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Close source to the palace in Ile-Ife have allayed fears among residents of the ancient town that rites of passage for the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, would involve human sacrifice.

They took exception to the view describing it as a rumour aimed at tarnishing the customs and traditions of Ile-Ife, regarded as the cradle of the Yoruba race.

There had been anxiety among residents of the town, particularly some students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, that burial rites of the monarch might involve some form of bloodshed.

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The sources urged indigenes and residents of Ife not to entertain fear or panic but go about their lawful business, and do nothing to contravene customs and traditions of the town.

Some Igbo traders who said they have been living in Ife for a long time and who have shops on Iremo Road, a major way leading to the palace, described Ife as a peaceful community, saying they have never experienced anything untoward such as kidnapping for ritual purposes in recent times.

“Sacrifice of human beings for funeral rites is an ancient practice common in Africa. The practice is not part of rites for the passage of the occupant of the revered stool of Ooni. Those who ascribe that type of evil to Ile-Ife people are saying what they don’t know about us. It is true that we have rich, complex customs and traditions, but this cannot be translated to mean we sacrifice human beings as part of rites of passage for our rulers. People should disregard this wrong impression about us,” said one respondent who craved anonymity.

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Another source disclosed that His Imperial Majesty had been opposed to being flown abroad for an undisclosed treatment when he reportedly went into comma, last week Friday.

The source spoke against the backdrop of media reports about the monarch’s death, saying Oba Sijuwade had preferred to spend his last moments in the palace.

“It is unfortunate that the media have exposed and hijacked the rich culture and tradition of Ife. If people had obliged to the monarch’s desire to be left at home, we would have avoided the undue incursion by the media into our much-cherished tradition.”

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The source disclosed that the absence of the monarch has begun to take its toll on palace staff and others whose survival is hinged on his benevolence. As part of his philanthropic gestures, the Ooni was said to have taken up the responsibility of feeding about 1,000 people everyday.

Although the demise of the monarch is yet to be announced officially by the appropriate quarters, initial rites of passage, including cleansing of the palace, were said to have begun immediately news about the condition of the monarch filtered in.

We learnt that traditional chiefs have also reached out to several people and institutions within and outside the country to intimate them on the true position of the Ooni.

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A source yesterday credited the Ife Traditional Council “for living up to expectation when the news about the demise of the monarch was broken by the social and mass media. They did the right thing to preserve our customs and tradition,” he said.

The Isoro traditional chiefs in charge of the 2001 deities, which included the Ooni, are said to be ready to play their role once the remains of the Ooni arrives the country. The arrival would, however, be kept secret in accordance with tradition.

Security situation within and around the palace has been relaxed and part of the main gate leading into the palace has been opened with palace staff and visitors moving in and out more freely, unlike the past six days.

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The Oro festival declared by traditional rulers in the town, and which began yesterday, is still in force.

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