The Olu of Ileogbo, Oba Abeeb Adetoyese Agbaje in this interview with OSUN DEFENDER presents background information on why Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi is fighting all the traditional rulers in Ayedire/Iwo/Olaoluwa Federal Constituency. Excerpts:
The media is awash with accusations and counter-accusations of Oluwo’s alleged assault on the Agbowu of Ogbaagba, Oba Sikirulahi Akinropo, can you tell us what actually happened at the peace meeting?
I was present at the peace meeting called by the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 11, Mr Bashir Makama. I could recall the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Adebayo Adeleke gave the opening prayer. As the meeting went on, the AIG asked the Iwo Local Government Chairman to talk but Adeleke interjected on the basis that he was the representative of the governor at the meeting and as such, he should be the one to speak. He said if the matter at hand was about who is the right person to occupy a throne, the government would be in the best position to speak, but because it is a land issue, Oluwo should approach the court. I responded and aligned myself with what the commissioner said because Oluwo had said we should stop selling Iwo land and we told him we are not selling Iwo land but the parcels of land in our various domains. Oluwo is claiming that he is superior to all the traditional rulers in the area and that Iwo owns the land. While I was talking, Oba Akinropo supported me that the court is the best place to approach. Baba (Akinropo) was sitting close to the Oluwo, Iwo Council Chairman sat in their middle. Suddenly, Oluwo rose up and pounced on Oba Akinropo and started hitting him. It was the AIG that took Oluwo off Oba Akinropo; even the cloth Oluwo wore got torn when the AIG was trying to stop him from punching Agbowu. It is important to state that Oluwo does not own any land in our towns. That was what happened. If some people are denying the fact, they will say the truth by the time we get to court. The court is bigger than everyone of us.
Are you going to court on the matter?
We are very confident of going to court because the Oluwo of Iwo does not have any parcel of land in our domains. In September last year, he told us to stop selling land and that he would be the one to be issuing receipts for any land that is above 10 hectares. He had also told us that he would be revalidating the lands that had been sold by our forefathers. We in Ileogbo are from Oyo. I have the Supreme Court judgments on some of the land disputes between Ileogbo and Iwo. I have judgments that spelt out our boundary with Iwo. Had it been that Iwo owns Ileogbo land, would the Supreme Court had spelt out our boundary? The Oluwo then would have asserted his authority that he owned the land. I don’t know why the Oluwo is now claiming the lands that are not his.
Let me tell you something, there is an area called Oke-Osun which is owned by Ileogbo. The former Oluwo, Oba Tadese installed a Baale at the place. The Baale was removed by a state High Court in Iwo because the Oluwo lacks jurisdiction over the land. But because I so much respected the former Oluwo and I love peace, I allowed the Baale to stay but now he must leave because of what the current Oluwo is doing and it is important to avoid controversies in the future. All the places Iwo is claiming are not in his domain. For example, Iwo met Feesu and Baagidigbo already settled in the place.
Also, when we were leaving Oyo for Ileogbo, the Alaafin sent Bashorun Ogunmola, a powerful warrior to follow us. Ogunmola was the one that settled us here. We are in the third location of Ileogbo and it is an ancient town. And from time immemorial, we have been taking directives and paying dues to Oyo, not Iwo. Majority of the people in Iwo presently are not Iwo indigenes. Even when we were ravaged by war, our people sought refuge in Ife and not even Iwo that is close to us. Majority of the people in Iwo presently are not Iwo indigenes. Historically, the Agberire, Ogburo, Agbodowu, Oloota among others are not from Iwo originally. What made them to stay in Iwo was because war was rampant in those periods and anyone who went out to work would go back to Iwo for safety. It was safe then because of the warriors Alaafin stationed there and it became a refugee camp. Those kings I mentioned are crowned kings and some of them are being linked with Oyo, others to Ile-Ife in their eulogies. The reasons I have given this historical account is to point out that we are miles apart from Iwo.
