His Royal Majesty, Oba Joseph Adebayo Adewole, Arojojoye II is the Owa Ajero of Ijero Kingdom. Crowned on December 16, 1991, the monarch in this interview with our correspondent at Ijero, Doyin Adeoye spoke about life as a royal father, his style and expectations for the town, among other things.
What does being a traditional ruler demand from you?
As a traditional ruler, you are in the service of your people and you are the number one representative of the people. Delegated functions of the traditional ruler include settling disputes; which we do every day. These disputes cuts across all the human phases of life, such as marital problems, land issues, religious problems, chieftaincy problems and so on. Secondly, all the traditions and culture of the people are supposed to be guided and held in good form by the traditional ruler, for the sake of posterity and that is why our people also look at us as religious leaders.
Also, one of the most important functions of the traditional ruler is to ensure that your community is progressive.
Prior to your ascension of the throne, what did you used to do?
I was a civil servant with the Ministry of Lands and Housing as a surveyor. I was trained in Nigeria, at the Federal Survey School and also abroad in the Netherlands where I did my postgraduate studies in Surveying and Area Mapping.
As a Christian, are you indifferent to the traditional festive celebrations or other religions in the town?
No traditional ruler can afford to do that. The best policy for any traditional ruler is to give maximum chance for people to practice their own religion. If someone says that a stone is his own god, let him have all access to that stone. I am a Christian, an Anglican precisely, but when I got to the throne, I had to accommodate all the shades of religion, particularly all the shades of traditional religion. And when you are the on the throne, anything religious activity, be it Christian, Islam or the traditionalist, would come to the traditional ruler. Every year, I go with the Muslims to the Eid prayer ground.
In fact, I supply the ram at the prayer ground and the same thing the traditionalist expects. The Christians also invite me to their churches and I try to attend as many as I can. The traditionalists as well come to the palace to take permission for whatever they had to do, and there are some who have come to take some of the things they use in the sacrifices and rituals and the Oba has to give. Ijero is an ancient place and we inherited a lot of traditions, so there is no way that I can force my own line of religion on the people.
What educational backgrounds have you?
For my primary school, I attended Emmanuel Primary School, Awo Ekiti, where I was born and brought up. For my secondary school, I attended Ekiti Baptist School, Igede Ekiti. Then I did a basic course in Land Surveying at the Federal Survey School, Oyo, before I proceeded to the University of Ife, where I studied Mathematics for my first degree. Then I joined the Ministry as a Surveyor and went back to Federal Survey School, Oyo, for my post-graduate diploma in Land Surveying. I also went for a service course in Holland for a post-graduate diploma in photogrammetry. So I came back to the ministry and I got my license as a chartered and licensed surveyor in 1989.
What was your reaction when you were called upon to take up the responsibility as the royal father?
It didn’t come as a shock, because I know myself as a prince. My father was born to his own father while his father was reigning. My grandfather reigned between 1916 and 1930, so I knew I was a prince and I also knew that it was going to be the turn of my own ruling house after my predecessor, but I never thought it could be me. Although through dreams and prophecies, people were telling me but rarely, I wasn’t particularly interested, when my predecessor passed away, my name was on the lips of almost everybody in the community that this was the candidate. So when the race started, it started for 17 of us when they consulted Ifa, my prognosis was the best and everybody thought this was a good voice and they asked me to come.
The process took about 16 months for them to quell everything and by the time I was called upon, it was no longer a shock.
Did you have any fears while taking up the responsibility?
Yes, of course, because when I said I ascended the throne in 1991, you could imagine my age then. That was 22 years ago, so when I was coming to the throne, I knew I was up against a very formidable throne because Ajero is one of the foremost traditional rulers in the entire Yoruba land, there is no way you will talk about traditional rulers and not mention Ajero, Alara and Orangun. We are directions of Oduduwa and it has pleased God to bring me to that exalted position. I had my fears as a normal human being, I had my anticipation, but to the glory of God, God has helped me to cope.
