The Olowu of Owu-kuta in Osun State, Oba Adekunle Oyelude was the special representative of the Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, at the last emergency meeting between leaders of the Yoruba and Hausa communities in Ile-Ife following the Ile-Ife clash. The traditional ruler speaks with TUNDE BUSARI on the relevance of coexistence between Hausa and Yoruba people in the South-West.
Why do you think the meeting was necessary?
The meeting could not have come at a better time considering the issue on ground. And I think it is good we held the meeting today because of its importance. In fact, I am very happy to have been involved in the peace process because it afforded me the opportunity to understand certain things better in our relationship.
Could you shed more light on this?
It is no longer news that some people clashed in Ile-Ife in which some lives were lost and property destroyed. It was an unfortunate incident which we did not envisage at this time. But when such occurs, it is the responsibility of the leaders to rise to the occasion and seek ways of making peace between both sides. That is exactly what we are here for and I thank God that we are making progress. You can see that it was a gathering of the leaders of Hausa communities in all the six South-west states. This is to tell you that we are even looking beyond Ile-Ife or Osun State. We don’t want anything to set us back in the peaceful coexistence that exists among us.
We are talking of a sensitive issue here, an issue which needs everything we have in resolving it. Traditional rulers have more access to the people at the grassroots because we live together at that level. This proximity confers certain advantage on us to understand better what goes on among them. You can see that this meeting is being held at the palace of Seriki n Shasha in Ibadan here. This should even answer your question better. Government also knows and appreciates this.
Another reason for your choice by the governor may be about your thorough understanding of Hausa language and culture. Is that true?
I wouldn’t know but your observation may not be totally wrong. The governor spoke with me over the matter; we formed a committee comprising other traditional rulers and the responsibility fell on me to be here and here I am.
I was almost confused watching you speaking flawless Hausa during your address to the gathering. I saw the Hausa clapping for you. For how long have you spoken the language?
It is as long as you can imagine. I spent many years in the North including attending school there. I can conveniently say the North is my second home. God used the place for me in my life’s journey to make good friends with whom I still relate till today. My father was always on transfer to different parts of Nigeria. This helped me to have a better understanding of other places, people and their cultures including their language. I consider it a rare opportunity which I enjoy today. If I blend so well with them here, it is just a normal thing because I believe we are one.
Can you be more specific on what the meeting has achieved in so short a time?
I must tell you that this meeting has helped to douse the tension that followed the incident. You have to understand that what happened is not in the best interest of the nation. But we are happy today that we have talked over it and laid on the table all we should discuss to prevent future occurrence. We ought to have outgrown such clashes; we ought to have seen more reasons we should be brothers and sisters. Although it is natural to disagree on issues, when it occurs we should know how to manage the disagreement and make use of the different views to our advantage. As I said earlier, the meeting has assured us of a bright future going by the submission of the stakeholders. People were allowed to talk and they talked frankly. This is what we need in a situation like this to resolve the issues at stake. I want to thank Seriki n Shasha, our host for his role. I also want to thank other Serikis and their representatives in attendance. God will continue to help us all.
We later learnt that the minister for Interior joined you after the meeting. What did he say?
As a matter of fact, the minister was supposed to be part of the meeting. But he was also in Ile-Ife same day. That is why he came later. He came with top security officers and spoke well on the matter. He spoke on the unity of the nation and the need for all ethnic groups to see one another as brothers and sisters. He also assured us about the efforts so far in place to ensure the matter is finally resolved. In short, the minister spoke well and commiserated with the families who lost their members and those who lost property.
Can you share with us your findings on the clash?
Do you think that is appropriate? We all read in the papers what led to the incident but the investigation being carried out will show us what really transpired. As a traditional ruler, telling you our finding is not our responsibility. Telling you how far we have gone in resolving the matter amicably is our duty. I hope you understand what I mean.
The role you played at the meeting tells me that traditional rulers are still very relevant to governance. How right or otherwise am I?
The point is that modern governance really takes some power and influence away from traditional rulers. But I am happy to tell you that governors who mean well for their people forge good relationship with traditional rulers. I am using my state as an example. Aregbesola believes so much in consultations. He enjoys debates and always waits for superior arguments to take decision. This is good because, in the long run, the people and the state are the beneficiaries. What I am saying is that there still is synergy between the government and traditional rulers. Otherwise I would not be here.
What did the governor tell you about the incident?
He was not happy at all. Which governor will be happy in that circumstance, anyway? That is why he is determined to uncover the details of the incident. Hausas have been in Ile-Ife for about 200 years. They have lived in peace. Even when there was problem among their host, there is no record that Hausas were attacked. That is why this issue must be nipped in the bud so that it won’t happen again. I want to also condole with the bereaved families and ask them to accept the incident as an act of God. As Islam preaches, nothing happens without the knowledge of God. We should accept it and pray to God to repose the souls of the departed. Islamic religion has also strongly connected Yoruba and Hausa people. So, we cannot afford to allow anything to come between us. The unity of Yoruba and Hausa people is important for the South West. This one is a challenge that we are going to overcome. The governor has said that no culprit would be spared after the investigation is concluded. He is serious and we support him.