I’m on the throne to challenge myths —Oluwo
On January 16, 2019 the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi marked his third year on the throne. He spoke with TUNDE BUSARI on his journey to the throne and on his many controversies. Excerpts:
To mark your third anniversary on the throne, can you refresh our memory on your journey to the palace?
(Smiles) What a question! I think it is in order as you asked. My journey to the palace passed through normal process and normal standard of contesting for the throne in Yorubaland. The only thing is that it took two years and eight months before I was selected and finally installed.
How did you find the contest?
To be honest with you, I found it interesting; very, very interesting in the sense that it exposed me to some complexities involved in the process. But in the course of that, I still remained my confident self. I was being driven by self-belief and, most importantly, by God’s assurance. Before the contest, God had told me to enter the race and never look back because I was the chosen one. I receive messages from God and respect those messages. When that one also came, I followed it and the rest is history, history which you know because you were part of the process.
Where were you when the news of your appointment broke?
I was in Osogbo.
What were you doing at that important moment?
I was sleeping. I was woken up and told that I had to move to Iwo immediately for installation.
Can you give an update on the state of relationship among ruling houses now?
I am happy to tell you that there is unity among us. I think you saw members of royal families in the palace today. They were all here to identify with me as the head of the families now. Once an Oba is installed, he becomes the head. I can tell you that there is unity in the town.
You demolished a shrine which had long been at the frontage of the palace. As the custodian of culture and tradition, didn’t you feel that you violated your responsibility?
Let me first ask you about the definition of culture. What is culture? Culture is the way we greet, eat, dress, and carry out our daily affairs as a distinct ethnic group. We should not mix worshipping deities with our culture. I needed to do what I did because the time was ripe for me to do it. That is not an issue. I am the traditional ruler who is a representative of God. And a representative of God should not worship any deity because those deities are mere servants, not representatives of God. Ogun, Sango, Obatala and the rest won’t be happy if they see that their followers still worship them the way it was done in their days. But I am happy that the worshippers too are gradually upgrading. They are not giving deities palm wine again. It is Schnapps, meaning the deities too know good things. The point I am making is that we can remember and celebrate these deities for playing certain roles in their times but turning them to another God is what I am not comfortable with. So, I have no regret for demolishing that shrine. Can you see how beautiful that spot is now? Could anybody do any meaningful thing there before now? We now host social events at that spot, and people have even forgotten what was there before. Was there a church during the time of Solomon? No. What they had was the palace. It was in the palace you had temple where they worshipped God. What I am saying again is that the palace is superior to any shrine.
You must have been warned against it before you demolished it.
Warned by whom?
I guess by the worshippers.
That is an insult. Who are the worshippers? Are they the owners of the throne? They are all under me. These things are superstition; they can’t stand the test of time. If I marry an 18-year-old and decide to divorce her at 22, is it fair that she should not have affair with another man forever when I am free to take another wife? That is wickedness. We need to challenge the status quo; we need to question this myth. We need to question the practice of planting tribal marks on the cheeks of a helpless kid. They should allow the kid to grow and ask him or her if he or she wants a mark on his or her cheeks. We should not continue this abuse. Tatoo can be removed from body but our tribal mark remains forever.
Are you a member of what is called secret society as a custodian of culture and tradition?
Why should I be a member of any secret society? Is secret cult part of our custom and tradition? Are traditional rulers supposed to be in the same groups with their subjects? I have said it that we are representatives of God. We are supposed to be in charge on behalf of God. I am satisfied with that status than belonging to any secret society. If members of secret society come to me in the palace here, I would pray for them. But this does not make me one of them. Secret societies are having bad effect an our children who also pick interest in those stuffs in schools.
Is there any difference between Adewale and Telu1?
Of course, there is difference. Adewale was that outgoing man who toured about 53 countries of the world and speaks different foreign languages. Telu1 is the old spirit which now lives in Adewale. I ceased to be that Adewale the day I became the Oluwo. But this does not say I am no longer Adewale. I am still Adewale but the spirit in me is bigger than that person before I was installed in 2016.
How did you feel during the controversy that trailed your Emir title?
I did not feel different from the way I naturally feel. I was not moved by all kinds of comments and reactions to the Emir title. Why I was not moved was that I realised that some of our people are still living in ignorance, with due respect. I maintain my stand on that issue because it was a concept aimed at better unity of the country. I can also call myself Sultan of Yorubaland or Eze or Awujale of Iwo. What I am saying is that I am the head just as Emir is the head of all ethnic groups living in his domain. The Emir of Kano and I spoke recently. He told me that a Yoruba community in Kano organised an event and told him that they were bringing the Ooni of Ife. He said he told them that they were wrong, saying he is the Ooni to them in Kano. He said he is the one who would then invite the Ooni from Ile-Ife to the event. That is exactly what I mean. That is demonstration of unity. I have said enough on this, and I am okay. But to say I was moved is to understand that you don’t know me. I don’t run away from controversy. Controversy is not always negative. There is other side to it, which is good for a man who calls himself a man. I was enjoying the emotional aspect of the controversy then, especially those who were attacking me on social media. I read them and laughed them off.
