The Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba AbdulRasheed Adewale Akanbi today, Saturday, 7th of October, 2017 clock 50. In an interview with some selected journalists in Iwo, he shed light on kingship in Yorubaland, his journey to the throne and his vision for Iwoland among other issues. ISRAEL AFOLABI was there. Excerpts:
Question: How do you see kingship generally?
Oluwo: Our history as Yorubas is very rich and God has given me the opportunity to see the past. In the olden days, nobody has a land and there was no king, people used to fight around and look for ways to survive.
When Oduduwa, the God-sent one came, he was the first to start a government, and because he knew about kingship that it why he started it.
Our culture is rich and beautiful, but our kings caused the problem we have with us. We have the problem from our kings themselves who brought in many things that our progenitor did not even teach us.
Can anyone tell me any deity that Oduduwa worship? If anyone can give me one, I will cease to become a king and I will surrender my crown and leave the palace. This is not about Christianity or Islam. There was no Christianity or Islam during Abraham, but Abraham has only one spirituality, which is the highest power; same thing with Moses and others. It is also the same thing with our fore father.
Yes, we had leaders in Ile-Ife before Oduduwa, but there was no Oba, and it was the Oduduwa that launched it. So some people will say we have Oba before in Ile-Ife, like Obalufon and etc, but no, they are changing history, these people were leaders that Oduduwa met.
So, Oduduwa never worship Sango who was the 3rd king in Oyo, Ogun who was the 4th King in Ife; definitely he did not know them. We can only celebrate these deities because they are our heroes of the past, but not worshiping them like God because our progenitors did not do that. It is just a way of fooling people.
So, in defining kingship, it is all about service to the people and if you serve people diligently, they will and you will be well respected by all your subjects. You can become a king of a reputable and big towns and think you can still run a business successfully. It means, you must surrender everything to serve the people.
Q: What have been your experience so far on the throne?
Oluwo: My experience that I am describing to you is about service to humanity and the best attribute of God is service, God has no life-call pleasure, He doesn’t sleep because of us, eat nor has a wife; He serves us. If you serve your people diligently, you don’t need repeated prayers, rather, your prayer should be your good deeds to humanity and your impact on peoples’ lives. The people you have impacted positively will be the ones that will be praying for you; that is why I do not need to pray for myself.
If you are a king, you must emulate that power; I emulate God because God is the only king. The position of traditional ruler that people are honouring is a position of God, because Obas are the face of God on earth, God just chose me as an Oba to sit on the throne. If I do good or bad, that is my prayer. It is not prayer that is answered, it is what God decide for you that come to past.
Q: You are believed by many to be controversial?
Oluwo: I don’t see myself as being controversial, I see myself as a face of God on earth, and the way of God are difficult for man to comprehend because most of them are proverbs. Age doesn’t determine wisdom and education also is not wisdom. Once you are difficult to understand due to new things you are bringing on board, people see you as controversial.
Q: Going by the new understanding that you are bringing into kingship, how well will you say you are prepared for this position?
Oluwo: You cannot prepare for kingship. It is God that actually prepare someone when you give everything, and leave everything to higher power of God. I do not say anything except what God want me to say. You can’t prepare for the throne because it is not a thing that you learn. You can go to an arabic school and become and Islamic cleric; you can also go to school of theology and become a Pastor, but there is no school to learn about kingship position.
Q: Can you be specific on your journey to kingship, and how you are preparing before you became a king?
Oluwo: My becoming a king is the will of God, because God sent me specific job. Like the 16th ruler of Ile-Ife, the Ooni Oluwogbagida who happen to give Telu the crown. I am the 16th Oluwo of Iwo; when I wanted to do my coronation the organiser chose 16-1-2016. All these numbers are mystery and they have meaning.
Q: In your view, what should be the roles of traditional rulers?
Oluwo: As a king and as a servant of the people, you must be involved in the service to your people. Nobody would ask for the white men to come and rule this place because “Ti ogirip[ ko ba lanu, Alangba ko le wo be”, it is we that will rule ourselves. If you serve your people well, you will get the respect that you deserve.
Q: Were the Obas not doing this before?
Oluwo: They were not, “Nigbati won lo nberi sidi ogun”. Even during the slave trade, se oyinbo lowa ibi yi ti won wa n gbe awon eeyan wa ni, oyinbo wa lori omi nii. Awa lahun di awon eyan wa to san’gun lo feebo (It is we that take our people to white men for slave trade). It was we that black that gave ourselves away to white men. India, Arab, Chinese didn’t do that. We black must clean our minds and that is what I am doing now.
