By Gbenga Osinaike
When you become a king in the Yoruba milieu; your interests are cut. Your indulgences are reduced. You can’t eat the way you used to eat. You can’t walk with the way you used to walk. If possible, you may have to do away with certain friends and acquaintances.
You are now a revered individual. Those who are old enough to be your father bow to you without any inhibition. They call you kabiyesi!!! They are at your beck and call. Your words are sacrosanct. But your freedom is restricted.
For Barrister Olusegun Ogunye, the Ojotumoro of Abigi Ijebu Water Side, these are the features that will characterize the rest of his life as he mounted the throne of his forefathers August 25 2017.
Indeed, the journey to the throne was laced with seemingly unfounded anxiety. Not because there were people contending with him for the throne. As a matter of fact when the former king of the town died, he was immediately asked to step in as regent pending the time a substantive Oba would be elected. But he turned down the offer. He was not ready to compromise the freedom he was enjoying.
But by the time they were ready to have a new king, 23 of the 25 kingmakers in Abigi Waterside area of Ijebu Ogun State voted for him and pleaded with him to come ascend the throne of his fathers’. The kingmakers were sufficiently sure he was the one entitled to the throne. So they came looking for him again. This was when the real battle began. It was the battle of the mind.
“I must confess I never planned to become a king. It was not in my vision for life. It was not something I dreamt for. I did not want it. So when my people approached me and asked me to come for the throne, I was reluctant and never wanted it because as a Christian I do not want anything that would affect my relationship with God. It is believed that being an Oba you have to be involved in rituals and occult practices. So I resented the idea even though I belong to the royal family.”
For three and half years he turned down the offer. By the time he agreed to take the challenge, he had to wait again for another three months of praying, fasting and consulting with spiritual fathers who sought the face of God on his behalf.
“The first person that was against the idea was my wife. She is more of a prayer warrior than myself and she just would not want to hear anything about my becoming a king. So I encouraged her to pray about it. My children, my wife and I spent days praying and fasting and seeking for confirmation from God. I consulted with the Bishop of Ijebu of the Anglican Communion, The Rt. Rev. Awosoga and asked him to pray along with me and also met with a lot of brothers and sisters to join me in prayers,” he said.
By the time they came back with their verdict, it was positive. “My wife who did not want me to go near the throne was the first person to come back to tell me that God is interested in my being king. But she warned that I must not stop loving and doing God’s will. Several other people came to confirm that God is interested in my decision. That was when I had the courage to acquiesce to the invitation of the kingmakers.”
Then the second challenge, how will he cope with the new terrain? Will he not compromise his faith? In what way would he flow with ritualists and ardent traditionalist as an oba?
Ogunye an Anglican by denomination explains, ”The beauty of being an Oba in Ijebu land is that you are allowed to practice your faith and they also allow you to determine what and what rite you want to obey. So the question of being ritualistic does not even arise. We did the necessary rites but they are not rites that negate my faith.”
Commenting on the solitary confinement he was subjected to, he said, “What they do in the confinement is like an orientation class. They take you through the lessons of kingship. They tell you the dos and don’ts. They tell you how to behave and how not to behave. They make you go through some cultural lessons that are peculiar to the town and also make you pass through a semblance of what you will experience as an oba. For instance I had to sleep on the mat. That is a metaphoric representation of the need to identify with the downtrodden. It is an imagery of being down- to-earth.”
At the end of the confinement, Ogunye said he was able to appreciate life better and appreciate human beings better. “The lesson for me is that there is nothing in this world. I am able to appreciate those who are in the lower rung of life and understand that there is nothing about this world. My present status has made me lose interest in material things and see the essence of life.”
Indeed life will turn a full circle for His Royal Majesty. “I will now have to cut down on my travels. I can’t eat in the public again as it were and I should be more conscious of my utterances henceforth. I will always now have to appear in white apparel signifying purity. My businesses also have to fold up as I would be dealing more with people than with papers. Already I have asked four of the lawyers working in my chambers to go because I can no longer continue with litigations again. My client base has also reduced considerably”
Though he is allowed to practice his faith as a Christian he is obliged to tolerate the faiths of others in the town. “You are the king of the entire community and you are not allowed to discriminate and put down another faith. But my vision is that my people will see the Christ in me and on their own they will join me in practicing the Christian faith. I am not expected to force them to do things against their wishes. I have a responsibility to live the life of Christ and follow in his steps. If they like what I am doing they will join me.”
What happens to his marital life being a Christian? Will he succumb to the temptation of having more wives? “It is on record that I am a man of one wife and I do not intend to change that. I will remain a man of one wife. My wife is a great ally and quite supportive.” He said.
But tradition demands that he accommodates the wives of the former king. How will he handle that? “Yes that is what tradition demands. What I can do for them is to ensure their welfare. I will take care of them within the available resources. But I remain a man of one wife.” He said.
The Abigi community is predominantly an agrarian society located in Ogun State. It is located close to water. So the predominant occupation of the people is fishing. They are also into farming. The community can also boast of a lot of educated folks who are doing great in the country and abroad.
Ogunye expresses optimism that his time as the king of the land will bring transformation to the community. “I hope to use my connection to engender agrarian revolution in the town. I hope to help in youth development and in skill acquisition. There are a lot of artisans in the town. I trust that God will use my reign to further prosper the people and make them relevant to what obtains across the globe.”