By Simeon Mpamugoh
Across Topo, a community in Badagry area of Lagos, it was jubilation galore recently. The people’s excitement was understandable. A leadership tussle over the choice of a new Baale for the community that had for 14 years was successfully resolved. And the people couldn’t supress their delight.
The community was presented with its new Baale, Chief Avoseh Michael Olorundami of Mejekomeh, by the Akran of Badagry Kingdom, De Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi 1. Two ruling houses – Sakate and Dlegbo had fought a bitter battle over which house should produce the Baale. And the fight lasted for one decade and four years.
Topo, a coastal community in Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State had lived without a Baale until Olorundami was installed.
“I feel happy to be installed the new Baale of Topo Community. To become a Baale is not a joke. But immediately I was installed, there was joy and jubilation, more so when it was a cause we had fought for in the last 14 years. For me, this is a favour of God that calls for celebration,” he told this reporter.
So what were the major issues the new Baale would be addressing as the new head of the community? Olorundami said that his maiden assignment would be to unite the community by constituting council members that would work as a team to bring the desired progress for Tope.
“A tree does not make a forest,” he said. “It is not going to be a one-man show; it will be a group event that allows whatever interest any member of the council has to align with the corporate interest of the community, and implementation would be to the greatest interest of the community. So everything we are going to do in Topo community would be democratized, and in the principles of division of labour. I believe when we work as a team we align ourselves accordingly and in the best interest of the community,” he said.
On the expectations from the new council members, the community leader said: “It is important we are united to ensure the success of whatever goal we set for ourselves and for the community. And to achieve this, I’ll ensure that there is a united community in Mejekomeh and others in the community.
“Those projects the community had been denied before now would be retrieved. The less privileged would be catered for by setting up programmes that would positively engage them and also ensure they all make collective efforts toward the progress of the community. There is no one on earth without a gift and such gifts would be harnessed for the good of everyone,” he said.
The Baale cited the activities of Federal Government’s Administrative College of Nigeria (ASCON) Topo, as one of the areas where attention would be beamed. He said: “The fact that ASCON is doing business within the community presupposes they are under obligation to give back to the community that hosts their activities so that youths of the community help protect their investment from destructive tendencies. But unfortunately, the organization has not been fulfilling such social responsibility to the community.
“Topo community equally owns the Island but some people have encroached on it without any order from the court. During my tenure, we will retrieve our property from such unlawful possessions, including those from the local government. We will strive for their reclamation for the benefits of the community. We will fight for our right from individuals to government purses.”
He assured members of the community of his resolve to work as a team for the progress of the community adding that to achieve this demanded a firm and unwavering mien.
“A lot had been said. My mission is to ensure that our community is no longer raped. I’m determined to stand firm. No one can be saddled with any responsibility if God did not sanction it. God sanctioned my becoming the Baale of Topo community, that is why He handed the seat to me and it is an honour I want to uphold to the best of my ability,” he pledged.
He urged Nigerians to be united, calling on all citizens join hands for a cause they believed in. “Since the struggle began, there were people who belonged to different camps but after the installation, there is peace and spirit of oneness among all members of the community. And to assuage the various camps, we have visited several compounds within the community to show appreciation, with many of them proclaiming that we are one. One can see cooperation berthing within the community,” he explained.
Elder Samuel Ebunlola is the head of Mejekomeh, the birthplace of the new Baale. He said: “Olorundami has been our candidate. He has been the only candidate for Mejekomeh and like every good thing, everybody wants to have it but there are only two ruling houses to produce the Baale; the Sakate and Dlegbo. After 100 years when the new Baale leaves office, it will shift to another house. But presently it is at Sakate, the home of the new Baale.
“How can one live in a town without a head for 14 years? It is uncalled for. With the new Baale, we will ensure development reaches the community. A breath of fresh air is in the offing.”
Hunkanrin Nudewhenu Isaiah was the secretary to the council that was constituted for Topo community before the installation of the new Baale. He spoke to this reporter on the role his council played towards the actualization of the dream. His words: “It gladdens my heart that in my tenure as the secretary of the community, we presented and installed a new Baale to the community.
“I wish to give kudos to the chairman of the council, Pastor Iroko who worked tirelessly towards the presentation of the new Baale. The council supported the new Baale because of his fatherly role to the community, and with him Topo is in for a facelift.”
He told this reporter that the new council would ensure the empowerment of the youths, adding that young men and women in the community would have a representative. “It will help in harnessing their potential towards the progress of the community. We will also ensure there are skill acquisition centres with a module to help those who don’t have start-up capital at the end of their graduation to set up cottage businesses. The attendant multiplier effects would impact positively on the community,” he said
Dr. Michael Komolafe, the coordinator, Theatre For Development (TFD), Lagos State University (LASU) raised the awareness on the implication of a community without a head when he took final year students of Lagos State University (LASU) Department of Theatre Arts and Music to dramatize it as part of the Class Project of students of the department. The production was entitled: Community Participation for Social Development (TFD workshop 2016). He told the reporter that before the election of Chief Avoseh Michael Olorundam, there were a lot of things plaguing the community.
The don, who visited the new Baale in company of his troupe to congratulate him on his success, highlighted some of the challenges of the community without a Baale.
He noted: “For example if one looks at the river overlooking the Island, there is a dredging of soil by a company going on, not minding the danger, in the next ten years, to the houses that are close to the water. It takes the head of a community to address such issues.”