The regent of Irokun land in the Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, Princess Adeyinka Abejoye, tells our media personnel the circumstances surrounding her ascension to the throne and how leadership has changed her
As the daughter of a king, were you groomed to become a regent?
My childhood experience was fun. I lived all my life with my dad. My father was a teacher who retired as a vice principal. My father had two wives; my mother was the first wife. I have many siblings. I am the eldest among 13 children. I was not groomed to become a regent. I would say that God made it possible. If a prophet had told me that I would be a regent this year (2023), I would have doubted it.
The late Kabiyesi, who was my father, had been in the struggle for 19 years, from when I was still in primary school, to become a king. It came to pass last year in November (2022). The late Kabiyesi was one of the kings recently installed by the Ondo State government because our kingdom has been without a king for so many years.
When did he pass away?
His coronation was on November 17, 2022, but unfortunately, we lost him on November 20 of that same month. After his demise, we got a call that one of his children must be a regent of the kingdom. When I was called to become the regent, I told them I was not interested because it was not in line with my doctrine.
I am a Christian, a worker in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. They begged me for about two weeks and told me if I didn’t do it, there wouldn’t be anybody else to appoint as the regent of the kingdom. They wanted the regent to come from the late Kabiyesi’s bloodline. The high priest and every member of the kingdom begged me. I’m the eldest child of the family and I have five undergraduates in the university. I thought over everything, and that I had a lot of responsibilities to perform. I prayed about it and the journey since it wasn’t what I expected and I was told to go into it and by God’s grace, I’m the regent.
The chiefs and the traditional officials held a general palace meeting and announced me as the regent of the kingdom occupying the throne of my father.
When people heard about it, the way they talked about it made me feel like I had received my best present ever. My thought was, “God if this is your will for me, lead and see me through”. When I handed everything over to God, He gave me courage even after people discouraged me from the position and all of it.
What did they say?
People only asked me how I would cope because it is a big task, coupled with the fact as a regent, I am also like a king, so taking a man’s position might make some of them think that I might not be respectful to my husband. But I don’t allow my position to make me lose respect for my husband. I go to the market myself and I cook for my husband. People give me a funny look whenever they see me buying things in the market but I want to please my husband and respect him.
You also said your dad was a retired vice principal. When did he retire?
My dad was a retired vice principal and it was in the same year he retired that he became a king. So, he was a civil servant before ascending the throne. He retired in February 2022 and ascended the throne in November.
Can you explain what led to your father’s demise?
Concerning my father’s death, people who heard about it saw it as a very spiritual issue, like it was not ordinary, but when I asked the family doctor if my dad had an underlying illness, he only said that he had diabetes.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I wished for many good things. I wished to become a successful person in life, and I also wished to be a good example for others to follow. I never thought of being a regent but I knew that when my father became a king, such a thing might happen but not as soon as it turned out.
What kind of family were you born into?
I wouldn’t say I was born into a Christian home because my dad was not a religious person. I came from a loving and peaceful home. However, I dedicated my life to God. My father, Oba Olowoniyi Abejoye, passed away at 58. The late Kabiyesi was not a traditionalist and not a Christian. He didn’t attend any church. My mum attends the Cherubim and Seraphim church.
At what age did you become a regent?
I was 34 years old at the time I became the regent and I marked my 35th birthday on May 6. My father didn’t rule for long. He ruled for only three days. He’s the shortest-reigning king I have ever heard of.
Are you married?
Yes, I’m happily married with four children.
What was your husband’s reaction when he got to know you were going to become a regent?
It wasn’t easy when my husband knew I would become a regent. At first, he didn’t agree with the idea because we both concluded that I would not do it but later, when I accepted to do it, he accepted too as a supportive husband, a loving husband that I have known since I met him. My husband liked my father so much, so he allowed me to be a regent because of that.
What does he do for a living?
My husband is a businessman.
What has been the most interesting part of being a regent?
Well, it’s been months now and this is my first time experiencing it. I would say it is an interesting journey but it is not easy.
What were you doing before you became a regent?
I was unemployed before becoming a regent but I’m now self-employed. I do online businesses.
How long can regents reign in Yoruba land?
It depends; regents can reign for many years until the people of the kingdom are ready to choose another king.
How much do you miss your old life?
The old life is still part of me but I’m trying to drop it bit by bit because as a regent, some things I do in my old life I can’t do them now.
As a regent, I can’t eat outside even if I attend any event. As a regent, I can’t kneel to greet anybody or bow to greet anybody. At times when I see people bowing to me, I don’t feel comfortable but I’m always told that it is what tradition demands. As a regent, there are places I can’t go again. As a regent, I was told to always dress in men’s attire, which I’m trying to adapt.
You mentioned that you are a worker in your church. Which department do you belong to?
I belong to the choir department.
How did your friends and church members react when you became a regent?
My church members, including my pastor and his wife, all supported me. I told you that before I accepted to be a regent, I prayed and went to my pastor and church to seek advice and they, especially my pastor’s wife, prayed about it.
The very day I went to tell them, which was on a Sunday, my pastor’s wife made me understand that she had a dream the night before even when I had not told them anything.
