One of the most enduring icons of the Lagos monarchy and international cultural ambassador, the Erelu Kuti of Lagos, Princess Abiola Dosunmu; calls for symbiosis between the young and the old in this chat with WO. Excerpts:
So much has been made of the recent looting of the palace of the Oba of Lagos, whereby hoodlums made away with his Staff of Office. What is the significance of this?
The staff of office that was stolen is a ceremonial one and we have dozens of such staff. It’s the one they take to parties, public functions and so on. It doesn’t have that serious significance. Of course, it’s wrong that anyone should take it, it’s still the property of the palace.
What of the slippers that were taken?
Those are just beautifying articles. If he is tired of them, he can give them away if they are not even stolen. They are not the beaded shoes they used for the coronation. They are just parts of modern ways of dressing, personal attire that he can give ordinarily away if they wear out.
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The Oba has been quoted as saying that he is going to move the Palace to Banana Island as a fallout of the palace’s vandalisation. How feasible is that?
That is the home of our ancestors. That is the name of our town by which we call him Oba. He cannot say that, I think it’s fake news. It is possible for an oba to have a secondary home that is much more modern for his personal comfort but the traditional seat of a king is perpetual and is revered.
Those are monuments that are preserved for posterity. Some of those buildings there are three, four, five centuries old and we make a lot of effort to preserve them. We add new ones as we go along. That is what his fathers did. It’s a heritage site and it’s obliged to be preserved.
It can be assumed that the young people that did what they did, did so out of a lack of proper knowledge of the importance of culture and traditions. What can be done to educate them better?
I say we should all sit together on a roundtable to get to the bottom of what happened so that the catastrophe that happened in Lagos will not happen again. Part of the way forward is to educate our people. All of these things need to be addressed and we must put in place the proper mechanisms in order to hand over properly to the next generation.
What is your message to all young people in Lagos right now?
They should be appeased. They should take the wise counsel that is being given to them left right and centre and adopt a peaceful way of life. They are not being stupid or backward in their respect of adults. That has been our system and traditions and it has always worked for us. That is what has attracted everyone to come and live with us in Lagos. We need to observe two key points: respect for elders and respect for everyone.
Especially because the youths will themselves grow old…
But of course. They will be the leaders, the mothers, the fathers; but if we throw away our culture and traditions the resultant effect is chaos. They need to be receptive so that they learn the right thing. Nothing done with rancour can bring meaningful results.
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