Resplendent in white robe, suave in simple, flowing attire, he glides royally into the shimmering throne that smacks of ancestral aura. His visage is clean-shaven and his looks handsomely majestic; his words imperial, subtle and spiritual. His eyes glimmer as he speaks, intoning transcendental musing and understanding. Revered home and abroad, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Enitan Babatunde Akanke Ogunwusi, Ojaja II and the 51st Ooni of Ife, rocks royalty with modernity as he leads the Yoruba race from what is regarded as the Cradle of life. With an intriguing intellect and enduring sense of history, the Ooni in this interview with Adedayo Adejobi unearths an unusual past, explains the uncertain present and envisions a glorious future. He talks about divorce, the queen in his palace and the curse placed on a queen that leaves the Ooni. He also reveals how he beat the odds against his troubled childhood and what the Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Frederick Obateru Akinruntan, missed in his understanding of the Ife race
As a child, did you ever think you would be the Ooni one day?
Kings are usually born and not made. You can aspire to be in that position. But if God doesn’t grant it as the owner of life and death, it remains an aspiration. Before and after my birth, there were predictions. But If I didn’t work towards it, it wouldn’t have become a reality. God made it happen despite the predictions. I give the glory to the king of kings. God brought me to this throne.
How will you describe your experience as the 51st Ooni so far?
If God didn’t prepare me for the throne, it would have been a big challenge and a big shoe with a lot of sacrifice. It’s about service to humanity and that has been my greatest soft spot since childhood. I like to attend to issues that border on mankind, welfare and betterment of the people. Over the years, God has been preparing me. The high points are attending to many people, going for state functions. I am passionate about youths, their emancipation and the black race. I go out because of them to explore opportunities and give them encouragement. I go to few social gatherings all because of youths. I don’t eat out. Things I used to do before, I can’t do them anymore. I love dancing. But I can’t dance anyhow in public as I have to carry myself with dignity. As the spiritual head of a race, a lot of spirituality is tied to the throne. It’s not a joke. The laws are many. I have to uphold the culture and tradition always. Everything I do is a mirror of my heritage, culture and tradition. For a middle-aged person ascending the throne, it is a challenge. But God has helped me thus far. I don’t have much privacy again, especially with the social media and freedom of information. I’m very focused on my calling. I must uphold – very strongly – the heritage, culture and tradition of the Yoruba people. It’s the best in the world and as the custodian, I must really uphold it.
What do you really miss about life outside royalty?
There is a lot. I used to dance for my secondary school. I love and miss dancing. There is very restricted music I can dance to because of some level of spirituality involved and the sacredness of the throne. I love going horse-riding. Human contact is a bit reduced now. For the mere fact that I’m very visible, when I go to one event it’s like I’ve attended ten events. They think I’m always out. I am very free in terms of the way I relate with people. At times, I struggle to stop to mingle with common people on the road. I do it because it gives me joy and happiness being in their midst. I missed those times. I used to, once in a while, take public transport and experience the life of the common man. They are my joy and strength.
Talking about appearances, your critics say you are seen almost everywhere every time. They feel that being a first-class king, you should hardly be seen in public. Do you agree with them?
If they follow me, they will know who I am. When I ascended the throne, I said I would blend tradition with modernity and that is my foundation. Most people that have issues with seeing me everywhere are mostly the elderly ones in their 50s and above. The typical Ooni of Ife is like a deity they don’t see. Going by tradition, I’m supposed to stay in the palace. But with modernity I have to reach out. It’s left for me to continue in the knowledge of the elderly and speak for the youths. All my programmes are youth-focused. I have more youth following than the average leader in this country and it is because I champion their cause. I don’t have any regrets. If I have to go out because of them – blending tradition and modernity – there are things I have to jettison. If I go out once, people think I’ve gone out ten times. But I have an objective for going out. I am preoccupied; I’m always busy. To the glory of God, I’m blending modernity and tradition with the latter intact. I’m achieving results.
What drives your passion for the youth?
My story has been very challenging and magical. I have seen the best and the worst of this world. I’ve been there as a frustrated youth before; so I can feel the pulse. I know how to appeal to them. To the glory of God, I’ve been a successful youth as well. I know and see what the typical youth goes through. Before ascending the throne, I made up my mind that my calling would be towards the good of mankind. God has given me a good platform. They are around me and so I encourage them to imbibe, uphold our culture and heritage. Youths are my passion and calling. I went through a lot growing up. So far, so good, I’m making progress with youths.
Everyone has a story. What is yours?
My story is mysterious and magical. I’ve always been an underdog and God has always made me excel. If I want to do something, all I need to do is profess it and it’s done. To this end, I have a slogan: ‘it’s done’ – ‘oti see se’. I say that a lot and it has worked for me since my growing up years.
Did you go through some particular moments that shaped you into who you are now?
