By Rotimi Ojomoyela
Oba Ayorinde Ilori-Faboro, the Olojudo of Ido-Ekiti, recently, emerged as the Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers. In this interview, Ilori-Faboro speaks on issues around the traditional institution and the administration of Governor Biodun Oyebanji. He also speaks on the annual Ajodun Ido holding in the ancient town next weekend. Excerpts:
The last time I came, you told me that the only community you have boundary with is Ado-Ekiti. Can you clarify this?
I have boundaries with Ewi of Ado, Ajero of Ijero, Onisan of Isan and Oore of Otun. Those are the old historical boundaries because, in those days, the land belonged to crowned Obas who were originally sons and grand-children of Oduduwa. The others were Baales, they didn’t have rights in those days. They didn’t have lands because they were occupying our lands. That’s why I will say as the Olojudo, we have boundary with the Ewi after Iworoko because Ifaki was Olojudo’s territory. It’s still traditionally because the Ido Kingdom at that time consisted of Ifaki, Aaye, Igbole, Ora, Ifisin, Usi and Ilogbo. Those are my territories.
How do you cope with the upsurge of agitation for autonomy by small communities in your kingdom?
The situation changed under the Kabiyesi before me. I don’t think they were able to cope even though these other communities have recognised Obas but because he was the one who installed most of them, they were his Baales. I think till he died, he treated them like Baales but I met them as Kabiyesis. They are my colleagues, even though junior colleagues but they are Obas that have powers over their towns. I cannot go to Ifaki and command anybody. My authority is only in Ido. But when it comes to certain traditional things we still do together, the authority still resides in Ido.
What has been the impact of giving autonomy to these communities?
The impact is development. Take for example when Ekiti was part of Ondo State, were we as developed like this? So, governance should be close to the people. There is nothing wrong with it. I cannot go and deal with armed robbers or burglars in Ifaki, the Olufaki is there because if you say everything will reside with the Olojudo, you will kill the Olojudo. Let everybody look after his town, it makes life easier.
How do you reconcile the traditional stool of the old and that of now? Do you think any changes have come or do you think they still retain the power they used to have? What role should be given to them?
You cannot compare the old tradition and the now. In those days, the Kabiyesi has a lot of power over his territory but with democracy and civilization, government took over most of those powers. Now what the government does is to talk to our people through us because the governor, as powerful as he is, can’t just come to a section of the town and gather people that he wants to talk to them. It won’t work that way. He will have to go through the Kabiyesi. So, they use us in that respect to talk and mobilize our people.
Do you think that scheming the traditional rulers out of governance has helped? For example, the issue of values that has been eroded.
It has especially in the past where you had military governors. When you bring somebody from Igbo land to be governor in Yoruba land and vice versa, he doesn’t know the tradition of those people and you find out that those people’s beliefs are contrary to the beliefs of the locals. So they had conflict in those days. And then the kind of influence the Kabiyesi had because most Yoruba towns believe that their destinies are tied to that of their Kabiyesi. That’s why the selection of Kabiyesi is spiritual through Ifa, who will be able to tell them who will bring prosperity or whose star will affect the community positively. But where the government interferes is when these politicians have friends who want to be Kabiyesi and when the town doesn’t want those people, government can impose and that’s why some communities don’t have peace. That’s why you have all types of Kabiyesis nowadays that are not spiritually gifted. Most Yoruba towns depend on their Kabiyesis for their prosperity. That is why they say if a town is doing well, it’s Kabiyesi but if a town is not doing well, they also say it’s Kabiyesi. That’s how much Yorubaland is still attached to the Kabiyesi and that is why choosing an Oba is very emotional thing for those communities because everybody wants somebody who will improve their lives. Every town has a declaration, that is a process of choosing an Oba which everybody understands and the Kabiyesi who is in the palace will sign it because he has discussed with his people and they have accepted how the Oba will be chosen. If we stick to that, there will be no problem but where conflicts arises is when two people contest for Obaship, the people install one person and the other contestant may not agree and will be parading himself as an alternative Oba and government will not do anything about it. We have that problem but the government in Ekiti is a very good one. They have been returning the traditional values. Governor Biodun Oyebanji and his deputy, who is even a princess, are returning the values back to the palace. The prestige and the authority of the Kabiyesi is gradually coming back but what do you do tomorrow if you have a governor who doesn’t understand or have respect for history.
In Yoruba land, we have so many high ranking Obas. There are some who still believe they have authority over others like the Alaafin and the Ooni. Do you agree?
The problem comes to personal understanding of the people that we choose as Obas. If you choose people who have understanding and respect for traditional rulers, they will do what is right but when people say because they have money to subvert the wishes of the people to become Kabiyesi, they don’t know the value of that position and they will be doing things that denigrate the throne. For instance we have hierarchy. I cannot claim to be equal with the Ooni of Ife or the Alaafin of Oyo but whoever you appoint as Ooni or Alaafin must be people who understand history, who will have respect for orderliness and ways of doing things. For instance the Olojudo is the paramount ruler of Ido Kingdom, it’s possible for the Ooni to be friendly with the Olora and when he wants to do something, he calls Olora and doesn’t call the head. As the current Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, whoever is the Ooni or the Alaafin must know that if he wants to do something in Ekiti, he has to relate with the Chairman. He will not say the Olora is his friend and jump over who is the Chairman. Even in Ido-Osi, the Obas under me have hierarchy and I must respect that hierarchy because if I jump over number two and start dealing with number six, there will be problem.
