Our language, value system under threat —Olufon

Oba Magbagbeola

The Olufon of Ifon Orolu, Oba Almaroof Adekunle Magbagbeola is the chairman of Irepodun/Orolu Council of Traditional Rulers. Since 2008 that he ascended the throne of his forebears, he has elevated the Olufon title among the council of Yoruba Obas within and beyond Osun State. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, the monarch delves into issues germane to the Yoruba race. Excerpts:


The road linking the three major towns under your jurisdiction to the state capital is an eyesore. What are you doing to ensure its rehabilitation since it has a notoriety of causing auto crashes?

We have every cause to thank God because this year we have not recorded any accident on the road. This is not saying that we are happy with the state of the road. It should not be this bad but the unfortunate reality is what we have. As the president of the council, I have contacted Abuja and we got the promise that it would be fixed. I can tell you that it is in the 2016 budget. Paucity of fund which is not a secret is what is delaying it. I am sure that when the economy picks up, the road, including the bridge, will be fixed.


You were part of the Ooni, Oba Eniitan Ogunwusi’s delegation to the United States of America. How was the trip?

It was a very successful trip that reminded the western world the place of the Yoruba people in world history. We again showed the world why Yoruba is a race to be respected. The Ooni made us proud with that journey as evident in the kind of reception given to us in all the states that we visited. Yoruba indigenes and their friends were wonderful. Their attitude showed that they were still in consonance with their culture. The whites marveled at the way things were arranged. Cultural performance by our people added more spice to the trip and foregrounded the distinctiveness of the Yoruba race.


Did you have any special interaction with the Ooni on the trip?

Let me answer this question by telling you that I had a good relationship with the immediate past Ooni. History is there to confirm our bond. Oba Ogunwusi understands this history and relates well with it. He sees me as his brother-monarch and ensures I get the best reception wherever we go. The US trip was not an exception. Where he went, I was there with him. I wish him long reign. He has shown his determination to work for the advancement of the Yoruba race, which is what we need now. I pray to God to give us more wisdom and strength to further the cause of the Yoruba ethnic stock to enviable heights.


Your last line is suggestive of an element of disappointment in the progress of Yoruba race. Could you shed more light on this?

If you observe the Yoruba people critically, you will understand what I mean. Ile-Ife is the cradle of the world. God created Ile-Ife specially as the source. Wherever you look in any part of the world, you face the shrine of Obatala. It is high time Yoruba sons and daughters realized their true identity and work towards achieving what God has destined them. The kind of erosion our language and value system especially are suffering is disheartening. What is actually wrong with us that we prefer to elevate other values above ours? It is so sad. Our children are no longer speaking Yoruba Language. Yet, they are not proficient in English Language, which they insist on speaking. They are neither here nor there. This abnormality, in particular, gives me cause for worry. Without self-identification, there is little we can achieve as a race blessed with everything needed to be great. The white always laugh at us when they see us throw away our values in favour of theirs.


But don’t you think traditional rulers have a role to play in addressing this problem?

You are right, looking at it from the perspective that we, traditional rulers, are the custodian of custom and tradition. We shall continue to individually and collectively emphasise that we cannot afford to compromise our culture, part of which is our language. The Chinese are making progress in the world economy owing largely to their strict adherence to their language which ultimately helped their technological breakthrough. The evidence is there to see world over.


Is Yoruba unity realistic as it is said in some fora?

God has not created, and will not create, what is impossible. The obstacle to this unity is our propensity for challenging authorities. It is when we deal with ego and revert to the way our forefathers did it that that unity will be achieved. Because of our exposure to other values, we tend to question every statement and action of our elders. We enjoy flexing muscle where it is absolutely unnecessary. Everyone wants his or her opinion on issues heard and taken. This  therefore leads to confusion. I always say it and I am insisting that we cannot all occupy leadership position because only God raises leaders. Good followers will definitely have a good leader. I will not stop saying this because it is the truth based on experience. But in a situation whereby somebody gets elected for a terminal tenure and sees himself as above everybody including his royal father, the result is predictable. Without sounding immodest, traditional rulers are representatives of God on earth. While we are not equating ourselves with God, we deserve respect simply because only God crowns kings. Whoever is destined to be king will not leave this world until he is crowned. The Yoruba race is known and respected by others as one which does not compromise respect of elders.


When you were younger, did it occur to you that you would one day become the Olufon?

You cannot become a king unless you are a prince. And the ambition or rather the prayer of every prince is to mount the throne of his forefathers. But I did not think of it. I was just living my life like any other boy. What I can only recall is that my mates respected my views. They always reserved important issues for me perhaps believing that what I would say would settle the matter.  Also, I was class captain in primary school and prefect in secondary. You may say these positions prepared me for today but I was not doing those stuffs consciously or with a view to impressing anybody. That is why I said earlier that only God crowns kings. God destined what I would become in life and it manifested.


Which schools did you attend?

I started out in Ghana. I attended Methodist Primary School, Osogbo but completed at Ansa-Ud-Deen Primary School, here in Ifon Orolu. I later attended Ifon/Erin Community High School. I returned to Osogbo and attended Osogbo Grammar School for my HSC (Higher School Certificate). I gained admission into the University of Lagos where I studied Business Administration. I later had a Master of Science in Energy and Petroleum Economics from Delta State University, Abraka. I worked with NNPC (Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation) until the call to mount the throne came in 2008.


Are there challenges posed by your status as royal father?

Any position of authority goes with its own peculiar challenges. The palace is not an exemption. Unfortunately, outsiders can only make one or two guesses and jump to conclusion on any issue affecting traditional rulers. A monarch must be prepared for these challenges and cope with them as they come. A traditional ruler is supposed to be a problem-solver to whom issues are directed. He must be firm and flexible depending on the nature of those challenges. He must not be seen as a weakling because this will affect his decision and performance.  Above all, he must be father to all, regardless of religious belief.