Let me also say this, Oko-Osun is the boundary we share with Gbongan but I inherited the place during the life time of Baale Asabi. During his period, Oba Abimbola the then Oluwo was claiming he owned Oke-Osun, his mother was from our side, Ileogbo. There were attempts to kill him by some of his siblings before he eventually became the King. They brought him to Ileogbo, his mother’s family. My father, Akinmoyero I then took him to Oke-Osun because he said he wanted to go into vegetable farming. Akinmoyero told him before hand that he would pay royalty to Gbongan because the land belonged to it. He started and recorded bountiful harvest. Before you know it, people started visiting and settling with him. That was how we have Iwo people staying at Oke-Osun till this moment. Oba Abimbola, one of the former Oluwo paid royalty on Oke-Osun to Gbongan until his demise. The following Oluwo also followed suit. But when it got to the turn of Oba Kosiru, the Oluwo of the time, he kicked and claimed he owned the land. Oba Asabi of Gbongan then went to report him to the Olubadan, who summoned Oba Kosiru. The Oluwo then refused, claiming he was a crowned king and the Olubadan was just a mere Baale. Olubadan advised Oba Asabi to take the issue to court. He did. My father, Akinmoyero stood as witness in the case. In the judgment delivered, the court said Ilegogbo, Kuta and even Iwo did not have a land at Oke-Osun and that the parcels of land there belonged to Gbongan. After then, Gbongan released Oke-Osun to Ileogbo and asked that we continue to pay our royalty. Akinmoyero was paying until an incident happened. The person Olufi of Gbongan asked my dad to pay royalty compromised and he called on my father who made proof that he had never defaulted in his payment. It was afterwards that Olufi gave the land to us with full ownership authority.
This current Oluwo needs to be cautioned. Last Sunday, Oluwo was threatening to wage war against us, claiming he was part of the people who fought the Liberia war. Also, last Friday at the Osun Council of Obas meeting, he was making claims that he gave all of us crown and not parcels of land. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi who was trying to persuade him, told him to let peace reign. But Oluwo’s conduct and responses was rude and unbecoming of a traditional ruler. Ooni then asked Oluwo who gave him crown and he responded that it was Ooni. Oba Ogunwusi asked Oluwo if he had ever interfered with the way he has been governing his people, but Oluwo replied that Ooni gave him crown and not land. Oluwo was then asked to shut up by all the Obas at the meeting. He even attempted to beat Agbowu again at the meeting but for the intervention of some traditional rulers. If we must be sincere with ourselves, what is happening with him is beyond the ordinary.
The State Government should call Oluwo to order, so that he does not drag the government and the institution into the mud. He is just one out of the many traditional rulers we have in the state. The Governor should not fail to wield the big stick on him. The Governor should not think Oluwo can determine who wins election in the area. He has no friend among monarchs in Yorubaland, he claims that he is superior to all.
What is the background of the whole crisis?
It was because we did not allow him to be selling our lands. He is going about telling the world that we are selling our land at a cheap price and also selling other people’s land. It is because we have refused his claim that he is the paramount ruler. That is the cause of the problem. Was Iwo just created? Despite the several land disputes we have had in the past, why did the previous Oluwos not come up with historical facts to lay claim to our lands? Truly, Oluwo was a crowned king before us but he was given crown in 1825. We were both rated Part II monarchs in 1957, alongside Olowu of Kuta, Olupo of Oluponna, Agbowu of Ogbaagba and Onifin of Ikonifin. The six of us belong to the same traditional council. Then, it was only Queen Elizabeth that had the Part I title. It was five of us that determined who became the Oluwo of Iwo. We were the ones that selected Oba Omotosho because Iwo did not have kingmakers but they later had. The kingmakers selected Tadese. Nobody is claiming the chairmanship of the traditional council. Why the Oluwo was made our head was because the government needed to interface with us and saw the need to place us under a council to make it easy. Oluwo has no power to suspend or stop the salary of anyone of us.