Q: What specific roles should traditional rulers be playing?
Oluwo: They should be serving the people diligently and not to be running around looking for money; when you serve your people diligently, money would come to you.
Let me tell you, kings also deserve to be served by the people, but they have chosen not to be active, they just sit down in the palace, when the office of the king should be in the town. It is “Oba ilu, kii se oba aafin, Olorun ni n be laafin” (It is a king of the town, not a palace, it is only God that is in the palace). The only abode of God on earth is palace not church or mosque and that is why kings are the representatives of God on earth.
Q: Have you seen any traditional ruler that subscribe to your idea of kingship?
Oluwo: I think there are some, I met Oba of Lagos one day when people want to greet him as kabiesi and he said I am not kabiyesi, only God is the majesty, but I don’t know about service to the people.
Q: How can our value system be reconstructed and redeemed in line with your own understanding?
Oluwo: There are so many thing that we should not be doing, but we are doing. We are doing some fetish thing like putting sacrifice on the junction and the irony is that the first person that sights such fetish sacrifice will curse you. Unfortunately, we have taken that to be part of our culture. Instead of that, why can’t we modernise things and fill potholes in such areas and people pray for you. What sacrifice could be more than that? It is what you have done that will pray for you. There is a lot of problem concerning what we have brought into our culture. All our cultural heritages have been occupied by few people called themselves animists and turned them to god. It is done in such a way that can pastors or Imams can not visit our cultural sites, only traditionalists go there.
Osun Osogbo should be able to get more tourists than that, if it is meant to celebrate the heroes involved and not worshipping them. If it is just to celebrate, anybody can go there with their children to see natural heritage.
Do you know that if well packaged and devoid of worshipping our tourism sites in Nigeria are enough to sustain our economy? We have over 180 million people in Nigeria and if just 10 million Nigerians are visiting these tourist centres without attaching any form of idols to it, we will be very rich in this country.
We have lumped our culture with religion and if we continue that way, we cannot move forward. This is a civilised world and we need to follow the trend of civilisation because it will change things for us. We have good structure on ground but our belief is different.
Q: Are you saying kings also contribute to our problems?
Oluwo: After Awolowo that we all refer to as the father of we Yoruba, is it not a shame that we have not seen a king that we can say, this is the father of we Yorubas. We must try as much as possible to reconstruct our social values and that is when we can move forward. Ordinarily, traditional rulers should be commander, but now where is that command. You can’t get it because, you have been worshipping what we created, I mean the deities. That is why the Obas don’t get the deserved respect anymore. Because I have the people, I have money. The more I can impact the lives the richer I get. The business of Obas is the people and you must lead your people. I am devoting my life to the people. I am a successful king, because I serve my people.
Q: How open have you been to other princes who contested the throne with you in bringing them on board?
Oluwo: They have all come back with me; and they are all committed to be part of the development of Iwoland because they have seen in me a traditional ruler that identifies with the people, serving the people and committed to take Iwoland to a greater height.
Q: What is your advice for the government?
Oluwo: Government must be committed to the service of the people. Just like the governments Oba’s business should be his people; people will respect you as their leader if you think about them. Obas doesn’t need to struggle around for wealth, because Obaship itself is a work on its own.
Q: How do you unwind?
Oluwo: I socialise, and I dance a lot when I have the opportunity. As a traditional ruler, there are places you should not be found, because what you do is what people will emulate. However, whenever I have the opportunity to dance among my people, I dance a lot.
Q: How do you cope with overtures from women?
Oluwo: I am so busy and people surround me every time and that means you won’t see me with such thing. Beside, Obas don’t need many wives, it is an old version and as a king I have to lead by example. Besides, my wife has been so supportive indeed since I became king, hence I don’t need to look for women as traditional ruler. There is no point in traditional ruler having more than one wife.
Q: There are some places you could go in the past, but now you cannot?
Oluwo: I want to say that it is part of service to my people. The kings are supposes to emulate God, though, they cannot be God. Though I still visit some places to mingle with the people. I also engage on some sport like playing table tennis.
I play Table Tennis and take a walk around. My people can testify to it.
Q: How do you feel like as Oluwo being in the league of prominent personalities in the country?
Oluwo: It just like submitting myself to God, we should give all glory to God because of his service rendering.