By: Hassan Temitope
Sometimes recently, around 2015 during the demise of the yesterday’s Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, the social media was awashed with a claim that Ooni who should be buried before the seventh day after been deceased might not find a grave because his Abobaku (the man who would escort the king’s body to the grave) had given honour to deer, so his whereabouts is difficult for even goggle to tell.
That was how many got to know about the old-revered chieftancy title called, Abobaku, which literally translate to he who dies with the king, in Yoruba land. And you know history as a subject matter these days is so irrelevant just as zero after the decimal point. So, when the Ooni Abobaku saga was unfold, the populace laced with quasi knowledge of history mocked the title to be barbaric – the least of the big words used in rendering the revered title to the mud.
“Why will you sacrifice someone because a king die? Why can’t the king be buried alone?”. Those were there questions based on literary meaning of Abobaku. To give a light to question, let’s briefly know why Abobaku?
Those with the knowledge of history said that, Abobaku was exclusive to Old Oyo Empire! It was never in practice at Ile-Ife. The concept of Abobaku was a sort of insurance programme for Alaafin; Its sole aim was to build a steadfast, long-lasting loyalty between the King and his trusted general. In other words, Abobaku would ensure the king lives by all means otherwise he too would be buried alongside him. This practice was for the ancient Oyo Empire, not in practice in contemporary Oyo kingdom. Can we now come in conclusion that though literarily Abobaku means he who dies with the king but the actual meaning is he who takes bullet for the king?
Akin this to the role of Chief of Staff to the president of this country who is said to be the principal channel of communication between the president and the government. He also have responsibility for the official programme and correspondence of the President. And his is the main person to tell the president what he don’t want to hear. You will come to terms that to be a COS to the president, the president must be convinced that yes, “you can die for me”, just like Abobaku would do for the old Oyo empire king, right? So can we say a Chief of Staff is synonymous to an Abobaku of the old Oyo empire?
To the masses, Abobaku might not be so important, but to his master there is no mortal like him. Perhaps that’s why a master might try to compensate the most important subject to him and hand him some power which might not ogour well with many that wished the seat could be theirs, thereby would cook some garbage of many lies and give it ‘me too must eat’ package for the populace to consume. You can’t blame the masses; palace is for all but ‘all’ is not for palace. It is a known fact that if lies remain unchecked, it became true. That is why a king needs more diplomacy in giving kudos to his most trusted man but if eventually, Abobaku takes the bullet for the king as expected, no royal words might win the laced lies against any of his subjects, even of the one born to die for the king.
The king while search of another Abobaku, should pick lessons from the last kings on how they served them honestly, because at the long run masses are the most important subjects. Also, the new Abobaku that will emerge should try, if possible, to beat the record of the late Abobaku and ensured that his mistakes are not repeated. A king should know that many not at times, silence is a fool.
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