‘Nothing is wrong in money ritual but violent blood money is satanic’ — Popular Ifa Priest declares

Popular Ifa priest, Yemi Elebuibon

Prominent Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, has debunked the belief by some Nigerians that using human blood and body parts could generate wealth.

In an interview with LATEEF DADA in Osogbo, Osun State capital, Elebuibon said the belief was a hoax, insisting that no genuine traditional priest would indulge in such satanic enterprise.

Chief Elebuibon, Araba-Awo of Osogboland is an artist, author and international scholar-in-residence at San Francisco State University in California, United States, where he teaches African Traditional religion and philosophy. He is the founder of Ancient Philosophy International, Osogbo, Osun State, a centre dedicated to teaching African traditional religion and performing arts.


The well-travelled priest also pooh-poohed the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdul Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, over the latter’s alleged attacks on traditionalists in the South-West.

The priest also spoke on the travails of Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho) even as he explained why traditionalists have not been helping government in tackling banditry, kidnapping and other security challenges in the country.

It has been observed that governments at both federal and state levels hardly deal with traditionalists officially. Are you happy with that?

It is true, particularly the Federal Government. They don’t support us. Whenever we try to discuss with them, they usually give excuses that we have different groups and they don’t want to be seen as giving priority to one group. But the Yoruba speaking states should be the ones to promote our culture and religion. Former governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, declared a public holiday for Isese Day (Tradition Day) The holiday should spread to Ekiti, Lagos, Kwara, Oyo and those of us speaking the same language.

Oluwo of Iwo, a first-class traditional ruler in Osun State, says Yoruba Obas should stop worshipping Orisa or idols, and that deities are under the Oba. He says the deities being worshipped in Yorubaland are powerless. What’s your take?

We noticed that his knowledge is not full enough. He lacks orientation as a king. A king that passed through royal processes and observed all the requisite preparation will not behave as he behaves and will not talk as he talks. He didn’t have good foundation as a king. There is no king in Yorubaland that will say the oracle is meaningless. It was Ifa that founded each town. The town he is presiding over was founded by Obara Otua while Idileke founded Osogbo. No king can say Ifa is meaningless. It is Ifa that prescribes who will be king. How will a king say he is more than Ifa? He is saying rubbish. He’s ignorant; his knowledge is not enough. If it is Quran alone that he reads, I advise him to look for one person that will teach him Ifa. He should read about past kings and see how each town was founded. But because of his one-way knowledge, any king that is a real Yoruba and not an illegitimate one, will not rubbish Ifa. There is nothing we can do without Ifa in Yorubaland. If we want to select kings, we will consult Ifa, if we want to build markets, it is Ifa, if we want to marry, we will ask Ifa. How will he now place a religion that was brought over the existing religion? It is like a tenant telling the landlord to vacate. That is why I said his knowledge is not enough. I advise him to be reading the Bible, the Quran and learn the Ifa Corpus.

Some traditionalists also say there are antidotes against gunshots, against cutlasses, knives and so on. Do those things really work?

There is no hunter or combatant that will say there is no prevention against gunshots. Every tribe and country has its own knowledge inherited by its people. The Europeans have, the Russians have. We have our own in Yorubaland. What’s the meaning of bulletproof? That’s their own Ayeta. We also have our own. If you see a warrior dressed in our own bulletproof wear, you will notice that they put some things on the clothes. That is their own ayeta. What is happening to us is that we don’t cherish our own, and our problem is religion. Both Christians and Muslims don’t know the meaning of Orisa.

So what is the meaning of Orisa (deity)?

Esu is a human being. Orunmila, Obatala, Sango, Mohammed and Jesus are human beings. Someone that was created specially is Orisa. If this is where Jesus was born, we will be calling him Orisa (deity). If this is where Mohammed was born, we will be calling him deity. What is the difference? If anybody says I should not worship a deity, he is saying I should not go to church or I should not go to the mosque. Whoever says his forefathers are fools is abusing his great grandfather.

Some say the ayeta, the Yoruba native bullet proof can’t stop bullets from a sophisticated gun like the AK 47. How true is that?

We have the Yoruba bullet proof against AK 47, and there is another one for local guns. It depends on the knowledge of it. There is another one that is bigger than all these, the one that is used to wave calamity away when it is coming. Some people have it, some don’t. That does not mean it doesn’t exist.

With killer herders taking over roads and forests all over Nigeria, why can’t Ifa tell us what to do to conquer insecurity in Nigeria?

Have you consulted Ifa? The oracle only speaks on what they ask it. Herbalists don’t just consult the oracle. You will never see a herbalist meeting you on the road and ask you to come and consult the oracle or tell you that this is what you ate last night. Ifa will not just talk if you don’t consult it.

