At age two, the current Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye 111 already had the hunch that one day he would be crowned the traditional ruler of his town, being a direct son of the reigning monarch at that time.
Today, Oba Ogunoye presides over the traditional, cultural and social affairs of Owo kingdom, a town which has many communities under it and which is the headquarters of Owo Local Government Area of the state.
The monarch also sits on an exalted throne adjudged as one of the revered in Yoruba land. Oba Ogunoye who clocks a year on the throne of his forefathers today, in this interview with Saturday Sun at his palace, canvassed constitutional roles for traditional rulers in the country, just as he spoke about his vision for the town and other issues.
Being on the throne of your forefathers for a year must have brought many experiences your way, can you share some of these?
Experiences you’ve had in the last one year?
It’s been a year of fulfillment, a year of challenges, a year of getting back to the environment that I had been for a very long time and a year of achievements. I thank God Almighty for the privilege to serve my people in this capacity and I also thank the people of Owo kingdom for the support and co-operation they have shown me in the last one year.
What has happened within the last one year, which you will live to remember?
So many things have happened in the last one year that are remarkable but the most important one is peace that we enjoy now in Owo kingdom. Since my ascension to the throne, there has been peace in our kingdom and everything going on normally as expected. We may have little disagreement among political party divisions, but there is relative peace in the town.
The major problem we used to have in Owo before I ascended the throne was cultism, but today many of our people especially the youths have renounced cultism. Over 500 of them renounced cultism in one day and many of them don’t go back to it. They all promised never to return to cultism again. We have also experienced turn around in the lives of many of our youths as they now embrace agriculture and many of them now have farms.
We encouraged our youths to take interest in farming. Many of our youths have also learned various vocational skills and with that they don’t have time for rubbish again. Our youths have turned a new leaf, with many of them gainfully employed, whereas, many were doing nothing before. So, I can confidently say that the last one year is also a year of turnaround for the youths of Owo kingdom and a year of achievements.
As a civil servant who had gotten to the peak of his career before ascending the throne, what are some of the things you miss in your social or career life?
What I missed in the civil service, I have gained in the midst of my people. Leadership is all about service and I have served my people well in the last one year. You can imagine waking up in the morning and seeing a lot of people already waiting for you to help solve one or two issues. So, what I miss in the civil service, I gain in the service to my people. I believe that service to humanity is more important than any other thing. By and large, it’s been fun, it’s been challenging and fulfilling. To God be the glory for the grace and the privilege to serve.
Is there any way your ascension to the throne has affected your family life and how is your nuclear family coping with your community service?
The major thing is the ability to plan one’s time well. I don’t think my family is lagging behind in any area. I give adequate time to my family and also pay attention to the affairs of the community.
Owo is known for its rich culture and tradition, how do you ensure the sustenance of the culture with the current civilization?
Civilization has nothing to do with culture and tradition.
Culture is the generality of our life. It’s all about our life.
Civilization started from the Yoruba kingdom, so when we talk about culture, we also talk about civility. Civilization cannot affect our culture. We are exposed people and we are not inferior to the advanced nations of the world.
What is your relationship with other traditional rulers in Yoruba land and other parts of the country?
I have a very cordial relationship with all the traditional rulers in Yoruba land. I relate very closely with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11 and other traditional rulers within and outside Yoruba land. The source of Yoruba race is Ile-Ife, so we are from Ile-Ife and my relationship with the Ooni is cordial. I also have a cordial relationship with the Sultan of Sokoto and other traditional rulers across the country. Since I ascended the throne I’ve been maintaining good relationship with other traditional rulers and I know that is good for our nation.
Are you comfortable with the level of unity among traditional rulers in Yoruba land and the country at large?
There is unity among traditional rulers, though there may be some issues of disagreement. It is normal to have disagreement among many people. However, we enjoy unity to a reasonable extent among traditional rulers in the country.
Did you have any feeling of becoming the Olowo of Owo, while growing up?
Yes, I did. I was a Prince before I became the traditional ruler and every prince has the potential to be a traditional ruler. I was two years old when my father became the Olowo of Owo in 1968 and I lived with him in the palace till 1993 when he passed on. So, I grew up in the palace and knew everything about the palace. So, when the opportunity came to ascend the throne I see my ambition being fulfilled.
