His Royal Majesty, Oba (Prof.) Adeyemi Abdulkabir Obalanlege, a journalist andan academic is the 14th Olota of Ota. Since installation as the Olota one year ago, the first class monarch has been involved busied himself leading and empowering his people with consummate leadership dedication, zeal and personal sacrifice. His leadership style and achievements so far have been unprecedented. In this interview with TN’s, Olaniyi Akinbode, Abayomi Asanmo, Mayowa Ibukun, Ige Abigail, the Oba paints a lucid picture of the infrastructural decay in his domain, which he described as unacceptable. The good news, however, is that he has confidence in the present government which he says is committed to redressing the situation through a combination of efforts.
Ota is seen by many as the capital of the Awori Yoruba ethnic group. How has this strategic position influenced the life of the people?
I will describe Ota as the foremost Awori town but it is now a city. It is no longer a town. However, I think that will be easily explained because of its location. For instance, if you are going to Abeokuta or other Awori towns, you have to go through Ota. Due to its nearness to border and Lagos, a lot of people who live in Ota work in Lagos. Because of that, Ota is now overpopulated. There is no adequate public facilities and that is not helping the welfare of the people. The roads are terrible. It is only when all these facilities are in shape, then, we can easily say we are happy. For now, government needs to do more in public infrastructure here in Ota. The location and the size have made Ota to be able to generate much revenue for the state and there is little or nothing in return. That is very undemocratic and unacceptable, particularly when you look at the former governor. They don’t have feelings for the ordinary human beings. You can’t just pick only a place and say you are developing a particular place. Even an illiterate will not do that. I think that act of the former governor is unfair and I am sure people will never forget him because when you only develop a particular area and others are underdeveloped, it is not fair; how do you get to that area that is underdeveloped. So it doesn’t really make sense to me. Even if it is just one road you do in a place, it is okay but in the case of Ota, there is none. Even when you look at the international road that is the ECOWAS road, it is still the same issue. I was ready to pursue it because I met with Fashola but he wanted the consent of my governor. However, my governor as at that time is not somebody that you would say that you want to approach. That is why I left it. But I hope that with the new government, we can work together and improve the facilities and infrastructure.
You lived abroad for most part of your life. How have you been able to grapple with the demand of this high and traditional office as the Olota. What prepared you for it?
You know, I was born in Nigeria. I was born in Mushin. So, I am a Mushin boy. I was also a union leader at Ogun State Polytechnic. The thing in Nigeria is that, we always blend when it comes to our culture. As a graduate, you will always blend. It is only when you allow the higher institution to pass through you without you passing through the higher institution and that is when you find things hard. Even though I am going to manage a bank now, I know I will manage it successfully. There weren’t so many
challenges. There are some but they are not so difficult. Based on my past experiences, being an Oba is not something that is really challenging.
In recent times, there has been an influx of residents from Lagos to Ota due to its nearness to Lagos. How have you been able to manage the exodus of large numbers people from Lagos? One of the effects of movement of people from Lagos to Ota is the high
level of vehicular movement. You can see traffic jam everywhere. Again, there are lots of traffic snarls on our roads and they are not well managed. When you go to Ojuore junction, you will find out that even the traders have moved to the road itself. Even when you go to Sango, the same thing is happening. There was a time I had to give orders that they should go back so that traffic could flow. It was okay for few weeks before they moved back. I think we have to do more in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force, the NSCDC and others. Honestly, we are trying our best to ensure that we get the government buy-in to see how we can move forward. But I can assure you that by the time the new government assumes office
things will be better. I think they are approachable and they are people you can talk to. I am sure things will improve. You cannot compare the cost of land in Lagos and here in Ota. That accounts for the volume of people moving from Lagos to Ota and even beyond because people are even going to Atan and Ifo. Even Ifo is filled up and they are all going to rural areas now to develop them further. That tells you that this part of the world is being overstretched. It means that there is need for an upgrade of our infrastructure which can no longer hold on to the population. That is why there is urgent need for government to move in. Again, the community has to come together to see what they can do. In addition, our local government is not even functioning at all. If the local government areas are functioning that would help. In those days, they used to have graders and other equipment to repair roads but now, they don’t have any. And they have engineers being paid for doing nothing. That is the pathetic level of our public institutions now. These people were trained and they are ready to work but there are no machinery, tools to work with.
That is part of the challenges that we have. And I just hope that they will be changes. You know, we shouldn’t expect the new government to just move in and solve all the problems at once and change everything like that. No, it will take time. So, we just hope things will get back to normal gradually.
How do you ensure that other ethnic groups such as Egba settlers, Egun, and Yewa cooperate? What about the issue of encroachment of the Egbas on Awori land? How have you been able to manage the situation?
I am a law abiding citizen and a civilized Oba. But you know, when there is high level of impunity in the society, people decide to do whatever they wish. These people that you see and you think they are highly placed are the ones causing instability in our country or community. Somebody that can’t hold onto their words is a traitor. When you look at real Yoruba setting, Awori’s or even the stool of Olota is over 500 years old whereas Alake’s is just 200 years old. But because Alake has political power that is what they have been playing with. But as a true Yoruba and as Omoluabi, I will not engage or steal my brother’s property. I will never. That is what our forefathers taught us, that whatever does not belong to you doesn’t really belong to you. That is what we call Omoluabi and I will never deviate from that line as a leader because such act causes so many problems amongst Yorubas. We are the first set of people, the Awori’s to settle in Abeokuta. It is our property. Like I said, we have been in this part of the world since the 14th century. Even up till the Atlantic Ocean in Lagos is Awori settlement. It was later that Egba came in the 18th Century. That is why I said Olota stool has existed for so long. So Olota is a very big stool, it is not just an ordinary Oba. But because we want to be Omoluabi and we don’t want to pick up fight with people that is why we have been managing it. I have challenged the Alake because there was a time we had discussion and he said they captured us in 1926 or thereabout. Then, I asked him who the Oba was then. At least, in Yoruba, when you go to fight war, you capture the Oba. I asked him: how did you kill him; did you carry his head? Who is the Egba Oba that you installed. Because when you capture an Oba, you will install your own. So if you lie, you will always tell more lies. We all are all passengers in this life. We will account for whatever we must have done in this world. So, the almighty God is watching everybody. As a leader, if you cause your follower to fight and die, their blood will be on your head. For me, nobody can intimidate me and my people, no matter how highly placed that person is. If they cross the red line, I will not hesitate to fight back.
Which schools did you attend and where did you work thereafter?
I was born in Mushin in Lagos and I started my primary school education at Ansar- Ud-Deen Primary School, Isolo and Iganmode Grammar School here in Ota. I also attended Ogun State Polytechnic, Abeokuta where I read Mass communication to a Higher National Diploma (HND) level. I worked briefly with The Mail Newspaper; I also worked with The Republic Newspaper as Travels Editor. I was also the Travels Editor of Thisday Newspaper. I have equally worked with the Lagos Sate Polytechnic as the public relations officer before I travelled abroad for further education. I attended the University of Leicester where I had my Masters degree in Mass Communication. I also had my PhD. I taught at the University of East London and University of Lincoln. I also worked as the Editor of African Vanguard in the Island. While I was at the University of Lincoln, I was head hunted by the Crescent University in Abeokuta. So I joined them in 2014. I returned home in 2012 and taught for about six months at the Lagos State University before I left for overseas again. TN