The Oba of Igbobi-sabe, Lagos State, Oba Owolabi Adeyemi Kasali is a clergyman with enviable profile from the United States of America, his former base before he ascended the throne of his forefathers. In this interview by SEGUN KASALI and AKIN ADEWAKUN, he speaks on how he balances his faith with the throne.
Can you let us into the history of Igbobi-Sabe?
Igbobi-Sabe is a community that has been existing since the 17th century. The people who actually founded Igbobi-Sabe migrated from Ile-Ife. It was not known as Igbobi-Sabe but Igbo Obi Edun. The name was changed due to Ifa’s advice. Then stillbirth and mortality rates were so high in the area, and the people were advised by the Ifa oracle to carry out some sacrifice and place it by the Edun tree in the area. The rituals were performed and stillbirth stopped. Then followed the change of name.
How has it been being a custodian of the Yoruba tradition and culture in a highly cosmopolitan area, such as Lagos?
I don’t joke with my culture. Before now, I used to be a pastor. I started from the Celestial Church of Christ, where I got to the level of a shepherd. We have shepherd, leader in charge and shepherd in charge. I was a full- fledged church worker. I left Celestial Church of Christ to Christ Apostolic Church, Agbala Itura under the leadership of Prophet S. A. Abiara in Houston Texas before I came to Lagos in 2008. To God be the glory, I never planned to be an oba. But God, in the book of Jeremiah, says ‘I knew you before I form thee in your mother’s womb’. This implies that whatever anybody will become, God already knows. When I came back in 2008, I was given an appointment by the state. There was a new board of which I was a pioneer member. It was like a child’s play when we started. There were so many contestants, who were bona fide sons of the soil. But thank God that out of those candidates, I emerged the chosen one. It is God that chooses kings. Back to your question, since I was made king, I have never played with tradition. It doesn’t disturb my Christian faith. I read my Bible every day. I can pray in the Christian way. And if I want to, I can pray in the traditional way. At least in those three, I am not a novice. And the fact that I am in Lagos does not make me alien to tradition.
Some people also link your family background to Badagry, how true is this?
Well, my great grand-mother escorted the then Oba of Lagos, who was then Oba Akinsemoyin from his mother’s home in Apa, Badagry to Lagos, and he begged them to wait so that he could be seeing his family from his mother’s side in Lagos. They had to go back and ask for permission. They have two ruling houses in Apa. My great grandmother’s family is one of the ruling families. I am a prince from both sides. That’s why I say I came from Apa because my great grandmother was from Apa. Now, I claim Isale-eko too, because as they came from Apa with Oba Akinsemoyin, they settled in Isale-Eko. So that’s why I can claim both sides-both Lagos and Badagry West.
Was there any pressure about taking a second wife?
That is a big question, and I think it is a personal thing. It is not part of the criteria, here, though I don’t know of other places. All I know is that I am happily married to Olori Mosunmola Anike. And, since we got married, I have never had any cause to think of marrying another wife.
What are those things you were doing, then, that the throne has denied you of now?
When you are holding a public office, there are dos and don’ts. It happens to everyone holding public office. There are certain things you don’t do as an Oba. As an Oba, you don’t just leave your head uncovered. As an oba, you don’t walk anyhow and go to any place. If you look at it very well, it is for your own benefit. So, when you are holding a public office, you are no more your own self. I belong to the community now and, therefore, the way I should walk, what I should do, the way I should talk, the way I should behave, should be very paramount. Whatever will bring shame to my community, I mustn’t do it. This is because whatever I do now will be ascribed to my name. So that’s why you have to be very careful. You talk responsibly and behave responsibly. If they say that the oba shouldn’t walk in the midnight the midnight too is not good for the son of man except for the evildoers. I think what has changed for me is that I take into a lot of things into cognizance more, now, before doing anything; since I now represent a community’s culture.
What’s your relationship with other Obas?
The crown that we wear has brought us together. About three years ago, we were in Ibadan, lodged at Kakanfo Inn. All the obas present were from the South West. From there, you would pick one or two that you would be friendly with. Recently, I went to Brazil on invitation of the Ooni to be part of his entourage. I’m in Lagos State and they are in Osun. They picked about two of us from Lagos while majority of them were from Osun. We have people from Kwara too. For me, I don’t have enemies because all the obas are my friends. We may not be very close but we are all friends.
Do you support the clamour in some quarters that traditional rulers should be actively involved in politics?
Let me take you back a little bit. Before now, we had obas who were in the Western House then; like Oba Aderemi Adesoji, the late Ooni of Ife. He was even the governor of the Western Region. We had Oba Adeniji Adele, a Lagos monarch and host of others, who were actively involved in politics. Before the advent of democracy, we had our own democracy in Nigeria, where we had the Oyomesi (the kingmakers). We had our own way of doing things. In those days, whenever there was chaos, the next port of call was usually the Oba’s palace. Thereafter the oba would call the security, called akoda to go and make necessary arrest. Once you saw the akoda, you dare not mess up. Whether you liked it or not, they would drag you to the palace and whatever the oba said then was final and that’s why they call them Alase Igbakeji Orisa (the second in authority to the gods). But now things have changed. A governor, whose tenure is a maximum of eight years, can suspend an oba. Before they get to that office during electioneering, they will come to the oba for blessings. But when they get to office, they can suspend or even remove that same person they prostrated for before getting there. It’s disheartening that an oba can now be easily put to shame. It’s not about age. The moment you attain that position, God will descend from his firmament and put authority in you because you are acting as his liaison officer on earth. So, they should create tangible and reasonable roles for the Oba. They should create a role for the oba so that they will further have the opportunity of doing something meaningful for their communities. Their role could even be advisory.
What’s your take on the call for the establishment of state police in the country?
I don’t think it is necessary any longer. For instance, we don’t need to agitate for state police, here in Lagos, because we already have a semblance of state police here in the state. We have Nigerian Police Force, right. We have RRS, right. We have the Neighbourhood Watch working in synergy with the police. So, leave state police for now.