Oba Olufaderin Adetimehin, Jimoko Jegun Olu-Ekun and paramount ruler of Ile-Oluji Kingdom, in this interview by AKIN ADEWAKUN airs his views on burning issues affecting the South-West, noting that the recently-launched security outfit in the region, Amotekun, will go a long way in complementing various efforts at securing lives and properties in the region.
How has it been in the saddle?
We have cause to rejoice in the Lord for the gift of life, and the enablement to be able to drive the administration of my kingdom. More importantly, I think I’ve enjoyed the overwhelming support and loyalty of my people. So I want to do more, in terms of meeting their aspirations.
The way you adjusted as an insurance guru from the boardroom, to be the custodian of the people’s traditional beliefs and culture has never ceased to amaze many. How were you able to achieve this within such time frame?
Let’s be frank with ourselves, if you have gone through managerial sciences, you would agree that there is universality of managerial responsibilities. I’ve come a long way as a professional manager, and coming to drive the administration of the kingdom should not be anything new, because I had already gone through what it takes to plan, to execute, re-appraise, and forecast. So, all I had to do on assumption of office as the paramount ruler of the kingdom was to combine traditional and customary etiquette with my long- term managerial experience, and it has worked beautifully well. We are consolidating now, because having done four years, one can really say I’ve gotten to understand the little difference, compared to the managerial dictates that formed the greater bulk of my background.
The topic of the moment is COVID-19, which seems to have caught the whole world unawares, creating so much fear and desperation among the people. In your sphere of influence, how are you allaying such fears within your kingdom?
When you look at the implications of the pandemic, the most worrisome aspect is the effect on the global economy. In the developed world, America and Europe, people are quick in reacting to shocks in their economy, unlike the underdeveloped or developing world where we belong. That is my fear. It might take a while before we find our feet or roadmap to recovery, roadmap to getting out of the wood. If you look at what is happening in the developed world now, they are already providing palliatives. The World Bank is already coming out with palliatives. They are giving loans, they are readjusting, they are re-aligning so that they can minimise the shock. This will, definitely, allow them to go back to the drawing board and embark on their recovery plan, quickly. But nothing like that in this part of the globe. That’s my greatest worry here. This is where we might be having critical issues. Now coming down to our roles as traditional rulers, especially as far as I’m concerned, I’ve always been a risk manager. I’ve come a long way in managing risks. I had to go all out on a campaign to educate my community people. I was on the air, we were on street campaigns to educate people on the need to comply with the directives of the government and the relevant health authorities: no shaking of hands, no hugging, if someone is coughing, move away from such person. As a matter of fact, we have put a hold on our traditional assembly that we often do every nine days. We’ve since shut down, albeit temporarily. I only give directives on phone on important assignments that cannot be shelved. I don’t entertain visitors, for now. Even I had to go online, not only to get across to my people, but the generality of Nigerians, appealing to their sentiments that, ’well, it has come, and as a result, we must brace up to stay safe and comply with all the preventive measures’. That’s the little we can do for now as traditional rulers. Again you know we have our herbs, our local and traditional ways of healing, and people are already imbibing that. For instance, you take the Dongoyaro tree; you take bitter leaf, lemon, ginger, and all those things. So far that is what we’ve been able to do.
This brings us to the issue of traditional rulers having a role to play in this political dispensation. Some believe getting such messages across to the people would have been seamless if the traditional rulers had been given some role, prior to this. What’s your take on this?
By our peculiar position, we are the closest to the people in our respective domains. The people know when to come to us, and they do come to us. But what is lacking is the enablement under our constitution to identify our critical roles and empower us. We cannot be in competition with the politicians. We are fathers to all. We are there to collaborate for an effective leadership and administration at various levels. That is what we are talking about, and there had been a lot of pressure groups, at the traditional institution levels, talking to government. It’s not just traditional rulers. That is why people talk of restructuring and all these amendments in the constitution, yet to see the light of the day. We are not in a hurry. So, we wait and hope that in the near future there can be better administration of our people.
A regional security outfit, Amotekun, was launched recently in the South-West. Curiously, there are oppositions to the initiative from the region, especially from those who believe it would be used as a vehicle by politicians to torment their enemies, both real and perceived. What’s your take on this?
I think the brains behind the institution of Amotekun have gone beyond politics, it cannot be abused.. In the South-West, we have different political parties, governing the different states. But you can see how they put aside their political differences and come together to put the principles and the blueprints underlying the formation of Amotekun. So, there is no politics in it. We have a common issue, a common interest that has to be protected, which is the security of lives and properties. It is when you have a secure environment that you can be talking of development. So it affects all. It’s not going to be politicised. And for once, the traditional rulers are being allowed, under the edict to play our role, which is ensuring it works, because we have to endorse whoever is partaking in Amotekun. We know the characters in our respective domains. So, for once, it’s quite laudable. It’s been passed into law in the South-West states, and very soon it’s going to be implemented. You cannot claim not to know your people. You cannot claim not to know them. That is why you won’t employ somebody that will turn out be a black sheep in the security outfit. So, it’s going to work. If we are secure, if there is peace, surely there will be development in the region.
We all hope that in the next few weeks all this talk about COVID-19 would have been a thing of the past, because if not for the pandemic, Ile Oluji would have been agog, by now, preparing for the fourth anniversary celebrations of your coronation. What form is this year’s event taking?
Well if you’d recall I mentioned this some years ago, that we cannot afford to be rolling out drums for celebrations every year. Our focus is to have milestones to celebrate. If only for the gift of life, it is enough reason to want to roll out drums and thank God. But we are being very prudent in all that we do in the kingdom. So the celebrations or marking of anniversary cannot be every year, because year in year out, we have our development plans. Each stage we look at the milestones achieved, we repackage and pursue more laudable projects. So, we are not expecting any serious celebration this year. What we’ll do this year is a special prayer session, giving thanks to the Lord, and there could be a cocktail or whatever, but it’s not one we are going to invite all our well-wishers and associates from all over the world.
A lot of people in the region have expressed their reservations about the conduct of some traditional rulers in the region. What can be done?
You see, our tradition and culture, especially in the South-West, are very deep and rich. So one therefore imagines what could have ever informed paramount rulers, traditional rulers to be going into seclusion. In management, it’s just like the process of induction. Secondly, not just anybody can become an oba. Before you are made oba, you must have a royal blood, and if you are a prince from a royal family, definitely some of the dictates and what obtains in kingship will not be strange to you. There is no way you can betray some of these virtues when you ascend the throne. This has not changed. It is constant. So, the greater bulk of the traditional rulers within the length and breadth of the country know what should obtain and what obtains, and we adhere strictly to this so that we can continue to attract the honour and dignity that belongs to the throne. So, nobody can miss it if you are a thoroughbred, coming from the royal family, having gone through the tutelage of seclusion, imbibing what the tradition and culture entail. That is why you will perform, and you can never betray the people’s trust.
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