The Oluwo of Iwo land, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi holds his second year anniversary of his ascension to the stool and marks his 50th birthday on Saturday 7th of October. He spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on his aspirations for his people in Iwo and his novel approach to the traditional stool.
You came on the throne facing a lot of opposition and challenges. How were you able to survive the crises you faced?
I don’t see challenges as anything. It was a situation where people did not know me. So I don’t hold it against anybody. Those who opposed me did not know that I came with a message and that I am a different kind of person who has brought a new kind of leadership. I brought a leadership that is committed to serving humanity.
When people cannot understand you, then there will be a challenge. Even myself, before I became the king, there were things I didn’t know. To be a king is about service, it is not about ruling over the people, but serving the people. The definition of kingship has been redefined in Iwo. It is the only seat and throne of God on earth, where there is no selfish, fetish or idolatry mixing with it. I mean not worship any lesser gods or idols.
Some princes of the land attacked you and criticised your style of leadership. What is the situation right now?
Like I told you earlier, they did not know that a new dispensation had come. Even Jesus Christ, when he came, people stoned him and lied against him and rejected him. They lied against me and said I was a yahoo yahoo, even when no one ever said I defrauded him. So, the period of attack was the time when they did not know who I was really. They thought I was trying to smear or reduce the throne, but they did not know that I was helping the kingship to grow and to become independent and raise a great people.
The princes today have come back to me already. Even this morning, some came to me to say ‘we are sorry, we did not know that you meant well. You have been setting our history right, and the things we did not know before, you are making us to know them.’
In the history of Iwo land, this is the first time we will be connecting the Iwo stool with the Ooni of Ife, which means the Oluwo is a son of Oduduwa. We even have a ruling house there gazetted under the law which can produce a prince who can aspire to become the Ooni of Ife. That is a great eye opener, which God, through me, has brought to us in Iwo land. We have written the history, we have returned Iwo to the position it ought to be and I have made the people to know that the Oluwo is a natural ruler from inception in the whole of Yoruba land. Oluwo has never been relegated, he has never been a Baale before. The Iwo people did not know this until I became the king.
When I was saying it they said I was arrogant, but I am not arrogant. I know where I am coming from and that is what makes me to be strong for the future to know where I am going. Everyday the princes come here and say ‘Kabiesi, have you forgiven us? We went astray, we are your children.’ They even brought gifts. When they were doing all that over 90 per cent of the people of the land were with me when I stepped on the throne. Only a few of them who did not know, who were confused…because it was a new time and a new thing.
Now that they have come to say they are sorry, have you really forgiven them?
Why would I not forgive them? They are my children. They are princes. I was a prince before I became the king. If I were still a prince and I see a king that is doing a thing different from what others had done in the past, I may also have criticised him, unless God gives me the wisdom to know what it was that the king was doing. I had to put myself in their shoes. So I may not have known the right from the wrong, so if that is the case, I should not now look down on people who at a point in time, did not know the right from the wrong. The thing was that they did not know.
You said you have been involved in developmental projects in Iwo land. Would you tell us where you are getting the funds to do roads and other similar projects?
We thank God for giving us wisdom. Ideas rule the world. Money don’t rule. You may have money, but without ideas, nothing will happen. But when you have ideas, especially to lead, you will make progress.
For instance, if you go to your area and you see a very bad road leading to your house. You know the road is not a federal road, not a state road and not even a local government road. You know that the government will not come and help you to fix it and the road is very bad. If you just start in the morning and you start knocking on the doors of all the landlords of that area, and you give them the idea of how the road can be fixed, you that have the idea would be made the leader of the community and they will entrust you to lead in ensuring the road is fixed. With ideas you can do a lot of things. Where the money comes from, I myself don’t know. But funds are coming and I myself also give from my pocket. Because as an oba that is working and also an active oba, there is no way you won’t be reckoned with. I am a working Oba.
As a revered Oba in the Yoruba land, what are you doing to bring peace among traditional stools in serious conflicts in the south west?
The truth is that past traditional rulers in Yoruba land ruled and they did not impact the lives of people. We no longer want it to be like that. What I am advocating is that kings should show the people not only tradition, which are of the old. I am not against tradition, our tradition and culture is the best. But we have to move from obscurity into light and to make our tradition to be more attractive. Using all this red oil, all this black soap and putting it at junction and roundabout, who wants to see that? That is dirty. We are killing human beings for rituals, is that a good culture? Our culture is good, but when you put some things that is not good, like fetish things and all that stuff, then it is not good. When a culture condones killing of people for rituals, then that is a wicked culture. Culture is not wicked, it is the things added to it. I tell all the obas, if you can tell me the deity that Oduduwa worshipped, if you can just give me one deity that he worshipped, I will leave my crown, I will walk out of the palace and not be king anymore. Everything that Oduduwa laid down was good and that is how he became the father of all Yoruba people. He was not the first Yoruba man, but Oduduwa served the people diligently. You see, we call Oduduwa the father of the Yorubas. Which king has emanated from Ife that we can call the father of Yorubaland?