The last Oluwo, Oba Ashiru Tadese, despite the fact he was older than many of us, gave us our deserved respect and he intelligently and peacefully related with us. The current one does not know the difference between tradition and law. During the late Sijuwade’s funeral, he fought with Oluwo-Oke and when they got home, he sent thugs to destroy Oluwo Oke’s complex. If not for our intervention, Oluwo would have been jailed. Let me also tell you something, the State Government gave the nod to Onigege of Igege to make one of his visitors Baale but Oluwo opposed and in the evening of the installation day, Oluwo brought thugs to Igege to disrupt the process to the extent that the person we made Baale was found in the bush the second day. The case is still in court.
There was also a time Oluwo told us to include Iwoland in everything that has the name of our towns, including our customized number plates. Oluwo’s excesses are strange to us and this is not the first time we will be relating with Oluwos. In history, no Oluwo has behaved to us in such a questionable manner and despite this; we have not haboured evil against him. We have seen people rise to the top by crook and when they got to the top, they asked for God’s direction so that they would not be led amiss but his is not so. I could recall my own selection process before I was eventually crowned, it was well announced. Who knew when Oluwo was selected? Who was he before he became king, what does he even have that makes him feel he is superior to all the kings in Yorubaland and can disrespect them?
The last Oluwo never called us by names, he added Baba before our titles. Some of his children were older than us and he had been on the throne long before us, but this Oluwo calls us by our names without regard to any of us. The most painful thing is that of Agbowu who has been on the throne for 24 years now. How old was Oluwo 24 years ago? I believe by then he was still under his parents.
How can peace be restored to the Iwoland Traditional Council?
We do not want to have anything to do with Iwo again. We want Ayedire Traditional Council and Olaoluwa Traditional Council. If we have this and every traditional ruler stays within his local government, nobody will wake up one day and say other monarchs should come and kiss his foot. Let me state that if this is not done as soon as possible, if other towns agreed to continue to stay under Iwo Traditional Council, Ileogbo will not. My town is not what anyone can subject to ridicule. I got my crown from Alaafin and not from Oluwo. Even the recent crown we got after the first one used by my forefathers was stolen during the Subomi war was not given to me by Oluwo and I was crowned by the Alafin of Oyo in 2011. Oluwo does not have deep sense of history and does not listen to people that want to put him through. I recalled how he childishly fought with Abiola Ogundokun who was trying to put him through. He does not have regard for anyone neither does he has one for our culture. The government must quickly act to avert another communal clash in Osun. At the last traditional council, all the monarchs were pleading with Agbowu to placate his people in order not to go to war with Iwo. With the whole scenario, Oluwo has exposed himself to lower traditional rulers that he does not have the power he is arrogating to himself. Many as I heard had stopped paying him royalty.
How do you think the government can wade in to this to ensure amicable settlement?
Government should not fold its arms. They must take a decisive step. Oluwo’s attitude is unbecoming of a king and the most painful thing is that he does not heed to advice. He needs great care spiritually and morally. The kind of life he is living is not the best. We are all under the government and the government should not hesitate to wield the big stick against anyone who misbehaves or else it will lead to war. The government should show him the limit to his powers. With what he is trying to do; he wants to enslave us and that will not be taken by the people of Ileogbo if others agree to that kind of arrangement. Enslavement ended during the banana republic. Oluwo is beating the drum of war and the government is keeping mute. This is just another communal clash in the pipeline if they do not act. He should be showed his limits legally and traditionally. He has not been told this that is why he has been stepping on toes. I cannot become a king in Iwo, his removal does not add or remove anything from me, all I want is for him to stop shaming the traditional institution.
Can you tell us the next step the Agbowu will be taking on the alleged assault on him?
Let me say it loud and clear that Agbowu is pressing charges against him and the process has started. I am very confident that in the court of law, all the witnesses will not want to go against the law by refusing to say the truth. After Agbowu was attacked, the AIG told the nine of us to write a statement, Oluwo himself wrote statement. They will produce it in court. We will know when we get to court if the government will cease to be one because of Oluwo, all this and lots more will be revealed when the time comes. But I trust Mr. Governor, he is a sensitive human being. What many do not know is that Oyetola called for the traditional council meeting we had. The meeting was an emergency one to deal with the assault on Agbowu.
