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From Pulpit to Palace: New Soun and other pastors who became traditional rulers in Nigeria

Oba Olusesan writes that there is an ongoing amalgamation of the tenets of Christianity and traditional institutions as more men of God are leaving the pulpit for the palace.

There has been an existing conflict between the religious groups and the traditional institutions and it is usually seen as taboo for a Christian let alone a pastor leaving the altar of God to become the custodian of traditional rites.

However, here are some of the pastors who have bridged the gap.


John Elaigwu Odogbo, Ochi’Idoma Benue

Odogbo, the paramount ruler of Idomaland in Benue State, was a pastor with the Deeper Life Bible Ministry founded by Pastor Williams Kumuyi.

Elaigwu was born into the family of Mr Elaigwu Ekoja in Obagaji.

The Ochi’Idoma attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Benue State University in 1994. Later, he pursued a Master’s in Business Administration from Benue State University in 2012. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from the National Teachers Institute, an M.Sc. in Accounting and Finance from Nasarawa State University, Keffi, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Accounting from the same university.

After the demise of His Royal Highness (HRM) Elias Ikoyi Obekpa, John Elaigwu was crowned the Ochi’Idoma.

He has an extensive professional background and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (FCITN), a Fellow Certified National Accountant of Nigeria (FCNA), and an associate member of the Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM). He started his professional career with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, where he worked for 23 years and was promoted to Assistant Director.

Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Olu of Ilaro
Just like the Soun-designate Oba Olugbenle ascended to the throne of his forefathers from the pulpit after being a pastor in one of the Lagos branches of the Redeemed Christians Church of God (RCCG) for many years.

Oba Olugbenle has been Olu of Ilaro and paramount ruler of the Yewa-Awori axis of Ogun State since 2012.

The kingmakers unanimously supported his candidacy after an election where he won by a vote to defeat his close rival, Adedeji Olugbenle.

The Olu of Ilaro who has an MSC in Housing Development and Management from the University of Ibadan is also a member, the Board of Trustees, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN); Fellow, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV); Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM); Member, International Facilities Management Association of Nigeria; Member, African Real Estate Society, among others.


Oba Gabriel Ayodele Adejuwon Onisan of Isan-Ekiti
Onisan of Isan Ekiti and the Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM Oba Gabriel Ayodele Adejuwon is another product of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

He was crowned the king of Isan-Ekiti in 2017 that was 13 years after he was anointed as a deacon by Pastor EA Adeboye and five years after he became as Assistant Pastor in the church.

Oba Adejuwon holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and he is also an Associate of the Certified Board of Administrators (ACBA). He is an Associate Member of the Taxation Institute of Nigeria and a member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN.

In an interview in 2018, he was asked if there were things that would conflict with his faith as a pastor. “When God created heaven and earth, He created everybody and different faiths and He is managing every one of us. As a king and a representative of God on earth, you should be able to manage everything that is under your control. Before I was ordained king, the kingmakers knew that I am a pastor and yet they supported me.

“I don’t get in their ways because we all want the same thing for the community. We want peace and growth in the community. I contribute my quota for Muslims, Christians, and traditionalists.

“The traditionalists give me heads up on their activities but I don’t go with them and it does not mean I don’t pray and support them. If we say we want to focus on Christianity alone, our prayers might not be answered. These people have ways of blocking your prayers, it is written in the Bible.

“I do not partake in rituals; the traditionalists are the custodians of the rites and they have been doing it before I ascended that throne. However, I’m involved when the traditionalists dance to my palace. I have to leave the door wide open and give them my blessings.”

Oba Matthew Durojaye Jegede, Alahan of Ahan Ayegunle Ekiti 
Deeper Life Pastor Matthew Jegede Oba Matthew Durojaye Jegede, a Deeper Life Bible Church pastor, was in 2020 crowned as the first Alahan of Ahan Ayegunle Ekiti in Ekiti East local government area.

During an interview with BBC News Yoruba, Oba Jegede revealed the obstacles he faced on his path to becoming a king in Ekiti state.

He stated that his church members did not support him when the idea of him becoming king was being discussed.

Furthermore, the monarch admitted that he initially had reservations about accepting the role as he believed that being a Christian and a king might go against God’s plan.

. “I initially thought it was against God’s plan to become the King …I also thought that if one wants to go to heaven, it will be difficult,” he said.

According to him, the church told him to pray about it. However, he first ignored their directive before committing to it.

Matthew said he kept having king-like dreams, confirming that he was born to be the king. And after running away from the kingship for 10 years, he accepted it, not minding his church members’ sentiment against it.

To his surprise, however, on the day Governor Kayode Fayemi handed him the staff of office, the same former church members who knocked him for deciding to be a king graced the occasion.


Pastor Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye, Soun of Ohbomosho-designate
The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, on Saturday, September 2, 2023, appointed Prince Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye, a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, as the new Soun of Ogbomoso land.

The appointment comes after the death of Oba Jimoh Oyewumi Ajagungbade III in December 2021. He reigned for 48 years and passed away at the age of 95 years old.

Ghandi has been a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Jesus House Washington DC, United States (US) for many years and has been serving as a minister for about 30 years.

In a video shared on social media by the Parish, Pastor Olaoye addressed members of his church, stating that he had never aspired to become the Soun. He explained that he had initially not wanted to become a king, but God had spoken to him about it and he had no choice but to follow God’s instructions.

According to The Nation, the pastor also stated that pastors and kings have similar roles, although they operate in different environments. He further explained that pastors and kings are both shepherds, responsible for the well-being of their communities.

Although Pastor Laoye has been selected by the kingmakers, he is yet to be officially crowned.


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Written by Olusesan Oba

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