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Saturday, 8 October 2016
Being a king cannot take my faith from me–Ogoga of Ikere
In this interview with KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE, the Ogoga of Ikere Ekiti, Oba Adejimi-Adu Alagbado tells his history and that of the town
How easy or otherwise is the running of Ikere?
It depends on how one sees it. But I will say I thank God. If one does not rely on one’s strength, wisdom or ability; one will leave everything in the hands of God. He takes care of everything. To that extent, I will say so far so good. I’m fortunate to have very loyal and supportive chiefs. The indigenes of this town both within and in the diaspora have given me overwhelming support. So it makes things easy for us. Also through the wisdom of God, we have been able to get our people in the grassroots to understand what we are doing and where we are going. Ruling the second largest town in Ekiti is not easy but we thank God.
Having been a busy businessman all your life, how did you find it adjusting life as a monarch?
Again I will say I believe in destiny. In anything you do, there is nothing that happens without the knowledge of God. I always tell people that if you ask me to define grace, I will give the history of my life. Things I have done in my life before I came to the throne, I believe they were designed to train me, to prepare me.
It was said that you had been involved in the development of Ikere ever before you became the monarch. Were you doing all those things in anticipation of ruling the town one day?
No. Not at all. Whatever you hear from me is from my heart and it is the truth. It is innate for you to have that feeling for your place of birth. I remember while growing up, things that I witnessed. God gave me the opportunity to travel first outside Ikere, I went to Lagos before travelling to the United Kingdom for studies and by my profession, I travelled round the world. Everytime I travelled to beautiful places, I asked myself what I could do to make my place of birth beautiful and attractive. These are the things that informed the modest contribution I had made way back. Nobody ever plans that he would become a king. It is only God that makes one king.
How was growing up in Ikere?
I went to Baptist Primary School, Oke Ikere, in Ikere. I finished primary school with my senior siblings. Three of us finished at the same time and my father had challenges and said he could not get all of us in school at the same time. So I went to L A Modern School, Ikere briefly. Growing up here was interesting. A lot of my mates were slightly older than me. It was quite interesting. I was in choir in the church and that helped me a lot.
What was your dream as a young man and how much of that did you achieve?
I would say the consciousness of what I wanted to become came when I was in secondary school. All my life I wanted to be a medical doctor. That was to the knowledge of my teachers then who encouraged me because I was doing well in school. It was just fate that changed my ambition to become a mariner. I wanted to be a medical doctor so I could save lives. When I finished secondary school, fortunately, I had a very good result. I took examination to gain admission into the University of Ibadan but there was no exam for University of Lagos. You were admitted purely on a very good Grade 1 at that time. I applied for medicine and I had no second choice. While waiting for admission, one of my aunties got me a job with the customs. I was in Apapa. I had two senior colleagues who referred me to a publication in Daily Timesadvertising for scholarship for candidates who were qualified in sciences for seven years training in maritime and marine engineering. Those people encouraged me to apply. I did and took the examination at the Nigerian Shipping Line. My name was first on the list. After passing the medicals, they asked us to go to the UK. I was very reluctant because even then the attraction of going to the UK did not appeal to me. All I wanted was my admission to study medicine. It was getting late then and I consulted God three times. That was how I made up my mind and the ambition to become a doctor ended there and I began my career as a mariner. I was the last person to leave for UK. That was in 1974.
Looking back now, would you say you missed being a medical doctor?
Up to the time I became a Shipping Officer which is next to being a captain, I was still having that dream of becoming a doctor until I got my Master’s that enabled me to become a captain. Materially, I used what I was being paid to console myself. Up till the time I was made a captain, I would have loved to become a doctor if I had my way. However, the profession exposed me a lot; that compensated me for what I might have lost to becoming a medical doctor. I don’t miss being a medical doctor anymore
How was life at Ekiti Baptist Primary School, Igede Ekiti and who were your contemporaries?
I jumped a class to be in the same class with my immediate elder sister. My contemporaries include Prof. Babatola Olufemi, Otunba J K Ayeni, there are quite a lot of them. But I must say my mates were older than me and they related with me as their younger brother because I was in the same class with my siblings. It was interesting.
Can you recall one incident that nearly destabilised your life journey as a secondary school student?
I finished primary school in 1963 with my two elder siblings. Two years before that time, the main source of my father’s wealth was destroyed. Our cocoa plantation was given to the Catholic Mission to build St Louis Secondary School, Ikere. As a result of that, it became very difficult for my father to send three of us to secondary school. My sister, who is from the same mother with me opted out to go and learn a trade so that I would be able to go to school. Still, my father could not meet up. He took the Catholic mission to court. Coincidentally, the place was given to the mission by the then reigning Ogoga, Oba Fadipo Adegoriola. You can’t blame the king; he wanted development in his town. The only thing is that he could have given a place that was not of high commercial value to the mission. Because of this setback, I could not go to secondary school for almost five years. That was a setback.
Your father was from a royal family, was he not in a position to stop the acquisition?
Well, attempts were made to settle it like a family matter. The king promised to give my father another land in Ikoyi. But considering his age then, he wondered how long it would take the cocoa to grow to maturity before he would start making money. Well, I was a victim of that decision to cede the land to the Catholic mission by not going to school on time, but here I am today, I am the king.
How did your journey into oil and gas industry start?
As a mariner, I was promoted a captain in 1984 at a relatively young age. I travelled all over the world. After my command, I worked briefly with Golf Oil Company of Nigeria (that is now Chevron) in 1986 and 1987. That was where I trained as a marine master. In 1997, I wanted to be with my family because when travelling around the world, you don’t have time to see your kids growing up. I wanted to settle on land. I applied to ExxonMobil as a marine master. From there, I was transferred to the United States. I only came back to Nigeria on transfer in 2005. I later became marine manager for ExxonMobil operations in Nigeria where I retired.
