The installation on Friday, September 8, 2023 of Ghandi Afolabi Olaoye as the new Soun of Ogbomoso has continued to generate mixed reactions. Many Nigerians are yet to come to terms how a cleric could leave the pulpit to embrace traditional worship, which is at variance with the practice of Christianity which he was used to and had earlier professed.
The ascension to the throne of his forefathers did not come easy for Olaoye, who was until the installation a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), in the United States of America.
Journey to the throne
A bitter legal battle had begun shortly after the throne of became vacant following the transition of Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade Ajagungbade III who joined his ancestors on Sunday, December 12, 2021.
The move by the kingmakers to install a new Soun was stoutly resisted as other interested parties went to court.
The kingmakers in 2022 had screened the princes who indicated interest to ascend the throne and had since picked a nominee.
Twenty five indigenes from various families were said to have indicated interest in the throne.
At that time, the name of Olaoye was submitted to the Oyo State government by the kingmakers.
Reports had it that the kingmakers concluded their work on March 22, 2022 and dispatched the name of the nominee to Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, through the Ogbomoso North Local Government where Olaoye comes from.
The rejection by other contenders was to set off a windy legal tussle that spanned several months.
But recently Ogbomoso was spotlighted following the installation of the former cleric as the Soun of Ogbomosho. Ogbomoso as a city is not new to religiosity being home to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary.
But having an ordained pastor ascend the throne of the Soun of Ogbomoso got people talking about the metamorphosis, as it were.
Many of those who expressed worries over the development said that his Christian faith might be stained with tradition.
Some others have however, taken time to explain that having a pastor as the traditional ruler of a city like Ogbomoso might positively impact the Christian community of the town.
I am just obeying God – Monarch
“We as pastors are shepherds in a local congregation. A king is a shepherd of a city. The major difference is that the people they are shepherding are different. As a shepherd, all your sheep, whether they are black or white, you show all of them love. You take all of them to the green pasture,” Olaoye said while responding to his choice as the Soun of Ogbomoso.
Olaoye, while addressing members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Jesus House DC Parish his local parish via a video posted on Social Media, said: “I am just obeying God.”
He disclosed that he never wanted to be a king; but that the Lord spoke to him about being the Soun and that he had no option but to take a step of faith in obeying God.
He is still an anointed man of God – Odesola
Johnson Funsho Odesola, the continental Overseer for Africa 3 and Middle East, told BusinessDay that Olaoye as the Soun of Ogbomoso is still an anointed man of God, and remains a pastor in the RCCG. According to him, having Olaoye as the traditional ruler of Ogbomoso does not change anything, rather it brings light into every clouded area of the town.
“Am sure that based on the experience he had, he will be able to improve the economic configuration of the town. The implication is going to be a positive implication on the town and the people,” Odesola said.
According to Odesola, the bible says when the righteous rule, people rejoice, and that there was no clash of interest.
“You can hear from his own personal interview that he is going there as a shepherd; he will shepherd the people of God in Ogbomoso,” he said.
Do not acquire more wives – Akanni
Gbile Akanni, founder of Peace House, has warned the Soun of Ogbomosho against marrying more wives, thereby echoing the fears of many Christians and other observers who have associated the traditional stool to a polygamous lifestyle.
Akanni urged the Soun of Ogbomoso to shun acquiring material wealth for himself.
He gave the advice while preaching at the first public appearance of the pastor-turned monarch on Thursday, September 14.
Akanni also noted that God gave the warning long ago to the children of Israel ever before Solomon became king.
According to him, Solomon had issues with God and his reign because he married many strange women who turned his heart away from God.
“God has brought you here to be a blessing to the people. Here is the word of God to you. This is not the word of man. God is saying the king must not acquire wives. That is what God is saying,” Akanni said, warning him against following in Solomon’s footsteps.
“It was not hunger that drove you to the throne. You were successful in your former engagement but because you are from a royal home God has made it possible to get to the throne. You have come to work on the throne,” the Cleric further admonished the Soun.
Akanni did not only warn about polygamy, he equally touched on materialism and urged the monarch to make the people his priority.
“The king must not acquire silver and gold. If the blessings come, let it be for the people of the town. We pray that the people of Ogbomoso will experience something new in your time. Those who are hungry will be fed during your time. God who blesses us abundantly will rain his blessing on us,” he said.
However, Akanni in praying for the new monarch noted that a new beginning has started for the town. “I know you have different kinds of Bible but this Bible I am giving you must be placed on the table in the palace. As long as you think of what to do about this town, God will give you wisdom on what to do”.
However, the pastor-in-charge of RCCG Province 70, Femi Olunuga, said that man was a free moral agent that was at liberty to either worship God or Satan. According to him, being a traditional ruler does not stop an individual from serving God.
“We are human beings and we are entitled as individuals occupy whatever office or position we want to occupy. If you check from the origin, God gave human beings free will – even you now talking to me, you are at liberty to worship God; you are at liberty to worship Satan. To that extent, it is a God-given right to express yourself; the only thing is that for every action you take there are consequences,” Olunuga said.
Speaking to BusinessDay, Olunuga said that every category of human being is welcome into God’s kingdom.
According to him, being a traditional ruler is another expression of God’s kingdom.
“I don’t know whether you have observed; we have a fellowship in the Redeemed Christian Church of God for traditional rulers,” he said.
