Unnecessary class concern divides traditional rulers —Olota of Ota, Oba Adeyemi
The Olota of Ota, Ogun State, Oba Abdul-Kabir Adeyemi, is a former Public Relations Officer of the Students Union of the Ogun State Polytechnic, now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta. He was also born and raised in the heart of Mushin, an area in Lagos where only the tough survive. This background influenced Oba Adeyemi positively in his life journey. He is currently a professor teaching postgraduate students of the Crescent University, Abeokuta. In an interview with TUNDE BUSARI, the traditional ruler, who recently celebrated his first coronation anniversary, bares his mind on recent issues between Ota and Egbaland. Excerpts
Your first coronation anniversary drew a large crowd of distinguished guests to your town, how did you achieve it?
There is no secret about it. It is goodwill and nothing more. I give glory to God for the success which we recorded at the anniversary. I appreciate the planning committee who stopped at nothing in organizing such a big event.
Governor Dapo Abiodun was in attendance, what does this mean to you?
The presence of His Excellency means a lot to me and my people because it is not at all events you find such a very important guest.
Did you invite him personally?
You will be shocked to know that the planning committee was behind the whole thing. I was out of the country for some time while the planning was ongoing. They only told me two days to the event that the governor might be our guest. In the end, the governor temporarily relocated seat of power to Ota on that day as he was accompanied by hisdeputy, secretary to state government, chief press secretary and other top government functionaries.
The governor made some inspiring remarks about you, which is indicative of your relationship with him. Were you surprised?
I must be honest that His Excellency caught me unawares. In Yorubaland, we value Omoluabi more than any other thing. What Omoluabi symbolises is good, imperishable name that lives after the bearer. The governor I saw at my anniversary looked very sincere. He looked like one who is genuinely concerned in taking Ogun State to highest pedestal. I saw a governor who desires strongly to unite the people of the state. And I am positive that he will achieve this goal. He appeared like a good listener who respects views of others. I pray to God to be with him in his effort to perform better than his predecessors. Ogun State, which is generally acclaimed to be the gateway to civilization in Nigeria, deserves to be a reference points for good governance, in terms of functional social amenities.
Recently the media was awash with claim and counter-claim from your town and Abeokuta. Do you think this is necessary when the two towns in the same state should speak with one voice?
What is not necessary? Do you have a clear picture of the issue involved? If you understand the issue involved, you would not have asked such question. I was not brought up to keep quiet when I should speak up. Why do you think I am on this throne? Do you think I am here to be wearing agbada and making appearance at social functions alone? No. I am here as custodian of Ota tradition and custom, including its history. So, if an individual or a group of individuals wake up one day and feels my town should be their target of insult, it is my responsibility to give it back to them so that they will know that Ota would not accept such infringement.
What is infringement in the issue?
The infringement therein is making attempt to encroach on the rights of others and making a claim which never existed. I hate liars because such a person does a lot of damage to himself or herself and whatever he or she represents. Such a person loses respect and public credibility. Whatever he or she says is easily disregarded and thrown into the trash can. But it is never late to repent. Let me be specific here, Ota was never conquered by the Egba. Ota has been here since the 17th century. As a matter of fact, the first Olota was installed in 1621. You are a reporter who is trained to know a little in everything, go and research and find out when the Egba came to their present location. It is 1830. If they say they captured us, when did they capture us? What is the name of the oba they captured? What is the name of the oba they installed after the capture? This is the issue involved, which I need to clarify to the world. I am not contesting any superiority with other traditional rulers anywhere. I cannot be the Olota and Alake at the same time. It is not possible. But I must set the record straight so that the public is not misled. To know further that I am not in contest with any other traditional ruler, I attend meetings of Egba Traditional Council and make my contributions therein as a member. I am a lover of peace who works for peace at all time. It will be contradictory to find me making trouble with anyone. However, nobody should take that for granted. I believe more in Yoruba unity than all these distractions. Yoruba Obas should play down this class struggle. It does not really matter which class you belong in when it comes to issues affecting the security and development of the Yoruba nation. Ego and trivial things should not be allowed to divide us further. The time is now to chorus unity. But when you talk of unity, we must not forget that truth holds unity better.
Hasn’t your membership of Egba Traditional Council solved this controversy?
Look, there is no controversy on the issue. What we have is the truth and nothing but the truth. My membership of Egba Traditional Council removes nothing from the history which had been written long before the existence of the council.
Should I take that for a protest?
You are free to see it from that perspective because what is not right has no other name than wrong. That arrangement is faulty. It is against the history. It is inexplicable to divide the Awori between Egba and Yewa. It is pure injustice to history. I am not contesting it but I am saying it clearly that the system which produced such arrangement is anti-justice. The system should have brought all the Awori together in one council based on our history. We are direct children of Oduduwa through Ogunfunminire, who is our progenitor. We brought our crown from Ife down here. This history should be respected. Unfortunately reverse is the case as you can see in this arrangement. But I will not keep quiet on it. I will continue to speak my mind on the injustice to our history.
I learnt that you travelled to Switzerland where you spent some weeks before your anniversary, of what purpose or, better still, benefit was that trip to your town?
One of my visions when I ascended the throne was to turn around educational sector in Ota. The position I hold in academic today means that my children have no choice but to also read to highest level. Then how would I achieve this dream? I found out that I needed to look beyond Nigeria, hence my trip to Switzerland where I held meaningful talks with Basel Local Education Authority. In a couple of weeks, we shall receive education equipment donated to us by this institution. When this equipment arrives and is installed, it will surely boost the standard of education here, and that is what we need now. I can tell you that this is just the beginning of the journey because my academic status must reflect in the development of my town.
During a chat with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, he frowned upon the practice of regular use of crown by traditional rulers, insisting that crown should only be adorned occasionally. You are here wearing a cap, does that mean you agree with the Alaafin’s position?
I am on the same page as the Alaafin on this issue. Crowns should not be worn to every function. To me, it diminishes what the crown symbolizes. We should understand this. It is true that crown distinguishes traditional rulers from chiefs and subjects but that is not enough to turn it into ordinary cap which we must wear at all time. I am worried that our culture has been diluted in that what is foreign to us are being brought here. But as traditional rulers, it is our duty to ensure the culture is rescued from total erosion. But before I conclude with this question, I still need to say it clearly that the crown you see on many obas at social functions are not original. Those ones are generated crowns unlike original crowns which only come out during special occasions because of the spiritual power attached to them. If, for instance, I wear my own traditional crown, I must not utter certain words. In other words, I must watch what I say because whatever I say under that crown comes to pass. Traditional crowns are that powerful. Be that as it may, I want to urge traditional rulers to exercise caution in the use of paraphernalia of the palace.