There is this campaign by government to bring back our values and respect hard work. Do you think this campaign can be successful without the Kabiyesi to lead it?
It will succeed because it wasn’t like this before. It was gradually that government destroyed these things. In those days, in Ekitiland and Yorubaland, people did not respect money, they respected the Omoluabi of each person but what happened is that because Nigeria is a country, you have other tribes that have no respect for positions; it is the money in your hand they respect.
Fortunately there are still people who are decent in the society.
Coming down to your community, Ido-Ekiti, since you have been Kabiyesi, greater development has come into the community. What are you still expecting?
There is no end to development. When I came here, the town was dark and primitive but through the grace of God, the things we have here that can ignite development is the Federal Medical Centre. The previous Kabiyesi was able to attract that even though it wasn’t making much impact before I became Kabiyesi because the workers couldn’t see Ido as a place they could stay. They were going to Ado-Ekiti to build their houses but when I came through the grace of God, things started changing and people started coming back to build houses.
We have lots of progress and our sons and daughters outside, when they come home they are happy with the progress. They too are coming home to build houses and invest. As of today, I’m very grateful to God where we are. We still have a long way to go but my expectation is that those of them who have money can come together to establish higher institutions and businesses. I just established a very big market but we still need to develop the market so that people in the environment can come in and do their business. When business starts to flow into town, who knows the limit? The town is growing but we still expect government to bring electricity, build hospitals, pay teachers salaries. My position is to work with government and sons and daughters to lobby government to do these things for us. I have a lot of respect for Governor Oyebanji and his deputy. They are very good people and the governor has appointed very decent people to work with him. I expect this town to do well in the next five to eight years and then we have President Bola Tinubu in Abuja. I’m probably his number one fan and I expect eventually his influence will reach us here. We will lobby him to remember us. I generally believe that Nigeria will do well in the next few years because he is a very intelligent President and that is my expectation.
Now tell us about 2023 Ajodun Ido?
Ajodun is something we do every last weekend of November. It brings my children home from all over the world because it’s an opportunity to see them and interact and come to know a lot of them. We sit down together to joke, play and throw banters. It is a time for happiness and assessment of what we have done in the previous 12 months and these past 12 months have been very good. Now for the first time, we have a senator in this town, Cyril Fasuyi. It is a big achievement. And the local government Chairman is my son. Everything is looking very bright. Ido Day is not just a day, it is a week. It is a time for happiness, festivities and my sons and daughters have organized a lot of activities for the week.
What are the challenges Ido-Ekiti is facing?
My roads are not good. Ido is the highest point in Western Nigeria. When you are coming all the way from Lagos, if you climb it, Ido is 575 above sea level. We are higher than Ado and Ikere even though they have hills and mountains. When you are coming from Ado to Ido towards Abuja, you will be descending. That’s why the rivers from here flows northwards through Kwara to River Niger. The topography is because it’s on a plain which clears quickly within five minutes when rain falls. The speed is what is carrying our roads away. We have people who cannot even access their homes because the roads are not motorable. That is a serious environmental challenge. My wife has an NGO that deals with environmental degradation. The local government too has been able to grade some roads but I’m not happy with grading. When you grade the road and a vicious rain falls, we have some roads that are 4-5 feet deeper than before because of constant grading. I want government to do a proper drainage for us and then tar the roads that can last longer. Ipere road which is the next village to us is bad. I intend to go to the governor to beg him to do the roads and then we are begging the people at Abuja and senator to lobby to do the roads for us. On electricity, government is building a sub-station here to ease supply. Electricity supply is extremely poor. We aren’t getting up to four hours in a week. We have a very good healthcare delivery which is the Teaching Hospital, one of the best in the country. We are happy with that because the same consultants you will pay N200, 000 to see elsewhere, the card here N2, 500.
Are you not interested for an upgrade to university of medical sciences?
It’s already a university on its own because Afe Babalola University is attached to that hospital. I want us to have a university on its own but not to convert the Teaching Hospital. I have secured another 50 hectares of land for them because I want government to build a new hospital. This structure we have here is a temporary one and the space is too small for a Teaching Hospital.
The state Independent Power Project has just been commissioned by Governor Biodun Oyebanji, is there any possibility that Ido will benefit from it?
It will get here. For Governor Oyebanji, you don’t need much prayer but just thank God that he is there. He will do it. About three weeks ago, we went to open the one at Ikogosi. I was there as the Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council. Eventually, he will bring it to the hospital here because this hospital needs a lot of electricity supply.
In your new position as Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, what have been the benefits and how do you see the office?
The office is good. The benefit is a lot. It’s recognition because everything happening in Ekiti, I have to be there and people hear the name of the town more. I’m travelling a lot now because I have to be where the government is doing something. The government has given me a very good vehicle that doesn’t make my journey difficult. Because of the responsibilities, all the little illnesses that I usually have had to disappear because I have to go out. I’m very grateful to government for appointing me.
Last words from Kabiyesi
Just to appeal to my sons and daughters to help the town more and more. I want to appeal to my people to have respect for constituted authority and to support government. When it’s time for election, we should come out and vote and turn out a lot of voters because that is what government understands. If a town has a voting strength of 50,000 and another town has voting strength of 10,000, the one with 50,000 will get a lot before the one of 10,000. Many of them are apathetic to all these things. I want them to come out during elections to vote and the government in power will recognise us and do more things for us. That’s one of the main ways to develop a town.