A decade after the Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba AbdulGaniy Adekunle Salaudeen, ascended the throne of his forefathers, the Oke-Ogun community is relishing a peaceful reign. The monarch in a recent interview by TUNDE BUSARI reflects and speaks on why Iseyin is synonymous with Ofi fabrics. Excerpts:
You are 10 years on the throne. How has the journey been?
We are where we are today by the special grace of God. God has always been there for me, in terms of administering the town as the traditional ruler. Once one puts God first before one does anything, one should not expect a bad result. I can say that my faith in God has helped me to navigate the terrain.
How did you emerge as the Aseyin after your predecessor had joined his ancestors?
My ascension followed natural process as you know in Yorubaland. All I can say is that God almighty chooses kings. My own is not an exception.
Where were you when you were declared the new Aseyin?
Incidentally, I was in town hanging out with some family members and friends.
What were you doing?
We were enjoying ourselves.
Was that in anticipation of the news?
Not really. But we knew God would handle the matter. God would not fail his favoured. I knew I had the favour of God because I had my strong faith in Him and in what He would do. Above all, as the meaning of my religion goes that human beings must submit themselves to the will of Allah. This has always been my guide. I had submitted myself to His will and His will eventually manifested. I will always have cause to glorify Him because He is my creator who created me to this world for a purpose.
When was your coronation day and how did it go?
That was November 27, 2006. The day went well. There was nothing special about the day because I was engrossed in how to make impact n the town. It was memorable but I was not carried away not to see the kind of future I wanted for my town. And I am happy we are moving forward. The town is growing. Look at the dual carriageway government constructed. Is it not transforming the town? I give kudos to the government.
More than any other Yoruba town, Iseyin seems to be strongly attached with the weaving of Ofi fabrics. How true or otherwise is my observation?
Your observation is very correct. You are right. There is no other town in Yorubaland that can rival Iseyin in Ofi fabric. It was and still is the mainstay of our economy here apart from farming. Ofi is our industry and we are very proud of it. We are very proud in the sense that people from different places come down here to buy our Ofi fabric to the extent that they call Iseyin the Ofi capital of Nigeria. It is our comparative advantage to borrow economics common phrase.
Can we discuss how Iseyin and Ofi fabric (Aso Oke) became interwoven? What is the historical connection?
Thank you. Ofi came to Iseyin through the old trans-Saharan trade between Muslims from Mali and Sudan and our forefathers. In other words, Ofi was brought down here by the Muslims and our forefathers embraced it and developed interest in weaving. The rest is history. Muslim dominated quarters like Agbegi, Oke-Ola, Oke-Oja and Ijemba are reputed for weaving. There is no house in these areas you won’t find weavers.
This year’s World Tourism Day was dedicated for Ofi fabrics by Oyo State Government. What is your comment on this?
We are very happy that Oyo State Government deemed it fit to bring that celebration to us here. I was particularly happy with what I witnessed. Government showed that our ofi fabrics are important to the economy and need to be further promoted. The exhibition and display of different fabrics were impressive. People came from different places to see what we do here. We want government to develop other sectors of economy to boost its Internally Generated Revenue. It is high time government at all levels diversified their economy to cope with the current distress in oil. We have ofi here, other towns also have one peculiar vocation or the other waiting for promotion and development. Ipapo is known for soap making industry. Okeho, pot; Oyo, dundun and shekere. China is great today because it does not abandon its local industries. It rather developed them and made them the backbone of world economy.
What impact has the tourism day had in your people?
With what the government did for us this year, my people also know that all eyes are on them. They know that they have to double their efforts to meet demand because I am positive that they will start witnessing more patronage. I must tell you that many people have been successful in the trade. Big houses in town were built from proceeds realized from Ofi business. Apprentices come to Iseyin from different places. It is a business that deserves government encouragement to make it stable export product.
Like many Iseyin sons and daughters, did you also pass through ofi fabrics?
As a kid, I was fully involved in weaving. I weaved and sold. It may interest you to know that I trained myself in school from money I realised from the business. It is not a shame here that we weave ofi to sponsor ourselves to school.
Which schools did you attend?
I started at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Ebedi, Iseyin after which I attended Muslim Secondary Modern School. Later I attended Iseyin District Grammar School, Iseyin. Before I entered Grammar school, I taught for some time at NUD Primary School as auxiliary teacher. Finally I attended the University of Ibadan where I studied Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 1991.
With your upbringing as ofi weaver, what lesson did you learn in those years?
My childhood as regards my involvement in ofi business taught me that I did not need to beg for job in future regardless of my certificate. And to God be the glory, that was what happened. I never applied for a job after I completed my degree. My childhood had taught me to be employer of labour instead of roaming the streets in search of an employer who would not be able to pay for my skill. This should be a lesson to the young ones to think on what to do instead of seeking employment where there is none. The state of the nation in terms of the current recession is instructive enough to show that they have to take their destiny in their hands.
Do you think this generation of students has the same spirit you had?
That exactly is my concern and that should also be government worry too. The generation of graduates we see around are unimpressive. Some of them don’t even know what to do to the extent that I imagine how they gained admission, wrote examinations, passed and graduated. They are empty. All they do is to mime the voice of the white. Yet they speak very bad English.
Don’t you think government still has the ace to correct this?
Government has the responsibility to reverse it and return sanity to our education system. Government, through the ministry of education should brainstorm and review policies to integrate vocational training in the curriculum. The crash three weeks vocational training at NYSC camp is not enough. It is very disappointing that we produce first class Chemical Engineers who cannot produce ordinary soap for domestic use. Even MBA holders cannot manage a business successfully. That is why they all want to work in a company where the system would shield their inadequacy. It is that bad.