Despite his belief in Ifa and other traditional gods, renowned traditionalist and foremost Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, is married to Christians and Muslims. He has no regrets marrying from the two religions, though he sees them as foreign religions. He also says Ifa had pre-determined his greatness long before his birth and that his birth was a gift from the goddess of Osun River in Osogbo. Elebuibon is a visiting Professor of Ifa Mythology at the Chicago State University, USA and the Araba-awo of Osogbo, Osun State. Correspondent SUNDAY ADEBISI recently encountered Elebuibon in Osogbo
Birth and Parentage
I was born to the Oluode family in Osogbo, Osun State capital, and I am a direct descendant of
Olutimehin, the great man that founded Osogbo. My father married six wives, and my mother was the youngest of the six wives. My father was an herbalist. Before my birth, Ifa had told my father that I would be a great achiever. My parents had problems conceiving children. Later my father was told that River Osun would give him a child.
It was Osun water that my mum drank before she eventually gave birth to me, and that was why I was named Osundagbonu and Ifayemi. Ifayemi means Ifa oracle gladdens my heart.
I have always enjoyed the support of Ifa and it has never disappointed me since my childhood days. Ifa has been so wonderful to my household and to me. My father taught me how to worship Ifa early in life. I started receiving training in the art of Ifa when I was four years old. I was 17 years old in 1955 when the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, introduced the first Free Education. I was with my father when those looking for people to train were going round Osogbo. These people were looking for those they would give free Western Education to. All attempts to convince my father to allow me go to school did not yield any good result. He insisted that I would not go to school because my elderly ones who went to school abandoned Ifa.
Training and Tutelage
But in 1957 my father died and I was taken to Chief Ifaniyi Agbongbon who continued training me in the art of Ifa. I thought I would stop Ifa when my father died but to my surprise, I continued with it. After some years, I began to learn Western Education from my friends who were going to school. When doing their assignment, I would join them and study with them. I was writing rubbish in exercise books but later I got the understanding of how they write. Some of my colleagues are now professors. They include Ismaila Raji, and a host of others. My friends were giving me Western Education.
Unfortunately, the man teaching me Ifa was not favorably disposed to my action. He was always beating me each time he saw me with books. But I managed to study without his knowledge. My friends were helping me to get knowledge of what they were taught in school. One day, a man asked me to spell ‘Sokolokobangose’ and despite the fact that I didn’t go to school, I was able to spell it well and the teacher was impressed with my performance.
One of my friends taught me to begin correspondence course, and I started, that was how I began my education career. My Ifa teacher had a Ghanian friend who once told him people in Ile-Ife loved Ifa and artwork and so he left for Ile-Ife. One day a letter came for my boss and he was unable to read the letters. I told him to give me the letters, and when I read the letters and replied on his behalf, he was impressed. After sometime his friend in Ghana came home and asked about who wrote the letters for him and he identified me. The friend sent for me and gave me 20 kobo as gift.
Nbari-nbayo Drama Group
Around1962, I joined Duro Ladipo and his Nbari-nbayo Drama Group. A director at the institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan helped me to further develop my education. It was in this group I developed my academics. I made friends among the group members who are Europeans and in 1975 we started traveling out as a group. In 1977 I started traveling alone to deliver lectures at oversees Universities.
Authored Eight Books
I have written about eight books, including ‘Wife of Oranmiyan’, ‘Healing Power of the Sacrifice’ and ‘The Invisible Power of the Metamorphic God’ among other best selling books on sale within and outside the shores of Nigeria. In addition, I have produced many records; the first was ‘Eyanwon. I established my company ‘Yemi Elebuibon Records Stores’ in 1979. We started Ifa Olokun Asorodayo series on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Ibadan in 1980. We have done series of records and films. I have also done a one-hour documentary on Obatala Worship, Osun and others. I am an artiste in residence in some overseas universities where I teach African Philosophy. I have delivered lectures in both Nigeria and overseas’ universities. That is just the story of my life.
Cultism Traceable to Europe
Cultism has no origin in Nigeria. It has its genesis traced to Europe. Ifa institution has nothing secret; it is done in the open. Some traditionalists meet in the night because the night is very convenient for them because many practitioners are in high places, and the nature of their jobs do not afford them the opportunity to gather during the day. Cultism is a bad omen and can jeopardise the future of the young ones. Our youths who are majorly members of these cult groups should shun cultism for the sake of their future and the reputation of their families.
Ifa, a Great Oracle
Ifa is a great oracle in Africa. As Jesus came from Jerusalem, and Mohammed came from Saudi Arabia, so also Orunmila came and it was giving people knowledge and wisdom. Ifa consist in so many things, which human beings need. Orunmila has its own disciples. Oduifa has 266 chapters and so many verses. Ifa teaches us so many things about the founding of each town. The roles of Ifa are enormous in the lives of all and sundry. Oduifa is now in almost all parts of the world. Orunmila is like Jesus or Mohammed because human being transforms to oracle. Ifa verses are now in almost all parts of the world. Ifa verses are now in books and I have written six books that contain the mystery of Ifa oracle. All Africans must believe in Ifa regardless of their religions because Oranmiyan is a supernatural being sent by God to deliver the people.
No Regret Marrying Christians, Muslims
Ifa directed me to those I will marry; I married with the supernatural directive of Ifa. I sought for the direction of Ifa before I married my wives. All my wives were either Christians or Muslims before they got married to me but Ifa directed me to them and told me that they would later got converted into my own religion. All my children know about Ifa; I practice Ifa with all my wives and children. Some of my children have been ordered by Ifa to take after me and they will definitely take after me like I took after my own father. Ifa says many things clearly about marriage, after looking at where one wants to marry, it is very important to consult Ifa because Ifa may advise against the woman a man wants to marry or vice versa. Ifa advises us about whom to marry. And we Ifa priests are free to marry so many wives as we have the ability to do.
Above all, I have no regrets marrying from the Christian and Muslim families where I married from, although their parents were against the relationship initially, but later they accepted me and today we are living together happily. I married both Muslims and Christians, but now they have converted.
Yoruba Language & Culture
Something urgent must be done to prevent the deteriorating culture of the Yoruba. Yoruba culture is very rich but we do not value our culture. Our origin should be traced; we must value our own things. Disrespect or lack of value for our own things is making our own culture to fade; we must not be ashamed of our culture because they are very rich. If our country must develop, we need to promote our culture and tradition. Today, Nigerians are not given respect in the outside world because of our deteriorating culture.
Leaders Should Swear by Ifa
Our government will be better for it if we use traditional objects to inaugurate our leaders, instead of using the Bible or Quran. Our own traditional objects like land and iron should be used to swear in our leaders. Our leaders should swear by traditional objects if we actually want to develop this nation.
The use of foreign objects to swear them in is making corruption to thrive in Nigeria. Nobody can say boldly that he’s a Nigerian in the outside world. Nigerians abroad are now ashamed of themselves, and this is as a result of bad leadership. If we want good people to represent us, we must change our orientation. Those who want to do well are not giving the opportunity to rule.
Corruption Still Pervasive
Churches and mosques are increasing by the day, yet corruption continues in the land. However, traditional religion cannot die in this country because of its therapeutic effects. It’s the last remedy after prayers and fasting in various places.
Even after medical treatment, people still result to traditional means. It remains the last remedy and the last hope for the people.
The developed world where foreign religions were brought to Nigeria still values their culture and tradition, and they respect traditional religion as well. They practice it and their governments give respect to traditional religion and its practitioners.