Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
The speed at which it rose and fell was quite alarming. The Iwo Emirate created by the Oluwo of Iwo, Osun State, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Akanbi, could not survive the fierce criticisms that trailed its short existence.
The monarch had kindled the fire of controversy when he adopted emir title. Emir is a kingship title that is peculiar to the northern monarchs, while Oba is exclusive to Yoruba in South West, a large part of Kwara State as well parts of Kogi, Delta and Edo states.
But when he installed and turbaned Sheikh Abdul-Baaqi Mohammed as “Waziri of Yoruba land” in his palace recently, the Oluwo, who donned Islamic regalia, declared that whoever decided to call him “Emir of Yoruba land” was in order. He said being a first class paramount ruler, he is a father to the nation and could bear any kingship title and be addressed as such. He reportedly declared:
“The blood of Oduduwa is running in my veins. I am the Emir of the Yoruba land. As a king is in Europe, so also an emir is the head in Mecca where Oduduwa came from. In this regard I am in order. I can bear all titles of kings. We have to upgrade and update our tradition and culture, else, we will go into extinction.”
The monarch also explained the reason for installing “Waziri of Yoruba land.” He said Iwo was using the title to announce to the world that it is truly a citadel of Islamic knowledge:
“Iwo has a distinctive traditional history among the Yoruba race. These peculiarities have made Iwo to be at the forefront in Yoruba land. So far, the Alaafin of Oyo has power to install Are Ona Kankafo and Iyalode of Yoruba land. I also have the power to install the Waziri of Yoruba land in accordance with the history, which proves that the first monarch in Yoruba land to accept Islam was Oluwo Muhammadu Lamuye.
“Iwo Ilu Aafa is not just a saying. There is a deep history connected to it. The first monarch in the entire Yoruba land that accepted and established Islam among the people was the Oluwo Mohammadu Lamuye. The first mosque in Iwo was built in 1655 and that is the first indigenous mosque in Yoruba land.
“Today is historic because I want to give Islam a very good structure in Yoruba land. I want to use this title to announce to the world that truly Iwo is the citadel of Islamic knowledge. Iwo has a unique and distinctive traditional history among the entire Yoruba race.
“When I came on the throne, I met a lot of problems of disunity among the Yoruba monarchs, but in the North, you can’t see the emirs fighting one another.
“The Waziri title didn’t come from the Hausa nor the Fulani but from the Islamic structure. So, anybody who criticises me doesn’t know the history. My action is not just taken from the surface at all but from the history. We all believe that Oduduwa was the father of Yoruba.”
With his adoption of emir as a title, which was awash in the media, the monarch opened a vista of controversy. Consequently, he has been receiving some backlash from the people of the town, the state and the state.
The national coordinator of the Yoruba Youth Socio-Cultural Association (YYSA), Mr. Olalekan Hammed, remarked:
“If there is animosity among the Obas, he should work towards resolving it. He cannot just take the title of an emir. What he is doing now is contrary to the tradition and history of the throne he occupies. Oluwo is not an Islamic title, it is a cultural title.
“We have had a Christian as the Oluwo in the past (from 1958 to 1982). What if another Christian becomes Oluwo in future? Will he be allowed to change the title to that of evangelist or what or will he be referred to as an emir of Iwo? It is not proper.
“The Oluwo is not in a position to install anybody the Waziri of Yoruba land because it is an Islamic title. Only the League of Imams has that power. He is restricted to Iwo land. Obas are custodians of culture and traditions and Oluwo should behave like one.
“Wearing a turban is like importing the culture of some other people into the Yoruba land. He should wear the Yoruba crown. What he is doing is contrary to Yoruba culture and he should lay a good example for the youths.”
The Basorun Musulumi of Iwo land and former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Abiola Ogundoku, expressed disgust at the adoption of emir title:
“It is alien to our community. We are pure children of Oduduwa. As far as Iwo is concerned, we are not parts of that emirship thing because it is not a part of our culture. It is not a part of our tradition. It is not a part of any of our political systems. Anybody who wants to get anything from the North should go there.
“The issue of emir is alien and has no meaning to Iwo community. We are not part of it. I don’t think anybody is supporting him. How do you declare a community as something without even carrying the people along in advance? I rise to say that he is not speaking for Iwo people. He is speaking for himself.
“He cannot write to the state government and say he is an emir. If he prints a letterhead of Iwo Royal House and uses it as emir, that is when we can talk. What he is doing now is only mouth talk. Let him put it in writing then we can fight by going to court. Anybody can call himself anything. How can he claim that he is bearing the title in the interest of the unity of the nation? Which unity of the nation? Is the nation divided?”
Another indigene of the community, Onifade Ogundade said: “We are not interested. We don’t want him to bear the title. It is against our culture and tradition. It will spoil the community.”
Lateef Olola, another indigene asked: “What is the meaning of emir to us here? It is a case of doing good for somebody and that person has turned against you. The people of the community have done him good, but he is turning against them. But we are not fighting him.”
However, in dramatic turnaround, the embattled monarch publicly denied he ever adopted the emir title when he featured on a radio programme in Osogbo. He explained himself this way:
“How can you abandon whom you are? Can you abandon king for king? Oba is our own word. I am an Oba and I will remain Oba for life. I only said I could also be referred to as an emir. I am the emir of Yoruba land. I am the Igwe of Yoruba land and the Obi of Yoruba land. I can bear all titles of kings. We have to upgrade and update our traditional culture, else, we will go into extinction.”
He stressed that his decision to bear all titles was to upgrade Yoruba culture and to preach the unity and indivisibility of the nation: “The northern traditional rulers admire my emir regalia whenever I put it on, but I am not getting support from the Yoruba obas and people.
“By saying that I can also be addressed as emir, I spoke metaphorically. But some ‘bad-belle’ people are condemning me and telling lies against me. My enemies are making me known. God is using my enemies to promote me. Some people don’t like the way I add swags. I can’t help them. I want to upgrade our culture. I promote ‘ofi’ dress and emirs love my dressing.”
His media aide, Mr. Ali Ibrahim, in a statement said the monarch never dropped the Oba title for an emir: “Oluwo has never adopted the emir title. He only said he could also be called an emir by the Hausa and ardent Muslims. Oba Akanbi is an Oba for the nation with a special attachment to the Yoruba. He promotes Yoruba culture to the admiration of many youths. Just because of Oluwo’s dress code today, many children are attracted to Yoruba culture of wearing the Aso Ofi.”
He quoted the monarch as saying: “I have visited the North several times. The core Hausa hardly pronounce Yoruba words correctly. They call me emir when I am with them. Is there anything wrong in answering such? Even, the Hausa in Iwo here call me emir, but will I stop them from addressing me as such? No! I am a father to the nation, being a first class paramount ruler.”
Meanwhile, Comrade Moses Olafare, the media spokesman to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, said the throne of Oluwo is a well respected one because it is from Oduduwa: “He (Oluwo) said he was misquoted and has withdrawn the statement. So, let us agree with him that he was misquoted and forget about the matter.”
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Adelani Baderinwa, said: “Definitely, not only the government but also anybody would have a reservation about such declaration. We have reservation about it. How can a first class Yoruba Oba do that?
“Well, he is entitled to making a statement. After all, freedom of expression is allowed. So, he is entitled to his opinion. It is a matter of freedom of speech that does not have any effect on the people of the state. I doubt if the people of Iwo will take him serious.”
Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, Special Adviser on Information, who is also an Iwo indigene, said: “If you check the etymology of the word emir, it is not an Hausa word per se. It is an Arabic word. It means leader of the people. That is what he was saying. After all, he has clarified himself.”