Chanel Chin, the ex-wife of the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, talks to SAMSON FOLARIN about her marriage to the monarch and the issues that led to her exit from the palace
There was an allegation that you cheated on the Oluwo, which led to your separation. Is this true?
It is not true. I, Chanel Chin, swear on my life before the God of Abraham and Moses that I did not have any extramarital affair. I have never slept around with any man or woman. There was no man I was involved with except the Oluwo himself.
I was never caught with another man. We had 10 civil defence officers and policemen following us; and they were armed. They lived in the palace and followed us everywhere. So, it was absolutely impossible for Oluwo to catch me red-handed with a man. If I wanted to go to the bathroom, there was a policeman following me. I challenge him to give details of any such encounter. I have never defiled my bed or my body. I was never an unfaithful wife. Rather, I have forgiven many unfaithful acts committed against our bed, our marriage and our family.
So, what really happened?
I was actually chatting with somebody I had known for a long time. It was a WhatsApp message after the person saw my display photo. The person said he loved and cared about me and that I should always make myself happy. Oluwo saw the text and sensationalised it that I had a boyfriend. And that was not the case. My crime was that the person said he loved and cared about me and I did not correct him and say, ‘Don’t say you love me’. I take responsibility for that. But I don’t think I deserved the public shame and disgrace I went through because of that.
I was actually begging and prostrating (myself), telling him not to destroy our family. While I was begging, he had a small tape recorder he always carried in his agbada (flowing gown). He always used it to record things. He recorded me apologising to him. He was saying, ‘You agree that I have caught you?’ Imagine a woman apologising to the husband. So, I was saying, ‘Yes’. And that is what he has been showing all the dignitaries that he caught me red-handed. He’d been looking for a way out and he used that little thing to end the relationship. He had been seeing a few women on the side. He wants power, wealth and popularity and those things are supreme for him above family values.
How was life inside the palace for you?
While I was in this relationship with Oluwo, I was forbidden to speak with anybody. I was not allowed to speak with anyone from my past, even friends that I came into Nigeria with, either male or female. I have Yoruba friends in Canada; but I was not allowed to speak to them because he did not want anybody to tell me my rights. When I first got to the palace, one of the things I wanted to do was to wear coral beads. But he was saying, ‘It’s not (our) culture, you don’t need it.’ And my friends that are Yoruba said I could wear beads. But he said, ‘Don’t talk to them, they are jealous of you!’ So, I was totally isolated.
We had 30 Oloris (wives of the king) in our jurisdiction, married to the kings around us. But I was not allowed to mix with them. If you go to Iwo and ask the Oloris about their relationship with me, they will tell you they didn’t talk to me. I was not allowed to even go out and mingle with the people of Iwo. I was just inside the house from morning to night like a prisoner and I stayed because of my child.
There were some people I reached out to privately to help me, and the Yoruba women told me, ‘Just pray to God; pray that he will change’. So, that was what I was doing. In that palace, it was me, my son and God. Not even my parents were allowed to visit. No one from Canada was allowed to come to see me. I was there for four years on my own. There is an unspoken culture of silence within the royal household.
He has six personalities. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t know the kind of personality that will greet you. And I have names for them. The one that is violent, I call it Dexter. The one that is nice, I call Paul. The one that is sensationalist, I call it Jerry. I know him because I was with him for four years. I won’t lie and say I did not love him. I loved him.
How did you meet him? It is said that you met in Canada…
It is not true. That was what he told a popular magazine. I did not know him in Canada. We met in Lagos. I came for holiday with some friends. Then there was a royal burial party in Lagos; he was there and I was there as well. That was how our paths crossed.
After his coronation, they had a party for him in Lagos and I was invited. Not by him, but by one of the people throwing the party. Another prominent Oba in Lagos introduced me to him for marriage. And they said it was great to be an Olori.
So, you agreed because he was an Oba?
No. When I met him, he had nothing. He was few days from coronation. He was driving a Toyota Camry; there was no ‘packaging’ like we have now. The only thing that connected us was that we were both from Toronto, and Canadians. And we talked about different things, which built the bond.
