Irele: Ekunsanmi’s quest for development

June 21, 2020
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IT was Plato who insisted that only a philosophical king should rule the polis (city). Even though his wish was for the Greek city states, examples from both our forebears and contemporary leadership indicate that his thesis subsists in all hues of leadership and kingdoms. Irele, the headquarters of Ode Irele Local Government Area in Ondo State, a serene township in Ondo State is one begging for such a leadership at the moment.

The stool of the Olofun of Irele has been vacant for some time now due to litigations with regards to who the cap fits. A quick recap of the court rulings on the raging question of who should contest the stool showed a point blank declaration that Opetusin is the next family entitled under customary law to present a candidate to fill the vacant stool; that the branches of Oyenusi family holding the traditional chieftaincies of Oyenusi and Jomu of Irele respectively, are not entitled to contest the vacant stool of Olofun of Irele with the descendants of Opetusin; and that only the descendants of Opetusin – excluding the other members of the Oyenusi family – can aspire to reign as Olofun of Irele “in that Oyenusi only reigned as the Jomu of Irele, and not as Olofun of Irele.”

The court declared further that neither the Governor of Ondo State nor any of its functionaries has the power to alter the customary law governing the Olofun of Irele chieftaincy as it affects the interest of the Opetusin family in the vacant stool of Olofun of Irele without taking cognisance of the extant customs and traditions of the Irele community. Besides, the court emphasised that the report of the Morgan Chieftaincy Review Commission and/or the White Paper issued thereon in 1982 do not constitute the making of a registered chieftaincy declaration under the Chiefs Law and that such purported declaration cannot be used or relied upon in filling the vacant stool of Olofun of Irele among other declarations.

A review of the court case shows optimism that things would change for better for Irele. But no doubt, the town has remained more or less in an evil case without a king dignified enough to harness the resources of the land for the prosperity of the people. Irele today is an illustration of the children of Israel in captivity in Babylon, while visitors came and steal the treasures of Jerusalem, Nehemiah, a privileged son was abreast of the dilapidation in his land of nativity. He was not only concerned, but was made sick by reports of the situation in Jerusalem. Nehemiah did something. He started to fast and pray that God might give him mercy before the king. God answered and victory came for Jerusalem, and of course the Jews.

The court has outstandingly demonstrated where the pendulum should swing, and one prominent prince many look up to is Dr.Bamidele Ekunsanmi. Prince Bamidele or Eddypolo, as popularly called by friends is an unassuming heir to the throne. He is not new to stardom or success. His was a valid case of preparations meet opportunity.  After his primary school at St. Pius Catholic school and a stint at St James’s , Anglican Secondary Modern School, Igbotako from where he proceeded to United Grammar School, Ode Irele, one of the four secondary schools in the Okitipupa Division of the former Ondo State.

Prince Ekunsami was on top of his class and having come out with flying colours at his West African School Certificate, he proceeded to University of Benin College of Medical Science, Benin City. He did his internal medicine residency at Howard University, then Georgetown University programme for his post-graduate studies. He later bagged his Fellowship in Medical Oncology at Howard University, Washington D.C, United States of America.

Your imagination may drift to what would a well learned medical director doing on the throne of his fathers? Very good question. First class graduate, Ekunsanmi would quickly refer you to eggheads on the throne and the development that they had engendered for their people. He is quick to point your attention to the landmark achievements of Professor Laz  Ekwueme in Oko, Lamido Sanusi II in Kano, Professor Adeyemi Adelanlege of Ota, Oba Dr.Adesimbo Victor Kiladejo, the Osemawe of Ondo and Onirisa Adeyeye Enitan  Ogunwusi, who were prominent and highly reputed individuals who are today, bringing development to their people.

According to him, “the popular dictum, East or West, home is the best, better illustrates my passion for the development of my root. You may declare me a success story here, there and yonder, but see my people. Go to Irele and see what a city built on a hill has become! Irele, by my estimation ought to be the epicentre of development in Ondo State. We have the people, we have the resources, why is development eluding us?” He asked rhetorically.

“We should eschew schism. I am enthused by the warm reports about what the Ooni of Ife is doing across the South West and even beyond. He has successfully deployed his expertise to solving problems all over the place. I do not want to be selfish by denying my people the benefit of my education and exposure. It is payback time and Irele must be turned a city flowing with milk and honey. It is my desire to stop the rural-urban drift by endearing those in places like Lagos and Port Harcourt to come back home and establish cottage industries.”

Prince Bamidele insisted development is the goal for his interest in the stool. There has been no light for about thirteen years, cottage and small scale industriesare lacking, even when the raw materials abound all over the place. “Unemployment has deranged many of our youths to the end that many are even confused about the way out.”He appealed it was time to change the face of Ode Irele from that of a glorified village to that of a developed city. “No more war, development is the in-thing in this post COVID-19 paradigm. I want the youth to remain at home and develop the place. The Ondos have done it among their people, the Ifes are now leaving the erstwhile municipalities for home to set up cottage industries. What our people need is the right leadership and we are ready to give it.”

Truth is, brave men, living and dead, have struggled and consecrated Irele far and above the current shenanigans that many of the gainsayers cannot add or detract from. Prince Ekunsanmi has presented himself and promised to be dedicated to the great task of rebuilding the town into a glorious city. His commitment to developing Irele is non pareil. He has resolved to give the last full measure of devotion within him thatIrele may have a new birth of freedom from the shackles of poverty, unemployment, youth restiveness and development in all spheres.

He believes that a sense of the unique, specific and concrete circumstances of any situation is the first indispensable step to solving the problems posed by that situation. Liberating Irele from the shackles of poverty and wants had been his vision since his early days. As a successful medical icon and visionary, he believes he possesses the capacity to confidently mobilise the youths for all round development of the area that the labour of heroes and heroines past may not be in vain. His dream is to expand the frontiers for business and small scale industrial activities.

Yet he is not underrating the severity of the challenges ahead, but he is relying on his network of well-wishers and industrialists who are more than willing to invest in both the youths and the kingdom if the environment is conducive for industrialisation. Upon this decision lies the development of Irele. Upon it depends whether our youngsters would continue to be hewers of wood and fetchers of water, while other kingdoms soar in liberation ethos and development gusto.

  • Olu Ayela, Veteran Journalist, based in Lagos.

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