The Oba of Lagos, His Royal Majesty, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA speaks on traditional practices in a metropolitan city like Lagos and his experience so far. Below is an excerpt from the interview:
The installation of a king is usually characterised by rituals and sacrifices. Do we also have such traditional practices even in Lagos, being such a metropolitan city?
An adage says what an elderly person uses to eat pap is hidden under the leaves of the pap (which implies that there are details that are not meant for public consumption). That is it, but you see this Iledi Osugbo, I have told the elders there that every January 1, let us make this thing open so people would know that there is no more human sacrifices to become the king. Some people would also say a new king is expected to eat the heart of the previous king, but it is a lie. But, there are certain things that we do here, including alms giving. Alms giving drives evil away from the giver. There are social changes in the world and we have to keep it that way. God has designed the position of the Oba to be the way it is. The politics had been there even before the British came. They were the ones who named Eko to be Lagos, meaning ‘Lagoon de Curamo’ that is ‘land near the water.’ And we still have the throne room in the old palace and some artistic works which are over 500 years old. Let us leave it that way.
Is it true that the seat of the Oba of Lagos took its root from Benin Empire?
The tradition of this house is partly Benin and partly Yoruba, because the first Oba of Lagos is a descendant of the Oba of Benin, and that is why when a new Oba is installed in Benin, there is a way we greet ourselves.
With Lagos being a metropolitan city, do we also have taboos here in spite of its elitist colouration?
There is nowhere there are no taboos, in Benin, Yoruba cultures. For instance, in this house (palace), if a child is born to me today, I will not see him or her and he or she will not enter this house (palace) until 90 days. And there are some drinks and food anybody with royal blood in this palace must not put in his mouth. That is why the Yoruba adage says the practice in one household is an abomination in another household.
Why can’t you see your child and what are the food and drinks that such persons from the royal lineage must not taste?
Just like I said, an adage says what an elderly person uses to eat pap is hidden under the leaves of the pap (which implies that there are certain details that cannot be made public).
Beyond the ones in the palace, what are the taboos that millions of Lagos residents should know?
When it comes to taboos, Yoruba would say whoever does what no one has ever tried would see what no one has ever seen. The normal taboos in Yoruba customs are many. Like it is in the Quran, all sins can be forgiven, except two. One is that anybody who deliberately kills another person cannot be forgiven and anybody who deliberately takes his mother to the holy mosque in Mecca, during the Ramadan fast, to go and have affair with her there, will not be forgiven. But, people should know their limits. Like the popular adage, a farmland cannot belong to father and son without having a boundary; they would know their boundaries. And that is why nobody can ill-treat anybody around me here. Anybody who feels he can come and do anything unjust in Lagos here should know that it will not work.