The Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Dokun Abolarin needs no introduction, in terms of his erudition on the throne. He speaks as if he were in a classroom. Hence his respectable position among his fellow royal fathers. In an interview conducted by TUNDE BUSARI in his palace, Oba Abolarin speaks on. Excerpts
Talking drummers are permanently seen in the palace vicinity. What value do they add to the palace?
They are part of the palace. The role they play is so important that you have to be one of them to play it. Drumming is their specialty and they are skillful in the art. They communicate with the monarch through the sound of their drum to praise, instruct, warn or alert the Kabiyesi. They are also chroniclers of history. They know all that is needed to know about the origin of towns and important events that occurred in the past. Our culture is so rich that we cannot just exhaust it. Unfortunately, we are being careless about it. Unfortunately again, foreigners are showing serious interest in it and are making progress.
You seem to have a soft spot for senior citizens of your town, what is the basis for this?
My soft spot for senior citizens is not restricted to my domain. It is what I believe in and it is beyond my town. Whenever and wherever I see any aged man or woman on the street, I look at him or her with deep sight. I don’t really sympathise with them but I think of their days as young, energetic people. I see them and give glory to God for His power of transforming His creatures from the womb through adulthood to old age. It is a grace to grow old because so many don’t and won’t make it through the three stages. Some die before naming ceremony. Others die in childhood. This is the work of God, credit for which no other person can claim. So, my soft spot for the aged is borne out of my fear of God.
Have you noticed that the aged in your town are abandoned?
I have not only noticed; I also know that this is the case everywhere. It is unfortunate that our youths behave this way. How can you just forget your past like that? It is not enough to send money to them through drivers or whatever means and say you have done something. No! They need more than that at the stage they are. They are back to where they started as a kid. They need the same attention you give to your newborn babies. They are no more mobile. Their organs are fast losing strength. Nothing is too much to do for them to end their life well. But reverse is the case. That is what Ila Eka festival is about. It is about showing gratitude to the aged among us. Don’t they deserve our appreciation for all they have done for us? My son, they deserve it as you can see how we are interacting under a friendly atmosphere. Some of them have since missed one another, but are meeting again here at the palace. They are happy to reunite and share the moment together. In other words, we are using our culture to affect public policy. Government should take the matter of our aged more seriously because any society that abandons the aged would not be blessed. The aged have lots of blessing. The better they are treated the more the society is blessed. If we want blessing in this country, we need to take good care of the aged, the weak and the disabled. We don’t know what happens to us tomorrow. They are part and parcel of the society. So, they deserve more than passive attention.
Your Abolarin College is quite innovative. Why should a traditional ruler be a school proprietor?
It is another passion I am expressing. Without sounding immodest, you know that I have done my bit in terms of acquiring education. Not only that I was once a school teacher at the former Oyo State College of Arts and Science in Ile-Ife. Given this background, you can say again that I am academically inclined. This offers me opportunity to see beyond my reach. But to God belongs all the glory. Back to your question. The school is my own little contribution to the improvement of human beings. I have long had this model in my mind and prepared to give it all I have to make it a reality. I am happy that the dream of yesterday is now manifesting for all to see. It is one of the things that make me happy every day. There is nothing as fulfilling as seeing those young ones learning under the same roof and under a conducive atmosphere. There is no stress of school fee or any other encumbrance. They are all happy by mixing together.
What is the population of the school?
I am glad to tell you that our figure has hit 72. Again, to God is the glory for where He has taken us. That is something about intention. When you have a very good and clear intention to improve the life of others, things will naturally work together in achieving it. That is the summary of the story. I am happy seeing those children. I am building a new generation. I am building future. I am building a better society. And I will continue to work hard to ensure that illiteracy is reduced drastically. Illiteracy and poverty go side by side. We must do all within our capability to reduce it for a better society.
Is it safe then to call you a philanthropist monarch?
That description is your discretion. What is important is not the effort alone but the result of the effort.
What does yam festival symbolise in your town?
Yam determines the end of every season. Before the Gregorian calendar, our forefathers relied on this calculation. It is the season of vacation. It is the time farmers return home to enjoy themselves and engage in some social events they cannot do on the farmland. It is a period of entertainment, wedding and other occasions. It is the time they take stock and plan for another year.
As a lawyer and an extrovert, what difference is the palace making on your lifestyle?
We are talking of two different worlds in the true sense of it. A traditional ruler is supposed to maintain high ethical standard because by right, you are the custodian of the tradition. An oba must therefore prepare himself for this world. He must not be seen jumping into a restaurant or drink joint and eat and drink and dance like others. A traditional ruler is above that lifestyle. He is supposed to be seen as a representative of God on earth.
Are you then comfortable with the restriction?
Have I a choice but to make myself comfortable with it? This is the standard that has been there for a long time. That is what makes the throne a respectable place. That is what distinguishes the palace from personal residence.
You must be missing your suits and ties, are you not?
I am missing them. I could not imagine doing away with them but I am happy people say I am not appearing badly in the traditional attires. I am a royal father who must be seen in attires that add to the respect of the throne. We have one of the best attires in the world, without sounding immodest. Foreigners admire us a lot abroad. They like to snap shots with us. If an oba wears something less, he makes no difference to the foreigners. In fact, he does not represent what he claims, and they won’t accord him respect a monarch deserves.