Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, has upbraided Nigerian leaders’ penchant to use leadership positions to amass wealth for self aggrandizement and ostentatious living at the expense of the people they are leading.
In this interview, he charges them to consider themselves as servant leaders that are passionate about the welfare of the people whom, he stressed, should be considered as their wealth.
Some kings collect royalties from their subjects and salary from government and live ostentatious life, but you embark on humanitarian gestures to an extent that you personally took some milk of kindness to the door steps of an old indigent woman recently. What drives this passion?
I derive the passion from the Almighty God. He is the role model of kindness because He is kind to mankind and expects us to demonstrate it at all times without discrimination. God is a servant master, the provider, the protector. The best way to define kingship is by being a servant. It is not a place where you go to gather wealth. One of the precious seeds that God sowed in a true king is the seed of service and if you sow the seed of service in your subjects or town, you will reap wealth. We don’t use money to quantify wealth. As a king, you use your people to quantify wealth. Your people are your wealth. The better they feel, the better you will be as a king. if your kingdom is languishing in poverty and you are driving jet or the best car in the world, you are a poor man and a bad king. You are not a good king. The president of this country or governor of a state is supposed to be a servant. For you to bear the name king, you must be a committed servant and serve your people diligently. I have never wronged my people. My only passion is to serve them because I know that I am a servant leader. Kings are to alleviate the sufferings of his people.
You brought modernity and flamboyancy to the traditional institution in Iwo Kingdom with claims that a palace is not a home of deities and idol worship. There is also an allegation that you have condemned Sango’s existence in Yoruba land. What is your moral justification for these since you are supposed to be the custodian of the culture and tradition of the land?
I never condem Sango, Ogun Oyan. What is tradition and what is culture. These are questions some people who don’t understand need to ask themselves. A lot of people do not know the difference between culture, tradition and religion. Christianity is a religion, Islam is a religion. But what is idol worship? Is it my custom, culture and tradition? My culture and tradition are different from my religion. Some people tend to infiltrate idol worship into our culture. Idol worship is not my culture. My culture is my language, the way we live. Tradition is how we greet one another.
Idol worship doesn’t define you as a Yoruba man. It is culture, tradition and customs that do so. So, idol worship does not make me a Yoruba man but the culture and tradition of which I am the custodian in my kingdom. I’m not a custodian of religion. After all, religion is foreign to us.
What makes me a Yoruba man is the Yoruba that I speak and the agbada that I wear which is my culture. Then tradition is what you see Yoruba people do that other people don’t do.
In my palace, we celebrate the Egungun Festival. We celebrate Ileya Festival, we celebrate Christmas. In fact, I celebrate all of them with my people. I have my own believe. God is not a Christian. Does God have a religion? Religion is man-made. Christianity is man-made. Islam is man- made. All religions are man-made.
We are now in a civilised generation. So, why should everything about Sango, Ogun and beliefs be about wickedness? People use them to curse others. “Sango the god of fire will kill you. Ogun, Ayelala will kill you. Why can’t it be repackaged to the world in a positive light as a phenomenon of progress and not curse and death?
Even, Christianity itself has been upgraded because in the Old Testament the law of tit for tat and an eye for an eye has been rested. Jesus established forgiveness.
Jesus said when anybody slaps you on the right cheek, turn the left.
Recently, 12 of your chiefs petitioned Governor Oyetola, asking for your dethronement over certain allegations against you. What are your reactions? Have you reached a compromise?
It was a sponsored plot motivated by envy. But those behind the plot were later exposed and regretted their action. They don’t have the power that they think they have. I am innocent because I have never done my people any wrong. My passion is always to serve them. I have never wronged those that wrote the petition nor my people. That is why thousands of my, including outsiders rose vehemently to fight back and rebuff the move. There were serious protests against the move because they have confidence in me that I am a servant king. Up till now, supporters are still coming from different parts of the country to pay me solidarity visits. Henceforth, any high chief or kingmaker that I would install must be educated and God-fearing and have respect for the culture, tradition of our land and our heritage.
Following the #endSARS and bad governance protests that rocked the country recently, how do you expect President Muhammadu Buhari to guide against recurrence of such protests in future, especially now that the prominent Nigerians were also targets of attacks by the angry youths and hoodlums that orchestrated the protests?
Buhari should be giving accounts of his stewardship periodically. He should keep telling the people about all his good deeds, especially his achievements since the past five years. He should also acknowledge his mistakes and try as much as possible to address them. He should give the youth hope for a better future because they are the leaders of tomorrow. They are the children of the giant of Africa which means they are giants. As it is now, the youths might not kowtow to any threats, except he talks to them like a father.
What are your visions about the tomorrow of Iwo kingdom under Oluwo’s monarchy?
Iwo is a town between two state capitals – Osogbo and Ibadan. So, the town is in a strategic location. The robost economies of both Osogbo and Ibadan could rob off on the town because it can easily partner with them through trading and several other business opportunities.
I believe strongly that the future of Iwo is great. It has been great, but it will be greater. We are blessed with some mineral resources especially gold. We also have some tourism potentials and massive arable land. I am encouraging prominent indigenes of the town that are in government as well as others from different walks of life to inspire investments in the town. We need to exploit our chances in attracting foreign investors to the town with a view to exploiting the mineral resources, tourism potentials and the massive arable lands and green vegetations for agricultural development. Through this Iwo can become the food basket of not only Osun State but the entire country. We shall build amusement packs, casinos and engage in real estate development. This will help us to generate employment opportunities for our youths. I am so glad that a lot of developments took and are still taking place in the town during my tenure. Within the four years of my reign Iwo has witnessed a lot of transformation. It is one of the fastest growing towns in Nigeria. Significant among the infrastructural developments that have shaped the transformation are the Federal College of Education that President Muhammadu Buhari graciously approved for us early this year. As soon as tertiary institutions resume from the COVID-19 lockdown holiday, academic activities will kick off at the college.
Other tertiary institutions that the town is blessed with include Bowen University and Westland University.
What specific lessons do you expect leaders to learn from your leadership style to be
applied for sociopolitical, traditional and economic development in this country?
Every leader must understand that he is a servant. Our leaders should learn how not to misuse their positions. They should always give back to their communities. They should empower their people.
They should not use their positions to amass wealth for ostentatious motives or personal aggrandizement.
A leader is supposed to be a servant. What we need is servant leaders. Leadership is meant for service. It is the people that should be served. When a leader begins to serve himself and the family, then the purpose of leadership is defeated. It was self-serving leadership which the teeming Nigerian youths could no longer condone that prompted them to embark on wanton looting of private and public property as well as loss of lives during the recent £endSARSnow protests across the country. Though their actions were wrong, they spelt some lessons on the need for good leadership and governance. It has become a history that our leaders must reminisce on and entrench good governance culture that would pay attention to the masses’ needs, especially the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow.