Oluponna is a town domiciled in Ayedire Local Government Area of Osun State. The traditional ruler of the town, the Olupo of Oluponna, Oba Abdulrafiu Oyekanmi Mosobalaje Bamgboye, in this interview with NURUDEEN ALIMI, shared how his experience has been on the throne and maintain peace between indigenes and non-indigenes in the last one year among other issues.
How would you describe your experience in the last one year as the traditional ruler of Oluponna?
It has been a massive experience. Being a manager of resources before becoming a traditional ruler has been helpful, but you know it is easier to manage resources than humans. Human beings are the most difficult to manage, but with the experience I had garnered from my day-to-day life before ascending the throne really helped a lot. I was born here, I had part of my formal education here, but I did not stay long before I moved to Ibadan, then Ile-Ife. My secondary and tertiary education were in Ile-Ife, thereafter I started working and later travelled out of the country. You know life abroad, particularly Europe, is different from ours in Nigeria. Things are done thoroughly in the western world. So, coming back here and seeing life is another experience entirely but I thank God almighty for giving me the ability to manage every situation that arises day-in-day-out.
Can you make a comparison of your private life with life as a traditional ruler?
The difference is enormous, though I have been a man of the people as a private individual and I am still a man of the people even as a traditional ruler. Being a traditional ruler also exposes me more and opens my eyes to a lot of things. Being on the throne is not a common thing, you need a lot of attributes to be able to function optimally. You meet many people of different characters, so it is now left to you to see how you manage individuals and the problems brought to you, so you will not commit blunders.
What were you doing before you became the traditional ruler of Oluponna?
I was a professional nurse. When I got to London, United Kingdom, I upgraded myself and became a specialist in the cardiothoracic sector which focuses on a series of cardiac surgeries, intensive care among other things which has to do with cardiac healthcare.
Why did you choose to quit such a lucrative profession and opt to be a traditional ruler?
A man is not for bread alone, this is my community. Also, coming to the throne is very close to my retirement age and I do not just want to be useless without being useful to my community and as a prince, I realised that I have a lot to offer my community because I have been exposed to a great extent and all those experiences that I garnered abroad will be beneficial to my community.
There are 13 kingmakers in Oluponna and all of them unanimously picked you to be the king of Oluponna, it has never happened. How did it happen?
Let me first thank God almighty for the wisdom and knowledge given to them to select who is suitable for the throne. I was so happy the first time they took me to the Oluwo of Iwo. They all chorused that they picked me without collecting money from me. I was happy when they confidently said that no bribe was taken from me before I was selected. It was at that point in time that the Oluwo said I must appreciate them for the good gesture. The kingmakers wrote a history of which will be difficult to surpass in many years to come. The selection process began within the royal family. About seven of us came out, and the royal family selected me afterwards. The council demanded the input of the kingmakers; they were requested to start from the beginning and that was how the whole process went before I eventually emerged.
How come your co-contestants did not raise issues about your emergence?
Well, you know there is no way there will not be challenges. But it depends on how you react to those challenges. Two persons will fight over one thing and it is only one person who will get it. It now depends on your reaction to those people that you contested together. I did not show any kind of attitude that will make them react in a bad way. I was not showing that I was the most qualified because of my position or social status. I took them as my brothers. Naturally, we are brothers because all of us came from the same father but, you know, when you are growing up the family starts becoming bigger and individuals go different ways. After my emergence, we came together and sorted things out. We are friends today, we greet each other and they call me on the phone. I call them too. My one year anniversary on the throne is on the way, I have spoken to them and some of them have reached out to me accordingly. So, we relate very well.
There is no doubt the fact that Nigeria is facing food sufficiency challenges. Is there a way that farmers in this town are being encouraged to contribute immensely to food sufficiency in the South-Western part of Nigeria and the country as a whole?
Predominantly, the major work in this area is farming and I thank God for the people of my community. The crops farmers plant here are consumable ones. I can say that 90 percent of the farm products that are coming out of our community are being taken out to different parts of Nigeria for the people to eat. So, they are contributing greatly to food sufficiency in Nigeria. They receive a series of support such as fertiliser, seeds and other forms of support that will make their work seamless.
What can you say you have achieved in the last one year on the throne?
