September 17, (THEWILL) – Just before his coronation on December 14, 1973, erstwhile Soun of Ogbomosho Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III had a run-in with Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi who was military administrator of Oyo state at the time. Vested with the authority to appoint or dethrone traditional rulers in his domain, the soldier forbade Oba Oyewumi from wearing the beaded crown on coronation day or else…
The monarch refused, insisting he will and must wear the very symbol of authority passed on from generation to generation by his forebears. The military administrator was not amused. Nor was he alone. Massed against Oba Oyewumi were some traditional rulers as well, led by Ooni of Ife Oba Adesoji Aderemi and Oba William Ayeni Ariwajoye the Orangun of Ila. According to Oba Oyewumi’s biographer, Dotun Oyelade, in a tribute published in The Guardian when the Soun turned 90 in 2016, the Oba-to-be met and spoke with Ooni Adesoji and Oba Ariwajoye one-on-one concerning the military governor’s intransigence.
After a series of high-profile consultations and meetings with commissioners and relevant authorities in the state, the military governor capitulated. Oba Oyewumi wore his crown and the coronation went swimmingly. ‘’It was obvious at the time,” Rotimi later said in deference to the new monarch, “that even if you do not love him, you learn to respect him.’’
Oba Oyewumi reigned for nearly half a century from when he ascended the throne on December 14 1973 to December 12 2021 when he passed on. For his successor Prince Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye crowned Soun of Ogbomosho on September 8 at Ogbomosho, he didn’t have to contend with military officers or even rival traditional rulers. His own war was personal, a battle with his conscience.
Until his investiture by the kingmakers, he was a top-rated pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, overseeing the entire parish in North America headquartered in Washington DC.
So, there was that niggling doubt he might just not forsake the pulpit where he has been for decades for a throne he is unlikely to abdicate for whatever reason. By his own account, the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, prevailed on him to take up his traditional responsibility. In other words, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, as the scripture enjoins.
On Friday September 8, Prince Olaoye was duly crowned Soun of Ogbomosho thus succeeding Oba Oyewumi who died in December 2021. Of course, the new king’s path to the throne was not easy, which accounted for the delay in the kingmakers selecting a new monarch. For starters, Alhaji Abdulwahab Laoye, chairman of the Screening Committee of the Laoye ruling house once let on that Prince Afolabi had not been cleared by the family. But High Chief Sobaloju Otolorin, Head of the kingmakers in Ogbomosho and Aare Ago of the ancient city discounted that view almost immediately.
According to the senior traditional ruler and leader of the kingmakers, “the problem began when all members of their so-called screening committee put the names of their children and nephews forward, because of that they couldn’t resolve it. For instance, their Mogaji had three nominees, the family secretary had his child, another family head called Cashman had his nominee, and one Alhaji Wahab (Chairman of their screening committee) had his own, every one of them. That is why they couldn’t resolve it. So, they had 23 names which they brought to us and we asked them if all of them are eligible and they said yes, that was why they sold forms to all of them.
“They forwarded the names to the local government in accordance with the law and the council sent the list to us which we consequently considered with local government officers as observers. That is where the assignment of the family ends. We invited them one by one to interview them and we found useful information furnished by the family on each of them.
“The first question we threw at them is that you knew there was more than one religion being practised in Ogbomosho – Traditional, Christianity and Islam, whether they were ready to embrace the three religions. Each of them said yes.
“We also told them it was not a matter of saying l have N10 million in my account, it is beyond that. In the first place, the palace is now empty. You have to replace everything from furniture to the last thing. In addition, we informed them there were many court cases pending, the burden of which you would shoulder for years, we let each of them know that whoever would rise to the throne would have to be adequately prepared for the financial burden. Furthermore, there are staff in the palace, most of whom are not being paid by the government but by the late Oba. So, we told them this was an additional responsibility and they all agreed, yes.
