The new Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III formally ascended the throne of his forefathers this week after final rites. He spoke with select journalists on his plans for the ancient town situated in Ondo State, his belief about culture and roles of traditional rulers. James Sowole brings excerpts
What is your background like?
I came to this world on the 6th of July, 1966. The late Oba Adekola Ogunoye was my father and my mother’s name is Adenike Ogunoye. I was about two years old when my father ascended the throne as the Olowo of Owo in 1968. My father allowed us to mix with anybody we felt we could relate with including those who are up there, those in the middle class and those at the ladder runs. I began primary school at the Government Primary School which is located beside the palace. After that, I attended Owo High School, Owo for my secondary education. I later proceeded to the then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti now Ekiti State University for my B.A Degree Religious Studies. I equally attended Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko for my Masters in Public Administration. I also studied Law in the same university. I started working as a classroom teacher. I taught for a year and a half before I joined the Ondo State Civil Service as an Administrative
Officer in the year 2001. From there I functioned in many Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government.
It was alleged that the state government influenced your selection?
Yes, the government-backed all of us, I mean all the candidates by allowing the process to run through without interference. Government ensured that the environment was conducive during the process by putting security measures in place and by not identifying with any of the candidates. When you say state government, the governor readily comes to mind. People might be of the view because I work in the governor’s office, there must have been some for interference. You wouldn’t believe it that my posting here was effected by the immediate past Head of
Service, Mr. Toyin Akinkuotu, even before the governor resumed. So, the governor never had a hand in my working here (Governor’s Office). It was a civil service structure posting. When the process started, the government decided not to interfere but allowed everything to run through. As you are aware, the governor is from Owo. He is a stakeholder. In other climes, the governor would have a preferred candidate. It happens everywhere but give it to Arakunrin Akeredolu, he never for once interfered with the process. He said all that he wanted was for the process to run through and for the best candidate to emerge. And that actually happened. He (Gov Akeredolu) must be praised for that. He is a man of his words and for the fact that he is a statesman. I can’t imagine any society where a leader of that status will allow a process to run through without interference.
It has never happened. I have never seen that in Nigeria.
Since your emergence, how have you been able to assuage the feelings of those who lost out in the contest?
For every contest, a winner must emerge and I give God the glory for allowing me to emerge. Shortly after the process was concluded and I was announced, virtually all the contestants embraced and congratulated me. When we left the scene, we have been discussing. We are all together. We are from the same source, from the same family, the Elewuokun ruling house. The contest was a family affair. Unlike in the past, where it could lead to litigation and violence, there was nothing like that. It was so peaceful. The openness shown by the Senior Omo-Olowos and the conducive environment provided by the government, as well as the general acceptability by the people of Owo has led us to where we are.
What are your plans for those affected by the violence that rocked the town during the chieftaincy tussle some years ago?
Before the process and immediately thereafter, I have set my eyes on what I intend to do. I have it as my major plan to put in place a reconciliation body where avenues would be provided for those who have been shortchanged or those who have grievances to come together and ventilate their minds so that we will all come together and discuss those issues.
As a Christian, how do intend to balance your faith with your role as a traditional ruler?
I am unable to see the contradiction in that. Yes, I’m a Christian and truly, I am a traditionalist. It is all about one’s culture. Whatever I have been required to do will be in line with our culture and our traditions. The society should have its own culture and tradition. There is no society that does not have its own peculiar traditions and culture. There is none. Even in the western world, they have their traditions and we have ours. As a person, if I’m not prepared to act in line with our culture and tradition, I won’t vie for the throne
What roles do you think traditional rulers should play on security?
From the recent past, the powers of traditional rulers have been reduced. They don’t have any constitutional role. Hardly would they be able to do much, other than advisory. The roles of government have been spelt out in the constitution. I as a person with other traditional rulers will advise government the steps that are needed to be taken, that the violence in the society will be reduced. I believe that it is quite important for traditional rulers to be given roles in the constitution because they are the custodians of the people. They know their environment; they know their people and much more responsibility are on them in order to ensure that the society is at peace. So, why can’t they be given constitutional roles? I believe if such is taken care of, Nigeria would be better for it. Our constitution is still a working constitution and I have not seen any step taken to ensure that we rejig the constitution, it is quite necessary we do that and traditional rulers should be given roles in the constitution.
What do you think could be responsible for the emergence of young traditional rulers these days, especially in the Southwest?
The fact is that young people are vibrant, they are challenged. They have fresh ideas to deliver. At the center of any development, the youth are always behind it. They are the working class. With a young age, they will be able to function very well. They can go the extra mile if there is a need for it. People believe that a young Oba should be able to lead very well and deliver without excuse, unlike if an elderly man is picked. You know as you grow older you are challenged by health, challenged by the reduction in the functionality of the brain. Ability to deliver would as well diminish. I believe that is what people have seen that the younger element will be able to do the job more. I’m not saying that because you are young you should be given an appointment or elective post or as an Oba. People must have seen the leadership qualities in you. They must have watched you over time that if you are given such a post you will be able to deliver.
What are your plans for the Owo town?
One of the things I plan to do is to have a hall of fame in place in Owo, where we would have an arts gallery. The hall of fame would be to preserve and promote in order to give recognition to those who have impacted the kingdom. Not only sons and daughters but on anybody who has made a positive mark on the kingdom. We will have possibly their portrait as well as a little literature on them. It will be well preserved within the palace so that whoever comes in and read what is written on somebody would be able to thrive on. We will find means for the sustenance of our youths by finding jobs for them. We will leverage on those who have the resources, either indigenes or non-indigenes so that there will be small and medium scale industries for them to work.