What effect does Oluwo’s suspension from the Traditional Council have on his position?
It is just like in witchcraft, you will become powerless the day your colleagues expel you. Oluwo became unfit to sit on his throne from the day he was suspended from the traditional council. Can you recall the Deji of Akure case? Do you remember he was first suspended by the state’s traditional council before his final removal by the government? His offence was not even as grave as that of Oluwo before the governor of the state showed him the door. Agbowu that Oluwo assaulted is the Vice-Chairman of the Osun State Traditional Council; this is to tell you that he is not a push-over among the traditional rulers in the state. He was not even punished based on that. He was punished to salvage the Yoruba culture after disrespecting the Ooni, Alaafin and the Alake of Egbaland. Oluwo was troubled by his suspension and that is why he has been acting the way he is doing.
How did you derive your commitment to Yoruba culture and values?
All I have lived for is the promotion of the Yoruba culture and to ensure that it does not go into extinction, especially our language. I have also been advocating for the good neighborliness we had then. It is not in our culture to live an isolated kind of life, we inherited it from foreigners. We love and care for everyone living around us. Also, another culture of ours that is gradually fading off is respect for elders. When we talk of elders, it does not necessarily connote those in our family, we must respect anyone older than us. Our dressing culture is also going into extinction; but we cannot blame the youth of this generation, things have changed from what they used to be. We are learning, seeing and living with some foreign culture and we are consciously and unconsciously incorporating it into our culture. However, there are some aspects of our culture that cannot be totally eroded; these include language, food and religion. Of the three, language is the most important. There is no matter how well you are good at speaking foreign language, especially English, your accent will indicate who you are. If we teach our children with our language, it will aid easy understanding. Professor Babs Fafunwa, a former Minister of Education had a project of teaching some pupils with Yoruba language for six years. The pupils came out well in their various examinations after the project term. The pupils had more understanding of their subjects because they were taught in their mother tongue language. On the mode of dressing, some of the Yorubas don’t know that the white people wear suit with tie because of the cold climate they have. It is ugly to see our people here putting on suit and tie under our harsh climate. One thing I like about the Indians is their way of dressing, no matter where they go, they dress in their native way and you can easily identify them. When I traveled to India in 1982, I saw how proud the Indians were proud of their traditional religion and dressing. Most of them, including professors, always have the pictures of their gods in their wallets. The promotion of culture, traditions and language is strategic to development. This is why countries like India and China are developing especially in technology. And that is why Nigeria has not developed. The white men know the act of surviving; if they get to a place and see something that could be of value to them, they will take it to their country and improve on it. They will send the improved product back to us for free at first, to distract us and systematically condemn ours. They will thereafter be selling their own to us and we would not have a choice than to buy because we would have abandoned our own locally made product. That is part of our problems. We don’t appreciate what we have.
Just as you have pointed out that our culture, language and traditions are fast going into extinction, what do you think is the cause of this?
I have looked at it from all angles and I have concluded that we cannot heap the blame on anyone in particular. The world itself is evolving. During our forefathers’ era, the traditionalists were not being referred to as pagans. We know God who will refer to as Orisa Oke. In the olden days, our parents did take their children or grand children to their various places of worship and when they died a child or the children took over. But now you cannot try that, you will be accused of child abuse and all sorts of things. I also recall that Sango, Ifa, Osun and Obatala worshipers all had their worship centers in the Aragbiji palace and they were usually filled with people. But now, there are very few worshipers and they worship together most of the time because they are few in number. This is caused by the adoption of the foreign religions. The adoption of these strange religions is one of the main reasons our culture is getting eroded.
