Erelu Abiola Dosunmu is a woman of many parts. Highly intelligent, she is a shrewd businesswoman, who is never shy to take firm decisions. Erelu is passionate about upholding the African belief system even as she holds firmly to Christian teachings. In the run up to her birthday last year, she talked about holding a church programme. In this interview, she talks about this and much more.
Does Erelu go to church?
That is another erroneous belief. After I became Erelu, I went to America with my husband and when I came back, I found out people don’t go near the palace. In fact, since I became Erelu, people now identify with tradition. Culture is not fetish. Culture is our way of life or identity. If we don’t uphold it, then we are nothing. That’s why they find it easy to indoctrinate us and make us subservient to other people’s culture because we are not proud of who we are.
When you are talking about negative religious practice, we have it in all religions. In Christianity, you have people who worship God upside down. In Islam, you have Alfas who use Qu’ran to do wicked things. So, if in traditional religion you have people who use it for bad things, you also have those people who believe in it and use it for good.
If I am Erelu, I’m propagating the culture and tradition of Yoruba, at least, in my kingdom. When it comes to my belief in God, I can worship God through traditional religion; I can worship him through Christian religion and I can worship him through Islamic religion. Worshipping God through tradition is not negative, Olodumare, Oba Awamaridi, Oba gbobo aiye, Kabiyesi, is that negative? In English, you refer to God as: Almighty Father, the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent, I am that I am and all that. When you say Allah, you say Allahu Akhbar, and Muhammed, the Prophet of the Almighty and you have the Babalawo that you go to, and they do one Qu’ranic incantation so that you can crush your enemy.
Then you have the Masons or the other Christians. Even when we say Ogun and all that, Ogun is just another prophet or another messenger of Olodumare through whom you believe you can reach god. That is why people say as Catholics we kneel down in front of the cross, we are not worshipping the cross, we are not worshipping the statu,e, its conjuring the image in our minds and asking them to intercede for us before the Almighty just as the traditionalist would say Obatala or you say to Olokun, gbarewafunwa lati odo eledumare..jee ki won moo ye eye o. Have you been to Osun festival? You have international people coming to attend the Osun festival. Those who are looking for children believe that Osun can intercede for them before Olodumare for them to be fertile.
But this white you wear everyday some people say that you are the Mama of water spirits
Some people come to me saying that I’m the leader of the white birds. They came that they too are members of the white birds and they want to come and visit me. I get all kinds of calls and messages from people and I laugh. Because what I hold onto is the Almighty Father. God the Omnipotent, Oba gbogbo aiye, Awa maridi, Arugbo ojo and I don’t condemn any religion as far as the ultimate of that religion is one Supreme Being who is the Almighty.
I have always been a staunch Catholic. I have been a part of the church choir from the age of 12. Do you people care about my life? When you come do you talk about my life? What you people ask is Erelu, why do you wear white? They say you are mammy water and whatever. Somebody told me that they were coming to visit me and people told them eeh, when people go to her house they don’t come out again ooh… (She smiles)
When you hear such comments, how do you feel?
I laugh at their ignorance. I know myself. If I don’t know myself, I know who I am. I am not confused about who I am. I laugh at their ignorance and I feel sorry for them. There’s no ambiguity about who I am. I know my strength and my strength is my strong belief in the Almighty, who is the Father of all, who can deal with anybody who wants to deal with me. I don’t have to retaliate, I don’t even believe in that because my belief is so strong in my God who sent me to this world for a purpose. If I’m complacent and I am dabbling into things I should not dabble in, God will deal with me but if I’m steadfast and my ambition is to do what he has sent me to do, and be faithful to him. Go and look at the record, go and look at my life, my life is transparent, I live in the eye of the people, you can’t lie and deceive people everyday. One day, you will make a mistake if it is a lie but if your life is an open book and it is the way it is seen, it will be sustainable and its a question of time.
What’s your take on fashion?
I just love to look beautiful. I love fashion but not for the sake of fashion. I like style that whatever you do is beautiful, it is complimentary to one another and it’s pleasing to the eyes of the onlooker. I don’t go into fashion because something is in vogue. It has to be good, it has to be pleasing to the eyes and I would go for it and everyday of my life is like that. I wear a lot of white now, because its part of being Erelu but I have always loved white.
People who know me know that I have always loved white and at the same level. I love yellow. As a young girl growing up, my clothes were more of yellow and white. My mother used to make clothes for us herself. I remember one in particular; it was absolutely delightful, and I have repeated it a few times in my life. It was made in yellow with yellow mixed with tan fabric. It was beautifully done. I was five years old at that time and I’m 70 and still have pictures of that memory. I have beautiful memories of my childhood.
Do you miss your parents?
Yes. I miss my parents. I miss my father. I was the apple of his eyes. I miss him so much but I also miss my mother because she was my anchor. When I was growing up, I was the apple of my father’s eyes and my mother was a disciplinarian. It got to a stage that I wrote a letter – a two-page letter. I was about 13 or 14 years at the time. In that letter I said I was sure my mum was not my mother because of the way she treated me.
You have seen so much in life, what has life taught you as a person?
Life has taught me so many lessons. But I think, what I have put into practice is, in the end you must not give up in doing good. You must continue to use your talent to the best of your ability. You must even if you did not get a reward for it. You must continue to learn to add value to the life of other people around you. Give your best. If nobody rewards you on this earth, you can be sure you are building a big equity in heaven and I think that it is a better way to build your equity. I have learnt that. If you don’t take that into practice, you will be disappointed, you will be sad, and bitter. People are wicked, they are sad and they are mean. God forbid that I should be that. That is the great lesson I have learnt. Never let anything crush you. You must always rise above your difficulty; you must continue to do good, and add value to your environment. That way, you’ll always be a happy person.