – elect are often privately ascertained and assured of previously.

In the earliest days , the eldest son naturally succeeded the father, and in order to be educated in all the duties of the kingship which must one day devolve upon him, he was often associated more or less with the father in performing important duties and thereby he often performed royal functions , and thus gradually he practically reigned with his father under the title of AREMO (the heir apparent) having his own official residence near the palace but as the age grew corrupt , the AREMO often exercised sway qui te as much as or
more than the King himself , especially in the course of a long reign, when age has rendered the monarch feeble . They had equal powers of life and death over the King’s subjects , and there are some cases on record of the AREMO being strongly suspected of terminating the father’s life, in order to attain full powers at once. It
was therefore made a law and part of the constitution that as the AREMO reigned with his father , he must also die with him. This law had the effect at any rate of checking parricide . It continued to take effect up to the last century when (in 1858). it was repealed by ATIBA one of the later Kings in favour of his AREMO ADELU. The AREMO may now succeed if found Worthy, but he must be elected in the usual way but if passed over or
rejected by the king-makers he must leave the city and resort to a private retirement in the provinces.

Curious and elaborate ceremonies precede the actual accession to the throne. After all arrangements have been made, the ceremonies begin by a sacrifice brought from the house of the ONA-ISOKUN by a body of men called Omo-ninari these belong to a family specially concerned in carrying out all menial duties connected with the offering of sacrifices and in Waiting upon the King and the priests. As ”soon as they enter the house where the King-elect is, he is called out, and he has to stand up with an attendant by his side . He is touched on the chest, and on the right and left shoulders with the bowl of sacrifice, the attendant in the mean time uttering some form of words. This is the signal that he has been called to the throne.

There is a night he passes at the house of the Qtun-Iwefa( the next in rank to the chief of the eunuchs). This official being a priest of Sango, it is probable that the king-elect spends the night with him in order to be initiated into the sacerdotal part of his office , the ALAFIN having as much spiritual as well as secular work to perform, being at once King and Priest to his people; and probably he learns there also the usages and doings of the huge population in the inner precincts of the palace with which the eunuchs are quite conversant. After this, he is conducted into one of the chambers in the Outer Court of the palace(Qmo ile) where he resides for three months, the period of mourning, until his coronation. The main gateway to the palace being closed at the demise of the King, a private opening is made for him in the outer wall through which he goes in and out of his temporary residence. During this time he remains strictly in private, learning and practicing the style and deportment of a King, and the details of the important duties and functions of his office. During this period
he is dressed in black, and is entitled to use a cap of state called Ori-ko-gbe-ofo. (The head may not remain uncovered). The affairs of state are at this time conducted by the Basorun.

THE CORONATION
The coronation takes place at the end of three months, really at the third appearance of the new moon after the late King’s death. The date is generally so fixed as to have it if possible before the next great festival. It is attended with a great public demonstration. It is a gala day in which the whole city appears in holiday dress. Visitors from the provinces and representatives of neighboring states also flock into the city in numbers.
This day is generally known as The King’s visit to the BARA. It is the first but most important act of the ceremonies.

The BARA or royal mausoleum is a consecrated building in the outskirts of the city, under the care of a high- priestess named IYAMODE; there the Kings were formally crowned, and there buried. The King enters it but once in his lifetime, and that is Tradition says that in the early times while the King-elect is in the Qtun-efa’s house among other dishes brought to him to partake of is one prepared from the heart of the late King which has been extracted and preserved. After partaking of this he is told he has eaten the King. Hence the origin of the word ‘Je Oba’ to become a King(to eat a King). The actual crowning does not now take place in the BARA as it seems to have been, but at Koso the shrine of Sango, but the visit to the BARA is so important and indispensable a preliminary that it has become more closely identified with the coronation than “that to the other shrines visited on that occasion. Leaving the IPADI — his temporary chambers—there are two stations at which the King elect has to halt before reaching the sacred building the first is the Abata or area in front, of the palace where a tent of beautiful cloths has been erected for him. Here he has to change his mourning dress for a princely robe. He then proceeds to the second station at the Alapini’s midway on his route where a large tent and an enclosure have been erected for his reception. Here he is awaited by a vast concourse of people
and welcomed with ringing cheers. Here he receives the congratulations and homage of the princes, the nobles, the chiefs and the people and is hailed as the King. Some ceremonies are here gone through also which include distribution of kola nuts, etc., to the princes and chiefs. The visit to the BARA then is for the purpose of receiving authority or permission from his deceased ancestors to wear the crown, hence it is spoken of as the coronation.

