I support my spouse on my knees
A former broadcaster, Olori Subuola Esther Oyediran is the wife of Oba Sunday Oladapo Oyediran, Lagbami Osekun III, Onpetu of Ijeru, Oyo State. In this interview with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE, she compares her role in the palace with that of the biblical Esther and shares her experience in the palace. Excerpts:
What were you doing before you became an olori?I worked with the media for years. I worked with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, (BCOS). I was also the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Oyo State Prilgriams Welfare Board (Christian Wing) before I retired to the palace.
Did you find any attraction in being an olori before you became one?What really attracted me was the lifestyle and role of an olori as it is in the bible. That’s the story of Esther in the book of Esther. She didn’t perceive the role as one to display frivolities, but she realised her purpose for being in that office and carried out the mission expected of her by God in the lives of her people, the Jews. She lived and worked in line with the vision God had for her and she succeeded through her spiritual endeavours. Though I never coveted the office of an olori, but I coveted all that happened to her. She stood in gap on behalf of the Jews and made herself available to be used by God. Esther was focused and never derailed nor let the splendour of her office get into her head. She made herself available to God to the end. Even in the midst of comfort, she denied herself of the splendour and pleasures of the palace. Instead, she fasted and prayed and got a positive result. Before now, by virtue of my career, I had come in contact with many oloris but never wanted to be one. Again, my belief was that every oba must belong to one cult or the other and I just couldn’t imagine myself being a part of this because I’m a born again Christian.
Has your perception changed?My perception of a king and life in the palace changed when I realised my husband is an evangelist. He would always say being a traditional ruler shouldn’t deter you from the Kingdom of God. Kabiyesi is a staunch Christian and has made the bible which is ever true, his guide. By the help of the Holy Spirit he seeks daily to live according to God’s standard, not compromising. And being the head of his domain, he knows he needs God because it’s only through Him he can have a peaceful and successful reign.
Now that you are in the same office which the biblical Esther held, do you find the role she played an easy task? I play out Esther’s role in a different context. I take care of my husband very well and support him with prayers on my knees. He definitely needs wisdom in handling his home and his people. When he’s happy in the home it reflects on his activities and the way he carries out his duties to his people. He needs God’s guidance in taking decisions which will improve the lot of his people and make them happy. I will state that interceding on his behalf is my first duty.
In your early days in the palace what were the practices you found new or strange?That’s the practice of old people bowing or kneeling down to greet me. Normally the reverse is the case in Yorubaland, so I found it odd. And because the normal practice is that the younger person would bow or kneel to greet the older, I was doing this in my early days as a queen. I was made to understand that my office as an olori accords me such respect from the people. They pay me obeisance. Since it’s the tradition, I had to take my place, but again, with respect.
Can you tell us the dos and don’ts of your office?I great my husband on my knees, serve his food on my knees, it is part of the culture. I address him as kabiyesi, either I’m alone with him or in the presence of others. There are places I can go no more. I can’t attend just any party. While working in the media, I interacted a lot because my job demanded it. But now my outing is limited. I must confess that I miss my radio programmes. When I was still into broadcasting I wear skirt and trouser suits, but these days it is much of traditional wears, iro and buba and casuals when in the palace. You can’t see me putting on trouser any more, while my hands beads are a must. I have the neck beads on only on important occasions.
Are you at every meeting with kabiyesi?It’s not everywhere he goes that I follow. I don’t attend traditional meetings with him. He holds this with the chiefs. I’m in my office - that is looking over the affairs of the palace or being with the children or in my room when he is discussing with his chiefs. And if I’m to be part of the meeting, he calls me. He takes decisions mostly with the chiefs.
What contributions have you made at seeing to the progress of your domain?Whatever kabiyesi does I do. I can’t do anything without his support while he can do all things with my support.
The embrace of civilisation has changed traditions and cultures in many towns. What has it changed in your domain?As Christians we have done away with traditional religious practices, but then there are some traditions which should be preserved and these we have kept and have not allowed them to be adulterated, so far as they are not adulatory.
Does being an olori stop you from working?I still work. I run a photo laboratory outfit and have a manager overseeing things for me.
With much responsibility placed on your spouse, how do you get his attention?We have our different codes of communicating. When it’s necessary to have his attention or discuss issues that have to do with us, we have a way of passing the message across to each other. The one receiving the message definitely understands what the other is saying.
Do you still do the shopping for your family?I sometimes do. There are times you just want to be yourself.
It’s Easter time, how do you make it special and distinct from the ordinary day?We have ministrations slated for this period. There’s also going to be a women’s retreat. But after these we are going to relax and celebrate it with our people. The special food is iyan and soup made with eran igbe (bush meat). In Ijeru, iyan is our light breakfast.
You are kabiyesi’s only wife. Don’t you envisage his taking another wife?I’m the only wife in the palace and I’m enjoying it. Talking about another wife, kabiyesi is a man of God, so he would not do such a thing. We are happy and enjoy each other’s company.
What do you do to keep your dark skin glowing?I use shea butter.