The King’s Death
Lets finish before we start: This King Did Not Die Well. We all are aware how the death of Ooni of Ile-Ife was announced. I read about it on Facebook, updated by Sun Newspaper, then I stumbled on it on Sahara Reporters. By then, the news was unstoppable, it was everywhere. It was a breaking news, the sensation was not left out, it boldly read: Ooni of Ile-Ife Is Dead! Another read: Ooni Dies at 85. Then came the boroje-part of the breaking news: Ooni of Ile-Ile Dies in London! I was scandalized. On two separate levels.
The announcement of the King’s demise was wrongly worded. A Yoruba king does not die, he joins his ancestors. That much was missing in the breaking news. All outlets that broadcast the badnews worded it wrongly. His “death” was announced as though a commoner died. Still at a loss at this news with disregard for the King’s departure, the disclosure that the King’s port of departure happened in a strange land was a pill too bitter to swallow.
However, both news were helpful to resolving, particularly the disregard for culture consideration in the choice of words to break the King’s departure (death) out of this the world. Dying in a strange space would allow even stranger things. At that point, I gbakamu (gave up protesting). It was the deathplace that allowed this strangeness in the first instance.
Of course, one’s choice of deathplace is not often choosable, but not in this case; going for medical treatment or for whatever reason the 85 year old monarch embarked on a 6000 kilometer journey to London, the possibility of a breakdown/death must have been factored in. So, the palace was not unaware the King might die. At that age, the body is hardly able to withstand intercontinental flight. Not even sitting for too long in a position, at least for those blessed with relative good health for that age.
Two examples to butress this fact: The former Alake of Egbaland died almost immediately after his 90th birthday, his death was not unconnected to having sat for too long in a church pew when his birthday was being celebrated. Second, Pope Benedict XVI retired his papacy citing health reasons and old age. Both examples were of the age bracket of the departed Ooni of Ile-Ife.
So, what is the point? There are enough examples/reasons for the King to not have travelled at all, even if just for the fact that he might die. It is simply unacceptable culturally for a king the status of Ooni of Ile-Ife to die where he died. If had died at home, his death would have been announced as worthy of a king. There would have been no need to unconfirm, to later confirm, that the King is “dead” indeed. The theater would have been spared. Unfortunately, the King, with this kind of deathplace, practically left one openmouthed. Oropesije.
To have died a miserable death is to die in a place where one’s clothes/wardrobe are/is not. This is exactly what happened to the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Olubuse II.
Returning to the purpose of the King’s visit in the United Kingdom: Medical attention. This sheds light on the condition of hospitals back home in His Ile-Ife kingdom. It is not out of place to compare Ooni of Ile-Ile to the Queen of England, to a certain extent. The imagery is this: How unheard of would it be for the Queen to fly outside the Crown’s territories to be treated?! Unfortunately, our Yoruba King of kings went on this unthinkable journey. I do not know how badly sick the King was prior to the trip to the UK, of relevance in this consideration are those times when the King was young, full of life, wealthy and influential.
News has it that the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Olubuse II was already a wealthy man before he ascended the throne. I believe this news immediately. We all know in Yorubaland, the richest cum most influential bidder is often times the right bidder for kingship positions. So, upon becoming king, His wealth could only have increased. His influence definitely became so strong after he was elevated to being the permanent chairman of all kings in Yorubaland. Olubuse II weilded a political influence only few could boast of in Yorubaland. Sadly however, he never for once thought of building a hospital good enough to treat His own ailments. And if he could not build one, he could at least have influenced one to be built, so that at a time when he had to be treated, He would not have to be moved out of His kingdom. From this perspective, one can say without a bad conscience that the King forced the shame which befell His office upon it, for He died in the open, a commoner’s death, when He could have died at home a King. One xan only wish He built a hospital, financed by his money or influence or both. He did not.
Another Yoruba proverb might explain the King’s decision to not cater for His own death(place) beforehand. It goes thus: Panpa para e oni oun npa aja. Like the tick, who thinks only the dog is being sucked to death, the tick will in the end suck himself to a sure death. If for this or that reason, Olubuse II felt providing for his own people a well-deserved health clinics is out of his prerogative, well, he was caught in His own refusal to cater for the people over whom he ruled. His death in a strange land was avoidable but choosable. He did the latter.
Mourning we must mourn, because our King is dead. Yes, I mourn, not His death alone, I mourn because This King Did Not Die Well, He died where He ought not to have died.