The Royal Ambassador of Oyoko Kingdom, Are Ayandotun, tells us EMANUEL EYE about his childhood, family and career
What are your duties as the royal ambassador of Oyo kingdom?
I have won a lot in that position. Meeting the (late) Alaafin of Oyoko, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, was a big thing for me. I did a lot of work for him and portrayed him in a good light to the public.
How long have you been a royal ambassador?
I have been a royal ambassador for about 30 years, since 1992.
What are your duties as a royal ambassador?
My duty is to spread the Alaafin everywhere, talk about Yoruba people and promote Yoruba culture.
How do you fulfill these obligations?
I go to hangouts and meet people. When they ask me about the Oyo empire, I explain to everyone what the Oyo empire is all about.
Is this a full time job and are you paid?
I have other things that I do but I spend most of my time promoting the Alaafin of Oyoko. I have registered companies where I do different business.
Having worked with the late Oba Adeyemi before his death, how will you describe it?
The man remains the best man I have ever worked with. He was a good man. He liked the Yoruba kingdom; he liked people and I liked him. He hated lying. If you lie to him, 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 settle you with a lot of money. He paid part of my children’s school fees. When I had my children in America, Alaafin gave me money.
How did you become the royal ambassador of Oyo kingdom?
As a member of the Island Club, the late Alaafin of Oyoko, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, saw that I was promoting the club well and believed that if I worked with him, I would also promote him. My grandfather was an Aare Ayan of Oyo empire. Thus, the Alaafin examined my grandfather’s records and decided to replace him with my grandfather.
What does the word Aare mean?
Aare means president. Used to describe a titleholder. My title is Aare Oba. I am a royal ambassador.
What is your hierarchy in the royal cabinet of Oyo kingdom?
The Royal Ambassador is a very high position. I represent the king everywhere. I go where he sends me.
At what point did Alaafin install you?
He did not establish me at the beginning of his reign. When he was installed as Alaafin I was one of the guys who played the drums for him. I was still a student of Oroyan Grammar School when Oyo started his reign.
How old were you then?
I was about 19 or 20 years old.
It has been months since Oba Lamidi Adeyemi died but there is no successor. What is the latest in this regard?
Well, for that question, the Oyomes will decide. I can’t say anything about it. Oyomesi is the kingmaker and he decides. I’m too young to be a part of that. Don’t trouble me. (Laughs)
Tell us what kind of education you received?
I did my primary education in Shomolu, Lagos. When I left there, I attended Oroyan Grammar School, Oyo, after which I matriculated into Origbo Community High School, Ipetumodun, Ife, Osun State. Later, I started Ewi Exponent. When I did that, I went and fortunately met Chief Akinloye who was based in London. I worked with him briefly and then started taking African records to London to sell. Later I uploaded a record.
Do you make music too?
yes After that I started sending records to London and building myself up. I started a company, Ayanlakin Farms Ltd. I also started other companies. While taking records to London to sell, God blessed me and brought me to where I am today. I made my first album with Olumo Records, then I moved with Dele Abiodun. From there, God lifted me up. Later I got into the import and export business.
What is your highest level of education?
I have a ‘school certificate’ (secondary school certificate). I don’t have more than that.
What religion do you practice?
christianity I am an 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 required by your position?
See, my great-grandfather was a herbalist, so I am well aware of Ifa. I was named Ifabiyi. I also stayed with my father’s younger brother who is an Ifa priest, so I learned about Ifa from him.
Is there no contradiction between the two beliefs?
There are contradictions but not many.
How are you able to manage both together?
Well, I go to church and when it’s time for Ifa, I go. I practice both.
How did you meet your wife?
It’s a long story. My mother built a house in Bari, Ilaje. On my way home that very day I decided to visit a photographer’s place very close to my mother’s house. The photographer’s name was Ade. I went by his studio to take a passport photo, then I saw a lady. When I approached him and asked him where he was from, he told me that he is from Fiditi, which means he is from the same local government area as I am 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. He smiled and we started talking. I asked him when he would visit me and he said he would make time to come. The following week, he visited. At that time, he was living with his sister. He visited on his way to work in the morning. He only stopped to see me. One of those days, I told my mother about her and she asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said yes and that’s how we started.
