With the late Oba Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi III’s rites of passage completed, the race for the selection and enthronement of another Olowo of Owo has started in earnest. I understand many princes from the royal family are interested in ascending to the throne. I used to think there were three ruling houses – Olagbegi, Ajike and Ogunoye until the current scramble began and those who “know” the history of Owo began to educate green horns like us. I learnt now that Olagbegi and Ajike are from the same source (father) while Ogunoye is distinct. If that is the case, then, it could mean that Owo has two ruling houses.
In recent history, the Olagbegis have reigned thrice, one of them, Oba Olateru Olagbegi, actually reigning twice – before Oba Adekola Ogunoye II and again after Oba Ogunoye had joined his ancestors; the reason being that Oba Olateru Olagbegi II’s first reign was truncated as he was removed from the throne. He made a triumphant return to complete the second segment of his reign. Growing up, I had seen the photograph of Olowo Ajike Atobatele, decked in full-length regalia made of beads, hanging on the wall in the house of Pa Cornelius Imolehin, husband to my mother’s elder sister. I understand Oba Ajike Atobatele was so-called because he was rich and had attained the status of an Oba before he became one. In my lifetime I have seen only three Olowos – Olateru Olagbegi, Adekole Ogunoye and Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi.
I never met Oba Olateru-Olagbegi but saw him from a distance. I, however, interacted with some of his children and but for the mindless division that viciously paralysed Owo in those days, I would probably have married an Olateru-Olagbegi. I was privileged to run into Oba Ogunoye once when he came to our school, Owo High School, to see the principal and later governor of old Ondo State, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin. The principal was on his usual checks around the classrooms. The Oba beckoned on me and ordered me to alert the principal to his presence. I gladly ran the errand. Oba Folagbade I also saw from a distance when he attended programmes at the Redeemed Christian Church of God campground on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Some of the princes jostling to become the next Olowo are known to me. An Olagbegi who is said to be interested is an ardent reader of my “On the Lord’s Day” column in the Sunday Tribune. An Ogunoye said to be interested was my classmate at Owo High School. At Owo High School, three Ajikes were my schoolmates, with one being my classmate.
I wish Owo will choose the right person as Oba! In those days, Ifa would be relied upon heavily by the Omolowos or kingmakers. These days, however, things have changed. Yinka Ayefele told us in one of his songs that Ifa these days shouts Alleluya (“Ifa n ke Alleluya”). Not only does Ifa shout Alleluya, it would also appear that Ifa also recognises and has need of dollars, euro and pounds sterling; not to talk of Naira. There is nothing Nigerians have not corrupted, Ifa inclusive. So I will not be surprised if Ifa collects bribes these days. This will not be peculiar to Owo from what we have heard or seen where Obaship tussles have taken place. Some kingdoms are spared much of these troubles; for examples the Ibadan chieftaincy title before former Governor Isiaka Ajimobi tinkered with it, and the Benin dynasty where the next Oba is known and the succession process lends itself to little or no controversy at all. But where princes must compete and struggle; where there are multiple ruling houses; and where whose turn it is, is subject to vagaries, permutations and manipulations, it can be battle royal and survival of the fittest.
Money will play a part. Connections will also come to play. Coincidentally, the Ondo State Governor Rotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN); his Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adekola Olawoye SAN (my senior at Owo High School), and the Chief of Staff to the governor, are all from Owo. Putting heads together and with the Omolowos (kingmakers) putting the interest of Owo first, they should be able to give Owo the very best.
Of course, kingmakers are not relevant all seasons; this is the season of their relevance and the period when they “eat”. While nobody grudges them that, they must take care to “eat” responsibly. Nothing divides and sets Owo on fire more than partisan politics and Obaship tussle. When one reinforces the other, the catastrophe that ensues is better imagined than experienced. I have seen Owo burn in the past. I do not want to see it burn again. I have seen Owo hopelessly divided such that even children who couldn’t understand what was afoot suffered irreparable losses for the sins of the fathers. “The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth are on edge”. Thank goodness God has said never again should such proverb apply again. May it not apply again in Owo.
Owo may not have been completely healed from the self-inflicted wounds of the past but it would appear to me that much progress has been made. We must therefore bend over backward and ensure that the hands of the clock are not turned backward again.
Owo need peace. Owo needs development. Owo needs justice. A town which used to the first among equals has regressed on the altar of self-immolation. It will take decades of hard work and unity of purpose to bring back its last glory. This is not a task for an individual, be it governor or Oba. The quantum of resources and efforts needed to develop a community cannot be supplied by an individual. If any prince promises that he will single-handedly develop Owo, take that promise with a pinch of salt. We have heard such in the past. It did not materialise and does not seem likely to materialise any time soon. What Owo needs is an Oba who appreciates the place of unity and cohesion in the development process. Owo needs an Oba who is humble, honest and passionate about placing the people first. Obas reign these days, they rule no more.
There is no more subject-ruler dichotomy or master-servant relationship. All are free-born and none is subject to another. All must therefore be treated with respect and courtesy. All must be courted not commanded. If anyone prostrates for you, it is a mark of respect which you will only keep if you work hard to earn it. In this modern age, it is no longer an entitlement.
We itemised that Owo needs peace, development and justice. It must flow in this order: When you do justice, you have peace and it is in a peaceful environment that development becomes possible. Little wonder, then, that scripture commands us to let justice flow like a mighty river. In selecting a new Olowo, let those charged with the onerous responsibility take this admonition seriously to heart. May the good Lord help them!
Weird happenings all over the place
A Court of Appeal judge reportedly walked into a church and took the law into her hand; allegedly disrupted on-going service and assaulted worshippers – actions even a lay man knew he or she must not engage in, no matter the justness or correctness of his or her case. On all fronts, impunity runs amok these days! Virtually every one is above the law – from ordinary herdsmen to those in the corridors of power. And the more ordinary people see that the big men and women trample the law and go unpunished, the more they, too, will follow suit. Soon, very soon, this place will become one big jungle. The other side of the coin, however, is to ask whether the church building in question complied with extant regulations. And what peace efforts were made at both ends? None, I dare to say, is above the law.
AIT is back but…
My sister, Funke Egbemode, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors and MD, New Telegraph newspapers, usually has the right words for an occasion; and so, she aptly described the National Broadcasting Commission shutdown of AIT/Raypower as “unbelievable” and “unacceptable”. I cannot find a better description! Short but sharp – and straight to the point! APC/Buhari administration is full of unbelievable, embarrassing, and shocking actions and statements. This is not the first and is not likely going to be the last. Talk of the leopard being unable – unwilling – to change its skin! Thank God the television and radio stations are back but the other side of the coin, as usual, is to ask whether the rights of others – especially workers’ – are being protected at AIT/Raypower. Give others their rights if you must claim yours! Why use people to make money but deny them their wages? It is written, pay the labourer his wages before the sweat on his brows dries up. Is that not in their bible?
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