THE emergence of Oba Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida did not come as a surprise to many in the ancient town of Akure , the Ondo State capital. Since he indicated his intention to contest with other Princes in the Ojijigbogun Ruling House expected to present a candidate for the vacant stool after the former Oba, Oluwadare Adepoju, was deposed and banished to Owo by the state government for engaging in a street fight with one of his queens (Olori), Bolanle, it was clear that he was the candidate to beat. In this interview, the Oba, who is to be crowned tomorrow, September 5, 2010 explains that he was ‘crowned’ by his friend at the age of seven simultaneously when one of the Obas of the town was crowned. Oba Adesida, a farmer bares of his intention to rid Akure town of miscreants, his relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the allegations that he was imposed as the Deji of Akure by the Ondo state government, his relationship with his predecessor, advice to politicians as 2011 general elections draws near and other sundry issues.
Enjoy your read:
YOUR becoming the new Deji of Akure has been somewhat tedious. We learnt that before the last Deji was installed, you also had interest in the stool. Even after the current election, it was gathered that you didn’t garner the required votes to emerge as the next Oba. What really happened?
First and foremost, I will want to appreciate what God has done for me and what God has done for the people of Akure. In the past 10 years, I make bold to say that Akure has not known peace, since the demise of the last Deji Adebobajo. Since government has created two ruling houses, the thing shifted from Ojijigbogbo to Osupa. I will continue to say that the Osupa dynasty ruled around 832 to 846; it was very difficult for the kingmakers to get the true prince from Osupa ruling house. And so, they (kingmakers) were trying to get somebody, but they could not get anybody. But one Adelabu who had enormous wealth was selected. Now, the people of Akure knew him and that was why the regent, who was supposed to be a regent is expected to be on the throne for four to six months. The last regent was there for six years.
I don’t like praising myself as a prince but some of the chiefs had to approach me. They said they had tried to look for a prince in the other ruling house but had seen none after which, they invited me to come home. And then, I was invited home but the process was not easy because at that time, like I told you, it was the turn of the Osupa ruling house; ours is Ojijigbogbo. The choice of a Deji from Osupa ruling house could be said to be the genesis of the whole problem. The last Deji was said to be a prince but if you’re not a prince, it means you’re not a prince. Politics came in because they didn’t want someone from the Ojijigbogbo lineage. And because of government’s decision to create two ruling houses, they picked Adeshina Adepoju. All is now history; you can see the way everything went. The image of the Deji was bastardized. Akure people were terrorized and you know eventually, government had to remove him from office.
Did you ever dream of becoming the Deji of Akure?
I was brought up in Akure but when I was about seven years old then and they were installing Ademola Ogun as the Deji of Akure, my age mates were also telling me that I would one day become the Deji of Akure. But at a stage, I didn’t show any interest.
The talk in town before your emergence was that the Adeshida ruling house was trying to monopolise the stool, because from records, we learnt they’ve ruled for close to a 100 years, while the other ruling house has been deprived of that stool.
We all came from one ruling house which was Asode Boyode. Anytime a new Deji is to be installed, all the princes will come out because that was the order of the day at that time. What brought the issue of Adeshida was that there were talks of marginalization, but there is nothing like marginalization. Agunbiowo was who my grandfather, contested thrice with other princes before he became the Deji of Akure. He contested with Odundun, he didn’t make it, he contested with Aroboye, he didn’t make it; the other time, he contested with Fanimoke and that was when he made it. So, there is nothing like marginalization. When he died in 1957, all the princes came and at that time, one of the princes contested with his father. When Ademoyagun died in 1974, about 22 princes came out from all the ruling houses. But again, Adeshida still emerged as the Deji and this is because our forefathers performed well; he was a progressive Oba. During his time, civilization came, education came and Akure was peaceful. We have been very progressive because it’s in our blood.
Still on your emergence as the Deji, kindly narrate how it all happened. How many votes did you get to emerge because there are rumours making the rounds that you didn’t win and that the government imposed you on the people.
