ALL HAIL AFOLABI OLAOYE: New Soun Of Ogbomosoland

  • Prof. Jide Osuntokun

The news of the choice of Pastor Afolabi Olaoye, widely known as ‘Pastor Ghandi’, as the new Soun of Ogbomoso came as a pleasant surprise to me, but apparently not as a surprise to the new king himself and those who know the history of Ogbomoso. The new Soun apparently was told of the efforts of his prominent father, Prince Samuel Oladunni Olaoye, to be the Soun of Ogbomoso in 1940. Unfortunately, Prince Oladunni Olaoye could not realize his dream.

Prince Olaoye, as his father was known, was a civil servant who retired as a Director in the Western Region’s Ministry of Works and Housing in 1969. He was a tall and personable man with much presence wherever he was. Prince Olaoye was pivotal in rallying the Ogbomoso community in Ibadan in taking the body of the assassinated Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Ladoke Akintola his close friend home to Ogbomoso for a befitting burial after the coup d’état of January 15, 1966.

The new Soun has now realized his father’s dream. Prince Oladunni Olaoye had wanted to be king in 1940. He was passed over, even though he was the popular choice, because he was the grandson and not the son of the reigning monarch as tradition required at that time. That tradition was subsequently changed such that the grandson or great-grandson of the monarch could aspire to the throne.


It is not clear whether Prince Oladunni saw his son rising to the prominence of becoming the Soun of Ogbomosho, or if the soothsayers predicted that this would happen, as was customary in royal families in Yorubaland. I know this happened in the family of the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III such that his father let all his royal household of the time know that his son was bound for the throne. The last Soun, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III was protected from dynastic intrigues by his father who knew his son was a future king out of the multitude of children in the palace, and quickly ensured that the young prince did not grow up within the palace walls.

The new Soun grew up as a privileged son in the home of an educated father, a Baptist Christian, as most of the educated elite of the town were. He had the best education going to the University of Ife, graduating in English and Literary Studies and then getting a Masters of Science degree in Labour Relations and Management Science at the University of Ibadan. He has been involved in consulting in a wide variety of areas including management, investment and other areas within the American and African Business Environments.

He is also privileged to be following in the footsteps of his royal uncle, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, a thoroughly modern king and a liberal Muslim who told me that his credo was that religion was a personal calling. He said he insisted that a child could choose one of the universal religions of Islam or Christianity. Indeed, his children were allowed to embrace either of the religions while he remained a practising Muslim to the end.

The new Soun is taking over the baton from Oba Oyewumi, a modern monarch and a visionary. Interestingly, whether by accident or by design, the new Soun is close to Prince Oyewole Oyewumi, one of the children of the late Oba Oyewumi Ajagungbade III. This is a veritable example of the absence of rivalry amongst the princes of the town. This is important for amity and cooperation, which is necessary for peace and development of the town. The new Soun is well endowed with savoir-faire. This is necessary in this day and age for what is needed to make a Kingdom move forward. Ogbomosho seems to have the tradition or penchant of choosing highly exposed candidates for the throne as happened to the father of Soun Oyewumi who was well known In colonial French west Africa as a business man and of course the just departed Oba Oyewumi who made his fortune in the new plateau state and now the new Soun who knows quite a lot about the world.
Ogbomoso is a very important Kingdom in Yorubaland, sharing borders with Ilorin Emirate, a Yoruba Kingdom now under Fulani rule against which the remnant of the Oyo Empire, particularly Ibadan the successor, fought wars in the 19th century. Ogbomoso has produced three Are Ona Kakanfo (Generalissimo) of Yorubaland, the last of which was Chief Ladoke Akintola.

In other words the position of Ogbomoso was considered pivotal in the history of Yorubaland. Happily, Ogbomoso’s relations with Ilorin and the entire Northern Nigeria remains peaceful due to the friendship of the last Soun who built his wide ranging businesses with the North and the Emir of Ilorin was a regular visitor to the Soun’s Palace when Oba Oyewumi was on the throne.

