By Bashir Adefaka
The palace of the Alaafin and paramount ruler of Oyo Kingdom, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi II, always comes alive whenever it plays host to occasions involving the revered monarch.
The latest of the events concerns the 76th birthday of the king which involved the dedication of some projects completed by the administration of his son, Adeniyi Adeyemi, popularly called Ogo Atiba, as the Chairman of Atiba Local Government Area of Oyo State. The Alaafin also commissioned school projects, boreholes and had gatherings where he interacted with his people.
Adeyemi remains in the hearts of his people and it showed in the way they relate with him. One fascinating thing about the Yoruba traditional ruler is his magical dance. “His dance is magical because, at his age, little can one expect him to be able to carry himself the way he does,” one of his subjects said. When it comes to the time for the monarch to do the dance, there is need to give space enough for an eleti-aja cap wearer to mesmerise or influence the direction of the eyes of the onlookers. Relating the relationship of the Alaafin with his people and other people in form of written report will not do justice to the real Adeyemi.
As the interaction ended, it was time for another leg of events; this time homage by politicians and residents from the four local government areas under the jurisdiction of the king. The visitors informed the king they were in the palace to register their loyalty, saying as he had been leading them to victory, they were strongly behind him.
Characteristic of politicians, they seized the opportunity of the visit to get Adeyemi to endorse their desire for his son and current Caretaker Chairman of Atiba Local Government Area, Adeniyi, to move a step further by representing them at the House of Representatives, Abuja.
Father of politicians
Responding to the call, the Alaafin, clad in white agbada and eleti-aja cap with a pair of white half-shoes to match, spoke about what the people should look for in anybody they wanted as their representative in government. He granted their request as expressed in his decision not only to foot the N2.2 million Adeniyi would require to purchase the expression of interest form for the House of Representatives contest, but also gave N500, 000 to Honourable Waliu Adekunle Alagbom, a serving member of the Oyo State House of Assembly representing Atiba State Constituency, to purchase his own form from the APC to contest the coming election. Adeniyi, by the royal blessing, will be contesting for the House of Representatives seat in Oyo Federal Constituency, while Waliu seeks second term ticket for the state legislature.
And the Alaafin began his thought-provoking speech saying, for political parties to live up to their responsibilities and for players in the parties to be reckoned with as a responsible set of people, certain rules must be enforced, which, if strictly adhered to, would aid governance. Adeyemi said political parties should be able to organise debate for incumbents who intend to run for second term in office and new aspirants, in order to ensure that credible and dedicated candidates, who are really determined to serve the people are given the mandate.
His words: “During the debate, the incumbents must tell the public what projects they have been able to do for the well-being of their constituents while a committee of formidable characters should be set up to ascertain where those projects are located. And if it is otherwise, those serving political office holders have no right to represent the people again. Also, those aspiring to serve
must tell the public how they intend to impact positively on the lives of their people. This is the reality of modern politics and pragmatic governance,” the Alaafin said, adding that such steps, if adhered to by political parties, will prevent aspirants who have no clear-cut and result-oriented programmes of action for the people but ulterior intention of treasury looting and amassing of ill-gotten wealth from getting to office.
“If a serving political office holder of less than 30 years of age can boast of N300 million mansion in different locations when his total pay package for the whole of four years in office is not up to half of the amount, is that not disturbing and worrisome? How did the serving office holder come about such whopping amount of money?” Such ill-gotten wealth, without regard and concern for the well-being of the constituents, Adeyemi asserted, is being used to blow sirens all over the place to intimidate the people and insult their sensibilities.
“These unaccounted wealth are also being used to procure arms and ammunition for the youths who are supposed to be economically empowered with the money, to cause mayhem during elections so as to perpetuate themselves in power against the wishes of the people”.
The traditional ruler warned that unless political parties braced up and refocused their operational modes, there might not be end to brazen impunity, monumental corruption, alarming poverty as well as unemployment rates characterized by irresponsible leadership in the country. He implored the people to refrain from campaign of calumny, derogatory utterances and untoward acts during political rallies, “but exhibit the concept of omoluabi, that is, responsibility, which is an integral part of Yoruba culture and traditions.”
In his address, Prince Adeniyi, who thanked the villagers for their cooperation, announced what he called “royal incentives” for them.
These include establishment of fertilizer and other agro-chemical centres in all the villages for sale at subsidized prices, disbursement of substantial amount of money to farmers free of charge to boost food production and construction of culverts and drainage system to prevent erosion surge which has been threatening most of their communities and ventilated his displeasure over high rate of poverty and neglect in the rural areas by elected representatives and warned politicians against betrayal of trust to the people who elected them into offices.
In an exclusive interview, the prince said Nigeria is the most densely inhabited country in Africa with a population of 162 million people and growing rapidly. As the population increases, remote communities are further cut off and urban facilities become overstretched.
Recent global statistics, he stated, revealed that 63.2 million people in Nigeria don’t have access to safe water.
‘’Similarly, over 97,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. The pertinent question is, how does government implement a uniform drinking water policy in a society where majority of the population depend on contaminated rainwater, pond water, and water from streams/rivers, for domestic use? But because water infrastructures are capital intensive, many of the poor communities do not have the resources to construct durable infrastructure, thus making water availability to the localities unreliable.”
Meanwhile, the Alaafin has established a non-governmental organisation known as Oba Adeyemi/Skimeh Foundation. The foundation, comprising of professionals, is to do an inventory of communities, especially rural areas in dire need of infrastructures and human development. The organization is wholly funded by the monarch.
The foundation’s first assignment was the borehole projects which were recently commissioned. Commissioning the boreholes located at Ilora, Araromi, Akeetan Titun and Molaba respectfully at a colourful ceremony, Adeyemi said that in some communities across the country, waste-water and human waste are discharged into local rivers and streams and the teeming impoverished citizens depend on these sources for domestic use because they lack the funds to build waste-water treatment plants and modern water distribution infrastructures. He said under this condition only those with financial wherewithal could afford to buy water daily from private water vendors that haul water in rusty tanks that contaminate the water.
“History shows that water resources development and basic water service has generally been handled by governments. And because a certain amount of water is needed for drinking and domestic use, water is considered a basic need and as a human right. Thus, governments are required to make basic water available to the citizens; also investment in water development requires large financial resources, which are often beyond the reach of private individuals and poor communities. As the nation’s population grows (currently, over 140 million) demand for water and other resources will also increase. What is the Federal Government doing to meet the challenges? Of what use is a government that cannot provide basic services to the citizens?”, the monarch said.
To expand access to clean water supply, the paramount ruler advised both the state and federal governments to invest copiously on rural and urban water scheme.
This, Alaafin asserted, should be part of the NEEDS and poverty alleviation programmes.
While eulogizing Governor Abiola Ajimobi for his visionary administration and unprecedented devotion to the well-being of the people of the state, Adeyemi pledged to use his resources to complement the administration’s transformation agenda, especially on rural development.