Like every other person, the Oba of Igbobi-Sabe, Lagos State, Oba Owolabi Adeyemi Adeniyi is currently reviewing the past four months of Coronavirus outrage around the world. The former US-based Computer Engineer says the pandemic is a message to humanity that there is nothing in life to take too serious because God did not create man to live forever. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, the clergyman-turned monarch admonishes Nigerians to still keep safe in spite of recent relaxation of lockdown. Excerpts:
How are you coping with the coronavirus pandemic as traditional ruler?
Is it a matter of traditional ruler now? Coronavirus is beyond that. Obviously it respects no class or status; it is like hurricane which rages indiscriminately. If you see how it dealt with advanced countries of the world, you would agree with me that COVID-19 is respecter of nobody.
Does that mean it caught you unawares?
Who saw it coming before it struck? Tell me, who even dreamt of it. Yes, the advanced countries of the world had fore-knowledge of it but it was shortly before it spread. What am I even saying? COVID-19 is a phenomenon which troubles the world and humbles everybody. I am only lucky that I had returned to the country before it hit the world. Otherwise, I would not also have been able to return home. Do you now number of Nigerians on holiday currently stranded abroad? It is that bad.
How can you assess the situation now with lift on lockdown, especially in Lagos State?
Of course, as traditional ruler of a domain which houses a lot of economic concerns and other strategic sectors of the economy, I think you should know how I felt during that lockdown. Everything was paralysed; I mean everything, considering the natural feature of Lagos as state of activities. But that situation cannot be compared with health of the whole population. So, the lockdown is in order. Only God alone knows what would have happened but we thank Him that the number of the affected was minimal. If we compare casualty figure here with what was recorded in Italy, for instance, we will know that we are really lucky in this part of the world.
Some sections of the population seem to not believe in the COVID-19, describing it as international conspiracy and indeed advanced fraud. What is your view on this?
What do you want me to say on this? Has your investigation found me among those sections of the population? Look, if there anything we should toy with, that thing should not be health issue. You may have everything, the moment you lose your health, everything you have is reduced to nothing. Health is a gift which God gives His creatures. And He also empowers some people with knowledge to maintain human health. If those empowered to maintain human health give out health tips, the best those of us outside that profession, should do is to listen to them and comply to the letter because failure to listen and comply will lead to serious complication. What I am saying is that those who don’t take COVID-19 serious are not to be taken serious. They should read update to know that it is not a joke but a reality. I tell my people consistently that they should not take the relaxation of lockdown for granted. I tell them to still comply with all the authorities are saying regarding precaution against Coronavirus. It is very important we don’t think it is all over. In fact, my worry now cannot be quantified watching the cluster of people everywhere.
What is direct effect of the COVID-19 on your palace?
Which effect are you talking about?
I mean, in terms of pressure from your subjects who were all not going to work.
If that is what you mean, well, I don’t think that should be a matter for the media. Whatever I do for my people is between me and my people. I consider it an act of irresponsibility to be talking about what you mean. To God be the glory that we are all coping well, and everybody is back to work now. But I have to acknowledge and appreciate the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwoolu for palliative items which he extended to us. The way he organised it shows his respect for traditional institution as closer to the grass root
Don’t you think position of traditional ruler entails providing for the needy?
What else should we do? A traditional ruler should accept the fact that he is on the throne for his subjects. So, he should see the position as a privilege which others don’t have because he was not the only prince who contested for the throne. His final selection should be seen as a divine call to duty; call to service; call to improve life of his subjects. That is how I see my position. In fact, if I reflect on my life sojourn, from Nigeria to the US where I was based for years, I don’t have a choice than to live my life for my people. I have said it several times that I did not leave the US for Nigeria to contest for the throne. I came purposely to take care of my mother. That was my only mission in the country but along the line the stool became vacant and one thing led to the other. To God be the glory.
You must love your mother to have relocated from where you were enjoying the best infrastructural facilities for home.
Who does not love his mother? Anyway, it depends on individual experience. As for me, my mother deserved my love because of what she passed through over me. When I realised that age was no longer on her side, I picked my things and flew down to Nigeria.
I met you at a dinner and observed you closely and saw a synergy between you and olori.
Which synergy are you talking about, young man? The synergy you saw is the same synergy with which we have lived together as husband and wife. And again, to God be the glory. I did not think I would meet you at that gathering but I was happy to see you in company with my friend. What you saw that day was part of our social responsibilities as traditional rulers. If we are invited to such occasion but we don’t honour the invite, the host may not like it because he knows the kind of glamour our presence would add to his function. But a traditional ruler should not overdo it. He should not be seen at every function. The sanctity of the throne needs to be respected.
Can you share with us the history of Igbobi-Sabe?
The founder of Igbobi-Sabe, a great hunter and great grandson of Oduduwa, was named Sabe who migrated from Ile-Ife. That was around 17th century. In those ages, Ifa Oracle was usually the guide which showed direction of things to our forefathers. So, when consulted, the Ifa Oracle directed Sabe to migrate to Igbo-Odu which was surrounded by Obi Edun trees. That was how the name Igbobi-Sabe evolved. Geography dictated the name of Igbobi-Sabe like other Yoruba towns like Ibadan which was first known as Eba-Odan, Abeokuta and others.
Who are the siblings of Sabe?
They are descendants of Olofin all scattered in Yorubaland. They are Ogiyan of Ejigbo, Olowu, Olowolotu Ife and others.
Your message to your subjects.
They should all know that it is not over on COVID-19. Everybody must take a good care of his or her health. The time we are not under strict lockdown is a trying time for us because of obvious reason. We should keep safe as we are being guided. Social distance too should be complied with as much as possible. I know this may come with some challenges but we have to understand that health is wealth.
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