A first class traditional ruler in Osun State, Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, recently visited the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, in his palace. After the visit, Oba Akanbi spoke to our correspondent, Hammed Shittu on a wide range of issues bordering on his ascension to the throne and relationship with other monarchs
How did you become the Oluwo of Iwoland?
Becoming the king was just the will of God, but sent with a specific message for this generation. You can see it in the signs; the 16th ruler of Ife, Ooni Oluwo Gbagida gave Telu the crown. I am the 16th Oluwo of Iwo land. Again, when I wanted to do my coronation, I gave them two days, they rejected the two days and they chose the 16th January 2016. Again, when my child was to be born, they told me and my wife that ‘you are with a child, the child is a boy and his name will be Oduduwa.’ When the boy was to be born, he was born on the 16th February 2016.The 16 that you see is nothing but one plus six which is seven. I don’t do things from the physical; I do things from where the strength comes from. Strength of the physical comes from the spiritual. If there is no strength in the spiritual, there is no strength in the physical. You can’t raise this leg unless there is the strength from the inner side.
What are you doing to reconcile other princes with whom you contested the stool?
Majority of them have seen by now that yes, this is a leader par excellence. We won’t do it like in the olden days when others would be made to flee the town when someone becomes a king. No, we won’t do that. We want everybody to be free and comfortable, and that was why I even took the name Telu, which belongs to the father of Iwo land. The significance of Iwo is that it has never been ravaged by war.
People say that you are a controversial monarch. Do you see yourself as being controversial?
I see myself as the face of God on earth that God has sent with a specific message. The ways of God are very difficult for man to understand. Unless one is very deep in the spiritual, you cannot understand the ways of God, and it is what you do in the spiritual that manifest in the physical. With me, my belief is that age is not wisdom, and so is one’s level of academic standing, otherwise the richest man in Africa would be a professor in Accounting or Mathematics, not Alhaji Aliko Dangote. That is God; it is wisdom and God gives whoever that He wishes.
God has prepared me for this because he made me to go through all that I went through in life. I have travelled wide in Africa. I have been to about 20 countries. Growing up, I was independent. God has made me to pass through thick and thin. Then, I have been through a war. I was in Liberia in December 24, 1989 when the war first started. I and my brother went for business in Liberia and we got stuck there during the war. God used me to save him. But I had also been to the dead point, that story is for another day. For you to say something to scare me, or you want to scare me with something, you have to get to where I am coming from. You have to pass through what I passed through. Then, I can say that you are a man. At 50, what I have passed through in life, I don’t think a 400 years old man has passed through.
What is your family’s connection with the present Ooni of Ife?
I believe my future is very clear and that I am not climbing on anybody’s back to become successful in life. Oluwo is a household name and I thank God for that, but why didn’t you ask me about the poor people that I also met and made impact on? I believe in myself; I believe in the future. That time, we cannot dig into that. He was younger than me. I am almost eight years older than him. People should learn from my life experience. If you go to one herbalist to harm somebody, don’t think it’s what you did, it’s God that allowed it. In 1981, something happened and I had to leave Iwo. Something happened I left home and I was lost for four months. I was even captured twice by ritualists but they rejected me. The second one, I can even remember, clearly said; he’s a king. The last time I left Iwo was in 1981. I only came back in 1984 just to come around and help my father. I was in Form Two when the incidents happened. When I got lost after four months, I was found. I and the Ooni started from Holy Trinity in Ibadan. That time, we were living side by side near Senator Soji Akanbi’s house in Holy Trinity. He was just a big boy who came back from England. He would pocket his hand and would not want to talk to anybody. He was the son of one Alhaji M.Akanbi. We have been close by since then but the families didn’t know each other by then. But when I moved to my uncle’s place in Akobo, Ibadan, they were just living on the next street. It was then we started knowing each other. I and Tunji Ogunwusii used to play soccer together. He was at St Patrick Grammar School, Ibadan and I was at Oba Akinyele Memorial High School.
