Whoever Sits On The Ooni Throne Is Yoruba Father-Oba Aladelusi, the Deji of Akure
By Bashir Adefaka
Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, is facilitating the development of the ancient city. Recently, he visited Akure National Union in Ibadan where he met with Akure sons and daughters and invited them to come and develop their ancestral home. Aladelusi, a United States-based industrialist until his ascension to the throne, hosted Sunday Vanguard in his palace at Erekeson in the Ondo State capital, during which he opened up on the ranking of monarchs in Yorubaland. Excerpts:
On a lighter mood, one would like to say that you look handsome and healthy. Hope this look won’t put you in the challenge of women wanting to become new oloris?
(Laughs) No. It is by the grace of God that I look handsome. If you live according to your doctor’s advice, you will look good and live long, by God’s grace. Again, I don’t have the challenge of women because the olori too is beautiful, to me. I love her and I don’t thnk anybody will be more beautiful than what I have now.
But the Ooni of Ife has just taken new wife…?
If time comes that I should have another one, may be…. But right now I am not thinking of having another woman (laughs).
Odia Ofeimun’s postulation that a people without history cannot be called proper people continues to come to mind, which makes our history an imperative to know and live by. Amidst the ongoing controversy about who the Oduduwa children are, where exactly is Akure coming from?
First, before going to where Akure came from, let me touch this. When you came, we started speaking Akure dialect together. Nowadays, it has become our character to adopt the foreign culture at the expense of our own culture. If you see any of the little children now from this town, they can’t speak even Yoruba language not to talk of the Akure dialect. All they speak is English. If you go to Igbo, while they speak Igbo language, they speak their dialects, yet they speak English fluently. When we were being brought up, we might not speak English as fluent as children of nowadays, but we were still trying. I started learning English from primary four because we were taught with the mother tongue (Yoruba) from primary one to three when we learnt Yoruba alphabets A, B, D, E, E F, G, GB and so on and so forth. But we still managed to cope with the foreign language. So, we should teach our children our culture so that they don’t forget it.
Now, back to your question about where Akure came from, my belief is that we all came from Ile-Ife. So, whosoever sits on that throne in Ife, be he Adele (regent) or the Ooni, we accord him the respect of the seat of Oduduwa. Whosoever sits on that seat should be the father of the Yoruba race.
Like the Sultan of Sokoto, who is the father of northern Nigeria, we should have somebody to represent us. Failure to have that, there won’t be unity among the Yoruba people, especially in the South-West.
We have heard of the children of Oduduwa and how they scattered to become kings in different towns and villages that are today cities. We heard of Ekun and the link with Akure. How did it happen?
Oba Aladelusi…… We should respect the seat of Oduduwa
Ekun was Oduduwa’s direct son. He gave birth to Asodeboyede and it was Asodeboyede, grandson of Oduduwa, that came here, and not Ekun his father. Asodeboyede came to a place where his beeds (Akun) cut (re) and that was how we discovered ourname, Akunre, that is the point where his beats got cut. In the olden days, anything you do becomes history. The ‘Akunre’ had undergone some linguistic restructuring to now become ‘Akure’ with the ‘n’ letter removed from it.
You were based in the United States and must have seen how the white people take care of their culture. Coming home now as the Deji of Akure, where do you plan to take Akure to, using that exposure?
I want to take Akure to the highest level and so, I want Akure people to unite and have one voice because, in Ondo State, we are the most populated. I don’t want to talk about politics. I want Akure people to have one voice so that we will be able to get whatever we want, with the help of God. But if we fail to have one voice and all we do is pull each other down, we would get nowhere.
That is what is happening now that hardly you can see an Akure indigene having big business at home or being in government. Akure has never been minister since the time of Chief Olu Falae some 40 years ago and this is the capital city. It can’t happen in Ibadan. When Ibadan speaks, the rest of Oyo State listens and so wherever Ibadan goes, the rest will just follow. So, we want to make it happen by repositioning Akure, just like Ibadan, for the rest of Ondo State, during my reign.
I agree because Ibadan alone has 11 local governments while the remaining local governments in Oyo State are shared among Oke Ogun, Oyo and Ogbomoso.
