The sudden death of the former Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Kokumo Agagu, last week has added to the grief of the residents of Iju-Odo in Okitipupa Local Government, who lost their traditional ruler two weeks earlier, reports James Sowole
When the people of the rustic and agrarian town of Iju-Odo in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State celebrated the annual traditional Iwo festival along with other communities that make up Osoroland in July, they never knew that another major event that would bring dignitaries from all walks of live from within and outside the state would soon happen and would be a sad one.
The popular annual traditional festival attracts indigenes and their friends from home and abroad while those who cannot come, particularly the elites, show their support by donating towards the hosting of the festival.
At the end of this year’s celebration, little did the people know that their ‘till next year” message would be cut short two months later by two sad events that happened within a spate of two weeks.
The first was the demise of the Lorofun of Iju-Odo, Oba Taiwo Timola, who joined his ancestors on August 28 at the age of 80 years, while the second one, was the sudden death of the former Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu, which occurred on September 13.
For the demise of the monarch at 80, the community, though pained, saw it as a natural phase, because with Agagu and other prominent indigenes of the town, the burial would be a celebration of a life well spent.
In fact, the date for the final meeting where arrangements for the final burial ceremony of the oba would be discussed was fixed for 4.00pm on Saturday, September 14 by the late governor who died less than 24 hours to the appointed time.
Since the news of the death of the former governor was broken, things have not been the same in the town and it environs. A first time visitor need not to be told that calamity had befallen the town.
When THISDAY got to the town on Wednesday, all the shops in the community were closed with people wearing mournful look sitting at the entrance of their houses and some, under trees and expressing shock on the death of a man they could regard as the breadwinner of the entire town.
It was gathered that many people could not attend the Sunday church service that held 48 hours after the death of the former governor.
Either as a mark of respect or for other reasons, many people approached for comments refused to talk but referred all enquiries to the head of the Agagu family, High Chief Sehinde Oguntoye, who automatically became the regent of the town after the demise of the oba.
Oguntoye, who had been receiving visitors at the palace of the late monarch, described the death of Agagu as very shocking to the community, the Okitipupa Local Government and Ondo South Senatorial District as a whole where Agagu impacted many lives.
“Agagu is my younger cousin, the news is a shocking one because he is our son, he is our leader in Ikalaland and not only that, he is a leader in Ondo State.
“He is a person we respect so much. Agagu is a son of the ninth Ojomo of Osoroland, his late father had occupied this position I am holding now. The late Oba of Iju Odo was the 11th Ojomo while I am the 12th one. He was a man that loved his people. You can see our town, you can see our roads here. From Akure to Okitipupa down to this place, he is responsible for all the development you are seeing. He tried for us a lot in the area of roads construction, education and health”, Oguntoye said.
“A week after he (Agagu) travelled, our Oba died. I called him and informed him. When he came back, I told him that we have scheduled a meeting on the burial arrangement of the Kabiyesi on that Friday that he died, he said we should postpone the meeting till Saturday so that he could be present at the meeting.
“On Friday, at about 9pm, I received a call from a relative who informed me about his death. I called his number, he did not pick it. That was how everybody burst into tears. He is a leader that had a vision for Ondo State here and the country at large “, the 70 year old regent said.
He said, though, Agagu would be given a proper burial as a former state governor, the family also have their own plans on the burial arrangement.
The High Chief said, it would be proper to bring him home for proper burial arrangement and that was why the family sent delegates to Lagos to meet his wife and children to urge them to come back home for the burial arrangement.
“We also hope that the state government would join the family in the burial programme. But we are still going to inform the state government officially to know the part they would play in the burial”, he stated
For 71 year old Mrs Christiana Ogunsusi, senior sister to the late governor, the incident was too much to bear as she bursts into tears on sighting visitors, including journalists.
After much persuasion, Ogunsusi spoke, while sobbing profusely. She said Agagu was a benefactor of the community and was God-sent.
“We are going to miss him a lot because, for some years now, he had been given us N10,000 each in the community. He gave our children scholarship to be going to school on his bill. Last week I called him that I was broke, and he promised that he would come home soon, that when he comes, he would come and give me enough money. I was expecting him to bring another one this month only to hear that he was dead. In fact, we know that we have lost a very important member of our family”, she lamented.
Also speaking, the Otorogun of Iju Odo, Chief Andrew Omoniyi, said the death of the former governor was a big loss to the community.
“In fact, the community would miss him a lot, the wound will be too much for us to heal on time, it is not easy. He developed so many people, both politically and financially, in the state. Agagu’s shoe will be very difficult for anybody to step into now”, he said.
In the tribute of the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese on the Coast, Rt Reverend Joshua Ogunele, he said the late governor was politician who worked to win election in order to make na me for himself and to wipe tears from the eyes of the needy and less-privileged.
Ogunele, who lives in Ilu-Titun, a community not far from Iju-Odo and part of Osoroland, said: “When Agagu managed the affairs of our state, he established General Hospitals in all the Local Government Headquarters. He also established Health Centers/Maternities in all Wards and ensured that they were equipped with drugs and health workers.
“He built at least a block of six classrooms in every Primary Schools even in the remotest village, constructed bridges, at least I know five, constructed roads everywhere, even to the Atlantic Ocean”.
He futher said that, “The administrator (Agagu) who was a federal minister, deputy governor and executive governor for over ten years and did not have a building within those period of service, no wonder when he left office, EFCC did not invite him for questioning or charge him to court.
“Agagu was a highly principled, disciplined, dilligent and intelligent leader. Ask him a question and he already had ten ready made satisfactory answers to give in return. The news of his death is shocking and devastating. Agagu’s death is a collosal loss to Nigeria, Ondo State and the Ikales.”
He recalled that until his death, he was bishop’s nominee to the Diocesan Synod and he was noted for his numerous and invaluable contributions to his home Church.
“The Diocese will surely collaborate with the family and the State Government to bid him farewell in line with our Diocesan policy on burial while we continue to pray for the wife and children”, he said, adding, “Olusegun Kokumo, you have proved to us that one can be in a position and serve the people rightly without cheating or defrauding them. You have proved that one can serve the people sacrificially without looking for immediate reward.”
Already, the Ondo State Government has set up a burial committee. The committee, headed by the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr Kola Ademujimi, has as members, Mr Kayode Akinmade, Mrs Nike Ademujimi, Mr Nicholas Tofowomo, Hon Jumoke Akindele, Niyi Pirisola, and Ife Fasoranti, while Mr Soji Gbadebo would serve as the secretary.