Remember Lisa Village near Agbado in Ogun State, the community made popular by the 2005 Bellview plane crash. The present Baale of the community, 50-years-old Oladele Najimdeen Odugbemi was installed in 2006. He had his training in Banking and Finance before venturing into private business in 1988. In this interview with Correspondent ROTILEFON SUNDAY, Odugbemi speaks on Lisa Village, its historical background and origin, the plane crash and its effects on the community, his achievements as Baale and the challenges facing Lisa Community…
Who really is Baale Odugbemi?
I was born in and grew up in Lisa. I went for my primary school at Oluke via Lisa. I had my secondary school in Lagos and completed it in Abeokuta. I had my professional training in Banking and Finance and also had a short stay in the banking industry from where I retired and went into private business since 1988. I’m a descendant of the first settler of this community. After the Bellview air crash, which occurred in 2005, I was called upon to come and participate in the leadership of the community. Our forefathers migrated from Lisa Compound, Igbore Community in Abeokuta to found Lisa Village over 150 years ago. Basically, my own direct grandfather was the man that historically moved from Lisa Compound in Igbore, Abeokuta and became the founder of the community. He was the first Odugbemi and since he was the founder of the village, he should be the first Baale of Lisa Community. He was an Ifa Priest of high standard and also a hunter, he also engaged in farming activities. He founded the community after consultation with Ifa. The Ifa oracle foresaw that the location might become a town in the future and instructed them to settle there.
My great grandfather married Mrs Ajara Odugbemi from Nupe in Kwara State. They both left with their five children. The second male child was also Baale after the demise of my great grandfather while my own father was the Baale between 1966 and 1992. Suffice it to say that I am the fourth Baale of Lisa Community from among Odugbemi descendants. I was installed in 2006 by the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, His Royal Majesty Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo Okukenu 1V. My official installation was done on September 23rd 2006. I have been able to contribute immensely to the development and advancement of the community with the provision of social amenities, youths and women empowerment and scholarship to our students.
How did you emerge as the Baale of Lisa?
My case was a unique one because nobody was jostling to become Baale then. When my late father passed on in 1996, no Baale was installed in the community before the 2005 Bellview plane crash. There was a vaccum. One of our elders who is now the Chief Imam of Lisa was the man standing in as Arole, reagent for the community. Our late uncle, Dr. S.O Bamgbose, who was the head of the family, insisted that a Baale must be installed because of the attention of the whole world on Lisa as a result of the plane crash. He said that the community needed a unique leader that can interact with the various diversities of people, government, tourists and religious associations that may want to relocate or site their worship centres here. Late Bamgbose then nominated me and the whole family and village decided with one voice that I should be the Baale.
Was there a consultation with the Ifa Oracle?
Basically, some elders might have done that behind the scene. My name originated from Ifa and my late great grandfather was an Ifa priest of high repute. My family would have also consulted Ifa when my late uncle who was a Christian nominated me before they all ratified it. Personally I also did my own spiritual consultation too before I accepted.
Sir, people would like to know your chiefs, according to their hierarchies.
A tree cannot make a forest; the Baale alone cannot be in control of the community that is why it is important to appoint council of chiefs. Lisa is not an exception. We have dutiful chiefs who make it easy for Baale to take decisions and also function very well. Here in Lisa, we are running a government and people can attest to that with the progress we have made within the few years I have been in office as far as the development of the community is concerned.
We have Otun of Lisa, who is next to Baale, Chief Lateef Odugbemi; the Osi, Chief Ishola Sonde; Balogun, Chief Yaya Idowu; Asiwaju, Chief Sikiru Lateef; Odofin, Chief Oladele Popoola; Oluwo, Chief Taiwo Odugbemi; Asipa, Chief Akeem Ogundipe, and Amona, Hon. (Chief) Adeyinka Adefunmiloye. Others are Olori-Odo, Chief Saheed Odugbemi; Bada, Chief jelili Adebimpe; Sarumi, Chief Tajudeen Adebiyi; Akogun, Chief Rauf Asumo; Tayese, Chief Akinwale Akinsola; Akinrogun, Chief Musibau Ogunbare; Oluomo, Chief Musiliu Adebimpe.