Another thing is that we do not have our culture well documented. This is the only way we can pass it from generations to generations. If we have our culture documented, the younger ones can easily go through it and understand what their culture is all about, without necessarily practising the traditional religion that they think that it will turn them to be an idol worshiper. With this, the generations to come will be able to tell the story of who Sango was and that Esu is different from Satan of the Bible. If the Esu of Yoruba was the way the Bible had painted him, then we will not be naming our children after the god. Esu to us in Yorubaland is an intercessor between us and God. He has a double personality though; he could be nice and be the opposite to evildoers. This is how we also have it among humans; there is no one who is good all through. All these deities were once humans like us, the only one that we did not know how he came into existence is Obatala. But Obatala loves the people living with one form of disabilities or the other, especially albinos. He loves them because he despises discrimination. I have a deep knowledge of this, not because I am one of his worshipers, neither am I a Christian or Muslim. But I have conducted my researches on them and I can tell you anything you need to know about the deities in Yorubaland. People have been calling me names because of my knowledge of this. I am not an idol worshiper; I commune with my creator and he has never failed to do anything I ask from him. Even when I am facing tribulations, I don’t ascribe it to anybody just like those with the foreign religions do. Above all, if we do not want our culture to finally go into extinction, we should let our children know much about of our culture. We should stop communicating with our children with foreign languages.
What do you think should be done to ensure that our culture remains?
We need to document our culture, traditions, norms, dressing, language and everything about us. The government should ensure that there are books written on our culture and traditions. This will endear anyone who is eager to know about our culture to pick up and read. It can be written in form of drama and acted by students during their end of the year celebrations. There are few books on Yoruba but many of them did not talk about culture and traditions. We need books that will be compelling to read for the youths. It can be a fiction mixed with our culture. The truth is that we can’t leave it for the government alone; we must also play our own part in promoting our culture and tradition. I have children I have been training for free on how to beat our traditional drums. The children have been coming from Obaagun, Ada, Iragbiji and Ikirun. The drum I am teaching these children is not to turn them to drummers, however, there are lots of things like eulogy, proverbs and other cultural things drums can stand for. I see it as my own way of giving back to the society after an accomplished career as a painter who uses oil as a means of expression. I also have a private museum where I keep some of this artifacts and it is the only one in the state. It has been on for six years now. I have been collecting these materials for over forty years. This not the only thing I am giving back to the society, I also have a concept to help those who have talents and lack the platform to showcase them, I established an institute where they can be groomed. The school is classified into visual and performing arts. We hope to add more to this in the coming years.
Have people been enrolling in the institute?
I felt discouraged at first when I started. The reason for the establishment of the centre is to help develop the unemployed youths in my area. I introduced the centre and what they can achieve to but they did not show interest. They are comfortable with the beggarly lives they are living, saluting people with their two hands up to get something from them. The Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Olabomi at a point got mad at them and he advised me to look beyond people in this area even if they are not from the Yoruba tribe. I was frustrated out of the whole concept. The centre is an avenue for the unemployed youths to liberate themselves financially because they will be trained on skills with full empowerment after graduation; but all that is a story now to them.
Have you ever done any other work besides arts?
From 1964 till date, I have been involved in arts. And I never got tired of it at any point in time. It is as if I am under a spell on art. I must not forget to appreciate my parents who encouraged me even when what I was doing was not clear to them. There were periods we had nothing to show for being an artist, but now we are comfortable and thankful to God.
What do you think the governor can do to help promote our culture?
I have severally sent proposals on how to develop our culture to the State Government, but they are yet to be considered. The government needs to be sponsoring cultural programmes from time to time. They should also look for a way to empower our youths by engaging them in skill acquisition in some aspects of our culture. The empowered youths will stay in their various local governments to train others and as well produce some cultural materials that will be taken to a place like Osogbo, where we will have the central cultural market arrangement. This is an empowerment that will last for years unlike the ones we are used to. You will not believe that a state like Osun does not have a standard museum of arts. If the government can set up museum, cultural materials will be stored there and people will derive their means of livelihood from there. I also suggested in that proposal that there should be a festival of arts which should be done in different parts of the state with a grand finale in Osogbo.