Why government alone cannot develop rural communities — Oba Aderibigbe

In this interview by KEHINDE OYETIMI, the paramount ruler of Odo Ayandelu Kingdom, Ikosi Ejinrin, Epe Division of Lagos State, His Royal Majesty, Oba Asunmo Ganiyu Aderibigbe speaks on various issues of both regional and national importance.

Since you ascended the throne of your forebears, what would you describe as the most challenging aspect of your leadership as a traditional ruler?

One of the challenges which I think is daunting is the refusal of people making contributing to the growth of the community. Our forebears and the elderly ones that are around did a lot in the area of community development. We celebrated one of our brothers on Saturday. He did a lot in the development of the community. The same goes to my late father, Alhaji Asumo Balogun. They chose to work with the elders of the community to ensure that our status is raised from baale-ship to obaship. They tarred the road from Agbowa to our community. They also facilitated the provision of electricity here. They also brought in other social amenities, including the primary school. We have a lot of things to do. I need all the support that I can get. There is nothing you can do without money.

Look at the school that we built. I donated the administrative block. This was after the Lagos State government said we should start building before it would get involved and take over its running. We used part of the community’s money. Here, in this community, we regard people with lands as land users. We have a committee in that respect. When a land is sold, 40 per cent of the proceed goes back to the community. From such proceeds, we have been able to build a lodge for members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) posted to our community. We renovated the community’s town hall. We renovated the old primary school building. That was where we kick-started our junior secondary school. We also built the female school. At the moment, we are also erecting the community’s palace. Where I reside now is my own personal house. However, it is not good not to have the community palace. We need our indigenes both home and abroad to come back home and join hands together to see how this community can be developed. I must also say that I am enjoying the full cooperation of members of the community living with me at the moment.

Yet, I appreciate all the donors that have been helping this community. We have those within and outside the country. I want those in Nigeria to emulate the commitment of those who are outside. There is nothing too small to give back to your community. Look at the palace that we are commissioning very soon. The governor gave me N5 million in this regard but I gave it to the community. I am very grateful to him. Only few people contributed to the building. They should donate and touch the lives of others.

In those days our children would trek about seven kilometers to school. We built a school and when government saw it, it was impressed and gave us well furnished laboratories and other aids. The government alone cannot develop all the communities. People must assist government.

 

You just became a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building. How does this feel?

I am now a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building. That is the highest that you can go in that institute. There are many professional bodies in the country at the moment. It was not easy getting it. I had been working on this for a long time. I obtained my ordinary and higher national diplomas at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.

Before one can become a fellow of the institute, there are stages and criteria to be met. We have the technician stage, graduate stage; if you are not a graduate, there is what we refer to as matured candidate. When you get to the stage of a matured candidate or write an exam, you are expected to face a panel. If successful, you will then be registered as a builder. You can then appendage your approval on any building project which is safe for public use. After obtaining your Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) accreditation, which I got in 2010, you are expected to wait for another ten years after which you will then move to the stage of being a fellow of the institute. I was invited to Abuja in early Match. I went for the interview. I did well and I was given the status of the fellow of the institute. The graduation ceremony was held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. I am the first traditional ruler to become a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building. It is not honorary. I am grateful to all my friends, family and well wishers. After me, the Emir of Bauchi, by next year, should be the second traditional ruler to be so named a fellow of the institute.

 

About a year or two ago, you and many traditional rulers in the South West under the umbrella of Yoruba Obas’ Forum (YOF) met on charting a way forward in the interest of the South West. How far have you gone with this?

The forum is waxing strong. It is just about two years that we established that forum to bring all Yoruba obas together. Once you are a crowned oba in Yoruba land and duly recognised by government, you are automatically admitted to that forum. The forum has not been relenting in talking to our governors, our Yoruba leaders particularly in guaranteeing the security of our people. Look at the birth of the Western Security Network codenamed operation Amotekun. I said this about four years ago that we need our indigenous security network to provide adequate security for our people. Governors and local government chairmen are given security votes but none for obas. What are the local government chairmen using their security votes for? It is the traditional ruler in that community that is more concerned about the security of his people. It is when our communities are peaceful that we can think of bringing development to our communities. But as traditional rulers, we do not have security votes; we are not empowered. Yet, we will not say that because we are not given security votes we won’t secure the lives and property of our people. All our communities are peaceful; that is why you will see that Lagos State is making progress. Many of our traditional rulers here in Lagos are learned. They know what they are doing.

The Yoruba Obas’ Forum has been settling disputes among traditional rulers. We have been working with the Ooni of Ife and the Alaafin of Oyo. They are patrons of the forum. We want the state governors in the south west to join hands with the traditional rulers. They cannot do it alone. You cannot politicise everything; this is why we have crises everywhere in the country. In Lagos here, the governor has been working with us. This is why Lagos is making progress. He has been holding meetings with us. Any governor in any state cannot only relate with political associates. He must also relate and work with his traditional rulers.

 

We expected that since Amotekun was launched about seven months ago the operations of the agency would have kicked off. What is causing the delay?

That lies with the various governors of the South West. Many of them did not consult many of the traditional rulers. We have 57 local council areas in Lagos State. How many people do you want to involve in these areas? Discuss with the obas and let them be sureties for those that would be employed. If any of these personnel misbehaves, then the oba who stood as guarantor will be held responsible. If you want the agency to work, then you need the traditional rulers, religious leaders. Look at the police force and all the misdemeanors going on there. The governors must work with the traditional rulers.

 

The coronavirus pandemic has induced a disturbing rate of unemployment in the country. How should this be addressed?

Government must be prudent in handling the pandemic. It is affecting our economy. The misinformation that is being sold out will affect us investment-wise. At the moment we are confronted with unemployment but the worst is coming. They should look at the economy and foreign investments. Government must look in the direction of private school teachers. They are suffering. When schools are shut, parents won’t pay for services not rendered. But these private school teachers have children and other needs to cater to. I know a teacher who left Ikorodu for my area to get engaged as a bricklayer so as to sustain his family. He would not steal. Our youths must be helped.

 

Before the pandemic, our farmers were confronted with suspected killer herdsmen. Now the level of insecurity is combined with the pandemic. Don’t you envisage a food crisis?

The government knows what to do in addressing this. Unfortunately, things are always politicised in our country. Surely we are going to face food crisis. The government must do something about this. Look at the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Youth Development. How many youths have they empowered? The people who really need the money to go into farming are not assisted. I watched the video of a young lady farmer who lamented that because of the inability to purchase feed for her poultry, all the birds are dead. They were told to go into farming. They did, now they are unable to get loan. I pray that God directs our leaders.

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