The Gegun of Ayetoro-Ile in Iwajowa Local Government Area of Oyo State, Oba Rasheed Omobolanle Olayiwola, was a photographer in Aiyetoro before he relocated to Lagos for the greener pastures. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, the monarch reflects on his life through childhood, his return to the town and the journey to the throne.
Can you tell us about your childhood years?
I was born and bred here in Ayetoro and I grew up under the strict guidance of my parents. I have dedicated parents who showed me the way and always explained to me why I must believe in myself because, according to them, self-belief is the key to achieving all one desires to achieve in life. I was raised to be a hardworking man and this reflected in whatever I do in life. And this was what guided me throughout my childhood up till the time I became a man, a husband, father and finally the traditional ruler of my town. I am happy to say that the training I got from my parents shaped my attitude to life and helped me to achieve the little God has blessed me with.
As a boy, was it part of your ambition to become an oba considering your royal background?
I don’t think many traditional rulers would say this.
How did you arrive at this conclusion?
The issue of the throne is not something one should show desperation about to the extent of planning from childhood. It is more than that. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that the throne issue is divine. Only God chooses who eventually wears the crown. God knows how He does His things and I don’t think He reveals the secret to human beings. Okay, how can you explain the fact that somebody who never showed interest in the throne finally gets there? This is the case in many places. As a matter of fact, that is my story. I was not interested.
Isn’t it a taboo not to show interest as a qualified person?
Maybe you have to show me where the taboo that forbids me to express myself is written. Everything is about either interest or non interest. As regards the throne, I was not interested and my people knew. Let me tell you that we were many in the Akintola family that qualified to become the oba.
Were you intimidated by the large number of qualified people or that some had certain attributes?
This question is funny. What did others have that God had not also blessed me with? I have to give all the glory to God. God has been so kind to me in passing through different stages of life and getting to where I am today. To God be the glory. My brother, there was nothing, there was nobody that intimidated me. I did not only show interest in it because I had other plans for my life. I left this town in 1978, although I occasionally came home for family events. I was in Lagos, working hard and earning my living within my capability.
Where were you working in Lagos?
I was with MASK LINE Nigeria Ltd. I joined the company as a dispatch rider and rose through the ranks to become a protocol officer. I was doing well in the company and doing beyond what was expected of me. I trained as a photographer and this experience was noticed. I was taking pictures in the company; I mean official pictures and that earned me some extra money. I resigned from the company in 2007 to set up my own business, which was also doing well before the issue of obaship came up.
How did the issue come up and how did you emerge, despite your indifference to the throne?
Thank you. We have two ruling houses; Akintola, where I come from and Akindele. The arrangement is already there that one would rule after the other. When my immediate predecessor passed on, it became the turn of my ruling house. That was how it happened.
What changed your mind to accept the responsibility?
As I said earlier, I was not interested in the throne issue. As a matter of fact, my name was the last on the list of the six the family members presented to the Ifa priest. Being the last on the list, to me, meant I stood no chance to be picked. That is why I said earlier that the issue is divine. How can Ifa leave the first five names and pick the last? It is beyond human understanding and I believe so much in that submission. I must tell you also that the town already had somebody in mind. I can only attribute everything to God who knows what we don’t know.
Where were you when the kingmakers finally selected you?
I was in Lagos where I was called home for a family meeting. I left Lagos alongside my brother, Muftau Tijani. I had no inkling of what was awaiting me in the town. I felt nothing unusual until another call came on our way home, instructing us not to enter the town. The message from our family said we should stop at Iganna and stay there. They said somebody would come and lead us to the town from Iganna. We were at Iganna waiting for the person. We did not see the person until nine in the evening
What was your feeling at this point?
To be honest with you, I began to feel some strange things within me but I did not show it. But along the way, another thing told me that I would likely become the traditional ruler. I cried inside.
Why did you cry?
I thought about my family and business back in Lagos. My children were in school; in need of my attention. I thought about other things too, including how I would survive in this environment. I was thinking I was going to die. But after the news had been broken in the town and traditional rites were performed, I returned to Lagos after August 6, 2014 had been picked for installation.
Can you recall how you were installed?
I entered market square. The king makers were in charge. I was carried from the market square to Ipebi where I spent 17 days. After the 17th day, I came out at 2.00 am. People came to greet me on my arrival. Drummers also came. I must not enter the house where I observed Ipebi again. That is the tradition.
Yoruba culture seems to be suffering erosion and civilization robbing our youths of cultural value. What do you think about this?
There is no doubting that fact. Everybody is embracing foreign ideas and ways of life at the expense of our culture. But I must be quick to say that our culture still retains some of its very important aspects. Take for instance, the Ipebi you asked me about. There are some things that happened there which we must not share with the public. It is not about any ritual. It is about the stipulation of our culture and tradition. Our culture is still strong but we, traditional rulers, need to do more to preserve it.
How visible is government presence in your town?
You are here and you can assess what is on ground. I am using this opportunity to appeal to Governor Abiola Ajimobi to extend his developmental efforts to the town. The governor is doing his best. He personally came to give me the staff of office. And I am very happy that I am the first traditional ruler to receive the staff of office as His Royal Majesty in the history of this town. This credit also goes to the governor. Telecommunications service is always a problem. We want the government to help us. Agro-allied investors should come and invest here. There is land for them to do large – scale farming. My sons and daughters outside should also look back. They should come and contribute their own quota to the development of the town.