History was made recently in Lagos as Oba Olufolarin Olukayode Ogunsanwo was installed the 55th Alara of Ilara Kingdom, in Epe by the king makers after the demise of the last traditional ruler in 2018. The newly installed Oba who was the former executive chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Services ascended the throne after the demise of his predecessor and the longest reigning monarch in Lagos State, His Royal Majesty Alayeluwa, Oba Akeem Okunola Adesanya II, who ruled for 58 years. Oba Ogunsanwo was crowned on August 6 and presented with Staff of Office and instrument of appointment on August 16, by Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu, of Lagos State amidst glitz, glamour, pomp and colour.
In this interview, Oba Ogunsanwo spoke on his selection, emergence, his foray into civil service where he rose to the top and many more.
How did you become the choice of your people?
Well, having received a notice from Eredo Local Council Development Authority in November 2019 to start the selection process; the king makers requested that it is the turn of my ruling house – ‘Telade Ruling House’ – to produce the next Oba Alara of Ilara kingdom. With that, eight of us were selected as contestants and forwarded to the king makers in Ilara. I was, therefore, selected as the 55th Alara of Ilara Kingdom and was crowned on Thursday, August 6, 2020 while the staff of office and instrument of appointment were presented to me on August 20, by His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State. This process took place after the demise of my predecessor who joined his ancestors in October, 2018; His Royal Majesty, Alayeluwa, Oba Akeem Okunola Adesanya II who became Oba at the age of 16, reigned for 58 years as the longest serving monarch in Lagos State and passed on at the age of 74. May God continue to rest his soul.
How do you feel, taking this bold step from an executive position of the Lagos State Civil Service to become an Oba?
It has been a wonderful experience going through the traditional rites. Well, it is God that chooses kings. I never knew I was going to be a king because I am not God. It was after the demise of the late Oba that a declaration that an Oba has to be chosen, selected, elected, and appointed to take charge of the leadership of the community.
How was your journey in Civil Service in Lagos State like, because you rose through the ranks and became the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Services?
I see it as another call to service having been in service of Lagos for 26 years and rising through the ranks to become the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Internal Revenue Services. Even my stint in civil service was also a call to duty to assist the government to generate revenue through tax for the betterment of the citizenry. It is revenue generated from taxes that most projects are done. When you talk about infrastructure, road networks, education, transportation, health services etc. So when the opportunity came and I was called, I prayed about it, I consulted widely and said why not if my people want me? Let me go and serve my people. As the Yorubas will say ‘Ile la bo, isi mi Oko’ all that we have been trying to do in the service of the state, we can also replicate in our community and move it forward while achieving greater heights.
How would you harness the potential in Ilara to turn it into goldmine?
In the first place, there is a huge potential for tourism here. I am sure you would have noticed and observed the potential in this community while driving down here. It takes a passionate visionary leader to harness these potential, bring changes and ensure that the community excels in every aspect. Here in Ilara, we are blessed with agriculture, in terms of farming and fishing. We have a lot of viable land, good soil, blessed good vegetation and then we are surrounded by water all over the place up to the lagoon and to the ocean. So, fishing is part of the natural resources that the Almighty God has given to this community. Again, we have a lot of human capital resources as well. We have capable hands, very well educated citizens. With all these jointly harnessed and accessed, this community would become a mini-London where everybody would proudly want to belong and associate with. Therefore, what we intend to do is to partner with the Lagos State government, through the ‘THEMES AGENDA’ of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and take some initiatives as well as invite private investors to improve the economic potentials of our community.
What about the empowerment of youths through vocational training?
