[OPINION] From pulpits to palaces

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By Olalekan Adetayo

Once upon a time, I was the State House correspondent of The PUNCH saddled with the responsibility of covering activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. I was posted to the villa in 2011 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. I also covered the early days of the Presidency of former President Muhammadu Buhari until the administration showed me the red card in April 2017.

Besides filing daily reports of activities in the seat of power, one other thing I was doing for many years was running a weekly column on behind-the-news events in the Villa. The popular column, Aso Rock Lens, ran smoothly for years until my eviction from the villa by the then Chief Security Officer to the President, Bashir Abubakar.

Many years after the Aso Rock lens was broken by the CSO’s action, I am back on the turf, a familiar terrain so to say, due to the benevolence of my ogas at the top.

While the lens was only focusing on the seat of power then, this time, my eyes are on almost everywhere and everyone. That makes it better and bigger.

Talking of beaming my searchlight on everywhere and everyone, it appears palaces of traditional rulers will soon be more known as crusade venues where miracles are performed than what they are hitherto known for as the seats of tradition where the gods reign and the kings are seen and referred to as their deputies.

The reason is not far-fetched. Lately, there have been increasing cases of pastors dropping their collars or cassocks for beads and crowns, leaving their pulpits and altars where they preach the gospel and serve Holy Communion to palaces where they perform traditional roles and rites. Those who have been preaching the heavenly kingdom where God sits on the throne are now occupying the thrones of their forefathers in their kingdoms here on earth.

The latest among the recent cases that readily come to mind is that of the new Soun of Ogbomoso in Oyo State, Oba Ghandi Laoye, Orumogege III. The traditional ruler was answering the call of God while serving as the pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Jesus House Parish, Washington DC, United States as of the time he heeded another call to lead his people who had remained without a leader since Oba Jimoh Oyewumi joined his ancestors on December 12, 2021.

Before the Soun of Ogbomoso, a pastor with the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, John Odogbo, had in December 2021 emerged as the paramount ruler of Idomaland in Benue State. He was installed the Och’Idoma in 2022.

Before those recent cases, there was the case of another pastor with the RCCG, Kehinde Olugbenle, who became the Olu of Ilaro in Ogun State. In Ekiti State, another pastor, Gabriel Adejuwon, was installed as the traditional ruler of Isan-Ekiti. Adejuwon has a co-traveller in Matthew Jegede, a pastor who also became the Alahan of Ahan Ayegunle in the same state.

The wave is blowing far and wide. At the last convention of the RCCG held at the Redemption City of God along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, traditional rulers did not only attend in their numbers, they also formed a choir group and presented special numbers praising and reverencing the King of Kings to the admiration of other worshippers. At the last monthly Holy Ghost Night programme of the same church, a traditional ruler who gladly introduced himself as “Oba (Assistant Pastor)” joined others who testified to the goodness of God during the testimony section of the all-night programme. He told the congregation, amidst shouts of halleluyah, how seven persons who opposed his ascension to the throne died in quick succession!

Public pronouncements such as this appear to be part of the factors gradually eroding the tradition that our forefathers held dearly. They have a way of putting a lie to those things that people revere in the traditional system. I have seen pictures of where kingmakers were reportedly installing the new Soun with two of them placing a big calabash above his head. My thought is that this and other rites are always done behind closed doors, leaving the non-initiates to only guess what could be going on inside.

I remember some years back when I was in secondary school in my hometown. Our traditional ruler joined his ancestors and as part of his rites of passage, the oro masqueraders were meant to embark on procession on the major streets during the day. Females are not allowed to see these masqueraders. Because of this and more, a curfew was declared in the town with schools and offices closing at midday.

I remember that when it was time for the Oro masqueraders to begin their procession, the streets became empty with residents, mostly women and children locked inside. As a young boy, I was interested in seeing the masqueraders and what they looked like that made it forbidden for females to see them. So, while all the females, including my grandmother, were indoors, I sat beside my uncle outside the house while the masqueraders were approaching.

As they were getting closer, I was getting more excited. The excitement was however short-lived. It ended when members of the cult’s advance team arrived at our house and one of them, after looking at me with my very small stature, addressed my uncle. “Birikila (bastardised way of pronouncing bricklayer), I know that your child is a boy but he is too young to see oro. Please ask him to go inside,” he said. My uncle turned to me and asked me to go inside. I complied reluctantly. Shortly after I retired inside to join the women, the oro procession passed by our house.

The disappointing thing about the story is that when I arrived at school the following day, I discovered painfully that some of my classmates who were bigger in stature were part of the oro procession that I was stopped from watching because of my small stature. These guys rubbed it on the faces of those of us who were not allowed to see them while giving graphic details of what transpired.

The wind that I said is blowing far and wide appears to be exposing the traditional rulers unnecessarily. When some monarchs were kidnapped sometime back, many people thought that traditional rulers of old were too fortified to suffer such a fate. They believe that many of the current generation of traditional rulers have lowered their guards. It was the same argument when some hoodlums seized the opportunity of the #EndSARS protest to invade and loot the palace of the Oba of Lagos. Many people argued that in the past, nobody would have dared carry out such activity believed to be a sacrilege without facing the consequences.

Things that have to do with tradition are gradually being jettisoned. Traditional rulers are coming out to rebuke traditionalists, tagging them as idol worshippers. Before now, there was the belief that the Ifa oracle picks whoever will become a traditional ruler. That has changed. A lot of factors now contribute.

The Alayede of Ayede Ogbese in Ondo State, Oba Ajibola Oluyede, who is also a pastor told Saturday PUNCH in April that kingmakers in his domain are encouraged to consult religious leaders, instead of Ifa, in picking traditional rulers. He said, “That next stage involves the kingmakers, who come together to consider the applications. Their job is to go and do whatever spiritual thing they do, that reveals to them whom God has chosen. In the old traditional system, they consulted Ifa, who then told them. But these days, because our family is Christian, we have jettisoned all the fetish, old system; now we encourage the kingmakers to consult with religious leaders, Christian leaders. That is what we encourage them to do, to seek spiritual advice and through that get to know the mind of God.”

Oluyede even indicated that he went through a “Christian coronation” devoid of traditional rites. He added, “As I told you, my father was a very strong Christian, even though Anglican. So, by the time he became a king — he was king for five years before he passed — he changed a lot of things. He appointed two of the three high chiefs and he appointed very young people who were Christians. So, things had already changed before my turn. So, there were no fetish processes. In any case, if there were, they would dare not bring them to me because they already know my stance. They knew that I was a pastor and there was no way I was going to participate in anything contrary to my belief in Jesus Christ.”

With the way the wind is blowing, a day may come when traditional rulers will be installed according to the religion they practise. By then, we may be seeing our obas being crowned in their churches with their General Overseers or bishops pouring anointing oil on their heads to replace the akoko leaves while those who are Muslims will be crowned in their mosques by a retinue of Chief Imams and Imams.

The day appears to be nearer than we think.

Culled from The Punch

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