ECHOES FROM THE PAST (2) – An Interview with the Onifo of Ifo, Oba Olujide Akinyemi

This is the concluding part of the Interview with the Onifo of Ifo, OBA OLUJIDE AKINYEMI, at the Olowu Palace, Oke Ago-Owu, Abeokuta on Monday 25th March, 2013.

(continued from Part 1, published on Thursday, 6th of February, 2020)

Oba Akinyemi (left), and his Olori (right) flanking his royal family members in Agbeloba, Abeokuta

THAT’S INTERESTING. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU WERE CHOSEN FOR THE CROWN?
“Ah! I cannot tell. But I know I am from a royal family, although I didn’t think I would qualify…Even if I had been foretold, I wouldn’t have come.”

YEAH! JUST AS YOU TRIED TO DODGE THE BAALESHIP ISSUE, NOT TO TALK OF OBA. YOU TRED TO DODGE THAT…ON FEBRUARY 27, IF I HAVE MY RECORDS RIGHT?
“Yes!”

IT WAS AFTER THEY FOUND YOU THAT YOU WERE THEN INSTALLED ON FEBRUARY 27. IN FACT FOR HOW MANY MONTHS WERE YOU ON THE RUN?
“We had come here…It was October when Olowu became…so it was September that we came here, and he said he gave me 3 months…so I was to have come back in November or December.”

THAT MEANS YOU WERE ON THE RUN FOR NEARLY 6 MONTHS!
“Ha!”

SO, WE CAN PRESUME YOU WERE CROWNED BECAUSE YOU ARE A PRINCE, AND FOR ALL THE LEADERSHIP ROLES YOU HAD PLAYED AT ABE-KAJU?
“The whole of Ifo.”

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FROM YOU, AND YOUR ROLES AS AN OBA?
“Thank you. For example the people of the township believe the Oba must be available for them round the clock. As at now I don’t have any specific sleeping time or rising up time because I wouldn’t want any trouble to linger in the communities unresolved. Especially when we first got there, they may bring a conflict case just before mid-night and we may not retire to sleep until way beyond 3 am. You see, I have lived amongst them for long and God has made it possible for me to know and understand them. I had been a farmer amongst them. I had traded pepper and tomatoes and rice at the Ifo market, so there is nothing new to me. When I became Oba and I was interviewed, I broadcasted that there was nothing like ‘Omo ole Ifo’ (Ifo hoodlum) anymore, because it is the aliens living with us and not the indigenes who case the confusions. What I have also recognized is that although there are many residential enclaves in Ifo, there are no factories or industries to cater for the people’s livelihood. But by the grace of God, one should take off by the next month.”

CAN YOU SHED MORE LIGHT ON THAT ONE?
“Yes! It is one of the companies…Gasoline Associates. It is a referring company that includes Petrochemicals…but its gas station is going to be established in Ifo.”

LIQUEFIED GAS OR WHAT KIND OF GAS IS IT?
“This is a modern technology. It is going to be tapped from space (the atmosphere). It is the air that is going to be separated (fractionalized), and they will separate up to 7 different gasses. It belongs to Dr. Bolaji, and he is my Balogun in Ifo. Lukman Bolaji.”

OK.
“And other things I use to assist them is recommendations for various things. Things like ‘To Whom It May Concern’ recommendations, we don’t take a penny from them. They bring a case, we don’t take penny in our palace…because we have to assist them. Most of them are not wealthy. Also on Sundays, I open the water facilities in the palace for them from 5 am when I wake till 8 am when I proceed to church.”

ON SUNDAYS?
“On Sundays. Because of the existing water merchants…so that I don’t destroy their ventures, that is why I do not provide the free water service on daily basis. The Sundays, they too have to take a break for me to offer the people my service.”

OK.
“There are plenty of problems at the grassroots. There are some who will claim they have hungered for 3 days. Others will demand transportation fees to where they have just secured jobs or admissions out of town…and you have to help! And there some cases I previously thought impossible before I became Oba that I now see as possible. For example, there was a complainant who had exchanged N1,000 from another person which he placed among the other money he had on a Saturday. When he retrieved the money on Monday in order to take it to the bank…he said the money was the proceeds from the sales of his cassava which he wanted to use to buy new roofing sheets for his house…when he got there, he only found plain papers instead of the currency bills. They brought it all to us to resolve. Secondly, when Governor Gbenga (Daniel) came to campaign here, I was the one to pick the lucky number that was announced, and the boy who won the car from that lucky dip is from my neighborhood…but when we got home, they brought the case…that he was a conductor in the vehicle of his ‘oga’ who gave him 5 of the raffle tickets to hold…which he presented to us…he also found the ticket which later won on the floor. The case was a stalemate for us and we didn’t know how to resolve the issue, so I called upon God for assistance…and the way was opened. When the wife of the ‘oga’ made her submission, she insisted that the boy could not be driving the vehicle alone and they must either have joint ownership with him driving them, or share the returns from the sale of the car. I suddenly remembered the biblical judgment…

