The Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdurasheed Akanbi, in this interview with FEMI MAKINDE, shares his experience before and after he ascended the throne of his forefathers
How was growing up and where?
I was born 50 years ago into a royal family. I can’t tell you that my growing up was very rosy because a royal family is usually a wealthy family. But I went through so many things but I thank God, I acquired a lot of experiences while growing up and I believe that God wanted me to go through those in order to prepare me for my present position.
What are some of those things?
Let me just say that I travelled a lot. I have been to many places and during my growing up years, I had to do a lot of things by myself. I have trained myself to be independent; I have done a lot and I went through life by myself as a young boy and this actually made me to be able to resolve knotty issues. Although I am just 50 years old, I have a wealth of experience more than most people of my age. If I ask some to pass through what I went through, they may not be able to make it except by the grace of God, which I also enjoyed.
How did Iwo come into existence?
The history of Iwoland had been badly distorted until God put me on the throne and used me to amend the distortions. You have to dig deep into the root before you know the history of Iwo Kingdom and to know who the Oluwo is. Anybody can become a pastor or an alfa but not everybody can become a king. Where is the crown of Iwo from? Iwo is actually from Ife. The crown of Iwo is from the first female that ever became a king in the whole of Yorubaland and the entire West Africa.
What was her name?
Her name was Luwo Gbagida. She was the only woman that ever became the Ooni of Ife. Her history is so unique because there was no respect for women at all when she became the Ooni. She was the greatest woman in history at that time. Where did she get her crown from? She got her crown from her father’s lineage, which is the House of Oduduwa. Oduduwa was her great, great grandfather and if she got her crown from her father’s lineage and her great, great grandfather was Oduduwa, then where is the Oluwo’s crown from? Then that means Oluwo’s crown is from Oduduwa because the crown that was given to Telu, the son of the female Ooni, was from Oduduwa. Telu can be said to be a child of a chief in Ife but the crown that was given to him was from Oduduwa.
Telu was the only son of Luwo Gbagida. His mother (Luwo Gbagida) was the one that gave her the crown and told him to take the crown to the land where the only creature that speaks besides human beings could be found. The only creature that ‘speaks’ apart from humans is the parrot.
Is it a taboo to kill parrots in Iwoland?
We don’t kill parrots in Iwoland. Iwo is called the land of the parrots. We tame them and look after them.
Is it a taboo?
It will be a taboo to kill a parrot. Why will you even say you want to kill a parrot? It is inhuman to do that. Another thing is that you must know that the crown of Iwo is from the House of Oduduwa. It was a distorted history before I came and they said the crown was from Obaloran. Obaloran had no crown. In Ife, all the chiefs under the Ooni at that time had what was called ‘Ooro’. That was what they put on their heads. All the baales in Ife at that time did not have crown, they had the Ooro. It was the Ooni Sijuwade, who upgraded them to the status of Obas. It wasn’t so from the beginning.
Luwo Gbagida, after she had ascended the throne, asked one chief, Obaloran, to have sex with her and that was how she gave birth to Telu. Telu was his only son. The woman suffered the agony of releasing her only male child to go and establish another town. There was no bicycle or vehicle then and she did not give Telu any description of how to get to where he would find the land of the parrots. She just told him to keep on going until he would come to the place. She was losing her only male child, Telu and Telu was also losing his mother because they knew they might never see again. So where is the origin of her crown? Remember that Luwo Gbagida was an Ooni at that time and it means that Oluwo is a prince of Ife. The Orangun is a prince from Ife; the Alaafin is a prince from Ife, the Owa is a prince from Ife, the Onisabe, Onipopo, Ajero, Alaketu are all princes from Ife and Oluwo is also a prince from Ife. Oluwo was given a crown by the authority from Ife.
Not all kings are natural kings. Some people somewhere say Baale of Iwo but Oluwo has never been a Baale at anytime. He has a natural crown from inception. All the Obas with natural crowns in the whole of Yorubaland cannot be more than 10.
You always speak against idol worshiping, are you saying that you were not made to perform some rituals or rites before you ascended the throne?
Ninu ikoko dudu ni eko funfun ti n jade (the white pap is prepared from the black pot). But once the pap is out of the black pot, does it have anything to do with the black pot again? You can’t eat the black pot but you can eat the white pap. Let me tell you, Prophet Ibrahim known as Abraham came out of an idol worshiping background. Jesus Christ was born into a background of people worshiping idols. Look at it, all the kings after Solomon turned against God and worshiped idols. That is why you see in the Bible that God punished the Israelites by allowing their enemies to take them into captivity anytime they worshiped idols. God used the Chaldeans, the Assyrians to punish them. So, it was Mary, who gave birth to Jesus and who gave birth to Mary and what were her parents doing then?