What is your vision for Owo kingdom?
Owo is an historical town and my vision is to promote the town. My vision is to enjoy total peace in Owo kingdom. I know when there is peace, all other things will fall in line. Promoting our culture and tradition is paramount to me because our culture is second to none. I also have the desire to promote our festivals. There is a particular festival called Ighogo, I want to take it to an international level and make Owo tourist destination. I also want our youths to go back to the farm because owo is known for cocoa plantation, So, I want this record to remain and that is why I am calling on our youths to develop interest in farming.
Also, I have the plan to set up Owo Development Council and this council will be divided into various sectors including education, commerce and industry. There will also be a committee to take care of sports to encourage our youths. Every kind of sports will be developed in the town by this committee. The same way, we will have a committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT). All these committees are for the development of the town and our youths in particular.
Recently, the six Governors of the South West region launched Operation Amotekun to ensure security of the region. What is your take on this?
Amotekun was the best thing to have happened to the western region of Nigeria because of the challenges posed by insecurity. There were lots of negative occurrences like killing, kidnapping, herdsmen invasion of farms among others. All the traditional rulers in Yoruba land are in full support of operation Amotekun. I believe the new security outfit will help in curbing insecurity because the personnel are our people. They know everywhere in Yoruba land, and that is what can help curb insecurity. Those criminals live with us and we need people who understand the terrain and the language to fight them. The good thing is that Amotekun is not competing with other security agencies but they are all working for a common goal of securing the people. The menace of herdsmen invasion and destruction of farmland and kidnapping will be reduced with Operation Amotekun in place.
Security challenges may not be totally eradicated but it will be reduced drastically.
Do you support the involvement of traditional rulers in politics?
Traditional rulers are not politicians and we are not supposed to be partisan politicians because we are fathers to politicians.
However, as fathers, we can give direction to our children on the path to follow. If we know somebody is performing, we can point it out to our people so that the good works will continue. We are the owners of the land and we can’t afford to keep silent, we should always give direction.
Many people have suggested that traditional rulers should be given constitutional roles, do you subscribe to the view?
May be the reason why the current constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not working well is because the traditional rulers are not given roles to play. Check the constitution of some other countries like England, you will see that the constitution gives prominent roles to the traditional rulers. The same thing should happen in Nigeria. The traditional rulers are the closest to the people and it will not be out of place if our constitution gives them roles to play in governance. Constitutional role for traditional rulers is very necessary and the time to do that is now. The traditional rulers are the owners of the land, so how come that the owners of the land are not assigned roles in the constitution of the land. There is no reason why traditional ruler cannot be head of government in Nigeria like it operates in England. The Queen of England is the head of government in England. There is no reason why traditional rulers will be locked out of governance in Nigeria.
As the Olowo of Owo, you sit on the biggest palace in Africa, how do you maintain the palace and ensure that it does not diminish from its status?
That is the more reason I said the system is not too good. To maintain the palace, huge sum of money is needed and the money is not forthcoming. Aiside the little we receive from the local government and the support from my subjects, we don’t get any other thing in the palace. You can’t compare this part of the country with the north.
The palace of Olowo, which is the biggest in Africa is a pride to Nigeria and a pride to Ondo State and should be seen as such. It should be seen as a symbol in Yoruba land and that is why I am joining others to clamour for constitutional roles for traditional rulers.
One of your subjects in person of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is contesting the October 10 governorship election in the state, what are you doing to support him?
Like I said earlier, I am a traditional ruler and not a politician but as a traditional ruler, it is my duty to give direction and that we will not hesitate to do. If a man is doing well, it will not be out of place to support him by giving direction to your people.
Everyone in Ondo must have seen that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has done well. He has constructed many roads in Akure, Owo, Ondo and other parts of the state. The interchange bridge in Ore commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari is a reference point in the south west.
There is no local government that he has not touched in the last three and half years. I came from the civil service background, so I know what happened before and now in civil service. Many had dropped dead before Akeredolu assumed office due to nonpayment of salary arrears of seven months which Akeredolu cleared when he got to office. There are many other achievements of Governor Akeredolu that qualify him for a second term.