Ooni knows more than anyone else on Yoruba history — Elerinmo
The Elerinmo of Erinmo, Oba Michael Ajayi is not a traditional ruler who sees issues concerning Yoruba and turns his gaze. Though not combative in response, he strongly holds on to his views with his natural power of articulation. He spoke with TUNDE BUSARI on the the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and the Olugbo of Ugboland, Oba Frederick Akinruntan. Excerpts:
Can Yoruba be in permanent unity?
It is our dream that, in the nearest future, we achieve unity in Yorubaland. This could be a tough dream, especially with the strange ego-driven behaviour of some Yoruba traditional rulers who demonstrate envy and lack of proper knowledge of our history. And, of course, this uncontrolled ego has always been going about with their own version of Yoruba history. It is important that all Yoruba traditional rulers understand that times have changed, and the focus of Obas now should be the well-being of their people rather than claiming powers that they do not possess. We pray and hope that this unity will soon be achieved so the Yoruba can have true and lasting peace and development. I have said it at different fora, especially where we have scholars in attendance, that unity of Yoruba is the best thing that will happen to Yoruba land. My point is premised on the resources with which we are blessed by God. It is sad that lack of unity has stood between us and transforming the blessings to development of the land. In fact, regardless of political affiliation, governors of all Yoruba states must work together as children of same parents. But what do we see? I am however optimistic that someday something would change this for the better, and we are all going to be happy.
What is your position on the Olugbo’s claim on Ile-Ife?
Why are you dragging me into this issue?
I cannot drag you to it. I can only ask of your view on it based on your status as a traditional ruler who knows more than I do.
If you insist, I will tell you with all honesty that I have no interest in Olugbo’s self-serving claims on Ile-Ife. Therefore, I classify his actions as unfortunate. If he was interested in claiming ownership of Ile-Ife, then he should have contested for the throne when it was vacant. Anybody can wake up and make claims but we know our history well and cannot be distracted by anyone.
What is your view on the Oonirisa’s claim that the Igbos share history with Yoruba?
You should bear it in your mind that the Oonirisa is the Arole Oodua. And on the most paramount throne of our progenitor that he sits, he will be privy to more than we know. So, I believe our focus should be to explore the claim to further enlighten ourselves. Logically, if you agreed that the entire world started from somewhere and we also accepted that Ile-Ife is the source of mankind, it may be juxtaposed that there could be some truth in it. As a student of history, I urge us all to seek further understanding on these claims as this will reveal the hidden truth that we all seek. Knowledge must be acquired from the cradle to grave. Therefore, there is no reason for us to not use this development as a springboard to interrogate it further with a view to expanding our knowledge not only on Yoruba history but history of the world. This is my position on the matter instead of promoting fictions.
Can you also install a king in the diaspora?
How do you mean? Do you realise who a king is? It is not only illegal, it is irresponsible for anyone to do such. A traditional ruler must have a domain, come from a royal family, chosen by kingmakers, go through an approval process, undergo a period of traditional installation and finally get his certificate and staff of office. It is an exercise in self-deceit for those pretending to install and for those purportedly installed. It is a nullity both in law and tradition. I find it very laughable that some people in their desperation for recognition that they will do this. It is possible to be recognised as a leader in the diaspora but definitely not as an Oba. Can a British or Dutch man be crowned King in Nigeria? It is ridiculous and a big embarrassment to our common heritage. How can there be a king without a palace, no domain, no subjects, no link to royalty, no kingmakers’, no chiefs? It is deeply embarrassing even to those involved. The earlier they understand this truth, the better for them.
To what extent are Yoruba traditional rulers exploring social media in closing ranks?
It is a new age and time. All traditional rulers must take steps to improve their knowledge as well as acquire skills that will make it easier to reach our people who have totally embraced the social media. As kings, we have set up a Yoruba Obas Forum on WhatsApp aimed at bringing together all Yoruba obas from the South-West and North Central (Kwara and Kogi). This has improved our level of interaction as we are able to rub minds on topical issues, as well as share ideas for the betterment of our people. With what we achieve on daily basis at this online platform, the process of unity you asked earlier about is in progress. In fact, the level of our interaction and exchange of ideas has shown that we are really blessed with intellectuals who are now kings of their respective towns. We come to the throne from different professional backgrounds, which makes cross-fertilisation of ideas easy. Our interaction is not restricted to that platform. We visit one another with fanfare, especially during functions. When you see us together, you will be proud that you are born a Yoruba man.
What in your observation, really causes disaffection among traditional rulers?
I don’t expect you to take me back again after we have discussed how social media is uniting us. Anyway, my observation is simply ego, misuse of political power and lack of adequate understanding of their history.
Can you tell me what informed early promotion of your fifth coronation anniversary months to the event?
This is a new age, it is important to plan ahead to ensure hitch-free execution, hence we commence planning six months ahead to ensure that come August it will all come out well. If you understand where I was coming from too as a corporate person, you will know that what you observe is me. I was trained to plan ahead before I execute a project. Whichever name you call it, my fifth coronation anniversary is a project; a project which must be executed well. With what we have done so far, I am positive that we would have a grand outing.
How have you fared on the throne since 2014?
I thank God the Almighty One who put me on the throne. To him, I give all adoration for the opportunity to represent him here on earth because without any iota of doubts, God is the king of kings. It is a great honour to be counted worthy of this throne. I also thank my people of Erinmo who have made my being on the throne pleasurable for me too. I believe God has a purpose for making me the king at this time, and I pray for his strength, knowledge, wisdom and support to actualise his objectives. Again, I thank my people for their faith in me and their regular support for all I have for them. My visions were very clear at my installation in 2014, and I am happy that gradually we are gravitating towards actualising them. We understand that the visions are lifelong, and with what we have done so far, there is no cause for alarm. You would agree with me that the Erinmo of today is not that of 2014. Again, my people deserve commendation for where we are.
What are the challenges along the road?
There may be challenges but nothing is beyond the power of God. It may sometimes be difficult changing people’s perception in line with new dictates, but ultimately the end will justify the means. God has been good to me. I owe my success to him. One with God is a majority. God has always been merciful, and I won’t stop to praise him. You must have seen me attending programmes in the church and in the mosque in my town to show my total gratitude to God.
Suspected kidnappers and Fulani herdsmen seem to have relocated to the South-West. What should the federal government do to stem the tide?
It is time to establish and empower local vigilantes and community policing under the authority of the traditional rulers and local government. In the same vein, our porous borders should be further secured while government must take urgent steps to improve the social, economic living standard of the average Nigerian.