By saying Ẹdan and Ògbóni, what we mean is Ẹdan, the Òrìṣà and the Followers. Ẹdan is an Imọlẹ̀ or Òrìṣà while Ògbóni is/are a devotee/devotees of Ẹdan. Ògbóni is a sect or denomination of Ifá Religion in Oòduàland (Yorùbáland) and their place of worship is called “Ilédì”.
Ẹdan is one of the Imọlẹ̀, Divinities created by Olódùmarè. Ẹdan was not among the set sent by Olódùmarè and she therefore remained in Heaven when others came. As seen in Ifá, when there was no stability in the World, Ọ̀rúnmìlà consulted Ifá and was told to invite Ẹdan from Heaven. She honoured the invitation and came to the Earth. With her arrival, new system was introduced to the governance of the World. She introduced a system whereby a chosen knowledgeable elderly people see to the affairs of each community.
Ògbóni is the name given to the group formed by the devotees of Ẹdan. These people must be honest and faithful. In order to implant this needed righteousness into the people, there exists a kind of initiation which envelopes cleansing, prayer, covenant, oath taking and many other activities to make an initiate a complete upright person. And these people would be the king makers who would appoint and initiate the new king. The power to check the king also resided within the group of these elders. This system of making new king cum check and balance existed in the world for long and in Yorùbáland until the intrusion of colonizers who came with different system of governance.
The knowledgeable elders who see to the affairs of the community are named Ògbóni. The leader of Ògbóni is called Olúwo while the other offices include Apèènà, Ìyá Àbíyè, Aro, Odofin, Iyamokun, Ìyá idi Àgbà and so on. The Olúwo then must be an Ifá Priest.
Anybody who is interested will be scrutinized to see how faithful and honest he is and can be initiated into Ògbóni. And when one is initiated into Ògbóni, he gains knowledge which leads to wisdom and people see the person as one of the respected community leaders for the person has increased in knowledge and will be staying aloof from any act of unrighteousness. He would also be part of the decision makers in the society.
People have turned Ògbóni to a club or society with social elements though the religious aspect is obvious. Turning the religious denomination to a social club makes it easy for people of different faiths to join with the intention of gaining political recognition, knowledge, protection and so on or just to be part of the people who matter in the society. We cannot talk about this without remembering how some Christians and some Muslims in Yorùbáland realized that they could not be part of decision makers in the society without being members of Ògbóni. Therefore, they joined the society with proper initiation but with the intention to syncretise Ògbóni with their own chosen alien religion(s). Hence, today, we have Muslims and Christians as members of Ògbóni and this factor has done much havoc to the Ògbóni as a sect of Òrìṣà Religion. These syncretists are people of two worlds who belong to neither of the two worlds in the proper way. They are so selfish that they have destroyed the structure of Ògbóni in the society that almost every day, they create new structure and fight for leaderships. Their contributions have created more havoc than good for us. It came to the point that the real Ifá/Òrìṣà devotees let the syncretists alone with Ògbóni society and face worshipping Ẹdan in Òrìṣà shrines and Ifá temples; and those Ifá/Òrìṣà devotees that were initiated to Ẹdan do the veneration with few people of likely minds.
The intrusion of non practitioners of African Traditional Religion to Ògbóni created vacuums; there are loss of etiquettes and knowledge among other things. The Ifá priests who are the custodian of Ifá verses to teach morals, rules, history and story left the society and the people left there resulted to applying biblical and or qurianic stories to the situations on ground in the Ògbóni meetings. With this, you can even hear people saying “Jesus Christ was the first Apèènà of Ògbóni”. When you enter a temple of Ògbóni, you can see their Ẹdan standing between a Bible and a Qurian to show their belief in “Three in One”. This is highly pathetic and the real practitioners of Ifá/Òrìṣà religion kept looking at them saying Ògbóni was no more part of our Religion but a mere social club. Funny enough, all those members also tell people that Ògbóni is not a Religious sect but a social society that anybody can join irrespective of religion. But when you have discussion with any of them, he/she will not talk for seven minutes before hanging him/herself. For instance, the first song you will hear from the person is likely to be:
Iba de ee
Bee ni iba so oo
Iba lo yedan a n sin o
Here comes homage
Homage is ready to be paid
The Ẹdan that we worship/venerate really deserves homage
What the believer of syncretism fails to realize is that he himself has agreed that “he worships/venerates Ẹdan” with the last line of the song above.
And if it is their service day, to tell you that he has no enough time for such discussion for he is going for his Ògbóni service or meeting, he can unconsciously sing:
Oni lojo pe ooo
Oni lose awo wa ooo
Oni nitadogun eni mo n sin o
Today is the day
Today is the service day of our sect
Today is the seventeenth day service of the prophet that I follow
Majority of the members of Ògbóni in Yorùbáland do not see syncretism as a synonym for hypocrisy, whereas, he every day sings:
E ma feke rile
E ma fodale soro
E ma fopuro mobi tiya wa o
Do not initiate an unfaithful person into our house
Do not initiate a traitor into our secret
Do not let a liar know the secrete of our “Mother”
Any way, he will want to defend himself that he is not unfaithful, neither a traitor nor a liar. However, he should answer many questions to convince people that he is doing the right thing. The following questions are just four of the million questions he needs to answer to defend himself:
Doesn’t the Holy Bible say “thou shall not follow any path than that of Jesus”?
Does the Image of Ẹdan in line with Christianity?
Does Islam allow sacrifice to Ẹdan?
Does your being a member of Ògbóni in line with Islam?
In Yorùbáland today, Ògbóni is viewed by the non-initiate as a secret society just because it is forbidden for the members to reveal any discussion to the non-members and because of the hidden way with which the syncretists practice. To explain this, a practitioner of Ifá/Òrìṣà Religion who is initiated to Ògbóni will not see why he should hide his membership while a Muslim or Christian who is a member of Ògbóni will never see why he should disclose his membership. And when people realize later that somebody, in whose presence they always condemn Ògbóni, is a member. They feel disappointed and they immediately conclude that Ògbóni is a secret society. These people are not faulty with their erroneous conclusion because, majority of members of Ògbóni in Yorùbáland today are Muslims and Christians and they do not disclose their membership. Instead, they join the people who condemn Ògbóni in public.
We implore the practitioners of Ifá/Òrìṣà Religion in Nigeria and Diaspora to join hands together to make sure Ifá/Òrìṣà Religion is practised in its pure form. Whoever does not like the pure form should please leave us alone with our faith and join his chosen religion.
Fáyẹmí Fátúndé Fákáyọ̀dé
(Olúwo Ògbóni of Ilédì Tifálàṣẹ - Ìbàdàn)