Monica Taiwo and Tunde Busari recently visited Ugbo-land, the only oil-producing community in the Yoruba nation. The duo, in this piece, put down their experience and the splendour of the land.
Sprawled elegantly over acres of land in a defined majestic splendour is the palace of the Olugbo of Ugbo land, Oba Frederick Enitiolorunda Akinruntan, the paramount ruler and prescribed authority of Ugboland.
The elegance of the edifice does not look out of place in the serene environment where it lays; a place where nature plays out its best with its peaceful and unclouded sky.
As you enter into Ode-Ugbo you cannot miss out the imposing bill board which features no one else but the Olugbo himself, welcoming you to his kingdom.
These combined with the 33-kilometre stretch of asphaltic road which leads visitors to Ugbo land from Igbokoda, giving a great relief from the unpleasant experience we had from Ijebu-Ode junction via the Benin-Ore expressway before turning into Igbotako link road to proceed to Ugboland via Okitipupa and Igbokoda.
This aside, our arrival at the monarch’s palace was soothing because of the warm reception which greeted us; we were being expected, but we had to wait for Kabiyesi. It couldn’t have been otherwise, anyway.
He took his time to join us, but of course, there was no reason for us to hurry as we had enough time to look around the sprawling splendour and exquisitely laid out grounds of the palace.
His elegant gait and dress sense when he was announced by the beagle depicted one who knows his onions in the art and science of dressing; of course, he is no doubt a man of great taste. After acknowledging our greetings with the royal wave of his staff of office (opa-ase), he pleaded with us to accompany him to his ancestral home. We were stunned on arrival at the new site at how he related with his people both young and old. Obviously, he is a monarch well loved and revered by his people.
He told us he needed to rebuild his source. According to him, though the piece of land is not up to a plot, it was where his ancestors settled down when they first arrived at Ugbo and as far as he is concerned, the place deserves to be elevated. He is not comfortable living in opulence, while his forefathers home remains unattractive.
“My people all know me that I am not a monarch who has lost touch with his history. There is no other place deserving respect than this point where my forefathers first settled when they arrived at this settlement.
“I have given the builders ultimatum which they are working to meet. This place needs to be completed and showcased to the world. That is why I brought you to this place for the interview. I want you to see the progress we have made on the construction work,” the Olugbo explained.
After he had inspected the site, despite the splendour of his palace, the Olugbo sat down at the site, surrounded by his people and granted us an interview which lasted over an hour.
During the course of the interview, he cracked jokes and interjected with songs in his dialect which were joyfully chorused by his people. If you think the Efik and Calabar sing like the nightingale, you will have a rethink when you listen to the Ugbo people following their Kabiyesi and matching him with all the tonic solfa.
His people are natural musicians and he particularly loves to sing and dance, as he said he had a musical group while he was growing up. The lyrics of their music were thrilling and in agreement with the environment.
Ugbo town can boast of all the amenities available in other big towns; though small, it is mighty. You find electricity poles that are solar powered, schools even a customary court.
A trip round Ode-Ugbo and Ugbo-Nla revealed a town with a contented and hard working people.
Their aquatic skills coupled with the fact that they adapt well to the environment is a plus for the Ugbo people. Their major occupation is fishing and their fish draws patronage nationally.
Despite its geographical location, which officially classifies it as one of the oil-producing communities, the town is not known for militant agitation against environmental pollution as witnessed in other oil communities.
One of the reasons the people are contented is the positive influence of their traditional ruler. The exploits of Oba Akinruntan in oil and gas, hospitality and construction are an inspiration to his subjects to believe that with hard work and focus, they also can make a success in legitimate enterprises.
Aside oil, the community is also blessed with glass, sand, salt, clay, all of which are being tapped by the people to eke out a living.
With history having it that the Ugbos are the aboriginal inhabitants of Ile-Ife, the acclaimed cradle of Yoruba race, Oba Akinruntan, since he mounted the throne has brought more fame to the town and indeed asserted its position.
Currently he is the chairman of Yoruba Obas Conflict Resolution Committee, the position he has given a serious attention in ensuring cohesion among Yoruba traditional rulers.
“The legacy a traditional ruler should leave behind is turning his town around and impacting on his subjects positively so that hundreds of years after his exit, he will still be mentioned and praised. I am doing my best for my people and they are appreciative,” he said. Today, Ugbo kingdom will play host to some important personalities as it often does by the courtesy of the monarch.