Text of a speech by the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, at the launch of endowment fund of Oba Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance, Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, held at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos
In Yorubaland, it is an important aspect of our culture to show appreciation and profound gratitude for kindness or a good turn done to one. So strong is this culture that failure to observe it is tantamount to robbery. This is why there is the Yoruba proverb that says “Eni ti a se loore ti o dupe bi olosa koni leru lo ni”
On this note therefore, I consider it an act of ingratitude should I fail to convey my grateful thanks to each and everyone present here today for specially honouring me with your august presence at this Inaugural Lecture and Launching of the Endowment Fund of “Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance” in the Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.
My special thanks go to Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria who is ably represented here today . It is our hope that your Administration will bring about our most desired stability, progress and development to our country.
Your Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I thank you warmly for finding the time to spend with us here today in spite of your crowded programme. Your record of achievement speaks for itself, not only as a servant of this country but also as a servant of the African continent and the world. You have no doubt served creditably in all your assignments. May Allah continue to enrich your wisdom and endow you with good health to continue to serve the nation and humanity.
Let me in a special way thank His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, CON, FCA, Governor of Ogun State for his usual support and kind gesture. Your passionate efforts towards the infrastructural and socio-economic development of Ogun State are worthy of note and highly commendable. Posterity will surely remember you for your good works.
To the other Governors here present, I appreciate you most sincerely for your favourable disposition to my endeavours.
All past and present Members of the National Assembly here present most especially the Distinguished Senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Senator Buruji Kashamu, I appreciate you all.
Similarly, I warmly thank my good friend and colleague, His Highness, Muhammad Sanusi II, CON, Sarkin Kano who, in spite of his crowded programme is able to be here this afternoon and whose contributions at this Forum will continue to be of immense benefits to Nigeria. Your Highness, there is cause for us today to rejoice and give thanks to Allah. Prior to your ascension to the throne and while serving as the Governor of Central Bank, yours was like the only voice in the wilderness shouting out on the unmitigated level of corruption in Government. You were pilloried and vilified but recent events and still unfolding revelations have vindicated you. Praise be to Almighty Allah.
Permit me to also acknowledge the Guest Lecturer, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, CON for his incisive, thought–provoking and illuminating Lecture which no doubt will move this country forward if only the various authorities endeavour to listen.
Special mention must be made of Otunba (Dr.) Mike Adenuga GCON Chairman, Globacom for his usual kindness and steadfast support and particularly for his generous donation towards the actualisation of this lofty ideal. Alhaji Aliko Dangote GCON, President, Dangote Group, you are much appreciated. Chief Kesington Adebutu CON a.k.a. Baba Ijebu I salute you. Aare Rasaq Okoya, I appreciate you too. The one and only Olori Omo-Oba of Ijebuland, Otunba Subomi Balogun CON Founder, FCMB Group, you are specially appreciated. My Aaremo, Chief Olusegun Osoba, former Governor of Ogun State, I recognise you.
My profound gratitude goes to Members of The Ijebu Traditional Council (ITC) for their unalloyed support, cooperation and mutual understanding, which continue to enhance our stability as a people, our peace, progress and the development that permeates the length and breadth of Ijebuland and by extension, Ogun State.
My sincere appreciation also goes to all the donors here present for your invaluable contributions towards the full realisation of this laudable cause.
Similarly, I wish to convey my special thanks to Mr. Lewis Tung, the management and staff of Oriental Hotel, Lagos for their usual consideration and accommodation that have majorly assisted the success of this programme.
The Pro-Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor and all the authorities of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, I thank you for this special honour bestowed upon me. I promise to continue to cherish this your kind gesture and with the help of Almighty Allah, I promise to justify it by making this Chair a model to be emulated by others in this country and beyond.
We may not leave here today if I have to mention all of you one by one as you are all very important personalities in your own right.
Consequently, I will ask for your permission to say thank you all for honouring me with your august presence here this afternoon and crave your indulgence if I have omitted to mention anyone by name. I am indeed very grateful to you all.
The governance of the country has been a matter of serious concern for many years now. As most of you are very well aware, I ascended the throne some fifty-six years ago at a time Nigeria was getting ready for self-rule that was attained on 1st October, 1960. At that time, there were three Regions, namely the Western, Eastern and Northern Regions and the Federal Government, each with its own Constitution. Later came the Mid-Western Region, with all operating as a Federation under a federal system of government.
However, with the Military coup of 1966, the federal system of government was replaced with a unitary system of government with concentration of powers and resources at the centre which situation, brought about a bitter struggle among the political parties for the control of the centre. The situation became worse during the oil boom years which further fuelled corruption. Consequently, it was only those who had direct or unfettered indirect access to government treasury and assets that controlled party politics and election and ultimately, the government. The greatest danger of course, was that those who otherwise would have genuinely served the country were discouraged as politics became petty, dirty and corrupt. The economy was in shambles coupled with decaying infrastructure, and the steady decline in the quality of education amongst others, while the private sector became a mere onlooker, having been frustrated by bureaucracy and ineptitude. This has been more or less the story of Nigeria since independence. Some of us who have observed unfolding events with keen interest over the years have all but given up on Nigeria. But we cannot. The deep patriotism that flows in our veins will not allow us to give up on Nigeria. That is one of the reasons for the endowment of this Chair.
It is my fervent hope that the discourse, research and innovative thinking that this Professorial Chair will stimulate will help the next generation lift this country out of its seemingly intractable problems.
It is therefore my belief that for a lasting solution to these teeming problems, the youth must actively participate and be positively engaged in bringing about good governance; starting now.
Please permit me to note two issues that I feel strongly about. One, I wish to call for an urgent reform of our electoral system by first proffering solution to the minor issues with the card reader machine and also the introduction of electronic voting system before the next elections, being the only way to guarantee the choice of the people.