What year was that?
That was in 1972. After we got married, we waited 25 years to have our first child. After trying for a while and not having children, we moved to the United States and met my younger brother who lives there. Then my brother took us to a hospital. When the doctor did the test, he said that my sperm was very good and that we should be hopeful that we would have a child. I tried everything I could before I went to America.
Was your insemination assisted 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.
And with your wife, how did she cope?
Well, he tried. His reaction was the same as mine. I had money at the time and spent about $250,000 to have a child in America. With God’s help, we made it. God helped me. We had a set of twins: a boy and a girl and they are American citizens.
You spent $250,000. That was the cost of IVF in the US at the time?
That’s an estimate of the overall cost. It included travel expenses and whatever I was spending at the time.
How old are your twins now?
They are 24 years old.
How has your child-rearing experience been after waiting so long?
I take care of my children. 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 also made them a house.
How did you feel about having to start raising your own children 25 years later, when most of your contemporaries had given birth and had grown children?
Well, I left it to God. It is God’s work and I left 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 to hear that my wife was having twins. He was very happy.
You followed the Alaafin’s guidance but did not follow his path of polygamy. Why?
Baba married many wives. If I wanted to venture into polygamy, I would have done it a long time ago. I could have done that when my wife was trying to have kids 25 years ago, but I didn’t want to do it alone. I just didn’t like it. Although my father had two wives, it was based on one condition. I didn’t want to elaborate on that.
How old are you?
I am over 70 years old.
Do you have siblings?
Yes, I have four siblings and they all live in the United States of America. We come from the same mother but not the same father.
Besides being a royal ambassador, what else are you known for?
I’m social. I am a member of the Yoruba Tennis Club. I am also a member of the Island Club. I am a member of Lagos Tennis Club and Ikeja Golf Club and I have been a member of these clubs for so many years.
Are you hopeful that the next Alaafin will take you on as a royal ambassador?
The position of Royal Ambassador is for life. It’s until I die. It is not something that is inherited. When the Alaafin installs one, the next Alaafin automatically takes over. So when the next Alaafin comes, that remains my position.
To what extent would you describe the influence of the Alafins in Yoruba land?
Alaafin has influence on anything in Yoruba land. He affects the kings and the governor and he is the best king we have in Yoruba land so far. The position of Alaafin is the highest position in Yoruba land. Whoever becomes Alaafin believes that he is our father.
How do the alafins compare to other first class kings in Yoruba land?
Well, I don’t want to commit to say anything but what I want to say is that Alaafin is the first in Yoruba land. No one is superior to the Alaafin in Yoruba land. No king in Yoruba land can claim to be greater than the Alaafin.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Hmm, I have a childhood memory that I can’t forget. When I was very young, my mother used to sell carpentry in Shomolu. He was a fishmonger. I followed him to the market to sell stockfish. Sometimes he would put some for me to hawk and I would sell them. That’s something I can’t forget.
Do you have any regrets in life so far?
I have no regrets. I have a lot of experience in life but no regrets. Let’s leave it at that.
How do you relax?
My favorite way to relax is to sit at home and play music, then read the newspaper.
What is your favorite meal?
Amala and Gebigiri; that is Oyo’s delicacy.
What are your thoughts on the 2023 general election?
My opinion is that the best candidate we have is Bola Tinubu.
Why do you believe he is the best candidate?
I know he is a hardworking man and he did very well when he was governor of Lagos. Apart from that, Tinubu and I are members of the Island Club. So I am supporting him because he will help the poor masses a lot. He is a man of his word. When he says something, he does it. I knew Tinubu through Alaafin and he is a very good man. I will appeal to the Yoruba and Nigeria as a whole to vote for Tinubu en masse. It will surprise Nigerians and everyone. All problems of shortage of funds will be solved. He did a very good job as a former governor of Lagos State.