Being a professor on the throne is added advantage —Oba Akintola
There is a pocket of PhD holders currently on the stool of their respective towns in Yorubaland. However, there are only few among them who are Professors. One of that tiny few is the Alapa of Okin-Apa, Oba John Akinola Akintola, who teaches at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTHEC), Ogbomoso. In an interview by TUNDE BUSARI, the unassuming monarch explains what the palace has taken away from him. Excerpts:
During your teenage years, did it occur to you that you would one day mount this stool?
It never crossed my mind because I was too engrossed with my academic works, not traditional stool.
How can you describe your father?
It may interest you to know that my father, Oba David Akinloye Akintola, was my immediate predecessor. He was the last Alapa of Okin-Apa having reigned for 15 years. When I was a young boy, my father was a no-nonsense man, who was in total control of his home. He ran a polygamous family and was in full control of the whole family. He was a disciplinarian who would not tolerate any form of misconduct from any of his children. The training he gave us has impact in our development as adult. My mother, Olori Grace Akintola is still alive to witness my becoming the Alapa. I think it is design of God that she would be around to see me on the throne.
It is unusual for a son to enjoy such a quick succession. Is it only one ruling house you have in Okin-Apa?
We have three ruling houses but my emergence was a design of God. At times, I look at myself and see the transformation, especially on the day I completed the seven-day seclusion (Ipebi) after my installation held following the appointment on March 10, 2016.
What exactly were you doing during the seven days?
I was undergoing traditional tutorial conducted by the elders. I was being taught ethics and other things related to the stool. It is an experience which shows that Yoruba culture is deep and preserved. I found the seven days very interesting in that it marked my transition to kingship. And the transition was sharp; so sharp that everything does not appear usual again.
How did your coronation and presentation of staff of office look like?
That held on August 4, 2017 and drew what I can call crème-de-la-crème of the society to Okin-Apa. There were traditional rulers from different towns also in attendance. The LAUTHEC community was led by the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sulaiman Gbadegesin. Members of academic and non-academic staff came in large numbers to celebrate with me.
Can you share your academic profile?
I started my education at Are Ago District School. From there, I attended Ogbomoso Baptist Modern School and later Anglican Grammar School. Thereafter, I was at the Ogbomoso Grammar School for my HSC (Higher School Certificate). I was the senior boy at OGS between 1985 and 1987. I later gained admission into the University of Ilorin where I bagged a BSc in Botany. I returned to the school for my Masters in Crop Production, specialising in Entomology. Still in Unilorin, I did my PhD in Zoology. I became Professor as a senior lecturer in the LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, where I still teach till date.
It is also unusual having a traditional ruler teaching in the ivory tower. What has the experience been?
As I said earlier, the transition is so sharp and evident in the level of our interaction. The students are all conscious of my new status and adjusting to it. They comply with my schedule. They know the enormous workload I have back in the palace. Some of them are somehow scared to maintain old intimacy, thinking that a traditional ruler is a special being. Even my colleagues too now treat me in a special way.
Are you comfortable with this new development?
It is not a matter of being comfortable or not comfortable. To a large extent, it is a matter of the reality, even though their fear is not actually real. But because of their appreciation of the culture, they know that a traditional ruler occupies a special position in the society.
How beneficial is your academic status to the palace?
There is no doubting the fact that my academic attainment would be an asset to my town. I am not one given to say what I won’t do. I am also not one who raises people’s hope unnecessarily. But I can tell you that I will stop at nothing in making my academic position a great benefit to my town and my people. Already, my children who are doing well in their different professions, are ready to return home and join me in developing the town.
Then you must be missing some things you used to do and enjoyed before you became the Alapa?
There is no sacrifice that is too much to serving one’s town. That is how I see my being the Alapa. I am here on a mission and the mission is very clear; the mission is to ensure Okin-Apa is transformed to a bigger town which other towns would see as a model, in terms of growth and development.
Is there anything on ground to show where you are taking the town?
God has been faithful since I became the Alapa, and I am very positive that He will not forsake me in turning my dream to reality. The truth is that I did not meet the town in good shape, in terms of development. My father was on the throne for 15 years but he could not do much because he spent 10 out of the 15 years on sickbed. This is a challenge to me to ensure that the lost grounds are recovered. I guess you saw a mast outside to facilate reception. I have also built our secondary school. Already we have eight standard classrooms and one hall which is under construction. There are a principal, teachers and non-teaching staff in the school. Our primary school, opposite the palace, has also just been rehabilitated by the effort of Honourable Segun Odebunmi. We also have N10 million ultra modern Central Mosque built by an illustrious son, Alhaji Isiaka Hamzat. I have also built 20 lock up shops to boost commercial activities. Apart from that, I have instituted an interest-free credit facility to our women. This is an empowerment of sorts to ensure that their welfare improves. The women have formed a cooperative through which they access the loan. I can only advise them to make good use of the loan. In the area of security, I have also built a police station, which is going to be inaugurated when the Oyo State Police Command is ready.
My being the Alapa is not a joke but a business and service delivery to my people.
What are the challenges you currently face?
To be honest with you, I am happy doing all these things, only that I use my personal resources and contacts to put them in place. However, as I said earlier, there is no sacrifice I cannot make to build my town. And I am determined to do just that for the sake of posterity. There is nothing we do today which is not being recorded for tomorrow. I have a bigger picture of Okin-Apa and we are going to achieve that dream.
Can you tell me the state of the proposed Special School for Children with Disability?
This school is seriously giving me a concern now, if I must be frank with you.
Why is it giving you concern?
Our expectation, after the delegate from the Republic of South Africa and Dangote Foundation visited my town, was high; very high. Deputy Minister for Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu represented the Government of Republic of South Africa while a Manager of Dangote Foundation, Musa Bala, signed on behalf of the group. We were happy to the extent that I conferred a traditional title on Ms Bogopane-Zulu. Forty acres of land has been allocated for the project. But since then, there is nothing on ground, which is unfortunate.
What is the way out of this stillness?
I want the Federal Government to intervene by reaching out to the government of the Republic of South Africa to know what is delaying the project.
Have you a word to your subjects?
I want them to continue with their trust in me. They have shown love since I became the Alapa. If you were here during Easter, you would see my people celebrating with me in the palace. It was a historic gathering. We are happy that we all have one mission, which is to collectively develop Okin-Apa.