Apomuland in Osun State now has a new king. He is Oba Kayode Adenekan Afolabi (Atoyebi II). The handsome ex-Banker became the new Alapomu last month and he has settled in since then to run this historic town which is located within the Isokan Local Government near Ile-Ife in Osun State. He is married to a seasoned Journalist and Publisher of SCROLL, Oloori Janet Mba-Afolabi.
Both have been happily married for decades and blessed with lovely kids. Last week, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and SUNDAY ADIGUN, spent quality time with Kabiyesi and his Oloori when they visited Lagos. He spoke about how he left his thriving business to become the 14th Alapomu of Apomuland.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
Kabiyesi, let me start by congratulating you on your ascendance into the throne. Can you tell us about how you felt when you took up the mantle of leadership in Apomu?
Thank you. I feel great. I was so happy. There is no prince that will tell you that he has never wished to become king one day. The fact that you are a prince, you are qualified to be on the throne, only that it’s by rotation or turn by turn. For me getting to the throne, I was so happy and I’m grateful to my God. It’s divine favour. Many are called but few are chosen. There are many princes but the favour of God made it possible. It is not an easy journey in Yorubaland for you to compete for the throne. I’ve never seen any throne in Yorubaland that you don’t have contestants because it’s an ancestral position and it also has a spiritual connotation. Even people that naturally don’t stand any chance will also show interest because it’s their birthright, the job is left for the kingmakers and the people of the town to select and pick the most suitable. So, I thank God that I was selected and the government ratified the selection and eventually I was announced as the king. So, it was my happiest moment in life and I’m grateful to God. Since I’ve been favoured by God almighty, my duty now is to dedicate the rest of my life to service to humanity.
Are there major things that you want to do as theirKabiyesi?
Much is expected of me, may be because of my background, my exposure, the type of friends I keep and the standard that I’ve set for myself. I see my position as giving back to my community. No 1, I want to help the poor. I want to help the elderly, those that are weak; the vulnerable people. I want to make sure that those that are brilliant that want to be in school but due to lack of fund. I want to make sure I start a foundation that will cater for them, and the elderly that has been neglected in our society, I want to gather them together, take care of their needs, feeding, clothing, health and some other things that will be better and fulfilling for them. By the grace of God, with the help of my friends, people of like minds and dignitaries of my town, they will rally round me and give me necessary support. The essence of Kingship or being a ruler is to improve the quality of life of the people under you. More or less you are chosen by God to give succour to those that are carrying a burden, and that’s actually what is in my mind. I will give scholarship, I will help pay WAEC, Jamb etc. They believe that I have the capacity. They believe that I have the reach to make a difference in their life. We have so many problems. We have an infrastructural deficit, bad road, lack of potable water, open defecation and so many other things that we must tackle. I’ve gone around the town. I have identified those areas. By the time we are now ready, we will commence work. So, it’s a call to duty.
Can you tell us about the significance of Apomu?
Apomu is an ancient town. It’s an important town in Yorubaland. Yoruba history is not complete without the mentioning of Apomu. Apomu is as old as Oyo empire. Apomu is the only commercial town in Oyo Empire. If I want to compare it I would say it’s like what Lagos is to Nigeria. Apomu is where people of all ethnicity come to trade, the Ijebus, the Ijeshas, the Oyos and Ile-Ife. I’m sure you must have heard about the descendant “IloyaOnibodeApomu”and”Eke dayeaasad’apomu” What they were referring to as Aasa is gunpowder. In those days, there were few towns in Yorubaland. After Ife the next settlement you will see is Owu. They called it Owu Ipole. After Owu Ipole is Apomu. After Apomu, you have the Ijebus. I won’t mention other towns. But those were the towns on ground as at that period in time. The Ijebus, because of their closeness to the sea, they interacted with the white people, they are the first contact with the white people, so they were trading slaves for whatever they bring like Gunpowder, weapon, mirror and some others. So, they will bring it to Apomu market. When they bring it to Apomu market, they will exchange it for slaves, and bring the slaves to the sea for the white men. All major military power in those days, they like to control Apomu market, not because of any other thing but for the market been lucrative. When you control the market, it’s like you control the resources. The Owus are also interested in Apomu market. Meanwhile, the origin of Apomu is from Ile-Ife. We are Ife. At that point in time, that made us vulnerable. Any power that want to attack Ife they will first attack Apomu, to feel the reaction of Ife. My forefather came from Ife. He actually contested for the stool of Ooni of Ife, but he lost. He didn’t have the intention of settling down somewhere. What he did was just to leave the town for a while, maybe after the demise of the person, he contested with he would go back and re-contest again. So, he got to the place called Apomu now.