How has the ascension to the throne affected your social life?
As a youth, I loved to hang out with my friends, but my social life was impaired when I came to the throne. I could no longer go out with my friends as I used to, or visit some places. I am a keen sportsperson, but I could no longer enjoy the sports I used to enjoy. I used to play football, lawn tennis and table tennis. But when I ascended the throne, I had to look for how to exercise myself, so, fortunately, I came into golf. I am still a golfer even as a traditional ruler, both in Nigeria and overseas, anytime I travel out, I play golf.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is silent on roles of traditional rulers, what is your take on that?
That came to be in 1999 when Abdulsalam Abubakar became the head of state. Before then the constitution had functions for traditional rulers. My take is about the same as other traditional rulers in the country; we believe that it is not right, it is injustice done by removing the functions of traditional rulers from the constitution. So we have been clamouring that it should be brought back and the roles that the constitution assigns to us then was in an advisory capacity, not executive, not legislative, but then we want them to put it in the constitution that these are the functions of traditional rulers in an advisory capacity.
What childhood memories do you have?
My childhood was excellent in those days; I still recall with fond memories. My parents I would say were of the middle class because we were not poor. I never lacked food, clothes and even school fees. Everything went well in the family, although it was a polygamous family, it was really filled with love. My mother was a very strict person; a Christian, so she nurtured us in the way of the Lord, which we have kept since then.
How do you relax?
I relax with my family because that is the time I have with my wives and children. Also before I sleep, I make sure I watch the television and listen to news around the world; CNN, EuroNews, and Aljazeera, these are my favourite news stations, and I also watch some sports stations.
The Ijero Day Anniversary, what is the idea behind it?
The day celebration is meant for the reunion of people of Ijero Ekiti and bringing the children of the community together, from home and abroad. Also, it is an opportunity to raise funds, where each person brings his own quota, for developments in the town.
There are so many revenues by which the community spends money, we have projects in the town and the government alone cannot do everything.
What are the major achievements you can highlight since you’ve ascended the throne?
There are developments in terms of physical and human resources development. Since I came to the throne, in terms of human development; in academia, there are at least six to eight professors; we’ve had one permanent secretary in the Federal and five State Permanent Secretaries, all from Ijero town. In the military, we have had an admiral in the Navy; we have had about three Generals in the Army, Group captain in the Air force; also recently an indigene was named the Group Executive Director in NNPC and he was there for more than three years and these are in the area of human development. In terms of physical development, when I ascended the throne, there were only two secondary schools, now there are 10.
Primary schools have also increased by lips and bounds. Since I came, we have got, Government Technical College, Ekiti State Corporative College and Ekiti State College of Health Science and Technology, these are tertiary institutions in Ijero. Many roads have been developed; the palace was in shambles when I came, now we have a palace that we can be proud of and the project is still on-going.
Talking about the improvement in the health sector, when I came, there was a general hospital and one maternity home.
Now the general hospital has been upgraded to a specialist hospital and then we now have about ten health centres.
What are your expectations in terms of development for Ijero Ekiti, probably in the next ten years?
When we talk of the local government and state facilitates, then I would say yes, but Federal presence, no. we are still clamouring for federal presence. We are also clamouring for higher institutions in the town. We are working towards that.
Even within the next five years, we should have a university in Ijero Ekiti and also Federal presence in terms of industries and avenues that would provide jobs for our teeming youths.
The former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was in Ijero Ekiti, where you honoured him with a chieftaincy title as the Lisa of Ijero kingdom, what inspired that?
It is one of the things that we do once in a while. Our chieftaincy honours here is devoid of any sycophancy. We look at people who are worthy and honour them and by giving him that honour, it is us accepting him as part of us and that he could regard himself as one of us. And also in our development efforts, we could expect him to join us, so that was the essence of the ceremony.