Euphoria as Oba (Prof.) Adeyemi Obalanlege celebrates one year since he ascended the throne of his forefathers.
As the curtain falls on the first phase of his reign and another being opened, Obalanlege speaks with Voice of Awori on the journey so far and his expectations in coming days.
Read excerpts from the interview.
VOA: What has characterized your one year in Office as the Olota of Ota?
Well, what I can say about my emergence is that it is of God’s making. This is because I never thought at any point in time that I would become the Oba of Ota. If you take a critical look at my profile, by choice of career I am a Professor, that tells you that my career is in academics and I don’t intend to leave academia. Even till now I’m still in academia.
By accepting to become an Oba is to give back to my community. When I mounted the throne, I found out that we have a lot of deficits in Aworiland. particularly, there’s no unity in amongst our people, particularly, traditional rulers. Up till now, we are still trying to unite ourselves. And it is only when we’re able to drop the issue of superiority, and we accept to become brothers and sisters, all Awori indigenes inclusive, not just the traditional rulers; then everything can be settled and by then, we can begin to talk about leadership.
Leading in our native lands like in Lagos, we have been relegated to the background, likewise in Ogun state. The only way forward is coming together and uniting before we can move forward. And I’m calling on my brothers and my sisters, so we can lift up our native land and begin to take leadership of our land.
VOA: Soon after you were announced the next Olota of Ota, you hit the ground running and kept the ball rolling. Perhaps your emergence has become the most discussed in town in the last one year, even among international community, what did you do differently or was it a preconceived plan?
I tell you, I didn’t plan for anything because I even thought I would not be selected. It was after my emergence that I began to think of how I’m going to move Awori land forward. From what I’ve seen so far, we have leadership deficit and people want to do things differently and individually but like I said earlier, my emergence is of God’s making. That is why I’m calling on everyone in Aworiland to let us move it forward.
It doesn’t really matter how I emerged because there’s nothing special about it but what is of importance is how I develop Aworiland. That is the way I look at it.
I don’t want to dwell on the past, though we already know the past. The fact that we know the past has to propel us to chart our way forward, which is the most important thing we should be talking about not how I emerged or whatever. That is my stance.
VOA: Talking about moving Aworiland forward, your coming has really fostered unity among all warring factions. What have you done to silence critics and ensure that there are no litigations here and there?
I don’t see any reason why there should be litigation because we have two ruling houses matched together. My father is from one while my mother is from the other ruling house. What will be the basis of any critic of my emergence as Oba.
That’s why I said earlier, we know the fact. You see, when you contest, there will be only one winner. Not everyone that contest will emerge winner. Two persons cannot be king at the same time. I have reached out to these people, they told me they are okay with me. Some of them are working with me. They have always been coming to me for counselling. And I also have always been reaching out to them for their support in moving Awori land forward. There is no issue in this area. However, you’ll have people that will support you and people that won’t support you. Everybody cannot approve of you. It is not possible, you’ll always have critics. Those that are supporting you will also criticize you when the need arise. That is the only way we can constructively engage in the development of our land. So I expect people to criticize me; that will put a kind of check, so as I can use that in positioning myself and what I need to do. So like I said earlier, we have to move forward, thereby, I accept constructive criticism.
VOA: Since you came on board as the Olota of Ota, External aggression has been calmed, you’ve been able to bring all hands on deck, you’ve been able to get everyone to participate in the new Ota, is it a calculated attempt or just a coincidence, or there are no external aggression or that they are not as loud as they were before?
If you recall, when I came on board, I visited so many places that included our source; our father the Ooni of Ife, I also visited Alaafin of Oyo, Orangun of Ila, Osolo of Isolo, Elegushi and so many Awori Obas. This was with the aim to invite them to join the train. So that we can work together to promote Aworiland. I also visited some communities which are hostile to us on the need to work together so that we can move Awori land forward.
I operate open door policy, I have tried to exert pressure on our leaders in Ota and Aowir land by extension on the need to be more responsible.
VOA: Let’s look at some of the policies that the palace under your leadership has initiated since your emergence as the new Olota, would you say that they have made any meaningful impact in the lives of your people?
