War is brewing between the monarch and the professor –

Tunde Odesola writes about the war of words between a former Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Professor Wande Abimbola, and a Yoruba monarch, the Oluwo of Iwoland in Osun State, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, in about the monarch’s alleged contempt for Yoruba tradition and culture

A former Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Wande Abimbola, who is also the Awise Awo Agbaye, has berated a traditional ruler of Osun State, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, for abandoning the Yoruba tradition.

In an interview with The PUNCH, he said anyone who does not support traditional Yoruba practices should aspire to become an oba.

He added in the phone interview that it was hypocrisy for traditional rulers to oppose Yoruba culture and tradition.

The Oluwo, upon his enthronement, waged a campaign against Yoruba gods such as Ogun, Sango, Obatala and Osun, whom he called helpless and backward idols.

Furthermore, Akanbi had vehemently condemned certain trado-cultural practices such as festive celebrations in the worship of all Yoruba gods.

But speaking in Yoruba, Abimbola, who was critical of the Oluwo, said: “…ki won ba wa agbo ile tutu…. Meaning: “They should give her a herbal concoction.”

When asked if he didn’t mind his review of the Oluwo being published, Abimbola replied, “There’s nothing Oluwo can do to me….”

Abimbola, the first to hold a doctorate from the University of Lagos and the OAU VC between 1982 and 1990, said many Yoruba monarchs were misfits, desecrating various traditional stools.

He lamented the number of traditional Yoruba rulers, describing it as unwieldy and one of the reasons scum had been enthroned across Yorubaland.

The holder of a doctorate of philosophy in Yoruba literature said: “The bottom line is what do we want our institution of obaship to be wiped out or to be maintained? The management of the institution leaves much to be desired.

“There are too many traditional Yoruba leaders.

“They are more than 10,000.

“So there are no checks and balances to control their excesses.

“Some communities have between 30 and 40 obas.

“Many of them who present themselves as obas today were baales or heads of farms.

“The kingship in the country has been so bastardized that some of them don’t even mind being kings only over their houses.

“Ooni Adesoji Aderemi said that there were only 17 kings in Yorubaland.

“We have to stop and ask ourselves if we want to continue with royalty or not.

“Having this large number of kings is too much, and it turned the whole thing into a comedy.

“Let’s reduce their number so that they are controllable.”

Abimbola also lamented what he described as shoddy treatment Yoruba leaders received from the government.

He said: “Democracy has its demerits on our institution of obaship.

“How do we treat our obas in this democratic dispensation?

“Are we treating them rightly or wrongly?

“Do we involve our obas in government decisions?

“Our legislators should accompany our traditional rulers in their deliberations, we should give our kings roles to play in our democracy.

“The way some of our kings behave is shameful.

“The way the government treats them is also dismissive.”

A world famous Ifa scholar and babalawo, Abimbola said it is pitiful that many countries around the world are adopting Yoruba culture and tradition, many Yoruba in Nigeria despise their culture and tradition.

He said, “More than one million people in the United States worship Yoruba gods and practice Yoruba culture and tradition.

“People who want nothing to do with Yoruba gods should not aspire to be kings.

“Parts of the world like Cuba, Brazil and other Latin American countries raise millions of dollars every year through the celebration of Yoruba culture and tradition.

“If we, the owners of culture and tradition, hold monthly festivals to celebrate our gods, culture and traditions, tourists will pay dollars to watch us celebrate.”

Abimbola currently resides in the United States of America and has taught at world renowned educational institutions such as Harvard University, Boston University, Indiana University, Amherst College, University Colgate and the University of Louisville.

In his eight years as VC, there were no student riots, a feat widely believed he had achieved through supernatural means.

In the heady days of military rule, when riots were commonplace in Nigerian universities, Abimbola was known to walk alone to disgruntled students barricading the roads – on the verge of rioting, persuading them to return to their hostels.

On all occasions the students, whose tempers were at boiling point, obeyed Abimbola’s warning, whom many believed to enchant the students on such occasions with incantations.

In 1981, the late Ooni Okunade Sijuwade installed Abimbola as Awise Awo Agbaye, a title which made Abimbola the leader of all Ifa priests worldwide.

The Oluwo, reacting in a telephone interview, however, described Abimbola as an elder who lacked understanding.

Akanbi accused the scholar of attacking him based on information he (Abimbola) read about him (Oluwo) on social media, saying it was an attribute of a former villain who jumped to conclusions without listening to all parties.

He said, “You cannot count from one to a zillion in Yoruba, yet you call yourself a Yoruba scholar.

“What is the essence of the Yoruba language when it makes no sense for so many scientific things?

“We need to improve the language.

“Who recognizes babalawo or Awise in the Constitution?

“It is us, the obas, who are recognized by the Constitution, not the babalawos.

“If it was in ancient times, can he, as a babalawo, say that of a king?

“Hasn’t he an oba in his town?

” I am not afraid of him ; an oba who does not worship idols cannot be afraid of anyone because the authority of such an oba comes from Almighty God.

“He (Abimbola) follows a broken system.

“If his generation had done well for us, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

“Nigerians would not flee abroad today.

“I suffer for the future of our people.”

The monarch said traditional rulers were superior to Yoruba gods, insisting that “Yoruba people should not worship idols”.

The elegant Yoruba monarch is a Nigerian-Canadian citizen hailing from Molaasan Island of the Gbase ruling house in Iwo and has always been in the news since November 9, 2015, when he was installed.

In an interview with one of our correspondents in May 2021, the monarch, when asked about his duties and responsibilities as king, said: “In Yoruba culture, only God is indisputable.

“We (the earthly kings) can be questioned.

“We can be called to account for our rule.

“The first duty I have is my pure and true allegiance to God, without idolatry or anything else.

“My allegiance is to God because it is He who employs all kings.

“The enemies of God are deities and idols.

“Oluwo means Oluwa Iwo (the god of Iwo).

“I am not the God of Iwo for the stool remains forever but the kings change overtime.”

Similarly, when asked what was his first major decision on assuming the throne, Oba Akanbi said, “The first major decision was to fight idolatry in royalty.

“The worship of idols and deities should not be in the palace.

“If someone has idols or deities, he should keep them where priceless things are kept: museums.”

Said that the ambassadors of Yoruba culture and some people are of the opinion that you (the Oba) as the guardian of Yoruba culture, should not condemn idolatry, the Ilufemiloye Telu I responded by saying: “Culture is dynamic and it must be consistent.

“When time moves, we have to move with it.

“Our fathers didn’t wear shoes.

“Should we now also reject shoes?

“The umbrellas with which they cover the kings when they go out were not used by our fathers.

“Back then, they didn’t have any clothes to wear.

“We are the only tribe that bows and kneels to greet people.

“We also have the talking drum.

“I call it all culture.

“It is the deities who spoil our culture and add nothing good to our tradition.

“Idol worship is a religion; it is not a culture or a tradition.

“You cannot use an idol to identify the Yoruba because other tribes also worship these idols.

“Man learns to know religion; it should not be part of customs and tradition.

“Do you know how many good Yoruba men are supposed to be kings, but their parents have warned them not to because they equate royalty with a fetish?

“Now we are cleaning up God’s house on earth.

“The true house of God is the palace, before churches and mosques.”

About John McTaggart

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