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Why we don’t whistle in the palace – Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti

His Royal Majesty, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi, the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, is the Chairman, Ekiti Council of Traditional Rulers. He worked at the Ministry of…

His Royal Majesty, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi, the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, is the Chairman, Ekiti Council of Traditional Rulers. He worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1986 to 2011 before he became the Alawe.


What significant role Ilawe plays in the history of Ekiti State and Yoruba land?

Ilawe is a very significant town, not only in Ekiti State but also in Yoruba land. It is the third most populous community in the then old Ondo State.  We have  produced intellectuals, professors,  medical practitioners, erudite lawyers, at least we have three Senior Advocate of Nigeria, like Barrister Femi Falana, Dele  Adesina, Olu Daramola, Professor Ifedayo Akomolede and Late Bishop Gabriel Oloniyo of the Anglican Communion, the current Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese and Bishop  Felix Femi Ajakaye among others. The town is generally blessed. There is no way you can write the history of Yoruba land without putting Ilawe-Ekiti in a prime place. It was established in the late 12th Century by Oniwe Oriade, the son of Adegunle and Grandson of Obalufon Ogbogbodirin.  Obalufon Ogbogbodirin was the fourth Ooni of Ife, the Grandfather of Oniwe Oriade and we were actually living in Ilode in Ile-Ife and when it was time for him to establish his kingdom, the grandfather the then reigning Ooni provided him with the paraphernalia  of office for him to establish his own Kingdom.  He was highly reputed and noted for dexterity and capacity to swim. In fact, that was how his name came into being [somebody who likes to swim]. Oniwe Oriade. He was the first traditional ruler to reign in Ilawe-Ekiti. So, there is no way you can write the history of Yoruba land and you would not include Ilawe.  In fact, if you check the list of obas in Yorubaland authorised to wear beaded crown, released by Ooni Olubuse I in 1902, Alawe was listed as number 46 out if the entitled 54 obas. The list was confirmed by Ooni Adesoji Aderemi in 1931.

How did you receive your appointment as the Oba of Ilawe-Ekiti?

Well, every prince has the chance of becoming an Oba. Being an Oba was never part of my life ambition. I never wanted to be one.  In fact, during the course of my sojourn in the Foreign Service when I wanted to build a house, I had to build it at the outskirt of the town so that eyes would not be on me. However, the more you run away from destiny, the more you run into it.  In 2011, when I was to go on foreign posting to South Africa, where  I was actually serving as  Head of the Economic Desk at the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria, when my predecessor passed on in June 2011, I received his passing on with great trepidation, I became apprehensive of the possibility of being chosen as the successor. What I did was to stay away from home to prevent being considered for the throne. I therefore remained in South Africa. Despite this, I was amongst the 16 candidates forwarded to the kingmakers for consideration for the throne. To my greatest astonishment, I was unanimously chosen to be the next monarch by all the seven kingmakers on October 6, 2011.  My appointment was therefore divine. It was a great burden on me. I found it extremely difficult to turn it down because it would go down in history that when you were chosen as an Oba you disappointed the community and it has the tendency of affecting my lineage within the royal family.

What are the taboos you have around here in Ilawe-Ekiti?

We have some taboos that we observe in Ilawe and most of them are better kept secret. I will however reveal some. As we are here in the palace, you can’t whistle because it is believed that if you whistle, the spirits could come out. It is like calling all the spirits for an assignment, so we don’t whistle in the palace and there are some foods that the monarch must not eat, which I don’t eat.

It’s a taboo to start roasting yam on the street and as a hunter if you go into the forest and you are able to kill any of these animals, you are not supposed to sell them without dismembering them.  It is a taboo for you to go to Oba’s market with your hair uncovered as a woman.

As chairman of Ekiti traditional council, how has it been?

Well, I thank God by the honour done me by Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi for making me the Chairman of Ekiti Council of Obas and I want to thank my colleague Obas for the support I have been enjoying from them. I am six months as the chairman of the council. This is a tenure that will last for two years. It’s been full of ups and downs but by and large I have enjoyed the support of the bulk of our Kabiyesis in Ekiti. We have about 132 Oba’s in the state. Our mission is to move the state forward to continue to dignify and respect the traditional institution and work harmoniously. During the first anniversary of the 2nd term of Governor Fayemi, we were able to lay the foundation of Obas Chambers and secretariat marking the first time we would be having such a development.

What have been the challenges since your emergence as the Oba?

There has not been any unusual challenge.  We have been working together in the community. As an Oba you need to have an open mind and be very receptive. When there are areas of disagreement you have to let them know, make them to understand your reasoning. As an Oba, you need to carry everybody along and that is what I have been doing, not reigning in an autocratic manner.  If there is any issue that is of great concern to the people, I get everybody involved in a round table discussion to postulate solutions.

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