I think liberation is one of the major things I can say I have achieved in the last one year that I have been enthroned as the Olupo of Oluponna. Also, the peace we are witnessing in this community is another milestone achievement in the last one year. This is because before I became the traditional ruler of this town, there were challenges in the area of security and as soon as I came in, I made efforts to ensure peace reign within the community. Part of those measures I put in place was to unite the people so we can live in unity and I thank God that was achievable. Again, I tried to bring back my colleagues and other sons and daughters to come home and invest in their fatherland, so that there will be all-round development in the community. Those who are based outside the country have been of tremendous help to the community as they have been contributing immensely to the development of the area. If you look at the main road, our plan was to tar the road. We have already done the drainages and we are waiting for asphalt to be put on the road. We are now seeking the government’s help in this regard. We got the approval and we have a society called Oluponna Descendants Association and members of this association have contributed a lot. With their help, we have been able to do a lot of things without help from the government. Boreholes are being provided by myself and some people abroad so that our people can get sufficient water to use. Also, I encourage students in order for them to get the best in terms of education. Personally, I have been responsible for the school fees of some students even before I ascended the throne and I believe these are some of the things that were considered before I was picked. I also help the sick and my campaign is for everyone to have access to good treatment. In terms of security, I made sure I did all I could to ensure lives and properties are secured. In my early days as the traditional ruler of this community, we experienced a lot in terms of invasion of thieves in the community; houses were burgled, but to the glory of God, that has been a thing of the past through mediation and collaboration of other community members and I work closely with security agencies around.
There was a time the South-West governors were talking about the menace of armed herdsmen. Are you saying these herdsmen no longer trouble farmers in the community?
I can say categorically now that with the help of almighty God, I was able to unite the farmers and the herdsmen in this community but you know there is no way you will not have some bad people among them. What I did was that I brought the Fulanis and other foreigners living in this community together. We had a series of meetings to make sure that we fish out the bad ones among them and this works very well. If there is any trouble that involves any Fulani person or non-indigenes, we find a way around resolving the problem.
Is there a strong collaboration between you and the security agencies within the community particularly the police?
Yes, we work very closely and we involve the leaders of non-indigenes living here so that everything goes on well. I do tell the non-indigenes that we love them and as much as we love them, we want them to live with us peacefully so that we can enjoy ourselves. Three days ago, there were some Fulani people who came to settle down here very close to the palace.
So, I had to go there, called their leader and told them they cannot settle there because that place is within the town and there is no way cows will be living together with humans.
What was their response?
Their leader came to apologise that it was their younger ones who do not know the way things are being done here that are behind the move. When I saw them, I called the Seriki. He told me that those people ran away from their former base because of an outbreak of disease. It was at that point I told him they cannot just move to an area where they are not permitted. We have allocated another area to them. If it was in the past, there could have been serious problems. It was the plan we put in place that if there is any issue, you come to the palace and report, if not, the issue would not have been so easy to resolve.
Are traditional rulers playing their roles accordingly in the present democratic settings?
Yes, because, for instance, most of the cases I deal with here, if not because I am the traditional ruler, it could have been another thing. Like a case that happened yesterday. The DPO was telling me that to settle a case, we have to go through three steps. The first one is within the family, if the family cannot resolve the matter, it now becomes the role of the community leader of which I am the one. Most of the cases that are brought before me are usually dealt with in a manner that it won’t escalate beyond this place. I have formed different committees that will deal with different issues such as land disputes, the committee carries out its functions and reports to me for further actions.
The Oluwo of Iwo has always discouraged traditional rulers from getting involved in selling of lands. In the last one year, what do you think are those factors responsible for traditional rulers to get themselves involved in the selling of land?
I do not think it is right for a traditional ruler to be selling land. You can lease out the land. For instance, if my parents had sold the land they had, where would I have situated my territory now that I am a traditional ruler? Also, where would the coming generation call their own if all the lands have been sold? Our land is our heritage which is not supposed to be sold out.
Would you extend this advice to all Yorubas?
That is what I always tell them. Even if you want to sell land, do not sell the bulk of it. I prefer to lease out land because it means the land still belongs to me as well as the community. That is what they do abroad, over there they give you the land for a period of time for instance 100 years. You will pay for it and still be paying for the land registry yearly. I do not believe in selling land, I have never sold a single plot of land as a traditional ruler. I will rather give land out to people who need it for the development of our community.
How would you describe the selection of traditional rulers now and in the past?
In the past, they used Ifa and other traditional means to select traditional rulers. But these days, things have changed. For instance, I was not taken to any ifa oracle. The selection was based on who the candidate is, what you have done for the community, what will you still bring to the community? That, I believe, is okay. Religion preaches good behaviour and people who select look into that critically. They will find out whether the person to be selected has been to the prison before or probably have been engaged in any criminality before. These days, people can twist whatever the Ifa oracle says and as a result bad things will start happening. I gave kudos to the kingmakers here, what they told me was that they wanted their conscience to be clear. They told me some people are reaching out to them but they stood their ground to reject whatever that was brought to them and do things accordingly. I can boast that I was not taken to any shrine to eat any strange thing or given soap to bathe. I told them what I wanted initially, I told them I wanted two religions namely: Christianity and Islam. The Christians will come to the palace in the morning to pray, while the Muslims come in the afternoon everyday for the 21 days I spent in seclusion. The place was widely opened for people to access and there was no secrecy.
What was your most memorable day in the last one year?
It was the day of my installation. As I was coming into the town, I was welcomed by a mammoth crowd and this meant a lot to me. I became emotional at that particular point in time. I give glory to God almighty.