To be specific, were you made to perform some rites or rituals?
There were some rites they would ask you to perform. But there were some I told them I could not perform because they were against my religious belief. There were some rites that did not conform with my religion and I did not perform those ones. Whether you perform the rites or not, the day the government announces you as the king, that is settled. That is why God made me the king, there are some things that we need to sieve out of our rich culture.
You were turbaned the day you were announced as the Oluwo and we heard that is the practice were. Does it mean a non-Muslim cannot become the Oluwo?
If God says you will become the king, nobody can stop that. It doesn’t matter what you are, it is God, who makes the kings.
How many days did you spend at Ile Onto (seclusion)?
I spent the number of days I was supposed to spend there. I did everything I was supposed to do. I did all.
Can you tell us some of the things you did while you were there?
Those ones are not for public consumption. Those things that happened there were just for me and not to be relayed to the public. I can’t ask you some certain things now. I can’t ask you how you did certain things in your own house.
What role did Iwo town play in the propagation of Islam in Yorubaland?
Islam spread to every part of the South-West from Iwo town. Islam came to Iwo in 1685. The first mosque in Iwo was in 1665. Iwo had been in existence long before some bigger towns came into existence. Let these towns go and find out if they were in existence in the 11th century. Iwo’s crown is natural, it has never been elevated. Some were baales before they were elevated to the status of Obas but that is not so with Iwo. The Oluwo has never been a baale.
From where did Islam come to Iwo town?
The missionaries that brought Islam to Iwo came from Mali. You know that they speak French in Mali and the people of Mali are called Malians. So Yoruba people called the religion the Malian brought to Iwo ‘ Esin Imale’ . What they meant by Imale is the distorted way of referring to the Malians. The Malians were the first to bring Islam to Iwo town. Muhammadu Lamuye was the first to build a mosque. Iwo Central Mosque shares the same background with the mosque in Mecca. Just like the mosque in Mecca was built on a ground where idol was formerly being worshiped, the Iwo Central Mosque was also built on the spot where idol was being worshipped before. Where Iwo Central Mosque is situated was formerly known as ‘Ile Baba Olorisa’. Orisa was being worshiped there before the mosque was built on the same spot.
Is it true that you are planning to change the obaship status of Iwo monarch into emirate? There are insinuations that you are planning to make Iwo oba an emir. Is it true?
Change to an emirate? You can even say I am an emir now because I am the leader of all the Muslims in Iwo. In Iwo, it is the Oluwo that installs the Imam and all other chieftaincy titles in the mosque. The central mosque in Iwo belongs to the Oluwo. It was the king at that time, Muhammadu Lamuye, that built the mosque. The central mosque is owned by the Oba. If there is no Oba in Iwo, and there is also no imam. There will never by an imam until there is an Oba in the palace. During the interregnum of 10 years when there was no Oluwo, there was also no imam. Iwo is different because chieftaincy titles at the central mosque belong to the Oba.
Are you saying the Oluwo can lead the prayer at the central mosque?
The Oluwo can lead the prayer at any mosque in Iwoland if he wants and if he is clean. I am clean because I am not an Idol worshiper and I don’t believe in any other gods. That is why I am advocating that the dirty aspects of our culture should be removed. Every aspect of the culture or practice that asks you to sacrifice another person should be thrown away. I am not Igbakeji Orisa. (I am not second in command to any gods.) I am above them. I tell them where they should be put. I am a commander over Orisa, I command them, they don’t command me. I am the one to tell them the location where the idol worshippers should put their Orisa. I relocated the Orisa that had been inside my palace for over 800 years. I told them to remove it and put it somewhere outside the palace. There must not be any other lesser gods in a king’s domain. God is a jealous God and he will not watch you elevating an idol to his equal.
How many wives do you have now?
I have only one wife and I should have only one because I want to be a good example to all my children.
Are you not planning to marry more wives as a king and a Muslim?
I am not planning to marry another wife. The king must be the best in all things; that is how God ordained it to be. I am the father, so I must be the best. Even at ceremonies, the king should be the best dressed. If the President or the governor is doing anything now, as the king, they are all my children. The president is my son, the governor and others are all my children. If they are celebrating anything, I should be the best dressed because as their father, my joy should be the utmost because if your children are doing good things, won’t you be happy? That is why I dress in my best all the time because I must be the best dressed at all occasions.
That was why I called for prayers when President Buhari was sick I did that because Buhari is my son and it is only a stupid father that will be happy when one of his children is sick. Whether the President is a Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo or anybody, I am their father and I should not be happy when one of them is sick because I am their father.
Why did you give your crown to your Olori (wife) to wear?