“We further told them that on Fridays, members of the royal families and others did come to the palace to be feted by the late Oba that there won’t be government assistance. All this is documented by the local government officers who sat as observers.
“We now went through their CVs and seriously considered who had the wherewithal to step into the gigantic shoes, we considered their profiles meticulously, this is not a matter of saying I am a pensioner.
“However, before this time, their screening committee members and other clans’ heads were trying to approach us to seek undue advantage for their preferred candidate. I was ready to swear with the Bible that Ghandi never came here. I never knew him. I spoke to him for the first time on the day of the interview and he even used a face mask. Though, on the day we held the eighth-day Fidau of the late Baba Soun, he also came and some people pointed to him, saying that was another eligible prince but he also used a face mask. And then he came with former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he came to pay a condolence visit on the demise of the late Oba and again he used a face mask, so I never knew him.
“I am saying categorically that what we did was not based on religion, if a Babalawo had the best profile, we would have chosen him. We need someone who is capable financially and who has impressive clout, someone who will not be taken for granted in the comity of Obas, Ogbomosho is beyond that, we need someone who can hold his own among other Obas.”
Of course, nothing suggests the new monarch will not in the company of Ooni of Ife, for instance, or any other high-profile monarch in Yorubaland for that matter. In traditional attires or in bespoke suits, clean shaven or with his John Player silver beards, Oba Olaoye is every inch the royalty he has always been. With a first degree in English and Literary Studies from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife (1982) Oba Olaoye went to University of Ibadan for his Masters’ degree (1987) in Industrial and Labour Relations specializing in Human Resource Management. All of that and his ministerial duties would have prepared him for his duties as a king to wit: Solomonic wisdom and fairness coupled with the ability to listen to his subjects with avuncular patience.
With the title – Orumogege III – in deference to a former monarch and Soun – Oba Olaoye is married to a pastor like him, Omo Olaoye. She founded and oversees Jesus Women Ministries which “addresses pertinent women’s issues from birth to old age, with a view to positively affecting these areas in line with the Word of God.” They have two daughters. The new king has served RCCG in three countries – Nigeria, Germany and the United States where he was in charge of Conventions and Special Projects in RCCG North America.
Oba Olaoye is an accomplished businessman with awards. The African Business Roundtable conferred one such award on him: Youth Empowerment and Positive Mentoring of Africans in the Diaspora Award in December 2008.
Though a case is pending in court instituted by the Laoye ruling house against the selection of Oba Olaoye with judgment fixed for October 3, it does seem that the monarch has come to stay and nothing can dislodge him from the throne however much his traducers try.
On the day of coronation itself, the whole of Ogbomoso was in a state of excitement, delighted they have been presented with a monarch befitting of the throne left vacant by Oba Oyewumi. What’s more, the king has the full backing of Chief Sobaloju Otolorin.
Hear his last words on the matter: “We had chosen in the best interest of Ogbomosoland. They now went to hold a press conference, which was of no consequence. No ruling house has power in law to screen any aspirant, what they can do is to cajole, appeal and encourage their princes to step down for one another, they can’t screen them. It is only the kingmakers that have the power to screen. And that we have done and submitted the name to the governor. They can say whatever they like, it is water under the bridge. If we collected money, would l be free to sit comfortably in my home like this? I didn’t collect money from anyone, it is an unfounded rumour. Let me repeat this, all the Laoye clans’ heads came individually to solicit for their children and we did not oblige them. Ask them. And they all promised to abide by the outcome.
“Now they are saying Gandhi is not their child. You put together 23 names and his name was number 13, you sold the form to him and you interviewed him at the Town Hall. And you are now saying you don’t know him. Yet, his father contested the throne in the past though you didn’t support him. I just knew his father and l were together on the Board of Directors of the Ogbomosho Community Bank, he (Prince Oladunni Olaoye) was made the Chairman of the Board after Alata left. It is some of them that told me recently that that was his father, just recently, it is the same people that are now saying he is not of their family again. Everything is in the hands of God.”