Oba Abedina Durosimi is the Osolu of Irewe Kingdom in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State. He speaks on his plans to turn his domain into a tourist attraction. He also speaks on why traditional rulers in the state opposed Governor Akinwumi Ambode’s second term bid.
What is the experience like, presiding over a community that can be described as an Island?
Civilisation came from western education and if you recall, majority of our colonial masters lived near the sea while we Africans preferred to live in the bushes and that is why they call us all kinds of derogatory names. It is a known fact that humans cannot live without water because it is life. Water is an essential commodity for human existence. I thank God for creating and putting us in an island. Some people can say we are living inside the lagoon but we don’t mind; we like it so. If you go to Europe, United States of America, Asia and South America, you will see most people living near water and those places are the most beautiful part of these countries. This kingdom was established over 15 centuries ago and during the Western Region era, it was in existence too.
Oba Osolu was one of the powerful Kings in Lagos State. We produced a senator during the second republic; we also produced a deputy governor and Chairmen of Ojo Local Government Area at different times. They are: Senator Abayomi Durosimi, Sarah Adebisi-Sosan was the deputy governor in the former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration. Adeyinka Durosimi was Chairman of Ojo Local Government Area. We have a lot of prominent sons and daughters living here and outside the shores of this country. This island came into existence before the creation of Lagos
How has the relationship between the community and the state government been?
It’s cordial even though after the demise of the last Oba in 1987, we had no Oba until 2007 when I ascended the throne. Look at the long period we existed without an Oba? Of course, you know that when a community has no king, there won’t be progress in that community. We have 37 villages in my domain and with 14,000 acres of land which is the biggest in the state. When I became the Oba of Osolu, I travelled to the United States of America to learn how I can make my kingdom a tourism centre. As I speak to you now I have completed the master plan. You know we have the same weather with Miami in the United States and that was one of the places I visited in America. My kingdom will be among the tourist attractions in Africa soon. I’m one of those who believe that we should not depend on oil; rather, we should exploit and develop our tourism potentials which will earn us more foreign exchange than oil. So, before the end of this year, the programme will commence because I have all the documents except for few which I intend to collect from the Lagos State Government before my foreign partners will come. The tourism centre is a royal project which will be executed through private partnership.
Why not demand for a bridge that will connect your community to the mainland?
A bridge will come later. We want to establish an island that will meet international standards as well as a tourist centre. Bridge is not a big deal because it is only one kilometer to Ojo.
How is your kingdom sustained economically?
Our great grand fathers did not sell land and till date, we don’t sell land in Osolu kingdom, what is sustaining us economically is beach houses which we give out per plot and they pay within the range of N100, 000 each, depending on the area. In some areas we charge N120, 000 to N140, 000 each. The other means of income is dredging; we produce sand in large quantity for construction work and for block makers in the Lagos and neighbouring states. We have the coconut plantation in West Africa and also banana and cassava farms. Our women engage in mat weaving. So, we want to replicate Dubai in Osolu.
How do your subjects who are not members of the ruling family respond to these royal orders?
They don’t have any option, but to obey. If they refuse to obey royal order, they should go to any place of their choice outside Osolu kingdom, because we don’t sell land they have no choice, but to obey. If you hold on to land, you hold on to the people.
The general elections just ended few weeks ago and your kingdom is one of the places where there was no report of violence, how were you able to calm all nerves?
We know ourselves and in all the villages I have a Baale in each of the villages that represents me. If anything goes wrong or there is breach of peace, I will hold the Baale responsible. And because we know ourselves, if your son or daughter commits any crime that obstructs public peace, we hand him or her over to the Police. We don’t take laws into our hands. That is the reason elections in this area is always peaceful.
Many have accused former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu of ‘pocketing’ traditional rulers in the state. What is your response?
That is not true. Tinubu influences people; he does not force or intimidate people to do his wish. He has regards for traditional institutions in Lagos State. For instance, before any law is passed in Lagos State, they must bring it to the council of Obas which I’m a member for our assessment before it is taken to the state House of Assembly and the executive for final approval.
Tinubu is a team player. He sees Obas as fathers and before he takes any decision that will affect the people, he will consult the traditional rulers. For instance, when leaders of his party and other well-meaning Lagosians were against Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s second term bid, Tinubu consulted widely including traditional rulers and we said we didn’t want Ambode to have a second term. The people were against Ambode because he concentrated development in Epe area where he comes from. Ambode undermined the Lagos State master plan. We Obas opposed Ambode’s second bid not Tinubu. How can the governor abandon other areas and concentrate development in one area, that was why we say we don’t want him to continue.