Oba Abolarin: Oduduwa is our source
The public outrage that followed the exchange of words between His Royal Majesty, Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the Olugbo of Ugbo Kinigdom and His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, The Ooni of Ife, over the unveiling of Moremi Ajasoro statue in Ile Ife, has elicited the response of The Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Adedokun Omoniyi Abolarin, who expressed shock, that in a 21st century Nigeria, open disagreement between the two highly respected Yoruba Obas over issues like this, is not only unhealthy for the Yoruba race, but also unnecessary. On December 8, 2016, he played host to a cross section of Obas within and outside Yoruba land, to mark the tenth anniversary of his ascension to the throne as the Orangun of Oke-Ila. According to Yoruba oral history, the first Orangun was the fourth son of Oduduwa, the mythical ancestor of the Youruba race, who was king at Ile-Ife in ancient times. Oduduwa’s fourth son was named Fagbamila and nicknamed Orangun. The nickname is a contraction of Oran mi gun, meaning, “my situation is perfect.” On that occasion, Oba Abolarin fielded questions from The Palace Watch.
Why the disagreement over the statue of Moremi in Ile Ife?
Professor Wole Soyinka said it all, and I was there. It was a short speech by the Professor, that the controversy was not necessary. Olugbo of Ugbo therefore has his democratic rights to say whatever he wants to say. But the “Source” is still the “source.” Oduduwa is still the source. Oduduwa is still the main figure in Yoruba land. And I am a proud descendant of Oduduwa. So Olugbo has the right to say whatsoever he is saying. I always tell people that the mythology that surrounded Oduduwa nobody can recreate it now. It is already an established dominant source. But the Olugbo of Ugbo has the right to say whatsoever he wished to say.
Are you saying, that the Ugbo people have the right to regard Moremi Ajasoro a villain while the Ife people also reserve the right to honour her as heroine?
It is not only the Ile-Ife people who regard Moremi Ajasoro as a heroine, the entire Yoruba people regard and honour Moremi as their heroine, because Ife is synonymous to the Yoruba race. As an intellectual, please give me a correct definition of power? Give me a definition of authority? Give me a correct definition of democracy? What democracy means to you might not be what it means to me. Everybody has the right to his or her own definitions. There is therefore no big deal in all these things. Disagreement is the problem with us in the Social sciences. It is difficult for us to see things from the same perspectives. We can never. So, there is no need for controversies. In the 21st century, we should be talking about developments of our areas, how to minimize the level of poverty in our domains. How to make life more bearable for our people, who are living in abject poverty and squalor is our concern.
Let us not begin to emphasize things like this. Let us lay emphasis on how we are going to bring our communities’ to the fore, in terms of ameliorating the plight of the rural majority.
The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka was reported to have advised the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, to ignore anybody, who called Moremi Ajasoro a traitor, saying that, “such view did not take away anything from the reality of who Moremi was.”
Although, the Nobel Laureate, did not mention anybody’s name when he made his remarks at a book launch in Ile-Ife, which was one of the activities to mark the one year coronation anniversary of the Ooni of Ife. It was very clear that he was referring to the Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Fredrick Akinruntan, who had earlier said that “Moremi Ajasoro was a traitor not worthy of any celebration,” a few days after the Ooni of Ife inaugurated a statue in honour of Moremi in Ile-Ife, in commemoration of his one year anniversary on the throne.
Professor Soyinka stressed at that event “that there is no controversy about the origin of someone whom we know as the origin of Yoruba race, kingdom, black race and humanity. The controversy may continue for long but the reality is that Kabiyesi, the Ooni of Ife, is above all other Obas, and Ile-Ife is the cradle of humanity.”
What do you think the government of the day should do, to give more visibility to the traditional rulers and their institutions?
