The Elegun Sango of Oyo, the late Sangodele Atanda Ibuowo passed away in November 2021 at 74 and left Sango devotees in mourning mood. In this interview with TheTabloid.net publisher, cultural Ambassador to the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, Dr Paula Gomes recalls her last moments with the late Elegun and implication of his sudden transition to the faith. Since Gomes’ appointment, she has proved to be a round peg in a round hole, despite her Portuguese nationality. She is a challenge to sons and daughters of Yoruba land who seem to have been swept away by wave of Islam and Christianity. Excerpts
How did you receive news of the Elegun Sango’s passage?
I was at home when the news broke. The news sounded so strange to me as if I had never heard that somebody died. And since nobody had told me such news in the past, I had to take it serious and rush to his house to see what was happening. As I was approaching the house and seeing cluster of people, I knew something terrible must have actually happened. Still, I did not believe. People saw me and cleared way for me to see him in his room. My hope rose when I met him in a sleeping position; he looked as if he was just having a sound sleep. I was more hopeful when I realized his body was very warm, which is unusual for a dead body. Not long afterwards, I said we should take him to hospital so that he would be revived because he appeared to me as if he was only unconscious. I was applying first aid by pressing his heart intensely but when this did not yield any result, quickly, we took him away and got to the hospital. I was arguing with the doctor that he was not dead because the body was hot and that is a simple biology that a dead body must be cold. The doctor insisted that he had gone. I had to agree when they showed me his eyes, which had lost life. It was a Tuesday. Despite that confirmation, I asked them not to take him to the morgue, still believing he could rise but I had to give up in the end.
You must have been close to him to have gone that far?
It is true we were so close. He was more than Elegun Koso to me. He was like a father who tutored and guided me on Sango. He was a thorough priest, who did not mix Sango with any other deity. He was straight forward and not given to frivolous things. He was humble to a fault such that you could hardly fault his judgment on issues. He belonged to Eledumare by his actions and total devotion to Sango. That is why devotees came from different towns to pay him last respect.
Can you tell me more about his burial, especially where he was buried?
His burial was like a carnival, in terms of number of Sango devotees who entered Oyo on that Friday when he was buried. We had people coming from Abeokuta, Iseyin, Lagos, Osogbo, Ibadan, Ikirun, Ila Orangun, Iragbiji, Ago Are, Ogbomoso, Sepeteri, Ifon, Kwara State and other towns. To control crowd was a tough battle as everybody was charged. At the end of the day, he was buried inside his room.
Why was he buried in a room?
That is the tradition. That is Yoruba belief system in seeking protection for the dead. It is unlike Christians who take their dead to cementry. The Orisa people don’t sleep outside.
What does it take one to become Elegun Koso?
That is a very sensitive question; it is sensitive because not every devotee can become Elegun Koso. It takes a long process of tutorship. What I am saying is that it is not easy to become Elegun Koso. I must also add that society of Sango devotees is an organized one with structure which defines positions and duties. Elegun Koso is not the head of devotees but an equivalent of Baale. Elegn Koso supervises the crowning of the Alaafin, so he does not see the Alaafin after the rite. Only members of Koso family can become Elegun.
Can you recall something which stood the late Elegun Koso out as his position required?
He unified everybody; he used his natural humility to bring everybody together and even attract more devotees to Sango society. He ensured every member of his family was initiated into Sango’ there is no Muslim or Christian in the family. This marks what I can call his strong point of a senior priest he was. Another thing is the day he passed away was Jakuta, which is second day in Yoruba calendar. It is day set aside to worship Sango/ You can see that he was truly sincere with his faith.