OF SOLOMON?
Yes! Of the death of a child while the other one was alive, and 2 women were contesting ownership. The mother of the dead baby who had swapped it with the living one insisted they cut the living one into two…because when we asked the accused to speak, he busted into tears and said he would comply totally with our decisions. So I declared they gave him the car keys, for he must be its true owner. These other ones just want a share of it.”

I STILL DON’T FULLY UNDERSTAND HOW THE DISPUTE OVER THE CAR AROSE
“The boy was a conductor. His boss had 5 raffle draw receipts which he handed to him to monitor the numbers on them in case any of them was called as a winning number. He too found a receipt when he went to assist to bring down and fold the Party flag. I was appointed by Gbenga to dip for the lucky numbers and his was the lucky one picked. We were even about to pick an alternative one when he eventually shouted that he was in possession of the receipt. When they checked, the numbers corresponded so they gave him the prize car. When he drove it home, the wife of his boss accused him of haven swapped one of the 5 receipts kept in his custody, but all these 5 receipts had numbers serially after one another, but the winning number was totally different from them. The boss wasn’t adamant but it was his wife that would not see reason. At the end of the day the case was referred to me…”

WHAT WAS THE RAFFLE DRAW FOR?
“It was for the 2nd term campaign election of Gbenga Daniel.”

OK. CONTINUE SIR.
“So, our people need a lot of help, and there are plenty of challenges for the Oba. Sometimes from the time the Oba wakes up, as we have been mandated by the Olowu, we may be on sit adjudicating over numerous cases…unless we have meetings or functions to attend…but the most recurrent issues are those of financial problems!

SO NOW, IF YOU ARE TO ASSESS YOURSELF ON THESE ISSUES, WOULD YOU CLAIM YOU HAVE ACHIEVED CONSIDERABLE SUCCESS, OR DO STILL SEE A LOT TO BE DONE?
“Ah! I cannot acclaim any significant improvements until the company has been established and we have fixed up the employees. On that issue, we have opened a registration process in the palace where those interested in gaining employment there are to register their names. Because we have been given 2,000 slots which include those who will go to Ipokia. But those 2,000 slots are also being distributed outside Ifo in Abeokuta…”

ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE GASOLINE ASSOCIATES?
“Yes!”

AND YOU SAID IT IS OWNED BY YOUR BALOGUN, LUKMAN BOLAJI. AND HE PROVIDED 2,000 SLOTS?
“Yes. But then you know that those who eat alone, die alone (Proverb rendered in Yoruba), so we must remember our roots and our other Obas as well.”

SO YOU ARE GOING TO ALLOCATE IT ALL AROUND?
“Yes!”

IT APPEARS THAT THERE’S DAWN ON THE HORIZON WHEN THIS PROJECT TAKES OFF, WHICH WILL IMPACT SO MUCH ON THE ECONOMY OF YOUR DOMAIN AND ENVIRONS…
“By the Grace of God. Even the economy of Ogun State will change.”

SO, THERE IS HIGH EXPECTATIONS! WHAT ARE YOUR FUNCTIONS IN RELATION TO THAT OF THE OLOWU. HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN HELPING HIM TO ACTUALISE HIS MANDATE?
“Am not helping Olowu. I am doing my own job. Olowu is my father. I am from the royal family, and he is from the royal family. I must do everything within my power towards Olowu…because after they have all gone where the elders go in old age, the mandate of Owu will fall on those of us coming behind them. It is where they leave it that we shall take it up.”

BUT YOU ARE ALSO AN OVERSEER OF ONE OF OLOWU’S TERRITORIES.
“Yes, yes, yes!”