Until I became a King, I did not know the importance of this institution, but it is a great institution for the development of our people, and our forefathers have always been raising the issue of development. In Yoruba land, it is called (Idagba soke). If we all live within the ambit of the 1999 constitution as amended, traditional rulers have lot of role to play in the present dispensation. This is the way I see it, we have lot and huge role to play. There is a saying in Yoruba that (Oba ba lori ohun gbogbo) that means the Oba is surveying. But, we all know that we are not supreme within the ambit of the 1999 constitution. But our people still say, still revere and still honour the traditional institutions they call it, “the natural legitimacy rights of monarchs.” This is enough for us to expand the coast of the institution. We therefore, have a lot of work to do in the 21st century. In my domain now, I am the Chief Security Officer. I am the Chief Employment Officer. I am the Chief Intelligence Officer. I am the Inspector-General of Police. I am the Chief Educational Officer. I am the Chief Social Welfare Officer and I am the Chief Religious Officer, if there is any position like that in Oke-Ila Orogun. And I am in-charge of everything.
Kabiyesi, what would you suggest traditional rulers do in order stay away from political trouble?
Well, we are in a Republican state. The 1999 constitution as amended is supreme. The traditional institutions are still in existence because of the natural love the people have for the institution. It is therefore, the natural legitimacy that we are enjoying. From experience, we have more than enough work to do. All we need do is to be more careful the way and manner we get involved in political issues. Traditional rulers should simply know how to attend to the welfare of their people, that is huge and enough responsibility for any traditional ruler to handle. Let them concentrate in areas like sanitation and economic development of the domains. I, for example, have never worked like this in my life as I have done since I ascended to the throne in the last ten years.
Since on the 8th of December 2006, when you were crowned the Orangun of Oke-Ila, what would you say you have done or influenced, that your subjects can point at?
We thank the Lord Almighty; there is peace in my domain. We thank the Lord Almighty that in terms of social development we can say that the Lord is assisting us. Roads are tarred within my domain, there is a major road linking us with Ekiti, of course we share borders with Ekiti State. My children are doing well, to the Glory of God; I have three indigenous Vice Chancellors presently. We celebrated them on December 8th 2016, during my coronation anniversary. The Vice-Chancellor of Babcock University is my son. The Vice Chancellor of Caleb University, Imota, is my son and the Vice Chancellor of Adeleke University is my son. I have Provost of Colleges of Medicine in two Nigerian Universities. Educationally, my children are doing well and they are making meaningful impact in Nigeria. And to the glory of God, I have a school here in Oke-Ila, known as Abolarin College. The school is my private initiative; it is a secondary school strictly for the poor. The number one condition for attendance is that you must come from a poor background but brilliant. It is a boarding school, as we speak; we have 74 students in the school. They do not pay school or any other fee. The unique thing about the school is that we are using the school to promote unity in Nigeria. To the glory of God, the present senior prefect of the school today, is my son from Abraka in Delta State. He is my son, because he is a Nigerian that needs to be assisted and encouraged. For example, my domain does not get to Abraka in Delta State but without any iota of discrimination, he is admitted free into my school, because he is brilliant. To the glory of God, I have another son from Abakaliki in Eboyin state. His name is John Chigoze. I do have another boy from Benue State in my school. What matters to me is that these students are Nigerians. In this 21st century, we must promote unity, we must promote development. We must let our children appreciate diversity. We are doing that here. Oke-Ila is a very small town, but we are working very hard in these areas. We want Nigeria to learn from us. We do not need to kill but respect ourselves as Nigerians. We need to honour and appreciate ourselves. These are some of the reasons why I am not at all impressed with the unnecessary outburst over Moremi Ajasoro case, the more we learn to respect ourselves and stay together, the better for us as Yoruba. We are here trying to tell all Nigerians that we should believe in the Nigerian experiment.
My people in Oke-Ila know that since I became King, my favorite verse in the Bible is in the book of Isaiah 58:12 and it says; “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” This is the clarion call. This message, I have been preaching since I ascended the throne of my ancestors ten years now. Since I became a king in 2006, all I have been concerned with is how to celebrate the powers of ideas.
Kabiyesi, for the first time in more than three centuries, the two Orangun reigning in both Oke-Ila and Ila are descendants of the Arutu Oluokun, the younger Prince, who led the exodus of the United Kingdom at Ila Yara about 500 years ago. What does this co-incidence means to you?