We used go to parties together. Tunji played soccer very well. I don’t know if he still plays soccer now. So, we thank God that we are all great people today; at least we have made an impact in Yoruba land. What I want people to know is that the new dispensation of what kingship is about is here and we thank God for it. My own message to all kings is for us to be servants; it’s not about gathering money. Many rich kings have gone and their names are no more. We don’t remember them. Money don’t make you great for ever; its only for a while.
Many people believe that royalty is about the king’s sitting in the palace majestically and attending to people’s needs and not walking on the streets like you do. What is your take on this?
It sounds very funny because all these things you said are things of the past. The part of living in the past age is the worshipping of Orisa. Like me now, you cannot call me second-in-command to idols. I will say no but I am the controller of all idols. It’s because kings in those days didn’t know that kingship is for service. When you serve the people, you will get due respect. Some people, because you don’t add to their lives, they won’t even greet you. Have you ever seen my convoy? Everybody will be prostrating and shouting, Kaabiesi ooo! If I pass there20,000 times, that is the respect. Serving them doesn’t make me less. I am writing my own story. Oduduwa served the people, but remember that he was not the first Yoruba man because he had a wife; at least he didn’t give birth to the wife now. Oduduwa had subjects, he did not give birth to them but he served diligently; he loved the people. That was why they said Oduduwa conquered Obatala and all of them. He conquered them with love ofthe people. They call Oduduwa their father. Do you see any king people call their father like that today? No. Can you point to one king that people will say this is the father of Yoruba nation? It’s because none of them is serving; they are just sitting in the palace.
Government has taken over the duties of …..
No, it’s the kings that didn’t rule the people well. What they were doing in those days was wrong. Even today, some kings will go and be collecting people’s lands. Oduduwa said no king should take over any person’s land. I am talking about the traditional and natural kings and Oluwo is one of them. The natural monarchs are those who didn’t have the history of being a baale or a chief. I am not talking about the kings that the colonial masters asked for. I am talking about those who have history of being kings from the 11th century.
What’s your relationship with other monarchs in Yoruba land and beyond?
The ones among them who know and have the understanding know that I am liberating the Yoruba land and I have a very good relationship with the Sultan and the northern emirates. I just visited the Emir of Ilorin. When the Sultan of Sokoto came here and saw the palace, he said, ‘Oluwo, in this palace, I see the spirit of Oduduwa and Uthman Dan Fodio.’ Our progenitorsdid not worship any lesser gods. It’s not about being a Muslim or a Christian; Abraham and Moses were neither Muslims nor Christians and they did great things. Humans are the creators of lesser gods. Those things can bring controversy in Yorubaland when you are liberating them. Why are we turning people into tin gods because of their being good? We are now enlightened now that such name-callings should not take place now. For instance, Innoson Motors is in Aba producing motor. If it were to be in the olden days and nobody had cars and he started to produce for them, they will turn him into a god.
As an advocate of a new culture, how do we change our society for good?
Please, take note that whatever I am doing or saying is not to kill our culture. But let me also say this that, the sacrifice and the things that the herbalists used to ask people to place at the junction of the roads in the midnight is to invite curse on them from the people. You don’t know? When you put the head of the rat, the fish, and others inside something and pour oil on it and put it on the road, the first person to see or sweep it will surely curse the person that puts it there. So, whoever you directed to do that, why don’t you ask him to be filling potholes or do other things that will attract the prayers of the people. It’s the few animists among us that go around putting names of these gods on human nature like stones, trees and all that, because of the way they look. In that case, it’s only the traditionalists that would be visiting such spots. You will never see any Christian or Muslim there and it shouldn’t be so. If we are just celebrating, and we are not performing any ritual in some of these places like Osun Osogbo, and the rest of them, everybody, Christians and Muslims would be there, the crowd will always be massive, but you won’t see any true Muslim or Christian in such places and it shouldn’t be so.
Our religious people should be made to be free to visit our tourist sites, when ritualism is entirely removed. We don’t need it. If the monarchs truly serve the people, the people will call for self-rule; that the kings should be allowed to rule them, when they know that the kings won’t steal their resources. Did Oduduwa enter Ipebi that they say the Oonis of Ife must enter before becoming the king? No.