The Royal Ambassador of the Kingdom of Oyo, Aare Ayandotun Ayanlakin, tells EYE EMMANUEL about his childhood, family and career
What are your roles as the royal ambassador to the kingdom of Oyo?
I have gained a lot in that position. Meeting the (late) Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, was a great thing for me. I worked hard for him and portrayed him well in front of the public.
How long have you been the royal ambassador?
I have been a royal ambassador for about 30 years, since 1992.
What are the duties that you dispense as a royal ambassador?
My duty is to propagate Alaafin with good light everywhere, talk about Yoruba people and promote Yoruba culture.
How do you carry out these duties?
I go to social gatherings and meet people. When they ask me about the Oyo empire, I explain everything about the Oyo empire.
Is it a full time job and do you get paid?
I have other things that I do, but I spend most of my time promoting Oyo’s Alaafin. I have registered companies with which I do different business.
Having worked with the late Oba Adeyemi for years before he passed away, how would you describe him?
The man is still the best man I have ever worked with. He was a good man. He liked the Yoruba kingdom; he liked people and he liked me. He hated telling lies. If you told him lies, the Alaafin would absolutely hate you. He was a good man.
He was a king who put the interests of others first. If you told the Alaafin that you were broke or had nothing, he would pay you off with a lot of money. He paid part of my children’s school fees. When I had my children in the United States, Alaafin gave me money.
How did you become a royal ambassador to the kingdom of Oyo?
As a member of the Island Club, the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, saw that he promoted the club well and felt that if he worked with him, it would also promote him. My grandfather was an Aare Ayan from the Oyo empire. So, Alaafin looked at my grandfather’s records and decided that he would replace my grandfather with me.
What does aare mean?
Aare means president. It is used to describe a headline. My title is Aare Oba. I am the royal ambassador.
What is your rank in the royal cabinet of the kingdom of Oyo?
The royal ambassador is a very important position. He represented the king everywhere. I go where he sends me.
At what point did the Alaafin install you?
He did not install me at the beginning of his reign. I was one of the guys who played drums for him when he settled in as Alaafin. He was still a student at Oroyan Grammar School, Oyo when he began his reign.
How old were you then?
I was around 19 or 20 years old more or less.
It has been months since Oba Lamidi Adeyemi passed away but there is no successor. What is the latest in this regard?
Well, for that question the Oyomesi will decide. I can’t say anything about that. The Oyomesi is the king maker and he decides that. I’m too young to get involved in that. Don’t get me in trouble. (laughs)
Tell us about the type of education you received?
I had my primary education in Shomolu, Lagos. When I left there, I attended Oroyan Primary School, Oyo, and after that, I enrolled in Origbo Community Secondary School, Ipetumodu, in Ife, Osun State. Later, I started the Ewi Exponent. When I did that, I was around and luckily I met Chief Akinloye, who was based in London for him. I worked with him briefly, after which I started bringing African records to London to sell. Then I waxed a record.
Do you also make music?
Yeah. After that I started shipping records to London and started building myself. I formed a company, Ayanlakin Farms Ltd. I have also formed other companies. As I was taking records to London to sell, God blessed me and brought me to where I am today. I recorded my first album with Olumo Records Company, then I moved with Dele Abiodun. From there, God raised me up. Later I went into the import and export business.
What is the highest level of education you attained?
I have a ‘school certificate’ (a certificate of secondary studies). I don’t have more than that.
What religion do you practice?
Christendom. I am Anglican. I was born an Anglican.
As a royal ambassador, how do you reconcile the practice of your religion as a Christian and the traditional practice of worshiping the Ifa deity as your position will require?
Look, my great-grandfather was a herbalist, so I know Ifa very well. They called me Ifabiyi. I also stayed with my father’s younger brother who is an Ifa priest, so I learned about Ifa from him.
Are there no contradictions between the two beliefs?
There are contradictions but not many.
How are you able to handle both together?
Well, I go to church and when it’s Ifa time too, I go. I practice both.
How did you meet your wife?
It is a long story. My mother built a house in Bariga, Ilaje. I was on my way home that same day when I decided to visit a photographer’s place very close to my mother’s house. The photographer’s name was Ade. I stopped by his studio to take a passport photo, then I saw a lady. When I approached her and asked her where she came from, she told me that she was from Fiditi, which is the same local government area that I am from in Oyo State. I introduced myself and described our house in Fiditi. I described my mother and told her that I am her second child. She smiled and we started talking. She asked her when she could visit me and she told me that she would make time to come. The following week, she visited. At that time, she was living with her sister. She visited on her way to work in the morning. She just stopped by to see me. One of those days I told my mom about her and she asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said she did and that’s how we started.