It is beautiful; this is the convergence of history. This further goes to show, that we must strive to work for the unity of the Yoruba race and Nigeria in general, even when there is division in any society. My brother, the Kabiyesi, the Ooni of Ife, was with me here on December 8, 2016, during our celebration. You need to see us; it was a beautiful union, because we are one and the same. But as you already know, at a point in time, you will always have struggles among brothers. And I have said it somewhere, if there was a judiciary in existence as it were years back, there will not be the need for this type of division that almost reared its ugly head in the Yoruba land. This conflict would have been resolved, through a judicial process. But again, in the absence of a judicial process, we have two sisterly kingdoms that are maintaining good cordial relationship with each other.
What has been your relationship with the Ife people especially under the present Ooni of Ife?
The Ooni visited me here two days after he celebrated his first anniversary on the throne. This is a clear indication, that we have a very close relationship with the Ife people. The Ooni is my brother, in whom I am very well pleased. I have a solid good relationship with the Ooni. I must, It is very important that the Orangun must always maintain solid relationship with the Ooni of Ife, alongside other brother Obas of Yoruba land especially. He was here during my 10th year anniversary celebration on the throne, alongside my other brother, the Orangun of Ila, other Obas were here from Ogun state, and the Aleperu of Iperu was here. The Elepe of Epe and those in Shagamu were here. The Ore of Otun was here. I didn’t want to make a big noise about our celebration, but yet they found the time to visit me. I was honoured. We all know, what it is, to unify the children of Oduduwa.
Oduduwa’s fourth son was named Fagbeminla and nicknamed Orangun. The nickname was contracted to mean (Ora mi gun) my situation is perfect in Yoruba. From the way you speak, is it safe to assume that your situation in Oke-Ila is perfect?
Our situation here is perfect. It is perfect, but there is no perfection in human nature. That you know. I am talking of the 21st century now and I am interested in the future, people know me for that. The perfection I am talking of is about the peace and unity of my people, you can only get things done in an atmosphere of peace. There is no need for all these struggles among brothers. If you are tall, you have the right either to succeed or not to succeed. If you are created small, not tall, you also have the right to succeed or not to succeed. If you are large, you again, have the right to succeed or not succeed. If you have a small territory, you have the right to succeed or not to succeed. Is that not so?
Oduduwa is said to have given a crown each to his direct seven sons, another account says seven grandsons, while yet another account claims sixteen grandsons, sent forth to form their own kingdoms. Which account do we believe, Kabiyesi?
You see, history is important; I am a student of history. But it is right and proper we look at history from a developmental perspective. Oduduwa lived his life, seven children and sixteen grandchildren. Yes, we were not there, let us address the issue of today, using our background, let us take a peep into the future, and go after how there can be unity within the Nigerian federation, that is the clarion call now. We must prepare ourselves ahead for the next century. Other nations are going at an astronomical rate. We should deemphasize all these divisions. Deemphasize all these scheming. All we need to do now is to take a peep into the future, and see how to improve on the plight of our children. We should plan for the next 50 to 60 years when we would not be around. Let us look at the bond that unite us as Yoruba first and Nigeria at large. Let us look at our relationship and how to foster peace. Within the Nigerian Federation, let us look at how our brothers in the other geo-political zones will see and appreciate the differences in others and relate positively. As there is the need for us to stay together and use the population that we have to our maximum advantage now and in the future. We are brilliant people in Nigeria; we therefore need to deemphasize the things that will continue to divide us. I am therefore saying that history should be seen from the perspective of development not in terms of division.
How come the people of Oke-Ila Orangun speak a distinctive language from the other Yoruba people?
It is the same Yoruba. You know, you have Akoko, you have Ekiti, you have Ijesha, you have Ife, you have Oyo, and you have Igbomina. I am an Igbomina man. We have our own peculiar dialect but it is the same Yoruba. But, it is the Oyo Yoruba most people think is the proper Yoruba, because it is common to the majority of the Yoruba. But if you must know, I am an Igbomina man and that is my dialect.