God told me to go through rituals for my installation – Oba Tejuoso
The Osile of Oke Ona Egba in Ogun State, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, Karunwi III, in this interview talks about life as a Christian king, the history of the community and the custom of the Egbas.
You would be 79 on Sunday (tomorrow), what would you say you are particularly grateful for?
It's not far-fetched, the fact that God loves me and chose me to be His son even before I was born. And He is showing it in every way that I am a precious child to Him. I feel fulfilled. He is God. He knows the name of each strand of hair on our heads. It is His will that I always endeavour to fulfil. I feel I'm getting stronger and I would continue to get stronger because Jesus is with me. I've gone beyond the age of my father before he died, I'm getting near the age of my mother, who died at the age of 80, and I know that by the grace of God, I'll go much more beyond that, in good health.
You are the only surviving child of your parents, could you tell us a bit about your growing up?
I was told that I was born on February 19, 1938. One of my daughters even shares the same birth date with me. My parents were late Pa Joseph Somoye, who worked as a clerical officer with the Nigeria Railways, and the late Chief (Mrs.) Esther Bisoye Tejuoso, who was the third Iyalode of Egbaland, the Iya Ijo of St. James Cathedral African Church, Idi Ape, Abeokuta.She was the first woman industrialist in Nigeria. I was also told that I was born in a hospital in Lagos, but my parents were living in Ebute Metta, Yaba. On the eighth day, they gave me all sorts of names, some of which I can't even remember. Before I was born, my parents had two children, but the two of them left before I came. So, my parents bombarded me with many names; Adedapo, Adebayo, Kokumo, Malomo, Matanmi and many other names people didn't know until now that I'm telling you. Thank God for His mercies, I survived, because even after me, my parents had two other children who didn't survive long. The second one after me lived until she was 25. She died in 1965.
As the only child, and being a male, has it always been clear to you that you would one day be a king?
Let me answer your question this way; I have never for once called myself a prince. If I was aware, everybody would be calling me Prince. What you didn't know about me is that God has been ordering my steps for a long time. When I was about 35 years of age, my predecessor fell ill and was admitted at the hospital. That day, some of my friends and I were discussing in front of my hospital in Lagos and one of them just said our king (the then Osile) was ill in the hospital, and that if anything happened to him, I could be called to become king. I asked them how on earth anybody would call me to become the king, at 35. I told them if I was called, I wouldn't answer. I felt at the age of 35, what have I done that I would become a king? Assuming I was 50, I would understand and maybe I would go but at 35, they should forget it. The king got better, he was discharged from the hospital and he went home. The king did not die until I clocked 50 years and four months. The minute they told me about his death, I said Oh my God! What have I walked myself into? That was how I got to this seat. Indirectly, you can say I prolonged the life of that Oba. If I had said that I would accept it at the age of 35, he would have gone. I didn't know I was making a pronouncement about myself that I would do it when I clock 50. There was no excuse again, because I knew I had committed myself by the words of my mouth, unknowingly. And as a principle, my word is my bond, so, I became king and I came to Ipebi at the age of 51. I was running my hospital and I was into business then.
Sometimes, there are prophecies before one could become a king, was there any in your own case?
There were prophecies but they were all towards the time I was to become a king. One day, there was a prophecy that came to me that I would be invited to become a chief but that I shouldn't take the chieftaincy. They said it would be like a trap. It didn't mean much to me. But soon after, my uncle, who was the second in command (Oluwo) to the Oshile, unknowingly told me a vacancy was existing in Ile Ogboni Ago Oko. That vacant position was the Lisa of Ago Oko, who was supposed to be next to the Oluwo, my uncle. He wanted me to come and fill that position. He sent for me in Lagos because they wanted me to occupy the position, so when I met him, that message struck me. That my uncle was my late father's elder brother, so I couldn't afford to say no outright, just like that.
What did you do then?
I thanked him and told him to allow me get home and tell my mother about it. Of course, I knew there and then that I wouldn't take it. When I got home, I told my mother about it and I had earlier told her about the prophecy. So, she was the one who contacted my uncle to say no. Soon after that, another prophecy came. About five of us were praying at home in Surulere and the lead prophet in the prayer group said he could see that it was time for Dapo (myself) to go and take the mantle of leadership that David left behind his door and put it on. I'm Karunwi the third. David was Karunwi Shokunbi Farounwi the second. He was the one killed on the throne. He spent 14 years on the throne before he was killed. That prophecy said God said it was time for me to go and pick it up. It was soon after that that prophecy came that I would be called to be a king and that I should accept it. It happened that all the predictions came to pass. I told God if He was the one who called me to be king, I asked him to do me one or two favours. I didn't want to go and beg or bribe anybody for me to become a king. I added about two other things that I can't remember now. Throughout, I didn't have cause to go and lobby or beg anybody. The trap that first prophecy spoke about was that if I had taken the position of Lisa, I would become a kingmaker, and a kingmaker is not supposed to become a king. That was the trap. And that may not have been obvious to my uncle who invited me to come and be the Lisa. He felt very disappointed when I didn't accept.
