Archbishop Emeritus of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Most Reverend Ayo Ladigbolu, who is from the Agunloye Ruling House of Oyo Kingdom, speaks to OLUFEMI OLANIYI about the passage of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the controversies surrounding his burial, the wives left behind by the monarch and succession tradition to the ancient stool
You were very close to the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, who joined his ancestors on Friday, April 22, 2022. How will you describe the late monarch?
First and foremost, let me seize this opportunity to appreciate the overwhelming sympathy that has been pouring into Oyo and the palace from around the world since the passing of our father and king. It was God’s time for Baba to go. He remained very active till he passed away. I was really surprised that he wrote a paper after my book launch on March 25. He wrote a 13-page paper, which he forwarded to one of the royal fathers in Yorubaland and a copy of which I have just received. What Baba told me after the book launch was that he was going to rest. I am surprised that he could still write a 13-page paper on national issues. The purpose is that he wanted a better Nigeria and that is Oba Adeyemi for you.
He loved this land so much; he was passionate about Yorubaland and the roles that we should play in creating a better Nigeria. That is the man we are mourning and that is the man we are celebrating. I think he certainly came, saw and conquered. He loved Nigeria and that was the reason he could still engage himself in such a task at that age despite being very exhausted after the book launch.
As someone very close to the monarch, was there anything unusual about his behaviour towards his last moments?
Kabiyesi never behaved in any strange or abnormal way, to my own knowledge.
What was the nature of his sickness and was there any plan to fly him abroad before he gave up?
I am not aware of any plan to take him abroad for treatment but he told me he wanted to take his rest after my book launch in March. I knew he needed the rest. So anywhere he wished to take his rest was his choice. People should not make noise about the circumstances that led to his death; the reality is that he is gone and they should allow him to rest.
The remains of Oba Adeyemi was brought out in the public and the Muslims prayed on it but a traditionalist, Oba Adetoyese Olakitan, said that was wrong because there could be negative consequences. What is your take on this?
What I can say is that the person who said that has not read Kabiyesi’s personal opinion on the burial of kings. I think it was late last year when the Ogun State House of Assembly was debating the issue of the burial of traditional rulers that Kabiyesi dabbled in that matter and clearly queried what the government’s business was in the mode or manner of the burial rites of traditional rulers. He said traditional rulers should be allowed to be buried according to their religious convictions and nobody will deny the fact that Kabiyesi Iku Baba Yeye, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, was a Muslim – a staunch Muslim who never hid his devotion to Islam. He was an Amir Hajj, the leader of all the pilgrims from this great land to the holy land of Mecca and Medina. Were people’s eyes closed when these were happening? So, how can they now be surprised or shocked by the reality that he deserved to be buried in the way of his own personal religion?
Of course, the king is the king of all religions in our culture and the palace is a confluence of all religions and this king was tolerant of all religions, but that does not take away from him the right to believe in whatever religion he chose. If anybody is quarrelling over that and threatening hell and brimstone, I wish them good luck. I know the God who the Muslims believe and worship and to whom the imam said his prayers to commit the soul of the departed monarch is there. If whoever made that comment wants to call on another god to deal with the people, then it is left to him.
Despite being an emeritus Archbishop of the Methodist Church Nigeria, you are a lover of culture and you’re very close to the palace, being a prince yourself. How do you reconcile traditional issues with religious matters?
I have said this for the umpteenth time that my culture is me and that is what made me available to the church; my upbringing in the palace during the reign of Oba Siyanbola Onikepe Ladigbolu and Oba Bello Gbadegsin Ladigbolu II, and of course, my closeness to Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, who just passed away. You will see that most of my life has been lived within the palace or within the precinct of the palace. That is what enriched my ministry and what made me Ayo Ladigbolu. I cannot separate myself from the holistic embrace of my culture. But that doesn’t mean that I will tolerate paganism or anything that is not the way of God, like idol worshiping and so on. But my culture is me.
But you were the chairman of the installation committee of the Aare Ona Kakanfo. Was idol worshiping not part of the rites performed then?
The installation of the Aare Ona Kakanfo was the largest ceremonial event in the Oyo Empire up to date. We did it well to the glory of God and we promoted our culture. Everything we did that time had nothing to do with ritual or anything which is against God’s laws. Indeed, I may reveal to the world today that when I said I was taking the Aare Ona Kakanfo into seclusion, what I did was to organise a retreat for him, but people did not know that. The retreat was about how to run life. I invited experts and leaders in different areas to talk to him about his position and title, and I helped him up there for three days in a secluded place, but a lot of people said different things; they said Ladigbolu had gone to pour oil on Aare Ona Kakanfo’s head, he had gone to put incisions on his head and all that. I know what I did. I respect my culture and love my God and I seek to obey the word of God.
