BARRING the unforeseen, the remains of foremost monarch Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife, will be flown back home from London, this weekend, The Nation learnt yesterday.
It was also learnt that Adetokunbo, the eldest son of the royal father, was billed to leave London for Lagos last night.
The development came on the heels of a visit by members of the Ife Traditional Council to Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola at the Okefia Government House in Osogbo, the state capital.
For the second day running, the chiefs, led by the Lowa of Ife, High Chief Joseph Ijaodola, dismissed the death of the Ooni as a rumour.
The passing on of a frontline monarch in the mould of the Ooni is not announced until 30 days after his demise, a source said.
At the meeting, which lasted for about 10 minutes, was the Council’s Secretary, Chief Adetoye Odewole and high-ranking government officials who hail from the ancient Ile-Ife city.
Others at the meeting were: the Senator representing Osun East Senatorial District, Babajide Omoworare,who is from Ile-Ife; the former Commissioner for Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Sikiru Ayedun and the former Special Adviser to the Governor on Youth, Sports and Special Needs, Mr. Biyi Odunlade.
The arrival of the chiefs at the Government House drew the attention of many, who thought they had come to officially break the news of the Ooni’s death to the governor.
But the Lowa told the governor that the monarch was alive and kicking.
Ijaodola, who maintained that the Ooni was hale and hearty, regretted that Oba Sijuwade was often a target of negative publicity.
He noted that the Ooni had been declared dead many times in the past by the media.
The high chief said: “We were all shocked when we heard the rumour. If at all such an incident had happened, the traditional council would be the first to know and to break the news to the entire public.
“Sixteen of us are his chiefs and when he was travelling out, he didn’t look like he was going to die and should that have happened to him, we would have been informed even before anyone would hear about it. We pray that Ooni will live long in good health.”
Aregbesola, who praised the chiefs for holding the forte in Oba Sijuwade’s absence, prayed for sound health and long life for the monarch.
The governor and the chiefs later proceeded to another room within the Governor’s Lodge to hold another meeting behind closed doors.
When reporters attempted to speak with the chiefs after the meetings, they declined comments.
All was dull yesterday at the Ooni’s palace – unlike Wednesday when crowds of people stormed the palace to confirm the news of the monarch’s deathý.
Only the palace guards and two policemen manning the gate were immediately visible at the palace.
When his body is brought back, it will lie inside an ancient building valled Ilegbo – where the beaded crown known as Are is won by the Ooni once every year during the Olojo festival.
The Are is worn through the back because it is forbiden for the Ooni to see its inside. And when it is worn, the rain must not touch it.
He will be brought in at night, The Nation learnt, after being flown in through a Chartered air ambulance.
A source told this newspaper that his remains will be taken into the Ilegbo through a special door meant for that purpose. The door is beside the Ife museum and is facing Iletimi.
“It had to be broken when Oba Adesoji Aderemi died because it had been closed for 50 years. In his case, it has been closed for 35 years,” said the source.
Once his body lies there, only men will be allowed in and they have to be fortified because he is considered a deity.