Oba Razaq Adewusi: Politics Starts from the Palace

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Call it sheer providence, and it will actually capture the emergence of Razaq Adewusi, a former lawmaker, who represented Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2015. He is now the traditional ruler of Ijoun town, in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State. Oba Adewusi, the Kiniun Onite II, was a former PDP legislator and House Committee Chairman of both pensions and local government. In this interview with Femi Ogbonnikan, he talks about his emergence as the new Onijoun of Ijoun, his experience as a three-term legislator and other issues

Tell us abit about your background.

I was born on July 29, 1959 to the family of His Royal Majesty, the late Onijoun of Ijoun, Oba Lawal Bamigbade Adewusi, of blessed memory. My father became Oba on January 13, 1955, to be precise, and he joined his ancestors on January 13, 1989. My mother, the late Alhaja Habadatu Alake Adewusi, came from Ogbomosho, Oyo State. She was, during her lifetime, a merchant. You know the Ogbomosho people travel a lot but I don’t know how she came across my father or how my father came across her, but what I know is that she hailed from Ogbomosho. And being the only child, by my mother to the late Onijoun of Ijoun, Oba Lawal Bamigbade Adewusi, my mother, until her death, took care of me and by the special Grace of God Almighty, she died in 2009 and she was buried in Ijoun. This was very unusual because the Ogbomosho people don’t bury their own outside their town. Wherever anyone of them dies, they must convey the corpse to Ogbomosho for burial, but this time around, because of the arrangement made before she died, the people of Ogbomosho voluntarily agreed with me to bury her here in Ijoun. I grew up in the palace, and I attended the Local Authority Primary School, Ijoun. From there, I went to Ansar Ud Deen Grammar School, in Ishaga, via Abeokuta, where I obtained my West African School Leaving Certificate in 1978. That same year, I applied for a teaching job and became a class teacher in one of the primary schools in Tata, United Anglican Primary School. I was there between seven and eight months, before I finally enlisted into the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). That time they called it Nigeria Customs and Excise. So, I joined the Nigeria Customs and Excise on November 1, 1979, and I served in many departments within the service. I worked as an Enforcement Officer; I worked as a Revenue Officer; I worked in the Administrative section as well. Mostly, I worked as a detective. I had gone through the detective course at Police Detective College, Orji River, Enugu. I rose through the ranks, anyway, and I served in so many states across the federation. I had worked in Ogun State. I was one of the first set of officers recruited in Ogun State in 1979. We were just 19 in number, then. After going through the training and re-training, I became a full-fledged officer. I worked in Kaduna; I worked in Katsina; I worked in Abia; I worked in Sokoto; I worked in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital, as an officer. Finally, in 2002, I resigned voluntarily when the call came from my people to come into politics. And on September 1, 2002, I left the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), while I was in Port Harcourt Area 1. So far, so good, I had served our people meritoriously, as a three-term honourable member of the House of Representatives. And this is where I am today.

What was it like growing up in a rural setting such as Ijoun?

I grew up in the palace. Anyway, Ijoun is rural, but the people in Ijoun are exposed. We have other people, who are not really rural; people that are from urban centres, who have come to settle down in Ijoun. Sometimes, when you look at Ijoun, yes, Ijoun is rural, but we have a lot of people who are from the urban centres. We have people from Abeokuta. We have Lagosians. We have Ogbomosho people. We have the Ejigbo people. We have Ola people. We have people from Ilorin, Kwara State that settled here in Ijoun. We have the Ibo people. We have the Hausa. And Ijoun is blessed with a very big market and that gives Ijoun the kind of popularity it has among other towns and villages in this area. Ijoun is very close to the border, anyway, and we have the Nigeria Customs Service here. The Nigeria Customs Service came here in 1955 and up till today, they are still here. We have the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) here. We have the SSS. We have the police, and it makes this town more or less a mini -urban centre because we have constant electricity supply here. We have schools, the Community Secondary school and private secondary schools. We have nursery and primary schools owned by private persons and the government. So, if we have public schools and we have private schools, I think, it is as if we are almost enjoying what the people in the urban centres are also enjoying. I always encourage my people and visitors to come and settle down in Ijoun. When you settle in Ijoun, you settle for great things to come your way.

Apart from your people who urged you to participate in politics, what exactly motivated you?

