In this piece, BOLA BAMIGBOLA examines the controversies of the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi, since his enthronement as the 16th Oluwo in 2016
The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi, has been one of the most controversial monarchs in the country since he was installed in 2016. He has been in the news for the right and wrong reasons. This is almost in equal measure.
Then 48-year-old Prince Akanbi, a contractor based in Canada from Gbaase Ruling House, was announced as the 16th Oluwo and a successor to Oba Ashiru Tadese, whose death was made public on February 18, 2012.
In the statement conveying his appointment signed by then Secretary to the Osun State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, incidentally an indigene of Iwo, he was said to be a childhood friend of Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who was appointed just a few weeks earlier.
However, the ecstasy that greeted Akanbi’s announcement as Oluwo, on November 9, 2015, soon give way to disbelief and fear, as the newly-appointed Oba started making the headlines for controversial reasons.
Declaration of Iwo as an empire, self as an emperor
For instance, early in 2016, Oba Akanbi declared himself an emperor, and his town, an empire. He subsequently placed a number plate with the large inscription ‘EMPEROR’ on some of his vehicles.
Oba Akanbi, who remained unfazed by criticism that followed the declaration, however told whoever that cared to listen that declaring Iwo an “Empire” and himself, an “EMPEROR” was just a strategy to package and rebrand the ancient town with a view to placing it in global reckoning.
He was of the opinion that not packaging Iwo to reflect the enthronement of a new king that had taste and in touch with modern realities would be tantamount to the continuation of the old order.
“Emperor Telu” offered perhaps, the most insightful explanation into the new Iwo Empire emperor designation while speaking at an award ceremony organised by the Reality Television on April 21, 2016.
Oba Akanbi argued that proper rebranding of Iwo was a necessity to assist him realise his developmental vision for the town.
Declaration that all Yoruba men are entitled to Ooni’s stool
In July 2016, Oba Akanbi and a large retinue of chiefs and prominent indigenes, embarked on a trip to Okerewe, Ile Ife said to be home of Luwo Gbagida, the 16th and the only female Ooni of Ife, whose son, Adekola Telu, founded Iwo town.
During the visit, Oba Akanbi curried another controversy when he declared that every Yoruba man that had ancestral link to Ile Ife could become Ooni.
Oba Akanbi, who was received at the Owodo Royal Compound, Okerewe, Ile Ife by the elders of the royal house, said he was happy to trace his origin to Ile Ife.
Not done, he added that it had been established that indigenes of Iwo could come to Ife and aspire to be the Ooni.
Ife princes, he said, could also go to Iwo and aspire to ascend the throne of Oluwo. Asked why, Oba Akanbi explained that Oranmiyan, one of the sons of Oduduwa, did a similar thing about 1,500 years ago when he traced his origin to Ile Ife.
This declaration did not go down well with many Ife indigenes. Though the palace of Ooni did not officially respond to Oluwo’s statement, many people however linked the statement to an incident that happened earlier on the day of the visit.
Oluwo and his entourage were denied access to the Ooni’s palace during the visit because Oba Ogunwusi was said to be unaware of the visit.
Also in July 2016, Oba Akanbi stirred another controversy when he relegated the Chief Imam to the background and led the eid-prayer during the Eid-Fitri celebration at the Iwo Praying Ground.
He was bashed by some Muslim clerics, who described the action as un-Islamic and inappropriate.
But Oba Akanbi, while justifying his action, said an Oluwo, Oba Alausa, had led prayers during his life time.
He said, “I am not only adequately equipped as one who is versed in the Qur’an but I am also qualified as the religious leader of Iwoland to lead the prayer. Do you think it is possible for an ignorant Islamic oba to rule over a town of many great Islamic scholars? Iwo’s strong tie with Islam and the North is well acknowledged in any part of the world. In Yorubaland, Iwo stands out as a town where Islam is deeply rooted.
“History of Islam in Iwo cannot be written without mentioning the Oluwo called Oba Alausa who brought the religion to the town. He was the one who led the people in prayer and helped the religion to spread and made Iwo a strong Muslim community.
“As I am telling you, the Oluwo must first be turbaned before the traditional akoko leaf is inserted in his cap. Go and see the picture of my installation to confirm what I am saying. This is a town of Islamic scholarship. No other town in the South-West can boast the number of Islamic scholars we have in Iwo because we understand Islam very well.”
Iwo used to appoint Baale for Ibadan declaration
Oluwo courted another controversy in an interview published in The PUNCH of January 1, 2017. During the interview, he claimed that the Oluwo used to appoint baale for Ibadan.
He said, “We used to appoint Olubadan from here in Iwo. It was not that we would ask them to nominate a candidate but we would appoint somebody from here and send him to Ibadan to be the Olubadan. The first Baale in Ibadan, Baale Olugbode, was sent from Iwo to be baale in Ibadan.
“Orowusi, Oderinlo were sent to rule in Ibadan. It was so because Ibadan people believed that Iwo people were very powerful. Bashorun Ogunmola went from Feesu here in Iwo to Ibadan. Balogun Ali Iwo also went from Iwo to be king in Ibadan.”