Does it mean there was no serious contest?
God had already set everything in place. My mother was the head of the family of the ruling house that was to present the king and she was Iyalode of Egbaland. Initially, four people were nominated, and when the divination was done, the chief priest said one of them was good but that there was another person that was better and they should look for him. The four people were the princes that were from the male line. So, they threw it open to say princes from the female line should be allowed. I'm from the female line, so I joined. One Prof. Soboyejo and some others also joined, and we were seven. They went to consult the oracle again and found that mine was the best, even better than the one from the previous four, and that I should be chosen. After the Ifa divination, it was only my name that was presented to the family. God did that, and He perfected His work. I believe God knew that it was me He wanted to be there. We left there and went to the kingmakers. Only my name was presented to the kingmakers. It was virtually a walk through. Where did I have to start lobbying? No need. God had perfected His work, because He knew what He wanted me to come and do here, and I had not done anything yet. What God has in plan for us in Egbaland and Oke Ona, we will all live to see in Jesus name.
You were already a Christian before you ascended the throne. Did it prick your heart that some of the things you would go through during the rituals were against your faith?
Before I came to Ipebi, God had also sent a message to me that anything they do or anything they asked me to do at Ipebi, I should do it. He (God) was with me. When I got to Ipebi, they started all the rituals. My teacher, Olomodosin, who wrote the Oshile's anthem, was already the provost of St. Peters. The minute he heard I was coming here to be the king; he started the Morning Prayer there every day - Monday to Friday. And the rituals were going on in Ipebi. But God had told me I should go ahead. A few days later, somebody came and said he saw a vision that I was in black all through. At that time, I was not as close to God as I am today. So, all these things didn't have meanings to me. But I know that if you say God said and you are telling lie, it's your fault, not mine. But I would do what you say God said I should do, if it tallies with the bible. So, everything they did in Ipebi, I did. After about two months, another message came to me that God said He had removed the black dress on me and I was covered in white.
Since God speaks to you, did He tell you why he wanted you to go through the rituals?
Much later in life, I discovered why God wanted me to go through all the things I went through. God wanted to show me the secret of the people who would wish to frighten me in the future. If I didn't know their secret, all the things they would use to frighten me, God had allowed them to open the secret to me. And they are the same people now fighting me that I'm doing God's work. Of course, all their secrets I know. There is hardly any other secret they can use against me that I have not gone through. I believe God's purpose was for me to go and learn what the traditionalists were doing, so that it would be useful for me in the future and it has been very useful.
The Egbas have a very rich culture and they have four divisions, could you tell us who the Oke Ona Egbas are?
Oke Ona Egba is one of the four pillars (sections) that founded and settled in Abeokuta in 1830. The four pillars are - Egba Alake section under Oba Alake, Oke-Ona Egba section under Oba Osile, Gbagura section under Oba Agura and Owu section under Oba Olowu. On how we got to Egba land, the high priest was sent to come and take the sand from Olumo Rock and pray on it, to see whether it would be wise for us to come and settle here. The priests were led by a chief priest, who happened to be Tejuoso. My forebearer, Tejuoso, was the Ifa chief priest who led the five Ifa high priests that confirmed the suitability of Abeokuta for the Egbas to settle. The Egbas arrived in Abeokuta (under the Olumo Rock) on August 5, 1830. That is Egba Alake, Oke Ona Egba and Gbagura, while the Owus came in 1834. My ancestral maternal great-grandfather, Karunwi 1, was crowned as the first Osile Oke Ona in Abeokuta in 1897, to ensure that he was one of the four Egba Obas who formed the core of the establishment of the Egba United Government on the 31st January 1898, under the authority of Governor McCullum who was acting on the orders of Queen Victoria of England. The then Alake, Oba Shokalu, died five months after this event, while the then Osile, Oba Karunwi, died in 1899, which was about one year after the event. Oke Ona Egba as it exists in Egbaland and Abeokuta today consists of the following township in order of seniority: Ago Oko, Ikija, Ilugun, Ikereku, Ilawo, Ago Odo, Idomapa, Iberekodo and Imala.
What is the position of Oke Ona Egba and Oba Osile in history?
The Osile Oke Ona was formerly the Oloko of Oko, who was formerly the Alafin of Oko in the early days. The throne was founded by Oranmiyan (Oranyan) who was the son of Okanbi and the grandson of Oduduwa. He (Oranmiyan) was the first Oba (Oloko of Oko) to occupy this throne of the Osile at the old Oko Orile, near Ile Ife. He was the first Alafin of Ile Ife in those days. He later left Ile Ife and founded and became the first Alafin of Oyo in the old Oyo township. He later left, founded and reigned in the old Oko township. The book of Yoruba history by Rev. Samuel Johnson tells us on Page 149 (5th paragraph) that Oko was the seat of government of Yorubaland for quite a while before it was moved to Oyo during the reign of Sango.