Absolutely. Very strange and magical things happened. At 19, a lady told me she was pregnant for me and then I was still with my parents struggling to work and take care of the child. It was an early stage going through that. Ideally, I was supposed to be fed and in higher institution at 19. People would scorn and laugh at you that you have a child at an early age. It comes with its stigma and a lot of girls are ostracised. With this in mind, it has given me a lot of passion to appeal to them; so they can feel what I felt as a young father. It has really helped. Starting a business at an early age, losing money, meeting highly placed people, dealing with an undulating self-esteem are some of the remarkable things my story encapsulates.
To what do you owe to your seeming spiritual inclination?
I think I am a reincarnated spirit. My name is Enitan with a spiritual meaning: child of history and mystery. I bear Babatunde and Yoruba believe in reincarnation. In Ife now, I’ll tell them something was in existence here before and I’ll bring experts, anthropologists and archaeologists and we’ll continue to dig. So far, we have seen a lot of mysteries. We have a lot of scientists in Ife now researching and discovering mysteries. At times, I sleep and remember things that have happened in another world to me and I bring them to reality when I wake up. I believe I had existed before. My spiritual intuition is very deep and getting deeper. There is life beyond what we see. The third and unseen eye makes that possible to see things human beings don’t see.
How are you coping with the generational shift in kingship in Yorubaland?
It’s a good thing that young kings are ascending the throne so that things can be better. Monarchy in Yorubaland is very strong. It’s part of our heritage and culture. You see Muslims, Christians and traditional worshippers living together in harmony. You can’t see that anywhere in the world and it’s almost balanced. We are a mirror for the entire human race. Yet, we don’t fight. You wouldn’t see any communal or religious rancour. Mr. President said same in his speech by asking what are we doing in the South-West that we are getting it right. It’s because of our culture, tradition and heritage. When elders see their king, they respect them and prostrate themselves. The Yoruba wouldn’t put religion first. There is a binding force in Yorubaland and that is why religion cannot be so strong such that we throw away our heritage. Religion is dogmatic, while heritage is about morals and values. Although it is one God, there is something peculiar about the Yoruba race.
Do people consider you too young for the throne?
Because I’m blending tradition and modernity, some would say I’m young. Others think I’m handling it well. You would have critics but time is changing. The youths should be appealed to. Seventy per cent of the population is made youths, and they follow me and my activities on a daily basis all over the world.
Would you also support generational shift in the leadership of the country?
Absolutely. That’s the way forward. The question is: are we ready? We have to be ready.
It is rumoured that you have remarried. Is that true?
What! Who told you I don’t have a queen in the palace? I cannot divorce. It’s just a rumour everywhere. I didn’t do that. Did you hear anything from me about that? You can’t! Let people say whatever they want to say. My focus is my call to destiny. This is a spiritual throne. The very first point of call upon my ascension to the throne in the palace is the Number Queen in this palace. She was handed over to me spiritually and that’s the number one wife of any Ooni of Ife. There are perpetual wife and king in this palace. Even any other queen must pay obeisance to her. It’s a very spiritual throne. There is queen in my palace perpetually. You might not see it. Kings don’t divorce. My eyes are on the ball. You have no idea how many women they say I’ve married. Let them keep saying that. I am focused.
Are you saying you have a physical queen in the palace and is it a myth that any queen who leaves the palace is placed under a curse?
Can anything be greater than the almighty God? We don’t need to talk about curse. But our traditions must be properly upheld. In everything I do, I must follow my tradition and heritage. The curse is probably seen as a myth or reality. But that is not the issue. We must uphold the culture of the land. And that’s the reason you wouldn’t hear me talk about the queen.
Is that to say you don’t feel the need for one?
How do you mean that I don’t feel the need for one? Did I tell you that there is none in the palace? There’s never been a day that there’ll not be a queen in the palace of the Ooni of Ife; seen and unseen. It’s a very sacred and spiritual throne. There is a queen that lives in this palace permanently. That’s my first inheritance on my arrival at the palace and her name is Yeyemoolu. The Yoruba would say ‘Alade o kin k’omo tabi iyawo; meaning is that: a king does not turn down children or wife. So, you would never hear it from my mouth that I divorced. I didn’t divorce anyone. I didn’t. I’m not saying it’s not important. But it’s by the way. I have bigger responsibilities.
What is your relationship with the Oba of Lagos, following a recent mild drama which saw him refuse to shake hands with you at a public function last year?
I’ve known the Oba of Lagos before I ascended the throne. To the glory of God, he was a father to me when I was a prince and I’ve ascended the throne of my forefathers as the Ooni of Ife. To the glory of God, he’s accorded me great respect the same as I’ve accorded him. I don’t have any problems with him. People just try to make a mountain out of a molehill. He’s a very good person but with a different approach. We approach things differently. He expresses himself the way he feels and that doesn’t make him a bad person. I know him very well. We don’t have issues. I respect him and he respects me too.
The Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Frederick Obateru Akinruntan, was reported to have said he is the owner of Ile Ife and he can rule Ife from his palace if allowed. Is this true?
The Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Frederick Obateru Akinruntan, doesn’t have a sense of history. With due respect to him – he is a king – but he doesn’t know history. If he does, he wouldn’t have said that because Ife belongs to every human race and that’s the source of mankind. As the king of Ife, I’m holding forth for everyone. Going down history, there have been three dynasties in Yorubaland and in the third dynasty, I am the 51st Ooni of Ife. We have had thousands of rulers who have come and gone. But the kingship system started in the third dynasty. The first dynasty, Ife Oodaye; the second is Ife Ooyelagbo and the third is Ife Oduduwa. There is a recycling in the spiritual realm. The first dynasties were mostly divinities. There is a transition between divinity and humanity. The transition happened in the first dynasty and the second dynasty. We, the Yoruba, are not naturally Yoruba. It is our alias – ‘kaaro ojiire’. We are known as ‘Omo ti luabi’ – the descendants and survivors of the flood. It is the same story of Noah in the Bible and Quran. And that happened in the second dynasty in Yorubaland. Olugbo doesn’t understand the story well. He has only gone to the Iwerin quarters in Ife and that’s the third generation of Olugbo and they left Ife for the first time. The grandfather is called Ora Ife, also known as Sango. He only went to a section for him to have said he owns Ife. He can’t be the owner of Ife because Lua came the first time in spiritual form and again during the third dynasty. The world of the spiritual existed before humanity. Olugbo didn’t get the trend of events very well. He visited a portion and jumped to the conclusion. People get it wrong that Oduduwa met people in Ife the third time. They left during the second dynasty to go and establish Mecca and came back when there was problem of rulership. Oduduwa came back to establish the kingship system so that there’d be orderliness. I give him respect but he didn’t get the link and I wouldn’t blame him. If he wants to know about history, he doesn’t need to go to Obawirin people. They didn’t fall from heaven. Some people gave birth to the Obawirin. The link is clear. If only he (Olugbo) were calm, he’d know we are all from the same root. I don’t blame anybody. But it needs to be properly explained to him because he got it wrong.
If that’s the case, have you made efforts to put things in perspective?
Absolutely. I’m working on it. The first tree of the human race, Adam and Eve, and the way they’ve populated the world up to seven billion is long. So, we are backing everything up scientifically and the dynasties that have existed in the world before Adam and Eve. We are exploring humanity, divinity, race, kingdoms and kingship system. We have gone far in McDNA (Mitochondria and DNA), doing in-depth research with the Western world for us to fully establish the story out of Africa. There is a trend and that is a log from our blood. Archaeological facts are not given full disclosure. It’s systematic and explainable. We are not working alone and we’re digging up loads of archaeological facts. Once it’s done, it would involve the entire human race and there would be contributions from all parties.
Since you became king, what has happened to your business?
I can’t do the two together. My business is ‘crying’; a lot of apology to clients. I haven’t even settled properly on the throne. It’s big and challenging. I felt I’ll be able to run the two together because I’m a hands-on person. Unfortunately, the business was built around me. I let go and it affected the business. It’s a challenge.
The fact that you are so busy, when do you find time to introspect?
It’s the grace of God. I sleep very little; I manage my time very well. For the calling I’ve chosen, 24 hours are not enough for me. I know things would get better gradually.
What was your relationship with the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Sijuade Okunade?
He was a good father to me and we were extremely close. Till he left this world, he prayed for me as a father and I enjoyed his company. Even in death, he is still alive to me – with me – because we all reside here in the palace and we have a way of communicating. My ancestors are here with me and we all still communicate. That is one unique thing about Ife. You can’t see it anywhere.
You have a thing for cars?
I love the good things of this world. I like cars but at times I don’t place too much importance on them. I like very elegant things.
Does nature accept human blood in the process of appeasement?
No, that’s not good. It is ungodly. We don’t use human blood to appease nature or our ancestors. Whoever says so tells a lie. Everything started from Ife and you are in Ife now. What can be as great as doing festivals every day? It’s a western way of making us believe our ways are worse while theirs are better. That’s why we are backward and perpetually enslaved to date
”We can’t survive without our heritage and culture. It’s not possible. There is no nation that has grown outside its culture and tradition. It’s time we appreciated our culture.”
We all call the same God, the Supreme Being. The lesser gods are deities. They bow to the main God Almighty, King of kings. Seas roar, water, wind, trees, mountains and human beings bow down before God. No one can survive without water. God created good and bad. Jesus Christ was not a Christian. He didn’t preach Christianity, He preached holiness. Mohammed preached peace. Others have turned it to something else. We are working on the renaissance of our culture and people would see that we are not of evil.
What is the true story of the ‘Abobaku’?
They are called ‘Asiwaju Orun’ (forerunners to heaven). When the king was ‘leaving’, they were put in the grave alive. And they would ‘go’ with the king. The spirits of the Abobaku would go with the king. It was stopped in Ife during the time before my predecessor, Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, who ruled from 1930 to 1980.