What if the government calls you to find solution to the problem of insecurity? Would you oblige?

Before the new religion and culture, our fathers usually do atonement for the towns against calamity. They usually prepare powerful protection at the border of every town. If war enters a town, there is a way to tackle it. We have been doing this and those that know it are still there. But, if you don’t go to them, they won’t come to you.

We have many security agencies today, yet insecurity persists. What is the solution?

What you should ask is, did government give hunters what they gave the Civil Defence and Police? Is the government paying the hunters the way they pay other security agents? If they do not support hunters, what do you expect?

A major talk about traditionalists and their presumed powers centres around Sunday Adeyemo aka Igboho. He is believed to be a powerful traditionalist. Many have wondered why he was easily arrested by the security agents in Benin Republic, and why he has not disappeared from their prison if traditional powers are as potent?

His own case is different. If he recites incantations very well, the handcuffs will cut off on their own. There are many things like that, but religion has spoilt some things. We don’t value those elders that have all the powerful things. Some of them have gone before we realise our folly.

There was a younger brother to my father who told me that he would give me something to swallow. The man usually turned to a bird. I didn’t know, and I told my mother that my small father said he would give me something tomorrow. My mother did not talk. At night, we sat in the sitting room with that man and my mother started saying, ‘nobody should turn my son to anything.’ My mother was entering the room and coming out. She was saying, ‘nobody should give my child anything to swallow.’ About three days later, the man squeezed my ear, saying ‘did I ask you to tell your mother? I grew old before I understood the reason my mother said he should not turn me to the way he was. The man did not have wife and had no child. Whenever he turned to a bird, it was my father that monitored and prevented children from throwing stone or catapults at him. If he had a wife and there was some misunderstanding, you know he was in trouble. Whenever we ere having Ogun festival, they would be shooting at the man and he would be dusting off the bullets. He was able to live long because he did not have a wife.

Can we now blame Igboho’s travails on exposure or women?

That is part of what I am saying. You will never see a powerful person living a flamboyant life and romancing with women anyhow. There is also the saying that an empty barrel makes the loudest noise. You will see powerful kings then, whenever their wives put their food down, she would first eat from it before the kings would eat that food. That is how we met it. It is for security. Who is doing that now?

We have many youths now going into what they call Yahoo Plus, which many claim involves blood rituals. It is believed that traditionalists and herbalists are the ones preparing the evil ritual for them. What’s your take?

From time immemorial, oogun (charms/spiritual powers) has been a great phenomenon among people of the world, but in the African continent there is a great belief in rituals and powers beyond disputations. Most times, when people discuss about money ritual (oogun owo), they always link it to the traditional African religion and portray it as a demonic religion that promotes human sacrifice and bloodshed. This is due to the years of brainwashing by the West and the numerous misconceptions about rituals and the African religion.

According to the Webster New World Dictionary, Ritual means having the nature of or done as a rite. Ritualism is the observance of forms or rites. Therefore, what one keeps doing everyday is a ritual; it doesn’t have to be spiritual. Unfortunately, what we see in our society today is quite alarming. The way our youths are on the pursuit of money by any means raises a big concern, yet some elders in the community also contribute to this problem. There is absolutely nothing wrong in money ritual but any money that one seeks or gets by the use of force or violence is totally wrong. The kind of money made from such violent acts is blood money (owo eje) and is impure in all ways, no matter the perspective.

Yoruba people are the ones who make oso or osole. There is nothing wrong with osole. There are many herbal medicines and spiritual works that give luck and prosperity to business people in their various occupations. It also enhances profit maximization.

Oso comes in various forms and has levels of intricacies. Some are used in the middle of the night while others require the person to wear special attire such as a complete white outfit (to signify purity) and stand out among all others. There is nothing harmful about this. It is one of the many practices of our ancestors that enable them live a more comfortable and enjoyable life.

The point that people often miss is that Osó in the Yoruba language means wizard. A person who has become a wizard in a particular field or occupation has achieved the highest level of mastery and success. When a student excels and is incredibly brilliant, he/she is regarded as a book wizard. It is as simple as that.

One of the major problems we have today is that some people claim that the major ingredients that constitute an effective Osóle requires human body parts or requires one to take the life of another. This is totally false.

The true Yoruba babalawo or traditionalist do not engage in such horrific acts, because they consider life to be very precious and their main purpose of being a traditionalist is to save lives and not take them. However, over the years, our society has been infiltrated by certain groups from some other areas that have been known for such acts. They have lived among us for years and have mixed with us. This causes them to be mistaken for babalawo.

