The apprehension over the news of the passing away of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, has thrown the ancient city into a frenzy of increasing purchase of food items ahead of an anticipated holiday.
Although relief came when the traditional chiefs announced on Wednesday that the Ooni was alive and well, shops and market were immediately closed once the news filtered in at the early hours of the day that the monarch had passed on.
“As soon as the news came, the markets immediately closed down, business owners also closed their shops,” Mr. Akinwole Olaniran, a businessman, told PREMIUM TIMES at his shop in Ife on Thursday.
“But when the news from the palace came that he is alive, there was relief and business started resuming.”
He said the “rumour” greatly affected businesses and lowered the flow of customers everywhere in the city as commercial motorcycles and many other people moved to the Monarch’s palace to ascertain the news.
He admitted that the period of traditional rites would result in loss of revenues and grounding commercial activities should the death be affirmed.
“We don’t mind closing businesses for a week, because we are aware of the importance of such incident. We know it will take some time to get an experienced and knowledgeable person to replace him should it turn out to be true that he is actually gone,” Mr. Olaniran added.
Traditionally, once the death of the Ooni is announced, the three major markets, namely: Oja Tutun, Oja Ife and the Goat Market, would be closed for at least seven days.
Besides the markets, shops within the vicinity of the palace and all the areas within Enuwa, which is the area bordering the palace, will be closed for business.
A trader at Enuwa who identified himself as Fayemi, said his father was a traditional chief in Ife before his death and taught him all the traditional rites involved during the period of the passing away of any Ooni.
He said although markets would be closed and businesses would suffer, the importance of the Ooni of Ife removes any pain that might be suffered during the period of the traditional rites.
“We do not mourn our traditional ruler, we celebrate his passing away. That is why we say eku ayo, when we greet those affected,” Mr. Fayemi said.
“It will not be too much of a sacrifice to make if we have to close our businesses for a week or so for the Isoros to carry out their traditional rites.”
Mr. Fayemi also said the residents were prepared, though the news of his death remained a rumour. He explained that it was because of such effects that brought about the shortening of the period for installing another Ooni.
“In ancient times, when the Ooni of Ife passes away, other Obas in Yoruba Land vacate their traditional stools for the period a new leader was found and elected,” he said.
“That is why the period for installing a new Ooni is short compared to other traditional stools in the land.”
Solomon Adebayo sells building materials right in front of the palace. He told PREMIUM TIMES that people have been buying out food stuff from the markets since information came that the markets may be closed for about seven days.
“Within the seven days, people will not be moving around and our businesses will be affected,” he said.
Odeladi Samson also trades in paints and other building wares. He said if the monarch was confirmed to have passed away, it would be bad for business.
Samson agreed that a monarch of the Ooni’s stature should be honoured, but he was worried about the fact that as a low income earner, he would have to burn out all his little savings without making any money within the period.
“Maybe what we will do in such circumstance, if it turns out to be true is to cut down our expenses so that we can survive within the period of the closure,” he said.
At the moment, the huge crowd that gathered round the palace on Wednesday did not return on Thursday. The environment wore a somber mood as recorded on the faces of those going in and out of the Ile Oodua.
While the Chiefs’ denial of the passing away of the traditional ruler was still being maintained, the people would not want to be caught unawares and were preparing for a possible long draught.