What year was that?
That was in 1972. After we got married, we waited 25 years before having our first child. After trying for a while and without having a child, we went to the United States of America where we met my younger brother who lives there. So, my brother took us to a hospital. When the doctor tested us, he said that my sperm was very good and said that we should hope to have a child. I tried everything I could before going to the United States.
Was it a form of assisted fertilization that you did in the United States?
Yes. We had in vitro fertilization. The doctor was a very good gynecologist.
How was the waiting experience for you?
Well, I believed in God that one day he would give me children. I didn’t have a girlfriend. I was left alone with my wife.
What about your wife, how did she manage?
Ok I try. Her reaction was the same as mine. I had money at the time, and I spent about $250,000 to have a child in the United States. With God’s help, we made it. God helped me. We had a set of twins, a boy and a girl, and they are US citizens.
You spent $250,000. Was that the cost of IVF in the US at the time?
That is an estimate of the total cost. It included travel expenses and everything I spent at the time.
How old are your twins now?
They are 24 years old.
What has the experience of raising your children been like after waiting so long to have them?
I take care of my sons. I don’t joke with them. You know they were born in America. They are American citizens. They are good children. I don’t joke with them. I have even built a house for them.
How did it feel to have to start raising your children 25 years later, when most of your contemporaries had finished childbirth and had adult children?
Well, I leave it to God. It is God’s work and I leave it to Him. There was nothing I could do.
How did your mother receive the news of the birth of your children when they arrived?
He was surprised when he heard that my wife had twins. She was very happy.
You followed Alaafin’s lead but did not follow his path of polygamy. Because?
Baba married many wives. If I had wanted to venture into polygamy, he would have done so a long time ago. I could have done it when my wife was looking for children about 25 years ago, but she just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t just like it. Although my father had two wives, this was based on one condition. I didn’t want to practice that.
How old are you?
I am over 70 years old.
Do you have brothers?
Yes, I have four siblings and they all live in the United States of America. We come from the same mother but not from the same father.
Aside from being the royal ambassador, what else is he known for?
I am a socialite. I am a member of the Yoruba Tennis Club. I am also a member of the Island Club. I am a member of the Lagos Tennis Club and the Ikeja Golf Club and have been a member of these clubs for so many years.
Do you have hopes that the next Alaafin will adopt you as a royal ambassador?
The office of royal ambassador is for life. It is until he dies. It is not something that is inherited. Once the Alaafin installs one, the next Alaafin automatically adopts it. So when the next Alaafin comes around, that will still be my position.
To what extent would you describe Alaafin’s influence on Yoruba land?
Alaafin has influence over anything in Yoruba land. He influences the kings and the governor and is the best king we have so far in Yoruba land. The Alaafin position is the highest position in Yoruba land. Anyone who becomes Alaafin believes that he is our father.
How does Alaafin compare to the other first class kings in Yoruba land?
Well, I don’t want to commit myself to saying anything but what I want to say is that Alaafin is the first on Yoruba land. No one is superior to Alaafin in Yoruba land. No king can say that he is superior to Alaafin in Yoruba land.
What is your best childhood memory?
Hmm, I have a childhood memory that I can’t forget. When I was very young, my mother sold dried fish in Shomolu. She was a dried fish merchant. I followed her to the market to sell dried fish. Sometimes she would give me some to falcon and sell. That’s something I can’t forget.
Do you have any regrets so far in life?
I have no regrets. I have a lot of experience in life but I don’t regret it. Let’s leave it that way.
How you relax?
The way I love to relax is to sit at home and play music, then read the newspapers.
What is your favorite food?
Amala and gbegiri; that is the delicacy of Oyo.
What do you think of the 2023 general elections?
My opinion is that the best candidate we have is Bola Tinubu.
Why are you convinced that you are the best candidate?
I know that he is a hardworking man and when he was governor of Lagos he did very well. Other than that, Tinubu and I are members of the Island Club. So, I am supporting it because it will help the poor masses a lot. He is a man of his word. When he says something, he does it. I met Tinubu through Alaafin and he is a very good man. I will call all Yoruba and Nigeria in general to massively vote for Tinubu. He will surprise Nigerians and everyone. All the problems of shortage of funds will be solved. He did a very good job as the former Governor of Lagos State.