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At 26, I refused to be intimidated by the Ooni, old monarchs – The Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona @ 80

’The Ijebus’ ties with Bayelsa’

Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II, the Awujale of Ijebu land, will become an octogenarian on  May 10. The Ijebu paramount ruler is also commemorating his 54th anniversary of ascension to the throne.

In this interview with EMMANUEL AJIBULU at his palace in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, the monarch expressed gratitude to God for keeping him alive, hale and hearty on the throne. He assured  that the creation of  Ijebu State is realistic in his life time.

Narrating the story of Ijebu land, he pointed that it was one of the provinces of the old Western Region. Adetona’s 80th birthday is being planned to span a week. The highlights of the celebration are  a colloquium on Ijebu, a coffee table book presentation on the monarch and awards ceremony, paying of homage to the Awujale by Ijebu obas, chiefs, sons and daughters and awards ceremony by Ijebu Professional Excellence Foundation, and a football match between Arsenal fans, among others.

Since your ascension to the throne at age 26, what would you describe as your happiest moment and what will you say is your greatest regret?
First and foremost, I give thanks to God for keeping me alive to witness this glorious moment of my life. (Laughs). I can’t recall any sad moment since my ascension to this throne and can’t think of any event that can be called happiest moment in my life; it’s quite an age, even seeing you now, I am happy. (Laughs again).

At that young age of 26, how were you able to cope at the Western Region Council of Obas where you had many members who were older than you, especially the late Oba Adesoji Aderemi I, the Ooni of Ife, who was known to be a powerful political figure having served as President of the Western House of Chiefs and Legislative Council of Nigeria and Governor of the then region between 1960 and 1967. Didn’t you feel intimidated?
No, there was nothing like intimidation. Despite the age difference, we had very cordial relationship. But more importantly, I also got useful advice from  Ijebu chiefs  who were also elders. But remember Ijebu will never settle for an Awujale who is not intelligent.

I was able to apply wisdom and intelligence in dealing with them and I had  many interesting experiences with them and gained a lot as well. We never had any problem throughout.

Can you shed light on the claim that Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson is from Ijebuland?
That the governor of Bayelsa is from Ijebuland is no longer a speculation. Governor Seriake Dickson has been to my palace, he also succeeded in tracing his ancestral root in Ijebuland. He has re-connected with his kith and kin in Fidipote ruling house and expressed readiness to strengthen the bond of relationship between Ijebu and Bayelsa State peoples.

He was accompanied by members of his immediate family and top government functionaries. During the historic visit, he said he would work with us to promote unity, peace and harmony. He said the people of Ijebu and Bayelsa have many things in common, especially in the areas of commerce and hospitality.

We also donated a piece of land to him  to further establish his relationship with his roots. People said the governor might name the building after his great grandmother, Princess Adebukola Fidipote, whom he described as a selfless and hardworking woman.

Considering the huge responsibilities at your disposal as a paramount ruler, how do you create time to take care of your Oloris (wives) and children?
One doesn’t disturb the other. What is important is for you the head of the family to make adequate provisions for the up-keep of the house. My office is not outside the palace. My children as princes and princesses always get my attention when they wish.

Don’t also forget that whether at the palace or anywhere else, there is what we call division of labour. In your own house, do you make eba for your wife or cook the soup for her? (Laughs). My wife and children are never deprived of anything and I understand the concept of work-life-balance.

What do you see as the most remarkable milestone that you want to accomplish as the paramount ruler of Ijebuland?
So many things on my mind, the unity of Ijebu people is uppermost. I want to see them living in peace, loving each other and to remain God-fearing, doing us proud in all they do. More importantly, I will really feel fulfilled when the government gives us Ijebu State. And I am optimistic that Ijebu State will be created in my life time. Ijebu State is a viable vision and we will achieve it.

Our demand  is historical, justifiable and overdue. The demand is hinged on the need for equity, justice and speedy development for our hardworking and productive people. The agitation for the creation of Ijebu State has the blessing of other traditional rulers, chiefs and the entire Ijebu people, covering six local government areas of Ogun State.

Our request has met all the conditions and has fulfilled all the provisions set out in Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution, and to progress to the next stage for the actualization of our dream.

Members of the Ijebu Renaissance Group in a citation about His Royal Highness said you have built an incorruptible traditional institution in the land. They see you as a patriot, a nationalist  devotedly committed to the Nigerian state and also a visionary leader. What’s your take on this?
We cannot isolate ourselves from the scourge of corruption and I pray that God should come to our rescue as a nation. Then we should continue to have broad knowledge of what corruption is. Some people think it’s only when you offer or collect bribe that you are corrupt; that is not true.

Injustice is corruption, when you do justice because you like my face is also corruption. Even you if you interview me now and I didn’t give you money and you refuse to publish the story, it’s also corruption. Corruption has affected us a lot as a people. Substantially and enormously the leaders are corrupt; it is so pervasive from bottom to up and top to bottom.

Another example, if I collect money from a politician before I vote, I am corrupt and if politician offer money to influence vote he is also corrupt. Corruption has become part of our life in this country; even the Obas are not left out, there is corruption everywhere. It is the greatest problem facing us as a country, and we have to overcome it to move forward.

People should refrain from being corrupt. If we as a people change, our leaders or anybody coming to corrupt us will also change. It is so appalling that the country is blessed with corrupt leaders, not until we eschew corruption that the country cannot grow or move forward.

What is your relationship with other traditional monarchs in Ijebuland?
In Ijebuland, we hold in high esteem our traditional institution, culture and heritage. Now to answer your question directly, there is mutual relationship, cordiality and friendship between me and other monarchs in Ijebuland. If there is trust, there will be unity and we cherish these virtues a lot in our tradition.

Let me also tell you, the activities marking this birthday anniversary couldn’t have been made possible without the support I am consistently receiving from them; they visit me every day and we also talk on phone. Ijebu is truly blessed with brilliant and reliable Obas.



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