In a culture and tradition that makes it mandatory for monarchs to marry as many wives as they choose, even take over wives of their subjects at their pleasure, a young monarch has risen up in Yoruba land with a resolve to stick to the wife of his youth. KEHINDE AKINPELU on a visit to the kingdom had a rendezvous with the monarch and filed in this report.
He is a described by his subjects as young and dynamic, a devout Christian, well educated and a visionary.
Oba Benjamin Alabi Oyeditan Olanite, (Oyekakanku IV), the Onimeko of Imekoland in Ogun State is indeed an uncommon Monarch among his ranks.
Though he ascended the throne of his fathers about nine months ago (September 10th, 2014), his humble beginning and sober lifestyle may have informed his disciplinary resolve, but the young Monarch holds firm to his Christian principles as his guide and guard. His pedigree, so simple and ordinary, buttresses the traditional maxim that kings are born, not made.
He gave Daily Times his profile,
“Before I ascended the throne, I was a teacher. I had my early education at Abule Peter in Imeko in 1982 and finished in 1989. My secondary education was scuttled for financial reasons, but I got over that later and went on to read English at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State.”
If there is one privilege Monarchs in Yoruba land enjoy, it is the liberty to marry many wives; the maidens want him, and the kingmakers encourage it. But this young and handsome monarch told Daily Times he will live and die a one-wife-Monarch. His reasons are many.
“In those days traditional rulers marry many wives and that is why their offspring hardly do well. In this age, understanding that the crown does not belong to my father alone but to all branches of our lineage, I must discipline myself and do just what my finances can carry.
As a responsibility of the throne, all children of the royal lineage are my children beside the extended members of the community who bring their challenges to borne by me in the palace.
“As I speak, I have more than six children that are not my biological children, whose tuition fees I pay for now. I also meet the cost of another six that are learning one trade or the other. Then taking the economic situation of this community and of the nation into consideration and the fact that I am a Christian, I have to live by example and as the saying goes, cut my coat according to my cloth.
“Also, I am expected to make sacrifices in the interest of this
community; there are some things that my community should have that we don’t have yet, so I will stick to and maintain only one wife.”
Under the incoming government come May 29, Nigerians are resolved to make sacrifices to restore our economy. Should his subjects expect their young Monarch will take at least one additional wife, perhaps more?
“As a leader, my own style of leadership is guided by Biblical
principles. According to 1Timothy 3, a leader, whether an overseer, a Pastor, Governor or President, is admonished to have just one wife. That will ensure peace of mind. Erroneously, people conclude that sitting on the throne is simple and easy, but the when you get there, you will understand the saying that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. I know that now.
“Thank God I didn’t marry a wrong person for wife; I married bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. My Queen is God’s choice for my life.”
The tides have changed
”In the olden days the people give to their Obas, but now, it is the Oba that gives. Subjects lay their problems before their Oba, asking for money for medical, education etc.
“Their responsibilities are mine. There are also accompanying temptations, but I know that God will help me to overcome. I don’t want more than one wife, that is what my religion dictates and I must be an example to my community. Since Jesus Christ overcame his own challenges, I will also overcome mine by the power in His name and His blood. So my one wife will be my only wife till I die. If there is marriage in heaven then we shall know what to do when we get there.”
Dynamics of the throne
A Christian sitting on the throne is not without some muscle flexing between light and darkness. Is Oba Olanite eating his cake and having it?
“Wisdom, the Bible says, is the principal thing. Therefore, get wisdom; and all thy getting, get understanding.” He quoted. “The initial challenge came from my relationship with traditional religionists. Being a Pastor coming on board, I told them from the beginning that Christianity is my faith. I know what God has done in my life so I cannot denounce my faith because of my ancestral throne.
“I coordinate the activities of religious worship in this town. When they invite me for their programmes, I attend as father to all, whether Muslims, Traditional religionists or Christians. During their traditional ceremonies, their observers pay homage to me in my palace and I welcome them. The Bible says we should be hospitable to all men and accepting all that visit us. I take them as visitors and entertain them as such. For them to leave their shrines, Mosques and different homes to visit me is an honour and I reciprocate accordingly.
“Also, when Muslims invite me to their praying ground, I honour their invitation. Before I ascended the throne, when Christians invite me to Galilee, I declined due to my Pentecostal background; but now as king, when I realised that what they are doing at Galilee
is purely ecumenical connotation where many churches come together to rejoice and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I oblige.”
The Church and his throne
When news of his appointment as Onimeko of Imeko reached him, the Church did not pose a barrier. He recalled:
“It was not something that happened all of a sudden. Before I was installed, I have been hearing about it, God had been revealing it to me and certain things about the town has been shown to me. It got to a point that one of the Chiefs had to invite me to the late Oba’s Palace for discussions, but I refused.
“The first time a Pastor gave me a revelation of the throne was in 2007, seven years before the sitting Monarch passed on.