But the President-General of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, Chief Wole Akinwande, dismissed Oba Akanbi’s claim, describing it as a demonstration of the monarch’s ignorance of history.
Akinwande said, “Nobody ever appointed Baale or Olubadan in Ibadan from outside. Oluwo claimed that the first Baale in Ibadan was sent from Iwo to rule in Ibadan. That is a wrong foot of ignorance.
“Lagelu and his children were the founders of the first and second Ibadan and as a result of the Yoruba Civil War of the 19th century, Maye Okunade from Ile Ife became the first Baale of Ibadan and not Baale Olugbode as claimed by the Oluwo.
“He must have been taught the wrong history of Ibadan either by oral historians or quack historians.”
Fight with Oluwo Oke
Shortly after this, Oluwo was also embroiled in a crisis with the Oluwo Oke of Iwo Oke, Oba Kadiri Adeoye, who he accused of being used by some unnamed traditional rulers to tarnish his image.
The Iwo monarch, however, said he was not fighting the Oluwo Oke but insisted that Oba Adeoye was the one peddling lies being used by others to bring him down.
“I don’t have thugs. I don’t have miscreants. I cannot be brought down. All I am doing is for the development of my people,” Oba Akanbi said.
But according to Oluwo Oke in an interview, the problem he had with Oluwo started in Ile Ife at a function organised by the Ooni.
He said, “This Oluwo wants to rewrite the history of Iwo town. But there is no way you can rewrite the history. He started this when we went to Ile Ife for a ceremony organised by our father, the Ooni of Ife.
“We went for the church service and during the reception, Oluwo came in and we all greeted him… I went to Oba Ifewara to thank him for attending my 10th (coronation) anniversary. Onigbaye then called me and said, ‘Oluwo Oke, your father the Oluwo, has come now’ and I told him that Oluwo is neither my father nor superior to me but that we are siblings.
“He (Oluwo) became very angry and even wanted to fight me but I just left. Other monarchs present at the ceremony pleaded with me and I left. Ooni’s wife also begged me not to fight.
“But before I got home that day, my senior wife called me on the phone and told me that some hoodlums had gone to vandalise my shopping complex in Iwo. I was surprised and I even thought it was a joke. They stole rice and some other things.”
Oluwo as Emir of Yorubaland
Before the dust raised by the spat he had with Oba Adeoye settled, Oluwo at a function in his palace, declared himself an emir. He based his decision on the lack of unity among Yoruba traditional rulers unlike what existed among monarchs in the North.
The monarch adopted emir title and dressed like a northern monarch on the day he installed Yakub Abdul-Baqi Mohammed as the Waziri of Yorubaland in March 2018.
Speaking on the occasion, Oba Akanbi said, “I have decided to officially adopt the emir title today because I want to emulate the northern emirs. They don’t begrudge themselves like Yoruba obas.
“It will surprise you to discover that for the past two years, there has not been a meeting of Yoruba traditional rulers just because of enmity. There is nothing strange in adopting the emir title. I am the emir of Yorubaland.”
But following barrage of condemnation that trailed his decision a day after the event, Oluwo, in a statement signed by his media aide, Alli Ibrahim, made a U-turn.
He said, “Oluwo has never adopted the emir title; he only said he could also be called an emir by the Hausa and ardent Muslims. Oba Akanbi is an oba for the nation, with special attachment to the Yoruba. He promotes Yoruba culture to the admiration of many youths.”
Crowning of Chanel Chin
Apart from engaging in royal rumble with his brother obas, Oluwo also had a storming relationship with his wife, Chanel Chin.
But before the crisis ruined his marriage with Chanel Chin, Oba Akanbi had crowned her as the olori thus becoming the first king in present day Yorubaland to allow his wife to wear a crown.
Though many royal fathers openly opposed the idea, Oba Akanbi dismissed their criticisms.
“I crowned my wife because Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race gave a crown to his wife, Olokun,” he said.
He said he was able to establish the fact that Oduduwa crowned his wife after he closely observed the effigies of both Oduduwa and Olokun.
His marriage to Chanel, which produced one child he named Oduduwa, later crashed in December 2019 following irreconcilable differences.
His face-off with Ogundokun
Among all the battles Oluwo had involved in, the ones he had with Chief Abiola Ogundokun, whom he removed as the Bashorun Musulumi of Iwo and another fight he had with Imrah Adio, a leading Islamic cleric in Iwo, who he dethroned as Otun Ajanasi, were possibly the most heated.
While the feud with Ogundokun had been laid to rest as a result of the intervention by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, Oba Akanbi’s fight with Adio, according to sources, has yet to be resolved.
Like Oluwo’s feud with Adio, the monarch is still engaged in simmering controversies with his ex-queen, Chanel Chin, as the estranged wife had refused to return to her base in Canada after the marriage crashed.
Despite his involvement in a lot of controversies, Oba Akanbi’s passion for development of his town is undoubted.
For instance, Oba Akanbi entered the history book when he embarked on the rehabilitation of the Osogbo/Iwo Road.
The monarch also feeds the needy in his domain thrice a week, and introduced empowerment initiatives backed by grants for start-ups for the youths in his domain.