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Yoruba have never been one -Awujale

By Kolade Larewaju

Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the   Awujale of Ijebuland clocked 50 years on the throne on April 2, 2010. The outspoken and widely respected monarch will also mark his 76th birthday next month. Both events have been rescheduled for June 16-26, 2010.

In this interview held at his palace in Ijebu Ode, the frontline traditional ruler spoke on ascension to the throne, the attempts to dethrone him in the second republic, the state of the nation and his upbringing.  Excerpts;

How did you feel when you went in search of the golden fleece abroad but had to return home to ascend the throne of your fore fathers?
In addressing traditional rulers you start by saying, “Your Royal Highness”, “Your Highness” or “Your Majesty” I usually tell people this is wrong to define English word meaning of our titles. If you look at my instrument of office, you will see Oba Alaiyeluwa Sikiru Kayode Adetona. The moment you want to find the English equivalent of it, you are missing the road, and you are causing a lot of distortion in the whole institution.  Even another person can come up tomorrow and say His Majesty. It is total rubbish! Afterall when you see the English equivalent, are the traditional rulers of the same status bearing the same title abroad. Who among these people among these Obas  with the highest of them, can you equate with any of the Kings in terms of resources, functions?  Therefore I want to appeal to you, my colleagues are free to change their titles to anything. It is their business not mine! Anytime you refer to the office of Oba Alayeluwa Sikiru Kayode Adetona avoid calling Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness. I don’t clearly understand what this means. The same thing applies to the use of Chiefs.  There are some Chiefs, you have Chief Clerk, Chief Medical Adviser, Chief Adviser etc, and there are some people who will say they are Chiefs, they are just wasting their time, they are destroying the institution, it is not so, let us bear our name as it is. Now coming to your question, you remember at that younger age, you could not comprehend why it was so very exciting but it didn’t mean too much at that time, because you must consider my age as at that time, my values, all sorts of things, so there must be some substance in it.

Kabiyesi, you were a minister in the government of the then Western Region but today Obas have been relegated to the background. What has happened to the Royal Institution?
When I came on the throne, it was immediately we had self government. You want to trace the history of this institution.  The Obaship institution, the traditional institution was a system of government. For example prior to the Imagbon war in 1892, we were a nation, we had our own association, we had everything. But when the Oyinbo came, we were defeated at Imagbon, they colonized us later and we struggled for self government and what ought not. What happened was that our own elite who were promoting self government, really wanted to take over the functions of the Oyinbos. They wanted to drive them away and then redress them.  So what they were telling us was that those people they didn’t know how to treat us that they were cheating but that they would treat us better as if they were fighting for us. In fact, they were fighting for themselves. So that time we discovered that those people really wanted to replace the Oyinbos, when they got there they were even worse than the Oyinbos. This is what I can say about  that. With the emergence of politicians, army in government, there have been little changes in the process. The attitude of politicians is a little different now from what it was before the military intervention. What I want you to understand is that this institution has endured for centuries without any problem. This institution of Obas has very important roles to play in respect of the country’s administration. You can compare us with the modern day government.  How many soldiers do you find guarding this place?  How many mobile police? But the politicians they need them.  That is to tell you that our culture is very strong. If I go out and anybody tries to misbehave it is the public that will take care of that person who tries to misbehave. It won’t happen with these modern day politicians. That is the reason why they need police and soldiers to take them around. You can now see the difference. By and large now, they are trying to tolerate us, they want us to cooperate, but we still have important roles to play for the peace and progress of our people. There was little or no corruption when we were in charge, but you can see what is happening now. One percentage of the revenue goes for development or welfare of  the people, while the other percentage goes to private pockets. By and large, I think there will still be more cooperation as we are going to play more important roles in the affairs of this country and when that happens, peace and progress will reign in this country.

You have been known to be very cooperative with every government in Ogun State.  You give them maximum support, maximum cooperation, perhaps with a view to ensuring that your domain gets good dividends from each government. What is your take?
We are still going to cooperate with government. There is one important thing you must understand, when a government emerges, it is you people that voted that government in and then whatever government you get is yours, whether good or bad! It is you and you that elected that government and the other elected members who are your representatives that are supposed to put those in administration in check. So you want me to come and take up the job myself?  It is not so, that is wrong! That is not my function! Mine is to cooperate with them but if there are areas, or lapses,  certainly we will not hesitate to let them know.  What is still amusing me is that you elect governors, elect president, members of the House of Assembly. Are these people really representing you  there? You want me to take up their jobs? No! it is for them to make sure they represent the masses and demand the rights of the people they represent. But as traditional rulers that doesn’t take away from us,  the fact that we must drum into the ears of those concerned that this and this are still missing. So if anything goes wrong, don’t come and blame the traditional rulers but blame the honourable members, because they are not doing the job you elected them to do for you.

The agitation for Ijebu State, how is it going?
The creation of Ijebu State is very important! You can remember I said Ijebu was a nation. Even the so called Yoruba people were never one. If I speak my own dialect an Ibadan man cannot understand me, Ondo man cannot understand me, Ekiti the same thing.  If they speak their own dialects, I cannot understand. The original Ijebu dialect is the one spoken by the Itsekiri. The Itsekiri are Ijebus! The whole of the 19th century, it was internal wars in Yorubaland and the first time the Yoruba Obas met was in 1937, when the Oyinbos said the black race should not continue to kill themselves.

It was then a conference was organized at Oyo in 1937. We are not the same people! We are different people! So whatever marketing anybody is doing to you, discard it  totally because there is no truth in that. Now coming to Ijebu  State , we believe we must have our own state, it is only fair we should have our state. Even when the Oyinbos conquered us, Nigeria at that time had 24 provinces, Ijebu Province was one but now that we have 36 states we are yet to have a state, how do you explain that? Some of those provinces have been split into two or three so if we have our own state, we will be able to make it a model for others to come and copy us, because we have what it takes to make it a prosperous state.

Please tell us about your childhood
Throughout my life, I have been very consistent, I never lie! Apart from that whatever pranks any boy can play, you don’t find me wanting.

Kabiyesi, you ascended the throne when you were just 26, how did you cope with female admirers, especially when you were not married then?
You think I would be pursuing girls all around like guys do nowadays? Not at all. On a more serious note, the situation then was different from what we have now. If you were a graduate then, the first thing that would occupy your mind was how to get a good job, and not looking for things in skirts around. The society was more settled then. Of course, I have an office as a traditional ruler, and I was guided in all the things I do by the office.

What is your fashion statement kabiyesi, because I have personally observed you to be a modest dresser?
I am a simple person but with powerful dress sense. I don’t cherish lavish lifestyle. I can’t put on suit, and that one you should have known too. I dress simple.

How do you relax?
I do find time to relax. You know I have a swimming pool, but I can’t swim. The office I am occupying is a restraining factor. You can’t behave anyhow. You can’t start to behave like a nuisance. And just like when I started, I began to adjust little by little.


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