This over, the King returns hence with great pomp and show to his temporary chambers, amid the firing of fen de joie, the bleating of the Kakaki trumpet, drumming, etc. On the fifth day after this he proceeds to Koso, the shrine of Sango, for the actual crowning . Here he is attended by the Otun-wefa who has the charge of the shrine, the Bale (mayor) of Koso a suburban village , the n-ni-naris, and the Isenas, power over all , man and beast, but he is also consecrated a priest to the nation. His person, therefore, becomes sacred. All this having been performed, it is now formally announced to the assembled public, that King A is dead (or rather has
entered into the vault of the skies—O wo Aja) and King B now reigns in his stead.

The King having been crowned, he is henceforth forbidden to appear in public streets by day, except on very Special and extra ordinary occasions; he is, however, allowed evening strolls on moonlight nights when he may walk about incognito. This seclusion not only enhances the awe and majesty due to a sovereign, but also lends power and authority to his commands, and is the best safe-guard for public order at their present stage of civilization. Besides, it would be very inconvenient to the citizens if the King were always coming out, for according to the universal custom of the country, whenever a chief is out, all his subordinates must go out with him. It is an inviolable law and custom of the country, and is applicable to all,  whatever their rank: thus, if the Basorun is out, all the OYOMESI must be out also. If the Baale of any town is out, all the chiefs of the town must be out also, and if the King is out, the whole city must be astir and on the move, all business suspended, until he returns into the palace.

THE AREMO
The very first official act of the new King after his coronation is to create an Aremo, and a Princess Royal or an equivalent. The Aremo is the Crown Prince . The term simply denotes an heir, but it is used as the title of the Crown Prince of OYO. The title is conferred upon the eldest son of the sovereign in a formal manner, the ceremony being termed the christening as of a newly born child, hence be is often termed (child) by way of distinction The title of Princess Royal is at the same time and in the same manner conferred upon the eldest daughter of the sovereign as well this, however, is of much less importance than the other. When the King is too young to have a son, or his son is a minor, the title is temporarily conferred upon a younger brother, or next of kin that stands to him in place of a son, but as soon as the son is of age, he must assume his title and begin to act under the guardianship of the eunuchs who are his guardians.

THE KING IN STATE
The King generally appear s in state on these three festive occasions, Facing the large quadrangle of the outer court are the six principal Kobis, that in the centre is what is known as the Kobi AGANJU or throne room where the ALAAFIN always appears on state occasion. It is always kept closed, and never used for any other purpose but this on such occasions, the floor is spread all over with mats, and the front of the throne overspread with scarlet cloths; the posts all around are decorated with velvet cloths, and the walls with various hangings.

The crown is made of costly beads such as coral, agra, and the like, which in this poor country stand to the people instead of precious stones. It is artistically done up by experts, with fringes of small multi—coloured beads depending from the rim, which serve to veil the face.
The robes are usually silks or velvets, of European manufacture, which were of much greater value in earlier days when intercourse with the coast was not so common or easy as it now is .
The Ejigba is the chain of office. This is made of a string of costly beads going round the neck and reaching as far down as the knees.
The Qpaileké is the staff or sceptre artistically covered all over with small multi-coloured beads .

The Iru-ikere is a specially prepared cow’s tail of spotless white which the King generally holds in front of his mouth when speaking for it is considered bad form to see him open his mouth in public. He makes his speech sotto voce, and it is repeated to the assembly in a loud voice by the chief of the Eunuchs. The white tail is more
over an emblem of peace and grace .

The Ona-modeke. This is the civil counterpart o f the military title of Seriki. This officer is the head, or leader of all the youths in the city and country, capable of bearing arms, whoever may be their father or master. He forms a band of them all, and is supposed to train them in manly sports and Civic duties. It is his prerogative to shield members of his band from the penalties of the law Whenever they have become liable to such, by any rash act.

