I fought war in Liberia for three years — Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, Oluwo of Iwo.
As the Oluwo of Iwo, what are your duties and responsibilities?
As the Oluwo of Iwo, I have to be responsible to my people. The people of Iwo come first, and then the others follow. As a custodian of the throne of God on earth, I have a responsibility to God.
Anybody that is a king is in the office of God because one has to know the spirituality of the throne. The spirituality of the throne is that the real king is God. We are representing the only king, which is God.
In Yoruba culture, only God is unquestionable. We (earthly kings) can be questioned. We can be asked to account for our reign.
The first duty I have is my pure and true allegiance to God, devoid of idolatry or any other thing. My allegiance is to God because it is Him that employs all kings. The enemies God has are deities and idols.
The Oluwo means Oluwa Iwo (the god of Iwo). I am not the God of Iwo because the stool remains forever but kings change overtime.
Also, I have a duty to my people. I have to make sure I don’t bring suffering to them and take anything from them.
I have to go out and sell Iwo to the world, and also bring good things from outside to them. In doing that, Iam not meant to steal from inside. A king must be a servant. If he is not ready to be a servant, just like the way God ‘serves’ us, he is not ready for the throne. God is the one we send on errands.
He is the one that protects us at night, so it means He is our security guard that we don’t pay for His services.
He is a servant-master. That is how a king should be responsible to his people and bring development, succour, joy and happiness to them. Having spent five years now on the throne, I believe I have done that.
How would you describe your experience so far on the throne?
I love what I do. I want to be a servant to the people. That was why I contested the throne. In the traditional system, there would always be bickering and infighting.
There is no hierarchy among Yoruba kings. However, there must be what I would call hierarchical system.
If we all know that there is hierarchy in kingship, there would be respect. It would be the same way they have ranks in the army.
A sergeant cannot talk anyhow to a colonel or a general. But, a general cannot command all officers to respect only him, without telling a brigadier general to also respect a major general. It would not work.
If that is not done, there won’t be order. In Ogun State, they have a system. They have coronet obas, beaded crowns and paramount rulers. They all respect one another. I believe other states, especially Osun, should learn from Ogun.
Is there no hierarchy among kings in Osun State?
There is no amendment to the old order. There is nobody sponsoring any bill to amend anything. People just become kings and no one is saying there should be order. No one is worried about the affairs of kingship.
We cannot continue running the system like that. There must be checks and balances. The same way there are governors, commissioners and House of Assembly members, there should be hierarchy among obas.
You seem to be putting the blame on the government?
I am not blaming the government. I am talking about kings coming together and proposing an amendment.
What step do you think should be taken urgently to address this?
There must be hierarchy and orderliness. Most kings that do not have space at the top don’t want things to be settled. They don’t want orderliness. They would prefer to scatter everything.
Regardless of who is involved, there must be orderliness. There has to be a head who should be respected.
Have you always wanted to be a king?
When I was in Canada, I heard a voice straight from heaven that said, “Park your things. I am going to make you a king.”
That was three days before my predecessor passed on. I was actually at a picnic in Toronto that day. When I heard the voice, I looked around to see if those around me heard it too. But, I was the only one who heard the voice.
What was your reaction when you heard the voice?
I asked the person by my side if he heard a voice. When he said ‘no,’ then I kept quiet, so that people would not think otherwise. Three days after that incident, I saw the news on Facebook that the king had passed on.
Meanwhile, it had been a long time that I came to Nigeria. So, when I heard, I knew God was calling me and I left.
I started consulting with people to be sure it was our royal family that was next (to ascend the throne). For two years and nine months, I had to be visiting Nigeria once or twice a month. It was a real struggle but God, in His infinite mercies, ordained it.
I love the experience. This is my calling and my cross, and I must carry it. This is what I was born for. My focus is to make Iwo the most talked about and most developed in Nigeria.
In five years, Iwo has gained more recognition and development is ongoing in the town. Many projects are springing up in the town as well. The Federal College of Education, International Football Academy, National Library, International stadium, golf course, and roads have been established in the town. Iwo is being put where it is supposed to be in the country. That is great and heartwarming.
Before, it took three hours to get to Osogbo from Iwo because of the bad condition of the road. As soon as I became the Oba, I started fixing the 44km road.
That is how I serve my people. They thought I could not do it. Some even said it was media hype. But, I went to the road. I would resume at 8am and close by 6pm to make sure the road was fixed. It had been abandoned for 13 years.
Also, we have donated medical equipment worth over N1bn to hospitals and health centres here in Iwo. I use my throne for development, not for any other thing.
What was the first major decision you took as the Oluwo of Iwo?
The first major decision was to combat idolatry in kingship. Idol and deity worshipping should not be in the palace. If anybody has idols or deities, they should keep them where priceless things are kept― museums.
