Every traditional stool is an institituion —Oba Akamo
The Olu of Itori, Ogun State, Oba AbdulFatai Akorede Akamo is 15 years on the throne and rolling out drums in celebration. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, Oba Akamo speaks on the journey so far.
How have you fared in the past 15 years on the throne?
I have spent the last 15 years on the throne praising God for putting me here at a time I did not have any idea of becoming the Olu of Itori. Even though a traditional ruler in Lagos, the Ologba of Ogba had earlier told me to get prepared to ascend the throne when vacant, I did not take him serious because I was not interested in any venture that would distract me from pursuing my corporate goal in Lagos. To sound modest, I was doing well in my business. But when the call came from family after the passage of my predecessor and the Ologba also insisted, I did not have a choice than to oblige them. Today, I am appreciative to these people for having faith in me.
What lessons have the past 15 years taught you?
I need to clarify to you that there are so many lessons awaiting every oba-elect in the palace. And he must be ready to learn from those lessons, failure of which would be counter-productive. The throne is an institution on its own, an institution which teaches traditional rulers all sorts of subjects on daily basis. To succeed on the throne, you must be open to these lessons.
I am using this opportunity to encourage my fellow traditional rulers to try as much as they can to extend kindness to their subjects. Doing so is like empowering the subjects to make it. If they make it, they would come back to the palace and say ‘thank you, kabiyesi.’ But as I said we should not do more than our resources can afford. I am doing strictly based on what God has blessed me with. That is a lesson I also teach others, and to God be the glory for what I have achieved in this regard.
What can you say has changed in Itori in the past 15 years?
I am not in the best position to give you this assessment. People, especially travellers who pass through Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, are in the best position to give fair and objective answer to this question. But for the purpose of this interview, I think I should tell you that God has been so kind to me to witness the steady transformation which Itori has since witnessed since I came. Let me start from this palace. Where you are seated here used to be a swampy land. It took us tons of sand to get the foundation erected before it became what we have today. We have many schools now including an ICT Polytechnic sited along Lagos-Abeokuta expressway. Itori is the headquarters of Ewekoro Local Government Council. By the time the new Lagos-Ibadan railway is completed, Itori is going to be a Terminus. In terms of human resources, God has blessed me with good number of children who are showing determination to contribute to the development of not only Itori or Ogun State but also Nigeria as a whole.
Why are you devoting much energy to your 15th-anniversary celebration?
I am not devoting much energy to this event. All you see in me as regards this preparation is my true picture. I don’t do things in half measure. It is either I do something to my taste or I don’t touch it at all. I am a lover of the adage which says ‘what is worth doing is worth doing well.’ I can tell you that I am enjoying what I am doing, even though it also has its other side, which is pressure. But, again, I am used to it. I can say that I have mastered combining pressure with result. Most importantly, the celebration is meant to give thanks to God for having seen me thus far. Whatever credit anybody may want to attribute to me regarding physical transformation of Itori, actually belongs to God, who created me to come to the world and become whom I am today. And to him also belongs my future. I am not one who wastes his time pursuing mundane things. I work and work very hard to realise that only God caps that effort with success. I just mentioned how just a ticketing turned things around for my travel agency 23 years ago. That is the workings of God. So, basically, the coronation anniversary is to express my gratitude to God and seek His face for a better future. That is why it is a week-long anniversary with the grand finale holding about five days to this time when those Obas you mentioned earlier would be my guests.
There will be public presentation of my autobiography titled ‘Journey Through Time’ with Alhaji Aliko Dangote in attendance. There is also going to be installation of my new chiefs including yourself. Then K1 will entertain us. The activities we have held so far since last Friday when I hosted a battery of journalists from about six media houses from Lagos and Ibadan, have been successful. They have shown an indication that the remaining events would also turn out well.
Can you share with me the secret behind your ability to freely access notable traditional rulers, especially the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Alake of Egba, Oba Michael Adedapo Gbadebo and others?
There is no secret other than my principle, which is built on promoting peace among Yoruba traditional rulers. Before the Ooni of Ife ascended to the throne, we knew ourselves, and the Alaafin has always played a fatherly role to me. I can recall how I went to invite him to the 70th birthday of the Alake. He honoured the invitation. As regards the Alake of Egba, he is my direct father as the paramount ruler under whose consenting authority Itori exists. In Abeokuta, there still is Itori quarter, meaning that we founded this land from Abeokuta. It is also my search for peace that led me to initiate what is called Progressive Obas Forum. I am naturally a peace-loving person even before I became the traditional ruler. I don’t like confrontation.
Can you explain this better?
I was living with the former President of Nigeria, Chef Olusegun Obasanjo till when he said those of us under his roof should get ready to join the army. I knew what army meant and did not show interest. My mates who accepted the offer are still in the military today. I know myself as though ambitious but peace lover.
How did that journey to your dream look like?
It was not an easy ride. The journey took much sweat from by body but I thank God that I got what I wanted. I left home for Lagos and started a life of hustler, which later led me to ticketing training abroad and finally my own company. In this history, somebody plays a prominent role, and the person is my wife. She provided shelter for me and also worked as secretary in my company. I was on the road while she was in the apartment we used as office. Her support gave me the confidence I needed to break barriers. Another important person in that journey was Dr Rafiu Ladipo, the President-General of Nigerian Football Supporters Club. When Nigeria was preparing for the 1996 Summer Olympics tagged ‘Atlanta 96’, he gave my company right to do ticket for about 5,000 people. He was so impressed with the way I carried out the transaction. I promised to give him First Class ticket for the trip, which I did to his amazement. That was the breakthrough of my company, and I will continue to give God the glory for making it possible.