How can you describe yourself?
I see myself as an unusual royal father, who is a royal father in true sense of it. A father throws open door of his house to his children. Is that not what I do here? Do I shield myself from my subjects? I see myself as one who is here to correct some ills of the past and make amendment where necessary. As I have said earlier, I am here to challenge those myths and do things in civilised manner. I am not praying for wisdom of Solomon. That was archaic wisdom that could not make aircraft, television, mobile phone and other technology wonders. We can make reference to the past for reference purposes. We should not do things the way they were done in the past. It won’t work. Life is too dynamic to be tied to the same spot. My exposure to different functional and progressive cultures is a waste if I do things the same way they were done by our forefathers. Do you think our forefathers would commend me for not changing after hundreds of years? That is the advantage the white have and enjoy over we blacks. The white know that we have problem in our thinking. We have poverty of the minds. That is why they keep on ruling us.
You have one wife. Is it appropriate as a traditional ruler who has all the right and privilege to be polygamous?
You are asking me same question. I have said we should not do things the way of the past. In the past, all they were concerned about was having food and nothing more. But now, a traditional ruler also has huge bills to pick. So, if such traditional ruler decides to marry more than one wife, he should know what it means, in terms of school fees, medical bills and other obligations. I want you to tell me where it is written that a traditional ruler must be polygamous. I am challenging anyone to show me the book that says you are not a traditional ruler if you don’t have more than one wife. These things need to undergo transformation. When one is struggling with one wife, one is expected to stop on that to live a peaceful life. But I am not saying whoever feels he has the means and capability to have more than one wife not to have them. They should go ahead and be ready for challenges that come with it.
You allow your wife to wear a crown. Don’t you see this as strange?
What is strange in what has happened before me? I have said it that ignorance is one of our major problems. Even those you expected to have known unfortunately don’t know. There is nothing I do without a reason. I put a crown on the head of my wife to show honour to women. Our progenitor, Oduduwa started it. He put a crown on the head of his wife Olokun as a mark of honour. Why should we erase that chapter of our history? I discovered it and brought it back.
It is like you enjoy controversy.
I have said it that controversy makes a real man. Can anybody talk of Yoruba towns now without a mention of Iwo today? You know that is no longer possible. Whether anybody likes it or not, Iwo has come to stay as a major town in Yorubaland. I have about 29 towns under me. You can testify to the fact that about 25 traditional rulers of those towns were here in the palace today. If such town with that size is regarded as minor, it is not fair.
What inspires your colorful, Africa fabric dresses?
That is the only dressing that stands a traditional ruler out among other eminent people. You may buy a white lace for $10000 dollar per yard, it does not bring out the royalty in you. How can a traditional ruler’s dressing be predictable? He must appear in colourful, heavily embroidered agbada that commands respect.
What informed the seminar you hosted on your anniversary day?
The seminar is more of an empowerment to our youths who are unemployed but ready to work if given opportunity. It is also part of my plans to assist the youth to be independent. I was in Canada last year and spoke with some Nigerians on how they processed their travelling. What they told me was an inspiration to return and organise that seminar to educate our youths on how they process their travelling without encountering problems. Getting work permit to advanced countries is a liberating mechanism. We, as father to the nation must utilise our mental and financial resources to emancipate the youth from poverty of mind and resources. I told them not to go there with the mindset of doing scam as a form of vengeance against slave trade of the 19th century. I told them that the white did not come down here to take our forefathers as slaves. They were on exploring mission. It was our traditional rulers who willingly offered their subjects for slavery in exchange for gins, mirror, umbrella, coat and other foreign items. That is why I openly apologised that we sold our subjects to the white. What is known as Caribbean Island is where the slaves were first kept until there was market for them in America and Europe. The slave merchants then were like drug dealers. They knew that they were doing illegitimate trade. The seminar/workshop was meant to assist our youths with right information needed to become legal migrants.
You must be closer to some traditional rulers. Who are they?
Yes, I am closer to the Elegushi of Ikateland. I am closer to the Olofa of Ofa. I am also closer to the Olugbo of Ugboland,Akarigbo of Remo ,Aragberi of Iragberi. I am equally close to the Etsu of Nupe and Appolas Chu of Eeleme Kingdom, Rivers State. The truth is that I am friendly to all traditional rulers because I live with open mind.