In less than three years on the throne, the Olororuwo of Ororuwo, Osun State, Oba Qamar’deen Adeyanju has opened his town to the world. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, Oba Adeyemi attributes the journey so far to his open door model which makes peaceful coexistence among different religion a new culture in the town. Excerpts
Chieftaincy titles have come under criticism all centred on the quality of beneficiaries. What is your position on this?
My position is that chieftaincy titles are not for everyone. They are meant to be conferred on only those who work for it; I mean those who impact positively on the society. It is not necessarily important that I have personal contact with the person. Once I see the good work and service the person renders to the society or the person is introduced to me by a credible son of the land, the person, male or female, is qualified. I can answer your question based on my principle which guides my choice of beneficiaries of my chieftaincy titles.
At public places you appear distinct in your. What dictates your dressing?
I appreciate that compliment. What dictates my dressing is the stool on which I sit. You needed to see me when I was in public service in Abuja. I was in formal dressing; in suit and tie that matched my official designation. But as a traditional ruler, there is a standard on what we wear, especially in public. We need to appear in a way to project the image of our custom and tradition. Go and do you findings, Yoruba culture ranks among the best in the world. We have everything to always set the pace for other cultures. And it is happening already. You go to Lagos and hardly see difference between Yoruba and other ethnic groups at social gathering. Other ethnic groups like our dressings and our ways of respecting one another. Is it not strange that we, the owner of the culture, are not showing same level of appreciation? But as one who is to uphold our custom and tradition, I have no choice than to promote the culture by appearing good at all time in full attire which distinguishes traditional rulers from others.
In terms of age, you seem to be younger among your chiefs. How do you cope heading council of these elderly ones?
I acknowledge this fact because there is nothing anybody can do about it. I don’t pretend over it. But they all know the position of Yoruba culture on that. They know that a traditional ruler, regardless of his age, is the father of everybody. But by my nature, I don’t flaunt it. I am a realist who thinks of God first before any other thing. By my upbringing and training, God, not king, is the Supreme Being who has total control over all of us. Traditional rulers should not get carried away by the status, especially the glamour that is associated with the throne. This is the principle that guides me in relating with my chiefs, and I think they appreciate it. This life is not difficult unless man decide to make it difficult. I am here by the special grace of God. So, there is no reason for me to try to play God over my people.
You must have reconciled with your co-contestants and their followers now.
Yes, I have done so much in that regard even though it was not that easy. But I have thrown the gate of the palace open to everyone because the palace is their home. I am only here as their custodian who is in charge of the key. The job I do here is not different from the job of a caretaker. Take for instance; I go out at night to ensure every place is okay. I go without the people getting to know it is me.When my people are sleeping in their different homes, I don’t; I wake up to think and pray for them. When the day breaks, I start to receive them from the morning. This I do till later in the evening.
Can you then say contest to the throne is worth it?
This is a different topic. You are talking of fundamental issue. I want you to know that everybody does not have royal blood in their veins. It is only those from ruling houses that contest to the throne. This is where you realise that truly blood is thicker than water. Despite the burden and inconvenience attached to the throne, the blood won’t allow a prince to ignore the contest when it is the turn of his ruling family to succeed the departed traditional ruler. You just have to go for it because you know you are also qualified, and if you succeed, you get there. But I must say, at this juncture, that contest to the throne should not be a do-or-die affair. Every prince is qualified to aspire but only one will get to the throne. After the contest, no matter how painful it is, we should retrace our step and be more united because our blood remains thicker than water.
How do you feel with the religious harmony being enjoyed in your town, especially between Muslims and Christians?
How else do you want me to feel having a town where Muslims and Christians see themselves as brothers and sisters? I consider this as a divine favour. It is one of the favours which God has blessed me with in this town. I can say it that not many towns and communities have the same grace. I am not spiting these towns and communities because what I have here is beyond my making. I am thanking God for this privilege. During the contest to the throne, one thing which some people used to campaign against my candidature was my religion. They said if I became the Olororuwo, I would possibly attempt to islamise the whole town. Is that not funny? These people later came to this palace and confessed to me here. They said they did all within their power to ensure I did not emerge. They said what I had so far done made them to swallow their words and seek forgiveness.
What did you do to them?
I made it clear that I am not the Olororuwo for the Muslim alone. I said being a Muslim does not make me enemy of other religions. To demonstrate that, I was moving from one church to another, attending their functions and participating well. They were impressed by that and also decided to identify with me. Last year, the Christians followed me to our prayer ground during festival. We all returned to the palace here where we enjoyed ourselves. I had to appreciate that by also attending their Galilee during Easter. My appearance at Galilee really caught them unawares and gladdened their hearts. At this year’s Eid-el-Fitr,, Reverend Father Gabriel Adeniyi of St Patrick Catholic Church spent his money to clear the prayer ground. He did it in a way that I needed to carry out investigation to know he was the one who did it. He also used to buy watermelon with which Muslim break their fasting. What else should I do than to thank God for this rare privilege? There is also Reverend Canon Peter Ojo of St Luke’s Anglican Church. These clerics have shown that there is no reason for anybody to fight in the name of religion. They are my special advisers, so to say. I consult them often and seek their prayers from time to time. This is the type of society I want every town to build, not a place where hostility reigns supreme. Both Quran and Bible don’t preach violence. What they preach are love and peace co-existence. I am learned in Islamic knowledge enough to understand this.