Dealing with communal resistance is a major challenge for traditional rulers —Oba Adeogun-Okunoye, Eburu of Iba
The Eburu of Iba, Oba Adekunle Adeogun-Okunoye, who is also a professor of computer science, in this interview by Oluwole Ige, speaks about his one year on the throne, the socioeconomic challenges confronting his community, among other issues.
It is almost a year since you emerged a monarch. How has the experience been?
The past months have been a learning period for us. This position entails day to day dealings and interaction with the community and no amount of training, exposure and qualification can prepare you for these roles. This is because once you are dealing with people, they can be highly dynamic and unpredictable. But, with the grace of God and support of my brother kings, I have been able to cope with my duties as a traditional ruler. Generally, it has been an interesting period so far.
You are a professor of computer science. How can you compare your experience as an academic within the four walls of the university with your responsibilities as a traditional ruler?
Interestingly, I think I am just fortunate because in my institution, where I worked as a professor, Jesuit Catholic University, USA, they put a lot of emphasis on service. As a matter of fact, you cannot attain the level of a professor without significant service to your community, the university community and academic organisations. So, you got to be a leader. Therefore, that emphasis on service at the university prepared me for this throne. Admitted that I have my academic discipline in computer science, but that cadre of a professor apart from the academic aspect of it prepares you as a leader. My position as a professor in the university made me appreciate the critical significance of service to the people and community, which is what my current position as an Oba is all about. In a nutshell, that academic experience and passion for service have been brought to bear on my position as Eburu of Iba.
As Eburu of Iba, what are the major challenges you have been facing, since ascension to the throne?
As expected, the orientation of our people can be different. The world is changing rapidly at internet speed, but we still have a lot of our people living in the agrarian era. Bearing this in mind, we know that to bring about change, one has to be very patient because naturally humans resist change. The old value and core of their belief cannot be changed so suddenly. But, we have to move with time due to the fact that we live in a globalised world as you can see. Our mission is not to really become a mega city like Lagos. We are a rural community where we want to have peace and development. While we are doing that, our people are bound to resist it. So, dealing with that resistance about the changes we are bringing in is a major challenge. Remember, these are my people. We cannot really discipline and there is limit to little punitive measures that you can apply. All you can do is adopt corrective measures and offer explanation. The good thing is that we are surmounting those challenges now. You can see the huge number of people that came to engage in a meeting with me at the palace today. They are about 240 out of which about 120 of them are members of various boards of committees and these are dedicated people. So, if I can select about 120 dedicated and committed citizens, who are passionate about the growth and development of Iba community, that is significant to me.
When I came, I observed that you set up some committees and boards. What informed this development?
We have representative government in a republic. But, city government to me should not only be representative, but also participatory. It is an attempt to involve our people in active participation in the affairs of the community. I tried to approach the administration of the city through participatory government. This has to do with the involvement of our people and enable them to hear early enough about our decisions. Similarly, this would create avenue for them to have an input into whatever we do. So, instead of top-down method, we are using bottom-top. City government is monarchy, but this is modified monarchy.
The people know their limits while we command. Even Saudi Arabia today is becoming more liberal how much more we that are operating in a republic. So, this approach requires the involvement of all people in the affairs of the community. To make the job easier, I have experienced and responsible people that can manage issues and sectors for me. That was why we constitute these dedicated people into boards and committees, we even have those who will be in charge of neighbourhoods. These committees and boards include education, health, agriculture, land and water resources. They have more time to go into research and advice us. Instead of me and chiefs to be the ones making those decisions, they would be involved and that would make the whole process encompassing and interactive.
How would you describe the readiness of your people to work with these boards and committees?
I am glad that you saw them when you came. It is just amazing because people kept coming to be involved and I have a problem on how to limit the number of the people that would be selected. This indicates that I have many people willing to contribute their quotas to the development of our community. They are very happy to be involved and have this sense of belonging. I have no doubt in my mind that our people would cooperate with them to achieve maximally the goals we set out in making Iba community great.
As the traditional head of this community, what are the infrastructural deficiencies or needs of Iba, which need government’s intervention?
I have to be very frank. We still have a long way to go as a nation. I personally appreciate the efforts of the Osun State government under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregebsola. We also understand the problem that is facing the nation at the federal level.
However, every sector that you can think about in Iba needs serious and urgent government’s intervention. Go to our secondary school, it is a pitiable sight. I wonder how any student can learn anything meaningful in that kind of environment. If I were to be posted there as a teacher, every morning I wake up to go there, I would feel sad. The place is not just conducive. What can the government do in the face of dwindling financial resources and all the states rely on the allocation from the federal government? Our people don’t understand the importance of prompt payment of tax and that is why through our boards and various sensitisation programme, we encourage them to pay their taxes, thus increasing the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). It is then that we can now go back to government and demand for needed infrastructure. Nonetheless, our roads are very bad. No single road that leads to Iba is in good condition, except the one that goes to Okuku. We have about six roads that lead to Iba that can facilitate trade and agriculture and they are all deplorable. This community is very key and important. Osun State government has been good to our community, but like Oliver Twist, we need more. They recently gave us an area council and this has brought development closer to us and the neighbouring community of Obaagun. The staff that work at the LCDA don’t live here. This is because in the evening everywhere is dark. So, the social life is zero and how do you expect them to stay in such environment. There is little government can do about electricity because it has been privatised. The regulatory agencies that are controlling the electricity distribution companies are not doing enough for the people. Our mini waterworks that suppose to produce water for the community is dysfunctional and the workers report for duty every day. I don’t know what they are doing there.
Even the farmers are not getting enough profits from their farm produce. I am therefore appealing to our amiable governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola to look at our side. If there is any community that needs one mega school now, it is Iba. One secondary school is enough for us and we would manage it. If they can help us with one of our elementary school, the whole community would be very happy.
There are no basic drugs in our health centre. We need the help of government in all these areas. We would be grateful if the state government can come to our rescue in all these areas that I have mentioned.