Ikere is reputed as a settlement with an interesting history, can you share some with us?
Ikere originally was made up of three sections: Uro, Odo Oja and Oke Ikere. History has it that the first person to settle in Ikere was Aladeselu from Uselu area of Benin Kingdom. In those days, migrants used to consult oracle before settling in a place. Aladeselu consulted the oracle and was told he could settle down there. He started clearing the ground. In the Ifa divination, Aladeselu was told that the person who would become the king would be coming and that people would know when he arrived. Aladeselu started with his own family. People came from other places and settled in Ikere.
There were two powerful herbalists then: Isesegunrise or Olosu because he always kept heaps of hair on his head, and Ijagbofin from Alawe family. There was rivalry between the two but Isesegunrise was more powerful. Whatever he pronounced would come to pass. Because of his power, the other herbalist became jealous and conspired with others. The hunters that used to consult him deserted him but that affected their fortunes. They felt Isesegunrise was the cause. They conspired against him. Opportunity to kill him came when he promised to fortify Ikere against external aggression becasue of the intertribal war then. He asked them to dig a hole big enough to swallow a human being for propitiation while he would bring other ingredients. On that day he brought other ingredients and asked for the human being. Unknown to him, the people had planned to use him instead. They rushed to push him into the hole to bury him alive but he esccaped because of his mystical power. He ran to the Olosunta rock and commanded it to open. The people went to gather palm fronds and put fire into it in order to smoke him out. But water started coming out of the rock instead. They called his name and he answered. The people were afraid, so they ran away. Shortly after, there were famine, epidemics and drought in the land. They went to Ifa oracle for divination where they were told they had repaid their benefactor with evil. It instructed them to go and appease him. They contacted Oloje, who was his protégé, to appease him. That was how Oloje became the chief priest. Because he was also planting ukerekere, they named him Olukere. But Ogoga was the first king who came from Benin as earlier revealed by ifa divination. Ogoga and Deji of Akure are from the same parents. If you go to the palace of Deji today, you will see the Owa of Ogoga there.
As typical of a Yoruba setting, what are the major taboos in Ikere Ekiti?
Ogoga came as a prince hunting elephants. He shot an elephant and traced it to Ikere where he found it. That is why it is a taboo to bring animal killed fresh into the town exposed. You must cover it.
Palm fruits can’t be brought into the town as a whole. You must remove the fruits or wrap them. It is not allowed to carry a bunch of plaintain into the town. Before Ogoga eats new yam, you cannot display new yam in the market. If you cover it and eat in your house, no problem. It is also not allowed to roast yam within the town but you can do it on the outskirts.
What are some of the festivals celebrated in Ikere and which one is the major one that brings home sons and daughters of the town?
We have Olosunta – the biggest idol in Ikere because of what he did for the town. During the festival, women come to ask for children. We also have Ogun, Oliki, Oloba, Alamolo, Ogbese, Orisa Ogido, Orisa Agisa, Egungun, Osun; we have 15 of them of which 11 are prime. We also have the festivals of people from Are, Afao, Agbado, Ilu Omoba, Oyo which they integrated into Ikere. When they celebrate, they come to the palace to dance for the Ogoga.
When the reality dawned on you that you would become monarch, how did you feel that you would have to eat the heart of your predecessor among other rituals?
Nothing happens by chance. God prepares everything. When my people called me, I put in my letter and put trust in God. Every town has its own tradition, Ikere too has its own tradition. There are rites to follow before you become a king, I followed these. Let’s leave the aspect of heart for traditionalists.
Has your role as the Ogoga not conflicted with your Christian faith?
No! The reason is this, before I even contested, I asked God. A prophet had even prophesied it months before I turned in my application. David was a king after God’s heart. Don’t forget the Jews also have their tradition. There is no conflict because I know who I serve. As the head, you are the father of everybody: traditionalists, Muslims and Christians. But by your own living style, comportment, character, they should see the God you serve and it is in the heart. I also believe that all these festivals are just to commemorate what our forefathers did as a culture because if you lose your culture, you lose your identity. What of Languages? There are words the English don’t have as an expression. Do we throw away our culture because of civilisation? So being a king cannot take my faith from me.
At what time did you decide to get married and how did you meet your wife?
I met my wife in Lagos through the grace of God. I thank God she is being very supportive and in fact she is my best friend. I had an Aunt, who had a shop then. My wife came to make her hair although I had always had eyes for beautiful women. I made an inquiry and that was how the whole thing started over 25 years ago.
Now that you are a monarch who is free to have many wives as tradition demands, how do you intend to do that and how is Olori taking it?
Already I have many wives, but I have one that I’m married to. By tradition, all the wives of the past kings and all the females in the family of Ogbenuote are my wives but I’m married to only one wife. The thing is that I don’t double-deal on anything. If you have a wife that is your friend, at this age, what else are you looking for? So I’m not inclined to having any new wife.
What are the major challenges confronting Ikere and how do you intend to go about them?
The greatest issue is poverty and unemployment. I’m doing my best to support people but I wish I could do more. I receive requests every day. I have also been able to settle divisions in families especially on chieftaincy affairs.
Any word of advice for the people?
I believe the Yoruba have a leading role to play in Nigeria. We all remember the achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the days of Western Region. There is a history book I read where the author described Yoruba as the most civilised tribe in West Africa. Today we have problems in our education, social life, politics, disunity and antagonism. We must dissuade our people from relying on oil or anything outside our region. We must be strategic in our thinking. Our educational system must give priority to research. What do we make out of our agricultural produce? We must add values to our produce and improve on storage to avoid wastage.