Go and look at the ‘Ori Olokun,’ it is Yeyemeso, the first wife of Oduduwa. When Oduduwa came to Yorubaland, he won the hearts of the people with love. He brought civilisation because he came from where there was civilisation. His name means ‘O du du wa’(He came out black); that is the meaning of Oduduwa. He was called Oduduwa because he came out black and all his siblings had fair skin like those in the Middle East. He was civilised from where he came from. He showed many people love and he started government and wore the crown. He showed them that where he came from, the queens wore the crown. Go and check Cleopatra and others. Oduduwa brought that idea to Yorubaland and gave his queen the crown to wear. Prof. Adisa Ogunfolakan corroborated this. He is from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife and he is also a prince from Ife. Prof. Ogunfolakan is in charge of the museum and natural history in Ife. He came and said, Kabiyesi, what you said was true. He himself brought the image of an Ooni and his wife, both of them wearing the crown. He said, ‘Oluwo, you are right. What you saw in the spiritual is actually true. Do you know why many kings don’t allow their queens to wear the crown? They think there is no equal opportunity for male and female in Africa; many of them have more than one wife and they don’t know who to give the crown to. Some of them don’t want their wives to be more successful but Oduduwa that started this crowned his wife. But many kings, because of their conservative nature, treat women like second class citizens.
Is there any lifestyle that you miss since you ascended the throne?
What kind of lifestyle will I miss? I love this kingship. What is kingship is not a human making. If God can bring me to himself and make me a king, what lifestyle will I be missing? Why won’t I thank God for what he has made me? I can’t miss any low life after God has brought me to the throne. Which life is better than being a king? You just tell me! In this world, there is no life that is better than being a king. If you are a President, after your tenure of eight years or so, you leave the office but it is not so for kings. Do you know why Mugabe wants to die in office? It is because he yearns to attain the status of a king because kings are the only ones who occupy their positions for life. No president can be in office forever and that is why some leaders want to perpetuate themselves in office forever. But it is only kings that can be on the throne from the day they were crowned to their last breath on earth; no political office has such provision. Kings are the representatives of God on earth, God is forever and the same way my throne is forever. When there is an occasion when others have prayed, the king is supposed to be allowed to pray over it because he represents God.
This is why kings must also go back to God. They must be clean and be free of idol worshiping. Kings must not be found to belong to any secret cult. The youth took cultism from their leaders because they knew it from their leaders. That is why I will propose what is called the Enlightenment Act. It is an act that will take us away from poverty of the mind. It will take us away from superstition and myths that are killing Africans.
Some still believe that there is a spirit that brings money through money rituals even if you don’t work. Secret societies have to be outlawed. That was what Britain did through the 1732 Enlightenment Act. Imagine that some indolent people still believe that there is money-making ritual that can make you rich even if you don’t work in this 21st century! The person that wants to do the money ritual for you is living in abject poverty; he is in one room in a slum and you carry N20m to give him to make you rich. Do you think he will not make himself rich if he knows the way? Some of these herbalists are criminals and they should be outlawed
What has been your contribution to the development of Iwoland since you ascended the throne?
Bringing people out of the dark is enough achievement for me. I can’t count my achievements because they are too numerous. The road repair is there. The road linking Iwo to Osogbo, the state capital, I fixed it. I repaired the State High Court and I don’t know if there is any Oba who has done that. I fixed the High Court and spent millions of naira when they threatened to close it down due to dilapidation. The National Open University in Iwo, I sponsored it to be brought here. I spent my money on the building. I gave out laptop computers to schools, tertiary institutions and secondary schools. There is Iwo Children’s Day which is celebrated during the Children’s Day. I am the first king to visit all the schools in his domain in the whole world, I am not just talking of being the first in Nigeria. The free food to orphans, widows and everybody that is poor is going on three days in a week. Just get to the palace from wherever and whoever you are, you will be served. There are many others, the free medical equipment. I visited the neglected people in the society. I visited inmates at Ilesa Prison because people don’t care about them.
What are the challenges facing you since you became the king?
I don’t see challenges, so there is no challenge that can overcome me. I see opposition’s criticisms as the tonic to be stronger and better. God has planned my life and I am just living it.
What is your relationship with other Obas in Yorubaland?
One thing is when you believe that something is right and you pursue it, you don’t need to apologise to anybody for doing it. But if people don’t understand you, they tend to say something against you. But kings must know that they are the ones representing God on earth and they must be clean. President Muhammadu Buhari came with the war against corruption but you can see how some people wage serious war against him. So it is expected. A leader was sick and some wished him dead. If civil servants are sick for three months, should we ask them to resign? If a woman goes for maternity leave of three months, should we ask her to resign? But if Buhari was their son, brother or relative, would they wish him dead?