The Isugbins; These are members of the palace orchestra. They number about 210 persons, playing on fifes, the Qkinkin and the Ivory trumpets, and the special drums, Koso and Gbedu, etc.
The Alukoso or Koso drummer’s chief duty is to wake up the King every morning at 4 am. with his drum.
The Aludundun or the Dundun drummer . He has to attend at the palace every day within certain hours,
including the visiting or business hours. He has one of the front Kobis assigned to him, where he sits. discoursing events with his drum, all during his office hours. With it, he pre-announces the presence of any visitor in the palace so that in whatever part of the palace the King may be, he can tell by the sound of the drum who has entered the court yard before the personage is actually announced. This is one of the peculiarities of the Yoruba language, _ and the art of the drummers. The names, praises and attributes of every family of note are known to all drummers, and musicians, and they are experts in eulogizing and enlarging on the praises of any one they wish to honour, speaking it with their drums. If for instance a white man enters the palace, the drummer would strike up: Oyinbo, Oyinbo, a fi okun se ona(the white man, the white man who makes of the ocean a high way). In strains like this he would continue for a while enlarging upon his praises .

The Arokins: These are the rhapsodists or national historians, an hereditary title they have an apartment to themselves where they repeat daily in songs the genealogy of the Kings, the principal events of their lives and other notable events in the history of the Yoruba country.

The Ile male is the palace surveyor. He has charge of all the buildings within that vast compound, especially of the Kobis. He is to see that every part is kept in good repair. He is also to attend to the drains and the grounds especially after a heavy fall of rain. He is said to be the principal officer who is to wash the corpse of the King and dress it before it is placed in the coffin.

The Tetus: These are the sheriffs or King’s executioners. They are about 1 9 in number, each one of them with his subordinates has specified duties to perform e.g., it is the duty of the 15th with his subordinates to clear the grounds and dishes after the King has entertained the OYOMESI. They number about 150 in all.

The Eunuchs: The Eunuchs are called Iwefa or Iba-afin (contracted to Baafin) i.e . lordlings of the palace. The principal are – The Ona-efa or chief of the Eunuchs , the Qtun-efa and the Osi-efa his principal lieutenants, and others to the sixth grade. Besides these are the untitled ones, and boys.

The Ona-efa is a high legal personage; he hears and decides suits and appeals brought to the King whenever His Majesty cannot sit in person, and his decision is as good as the King’s whose legal adviser he is. We have seen above the principal part he plays in public festivals and state ceremonies.

The Otun-efa a has the charge of the suburban town of Koso, built in honour of the national god Sango. It is his duty to worship at the shrine at stated periods on behalf of the Yoruba people. He sometimes helps to decide cases. He is also one of the chief guardians o f the King’s children.

The Osi-efa or Olosi although the least of the three yet is the most honoured. He represents the King on all occasions and in all matters civil as well as military. He sometimes acts as commander-in- chief in military expeditions, he is allowed to use the crown, the state umbrellas, and the Kakaaki trumpet, and to have royal honours paid to him. On such occasions he is privileged also to dispense the King’s prerogatives. His ordinary duties are: to be near the King’s person at all times, having free access to every part of the palace including the harem to see that the King’s bed is properly made, before he retires every night; to visit him at midnight and at cock-crow to see if he has had a restful night, and t o call him up at 4 am before the Koso drum begins to sound. He is to head those of the King’s wives who are to dance at the Akesan market once a year, after the deity presiding over markets has been propitiated. With-none of the titled ladies of the palace, he has charge of the King’s market and enjoys in part the emoluments accruing there from.

The Eunuchs are the guardians of the King’s children, the princes and princesses as a rule are born in the house of one of the principal Eunuchs for as soon as any of the King’s wives becomes a mother, she is separated from the other women, and placed under the guardianship of one of them, and she is not to return
to the palace until the child is weaned. The titled ones among them are masters of large compounds, and they also keep their own harems as well their wives are called Awewo, i. e. one with hands tied because they are doomed to be forever childless. In cases of adultery disclosed by pregnancy both the defaulters in early days were to suffer capital punishment the man on the day the crime was proved against him, and the woman with the issue on the day she is delivered. These extreme measures, however, have been allowed to die out, in favour of fines or other less severe punishments.