BAMIGBOLA GBOLAGUNTE, Osogbo
Sat, 06/02/2012 – 23:51
Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, a renowned traditionalist and foremost Ifa priest in Nigeria despite his belief in Ifa and other traditional gods is married to Christians and Muslims. However, Elebuibon said he doesn’t regret marrying women from other religions, which he described as foreign religions.
Elebuibon, a visiting Professor of Ifa Mythology at the Chicago State University and the Araba Awo of Osogbo, said Ifa had predestined his greatness 10 years before his birth, adding that his mother got him directly from the goddess of Osun river in Osogbo over 60 years ago. In this interview, the Osogbo born artist and playwright explained the mystery behind his birth and also spoke on other issues affecting the culture and traditions of the Yoruba nation. Excerpts:
Background My name is Ifayemi Elebuibon and I was born to the Oluode family in Osogbo, the Osun state capital. I am a direct descendant of Olutimehin, the great man that founded Osogbo. My father married six wives and my mother was the youngest. He was an herbalist. Before my birth, Ifa had told my father that I would be a great achiever. My parents had problems conceiving children,but later my father was told that River Osun would give a child to them. My mother drank water from Osun river before she eventually gave birth to me, and that was why I was named Osundagbonu and Ifayemi. Ifayemi means Ifa oracle suits me. I have always enjoyed the support of Ifa and it has never disappointed me since my childhood . Ifa has been so wonderful to my household .
My father taught me how to worship Ifa early in life. I started receiving training in the art of Ifa divination 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 scheme. I was with my father when the government was enrolling pupils in school in Osogbo. All attempts to convince my father to let me go to school did not yield any good result. He insisted that I would not go to school because my older sibblings who went to school abandoned Ifa. In 1957 my father died and I was taken to Chief Ifaniyi Agbongbon who continued training me in the art of Ifa divination. I thought initially this was impossible after my father’s death, but to my surprise, I continued with it. After some years, I began to learn from my friends who were attending school.
As they did their homework I would join them and study with them. Initially , I was writing rubbish but later I understood the art of writing . Some of my colleagues are now professors. They include Ismaila Raji, and a host of others. My friends taught me how to read and write. Unfortunately, the man teaching me Ifa, Chief Agbongbon was not favorably disposed to my action and he beat me each time I was reading, but I managed to persevere. One day, a teacher asked for the spelling of sokolokobangose and despite the fact that I didn’t go to school I was able to spell it correctly and he was impressed.
Formal Education One of my friends introduced me to correspondence courses and I started. That was how I began formal education . My Ifa teacher had a Ghanian friend who said people in Ile-Ife loved Ifa and art work and so he left for Ile-Ife. My Ifa teacher couldn’t read his correspondence, but later after some studying I told him to give me his letters, and when I read the letters and replied on his behalf he was impressed. Later, his Ghanaian friend came visiting and asked of who wrote the letters for him and he said I did. He later sent for me and gave me 20 kobo.
In1962, I joined Duro Ladipo and his Mbari-nbayo Drama Troupe. My education got a boost when a director at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan helped me with my education. I made friends among European group members and in 1975 we started traveling out as a group. In 1977, I started traveling alone to deliver lectures at universities overseas.
Scholarly works/recording I have written about eight books, including Wife of Oranmiyan, Healing power of the sacrifice and Invisible Power of the Metamorphic god. In addition, I have produced many records and my first was Eeyan won. I established my company Yemi Elebuibon Records Stores in 1979. We started Ifa Olokun Asorodayoo series at 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 , Osun and others. I am an artiste and resident professor at universities overseas where I teach African philosophy. I have also delivered lectures in Nigeria too.
The Ifa Oracle Ifa is a great oracle in Africa, like Jesus came from Jerusalem and Mohammed came from Saudi Arabia, so also Orunmila came and gave knowledge and wisdom. Ifa consists of so many things which human beings need. Orunmila has its own disciples. Odu Ifa 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.
Odu Ifa is now almost in all parts of the world. Orunmila is like Jesus or Mohammed because human beings transform to oracles. Ifa verses are now in almost all the parts of the world. 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.
My marriage, family and Ifa Ifa directed me to those I married. I consulted the Ifa before I married my wives. All my wives were either Christians or Muslims before we married , but Ifa directed me to them and told me that they would later be converted to my own religion. All my children know about Ifa divination and 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 from. It is very important to consult Ifa , because it may say something important or different from one’s perception about the woman or man an individual wants to marry. Ifa advises us about whom to marry, and we Ifa priests are free to marry as many wives as we can manage.
Above all, I have no regrets marrying from Christian and Muslim families although their families were against our relationship initially. Later they accepted me and today we are living together happily. Now my wives have been converted to Ifa divination and worshipping. All origins are traced to traditional religion. None of my wives is giving me problems.
Yoruba & other Nigerian cultures Something urgent must be done to prevent the deterioration of the Yoruba culture . It’s very rich but we do not value our culture. Our origins should be traced and we must value our own things. Disrespect or lack of regard for our own things are making our culture to fade . We must not be ashamed of our culture because it’s very rich. Generally, if our country must develop, we need to promote our cultures and traditions. Today, Nigerians are not respected abroad, because of cultural decadence.
Our government will be better for it, if we use traditional objects in administering oaths taken by our leaders instead of the Bible or Quran. Such traditional objects include land and iron. Our leaders should swear by traditional objects if we actually want to develop this nation.
The use of foreign objects to swear-in our leaders is making corruption thrive in Nigeria. Nobody can say boldly that he’s a Nigerian to 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.
Christianity ,Islam & Tradition Those who want to do well are not given the opportunity to rule. Churches and Mosques are increasing by the day, yet corruption continues to thrive in the land. However, traditional religion cannot die in this country because of its therapeutic effect. It’s the last remedy after prayers and fasting at various places and even after medical services people still resort to traditional means. It remains the last remedy and the last hope for the people.
In the Western world where foreign religions were brought to Nigeria, they still value their culture and traditions and they respect traditional religions, they practice it and the governments respect its converts and practitioners. That’s why their industries stand for years.
Cultism Cultism has no origin in Nigeria. Its genesis is traceable to Europe. Ifa divination is not shrouded in secrecy, because it’s done in the open. Some traditionalists meet in the night because night is very convenient for them. At that time, 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 it can jeopardize the future of our young ones. Our youths who are members of different cults should shun cultism for the sake of their future and the reputation of their families.
[This interview, including the image, was taken from page 6 of Sun Newspapers of June 3, 2012 but the link is no longer active]