The empowerment of youths is very key. We will ensure that our youths are educated and self-reliant. Because government cannot do everything, we intend to create some vocational institutions to assist while they study in school in the early hours. We will be interested in things like renewable energy, welding, art works with an eye on tourism development. Modern technics for producing and providing farm products is also important. For instance, if one has a cassava farm, producing and selling cassava is not enough; instead, a cottage industry could be set up for more production. With our fishing, we can micro-manage it and begin to export fishes to neighboring countries. Our tourism potentials will get a boost as we work with the government to ensure that there is adequate security, enforcement and good health facilities available. Those are the investor’s attractions. No Oba can accomplish all these without the assistance of the government or investors because it involves a lot to even improve on the infrastructure, so we just have to partner with the government to ensure that things go on smoothly. These are some of the things we want to do and that is one of the reasons I accepted to come and be with my people.
How do you find your new environment as you moved from the city to the community?
As you arrived here, I hope you noticed the ambiance of peace within here unlike the hustle and bustle nature of Lagos? Everything here is fresh. So, those are some of the things people can enjoy here. With all the good road networks that the government is doing now, Epe will be the next home away from home for so many people. And once the government is able to put the 4th Mainland Bridge and improve on the multi-modal transport facilities; through water and road, people can move from one end of the state to another. In fact, some people can actually live here and be working in Lagos and it will definitely decongest Lagos.That is part of our agenda with the Lagos State government. It is my prayer that during our anniversaries, we will always point at one or two completed projects to the glory of God.
How would you strike a balance between being a Christian and a traditional ruler?
Do not forget that whether one is a Christian, Moslem or a traditionalist, one string bounds all together. The Christian will say in Jesus name and by the grace of God, the Moslems will say Insha Allah, or by the grace of Almighty Allah and the traditionalist will say by the grace of Eledumare. Of course, when one is an Oba, one is the spiritual head. If you look at the Bible, it is there that after God, he has placed kings in authority over His subjects. The same thing applies to every other religion, but at the same time the most important thing is that you should rule with the fear of the Almighty God because what we know is that the fear of the Almighty God is the beginning of wisdom. So, as one rules, there is need for wisdom to be applied through the fear of God.
What was your growing up like?
I come from a very humble background. My parents are still alive. My father is 83 and retired as a civil servant while my mother, 78, retired as a headmistress. I am their third child and glad that this happened in their lifetime. In those days, when one talks about a teacher’s child, it depicts a very good background and good upbringing. They taught us humility and hard work. And there is no shortcut to the top than through hard work and then serve God diligently. I think that contributed a lot to what I have become today and I am very grateful to them. I am very proud of them as my parents and I am very sure they will be very happy to see their son ascend the thrown of their forefathers. My parents started out life as young couple in Ibadan and that was where I was born. I remember in those days; my parents normally bring us home during the Ileya festivals when they were still Muslims before they converted to Christianity, we would go to the river to swim, fetch water and have fun with other children; we really looked forward to coming back home then. I am in love with my community and proud to come from here. I love my people and I am always home. When I came here to build my country home, little did I know that God was preparing me for something ahead. I am happily married and blessed with children.
Your profile points to that of an ‘early bird’. You have achieved so much at just 53, who were your mentors and role models?
I studied Economics at the University of Ife and graduated at 21. Did my one-year mandatory National Youths Service Corps at Wema Bank Plc and joined the Lagos State Civil Service in 1991 as an Inspector of Taxes Grade ll. Through hard work, I rose to the top of my career by becoming the Executive Chairman of the revenue agency. It is just the grace and mercy of God. Talking about my mentors, I have friends who are older than me very well. And my parents told me that from my tender age I had always enjoined the company of old people. I will be 53 years on September 29, but just like King Solomon, I pray God will help me. I rely on God Almighty for wisdom and direction over my subjects. It has been a wonderful journey. I am also very grateful to the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Executive Council for doing this community, my family and I this honour. It is a good thing for one to strive to serve his community and given the opportunity. I am not going to take the opportunity for granted, instead be sure that I will put in my best, make our people happy at all times and ensure all get equal and fair treatment.
Recently, you were honoured with an Honorary Doctorate degree by the European-American University of Commonwealth of Dominica?
I feel highly honoured and elated with the Honorary Doctorate Degree of Arts by the European-American University of the Commonwealth of Dominica. One does not know that people are watching to give honour at the appropriate time.