He was there for sometimes then he killed an elephant. He thought killing the elephant was a big feat, then he returned back to Ife to inform the people of Ife but unfortunately, they rejected him. They said somebody that contested and lost because he was not voted. They said he was looking for a way to deceive them out of the city and kill them, so they refused to follow him to the site where he killed the elephant. But as the saying goes “blood is thicker than water. He had 2 siblings; Olaremilekun and Atoyebi, 2 of them were his younger brothers and they followed him to Apomu. By the time they got to Apomu, they waited for a while then the man, Olarode died and the 2 brothers could not go back again. Olaremilekun took over from him as Baale of Apomu. After Olaremilekun’s demise Atoyebi took over, he was Atoyebi I. I took after him. My title is Atoyebi II. I’m the 14th of Alapomu of Apomu.
Ooni Ife and I are from the same father. My great uncle has also ruled in Ife as Ooni. He was 40th Ooni. He reigned between 1823 and 1835. He’s called Oonigbegba Aje. This is the connection I have with Ife and the present Ojaja. We are from the same father. That is why he was at my coronation. Then Alaafin is a father figure to me. He’s an embodiment of Yoruba history. He knows a lot, and he really tutored me on what I need to know about our history. Apomu was the only market in the whole of Yorubaland and during the time of old Oyo Empire until after so many centuries and there was crisis and Ijebu were fed up coming to Apomu to trade and they now established Ejirin market in Epe. It was the Ijebu that established the market because of the crisis because by then Oyo has lost his eminence position in Yorubaland and we started having military power in Yorubaland. Many people don’t know much about Apomu until now and the reason is because in modern time the personality of the ruler of the town determines how the town is perceived and known everywhere. I think it’s time for Apomu to gain all its lost glory.
Kabiyesi, I would like you to tell us what you were doing before you became the king and how easy was it to let go of your normal life before you took up the Obaship?
It was not that smooth, but whatever God had ordained will definitely come to pass. To be honest with you, I never believed I will get to where I am now. All through my life, all that have become was what I’ve ever needed; I’m talking about 10, 15 years to this time. I’ve been friends to prominent Obas in Yorubaland. I’ve been very close to them. It was like a training ground for me. I’m close to Olofa. I’m close to Elegushi, I’m close to Ooni of Ife. I’ve been close to Alaafin Oyo even before I ascended the throne and they have been instrumental to what I became. But before I got to the throne, I read banking and finance in school. I had my share of working in the bank, a commercial bank. I left banking industry in 1999, moved to London. I was in London for 10 years. When I was in London my mind was always at home. It always echoed in my head that “Oriade o ki n sun ita” and more so I didn’t go with my family. Then, my wife was working with Insider Magazine, later I advised her to start publishing based on her professional experience with several media houses and I joined her. I bought every necessary printing equipment, machine needed for her production and I was assisting her. I told her I’ve solved 85% of her problem, you just write your story and bring all your production to me. That was how I started printing business in Shomolu until my members of staff started frustrating me with their dubious act and I contracted the business to someone to manage for me so I can face another business. I also went into farming with a friend. We planted cashew, since cashew gestation period is 3 to 5 years, I added cassava, maize and some other things into it, so everything was going on fine until 2014 when my predecessor died and I went home. I never saw myself succeeding him. I never thought it’s possible because we are related. He was my uncle and I never thought I could succeed him. So I went home for his burial and on getting home people started saying “Kabiyesi de, Kabiyesi ti de” I was like, Kabiyesi in what sense, how can you refer to me as Kabiyesi when the late king was my uncle? 2 elders there now called me aside and said I’m taking over from my predecessor. I still questioned them asking how possible could that be, we bear the same surname, and more so there are other ruling houses. One of the elders now said to me that I came out from 2 ruling houses.
My late uncle used one and the other one is still vacant, that I can make use of it if I want to. They said I was the best candidate for the throne, just for me to show interest. I told them no problem, but within me I was thinking probably they want to turn it to politics and turn me to their ATM, so I disconnected myself from them. When they call me I will not pick their call. Then at a point I started having all manner of dreams, strange dreams and all the things I’ve gone through right from my childhood started playing up in that dream. Then, the late king appeared to me and challenged me that the throne is vacant for me and I refused to take up the mantle. He said the throne is for me and he won’t depart completely until I ascend the throne. My father, my grandfather also appeared to me, saying the same thing but my mind wasn’t there because of what I was going through then. But lo and behold everything started working for me, doors started opening. People started making approaches towards me. The kingmakers, People from my family, people from the town, elders started approaching me. Meanwhile, there was a time I went to Asiwaju of my town to tell him what people have been asking me to do, and to seek his advice, but he bluntly said it’s not possible and I quarrelled with him for a year because he didn’t even give me chance to even express myself.
We quarrelled for a year until he called me back that he knew I was quarrelling with him because of what he said to me, but he said it wasn’t his fault, that he was acting based on what he heard that my predecessor had said that the throne should be given to his son or his nephew which was very wrong. But I had to present the document to him signed by Dauda Adegbenro. He was the Minister for Local Government and chieftaincy as at 1957. Because originally, we had 3 ruling houses but in 1957 it was increased to 5 ruling houses. My own ruling house, Atoyebi was increased to 2 ruling houses. After we spoke, he was convinced and gave his consent and that was it. There were other contestants too, but I thank God I’m favoured. I know putting me there is for a purpose and I thank God for that.