There have been many instances where Christians or Muslims have been caught with human body parts or arrested for killings with the purpose of enrichment and are portrayed by the media and the police as babalawo. This is totally wrong, Real babalawo do not kill or maim for the purpose of money. Since the inception of money, there have been various people who have attempted to amass great wealth without working hard and earning wealth but have chosen to get rich through bloodshed instead. They bought into the so-called blood money schemes, but these have always ended disastrously,

What happened at a hotel in Ile-Ife recently has generated reactions…

We don’t want to comment about that, because the police are still investigating. What I can say is that we have had many infiltrations. It is very common to certain Tapa Islamic clerics from some places outside Yorubaland. But this has infiltrated into our culture.

When we were young, there was one they usually did, and they would tell the person that if a hen picked four grains of maize, the person doing the money ritual would have money for four years. Those were Islamic clerics from a state outside Yorubaland. But as a result of intermarriage between those particular people, and us everything has been mixed up. If you see someone wearing white everyday, it is some ritual called Oso and there is nothing bad in it. Oso is what you do in excess. So, herbalists do kill rats, goats, birds or sheep. But they never kill human beings. Never!

You have been consistent as a traditional priest for many years, in spite of the decreasing popularity of traditional religion. Have you at any time considered changing your religion?

Traditional religion has spread all over the world. There are many religions on earth; it is only that Islam, Christianity and Traditional Religions are popular. I have never thought of leaving my religion. The only thing that can make you have doubts about what you are doing is lack of knowledge about that thing. If someone tells me that what I’m doing is not good and I’m sure that I’m doing what is right, I won’t bother. There is no benefit you see from other religions that you will not see from traditionalists. There is no behaviour that you see from Christians or Muslims that traditionalists do not have. There is no lesson that the Bible or the Quran taught us that is not in Ifa Oracle. So, what is the problem? I have never at a time thought of leaving traditional religion.

Do you have any of your children practising your religion or are they Christians and Muslims?

All my children practice my religion. One of them just celebrated Ifa festival and a popular musician was invited to play for people. I have children in Nigeria, London, those that are lawyers and so on. We all practice the same religion. None of them is a Christian or Muslim, except those that are female and are married to people in other religions.  At times, women don’t have any religion other than what their husband is practicing. But, I do tell them that there is nobody that traditional religions does not benefit. Is it not Christians and Muslims that we consult the oracle for? They come to consult oracle and make sacrifice.

When did you learn Ifa?

I started learning it since I was four years old. My father started teaching me when I was four.

You didn’t go to school at all?

I didn’t go to school. I studied at home. I learned how to read and write at home. I did a correspondence course at home. The whites that I worked with also helped me improve my reading and writing.

Like how many countries have you visited as an Ifa priest?

Only God knows that. I have not been to Tokyo and I want to go. I had two programmes at Japan but the COVID-19 lockdown hindered the process. But talk of Yugoslavia, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil and so on, I have travelled to those countries. They usually invite me for lectures on Ifa.

Who are those that invite you?

Universities do invite me. Some groups that have cultural organisations also do invite me.

Do we have any Nigerian university that invites you for lectures?

I am an associate staff of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, although they didn’t give me a job. But abroad, I was a Professor and they gave me a big house. They pay me appropriately. They gave me office and some entitlements.

Why are Nigerian universities not treating traditionalists the way traditionalists are being treated by the universities abroad?

The British Colonial mentality will make Nigerian universities think that I don’t have a PhD. I work with San Francisco State University. They didn’t say I don’t have a PhD. Some of my supervisors in academics are my students in tradition that they come to when it is time for oracle consultations and teaching. Our people here cannot do that. You see the Yoruba in particular, our major problem is that we have lost our tradition. We don’t believe in our tradition.

The issue of COVID-19 that you mentioned, did the government invite you to consult oracle on the solution? And if they did, would you have proffered solutions?

Well, they didn’t. Pandemic is not a new thing. God gave us some good things like knowledge, culture, tradition and others. When the British came, they wrote it that Yorubas are brilliant among the tribes they have seen. We have a system of government before they brought their own and started giving kings money. It is the people that took care of kings before.  They would bring pepper, yam, another person would bring maize and so on. They withdrew power from kings when they started giving them salaries. The person that is giving you salary, you will do whatever he asks you to do. That is why the kings can no longer command. We have thrown tradition away.  If the Yoruba governors can come together, contribute meaningful amount every month and spend it on certain causes, we would have grown more than this. They said they should not bring cows, but where is our own? Also food. We have abandoned farming and we are saying food is expensive.

Are the youths still learning ifa?

They are learning but not the way we learnt it. The youths of today are not patient. I thank God that my children are doing well.

Are the Yoruba presidential aspirants coming to you for consultation?

The herbalist is a secret keeper. If anyone came to me, you will never hear it from me that the person came to me.

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