Tell us a bit about Baba Kekere, said to be the oldest hand in the palace and has served at least three Alaafins. What is his age?
Nobody knows his real age. Everybody is guessing and everybody’s guess is right.
What exactly is his work in the palace?
He is an aide to Alaafin. He is one of the many aides of the Alaafin.
Let’s talk about the wives that Oba Adeyemi left behind; what will be their fate?
The new king will inherit them and that is the tradition, but you know things are changing now. Once a woman is married to the Alaafin they are married forever to the Alaafin. You know circumstances of life are changing and we have to adjust to the changing trends.
They are married to Alaafin and Alaafin is not a person but an institution. The new Alaafin will be responsible for their welfare because they are married to the institution and not just a person.
But if any of them decides to leave the palace to go and remarry will that be allowed?
I don’t have to elaborate on that; all I can say is that they are married to Alaafin and Alaafin is not a person but an institution. That is why the question of who they belong to after the death of the Kabiyesi who married them did not arise. They belong to the Alaafin. But in the light of the prevailing circumstances we will have to adjust. That is my response.
You are from the Ladigbolu family, which is a branch of the Agunloye Ruling House in Oyo. Is it true, as being rumoured, that the next Alaafin will be produced by the Agunloye Ruling House?
Yes, I am from the Agunloye Ruling Family and I belong to the Ladigbolu extraction of that larger Agunloye family. Like you rightly said, it is our turn and our right by law at this time, but we are all looking up to God. We are still mourning at the moment, so, even if anybody is interested in ascending the throne, he will have to take it easy and wait until the mourning process is over before displaying such interest. There are procedures for that.
It doesn’t seem that you are interested in succeeding Oba Adeyemi, are you?
I have not told you that I am not. What I have said is that if anybody is interested, they should take their time and wait for the mourning process to be over. They should not jump the gun, because Oyo has its own arrangement that may be peculiar; that is what everybody has to follow.
Are you interested in becoming the new Alaafin?
I don’t want to answer that question.
Or do you have a son or somebody in your immediate family who wants to succeed Oba Adeyemi?
I don’t want to answer that one either.
What will the succession process look like?
When the time comes princes who are interested will begin to signify their interest.For now we are still at the stage of mourning and it’s after this stage that whoever is interested will begin to show interest.
Oba Adeyemi was very young when he ascended the throne. Will you prefer that a young person ascend the throne, to follow the trend in Ile-Ife and Iwo which have young kings?
The decision to pick who to be the next Alaafin is with the Oyo Mesi. Age has never been a barrier to effective governance. I have been involved in the administration of his kingdom for some time and I don’t think youthfulness confer special privileges when it comes to where wisdom and knowledge and understanding of circumstances are involved, especially when it comes to human administration.
You are the Chairman of Yoruba Bible Translation Committee. What is the scope of your work and how are you getting it done?
Yes, I am also the Deputy Chairman, National Translation Committee of the Bible Society of Nigeria. What the Bible Society is doing is to make the word of God available and affordable to everybody in their native languages. It is an onerous task and that is why we need the support of everybody. Most of the tribes in Nigeria still don’t have the whole Bible in their languages and the Bible Society of Nigeria is struggling to ensure that it is achieved. We believe it is achievable. You will enjoy the word of God better if you read it in your own language; that is the concern of the Bible Society of Nigeria and that was why they set up this translation committee. Archbishop John Onaiyekan is our National Chairman and we are working with him to ensure that the objective of the Bible Society of Nigeria is fulfilled in that direction.
Despite that Nigerians are overtly religious, criminal activities such as ritual killing, Internet fraud, kidnapping and others are rife. Why is this so and who is to blame?
The number one reason for this is globalisation. The world has become a global village and people are affected daily by what they see in the next room to them, which may be the United States of America or Finland, and sometimes, they want to copy the good, the bad and the ugly. The number two reason is that we seem to have lost our own cultural values. When I was growing up, I knew that money was never the number one item on the list of Yoruba virtues. Being a gentleman or lady, which is Omoluabi, is number one. Hard work, you must have what you are known to be doing and those were priorities on the Yoruba value system in those days. With that, you were accepted and respected by your community, but these days, you are respected by how deep your pocket is, the size of your cars and how expensive the clothes you wear are. So, our certification in value is one reason for this problem.
The eagerness of the people to get rich quick by all means is also a factor and that is what is making some to kill, thinking they will get money, or power to command money from doing so. We can’t watch this problem continue festering. Parents have to wake up to their responsibilities and religious organisations, which are supposed to be guides of morals, will have to stand up. We must make sure we don’t have worshippers in millions and God fearers in hundreds. The fear of God must be paramount and that sums it all.