I am asking you that question. Which king that has emanated from the south west that you can say he is the father of the Yorubas? They call us royal fathers, but Oduduwa became the father of all Yorubas because he served. Do you know that we would have had another father of the Yorubas in the 60s and 70s and the 80s but he was not a king, he was only a leader, and that was Awolowo. Because you can see that he became the Premier of Western Region and he remembered the people, the downtrodden, he gave them free education.
Who is doing that now? All we are doing is to get money for ourselves.
Money that is meant for millions, one person is taking it. I have told people that any politician that is seeking election and does not have anticorruption as a pillar of their policies should not be voted for; because corruption is what is killing Nigeria. And if you don’t have good leadership, you cannot fight corruption in this country. There are no poor people in Kuwait, and Nigeria is richer than Kuwait. They say all fingers are not equal, all fingers are equal in United Arab Emirates . There is no one poor Dubai and Nigeria is richer than UAE, Nigeria is richer than Kuwait, in terms of its resources and oil. We have it, and Nigerians are still suffering.
When it comes to kings, I am telling them to change their ways. Go and serve the people, don’t just sit down in the palace, go to the people, go to the communities, visit your subjects in their houses. Old ways is not now. You see my own style, I go to the people. I have eaten with the President, with governors and highly placed persons. I still go down to the people. Sometimes you will see me, I will leave the palace and will go and visit the people and start greeting them in their houses. I am talking about the lowest places in the society. I will go there and visit them and say to them, hi, this is your king. I am a father to them, my children cannot see me then I am not their father. I am not a ruler.
You recently visited the Olubadan in his palace. What is your take on the crisis between the Olubadan and the government of Oyo State?
You see, traditional rulership has been having dents for long. The problem started from kings themselves. It is a kind of ignorance. It is not that they deliberately did it, they did not know. It was because instead of being fathers to the people, kings were only ruling. What Oduduwa laid down, people did not follow it and that is why we have problems. There is no way kings in Yoruba land will not go down because of the way we are going. You can see kings in the north are more respected than kings in the south west. Do you why? They have moved from what is called the old, blind tradition to a very high traditional. They do durbar today and make fun. We obas, we are the fathers of the nation, but we lost it, especially in Yoruba land. A king should not worship lesser gods. A king that does not have and should not have ‘this is the alfa praying for me, this is the babalawo doing something for me or this is the pastor that is doing this for me.’ A king is the one that has authority and he will say, be, and it will be so. If you represent God.
You haven’t responded to my question on the Olubadan issue….
Oluwo: Yes, I will speak on it, that is where I am coming to when I started by saying we have lost it. Let me tell you the truth, government is the one that gives the right to become a king; the king doesn’t give the government the right to become the government. We should know that the power of the government cannot be eroded, we cannot disrespect the law. What is there is that the traditional system which doesn’t have anything left, other than people just want to respect you. If they want to respect you…if they want chieftaincy title, they want other things, they will come to you, but other than that, the king has no more powers. Do you know that if the king wants to do traditional title, somebody can even go to court and stop the king. If a king wants to build a palace, somebody can say I am the owner of the land and he can go and get injunction from the court. There is no power any more. But there are values. And if people want to respect you it is at their own discretion.
If the governor comes to you as a kabiesi and says he wants us to do something, without politicising it, if the Oba refuses, the governor can invoke the relevant sections of the law against the oba. So what I have to say is that the power of the government should not be eroded, but the traditional institution should not be reduced to nonentity and should not be reduced to thrash. I believe that the governor has done that as I heard. I have made some move to bring peace, and I want to wade into it to actually tell them their limits. I have told the Olubadan and I am trying to reach the government as well. I was told he went somewhere and had just returned and so we have not been able to sit to talk about it.
There should be a balance. I would not want the traditional institution to be disrespected and at the same time will not want the government power to be eroded because it will not be good for our democracy.
You were reported to have stopped the rain from falling at an occasion, how did you come about stopping the rain?
I can command the rain to stop. I have done it more than once. An oba who doesn’t worship lesser gods, an oba that worships no other thing than God who does not sleep. If you have a pastor that sleeps that you are relying on, you are going to lose. If you have an Imam who has a wife and when he sleeps by his wife in the night, you call him and he can’t pick your call, you know you are a loser. If you have a babalawo as your backbone, your backbone will break. I have only God. it is not about Islam, it is not about Christianity, it is not about babalawo, it is about divinity. Many things about the Yoruba culture and traditions are divine. Any function that I am attending and there is no canopy and there is rain coming I will tell it to go away. Many people have witnessed it in many places. There was even one with thundering and lightning, I said I am outside here, go back. There was another one, I told that rain, go to Lekki. Yes, and it would never rain. I have the power to say that, with the power of God and the position I am sitting in. That is why when I pray to God, I can command sickness to leave the person it is affecting to come to me. If I want to take anything like sickness or poverty from the land, I have to give it back to God that owns it.