Like I told you, any time a new Deji is to be installed, the government will write to the local government to inform the ruling house; after which the ruling houses will tell their princes to show interest. From our ruling house, seven people came out but nine names were forwarded to the kingmakers. Everything went through due process and tradition was strictly adhered to; also, all the contestants were screened by the kingmakers. All the kingmakers know us; they know our antecedents and they also want a progressive Oba for this town now, realizing the mistakes of the past Oba, the way he behaved and his eventual fall. We all know what happened, the image of Akure was bastardized throughout the world. Our indigenes in the Diaspora were no longer proud to be known as Akure people, because anywhere they went, they were embarrassed. In any contest, there will be disagreement. There will be rumours, and those who lost out will allege there was rigging. But in this case, everything was transparent. It was not secret balloting; the kingmakers were required to fill a form and write out the name of the person they wanted as the Deji of Akure. They also consulted the Ifa Oracle. I was told that the Ifa picked me and the people selected me and immediately I was selected, all the chiefs came together to congratulate me.
You were a former aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Should we say your relationship with him gave you an edge over others during the selection?
I told you that this selection was done by God; it was not by any human being. I told you that I had contested before. By that time, I had the support of everybody. I make bold to say that Obasanjo is my father (beating his chest); I’m not a politician. I’m a poultry farmer. He (Obasanjo) didn’t have a hand in this one; when Obasanjo was president, I was unable to become the Deji of Akure. It is God’s doing.
The Ondo State government is embarking on some projects. As the new Deji of Akure, how do you intend to convince people and mediate between government and the people in Akure, especially those that will be displaced by the demolition.
I thank God for the present that we have because all projects being carried out were supposed to have been done by previous governors. It’s a shame that we only have one dualised road in Akure. When you go to other state capitals, you will see that they are cities where you are proud of. I have been appealing to our people that they have to endure; all of us have to make sacrifices and the government has its own plan to rehabilitate them. They have plans to compensate them. The governor has appealed to me to sensitize my people so that all these projects can be done very fast.
Having emerged as the new Deji, what plans do you have for the people of Akure?
First and foremost, I am going to work together with the state government and security agencies to eradicate thugs and hooligans from this town, especially the swindlers. One of the allegations levelled against the former Deji was that people went on his behalf to swindle people.It was also alleged that people were going on his behalf to terrorize people, collecting their land. They went about using his name to torture and extort money from them; thugs were going from one market to the other telling people that it was the Oba that sent them.So, I’m going to work with the security agencies get rid of them. I’m going to concentrate on our women and the youths, because the youths are the future leaders. Also I believe the women have majority of the work to do by training the youths, so that when they (youths) grow up, they won’t become thugs. It’s painful that when you get to our ministries or government offices, you don’t see Akure people in top places; but when you talk of thugs, you see Akure people as professors of thugs.
What is your relationship with the deposed Deji?
During the struggle for the last Deji, he did little or nothing, he was based in London . When the thing was shifted from our ruling house, I called him when he became the Deji that anytime you wake up, thank your God because it was God’s doing and that he continues to thank God. I also told advised him to continue to cooperate with those who contested with him and then develop the town. When he was installed, I used to advise him, but he refused to heed. He would tell me that people were lying against him.
Have you spoken with him after he was deposed?
No, he’s incommunicado, but I don’t have anything against him.
Nigeria will be 50 years come October 1 and a lot of preparations are in top gear to celebrate the country’s independence. Do you think it is worth celebrating?
That we are still an entity, we should thank God for that. It is now time for us to sit together and map out the way forward; we have the resources, both human and material resources. But we should continue to thank God that we have peace, all the bad things happening in Nigeria , are man made and all can be corrected when people come together.
Traditional rulers have been known to play vital roles in nation building and as 2011 draws near, what will be your advice to politicians?
All traditional rulers need to come together and pray for this country and that God this time, will give us the best person that will move Nigeria forward. We are not expected as Obas, to be partisan; but I will appeal to the electorate to vote in the right people; they should not mortgage their future. We pray that the best candidate should be chosen.
It is customary for new Obas to marry wives after ascending the throne; do you have the intention of marrying another wife?
(Laughs) When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. I got married in 1976; I’ve been married to one wife and since then, I have not had any other wife.
But you’re expected as an Oba to have a baby, soon after ascending the throne…
(Cuts in and general laughter) No, it’s no more compulsory. It’s not one of the things you must do when you get to the throne; it’s a matter of choice.