What are the taboos in Oke Ona?
The worst tradition in Yoruba land is Oko. Oko had a tradition for their kings. A king does not go to the house of the subjects. If a king should come to your house, it means you are in trouble. So, if the king chooses to come to your house, you have to kill a man at your doorstep, so the king would not step on the man's blood to go in to see you and do whatever he has come there to do. When he finishes what he had come to do, you now have to kill a female, for him to be able to step on that female blood to go out. So, as a result of that, people were afraid to become king in Oko, that is Oke Ona. Egba people arrived here in 1830 and by 1854, they wanted people to bring who would become king, the Egba Alake installed their king in 1854, the Owu people installed their own in 1855, while Gbagura brought their own in 1870. But the Oke Onas couldn't find someone to become the king because of that tradition. You know the Bible says he who lives by the sword dies by the sword, so everybody was afraid. And that was what was happening to the Olokos in the old days. They were usually stoned to death, so nobody wanted to become king, but it was when the Europeans came that they virtually had to come and beg us in Oke Ona to bring our king. And the man they brought to be the first king in Oke Ona in 1898 happened to be my great grandfather, Karunwi, the first, my mother's father's father. So, you can see I'm a remote prince that would not even think of getting there. That was how far I was from the throne. But providence; God has ordained that I would get there.
It's not very common to see kings doing evangelism, how has the journey been, more so that you would rarely see your colleagues in that venture?
Narrow is the way. It could be very lonely. Those who have threaded that path said it's a long, lonely way. Once you get into it, miles ahead, you probably see just one person. If anybody preaches Jesus Christ to you, he loves you, if you accept it; you love yourself, because without it you are going nowhere. Talking about whether it's lonely for me as a traditional ruler to be involved in the ministry, last week, I was at a crusade, and two weeks ago, I was at Usi-Ekiti where I was invited to come and minister at a crusade, and over 100 souls were won for Christ. I went on the invitation of the Olusi of Usi-Ekiti. He's a pastor, likewise Olu of Ilaro and Onipetu of Ipetu. If you listen to him (Onipetu) preach, you would wonder if he is a king or a pastor. There are so many of us. You wait and see what would happen to Abeokuta; God is going to take over. I want to assure you that God brought me to this throne for one purpose; for me to lead my people to Him. That's why I'm here. At this moment, God is telling us to evangelise to the whole world and I thank God I'm being fulfilled. The Bible says for every soul that is won for Christ, there is tremendous joy in heaven, so, what else could I hope for in this world? I'm doing the will of God. Whatever God has told me to do, my greatest wish is to always do it. By so doing, I believe that by the grace of God, I will not miss my home in heaven. I'll be there.
You have 24 children, comprising 12 males and 12 females. Has God told you why He made it happen?
I've been asking God some questions. I've been asking Him why He allowed me to go and study Medicine when he knew evangelism is what I would end up doing. I have been asking many people the question, but surprisingly, only about a month or two ago, God sent a message to me and He was asking me questions too. He asked me; do you know why I allowed you to go and study Medicine? Do you know why I allowed you to have many wives? Do you know why I allowed you to have so many daughters and sons in equal numbers? And He said it's about time He would tell me why. If you are lucky to be in tune with God, He will direct your steps and you will not go astray. Anybody who says there is no God is a compound fool.
As a traditional ruler, you were a delegate to the National Constitutional Conference in 1994. When you remember those times, looking at where Nigeria is now, how do you feel when you look back?
That was one of the questions God asked me; do I know why He made me to go to the conference? About six months to that conference, God told me. Seven of us were praying and the message came that Nigeria would call me to a very important assignment. The message said when it comes, I should not reject it, and that a lot of people would pressure me not to accept it, but that I should accept because He (God) was sending me. That was exactly what happened. When MKO (Moshood Abiola) declared himself as President in Lagos on June 22, 1994; I remember the date because that was the day my mother was celebrating her birthday in Lagos, near Tejuoso Market, close to Western Avenue. That day, suddenly we had so much noise. It was the following day they arrested him. It was on the 24th or 25th that they came to meet me in this house. The governor, Iwang, said I had been chosen as a delegate to the National Constitutional Conference in Abuja. Because God had warned me before, I wasn't surprised, so I said God's will be done. That was how I got involved in it. And the purpose for which God wants me to be there was very obvious. If I wasn't there, there would be no rotational presidency today, MKO Abiola's problem would not have been solved and Obasanjo himself would never have become the President after. The mere fact that we had made it very clear to them at that conference that unless they compensate the Yorubas, this country would not stand, helped. That was one of the reasons why God sent me there. And God said he would still tell me more on why he sent me there. - Culled from Punch.