Some people are of the opinion that you, as a custodian of Yoruba culture, should not condemn idolatry. What is your reaction to that?
Culture is dynamic and it has to be consistent. When time is moving, we should move with it. Our fathers did not wear shoes; should we also now reject shoes?
The umbrella they cover kings with when they are going out were not used by our fathers. Back then, they didn’t have clothes to wear.
We are the only tribe that prostrates and kneel to greet people. We also own the talking drum. I call all that culture. It is the deities that are spoiling our culture and adding nothing good to our tradition.
Idol worshipping is a religion; it is not culture or tradition. You cannot use an idol to identify Yoruba because other tribes worship those idols too.
Man grows to know religion; it should not be part of customs and tradition. Do you know how many good Yoruba men that are supposed to be kings, but their parents warned them not to, because they equate kingship with being fetish?
Now, we are cleaning the house of God on earth. The real house of God is the palace, before churches and mosques were ever made.
What’s the toughest decision you’ve taken on the throne?
I don’t want to go into details. But, I know which one I made that was tough. I had to take that particular decision because it was almost taking my life away.
God said I should take the step, so I had to. I don’t want to talk about it because I was practically a dead man already. It was God that saved me.
He told me that with the work he gave me, I would have a lot of enemies, but He would always be with me.
In what ways did you prepare yourself for kingship before you ascended the throne?
When I was young, I got many messages― even in my name, Adewale (the crown has come home).
There were messages that I would be king one day. I was told that the names I was to be given had been picked but one person just came to the venue of the christening and said he was sent by God.
He then gave them a new set of names that should be given to me. The man said the baby must be called Adewale, because anywhere he is, he will bring the crown back home. And indeed, I brought the crown back home after over 500 years. My family had not produced a king for over 500 years.
My great ancestor, the son of Adekola Telu, became king in the fifteenth century, and since then, our family had been forgotten.
What do you think about the calls for a Yoruba nation?
There is problem in Nigeria. I believe there has been an influx of terrorists that were trained by (a former Libyan leader, Muammar) Gaddafi.
He had so many special forces and I have reason to believe that some of them are in Nigeria now.
In the past, whenever anybody was agitating for freedom in Africa, Gaddafi was ready to sponsor them. Many Gambians, Senegalese, Ivorians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans trained under Gaddafi.
Since Gaddafi passed on, all of them could not stay in Libya anymore because he was the one protecting them.
Now, they are coming to a better economy in our country.
That is why Nigeria must be united to fight terrorism. If we are not united, we would have problems. Already, Boko Haram terrorists have taken a part of Niger State and have hoisted their flag there.
These are people trained by Gaddafi. They have money and weapons. There is trouble in Africa, not just Nigeria.
I know about warfare as I fought the war in Liberia in 1989 till 1992. I was ambushed many times. I was at the point of death on more than eight different occasions. The scars on my face are from that war.
When they shot the car I was driving with soldiers in it, everybody died.
The car somersaulted and I had to use my head to break the glass and run into the bush as they were shooting behind me.
I am a king with lots of experience. I have travelled to over 50 countries. I speak six different languages.
When I talk about security issues, I know what I am saying. I know what security is. I know the strategies of warfare, even more than our own army in Nigeria.
When it comes to having a Yoruba nation, they (agitators) should take it easy for now. Should we come together and fight these common enemies?
I would say ‘yes.’ I think they have a godfather who has told them to come here.
These fighters don’t work without sponsors. I believe there is a Nigerian who wants to take over the government, who is sponsoring them, and we will get that person.
If the government wants my advice, I will give it to them because when it comes to Libya special forces, I know many things about them. They move from country to country.
Gaddafi was good to his people but he did harm to Africa. He wanted to have ‘one Africa’ where he would be the king of the continent. He was ready to overthrow Nigeria.
There are many security issues I might not be able to talk about for now. But when they need my advice, I would be ready.
Some people feel that traditional rulers in Yorubaland have lost their prestige by going to politicians and other prominent people to seek support. What’s your reaction to that?
We (kings) are not constitutionally recognised. There is no way traditional rulers would not link up with politicians. A politician would become the governor. Wouldn’t one deal with the governor of one’s state?
Everything is in the hands of politicians. Why not put some in our own hands as well? We are toothless and the only place we can get teeth are from politicians?
Some people feel there is danger ahead for Yoruba culture because many young people do not understand and speak the language. How does that make you feel?
Is the culture and language moving? Are we improving the language and adding value to it?
Are you tasking the scholars to do more?
Yes, some of them need to sit down and add more to the language.
We don’t even have a Yoruba word for ‘strawberry’. There is no word that would be too hard for white people that they would replace it with Yoruba.
Our culture needs to evolve. It should not be static. We need to stop things like tribal marks. I believe it was a mistake on the part of our forefathers, and is not in tune with humanity.
