Oba Adebanji Alabi, Afuntade 1 is the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti in Ekiti South West Local Government Area of the state, also Chairman of Council of Traditional Rulers. In this interview with ADEWUMI ADEMIJU, he speaks on the experience that led to his emergence as traditional ruler of his community and how he became the head of traditional rulers in the state
What has been your experience since you emerged as chairman of the traditional council in Ekiti State?
It’s been full of ups and downs but by and large, I have enjoyed the support of the bulk of our Kabiyesis in Ekiti. We have about 132 Oba’s in the state. We are equally resolving our differences with some very few aggrieved Obas in the state. Our mission is to move the state forward to continue to dignify and respect the traditional institution and work harmoniously. The position of Obas Council Chairman has been quite challenging but God has been faithful. The traditional institution has been able to move with time. We are now more active and involved in decision making process by the state government. Ilawe is a very significant town, not only in Ekiti State but in Yoruba land in particular and Nigeria. Ilawe is the third most populous community in the old Ondo State. When you go through the 1963 census, Ilawe came third and when Ekiti State was created in 1996, we still maintained that third position, a town that is quite important in its size, the product in terms of human resources. We have produced intellectuals, professors, medical practitioners and erudite lawyers. At least, we have three Senior Advocates of was established in the late 12th Century by Oniwe Oriade, son of Adegunle and grandson of Obalufon Ogbogbodirin. Obalufon Ogbogbodirin was the fourth Ooni of Ife, the grandfather of Oniwe Oriade and we were actually living in Ilode in Ile-Ife and when it was time for him to establish his kingdom, the grandfather, reigning Ooni then provided him with the paraphernalia of office, so that he could establish his own kingdom. He was highly reputed and noted for dexterity and capacity to swim. That is “Oniwe Oriade”. In fact, that was how his name came into being (somebody who likes to swim)-Oniwe Oriade. He was the first traditional ruler to reign in Ilawe-Ekiti. So, there is no way you can write the history of Yoruba land and you would not include Ilawe. In fact, if you go into history and the list of Obas in Yoruba land authorised to wear beaded crown, released by Ooni Olubuse 1 in 1902, Alawe was listed as number 46, out of the entitled 54 Obas.
The list was confirmed by Ooni Adesoji Aderemi in 1931. The list was also published by the Nigerian Tribune of 6th April 1987. We have a long history behind us and we have always been living up to expectation not only in Ekiti State but in Yoruba land.
How has it been as a traditional monarch especially in comparison to the time you had not ascended the throne of your forefathers?
Before my ascension, I was a diplomat serving in South Africa. I was the head of the Economic desk at the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria. I never looked forward to being an Oba and I didn’t even like to be called a prince. In fact, when I wanted to build a house, I built it at the outskirt of the town, so that attention will not be focused on me. But what I have discovered in life is that, the more you run away from destiny, the more you run into it. What has been keeping me going is the massive support that I enjoy from my people. They love me with passion. I want to appreciate my people in Ilawe-Ekiti for the warm support I have been receiving, which is my greatest strength. The difference between then and now is enormous. As a diplomat, you are representing your country in a foreign land and with that you have your assignment cut out for you clearly. You have to work with other nations and follow the rules. Besides activities in the office, you have your social life. As a diplomat, you can catch fun from night clubs, go to parties and enjoy your life. But as a monarch, it is a complete different ball game. There are certain things you cannot do; you can’t hide again, anywhere you go to, you will be easily identified. You practically have no social life. I actually missed my social life as a monarch. It is part of the sacrifice that one must put into the current assignment.
What has been your effort as the Chairman of Council of traditional rulers in bringing the monarchs in the state together?
I have been doing it to the best of my knowledge and don’t forget we have about 132 monarchs in the state. We have been performing our statutory duties- to provide advice to government, to ensure peace in our various domains and bring development to our various communities. We are working together and we could have our differences as human beings but our areas of agreement are far more than our areas of disagreement. I don’t subscribe to Obas attacking themselves publicly. I recall we had such a case in Ekiti State and I had to exhibit a lot of circumspection for the situation not to degenerate. We have to know that he who stays in glass house must not throw stones. People in our community are looking up to us. They expect us to be an embodiment of peace, progress and decorum. If we are now washing our dirty linen outside, then what is the hope for our offspring and coming generation? It is on this note that I advise our monarchs not to wash their dirty linen outside. Any issues and disagreement can be resolved peacefully and amicably.
What advice do you have for Federal Government in tackling insecurity in Nigeria?
The issue of insecurity in Nigeria has been a great problem. It’s unfortunate that the security situation in the country has greatly degenerated. I would advise the Federal Government to embark on synergy with the state and Local Governments to address the upsurge in insecurity in the country. The issue of security is not what should be exclusively left in the hands of the Federal Government because the conventional security apparatus are clearly overwhelmed from all indications. Look at what is happening in the North East and North West. The Boko Haram insurgents have been ravaging the whole area, including the North Central. We are now having cases of kidnap, banditry, armed robbery and a lot of criminal activities all over the country. It is this obvious that the Federal Government cannot single handedly solve the issue of insecurity in Nigeria. The government must be prepared to synergize with other tiers of government. The Inspector General of Police has been talking about community policing. It’s time to give it a bite and encourage initiatives from state governors. For example, South West Governors came up with the ingenuous and novel idea of Amotekun which is to ensure security in the southwest of Nigeria. The time has come for President Muhammed Buhari, to take very decisive action to rejig the leadership of the military for appropriate response to current challenges. The government must provide the wherewithal for the security agencies to perform. They must be well funded.
In response to the menace of security challenges, governors in the south west region recently came up with the initiative of establishing Security Network codenamed Amotekun. What is your take on this?
When the event was ongoing on January 9, 2020 at Ibadan, I was highly elated and proud. The launching of operation Amotekun was received with much joy and happiness by all of us because it was obvious that we finally found a solution to the security challenges that bedeviled our region for the greater part of 2019.
You will recall that mid 2019, we had serious security challenge; people were endangered, people were killed, women were raped. It was a terrible development that we had never such experience in the South West. And as a response to that, as a way of ending that menace, the governors resolved to launch Amotekun to checkmate criminality in our zone.
What will be your advice to the governors in furtherance of their efforts on Amotekun?
There are certain things that should be done before the eventual commencement of the operation. I think that is what the governors are doing now. They are crossing the ‘t’s’ and dotting the ‘I’s’ and as soon as this is done , the operation will roll out in full swing. I am highly delighted that the governors have been able to speak to the Federal Government to have better understanding of the motive behind Amotekun. You will recall that the governors did not alienate the Federal Government during the initial plan. In August 2019, we had a security summit in Ibadan where we mapped out strategy for the outfit. I could remember I was there and also the Inspector General of Police was present, topmost monarchs were there and we were able to rob minds to come out with idea that will complement and supplement efforts of the police over security issues in this country. That was how we came about Amotekun. The Federal Government had been carried along from the beginning because we have governors that are well informed and intellectually endowed. They won’t just go into such issue without doing the background work. But I want to believe that the advent of social media led to what I will call conflagration and the scaring perception people are attaching to operation Amotekun.