What did she tell you?
She said she dreamt that she saw me in regent’s attire and that she told her husband about it. They prayed with me and supported me and encouraged me to move closer and serve God more than ever before. I believe in God and I didn’t go to anybody or anywhere to acquire power as people think regents do.
How did you feel when it dawned on you that you would become the traditional ruler?
I had mixed feelings though. It wasn’t what I wanted but I have to fill in the gap for my dad; it is a must to do. There’s no way I could have declined the request to take charge of my father’s throne, and the only way was just to accept and do it. I was very happy because of my late father who struggled a lot for that throne. He spent all his resources to become the king.
Do you have any educational qualifications?
I have a diploma in Community Health. I graduated from Ondo State School of Technology, Akure, in 2015.
What can you say about about the history of the Irokun kingdom?
Irokun kingdom is one of the ancient kingdoms in Ilaje land. It is a boundary community between Ogun State and Ondo State. Ondo has abandoned the community for a long time. Although Ogun has been claiming the community for a long time. The truth is Irokun kingdom belongs to Ondo State. So the occupants of the kingdom, when they saw that Ondo State had abandoned them, they started relating with Ogun State.
Till today, all the occupants in that community are mostly Ilajes, not Ijebus. Irokun has many communities – at least 15 communities – and all the occupants are Ilaje. So, the community was brought back to Ondo State fully last year before my father passed after he became the king.
In terms of culture and tradition, what are some of the unique things about Irokun?
I can’t really say much about the tradition because my dad reigned as a king for a short time, so my experience is very limited. Yes, there are traditions in every Yoruba land or community; we have unique festivals and one of them is the Agira festival.
We often hear that the traditional rites for new kings involve a lot of rituals. Which of them did you take part in?
Well, I would say it is not what it seems to be. Yes, maybe for the kings, but for other traditional rulers, it is a capital no. I, as a regent, didn’t perform any ritual to get onto my father’s throne. As a regent, when I leave the throne, rituals will be done for the new king that will be appointed. The thing is, many people feel that as a regent you are an idol, it is a wrong perception though. They don’t necessarily perform rituals for regents, and I think it is optional. As a Christian, I didn’t allow them to do that to me because I don’t want to do anything that will affect my faith.
What is the difference between a king and a regent?
They are almost the same thing; they play the same traditional role. A regent occupies the throne of a king and plays the role of a king, so I will say a regent is also a king. But the position of a regent is temporary. He stays in office until a king is installed.
What are the things considered taboo in your community?
I am a few six months on the throne, and I have not gone deeper. It is normal to have a taboo in Yoruba land or any other tribe. It is a pity that my dad didn’t last long on the throne. If he was still alive, I would have full details concerning the traditional roles and others.
Do you think your father’s death was a spiritual attack?
The truth is when the incident happened, we were scared because it was a shocking experience. It was one of the reasons I declined the offer to take over his throne. It was a sad one and I have never heard of such a thing in Yoruba land where a king will only reign for three days. When it happened, there were lots of rumours. We, his children, were scared, Some said it was a spiritual attack, but all I said was that God knows all, and he understands the situation. Anyone would have aligned the situation to a spiritual attack but I later found out from his doctor that he had hypertension and diabetes.
In Yoruba land, what happened to my father could be termed as a spiritual attack; it is a normal thing to. However, the kingdom’s lawyer and the family doctor told us that no one killed our father and that what killed him were health issues.
Did you have a conversation with him shortly before he passed on?
A day before the incident, my children and I went to his place to see him. He never complained of any illness, and he even sent regards to my husband, asking me to thank him for being supportive during his coronation ceremony. We left there at about 5pm and there was nothing wrong with him.
I left him in the meeting he had with his chiefs that day. When I got home later in the night at about 9pm, I received a call from my younger brother that my dad had slumped and was rushed to the hospital. On getting to the hospital, he has already passed on.
Did you see his body?
We didn’t even see him at that point. When I got to the hospital, they didn’t allow me and my younger sister to enter the ward because he was already gone. When I later saw my mother, she narrated how he died in her presence, being the first wife. According to her, they were in the backyard of the house receiving fresh air, and were having a conversation; he was reading a piece when she discovered that the paper fell from his hands and he started jerking and fell on the floor and that was how she screamed to alert the chiefs and everyone in the palace.
As you said earlier, traditional rulers are restrained from doing many things. How do you relax?
Well, coupled with the fact that I am married, I have children and a husband to give attention to. I still manage to balance all those activities and do not disturb my role as a regent. I still find the time to relax. I don’t necessarily have to be in the palace all day. I only go to the palace whenever I have something important to do.
What are some of the developments you have brought to your community as a regent?
Well, I have things to do, though none of them have been achieved now. I just started and with time, I will do something notable and I will be remembered for bringing good things to my people during my time.
What are the major issues facing your community that you would like to draw attention to?
The major issue we have now is the roads. Our roads are very bad, especially during the rainy season. We need light, a health center, a secondary school and a security post. Apart from all of these, my community is peaceful.