Ooni of Ife: Come and discover a beautiful Nigeria the media don't tell you about

Ludovica Iaccino
Ooni of Ife

IBTimes UK met the traditional ruler of Ile-Ife (Ife), an ancient town in Osun State, southwestern Nigeria. Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the 51st Ooni of Ife, is in the UK to promote inter-dialogue as well as shed light on the rich cultural heritage of his people, the Yoruba, one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria.

"I am the custodian of the seat of Oduduwa [the first Ooni of Ile-Ife], the progenitor of Yoruba race, and that's where the spiritual headquarters of all the Yorubas reside," he said.

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The king, who hails from the Giesi Royal Family, ascended to the throne in 2015, after the former monarch died.

He has already risen to international fame for his policies, largely regarded as progressive.

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"My relationship with my people is very critical, it is very sensitive, because we are the custodians of all the spiritual culture, traditions and heritage and if anything happens in Ife, it will definitely snowball and spread across the entire Yoruba race not only in Nigeria, but in many countries all over the world," the Ooni continued.

The king is calling on the Western world to visit his kingdom, stressing that Nigeria has many positive things to offer, in spite of the fact the country is often depicted in a bad light.

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"We are trying to put very good logistics in place in terms of tourism potential, we are working with the government of Nigeria to make sure everything is smooth, all the way from the airport to every destination," he explained.

"We are not there yet, but we are hopeful that we will get there soon. We want to project the positive side of the country, not the negative side."

Among other things, the Ooni is known for advocating youth empowerment in a country where unemployment is high and the economy is crippled.

The ruler is calling on young Nigerians to explore potential careers in the agriculture sector and has promised he would employ at least 40,000 youths after acquiring a land in Ife for oil palm, cocoa and rubber plantation.

He is also urging the Yoruba Nigerians living in the UK, who he said are estimated to be around 3 million, to stay united in spite of tribal differences.

"Mankind and civilisation started from the Yoruba Kingdom. The Transatlantic slave trade – which lasted for almost 400 years – has made us disperse all over the world. It is important for all of us to come together." he said.

"We want to try as much as possible to bring all of them together and make sure we are all one happy family, irrespective of several tribes we belong to within the Yoruba clan. No supremacy."

Finally, the King expressed joy at the fact Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari returned to his homeland after spending 51 days on medical leave in London.

"Without a leader, a country or any society or any group will have a leadership vacuum.," the Ooni said. "He[ Buhari] is doing what he is meant to be doing and we are very excited that he is back in the country."

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