The new Soun should continue the traditional visit with his neighbors in Ilorin and even Bida in Nupe land. The various military regimes regularly consulted and considered the Soun‘s views on policies that affected Nigeria. This was because many sons of Ogbomoso distinguished themselves in government, especially the security and military forces of Nigeria. It is noteworthy that Ogbomoso, with about a million people, is the second largest town in Oyo State.

I got to know the new king by accident precisely in 1992 when I was Nigeria’s ambassador to the federal republic of Germany. He was a young man who was posted to the Redeemed Christian church of God (RCCG) ”Living Waters” parish founded by my late wife, Pastor Abiodun Osuntokun . The posting of the young pastor Folabi Laoye was meant to relieve my wife from the arduous work of being a Wife of an ambassador and also taking care of social activities as demanded by her position and then doing the 24 hour job of a minister of God. The young pastor was like a younger brother or nephew of mine. He and my nephew ,Bankole were like twins in their social escapades before God called him. Pastor Ghandi as he is generally known worked closely with my wife for one year without much friction despite different doctrinal approaches to the work of God . I met Omo his young wife of Bini parentage who grew up in Yorubaland. They were both our guests for considerable period in Germany .The young pastor, I could see, was really a man of faith whose loyalty to the church and the awesome power of God was not diminished by the fact that it took quite a while after marriage before his wife had children. His exposure to foreign Christian congregation began in Germany but got to fruition in the United States where his talents were doubled by the grace of God.

He ministered to the ordinary and the important people in the society and by the turn of the last century his fame as a successful African pastor in the United States was so high that in 1999 he was a guest of the New Democratically elected president Olusegun Obasanjo during his swearing in as head of state. I can say without being immodest that I was present at the beginning of his missionary journey.

His mission as Soun of Ogbomoso, according to his statement is to be a shepherd to everyone in the town, Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists. I pray he does this successfully. The late Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Adeyemi shared with me his own way of dealing with his subjects of different faiths. This was when he conferred the title of BAAPITAN OF OYO on me. I told him I was a Christian. He said he knew that and that he himself went to Saint Gregory‘s college a Catholic secondary school in Lagos while he lived with chief Hezekiah Olawale Davies the great nationalist lawyer who was prominent in the struggle for African independence in Nigeria and Kenya. The chief was a practicing Catholic Christian. The Alaafin who knew the “sermon on the mount “by heart said he would follow me to the church to celebrate the title he was giving me if that was my wish. He said, as Alaafin he was the custodian of the Sango worshippers but as a practicing Muslim who at a time was Amir-ul-hajj for all Nigerians going on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and Meddinah he could not be seen as traditional believer but he had a priest of Sango who did the needful on his behalf and everyone in his kingdom was happy. The point I am making is that new Soun must appoint those needed to minister to the variety of faiths available in his kingdom and with that in place he will have peace of mind and time to worship his own God the way he is used to. The task ahead is how to use his considerable influence and contact to bring development to Ogbomosho and build on the legacies of his immediate predecessor in office. Peace is a necessary condition for development. He must always remember that Ogbomoso can be very volatile as religion and injustice are two issues that can easily be exploited by social and political malcontents to precipitate chaos. I have no doubt that that the new Soun would be just and fair to all the people at all times because he would not need any material benefits from his position as the ruler of the town. He should not allow himself to be pushed into rivalry with the Olugbon, Aresa, Onikoyi and other Obas in his territorial domain or even with the new Alaafin when he is chosen and crowned. He should visit the new Alaafin when he is appointed and begin an era of peace with Oyo, something that was missing previously. He should also be friends with the Olubadan who shares with Ogbomoso the fact that unlike other Yoruba Obas and just like the Soun, the traditions in Ibadan are not buried in mysticism and obscurity. I celebrate with the Ogbomoso people with whom I am very familiar having written books on Chief Ladoke Akintola and Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III, whose son Oyewole is married to my niece Ajibike, and I consider myself involved in the welfare of the Ogbomosho kingdom.

May the new Soun’s time be peaceful and prosperous and may Ogbomoso witness peace and tremendous development during the reign of Soun Afolabi Oluseyi Olaoye.

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