The reason he came out with the story that we met in Canada was that at the time of his coronation, he was dating a girl from Iwo. After we met at the party, he brought me back to Iwo. He then started parading me around as (his) queen. He then told the girl’s family that I was his wife from Canada. He said, ‘I have a wife in Canada. I did not think she would come to Nigeria. She came from Canada to take her spot.’ So, he told the girl that he would still keep her, but she would be his second wife. The girl refused.
When I found out about the girl, I was already pregnant with my son. When I met him, I became immediately pregnant, like three weeks after we met. It was not planned and I was not going to kill my first child. I was stuck.
How would you describe your marriage to the Oluwo?
He used me to build his profile. He was always saying, ‘My wife is a Canadian; we are Canadians.’ People did not even know him before. He used me as a ‘show horse’, saying he put a crown on my head. He named our son Oduduwa. Does any Yoruba person name their son Oduduwa? Nobody does that. I was later advised by some elders and I renamed him Ademola. I told him my son should have a name with ‘Ade,’ but he fought it and said that was not the culture. But all princes have Ade. I am not Nigerian, but I have my senses. And that was why he did not want me to know anybody or speak to people.
Has your divorce been formalised?
There is nothing like a divorce yet. He just woke up, saw the message on my phone and shouted that I had a boyfriend and I should leave. The policemen were standing over me while I packed four years of my life. I had one hour to pack four years of my life. The policemen were standing there to ensure that I did not pack any of my clothes or wigs or my child’s toys. He said when an Olori leaves, he leaves everything for the incoming Olori and that it is the culture.
This was what I went through for four years and I was being told it was the culture. Whenever I said no, he would say, ‘You’re not Yoruba, you’re not Nigerian, you don’t know anything.’ And if I said my friend, Bola, a Nigerian woman in Canada, said ‘this is not culture,’ he would say, ‘Don’t talk to Bola, don’t talk to her.’ I was forbidden from talking to anybody who would advise me. I was not allowed to take any of my native clothes, Ofi (Aso-Oke). Only the clothes I came into Nigeria with before I met him were the clothes they allowed me to take. I really suffered.
But you keep saying you suffered, are you suggesting you did not enjoy a life of luxury with the Oluwo?
We did not even have a generator. It was a senator that donated a Mikano generator to us. What we had before was a small generator that we could only switch on at 6pm and the only things it could power were the televisions, bulbs and the fan. You could not turn on the fridge or freezer or air conditioner. This was what I went through whereas he was busy ‘forming’ (pretending to be living) a life of luxury.
I have my bank records from the day I entered Iwo and the day I left. He’s been telling people that I was a money shark and that he’d been spending on my lavish lifestyle, which is not true. My bank statement shows for the four years I was with Oluwo, I was making roughly N1m a year, which is $3,000 every year, which was mostly from gifts. During the elections, a lot of dignitaries came and gave me and my child gifts. Those were when I had the chance to have money. I have my bank records to show this.
When we visited Canada, we slept in hotels. We didn’t have a home. I have receipts to show this. We didn’t have a car. We used Uber to move around. I have proof of everything.
Why did you not speak out until now?
I did not speak out because if I started talking about the things I had seen, it would be detrimental to the throne – things I saw in the palace and things he did. But I feel he is already doing things that are detrimental to the throne, so why should I keep quiet? I can’t allow anything to destroy my son and myself.
I was quiet because I was afraid for the security of my son and myself. I lived with him for four years. I don’t want this to be used against my son in the future. As a crown prince, if he returns to Iwo 50 years later, I don’t want him to be abused and or a situation where somebody will say his mother was kicked out of the palace, and that he does not have the right to contest. My son is baby number 10 of his children.
Your child is number 10?
I believe there are six of us and I am the fourth wife. When we met, I asked him to tell me the number of children he had, but he didn’t (tell) me the truth. He did not say 10 or even five. Our relationship was built on the foundation of lies. It was not until my son was six months old that I saw a blog post from one of his past wives, showing the names of all his children, wives and the ages of the children. When I brought it to him and challenged him, he said if he had told me at the time, I would not have agreed. But this is my life; he was playing with my life.