It has been part and parcel of me; it is just like any of my children, saying he or she wants to go into politics. It is like transiting from one place to another. As a monarch, I believe politics starts from the palace. In those days, we had the Obas doing most of the things people are doing now. Obas were presiding over local courts to settle scores and differences between a husband and his wife, to settle land matters and to settle other petty things that did not necessarily require going to courts. And in those days, anybody who wanted to become anything, politically, must pass through the head of the community. At least, I would say, it is a kind of inheritance to me, because politics was, in those days, actively played in the palace. I was very close to my dad and I witnessed many of his day-to-day activities in the palace. So, I was used to the palace, where everything started. Going into politics was not new, because I was an activist when I was in the secondary school. I knew the kind of groups I belonged. Even in my primary school days, I knew the kind of people I mingled with, and my responsibilities to my colleagues, then. The issue remains that, people knew my antecedent and they believed that my representation would be of immense benefit to them. We had others who had been representing us and probably when they used one term, they settled for another person. But I want to say, that while I was a Customs officer, I still played many roles at home.

I didn’t leave my people. When I was in the service, hardly a month or one and half a months passed without me coming home. And at least, I could see that it really helped me and I was able to achieve what we have achieved, politically because of the foundation I laid. So, when the call came, it was not a surprise. I just had to resign, voluntarily. Even at the point of my resignation, my boss in Port Harcourt, then was very reluctant to sign my resignation letter and to subsequently forward it to Abuja. He was so reluctant to do so, because he believed that my state, Ogun, was under the control of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). And when he asked me, ‘why do you want to resign? Do you have any family problem? Have you built a house? Do you have a car of your own? Do you have children? Or are you being affected by poor conditions of service where you have stayed five, six, seven and eight years in the service on a rank without promotion? I said no, I was just promoted and decorated three days ago and I want to go. And among others that we joined the service, the same time, I think, I was one of the two best officers that our promotions were going steadily. So, I was not disturbed or affected by all the irregularities in the Customs Service, then. And I really enjoyed my stay in the Customs Service, and that gave me the opportunity to join politics.  And when I told him I was going to join politics on the PDP platform, he said, ‘PDP, no! no!! I will not sign your paper, because Ogun State was under Chief Olusegun Osoba, who was in AD. And Osoba is a NADECO chieftain. And there is no way the PDP can take over the reign of governance in Ogun State’. But I told him that I am on ground. He signed the resignation letter and it was forwarded to Abuja for processing. It was processed and my letter of resignation was issued and finally, I disengaged from the service on September 1, 2002. And during the same year, I got my ticket in the PDP. It was just for you to know the intricacies in politics, the ideas, or whatever, I had them at hand. So, it was very easy for me to grab the ticket, after two months of disengagement from the Customs, and to go for election three or four months later, I still won the election for the first time in 2003 into the House of Representatives.

You represented Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency between 2003 and 2015; what was it like being a representative of the people?

It was very interesting for me, because I was very close to my people and my people were very close to me. And that was when I was in the Customs Service. Even when I was a class teacher, I was a sprinter and a footballer. People would come and hire me as mercenary to play. I would go to Imeko to play football. I would go to Aiyetoro to play football, not knowing that at the end of the day, I would still come back to serve them. Even when I was in the Customs Service, I was still being hired as a mercenary to play football, because I was very good. I can recall vividly that my ability as a football player that time could have led me to where I am today. When I was in Customs Service and during the first Customs week in 1979, after two years of my enlistment, I represented the service in football. My team won a gold medal in Oyebode Oyeleye Customs Sports week. My team from Idiriko won and I received gold medal in 100 metres. Then, in 4 by 4 relay race, I received gold as well. All these things really helped me a lot. Surprisingly, when I started my political campaign in 2003, and when I got to Imeko, people were saying, ‘what do you want to come and tell us that we don’t know about you? So, we don’t need any campaign from you, because we know you.’ And that was 20 years after I had served in Imeko. But after serving in Imeko, I was still conversant with them. Imeko-Afon Local Government Area was just like my second home. So, all these things placed me above other contestant. And that was how I got my first ticket into the House of Representatives in 2003. In 2007, my people still insisted that I should return to the House of Representatives, and that they had never enjoyed as much dividends of democracy I had given them or had never being served like that before. After all, they have been having representatives, but this time around, they were enjoying ‘sense of belonging’, and that was their key word. They really enjoyed my representation when I was there. The party gave me the ticket in 2007 and it was easy for me to return to the House, during the second term. The third term, in 2011, the party gave me the ticket again, and everybody knows that the toughest process is to win a ticket during the primaries. So, I got my ticket back again for the third term. But, unfortunately, there was crisis in the PDP, which made the party to withdraw the ticket given to me through a Kangaroo Court in Abuja and I accepted. But my people said they were ready to support me even if I wanted to contest on a no-party platform. Later, I went to the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), a month and a half to the general elections, and I still won the seat into the House of Representatives. I defeated the PDP candidate.  I defeated the ACN candidate, then. It showed that there was love between me and the people I was representing. So, they showed me love and I reciprocated with openness in all I was doing in the House of Representatives, throughout the 12 years. It is on record in Ogun State that it is only me and Ishaq Akinlade, both of us from Ogun West that have spent 12 years in the House of Representatives. Though, sometimes, the journey used to get rough in some cases, particularly when the usually high expectations of the people are not met. They need explanations, and the response given to them would determine their action. But where you fail to explain to them and leave them with their problems, you are bound to have problems with them. And every time, I came home to tell them, ‘this is where we started and this is where we are and this is where we are going as our mission.’