When it comes to general elections you will know that Akure is more than 10 local governments.
Could you shed more light?
Akure Division comprises of four local governments. They are, Idanre, Ifedore, Akure South and Akure North. So, if we can pull our weight, we get to wherever we want to go.
Your counterpart in Achalla Kingdom of Anambra State, Igwe Alex Nwokedi, has clamoured much for constitutional role for traditional rulers. Why do you think monarchs are not active in administration of state, if you don’t share his mindset?
Those who wrote the Constitution didn’t take traditional rulers into consideration and so we don’t have a role in the Constitution. We are just like ordinary citizens.
Do you want to have a constitutional role? We should have a role in the Constitution. Like what?
Okay, like in Great Britain, traditional rulers should be the Chairmen of local governments. There can be the executive secretary or whatever it will be called, but we should be the Chairmen of Local Governments in our respective domains and that should be included in the Constitution. As it is presently, if I want to travel, I must get permission from the Chairman of my local government.
(Cuts in) Whereas the monarch is supposed to give order to the Chairman
And if you go to any gathering, they will recognise people, from the President to the governor and even the councillor before they recognise any traditional ruler. They relegate us because we are not in the Constitution. What they call five percent allocation, they now barely give us one percent. We don’t want any budget per say, but they should recognise us as part of government. We are the voice of the people. Our people see us before they see the people in government. If I go to that market now and say this is where we are going, they will listen to me before they listen to the governor. I know their problem and I am there for them for so long I am on the throne.
If you are called upon to settle the dispute among the Yoruba Obas, what would you do?
I would ask that whosoever wants to sit on the throne, let him come and contest for it in Ife. So, if you say you are superior to the Ooni, come to Ife now contest for the seat. If you cannot do that, whosoever sits on that seat we should embrace him because whosoever sits on the seat, we see him as Oduduwa.
Where I am sitting now as Deji of Akure is the seat of Asodeboyede, son of Ekun, son of Oduduwa. They should see me as Asodeboyede and respect me as such.
You seem to agree with the Olowu of Owu, Abeokuta, known to be the Akobi Oduduwa, about the fact that although Ooni was not Oduduwa’s son but that, as a loyal friend of Oduduwa, he saved the Yoruba heritage by ascending on the throne since no Oduduwa’s son was around to take responsibility?
That is what I am saying that whosoever sits on that throne, we should respect him. If you want to fight for the Oduduwa’s throne, you must come to Ife and vie for it.
I was in the United States when I was fighting for this throne (of Deji). I didn’t say that I would be king in the US. According to history, all the children of Oduduwa were not around when he died and the head of the guards took over. That was why they called him Arole Oduduwa. That was why Alaafin and all those Oduduwa’s sons don’t want to recognise him (Ooni). But he is sitting on the throne of their father and so they should respect the throne even if they don’t want to respect the person sitting on it.
If you want to fight for the throne, you should come to Ife and fight for it. You can’t be fighting for that throne outside, whereas the seat is in Ife.
Where do you stand on the issue of Yoruba leadership?
Nothing else should be our stand than to accept that Ooni is the father of the Yoruba race, since we all believe we came from Ife. You came in now from Lagos but you are a native of Akure. That is why you will like me more than the Oba of Lagos, despite the fact that you work there in his domain of Lagos. That is the thing. We should respect the seat of Oduduwa that the Ooni sits on because that is where we came from.
Let us look at festivals in Akure. How many are they?
They are many. Once we start around April, it will be every week: Ikunle, Odun Ijesu (yam festival), Odun Amole, Odun Airegbe. From April, I won’t be able to eat yam until we have new yam around September. We still believe in the culture and we uphold it. We try to incorporate Oyemekun Day to make it elaborate this year like the Ojude Oba in Ijebu Ode, and we are looking for sponsors and all the sons and daughters of Akure should come and support it.
Akure is a big place so much so that it is becoming the third largest in the South-West. After you have picked Lagos and Ibadan, the next is Akure. We are expanding everyday and this place is peaceful. If not because of power shortage, we would have had a lot of industries but they run away from Akure because of lack of power supply. Vanguard