Oba Abdul Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, bagged a B.Sc. Business Administration From George
Brown College, Toronto, Ontario, worked as a Data Processor, Bio-skin GMBH in Hamburg Germany (1996-2005), International Development Analyst (Oxfarm Canada. He also worked as Associate Supervisor, Purdy Wharf Towers, Halifax,Nova Scotia in Canada. He is the Chief Executive Officer Enterprises, Toronto, Ontario Canada. He is the founder and Director of People Against Loneliness Inc Canada, West Africa Coordinator (Karcher Group FutureTech) amongst other places he has worked.
Since he became the king, he has been involved in reorganization of Muslim activities in Iwo
with a view to make Islam flourish in the ancient town as well as impacting on the throne as he has involved in some developmental projects within Iwo Township and axis.
In this interview with Abdulfattah Abdusssalm in his palace Iwo, State of Osun, he proudly says;’’ Iwo has the first Muslim Monarch in Yoruba land’’. Excerpts
Kabiyesi, what are the challenges amongst the Muslims in Iwo land when you ascended the throne?
Islam has been part and parcel of Iwoland for almost 500 years. At a point in our history, we recorded 100%, Muslim households until the advent of colonialist, particularly, Christian missionaries. If a survey amongst non Muslim families in the current time, you will see traces
of Islamic origin with them. To further buttress on our claim that Iwo is Islamic in composition, it remains the only town in Yoruba land that her king is crowned with Turban and not crown, regardless of religious colouration. Let me also add, Iwo produced the first
Muslim Monarch in the history of kingship in Yorubaland. However, what I met on the ground among my Muslim subjects was best Imagined. I met, stagnation, dearth of Islamic values and disposition towards Arabic and Islamic education without adding western education. These consequently, affected the progress of Islam and that was not acceptable to me and had to change. In today’s world, acquiring Arabic and Islamic knowledge is not enough to guarantee food and good living for my subjects thus, it made many to live in stagnation. Our children, unlike those in other religion do not acquire enough western unlike the Christians. Truly, they, acquired Islamic Knowledge, travelled as far as Saudi Arabia and Egypt to get necessary knowledge but when they returned the Nigerian society does not need them and to go back for Western education was difficult. After many had studied Arabic and Islamic studies, they now realized that they cannot use the knowledge to actually fend for their families. Such complexities are what account for why many Muslims in Iwoland, left for Christianity. Similarly, Muslims in Iwo started embracing western education, barely 80 years ago and that has set us back a lot. Consequently, I see many of my people stagnated in the past and do not want to change with modernity.
How are you working to effect necessary changes to take Iwo out of these challenges?
By Allah’s permission and support of many progressive people of Iwo land, I am doing well to encourage my people to embrace western education in addition to their Arabic and Islamic Knowledge. Also I had been having meetings with Islamic clerics and Council of Muslims on the ways to overcome these challenges. We all agreed to the need to change the ways we do things in the past and add necessary modern values. Islam as it is being practiced currently in Iwo is too boring and we must work fast to stem the tide, else, many will leave Islam in search of a more attractive means of worship. Christianity started with the Catholics but because the adherents, especially, their leaders were not mindful of the growing trends, the protestant came and took away the control of the church. So, the fact that Iwo pride itself as Ilu Afa, does not say, we should be unassuming and that is my focus to take Muslims of Iwo land to a more desirable status.
The central Mosque of Iwo, does not reflect that it is patronised by knowledgeably Muslims, Is it part of the challenges you met?
It is one of the challenges. How can a town that is known for her Islamic and Arabic knowledge has such mosque? And because the mosque belongs to Oluwo, I, with the concerns are working to address the anomalies. Unlike other cities, Oluwo Central Mosque is an exclusive asset of Oluwo. It is called “Mosaasi Oba” meaning “King’s Mosque”. The Mosque is an extension of Oluwo palace. It is strictly built by him and not by leagues of Imam and Alfa as done in some other cities. That is why no Imam can be installed at vacancy in the absence of Oluwo. Iwo, unlike many other cities has peculiar history. Its peculiarity is not only limited to its traditional relics but also religious adoption. Nobody can select the Imam other than Oluwo and even if there is no Oluwo for 20 years, it would have to wait and there would be no Imam. Oluwo prays only in his Mosque (Oluwo Central Mosque) except once in a blue moon on formal special request from other central Mosques within the town or he has special religious announcements to be made. I am currently talking to like-minds and indeed, I spoke with the Sultan of Sokoto on it and soon, positive things shall be done
on the mosque.
How do you view kingship in Yoruba land?
When it comes to kingship, my view is that it is an avenue to serve the people. Kings in Yoruba land must change their ways. They should serve the people, and not just sit down in the palace, while their subjects suffer. They have to go to the people, go to the communities, visit their subjects in their houses. You see my own style, I go to the people. I have eaten with the Presidents, with governors and highly placed persons. I still go down to the people. Sometimes, you will see me, I will leave the palace and pay a visit to the people and chat with them in their houses. I am talking about the lowest places in the society. I will go there and visit them and say to them. ‘This is your king, what do you need from the palace? To be a king is about service, it is not about ruling over the people, but serving the people. The definition of kingship has been redefined in Iwo. It is the only seat and throne of God on earth where there is no fetish or idolatry mixing with it. I mean not worshipping any lesser gods or idols.
Why Yoruba Kings are not accorded similar respect like their Northern counterpart?
Most Yoruba kings are not respected because we got it wrong worshiping our fathers and not God. Really, we don’t need to worship our fathers but celebrate them. I was in Sokoto recently and the kind of respect the Sultan of Sokoto was accorded was beautiful. All great
personalities that were in that gathering sat on the floor. They were even scrambling to find a place to sit on the floor. The dignitaries included, serving Governors, Ministers,
Inspector-General of police and the Chief Justice of Nigeria. But here it is a different ball game. You see, traditional ruler-ship had been having dents for long. The problem started from the kings themselves. It is a kind of ignorance. It was not that they deliberately did it, they did not know. It was because instead of being fathers to the people, kings were only ruling. There are no way kings in Yoruba land will not go down because of the way we are going. The kings in the north are more respected than kings in the south west because
they have moved away from what is called the old, blind tradition to a very high tradition. They do durbar today and make fun. We Obas, we are the fathers of the nation, but we lost it, especially in Yoruba land. A king should not worship lesser gods but many do.
Why the need to make one of your subjects, Alh. Tella, Asiwaju Musulumi of Iwoland?
He is an elite and a man of good character. He knows people all around Nigeria and that kind of a person is who we need, at this time of our history to take Iwo to greater heights. Alh. Tella, had not been honoured in Iwo despite his wonderful activities in Iwo land and Nigeria
as a whole so, we decided to honour him so that he could use his contacts for our development. The title is befitting enough for his contributions over the time and especially, in the field of Islamic promotion and propagation.