The Orangun of Oke Ila Orangun in Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun State, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, in this interview with OLUWOLE IGE, speaks about the tourist attraction centres located in his domain, challenges, how to groom youths for future leadership roles, preservation of Yoruba culture, among other issues. You are a teacher, a lawyer and now a traditional ruler.
How would compare your experience as a lawyer and teacher to your present status as a traditional ruler?
I thank God that I am still a teacher and legal practitioner. Presently, despite the fact that one doesn’t go to court, there are imperishable pieces of knowledge for me on the throne. A monarch is a teacher, legal practitioner and a judge. You are an arbiter. As a traditional ruler, you judge and settle conflicts. My knowledge of the law is of tremendous assistance to me on the throne.
As a teacher, many of my ex-students are now in positions of authority and they assist me on the throne. So, they all go hand in hand because as a traditional ruler, the disciplinary approach to monarchy has been of great benefit to me, my people and the institution that I represent.
Few years back, you founded Abolarin College, Oke Ila Orangun for indigent students. What was the motivation behind the establishment of this school?
It is to prepare young ones for leadership. The poor, to a very large extent, have been abandoned by all of us in Nigeria. It is important to note that if the poor are not taken care of, they would not allow the privileged few to enjoy their wealth. They won’t allow us to enjoy the fruits of our labour and they would not allow our children to enjoy peace. Once the majority is not happy, the minority would not know peace and have satisfaction. I thank God and I am happy for the little positive results I have seen in my children in that school. We teach them well and prepare them for the future and I am part of the process. Presently, they are 74 in number and 95 percent of those children love farming and they know what leadership, kindness and courage are all about. They know the roles played by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the old Western Region and all other national leaders in the struggle for the nation’s independence. The school is a microcosm of Nigeria because there are students who are from Delta, Benue, Enugu, Edo and other states in Nigeria. This is because we believe firmly in the unity and oneness of this great nation. We cannot have great leaders without the conscious effort to mould, nurture and build the present generation of children.
Since you ascended the throne of your forefathers, what are the challenges you have faced in this community?
Poverty and I mean endemic poverty. A lot of our young ones have lost hope. They are no longer interested in the future. That is why you see very many of them unhappy. I live in the midst of a poor and unhappy people. That is why I always clamour that the elite should not abandon the poor in the rural communities. Materially, our people must support their kings because of the yeoman jobs they are doing to cater to the welfare of the downtrodden in our communities. In a nutshell, poverty is a major challenge that I face here.
Taking a critical look at Oke-Ila, what do you think are the basic infrastructural facilities that your domain is lacking presently?
The major road from Ila-Orangun to Ora Igbomina that leads to Oke Ila Orangun is in a deplorable condition. We approached the state government who promised to fix it. I believe it would fix it. Again, our public schools need renovation. In Oke Ila, there is Ayinkunugba Waterfalls and our community is a place where you can relax. We are trying our utmost best because we believe in complementing government’s effort. And that is the basis for the establishment of Abolarin College too. The government alone cannot shoulder the full responsibilities of education. If presently, I have 74 poor, rural indigent students, who are studying, I think the government should assist us in all ways because we are complementing their efforts.
Are you satisfied with the level of the utilisation of Ayinkunugba Waterfalls? If not, what do you want the government to do so as to shore up its economic potentials?
The road that leads to the waterfall should be maintained regularly. The condition of that road is very bad. Just last week, students from the University of Ilorin, some students of private schools and others from the Obafemi Awolowo University were at Ayinkunugba Waterfalls. What they saw there was unbelievable. But, the major challenge is the bad road leading to the place and its maintenance.
Your community is far-flung from the capital of Osun, sharing a border with Ekiti State. What are you doing to boost the commerce and agriculture of Oke-Ila, bearing in mind the socio-economic growth of your domain?
There is little I can do about that. I am inviting my own subjects to come back home and invest, thus promoting the social and economic growth of Oke Ila. Nobody will develop our homestead for us unless we develop it ourselves. I am a tobacco farmer and in my school, the children pride themselves as farmers and by God’s grace they are going to be big-time farmers in the nearest future. Before long, things will get better. You should know that development is gradual and it is a process. The process is already on in Oke Ila, but we need the assistance of government to jump-start development. I am happy that you mentioned that Oke Ila is far from the state capital. Some of us always travel to Osogbo, the state capital twice or thrice a week to attend government functions and if only for that, I want the government to come to our aid and reduce the number of hours that we spend in commuting from Oke Ila to Osogbo.
Do you subscribe to the push that traditional rulers in Nigeria should be given constitutional roles?
There are too many roles and functions for us as traditional rulers. Beyond the constitution, we are moral authority. But, we cannot be above the law. The constitution takes precedence. Sections 1 and 13 of the 1999 constitution stipulate that all of us must live within the ambit of the constitution as amended. Be that as it may, as a traditional ruler, I am the attorney general in Oke Ila Orangun, I am the chief judge and as a traditional ruler, I am the chief social officer, chief medical officer and the chief sports officer. I am everything to the people. I am next to God. I am the “Alase Ikeji Orisa”.
Traditional rulers are supposed to be role models and should provide exemplary leadership to their subjects. We should live above board. What else do I want? We are in a republican state and the constitution is above all of us. Under the constitution, I have the right to associate and fundamental right to freedom. For me as someone who is interested in constitutional development, you don’t put everything down in black and white in the constitution. Let the institutions of government, like the legislature, the judiciary expand the scope of the constitution. Monarchs perform imperishable roles and traditional rulers are so important. I did not know that traditional rulers are so important until I became a king. It is a good institution to promote development in all spheres. In terms of political development, we are important in social mobilisation. The enormity of the power of the traditional institution indicated that what is expected of you is beyond the constitution. But, all of us must live under the constitution.
How would you rate the performance of the government so far with what is on the ground?
Development is not a tea party. It is a process and from my little experience, nobody can solve the problem of any society at a go. You do yours and leave. To a very large extent, President Buhari is human and his government is doing its bit, but its bit may not be enough and that is life. Even in Oke Ila here, despite the sacrifice I have made being a king, some people still insult me. Governance is difficult and a lot of us don’t know. It is when you get there that you see the realities. In a complex society like ours, we should give kudos to our leaders, even though they have a lot of work to do. Our leaders should be committed to the growth of Nigeria. We need to build a solid foundation for generations yet coming. We need servant leaders. I always pride myself as the chief servant of Oke Ila Orangun. The government is trying to the best of its ability. We cannot crucify them. The overall interests of the people must be in the heart of our leaders.