I came to open up Erinmo to the world — Elerinmo
The Elerinmo of Erinmo, Oba Michael Odunayo Ajayi is often called Atobatele (A royal personage) long before he ascended the throne of his Osun State town. The monarch, however, differs with the moniker attributing his ascension to divine law. He speaks with TUNDE BUSARI on sundry issues. Excerpts:
I recently found myself in a gathering where the discussants were consistently referring to you as Atobatele (A royal personality). How do you react to this?
I should see this from the angle of compliment. Thank God I was not at that gathering and I don’t know any of the discussants. Their description of me is their impression of my personality.
Is it about your frame?
I won’t say because I don’t know how they came about it.
Is it about your dress sense which is also very attractive to me?
Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is that my rise to the throne is God ordained. If you go back to the history of Erinmo, you will know and understand the place of Arowotaya from where I come. The history of my father too, which is recent, is also there to serve as a reference point about the position I am holding today. It is not about Atobatele, royal blood runs through my vein as Arowotaya.
Can we then say that consciousness influenced the way you carried yourself before you eventually became the Elerinmo?
Still, it depends on how you look at me; it depends on the angle from where you look at me. You should not forget that I was a student, undergraduate, a corporate person who held a high position of responsibility both at home and beyond. If these are put together, you see a whole me. Then when I became the Elerinmo, it is easy to forget that I used to be in shirts and suits. By and large, I had no time to flaunt by royal status because I was too pre-occupied with a lot of things. Maybe, when the issue of succession came, things changed and my outlook also changed.
Did you actually prepare for the throne?
Let me be honest with you, every prince is entitled to the throne and he is conscious of this in the way he behaves outside and relates to the public.
Did you mean a prince is supposed to be arrogant and possibly above the law?
How would I have said that? That is not possible. A prince who is known to be arrogant will find it difficult to convince his people when selection time comes. Similarly, a prince who claims to be above the law is only deceiving himself. This is the modern world where the law is supreme and no respecter to anybody. If a prince runs afoul of the law, he is on his own.
Coming from your background as an international figure always shuttling between Africa and America, is this your new quiet life not boring?
It cannot be. This is a new position of responsibility. I have seen what I needed to see in the other world. Returning home to my source is a rare opportunity which does not come to everyone. So, I have no reason to regret. I am good serving my people and writing my own history as the Elerinmo of Erinmo.
The Yorubaland now has new Aare Ona Kakanfo twenty years after the passing on of the late holder of the title, MKO Abiola. Have you advice for Aare Gani Adams?
Time has changed. So are the traditional functions of Aare Ona Kakanfo. But I am convinced that Aare Adams is capable to understand this dynamism and he has set the ball rolling with what we have so far seen in his moves and approaches to issues. His selection and installation enjoyed the best publicity both on conventional media and new media. I can only wish him more success.
How significant was the visit of the Minister for Health, Professor Isaac Adewole to you and the town in December?
It may even interest you that the historic visit coincided with the Boxing Day on December 26 when the yuletide was in the air and a good number of Erinmo indigenes who came home for Christmas were in town. It was a memorable experience to have the honourable minister in Erinmo on that special day after Christmas. You may call the time of the visit as one of its significances. Seriously speaking, the minister came and inspected two health care facilities which need attention. He saw the state of the two facilities and left there with a promise to equip them among other things to make them functional. He set a target of June for the completion to underscore his determination to make the facilities work.
This development must have excited you?
That is an understatement. The minister’s visit and his promise to turn around the two facilities have really rekindled my hope. Since I ascended the throne of my forefathers, the improved life of my people has always been my preoccupation. I have set a target for myself and I am walking towards getting to the target point. Erinmo must rise. Erinmo of my time must live its destiny as a potential great town. By the time these two health facilities are complete, other things will start to come to consolidate how far we have gone since I became the Elerinmo. For instance, I recently commissioned a petroleum station in the town to boost economic activities. You know that Erinmo is an important route which is daily plied by Abuja-bound passengers. Having this petrol station is a way of making the travellers to have a stop-over to buy fuel and also patronize our traders. Also, I have commissioned a Cooperative Society Bank for my people. Adding the two together, we have a growing economy, an evidence of development I promised when I came. Although it is a gradual thing, Rome was not complete overnight. A drop of water makes an ocean. As I have said, Erinmo is destined for great things and these things shall come during my reign and the whole world will celebrate with us here.
Can you shed more light on your penchant to mix with the kids at public places?
As regards that there is nothing special in identifying with the little kids. I was once a kid and only God knows what the future holds for them. When I was growing up like them, I was not saying I would be the Elerinmo because the position goes beyond what one plans for. But here I am today. The little boy of yesterday is sitting on the throne. On the day of Christmas, they were here in the palace for what I call the annual Children’s Christmas party. We held it together with the 1st Thanksgiving ceremony by the Erinmo Mass Choir. When we talk of legacy, this is one of the legacies a leader must strive to leave behind for future generation. Whatever we do today becomes history tomorrow. The kids may appear as if they don’t capture the full import of this gathering. But I must tell you that they are blessed with fertile minds that will recall this event in future. At times, I find myself in the realm of nostalgia and shake my head and give glory to God for where he has taken me to. Before the Christmas party, I was in the midst of the kids during the 2017 Children’s Harvest of the Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Isegun, Headquarters, Erinmo here. It was another interesting occasion during which I spoke with them and danced. They were very happy to see me dancing with them under a free atmosphere. Let the kids come to us because the future is theirs.
The popular London-based Iya Adura, Reverend Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi was also Erinmo. Could you tell us her mission?
Are you aware of the Ori Oke Erinmo? This is a place of spiritual upliftment, a place where prayers are offered and answered. Iya Adura is a successful woman of God whose name opens doors. When she travelled down from London to Erinmo with about 70 members, I knew it was on a serious mission. Their trip was successful and the people of Erinmo thank her for the visit.
The month of December was action-packed with your women empowerment initiative. Can you tell us more about it?
Let me put it this way. Last December as you have observed rightly was a December to remember for a long time. It was a historic month as we moved from one event to another. About 100 women who were enrolled in Oba Arowotawaya Empowerment Initiatives (in conjunction with GIGA Time Hope Foundation) received their Certificates of participation. I personally presented the certificates to them with royal blessings that they will all succeed. The certificates were not given to them on a platter of gold. They all worked to earn them. They passed through rigorous training. I appreciate all the facilitators and the two Europe based women of substance Bisi & Nonye. They were wonderful while the training lasted.
How did you emerge a member of Board of Trustees of Yoruba Odu’a Union in The Diaspora?
That question should be better directed to those who saw came to that decision. I was notified and presented with an official letter which was effective from November 1, 2017. That is all I can say but one should be conscious of where I was coming from before I became the Elerinmo. I think I tried my best possible to make a mark in the business and the corporate world beyond the shores of Nigeria.
Can you tell me more about Yoruba Odu’a Union in The Diaspora?
It is a platform founded by technocrats and professionals with a view to keeping the Yorubas on right track at all time both at home and in the Diaspora.