Somebody just came with circumcision and everybody accepted it. It’s not in the Bible, Qur’an or even Odu Ifa. Meanwhile, it is only for male children. Why not allow the child to grow up and ask for his consent?
Even when it comes to food; rice is not our food. We just adopted it. Where were cows before? Were they in Yorubaland?
We now eat the intestines of cows and feel very important. Meanwhile, it used to be a food for slaves.
What are your long-term and short-term plans for Iwo?
I don’t rule this town. God does in His wisdom. He commands everything and I give thanks to Him. God is behind everything that we do in this town.
There is no poverty in Iwo. Residents of other places may be complaining but Iwo people won’t complain. Even if there is no money, I will go to their houses and share what I have with them.
There is a lot of insecurity and economic hardship in the country. Do you give advice to South-West governors and other public officials on how to make life better for the masses?
Nigeria is having problems. The President,
Muhammadu Buhari, meant well but all these things are out of his control.
The security situation is costing the government a lot of money. It is not easy to fund a war against terrorism.
There is a problem in this country that only God can solve, so we will ask God to give the President and his advisers the wisdom to be able to handle it. We have to pray for our leaders for them to be able to handle the situation.
Most of our leaders have been corrupt for long. I am begging them to have mercy on the masses and stop corrupt acts.
If the government can implement strict laws, things would be better. In China, they execute corrupt leaders and jail many of them for life.
Looking back, what do you consider as the peak of your career?
I was doing well in Canada. I was involved in many businesses including defence, tech and culture, and real estate. However, I was more into defence and supply of ammunitions.
You were an arms dealer?
It a new business called ‘mobile barracks’. We have been saying that we need such system in Nigeria. When the army goes somewhere, they won’t have to start living in the bush. If they have mobile barracks, they could just set it up as soon as they get to wherever they are going. We presented that idea to the government but maybe there has been no money to fund it. I have been talking about it since 2000.
What is your relationship with your chiefs and other kings?
Some that did not understand our ways are getting to understand them now. When new things come, people would resist them. People are used to what they know and feel insecure about what they don’t know.
They came recently and we met. Anything that is left would be resolved. It’s all about difference in ideas.
You fell out publicly with your wife, Chanel Chin, sometime ago, and people are saying that as a king, you shouldn’t have washed your linen in public. What do you have to say about that?
That’s my personal life and I don’t want to go into that. It is a long gone issue.
What’s your relationship with the former queen and your son?
I don’t want to talk about that. It is too personal.
You are known to be a lover of choice automobiles and you have a number of them in your garage. Where did that love for cars come from?
A king has to drive a car. I am not a man after material things but I like to be different. I like to come with new ideologies. I have brought many new things to the traditional system, which is to culturally redefine this space.
With time, people would get used to it. We will move from what we are wearing now to another style. Our fathers did not dress like us. There was even a time they had no clothes at all.
Which is your most expensive automobile?
I don’t place much importance on things like that. It is just for me to get to where I am going.
I won’t go and buy a N500m car when my people are suffering. I will rather share that money among the people to empower them for the future. I just need a durable car that can move me from point A to point B.
You are known to be a colourful and a fashionable king. However, some people say that you are loud and ostentatious. What’s your reaction to that?
A king must be loud; as the boss. Is the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)not loud?
I am more than Buhari. I am a king, so why shouldn’t I be loud? King Solomon and King David, in the Bible, were known throughout the world.
Why should I not be known throughout the world? A king must be known throughout the world to project his town well. That is what drives development and attracts investors. A king must be very loud. I intend to be one of the greatest kings that ever lived.
You have a youthful look and good fashion sense. Surely, women must be falling over themselves to have your attention. Have you seen anyone you are interested in?
How soon will the Oluwo get another queen?
Soon, I have somebody. However, there are people who have been using my name to defraud ladies out there. I don’t know why some ladies send money to fraudsters who are using my name on Facebook.
Soon, there will be a new queen. I just have to take my time. I have high tastes. But, I have a new love in my life now.
What is the fondest childhood memory you have?
I have struggled in life, but success crowns one’s efforts. Thankfully, I have been succeeding.
There were times I was down because it’s not every time that one would win.
However, I am happy and proud of myself to say that I always come out successfully in everything I do.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I wanted to be a medical doctor because I wanted to help people. I also wanted to be a teacher or any profession that could change people’s lives for the better.
How do you relax?
If I want to relax, I just read my books or go on the Internet. I also love to dance. As a king, I attend to people. One practically does not have one’s life.
The only time I have for myself is when I go to parties. And whenever I get there, I must dance. I dance to glorify God because it’s not easy being a king.
You are known to be quite fashionable. What informs your fashion sense?
It is godly inspiration. What to do next always comes to me from God. Sometimes, He takes me back in time (in visions) to see the way kings used to dress. Everything you see on me is an inspiration from God.