The Elerin of Erin-Osun, Oba Yusuf Omoloye Oyagbodun (II) was picked by his ruling house to mount the throne of his forefathers. Instead of celebrating, he sneaked out of town. After much struggle, he ascended the throne on June 16, 1979. He speaks with TUNDE BUSARI on his ascension, among other issues. Excerpts:
History reveals Erin as a unique town spanning different locations in Yoruba land. How did it happen?
How it happened is all about the history of Yoruba towns and communities. Students of history will understand that Yoruba towns and communities owe their population to migration of families from different settlements. Let us use Ibadan as an example. How was Ibadan founded? Who are the people that founded Ibadan? You will understand that Ibadan is a gathering of people from different places. This is the reason Ibadan is the largest Yoruba town. I only used Ibadan as an example. This is the story of many other Yoruba towns and communities. Obalufon Alayemore and Mosapayan contested for the throne and it led to Mosapayan migrating to Ipole-Ijesa and late Erintadogun where he spent seventeen days before leaving for Erinmo. And from Erinmo, he left for Erin-Ile in the present day Kwara State from where he moved to Ikirun and finally ended here in Erin-Osun.
This means all the Erin towns are one family?
We are one family because we are of the same root.
What kind of relationship exists among you?
Till date, we maintain a good relationship among ourselves regardless of which state you are. I must say that there is also Erin-Oke. We are one town, only divided by geography and geographical separation is artificial. What is real is the blood that flow in our veins. I once published a calendar that showcased our relationship as one big family. I must also say that Erinle and Erinmo enjoy a closer relationship. Yoruba is very rich in family organization. We don’t joke with our family system. We believe in extended family which helps our communal behavior and which stands us out among other ethnic groups. You hardly know the difference between children of two brothers or sisters. Unfortunately, western civilization is a bad influence on this practice and our people seem to get carried away at the expense of our own belief system.
Succession dispute is a feature in Yoruba royal families. Don’t you think something needs to be done to stop it?
I don’t agree that it is a dispute in that sense, it is a contest. Is a Football match a dispute? It is only you journalists that call it battle or war to attract readers. But in the true sense of it, it is a contest, interesting contest that after the match you see players hugging one another and exchanging jerseys. In Obaship issues, every prince wants to become king. That means every king must contest for the post if it is the turn of his royal family. The truth is that the stool is made to be contested for so that the best will be selected at the end of the day. You should know that there is benefit in contest. It brings out the best in the contestants.
Are the best always selected?
That is the truth. It must be the best. In a town where the best is not selected, there is a problem. There must be problems. For example if one without royal blood is selected, the town will not know peace. He will be frustrated. He will be fed up. The stool is not an ordinary place where you think because you are rich or connected, you can manipulate. It is more than that. That is why our people must always respect their traditional rulers because they are the representatives of their forefathers.
Can you share your experience on how you emerged as the Elerin?
I emerged simply because my people wanted me.
Does that mean there was no contest?
I did not say that. I have said it earlier that the stool is meant to be contested for. But when your family is solidly behind you, you are sure of getting it. That was my experience.
Were you surprised when they nominated you?
I was surprised. I did not prepare for it
How did you then make up your mind?
I like this question.
What makes this question different from the others?
You reminded me of a certain incident that triggered my interest in the throne.
You have the floor sir?
When my predecessor passed away, I was in this palace like any other sons and daughters of the town. But some people just rose and blocked me from going upstairs. I wanted to record the event then. They blocked me and in fact embarrassed me.
What did you find out was the reason they did this to you a prince?
I did not bother to find out but I was fired up enough to be interested in the palace.
But I learnt something funny happened when they picked you. Can you recall sir?
It is funny that I ran away from town. I ran to Ilorin. But God surprised me when I got to Ilorin.
I went to a church in search of my sister who worshipped there. But while I was doing this, the pastor whom I never met and who never met me, just announced that ‘somebody is here who is running away from the throne. The person should go back home and do the wish of his family’. That was the turning point. I returned home and became the Elerin on June 15, 1979. The coronation and presentation of Staff of Office held on June 22. The presentation was done by the then Oyo State Commissioner of Local Government on behalf of the Governor, Colonel Paul Tarfa. The day was interesting because it brought together sons and daughters of Erin. Ten years later precisely 1989, I celebrated 10 years on the throne during which I honoured some important personalities with chieftaincy titles, one of them was the late Chief Sikiru Aynde Barrister. I conferred Tayese on him. Till death, he was my Tayese.
Marital status of traditional rule is gradually becoming a subject of debate with some kings having one wife. What is your view in this?
Just as I have said, western influence is affecting our belief system in Yoruba land. Yet no parent would not want his children to go to school to acquire western education, the influence erodes our own civilization. But as a traditional ruler, it is our duty to preserve our custom and tradition including telling our people the advantages and disadvantages of their acts. We are having more western educated traditional rulers in our fold now. So, the issue of marital status has become a subject of debate as you put it. Because they have so much contact with the white way of doing things, especially on marital issues, they are comfortable with their monogamy thing. You cannot see me going against them but my point is that a traditional ruler should not restrict himself to one wife.
I think the justification for more wives is no more there today. Isn’t it?
Who tells you this? Each wife has a different role to play in the palace if so assigned. You know the palace plays host to visitors on a daily basis. People come from far and near seeking the attention of the Kabiyesi till date. There is no way wives would not be involved in those things. As far as I am concerned, polygamy is part of our culture and I won’t go against it. Every man is entitled to more than one wife going by the situation we are now when there are more females. Who will marry them? We should not let it appear as if God makes mistakes. God cannot make mistake. He does things for a purpose including polygamy.
How has life in the palace been in the last 37 years?
There is nothing to say than to thank God for all he has done so far. There is an adage that says unease lies on the head that wears the crown. This adage is very appropriate. The palace is more than what the public see outside. There are a lot of responsibilities traditional rulers must attend to in the palace. At times, I look back and ask myself on how I have been able to do it till today. But I believe without God’s grace nothing can be achieved. I am therefore giving the credit to God. But the glamour, especially honour we are accorded by our people cannot be compared to any other. Wherever we go, we are given royal treatment even by those who are not Yoruba.