Secondly, I believe that independent candidates should be allowed to contest elections so as not to limit the choice of the people and by so doing, improve the quality of participation and representation.
Your Excellencies, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, kindly allow me to digress a bit to comment briefly on a statement that emanated from the Ake Palace recently. Not long after the installation of Oba Alaiyeluwa Adeyeye Ogunwusi as the Ooni of Ife, he undertook steps to foster unity and cooperation among leading Yoruba Obas and for which I personally commend him. First, he joined the Alaafin at his 77th Birthday Celebration at Oyo. Thereafter, he visited me at Ijebu-Ode on Friday, 29th January, 2016 followed by another visit to Abeokuta on Sunday, 7th February, 2016 where he met Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbedebo in his palace at Ake, Abeokuta, the Osile, Oke-Ona Egba at Ago-Oko, Abeokuta, the Olowu in his palace at Owu, Abeokuta with the exception of the Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta who was not around then.
The Alake, while receiving the Ooni at his palace said that Yoruba Obas (the Big Five so to say) had been categorised with the Ooni in the first position followed by the Alaafin, the Oba of Benin, with the Alake coming fourth and the Awujale as the fifth in that order. He also went further to quote wrongly from a 1903 Gazette to support all the fallacies in his statement. When I learnt of the statement, I made several calls to Alake until I eventually succeeded in finding out from him if those statements were actually made by him, which of course, he vehemently denied.
In a recent discussion between the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and I, we also touched on the same issue and the Oba of Lagos told me that he too had asked Alake the same question, which he had again denied vehemently. Regrettably however, when the said statement few days later was continuously credited to Alake on the pages of newspapers, I expected him to deny it or issue a rebuttal, but he did not do so.
Therefore, I consider it necessary to debunk the aforementioned falsehood and misrepresentation of facts from Ake Palace so as to put the records straight.
First, I would like to make it abundantly clear that the 1903 Gazette referred to by Alake was just a Newspaper publication that he, in his self-serving role, is now presenting as an official Government Gazette. The first question to Alake is: Who categorised the Yoruba Obas and when? I challenge him to produce the document of the said categorisation. It is a known fact that Alake was a junior traditional ruler under the Alaafin at Orile Egba before he fled to Ibadan for refuge as a result of the war then ravaging in Yorubaland. Following the defeat of Owu by the Ijebu Army in 1826, the Owus became refugees all over Yorubaland. Some of the Ijebu troops that fought the war proceeded to Ibadan where they met Alake and sacked him, consequently forcing him to seek refuge at Ake in Abeokuta in 1830 where of course, he met the Osile, Olowu, and Agura already settled at Oke-Ona, Owu and Gbagura sections of Abeokuta Township respectively. Even then, the Olubara, of Oyo origin had always argued that all the aforementioned four rulers met him in Abeokuta and therefore claimed to be their landlord. To even refer to Alake as “Alake of Abeokuta” not to talk of Egbaland, is a misnomer, as his control since his arrival at Ake in 1830 and till today is restricted to Ake section of Abeokuta. The official Government Gazette testifies to this fact. In short, the Alake from history and all available records is a very junior traditional ruler in Yorubaland. His peers in Ijebuland are the Dagburewe of Idowa, Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife, Akija of Ikija–Ijebu, Olowu of Owu-Ijebu, Oloko of Ijebu-Imushin, Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo and Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye.
I wish to recall that there had been an occasion in the past for three of us – the Awujale, the late Alake, Oba Oyebade Lipede and the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife – to sit over this issue with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at Aso Rock, Abuja. My advice to Alake, being a young and inexperienced traditional ruler, is that he should contact Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for proper education so as to save himself and his people from further embarrassment.
It is important for Alake’s education to appreciate that Ijebu has been in existence for almost 1,000 years and that we are the only people that still remain in our original homestead while other Yoruba towns and villages have relocated twice or more. If only he cares to obtain a copy of the Book: “The Ijebu of Yorubaland 1850-1950” by the late Prof. E. A. Ayandele, that erudite Professor of History and endeavour to read it, there, he will know who the Ijebus are and appreciate that from time immemorial and since our settlement on Ijebu soil, Ijebu was indeed a nation until 1892 when we were defeated in the Magbon War by the British colonial forces. As to be expected, the British colonial masters left no stone unturned to humiliate us for daring to engage them in a war.
When Sir Gilbert Carter read Intelligence Reports on Ijebuland at the Home Office in London, he felt convinced that the Ijebus were a special breed. Therefore, when he later found himself as Governor of Lagos Colony, he prepared a Treaty for the Awujale to sign so as to allow the Missionaries to educate and evangelize the people as well as surrender their monopoly of trade between the coast and hinterland and for which he offered an annual payment of 800 pounds that was rejected.
Notwithstanding the conquest, our early contact with the expatriates was quite significant and rewarding. It was during this period that our God-given commercial acumen was brought to play, resulting in enormous prosperity for the Ijebus to the envy of our neighbours.
In conclusion, I hereby strongly admonish Alake to refrain from making such unsavoury, unguarded and unfounded statements, which if not checked, may seriously jeopardise the unity of Yoruba Obas and their people.
While once more, I thank you all for honouring me with your presence here this afternoon, I look forward to your support by way of generous donations towards this worthy cause. Our ultimate aim for this Endowment Fund, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance is N1billion naira with an initial target of N500 million today. I, therefore, set the ball rolling with a personal donation of ₦25 million and another ₦25 million by the Aafin Awujale of Ijebuland making a total of ₦50 million.
Finally, I express my sincere appreciation to Members of the Board of Trustees of Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance and Members of the Organising Committee who have worked assiduously day and night to ensure the success of today’s event.
Thank you and God bless you all.