I did not speak out because it would be my words against a king’s. He is very popular and in Nigeria, tradition and religion reign supreme. Even if a king is wrong, people will still stand by him. As a foreigner, the only person I know is him, and he was shouting, ‘She tried to kill me’. What am I going to do? I am still going through shock because I was kicked out of the palace for not correcting somebody that said they loved and cared about me.
Did you try to kill him?
I, Chanel Chin, swear on my life that I never put anything like juju or poison in the food of the Oluwo of Iwo. It’s not true. Imagine a king, a first-class king saying those things, what are you going to do? That is what I am going through and a lot of people are telling me not to talk. But the more I don’t talk, the more I will go down in history as the person he is portraying me to be. It has to be on record so that when my son goes to school, he is not stigmatised. There are lots of princes in Nigeria, but not everyone is a crown prince. My son has that and nobody can take that away from him.
Why are you still in Nigeria?
I was with the Oluwo for four long and hard years. Oluwo sent me and my child out of the palace. Where are you sending us to? You don’t have a house in Iwo, you don’t have in Lagos and you don’t have in Canada.
When Oluwo said airplane tickets had been bought and travel arrangements had been concluded, it was not true. The five-star arrangement he talked about, he did not pay for it. When he sent me and my son out, it was one engineer who told the bus driver to take us to Radisson Blu and let us cool off for two days there. The engineer had to fly to Paris and we had no way to pay for the third day. So, the hotel management contacted the Oluwo to pay for the third day. He did not want to pay, but he had to.
He then got a lower-class Air Ethiopian Airlines’ economy ticket for me and my son to go home. I was not so sad because it was economy ticket, but I felt it was a big slap. I was there when you had nothing and nobody knew you. You are just someone who came from Canada to contest and you used me and my son to make a statement and this is how you want to send us away, covered in shame, and disgraced. That was why I did not go. That was December 18, 2019
Around December 19/20, four female immigration officers showed up at my hotel. They said I had to come to Ikoyi and sort out my immigration issues. I did not go. They even issued me two plane tickets to go to Abuja, but I did not go. The last plane ticket they issued to me was on December 24, Christmas Eve. I wondered why they wanted me to be in Abuja on that odd day. The people in my hotel told me not to go. That was when I was terrified and I sought legal representation.
When we got to the bottom of it, we discovered it was the Oluwo that filed a petition to the immigration of Nigeria that I was no longer his wife and that the documents I was using to reside in Nigeria were now invalid. Imagine that! You met and married me in Nigeria. I was on vacation when we met and now you’re harassing me and telling me not to have any dealings with you.
So, what do you hope to achieve?
From the day we left the palace, he has not given one naira to my son. He does not know how my son eats or where he sleeps at night. He does not care because my son is number 10. My son is three years old and has never been to school. He went to the primary school at Bowen University, Iwo for only two days. That was in May 2019. He withdrew him from the school and said he was popular and famous, and that they would kidnap him. He said, ‘You don’t know Africa, kidnapping is a big business. Do you have N20m to pay as ransom? I will tell them I don’t know you!’ My son has never gone to school. I have been the one teaching my son.
I also want my son to be free to live in Nigeria. I want to be free to come and go out of Nigeria as I wish. I should not be discriminated against. My son has a Nigerian passport. I am a Nigerian mother. I believe I served this country because I lived here for four years and suffered with this man, defending him through the different allegations and accusations against him. If he does not want us in Nigeria, then he should buy a house in Canada and put us there. I have nowhere to go in Canada. Do I return in humiliation?
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to move on bravely and boldly with my son. I hate that this happened to me. It was my first time of visiting Nigeria and look at what happened to my life… I am now a single mother. Can a woman teach a boy how to be a man? No matter what, a father shouldn’t cast out his son. I have accepted it and I plan to give my son a good life. I will do everything in my power to make this little boy happy. He is my best friend. I love him so much. He is smart and handsome. I hope to start an NGO in honour of my son to help assist children and single mothers because it is not easy.