NOW GIVE ME AN ACCOUNT OF A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE ONIFO OF IFO. FROM WHEN HE WAKES UP IN THE MORNING AND FACES ALL THE CHALLENGES OF HIS DOMAIN, UNTILL HE CAN CLOSE HIS EYES AT NIGHT AND SAYS HE IS GOING TO BED…AN AVERAGE DAY…YOU CAN MARRY THEM ALL TOGETHER!
“Em!… I think I can remember one day immediately when I woke up. Some people were fighting in the town and they brought them to me…(pauses). No! That was one Saturday in the morning. They claimed the woman sent her child to go and steal wet clothes that were laid out to dry, so they brought them to the palace around 7 in the morning. There were plenty of people. There were a massive multitude of people. I was perplexed and didn’t know how to proceed, so I asked where she was from. She said she was from Abeokuta, but I don’t want to mention the specific area. The multitude declared that she was lucky it wasn’t Owu, otherwise they would have lynched her right there and then. I had to silence them immediately. A phone call then came that the Olu Ifo was coming to declare war on me…so Baba Ifo… that is Ogunjobi, said I should quickly inform Olowu about the ensuing development…
(apologizes to answer an incoming phone call)
“… So, I retreated into my room to try to figure out things. I quickly rushed down here to the palace to inform the Olowu but met his absence. At that time this baba was still here…Jagunna…who promptly informed the police. By the time I got back, the Area Commander had gone to meet Olu Ifo on the issue. While all these were still going on, my child also came back to demand for his school fees otherwise he was going to be sent out of school…”

A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF TROUBLE NOT BEING A LONESOME TRAVELLER…IT JOURNEYS WITH ALL THE MEMBERS OF ITS FAMILY!
“Now I was not allowed to go out to work, because Olowu said we had to proceed into Ipebi…although we also recognized its value in familiarizing us with history and culture. Also during this process, those people who had the case of money turning to paper also brought in their own problems. They were threatening to set the accused ablaze. I took him from them to my second sitting room. After he had signed a document that he would refund their money, I had him smuggled out the back way and then went to inform his accusers that he had left and they should go home. On this very day, I wasn’t able to proceed to bed until about 4am…and started wandering what sort of life my own had become…”

UNEASY LAYS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN!
“So, that day was a terrible day in my life, although there have been many more similar ones…but on that day I had to solve about 4 different major events that could not be differed until later! There was also this other day that they came to demolish my signpost…we had gone to court, and as I came back from the court…I had been told from the mountain top that there was going to be some great challenges. Two people had come from Akure who I never knew before, and they had slept at my place. They said God had sent them to me. The next morning during prayer, they informed me that I was going to be tested, and if I did not get angry, nor fight, and continued to hold my composure, God had told them that I would overcome!…So, a boy came in to report that the Customs had impounded his car some 10 days ago. I asked him what he had then been doing all that time, to which he claimed the car was at the Centenary and he had not even set his eyes on it, then some people advised him to come to me to help. I initially wanted to send my Defence (Civil-Defence Orderly) to accompany him, but I thought they may not grant him an audience, so I put on my robe and the car and rode with him to Abeokuta. When we got to Abeokuta, we didn’t meet their boss but they promised to contact me on his return.
As soon as we got back to the palace, greeted the chiefs and took off my robe, an elderly man rushed in to say that some people were coming with ‘Igunuko’ to uproot my signpost because they had won the case. I said that was impossible because it was only yesterday that we went to the appeal court in Ibadan and have not even faced trial…Where did they win their case? My Defense then reported that they were already at it and they had come with a saw. I was rushing out to meet them when he halted me and reminded me about the prophesy earlier in the morning…and that I had been instructed not to fight, to allow the Lord to take control. I reluctantly turned back, and called the DPO. The DPO team only arrived some 30 minutes later after the mob had done their destruction and left. He even asked me to come to the station to file a proper report. We were still on that when I heard further commotions outside. On investigation, it turned out to be my Olori in opposition to the Olu-Ifo. I was getting annoyed with her for getting involved…
(interruptions from some people in Kabiyesi’s entourage who were apparently in a hurry to depart…, to whom he unleashed an outburst that they can only be in a hurry to come to the King but cannot be in a hurry to leave!…but promised in a softer tone to soon join them)


“…when witnesses admonished me that it was the man (Olu-Ifo) who first called her a bastard and she had only replied him equivocally. I also later received a letter of invitation from Eleweran!…after they had assaulted me by destroying my signpost?! But I thank God that when it was all over, I then took them to Zone 2 …because the Commissioner of Police had instructed them to return the signpost, which they did not do. After this, they made a bigger version of the signpost and started begging me to avoid being arrested. So, as you see, that is another example of the extremely bad days I sometimes face…
What more are we going to discuss in the interview, because I really must go and attend to all these people!”

WHAT IS LEFT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED LATER, KABIYESI. I WANT A LIST OF YOUR LIST OF CHIEFS…WHICH CAN BE COLLECTED AFTER YOU HAVE COMPILED IT.
“That is fine. When will you have time to collect it?”

WHAT ABOUT IN TWO DAYS?
“That is fine by me. I thank you very much.”

(He takes his leave rather hurriedly, while apologizing to those who had been waiting for him to conclude the interview, and also barking some instructions as he fled away).

THE END.