One of the problems I found out when I came on board was that our people are not economically empowered. So, I came up with a program, we launched it and have been able to raise about N25M and this is going to be injected into the local economy as soft loans to petty traders who may not be able to access bank loans. On job creation, we have also been able to launch Olota Help Initiative in which we have had three training programmes, where our youths have been empowered with phone repairs, tailoring, shoe making, hair dressing and so on.
This programme has helped a lot of them to be able to stand alone. There’s another programme called Olota Foundation for Economic and Development Initiative (Olota FECODEINE), which is a charity foundation that will further look into the needs of our people. There are also plans for non-indigenes in Ota as many of them have made Ota their home, as such we cannot afford to be blind to their needs. That is what we need for development to take place and I pray to God to give me the opportunity to be able to see all of these done.
VOA: That will make us ask, what is the update on Olota Fecodeine and the funds realized from the launching?
A Director General has been appointed to manage Olota Fecodeine and they are currently in the process of registering with the Corporate Affairs Commission. So, as soon as the registration process is complete, the scheme will start operation.
VOA: Looking at the calibre of Chiefs that your majesty have appointed since you came on board, what has been the yard stick for their selection ?
When I came on board, I insisted that I want people of high integrity, like I insisted, they have to be graduates. I also insisted that they have to be above the board and the families knows what I want and they have all presented qualified candidates. The Chiefs have lived up to expectations, which means that they have all justified their selection as Olota’s Chief.
VOA: We of course understand the need for Awori traditional ruling council, especially at this time when the Egbas and Owus are lording over the inheritances of the Awori people. Do you share in this urgent need too?
Awori traditional ruling council is long overdue. And if you look at history, we should be the first sub-ethnic group to have our own traditional council in this part of Yoruba land, but unfortunately, it is due to the lack of unity among the Aworis that we have not been able to achieve this. For instance, the Olota’s stool has been in existence for almost 600 years without interruption. And when I say uninterrupted, I mean that it has been in existence without partial or full break up for almost 600 years.
Look at Alake’s stool which is abou 200 years, but have a traditional council, are you now saying that we are not yet ripe for our own council? We the Aworis were the first to step on this part of the world. We are the eldest; even within the Yoruba set up, we came from Okanbi, so the Owus and the Egbas are our brothers and sisters. So, why should we be denied our right?
It is tradition in Yoruba culture that the elder has a fair share of what belongs to the father, and as such all the Yoruba elders must come together to give us what belongs to us. They actually should be begging us to say, ‘take your traditional council’. Elders will always be elders in Yoruba land. Whatever conspiracy against the Aworis should be set aside and what belongs to us should be handed to us, that is the only way the Ancestors would be happy, else, their heart won’t melt to those that are oppressing us. The problem will continue if they fail to do the right thing in order to appeal to our gods.
VOA: Is the government aware of the current arrangement and your effort in making sure that your demands are met?
Yes, the government knows that we are not happy wiith the present arrangement. Our brothers in Egba and Yewa traditional council also knows that we are not comfortable with our division. You see, there was this political gimmick that Yewas said that Aworis were part of Yewa, but we are not Yewa na, we are Aworis, but unfortunately, our forefathers fell into the gimmick. But when i came on board, I told our people that look, we have our own history and so we should be counted for something. I visited my brother, the Olu of Ilaro and i told him that Kabiyesi, we are not Yewa, we are Awori and he agreed with me. That is our identity. In the larger identity, we are Yorubas, but our main identity is Awori. We are ‘Omoluwabis’ and whatever we are going to do, we will not rock the both, we will make sure that we use the full extent of law to pursue our claim and we are not going to sleep until we get what rightfully belongs to us.
VOA: What is your goodwill for the people of Ota as you clocked 1 year on the throne of your forefathers?
Firstly, I pray for the people of Awori and especially, I want to thank the people of Ota for their co-operation. I want to urge them to continue praying for us and believing in us. I want to thank my fellow Obas in Awori land and also urge them to set aside whatever differences and let’s fight a common battle against the those that do not mean well for us.