Why we must ensure food security at this period —Oba Agunsoye

Long before the creation of the South-West Security Network codenamed Amotekun, the Elegboro of Ijebu-jesa, Oba Oluwafemi Agunsoye, had made a case for such an outfit to curb kidnappings in his domain. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, Oba Agunsoye, who is the president of Ijesa North Traditional Council, also spoke about ongoing efforts to combat the coronavirus currently hitting the world.


It was learnt that you trekked round your town over the raging coronavirus. Can you establish this claim?

Is there anything to establish again about it? Your news source is correct and accurate. It is true that I did that. I needed to do the trekking to sensitise my people about coronavirus and also assure them of their safety during government restrictions.


I thought the local government officials were required to do that assignment. Don’t you see it from that angle?

The best way to answer this question is to tell you that both the palace and local government secretariat collaborate in ensuring peace in the town. The public should get it clear that traditional institution is relevant in a matter as this because of our close proximity to the grassroots. You are familiar with many palaces. What is your experience, in terms of human traffic; I mean in terms of people who are in the palace on daily basis to see Kabiyesi? How many of them go to the palace to give Kabiyesi gifts? Go and do your finding. You will understand what I mean better. These people come to the palace because they know we are most accessible to them. The palace is their house; they freely come here. Before families take matters to the police, let alone the court, they first come to the palace to see how we can resolve the matter amicably as our forefathers did before the advent of colonial administration.


Would you then say that the colonial administration was a curse to us here?

I would not say that because it improved our connection with the world. Through colonial administration, we are able to appreciate formal education, healthcare services and other things which make life more meaningful. However, I must say that our traditional institution pays the price of the benefits which I just highlighted above. That is why you asked that question of the appropriateness of my going round my town to sensitise my people over an emergency.


What did you tell your people and how many hours did it take you to walk round the town?

I told them to comply with government directive on personal hygiene. I told them the importance of regular washing of their hands with soap and use of the sanitiser. I told them that healthy living starts from how they handle their personal hygiene. I also told them to always clean their environment because personal cleanliness in a filthy environment is a waste of time. It won’t work. I told them that our markets should always be clean because a clean market determines, to a large extent, the health of the whole town. Is there anyone who does not go to the market to buy items, no matter how little? Do you know why markets are sited close to the palace? These are the issues which will always make traditional institution relevant. And I am happy with our people in government. They know how to balance their relationship. They show they are our sons and daughters. This is enough evidence of collaboration between the palace and government secretariat.


A traditional ruler is the head of all faiths in his domain. To what extent have you performed this role?

From the outset, every traditional ruler is educated to know he is no longer an adherent of a religion. He is the father of Muslims, Christians and traditional worshippers. On this coronavirus matter, I also made appeal to all religious leaders, our spiritual fathers, to tell their congregations why they have to comply with government’s directives on restriction of movement and on gatherings. This is not the time to prove how close to God one is. This is not the time to experiment spiritual strength. I have declared a five-day fast in the town as our own spiritual cleansing which is expected to work together with medical measures we are taking. The time now is to live low and check our movements from one town to another.


The coronavirus must have also affected other things in the town.

That is the truth, but that is how it affects it in other towns and other countries. So, there is nothing to worry about. For instance, our weekly Ajo-Ilu, a meeting held inside the palace, has been put on hold until further notice. We need to comply with the directive on social distancing. In other words, the palace has been shut against further activities. We have in the palace hand washing equipment and sanitisers to demonstrate that no one enjoys immunity from this virus. The palace should serve as a model, hence our strict compliance with all directives. Olori too distributed hygiene items as a complement. This is telling you that all hands are already on the deck in ensuring the virus is not allowed a space in Ijebu-Jesa. That is more reason I also sought cooperation of our transport unions. Life is good and should be more important to us than the profit we make in our businesses. Again, it is only the living who spend money. I am very positive and indeed optimistic that this phase will soon pass. God did not create us to suffer. The world is going to overcome this challenge. Nonetheless, we should not take things for granted. There is tendency to play it down as we have observed but we need to realise that it is a serious matter. A virus which spreads across the world is not ordinary. By the time we get over it, the world will not be the same again.


President Muhammadu Buhari, in his speech, appealed to Nigerians to see restrictions as sacrifice. Do you think Nigerians can make such sacrifice?

Why can’t we make sacrifices in a matter which involves life and death? It is a sacrifice which everybody must make to check the spread of the virus. But I want to also appeal to him to allow farmers to go to farm because this is the planting season. If farmers miss this season, you can imagine its implications after the forced holiday. There is going to be shortage of food supply everywhere. People who sell perishable food items too should be allowed to open shops because food is key to human life. While they are allowed to sell, social distancing can still be observed and maintained.


Can we say responses to coronavirus have submerged the security network codenamed Amotekun in South-West?

Well, since this virus issue is an emergency, it is right to attend to it first. In fact, crime rate is affected to show how serious it is. And to say the truth some months before the virus broke out, we had experienced reduction in crime rate, especially kidnappings in this area, unlike what obtained before then. The last time you were in the palace, you saw how I was lamenting and efforts we were putting in place to check the herdsmen and kidnappers. But now, especially with Amotekun outfit, there is a change.


Does that mean you are in support of Amotekun?

You can say that again. Why would I not support something which has not started but which has created fear in the bad ones? I want to thank all South-West governors for coming together and showing understanding with one another over the security outfit. I am the chairman of Amotekun in my domain. Wholeheartedly, I am in support of it, and we are going to ensure it achieves its desired result. I know what we went through before now when you could not predict what would happen on the highway, even in broad daylight. The Osun State governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, has always shown concern about security of the state. So, we are happy and on course, hoping for the best.


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