“In that revelation, the Pastor said he saw me go into the palace of the Monarch when he died, and I packed all the royal items to our own house. He said I carried the Oba seat and took all to my father’s compound, which is one of the ruling houses.
He said he challenged me in the revelation and I ignored him and continued packing them till he woke up. He told me that I might become the next Oba of Imeko.
“Initially when he told me, my response was that I was not interested in the throne because I was a Pastor. So eventually when the Monarch died, all members of the community came to meet me requesting that I become the next Monarch, then I remembered all that I have been told earlier.
“The Muslim community came to me; all other members of the community came requesting that I ascend the throne. So my Church prayed about it because they already had a revelation concerning my enthronement and that was it.”
What impact is his doctrine learning from his reign?
“My motto is, Service to God is Service to Humanity. Many people claim that they serve God, but in actual fact, no man can serve God, it is God that serves us; when you want to sleep at night, you will pray that God protect and watch over you till day break, so who is serving each other, the One watching or the one sleeping? Until we render service to fellow humans, we have not served God. It is by serving fellow humans that we are serving God.
“As for the throne, I see my being on this throne as a continuation of my pastoral ministry, but a wider Church because it gave me the opportunity to serve the people and it is on this that I will give account to my Creator on the last day. So as I serve my people. I am ministering as a Pastor and serving my God.”
Of rites and rituals
“Well, Wisdom has helped to cope. When we enter into the shrines, I cannot refuse that, they pray in their various religions; then when it is my turn, I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, the only name through which my prayers are answered. The Chief Priest observes his own prayers and I do my own, he prays in the name he knows, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Of speaking in tongues even at the shrines, the Oba said:
“I do speak in tongues inside the shrines; that is a heavenly language and the only language that I know, God who has a purpose for all He does, placed me here and He has been seeing me through. Speaking in tongues is part of my ways of communicating with God, so if they reject that, they reject my God and I have no reason to continue with them, but as God is the Head even of Principalities and Powers, they accommodate my religion and practice.”
The throne and politics
“I am a father to all, I don’t participate in any political activity, but they all come to the palace to seek my royal blessings and I wish them well. In all past elections I restrained myself from embracing one over of the other. I know that they also monitor my conduct as their royal father so I maintain my integrity. Whenever crises are brewing, I swing into action by sending my words and, sometimes, I go to the spot myself to restore order. Prior to elections, I called all parties to a round table talk and we signed a peace accord, and by God’s grace, there was no problem all through. So those who lost in elections and those who won see themselves as partners in progress for the development of our community because before the elections we were one, after the elections we must remain one.
“Before Ogun State was created, even before the old Western Region was created, the people of today’s Imeko were living at a place called Ahoro-Ile in the neighborhood of Odo Isu. They were scattered all over the places before converging at that place due to the prevalent intertribal wars of those days.
There was a woman who sold pap (eko), at that place and dwelt there with her husband. This place served as a junction where people traveling from Ile Ife to Ketu stopped over to drink pap from this woman. That is why the usual slogan was, ‘let’s meet at Imeko’ (The joint where we drink pap).
Every kingdom has a history and every crown its own history. Of Imeko kingdom, Oba Olanite delved into the records of his ancestors.
“Imeko is an offshoot of Ketuland and Ketu is one of the children of Oduduwa from Ile Ife. This town is made up of two major clans; those from Alaketu and the other from Aafin Oyo. Incidentally, both clans emanate from Ile Ife. These two clans are the ruling houses in Imeko to date. As for me, my mother is from Aafin Oyo while my father is from Alaketu. The Ketu settlers form Agbote which happens to be my paternal side, the late Oba happens to be my mother’s cousin, so the kingship is normally rotated between the two ruling houses.
History of the crown
“The first crown won here was from Ile Ife, and it was obtained through the leadership and authority of Alaketu. Imeko used to be a territory of Ketuland, but Ketu is now in the Republic of Benin before the encroachment of the colonial masters that came to partition Africa as it is today. There are other Yoruba major towns like Isabe, Popo (also in Republic of Benin).
“So Imeko, Ijoun, Idofa, Iwoye, Ilara, Igua, Iselu, Ilobi, Oja Odan and few others were carved into Nigeria. You will see why our relationship with Alaketu is deeper and more cordial
than to Alafin and Ile Ife, but we take are cognizance of the fact that we are Yoruba people, children of Oduduwa. So in essence, Imeko has dual international relationship with Nigeria and the Republic of Benin.”
Of his personal relationship with his subjects, the young Oba grinned:
“As William Shakespeare said, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” that adage is just true of an axiom that cannot be denied.
“The people see an Oba as a small god that can solve many people’s problems. It may be different in more urban cities, but in developing communities like this, the Oba bears the burden of the community. When there is an emergency, they don’t go to the police, they come to the palace. They see the Oba as being richer, so a lot of demand is placed on his neck and I am trusting God that he will see me through.”