Ago-Are is the headquarters of the newly created Atisbo South Local Council Development Area of Oyo State. It comprises six wards, including Ofiki, Agunrege, Owo, Sabe and Baasi. The traditional head of the town, Oba Abodunrin Kofoworola, in this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, reflects on his return home as the Aare of Ago-Are in 2016.
How would you describe your experience on the throne in the last one and a half years?
Let me start by giving all the glory to God because He is the solid rock on which I have been leaning from the day I was selected, announced and installed. Up till this morning you are speaking with me, He is in charge of Ago-Are. I am only here in the palace as His representative. In other words, my being the Aare of Ago-Are was not by my might or my wealth or educational attainment. It was by the design of God who oversees all his creatures on earth and beyond. To Him I will always look up to for guide on this throne.
You left the public service as Director of Administration at the Nigerian Educational Research Development Council (NERDC). To what extent has your career helped you in the administration of your domain?
Strictly speaking, it is a different terrain. But in truth, my career really impacted the administration of the town positively in many ways. I am of the school of thought that no knowledge, no matter how little, is a waste. One only needs to understand the application of such knowledge at the right time. I can say that my career is a blessing to me on the throne. Let me just give you an instance of how the career prepared me. I was posted to our Lagos annex office years back and in charge of about 200 staffers: people from different ethnic, religious and social background. I was able to manage them well. It was only very serious and sensitive issues I referred to the head office in Abuja. Human beings are difficult to manage, but I did my best to leave an acceptable legacy in that office. So when I came here, it was easy for me to listen and understand the depth of issues brought before me.
How does you day look like from dawn to dusk?
I wake up very early at say 5:30, observe my prayer and then walk round my compound. I do this for about 30 minutes so that I shed sweat. Then I enter bathroom; dining for breakfast and get set to receive my people. Different issues are brought to the palace, all of which I must attend to because that is what the palace is all about. I do this till late in the afternoon after which I observe my siesta for two hours. I am back at about 6:30 to continue till I finally go to bed at around 11 pm.
Comparing the experience to your life as a public servant, is the palace not boring?
It is not in any way boring. I am fully engaged as I said earlier. The palace has not slowed me down, contrary to what you think.
It is now a fad that every town sets aside a day to celebrate the town, but it is somehow becoming unattractive. How do you react to this?
There is nothing wrong in a town setting specific days aside to celebrate themselves. It is a day sons and daughters of the towns reunite; those that have gone their separate ways for many years see one another again and relive their childhood days. What is more important is to do it right, with a view to showcasing hidden treasures of the town to the invited guests and using same to develop the towns. And doing it right requires proper planning from the drawing board to the D-day. Before I became the Aare of Ago-Are, I was involved in the development drive of the town and I was known for whom I was; with due respect. I don’t compromise standard. I think the situation where invited special guests of honours are elsewhere on the day is not good enough. I believe that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
You just mentioned natural treasures. What is your town blessed with as a treasure, in terms of tourism potential?
We have Iluku Hill. That was the former location after we had left Ikole-Ekiti in the present Ekiti State. Our forefathers migrated from Ile-Ife to Ikole and later to Iluku Hill. The hill was a natural frontier against external aggression. It specifically served that purpose during Dahomey War. There are caves in the hill inside which people took refuge during war. It is a tourist site, but which unfortunately is yet to be developed. Aside that, Ago-Are is also blessed and, in fact, reputed for its vast land which is fertile for agriculture. My people are doing my best in their own way to explore this natural resource, only that they are small scale farmers. I call on government and investors from outside to come and tap into these resources. We are wealth-creating people. Ago-Are is the economic hub to other communities. Government and investors can improve upon this.
I saw some of youths outside and observed they are not fully engaged. How true or otherwise is my observation?
Many of them are on their respective farmlands. Those you saw may have something to do in the town. But despite that, they have farms. That is the vocation in which they were born. That is why I urge the government to come and productively engage them. They are hardworking, even though some might not. The progress of these youths is my business and my core philosophy. And I have, in my own way, instilled hope in them through various capacity-building training and mentorship pogrammes. It is within the dictates of our culture that the young shall provide for the aged. And for this reason, our youths need to be nurtured and engaged positively to attain financial independence to provide for the needs of their parents, families and other dependents. A situation where youths are used as thugs during election campaigns and elections should be discouraged.
Political aspirants will soon be coming to you for royal blessings. What would you tell them?
I am father to all of the aspirants, regardless of the political parties they belong. That must be clear and understood. This status has conferred on me the reason I must tell them the truth. I want them to engage my youths productively. I don’t want them to use and dump them after the elections. This is what I am going to tell them, apart from reminding them of the need not to make promises they would not fulfill. The palace is home to all of them. They are welcome, but I won’t deceive them with sweet talk.
How can you describe the relationship between your town and neighbouring towns and communities?
You must be aware that we have six wards in our local council development area and bounded by Saki-West, Saki–East, Iwajowa and Itesiwaju local government areas. The era when one community showing strength over others and overrunning them is long gone. We are now in an organised world where law is in place. In this circumstance, the best which the towns should do is to engage in what is called healthy rivalry in development, instead of engaging in bickering and other backward activities. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing like brotherliness with my neighbours. However, I said it earlier that human beings could be difficult.
Where do intend to see your town at you tenth coronation anniversary?
The Ago Are of my dream is to be strategically positioned to empower its people socially, economically, culturally and socially to bring the desired development. I have resolved to transform the town in every area to put it on world map. My ultimate goal is to reposition and re-engineer the town to be a model to other towns.