How did you come about being crowned a king?

I have told you initially, that I was born into the Royal family of Aderoju Ijina Quarters, in Ijoun. In the family of Aderoju, in the history of Ijoun, we have two ruling houses, Aderoju and the Aroja Oke. So, my father was once a king and he ascended the throne on January 13, 1955 and later joined his ancestors. And after that, in 1996, we had a new Oba. And the new king was Oba Jimoh Oyetunbo Olubo of the Ajagungbade, from Aroja Oke, who joined his ancestors on April 7, 2011. It now rotated and returned to our ruling house. And of course, I just won my election, the seventh day of my third term. The man passed on. And the town was without a king for about four years. And as a Prince, the family sat down, deliberated very well and they decided, that I should step into the shoe of my forefathers. When the call came, I was just returning from Abuja, precisely June 15, 2015, when the announcement of my candidature, as the Onijoun of Ijoun-designate was made on June 15, 2015. Traditionally, I was indoors until January 11, 2016, and I finally came out on January 13, 2016, which was the exact day- January 13– that my father was installed as the Onijoun of Ijoun. It was the day I too was installed. I was in a traditional confinement from June 15, 2015 to January 13, 2016, when I finally came out, as the newly crowned Onijoun of Ijoun. The announcement from the government was made on December 31, 2015, which was when the approval came. Of course, the kingmakers had finished their own job, since March 31, 2015, before it was announced, officially on June 15, 2015. Also, the final approval came from the government on December 31, 2015, and that paved the way for the traditional process of installing me as the king. So, on January 13, 2016, I was crowned. Then, the staff of office and coronation came up on March 26, 2016.

Do you still enjoy the freedom that you were used to, when you were not a King?

This is where I was born and there is no way I can run away from here. It is the tradition and you must follow it. It is just a process to becoming an Oba in Yorubaland. We have different ways, anyway, but in Ijoun here, they will ask you to do the normal thing that a person should do before becoming the Onijoun of Ijoun. So, I passed through the processes, before I became the Onijoun of Ijoun.  It gave me a sense of belonging that, ‘Mr. Honourable, you are no more an Honourable member, you are now an Oba. Prepare yourself and forget about all the enjoyments, travelling here and there, when you were Honorable member. Now, you are a traditional ruler of Ijoun. You will have to stay put here in Ijoun.’ Having stayed almost seven months here now, I am used to it. In fact, since June 15, 2015 up to date, I think, I have slept outside for only two or three nights. So, the rest, I have been here in Ijoun. Just like when I was born, and I didn’t know Abeokuta or Ilaro; I remain here in Ijoun, just like that. I am okay. I thank God that my children, many of them live abroad. Anytime I feel like going there to visit them, it is just for me to write an official application to travel out. Of course, I should have my own vacation, as well. So, I can go and see my children in US or UK or Canada. I have the time to do that, during my vacation, which I am just planning to do now. In almost two years, I have not been able to travel anywhere. Even my children do come home to see me, from three different places. Notwithstanding, I still need to go and visit them and also refresh myself there, enjoy the cool breeze there, before returning home. So, Ijoun is very peaceful. I love Ijoun. It is a place, where we don’t have air pollution. If I want to eat fresh vegetable now, it is just for me to send them to my backyard and they will get fresh vegetable for me. You can see that we are doing fine here in Ijoun. A few months now, there has been tremendous improvement among our people, and the orientation has changed. No thugery, no stealing and no violent crimes. We are enjoying it and we have been making our people happy.