One can be a king without being fetish –Ooni of Ife


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Oba Isaac Sunday Adeyeye, Ajimo III, is the Alale of Akungba land. The monarch in this interview with BABATOPE OKEOWO gave reasons for the delay in his installation as the king of the town, among other issues. Excerpts… 

Your emergence as the Alale of Akungba took a long time, there were several regents before you. What happened?

The delay was due to a chieftaincy tussle within the ruling house. We have a family in the Alale quarters; they are called Agbori-Okun family, the history is that their forefathers were our tenants.

The history should be about 400 years ago. Our forefather called Oba Olambo took them in; they were from Ipesi Akoko, that is the history. They are our tenants so we lived together. 400 years is not a small thing so we could not easily differentiate between us.

If you look at that number of years, 400 years, you don’t know who is who, so they lived with us, they own properties, they own land and we intermarry.

Now civilisation has come and they said having stayed so long, they also have right to the chieftaincy of Alale of Akungba. What we are saying is that they don’t have right to the chieftaincy title, we are not saying they are not from Akungba, if you look at the history, no community is an island, one community must have migrated from one place to the other but if you are a migrant to another community that does not confer the right on you to become the king.

That had been the situation, we have two ruling houses; we have Ole and Olugbade on order of rotation. Now they claim to be part of us to be a branch of our ruling house and we are saying: No! You are not a branch of our ruling house, you are our tenants.

You know civilisation has upturned everything, if you have money you will have connection, you can overturn anything and that’s what they have been doing but the fact remains that you can’t just become king, it is God that makes kings.

If you force yourself on the throne, you will see the repercussion. They have been using many means; politicians, judiciary, and all sorts of things like that. But they have failed woefully because God did not support their aspiration, God knows that they are our tenants, that they don’t have right to that chieftaincy so that had been the case, we had been engulfed in one litigation or the other, political, wrangling, everything.

Some people are still aggrieved over your emergence; what are you going to do to bring them on board?

When I was given the staff of office, I delivered a speech, I said in the race to the kingship of Akungba Akoko, there is no victor, no vanquish; that I am going to create a level playfield where everybody would now operate and I said all what was done in the past whether you were supporting me, whether you were opposing me, that everybody is forgiven, that we are going to stand on a very clean slate.

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I enjoined everybody to come with me to move the community forward and I have set out to do that, all the elites. Akungba is a highly elitist society and when you are operating in a highly elitist society youknow what it means, so I have extended my hand of fellowship to everybody irrespective of political divide or where you come from and I have received massive and encouraging response.

You know naturally that not everybody will support you, if everybody supports you then you are in trouble, some people will be aggrieved like I used to say when people come here, I will say this Oba that had been enthroned, there are some people that it will take them one week, some one month, one year even three years before they will agree. We are going to give everybody opportunity to vent their anger that everybody will come back at the end of the day.

What of the issue of paternity, how far have you gone?

The case that will determine the paternity between the Akinrinmogun and the Arole is still pending at the appeal court, so it is still there. Naturally you expect those people not to recognise the monarch until the court gives its ruling.

What I can say is that my enthronement received the widest popularity ever in the history of Akungba, I was received by mammoth crowd, I have never seen that type of crowd before, so that shows general acceptability by all.

I have been able to get across to all sections of this community both home and abroad. I have received encouraging commendation and I threw the palace open 24 hours, you can come here if you have any issue, if I am relaxing they would wake me up.

If the people love you so much as you claimed, why the crisis over your emergence?

Both old and young, everybody were jubilating and they are still jubilating up till this moment.They visit the palace every day, in groups and individually, so it’s not true. Maybe I don’t know but I think it is only in Akungba community that an Oba is enthroned and there is no single causality, no bloodshed. You are a Yoruba man, you know the implication that in most communities when an Oba is about to be enthroned, there would be crisis, but Akungba is an exception; it is peaceful, you have seen the environment. Where there is crisis, there will be looting, burning of houses and all sorts of things like that, not a single one happened here.

