Allure Cover: Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi – Championing Women’s Wellbeing
By Yemisi Suleiman
Since ascending the throne, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi has taken it upon himself, to ensure that western influence does not erode the tradition and culture of the Yoruba race.
Known for championing women’s course, through various projects, the Ooni is a strong advocae of the legacies of the legendary Queen Moremi Ajasoro of Ife, who sacrificed herself for the love of Ife.
Oba Ogunwusi continues to uphold the legacy of the queen mother through the Queen Moremi Ajasoro Initiative, to mentor young women to enable them to be great leaders of tomorrow.
As ‘Moremi,’ the Musicals return at the theatre this Easter, Oba Ogunwusi in this interview talks about his project, views on women in politics and more.
What is the Moremi Initiative all about, and what inspired it?
Well, Moremi was a woman of substance. A queen. A legend. A heroine that we cannot forget in the history of Yoruba people and the entire humankind.
She was an epitome of bravery, beauty and brain. She took it upon herself to liberate her people, using the power that God Almighty has given to women.
It happened many centuries ago, and her story is a very inspiring story, mainly to inspire the female folks because the society has already categorised them as the weaker sex and you rarely find them in leadership. But, for several thousands of years, they have been playing that leadership role. So, that has been the foundation of governance. The foundation of bravery and Leadership; as a result, we want to bring our story back to the fore and the memory of this current generation, for them to know that indeed women have been playing that leadership role for a long time.
So the essence of ‘Moremi The musical’ in the theatre is to refresh the memory of everybody, about the legendary Moremi activities.
In terms of leadership, to encourage women and let them know that truthfully they rule the world. ‘You have ordered the world before, you have played pivotal roles, and you shouldn’t be the weaker sex.’
So our objectives are basically to encourage women to aspire to leadership roles, not only as mothers but they can be leaders in the society, most notably the young girls growing up, it is vital for them to have a sense of place and pride. The story of Moremi is very synonymous to women in leadership, and how she liberated her people, she is indeed the goddess of liberty. And that has been what she epitomises all over the world.
Yorubas are up to 500,000,000 Five hundred million people all over the world. We have about 100 million Yorubas in Brazil, just one country. In Cuba, the Caribbeans, in the USA, all over the world, so put us together we are about half a billion. A very different race and God has blessed us with a lot of historical facts of who we are in our ancient history. We know that it all began from us. And with my position, I need to refresh the memory of our descendants and how to take it to another level.
‘Moremi..’ was in the theatre last December, and it is back this Easter. Why the return and what impact would you say it has had on viewers, particularly the youths?
A great one indeed; if you go to a lot of public and private schools, as part of their curriculum, they are acting the Moremi story now. If you go to some schools, they have named their hostel after Moremi, in memory of her related activities. I learnt a particular school acted the play recently. So taking it to the theatre is refreshing the mind of the children, in terms of our heritage our culture and our tradition. Thus we have achieved quite a lot
A lot of people are requesting for us to bring it back again because they couldn’t watch it during the December period, the period we brought it was concise. It is a costly venture because it is a theatre thing, so a lot of working hours go into putting it together. We do not have a choice, but we are compelled to bring it back, we want it to spread, and keep spreading, so that Moremi initiative, ”Moremi Musicals’ and theatre is evergreen. It can never go out of fashion.
So how long do you intend to take this awareness? Is it something you want to do every year, or it is just a one-off thing?
Like I told you, we had institutionalised Moremi. It can never die; it will live forever. The story of Moremi is not a yearly, or quarterly or biannual basis; it is forever. We have many initiatives off Moremi. We are going to have Moremi Women in Leadership Initiative, that is why we have been able to select women who can represent every initiative carefully. We will be hand picking female leaders potentially, and the ones that are there. We have a current living legend of Moremi, in the person of her Excellency, the wife of Ogun State Governor. She is the representative of the role Moremi played, and a very great and dynamic ambassador, Princess Ronke. Then going forward; we will be identifying a lot of women that are doing very well, exceptionally well, not only in Nigeria but also outside the shores of Nigeria. So it is not a yearly or monthly thing. It has a lot of initiatives; we want to encourage women to assign that position of authority and to also impact on the upcoming girl child, their role in society. So, we have different category of the Moremi story and initiatives that we are promoting. We are even coming up with a baby doll for Moremi, for the upcoming ones, between the ages of one to five years.
What is the significance of the doll?
It is for the young ones to know that we belong to the lineage of Queen’s and King’s; for them to appreciate that we have had something better than Cinderella, something better than things that are of western background. It is not all about Cinderella; we have stories that are much more powerful than Cinderella. So we need to let our race know that indeed so many good things have happened in the past.
