Tradition and Culture: Burying the living with the dead.


Few months ago after denials by the Oba’s palace on the reported death of the Ooni of Ife, officials of the palace finally came out to admit the truth that Oba Okunade Sijuwade was indeed dead .  Though the officials of the palace, as the tradition permits, were instructed to keep mute. The proclamation of the demise of Ooni is only made public during the Oro festival, being the final rites on the demise of Ooni of Ife.

The residents of the ancient town of Ife are therefore urged to keep away from the streets between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4p.m. during which the Oro deity will be out. For a none Yoruba person like me, it can be a very interesting thing to know the details of such rituals. And that is some of the things an outside will never come to know. I am sure a lot of Yoruba citizens do not even know the details of the rituals, unless through stories like this one.

This development threw up several questions about the activities that will take place during the rites period. It is common knowledge in the Yoruba tradition that a monarch ‘cannot embark on the journey to the great beyond’ unaccompanied. So, someone must accompany the monarch to the great beyond. Not goats or cows. In this case it is a person, a man, the Aboba ku, one who dies with a monarch. During the lifetime of the monarch, a person is named for the role and is said to enjoy immense benefits with the monarch.

At the demise of the traditional ruler, the Abo ba ku meekly surrenders to death. The palpable fear is that lives will have to be sacrificed with the Oba’s death.  I am compelled to ask some hard questions here. Are practices such as this really needed in this present day in this millenium? Is it really civilized to bury someone, irrespective of their rank in the society, with another living person? Shouldn’t such act warrant some kind of legal questions with regards to the human rights of such man, as the Abo ba ku?  In this case the man in question seen here below, ran away raising questions of his willingness to die with the king.


For the very fact that he ran away in this case meant that he was not yet ready to die alongside the Ooni of Ife. My question is, was he still buried alive with the king? If so, isn’t such against his human right to stay alive or not to be buried with the King? Why are such ancient traditions still practiced in this era of human civilization? Traditions as this that are very old and uncivilized must be stopped or looked into. In a situation where a full healthy man or people must be buried with a monarch. Simply because in the olden days they believed that just as the monarch needed some servants here, he too must have servants in the great beyond. If he is always accompanied to any occasion in the land of the living, he also must go to the great beyond with someone who should accompany him to any occasion in the land of the death. Are these practices really necessary in this period in human history?

This incident and many others with regards to traditions in the country, raises some strong questions concerning the federal constitution and how far does it really go to protect ordinary citizens of the land. Does the federal prosecutor know that someone, who is living has to be buried, or was buried with a monarch? What does the national constitution say about the right of this very individual when he or she refuses to be buried with the king? Is it right under the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, to bury a living person with a dead individual even if he is a king?

Whilst in the past only females were barred from movements during the Oro acts, and timing was restricted to the dark periods of the nights, men are equally barred and the timing will span 9 am – 4 pm, a period when businesses, students, market women, travelers and the likes are expected to be active. How do people living in Ife during this set hours expected to carry out their daily activities? I don’t know but it is very interesting to  find out.

It is highly time we start purging from our tradition some of the archaic practices that make us appear primitive to others around the world. No one should be buried with heads or full bodies of a living person, no matter their status in the society . It is primitive, and very uncivilized to carry out such practices in this present era of human civilization. It simply does not make any sense at all. The federal prosecutor and the police must begin to do more to protect the rights of ordinary citizens in cases like this case, and several others in and around the country.

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