Read also Kingmakers install new Soun of Ogbomoso
According to him, the RCCG as a church has created a platform to accommodate traditional rulers long before the emergence of Olaoye as the Soun of Ogbomoso.
“Soun of Ogbomoso is a position that will accord the man of God an opportunity to bring the gospel to his people and also to influence fellow traditional rulers. So, to that extent, I am in support of what he has done, and I am sure that the leadership of the nation will not quarrel with him because like I said earlier, we have a fellowship (like an association) of traditional rulers,” Olunuga said.
A lecturer with a Polytechnic, who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said that the Soun of Ogbomoso had the right to decide what to do with his life.
The lecturer said: “Times have changed. There were times in the bible that God selected people as kings and sent his prophets to anoint such selected individuals. Those were the days when Israel practiced Theocracy- government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.
“But in our dispensation, things have changed. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear about traditional rulership is fetish things. We see a lot about display of fetish things by some traditional rulers that convey some meanings that traditional rulership has to do with other things other than Christianity. If for instance, a monarch involves himself in animal sacrifices, incantations, and other hidden things that are at variance with the pure worship of Christ, there is now a dichotomy.
“But the Soun of Ogbomoso land has assured everybody, including his Church that he was going to do things differently. All we can do is to wish him well and pray for him that he will set his face like a flint and walk in the steps of the Lord. But, time will tell,” the lecturer said.
Some have also said that the seven-day seclusion that kings are subjected before they begin their reign is the period they fraternise with traditional religion.
They also said that those that are not really educated about the meaning of Yoruba kingship are still referring to Oba Laoye as a pastor.
They said that he was a pastor; but now, he is a king. And, according to Yoruba tradition, once a prince stepped into the ‘Ipebi’, the sacred sanctum for the training and fortification of the elect, he is no longer the old person.
But Amos Olaoye, the Mogaji of the Olaoye family of Ogbomoso, however, countered that position in his interview with the BBC where he explained that the seven-day seclusion is only a time the king is put through the basics of what is expected of him when he finally attains the throne of his forefathers.
“The kingmakers do the choice of the king. They always come from the ruling house. It was the Olaoye family that chose Ghandi Olaoye not Ifa. We presented him as the choice of the family. He is the most qualified in the family,” the Mogaji disclosed.
Read also Pastor Ghandi, Soun of Ogbomoso
The traditional rites
In the original Ipebi, the new king would be trained to behave as a king. He would have an encounter with the ‘Alale’, the Eternal Continuum of the Yoruba nation and would commune with the spirit of those who have been kings before him.
By the time he concludes his rites and mandatory fortifications, the new king has become the living essence of the ancestors and the Continuum.
Therefore, the Soun of Ogbomosho is not the same person that entered the Ipebi. He is different. Indeed, he is now born-again in the tradition and custom of the Yorubas. He is now the living representative of the Yoruba ancestors.
Other Christian monarchs
Ghandi Afolabi Olaoye, the new Soun, is not the first and will not be the last king to profess his Christian faith in Yorubaland.
Babalola Akinyele, who was the Olubadan of Ibadan, was a well-loved Christian leader of the 20th Century.
Similarly, Adetoyese Laoye, the late Timi of Ede, was a Christian.
Oladele Olashore, the late Ajagbusin-EkunIloko-Ijesha, built a big church in his private palace at Iloko.
Also, the current Orangun of Oke-Ila, Adedokun Abolarin, the founder of Abolarin College, Oke-Ila, is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Those who spoke with BusinessDay said that history has prepared the Soun of Ogbomoso for the task ahead of him to serve his people regardless of faith, creed or religion.
Past Souns in Ogbomoso land
Some monarchs who had reigned in Ogbomoso were Oba Ikumoyeje Ajo (1770–1797), Oba Toyeje Akanni (Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland) 1797–1825, Oba Oluwusi Aremu (1826–1840), Oba Jaiyeola Are Arolofin Alao (1840–1842), Oba Idowu Bolanta Adigun (1842–1845), Oba Ogunlabi Odunlaro (1845–1860), Oba Ojo Aburumaku Adio (Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland) 1860–1869, Oba Gbagungboye Ajamasa Ajagungbade I (1869–1871) and Oba Laoye Atanda Orumogege (1871–1901).
Others are Oba Majengbasan Elepo I (1901–1907), Oba Adegoke Atanda Layode I 1908–1914, Oba Itabiyi Olanrewaju Ande 1914–1916, Oba Bello Afolabi Oyewumi Ajagungbade II (1916–1940); Oba Lawani Oke ‘Lanipekun (1944–1952); Oba Olatunji Alao Elepo II (1952–1966); Oba Olajide Olayode III (1966–1969); Oba Salami Ajiboye Itabiyi (972–1973) and Oba Jimoh Oyewumi Ajagungbade III (1973-2021).
The traditional council in Ogbomoso also known as (The Ilus- Awon Ilu) is made up of seven chiefs, among who are six males and a female. They are headed by the Areago. The traditional council consists of Areago, Jagun, Bara, Ikolaba, Abese, Balogun and Iyalode.
Other chieftaincy titles in Ogbomoso are the Baale of Ijeru, Baale of Isapa, Baale of Masifa, Baale of Pakiotan, Baale of Okelerin, Baale of Osupa and Aare Alasa.