Let’s talk about Erinmo itself. Can you give us a brief history of the town?
Erinmo according to historical accounts was founded through the direct lineage to the fifth Ooni of Ife, Obalufon. Alayemore and some people had migrated.The story was that the Ooni had died and the Ife throne was vacant I think. Oranmiyan came and he discovered a new town, but unfortunately, he tried to install his brother, which was not possible. He migrated with some people and they were being pursued and that was how the name came about. To encourage them, he said, Erin, Erin (walk, walk). Eventually, when they got here, they built some houses with palm fronds and Imo means palm fronds. That’s the main version and the person who actually led the people was a grandson of Obalufon, who was Akindoyin. So, Akindoyin was our main forbearer, who set up this place. Akindoyin actually went to Ifon Alaye and installed his son as Alaye of Ifon Alaye before he went back to Ife to become the next Ooni. We have a relationship with Ifon Alaye. Of course, we have relationship with Erinile, which is in Kwara; Erin Osun and with Erin Ijesa. There are just about six or seven of them because of that “Erin”.
Erinmo is a very bold community that has existed for many years and we’re lucky that God blessed us with several mountains. We are surrounded by mountains, so the average person in Nigeria knows Erinmo because of spiritual expeditions to the town. Everybody knows ori oke Erinmo. It’s believed that on the mountain, when people pray, they’re granted their desires. That made Erinmo quite popular in Yoruba land.
You have not spoken about Itapa, we understand those were the aborigines that owned Erinmo…
I think that’s a total distortion of history. Founders of Erinmo didn’t meet anybody here, rather, people migrated here, who are now the people called Igbajo, a quarter in Erinmo. When I became king, I granted them autonomy to have their own legally-recognized leader and so on. There is no other town or any other people recognized with Erinmo, other than Erinmo being here.
As a Christian, how do you resolve the issue of traditional rituals which as father to all you must participate in?
My experience is that in the case of Erinmo, most of those rituals do not exist any longer. However, it’s impossible for any Yoruba community to exist without rituals. Being an oba doesn’t make me an adherent of traditional rites and I do not discourage anyone from performing them. The mistake we all make is that when they say tradition, we assume that it’s something fetish. That it’s against Christianity or Islam, whereas, that is not the issue. We have festivals here that we celebrate. These festivals are not pagan festivals, they are festivals during which we celebrate and remember those who founded this town. For instance, we celebrate Odun Ije’su, meaning new yam festival. That is celebrated virtually everywhere. The reason is because it’s an opportunity for us to pray for farmers to have good harvests and also to thank God for the harvest. So, as a Christian oba, one has to understand the limits, but at the same time, because I’m a father to all, I do not discourage any religious persuasion. My role is to ensure that everybody lives in peace and harmony. You must understand that our fathers practised that same religion because that was what they knew at that time as there was no other religion. If you look at it, the good people are there and the bad people are also there. It’s also understood that in every religion, there is this Almighty God. That is why they say Kabiyesi, Igba keji orisa. What they mean is the second-in-command to orisa, but orisa is still not God. Adherents believe in the orisa, whom they had to talk to because they didn’t know they could talk to God directly.
You traced your lineage to Ife, but you an Ijesa man. Could you explain why that is ?
Every Yoruba lineage is traceable to Ife.
What are the taboos peculiar to Erinmo?
Erinmo has grown to be more of a Christian community than a traditional community. There are some towns where traditional rites are observed but in the case of Erinmo, we believe that we are the spiritual and official Jerusalem of Nigeria. Some of our eminent sons that are in Christianity include Baba S.K Abiara and we have about 100 men of God who are pastors in the Anglican Communion and Christ Apostolic Church, but I am more of a member of Christ Apostolic Church. We have only one mosque in Erinmo.
What attracted a highly educated and successful, well-travelled person like you to the throne which is considered a relic of the tradition?
Honestly, I actually have no regrets about agreeing to be king. I didn’t offer to be king. I would say the throne actually sought me out. Like I said, it can only be the will of God. It wasn’t my intention, it wasn’t my wish. It’s not a logically sensible decision financially. It wasn’t logically sensible for somebody of my age, but when God wants something, there is nothing you can really do to prevent it from coming to pass. So, it’s beyond me. Secondly, things are changing, you should have noticed that all the new obas are highly educated. It started with the Aloko of Iloko, a former minister and former chairman of a bank, for instance. Even, the Ooni of Ife is 40 years old and very successful. So, every community now made up their mind that they only want educated and successful people as their kings. Nobody wants an illiterate because how will there be development in the town if all we are doing is enthroning people who are in the village, who are not educated, who are not enlightened? Talking of development, it’s not going to be in the city centre. It’s going to be in the rural areas. Now, we are not going to be dependent on oil, we are now going to be dependent on food and agriculture in the rural areas. If somebody says we need land now, do you have land to give in any major city? No! It’s available in the rural areas. This is where development is still going to be and because it is going to be here, it requires somebody that is enlightened. If somebody walks up to me now and tells me he wants to take me to London or United States of America, it won’t be a new thing because I am no longer eager to travel when I have been to all those places before. I have seen what is happening. The whole idea is for me to bring all that exposure to bear on the community. If, however, I was somebody who didn’t go to school, what development am I going to bring to my people? Nothing! So, the expectation of my people is that my tenure will facilitate development and that has already happened because Erimmo was a town people already knew by oral tradition but right now, we have put Erinmo on the world map. There is a website www.erinmoijesa.com. Erinmo is on Facebook, every activity of the king of the town is on the internet. Right now, you can search Erinmo on Google and you would see it.This is what is encouraging a lot of people, our indigenes, who are all over the place, who never remember they’re from Erinmo to remember they are from Erinmo.
How has the throne affected your business?
Frankly speaking, it’s almost impossible combining it with any business. The only business that can work for me is for me to set up a business within my locality that I can oversee and manage, but if it is what I was doing before I became oba, I am no longer in direct control. I am into studio management and on sabbatical from other businesses other than being king. The throne is a 24-hour job, trust me. It’s said that when you surrender your business to people, the people there are the real owners. It’s like that already. The moment you are not directly in control, people who knew you because you had worked to a particular level, who were relating with you because of your pedigree would not trust or respect someone else representing you. It’s no longer the same, because I am not overseeing business directly and that’s the truth. For instance, I know you now and know what you can do, if anybody comes here in your place, I can’t be too sure. I am at that point where I am looking forward to diversify to something that I can manage within the locality. Right now, I am doing feasibility study to know what I can do here and sitting here I can walk straight to and see everyday.
Maybe I have to consider agro business.
No, I don’t regret being king. If I say I regret being king then that
means I am complaining about God’s goodness to me. Looking at myself, I was not living here, I didn’t contest for any throne and yet. God sought me out. So, I take it like that. When I became king, I was worried and concerned about sitting in the living room and not familiar with a lot of things. And then, I went into what was like a trance, I was sitting down in my room and then I saw my father and he greeted me, kabiyesi oo and I answered him and he asked “why are you always complaining about this obaship?How many people are in Nigeria, and how many obas are there in Nigeria?”. I said maybe 1,000 and he said “what is 10 per cent of 170 million?” and I said 17 million. He asked again “What is one per cent?, and I said 1.7, he then said “what is 1,000 as a percentage of 170 million” I couldn’t come up with the number and he said “that’s how important you are. That is a position that neither money nor whatever can get you .” I just stood up and since then I have come to terms that this is what God wants me to do and I believe God will make a way.