Also, we have women among the Council of Chiefs. Among them are Iyalode, Chief (Mrs) Agbeke Edun; Liika, Chief (Mrs) Mulimotu Adebimpe; Iyalaje, Chief (Mrs) Funmilola Abijo, and Iyaloja, Chief (Mrs) Ayodele Olanipekun. We also have chiefs who are assistants to them, they are all very important to the community.
Let’s talk about the cultural heritage of Lisa Community
Naturally, we have three important cultural heritage in the town apart from the individual family heritage. First among them is Oro, each community was founded by virtue of Oro. We used Oro to scare wild animals and evil spirits from the jungle before it becomes habitable for people. There is also Egungun Masquerade called Ajofoyinbo. It was one of the big masquerades usually on display in Abeokuta in the olden days. It was one of our family heritage from Abeokuta. The third was Igunnuko cultural festival brought by my paternal grandmother from Nupe, Igunnuko is more prominent and celebrated than any other festival now. It is usually on display for 13 days during the yearly celebration.
What has the community benefited from the plane crash?
May the souls of the crash victims continue to rest in peace, nobody wished for such a disaster, so may such not happen again. Even though the plane crash has given us a kind of prominence, but I can tell you that not much can be said of government presence here. There have been tremendous developments in terms of opening up the community to the world, which has brought about the influx of people to buy land and build houses. It has increased the population of the community. We have to thank the present government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State who has been listening to our complaints in order to solve some of our problems. For example, a CDC was recently approved for the community as part of our efforts at bringing government and development to the grassroots. Before you can get a CDC, you must have at least 40 functional Community Development Associations (CDAs). These are the people that migrated here after the crash. We have to organize them for purposeful administration and development of the community. We have Ibos, Hausas and foreigners from Ghana and other African countries and we have been living in peace and harmony. There has been massive development especially in the area of communal efforts after the plane crash.
How do you normally settle disputes in the community?
Settlement of disputes is not limited to me alone. If I’m not around, the Otun and other Chiefs meet and settle disputes amicably. If it is a complicated issue that I needed to intervene, they will hear the case and adjourn it till when I come back.
What are the challenges facing Lisa community?
The challenges are majorly in the area of social amenities. We need good roads, good government primary and secondary schools. Our pupils used to trek at least ten kilometers daily before they can get to the nearest government school. We lack police station for security of lives and properties. The nearest police station to us is located at Agbado, which is many kilometers away from Lisa. There are no health centers and hospitals. The nearest hospital to us is at Otta and Ifo. We also lack lock- up stores and modern markets. Generally, there is no government presence in Lisa.
What is the level of progress at the proposed Police Station being put in place by the community?
The police station is about 70 percent completed, so we need more money to be able to put finishing touches. The health center is also at about 90 percent completion. We have run two different programmes at the center anchored by LUTH officials. We have written letters to the Ministry of Health in the state to assist to complete the health facility but they are yet to fulfill their promises. We massively supported and voted for Governor Ibikunle Amosun to ensure his second term victory. He promised to focus on the development of rural areas in his second term. The rural community did not benefit much in his first term. We are holding him to his words, believing that he will deliver on his promises.
What are the expectations of the community in the second term of Governor Ibikunle Amosun?
We are expecting Governor Amosun to fulfill all his promises made during his campaign. He promised us good roads. He said generally that his focus would now be on rural communities in Ogun State.
Monarchs are known for marrying many wives. Are you an exception?
Most of today’s Obas are seasoned administrators and professionals. They don’t have time for keeping wives. It is an individual thing. It is not compulsory that you must marry many wives. Some of the Yoruba Obas today married as devoted Christians. So what matters to them now in this modern day is how to provide purposeful leadership of the community and not keeping wives.
Do you still relate with your childhood friends?
Some of my primary school friends and those we have worked together are still relating till date. We are still cordial. I need my friends for the development of my community; I cannot isolate myself from them.
By next year, you will be ten years on the throne, what has been your experience?
I have garnered so much experience as Baale, So becoming a full-fledged Oba should not be difficult for me to adjust especially as a man from an humble background. It is a good training for me.
You are a very busy person, how do you unwind Sir?
I’m a workaholic but I do relax. As a family man, I like to interact with my immediate family and also extend the same love to the people around me. I read journals, newspapers and surf the internet and then sleep at the appropriate time.