Do you think the obaship institutuion in still relevant today?

Very relevant but we need to be given consitutional roles. If we look at the past, my forefathers had courts in the palace, there were customary or native courts; community to community, husbands, wives, quarters to quarters were able to settle so many differences in palace courts. And we are still doing it. Before my people report any incident to the police, they have to come here, even while in in seclusion. I would have asked the people to hold on and allow me to settle down, may be three to six months, but I started immediately, from the first day. I started with the union crisis; I started settling disputes among drivers’ unions, right from the onset. We need to create customary courts for traditional rulers, if we do that, things would be better.

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What is your view on monarchs involvement in politics?

We had a bitter experience here, particularly with my father, Ajimo II, some monarchs were still playing politics then. If they play politics they would soil their hands, they would denigrate the revered office of a monarch, so my father was a very powerful politician, a prominent supporter of the NNDP. Chief SLA Akintola and my father were good friends. Akintola used to visit this town, he slept in this palace and what happened was political uproar, so I would not subscribe to that, that is my own personal opinion because of what happened to my father. Monarchs should not participate in politics.

Apart from the university, do you feel the state government’s presence in your town?

Yes, the Caring Heart market. And if you look at all the primary schools, they are shining, though some people would say government did not do anything, government has done so many things. All these secondary schools are not from somebody’s pocket. It is government’s presence but you know people are Oliver Twist, they will continue to ask for more.

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What are your plans to bring development to the town?

I have a blue print before becoming the Oba. I am not coming to learn anything, I have a blue print. Immediately I am out of seclusion, I will have discussion with the university community, the local government and the state government; even Federal Government, because I worked with a federal ministry.

I have to liaise with the private sector. My friends in the private sector would be carried along. They will come and establish companies, cottage industries; they would bring it to Akungba.

Then if you look at Akungba and you see the network of roads, it is nothing to write home about; those are my priorities. Akungba is a well planned community, it was done in 1940 by a Catechist named Oseni; he is from Owo.

Do you have plans to engage the youth?

I am aware that high rate of unemployment exists in the community, I am going to engage all the relevant organisations which I have mentioned to make sure that our youths are gainfully employed. The university had been denying us our right because we don’t have a rallying point. As the catchment area, the university should employ grade 1-6 from the community.

As somebody from the formal sector, how are you going to cope in a community like Akungba?

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I am well grounded in the community. I know the history and I have native intelligence, I know the thinking of the people, so I fit in. I am widely travel, at least I must have been to one community in the 36 states of the federation; I have been in the Hausa/Fulani communities. I have been to the South East and the South-South.

I know the thinking of the villagers, so I cope very well, in fact, I have coped very well. You cannot jettison your birth right for any position and that is why you will see somebody who was President of Nigeria going to his village to fight for chieftaincy title.

The first thing I did was to throw the palace open, anybody can come in and say what you want to say. The first half of my life was at home; I went to the primary and secondary school here. Those years, I learnt a lot of things.

What is view on the perception that monarchs are fetish?

Yes, they are fetish but I have said it in several fora that you can still be what you want to be without being fetish. You can still stand alone if you are holding the ordinance to God.

How do you relate with the traditionalists?

Many groups like Egbe Awo aboba and Egbe Ewedola had been here. I saw majority of them putting on beads and you will see the beads of some of them bigger than my own, I didn’t scold them, but I said it is going to be a gradual process.

I told them that an Oba had been enthroned; you don’t put on beads unless the chieftaincy is approved by the Oba because he is the prescribed authority over all other chieftaincies without exception. If I didn’t approve your chieftaincy you don’t put on beads.

There is going to be freedom of religion; the Christians would be allowed. For the Muslims, there is a Mosque in the palace. The traditional people are also free to worship here.

We are not going to decree that they should not do what they are doing. They should be allowed. That is why I am even having this massive support. There is freedom of religion and also freedom of movement form one religion to the other.

If you are in the traditional religion and you now see Christians doing what is better than your own, you can move there, but there would be no decree to that effect

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