Before now we never heard so much about the Queen Moremi legacy, till you ascended the throne. Why is there so much interest on your part?
It has been there; if you go to the University of Lagos, you will find Moremi Hall there. So many tertiary institutions, talk about Moremi in primary and secondary schools. We have a festival in Ife that we do; we had to rebrand it to go with time and space. So when I ascended the throne, it was part of what I said that I would blend tradition and modernity, for our people to know who we are and from where we are coming. So it is an effort, I just made a more concerted effort, because without Moremi there is nothing like the Yoruba race.
Talking about the role women play, what is your view about women in politics, do you think we have enough women in governance as it is?
In my opinion, we do not have enough women in politics. I champion women’s right a lot, because of the way they are. They are a very gentle creature; women are the best creature God’s hands have ever made. If you look at women deeply, you will understand the spirituality behind honouring them. They are much more reliable as a creature of God. If you know the strength of a woman, if you apply it in governance, you will excel. If you see the power of a woman, if you use it in your corporate organisation, you will shine. If you know the strength of a woman if you apply it into your home, you will excel.
Children are bound and naturally geared and tailored to their mothers than fathers. So my point is that they can convince children against their father, they can do anything. They have the strength to do and undo, but look at the right side of them. To me in Nigeria, women are not enough in politics; I feel if we have more women Nigeria would not be where we are now. We would have done much better. Take a look at all the great nations, past present and in the future; the main engine room has always been women. So I think we can do better.
You have several projects championing the course of women. Which of these projects is dear to your heart?
Everyone is dear, but Moremi is very dear to my heart. I have multiple projects, because in Ife we have festivals every year, out of every celebration that we do, it is only one day in a year that we don’t celebrate a festival.
So out of every celebration, I have been able to coin out some of our robust heritage, beliefs and values that will be impactful to the society. , therefore, our race is very blessed. It is the only race in the world that is very accommodating to every Abrahamic religion, Muslim, Christians, traditional believers, every other religion in Yoruba land, everything is neutral, and you can’t get it anywhere in the world. People wonder how we do it, that you will never see Muslims fighting Christians or traditional believers fighting with others. It is the potency of our heritage.
I don’t have a preference, but I give everyone extreme attention. I have so many initiatives of who we are as a race.
I am wondering if Kabeiyesi has time for himself because you run quite a busy schedule; attending to one or two projects and attending to your people, do you have time for yourself and how do you relax?
I don’t! It is the grace of God; I want it to be like that. We have so many things to do to correct things in our race, and we need to give back to the unborn children, for them to know who we are. It is a lot of work. So as I am working; I am trying to create time for myself. Thus as you are conducting this interview, maybe I am relaxing as well. So I am using that kind of view, initiative and notion to strategise.
Is there anything you don’t like about being Kabieiysi?
I have too many rules guiding me, and I cannot be a proponent of our heritage and culture and tradition and be breaking those rules. I have to follow it; they are many. Too many regulations, too many dos and don’ts, but I will instead stick to it because I have to practice what I preach. So that can be very stressful, it is stressful, but I thank God Almighty who is helping me to carry on. But it is a reasonable sacrifice for the entire heritage of ours, so be it,
What do you miss about fashion, for instance, not being able to wear the clothes you used to wear? Since you have to wear your traditional outfit. Do you miss them?
Well, I do miss them. I cannot wear those clothes anymore, so why will I not miss them. I have to be ever ready as a spiritual head of the Yoruba people, as a monarch, I have to be prepared. I should not be found wanting, that is one of the trade-offs, things I have to give away, but it is what it is. And, I pray that God continues to give me that strength to carry on.
So while growing up, what advice would you say you picked along the way that has helped you in your reign as a monarch?
Well, all glory, honour and adoration to my late mother of blessed memory. I have been very fortunate to be under their tutelage and my father, as well as my grandparents, as if they knew they placed so much strong emphasis on my thoughts, words actions and deeds; they put so much attention on my well being. So it has really helped me and growing up also, I don’t know why but I just started having kings as friends, and business partners. Honestly, I am just only attracted to them. And growing up I will have friends all of a sudden he will become a king, and I will just be wondering, not knowing that God has just been preparing me for a long time. It is a destiny call; it is very divine, that is one of the reasons why I decided to give up everything, the things I used to do that I can’t do any longer. So it is all joy.
In this age of so much ethnic rivalry, what is that one word of advice you have for the Yoruba race?
The advice I have for the Yoruba race is unity all the way. Unity, unity and unity; once we come together, no one can come between us. God has blessed our race so much, and I am working with the older kings. They have been there for a long time; I give them that honour, the Alafin of Oyo, the Oba of Lagos, so many other kings in Yoruba land; I give praise to whom recognition is due. I must work assiduously for all of us to be united, and God will help us.