By Iyabo Aina
The Ojora of Ijora, Lagos, Oba Fatai Aremu Aromire, has been on the throne for22 years. In this interview, Aromire speaks on his background and life as a monarch.
How do you feel celebrating 22 years on the throne?
I give thanks to God for keeping me for 22 years on the throne. It hasn’t been easy. Everyday I thank God because everything is in His hands.
After you became king, what were the challenges you met on ground?
When I became the Ojora of Lagos in 1994, I was 41years old. If you look at this community, there are so many challenges like court cases but, with the help of God, I have been able to settle them.
What were the steps you took in bringing peace to the community?
When I became king, I inherited the Iganmu case which started in 1972. The first chief who started the case was Chief Abdul aziz of Ojora who was my uncle, he started the case by sueing the people jostling with us for the stool, but around 1974 he passed on. Taud Akapo then became the Ojora of Lagos, that was in 1977. He too did his best before he passed on in 1993. I was installed in 1994. After I won the case at the High Court, the other party appealed. I won at the Appeal Court, but they appealed to the Supreme Court. I won the case for the family. I’ve won about 32 cases for the family.
You are an HND holder, but you seem to know so much about the law…
If you are not conversant with the family issues you can’t become the Ojora, you can’t just come from London and contest for the Ojora stool; you have to be an apprentice. I worked in the family office for 30 years; so I’ve been dealing with the family cases by going with the elders to meet the lawyers; so I have knowledge and experience. If you sue me now and I look at the suit and what you are claiming, I will just laugh. I will even advise my lawyer on what to do because it’s what I’ve been doing for the past 45 years; so I know everything. You can’t talk about anything regarding my family land now that I don’t know.
You said before one can become the Ojora, he has to be an apprentice. As the PA to the late Akapo, what were the things you learnt from him?
One of the major things I learnt from him was to always dialogue and you must have time for your family, be open-minded and always let your doors be opened every time for people to come in.
Would you say you are fulfilled after 22 years on the throne?
I cannot be fulfilled because I am still begging God to allow me to stay for a long time on the throne.
You were born a Muslim, your mother is a traditional worshipper, your sister owns churches and, as the Ojora, there are some traditional rites you have to perform. How do you manage these contending religious?
Tradition has no house of worship. In this community, when it’s Christmas, we do it together. When it’s the time for Muslim or traditional festival, we also do it together.
How would you describe your first two years as a traditional ruler?
It was really challenging starting with the court cases which I fought for five years before all of us came together as one family.
Ojora is a rowdy place. What have you done to bring nomalcy to the place and how challenging was it for you?
I have constructed five roads with my personal money. I built a mosque and a church in the community and the purpose is to unify the people and make them have a sense of belonging.
There is this claim that the Ojoras are rich. How valid is the claim?
I think it is possibly because we have land and I can’t deny that. But we don’t sell the land we only lease it because of the unborn children.
At 22 years on the throne, what are your plans for the Ojora community?
I went to expand my scholarship project because every year I sponsor the children of the community and those of non-indigenes. I already have 25 beneficiaries on my list. I want to add another 25 to the list.
Do you still relate with your old friends?
Ofcourse, these are the people who know about my past. I can’t say because I am a king I should stay away from them; we still hang-out together. If you drive away your old friends, when trouble comes, you won’t see people to advise you. A big man can’t advise a fellow big man positively. He will rather look towards your downfall because of the competition between both of you.
So every Friday, I hang out and drink with my old friends and they tell me their problems. I also tell them mine and the little I can do I do, it for them.
Can you share your childhood experiences with us, because I learnt you had to do some menial jobs to survive?
I lost my father in 1966 and my mother used to sell plantain; so she had no means of sending me to school. She now asked me to go and live with my father’s brother at Ajegunle and that was where people used to do menial jobs. Because I wanted to be somebody in life, I had to join them. I did it for two years. I am proud of myself today because the only thing I don’t have is a place.
What were those other things you did to become who you are today?
I trained myself from secondary school to the HND level. After that I was employed in the internal affairs ministry from where I was seconded to the immigration service. Then the late chief saw something in me and said I should resign. I resigned in 1979 to join the family business and since then I’ve been doing well.
We learnt that when you were asked to become the king, you ran away. Why?
Yes, I believed that becoming a king is problematic and that no matter what you do, you can’t please people. I never had interest but I just had to accept it because I was told that the oracle picked me out of the seven persons who were nominated.
Can you recall some of your class mates while in school?
One of my classmates life? Were is Amosun, the governor of Ogun State.
How would you describe your youthful you the troublesome type?
It’s rich men’s children that make trouble. How would I have been troublesome when I didn’t have a father and my mother used to sell plantain? If I made trouble, who would have come to my rescue?
Before your father died, what was your relationship with him and what lessons did you learn from him?
I’m the last born; so I was the closest to him and the major thing I learnt from him is to be upright.
How did you meet your wife and why is she the only wife you have unlike other kings?
It was the day I went to my brother’s house because there was no food at home and met her there.
As time went on, I started dating her and later on I proposed to her. Her family took her away after she became pregnant for me but she later came back to me.
I then decided to marry her and my reasons are best known to me.