Smart, intelligent and charming. These are the words that aptly describes the 55th Alara of Ilara Kingdom In Epe, Oba Olufolarin Olukayode Ogunsanwo, TELADE 1V. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, the economist , talked about the journey to the throne, early life, how he joined the Lagos State Civil Service as an Inspector of Taxes in 1991 and rose to the top of his career as Executive Chairman of the revenue agency.
HOW did you emerge as the Oba?
I was selected by the Kingmakers as the 55th Alara of the Ilara Kingdom, this took place due to the demise of my predecessor, His Royal Majesty Alayeluwa, Oba Akeem Okunola Adesanya ll, who joined his ancestors in October 2018 having spent 58 years on the throne. As at the time of joining his ancestors he was the longest reigning monarch in Lagos State. He became the Oba at the age of 16 and he reigned for 58 years, so he passed on at the age of 74. May God continue to bless his soul. After that in November last year, 2019 the Kingmakers requested that it is the turn of my ruling House, which is the Telade Ruling House to produce the next Oba Alara of Ilara Kingdom.
Having received a notice to jump start the process from the state government through the Eredo Local Council Development Authority then eight of us were picked as contestants and the list was forwarded to the Kingmakers in Ilara. The rest as they say is history. I was crowned on Thursday August 6, 2020 and His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu presented me with the Staff of Office and Instrument of Appointment on Sunday August 16th, 2020. History was made that day because the community had just witnessed another installation of a new Oba after 60 years. The elderly and the youths were all excited to see a new king being installed.
Was this an easy decision to make?
It is only God that chooses kings and when he wants to do things he makes everything perfect. So for me, I see it as another call to service having being in service of Lagos for 26 years and rising through the ranks to become the Executive Chairman Lagos State internal Revenue Service. Even my stint in the service, was also a call to duty to assist the government to get revenue for the betterment of citizenry. It is with tax money that most things are done, infrastructure, roads, education, transport, health services and so on. So when the opportunity came and I was called, I prayed about it, I consulted and I said why not, let me go and serve my people. As the Yoruba’s will say ‘Ile la bo, isi mi Oko’ all that we have been trying to do in the service let us come and try it here and see how we move this community forward.
What are the potentials of Ilara Kingdom?
It only takes a visionary leader and someone that has the passion for his people to actually want to be on the right side of history to come and change things and to ensure that the community excels in every aspect. We are blessed here with agriculture, in terms of farming and fishing. We have a lot viable land, good soil, good weather and then we are surrounded by water all over the place, up to the lagoon then to the ocean. So fishing is part of the natural resources that the Almighty God has given to this community.
There is a huge potential also for tourism here, and then we have a lot of human capital resources as well. We have capable hands; we have people that are well read. And if we all join hands together and put our heads together, I want to believe that this community will become a mini London where everybody will want to be and the community will be very, very proud of. So part of what we intend to do is to partner with the Lagos State government, through The THEMES AGENDA of Mr. Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
What plans do you have for young people?
The empowerment of youth is also very key. We will also try and see that we assist our children to continue to be educated and not only educating them but also to be self-reliant. This is because you can’t wait for the government to do everything for you. So with that we intend to create some vocational institutions where when our children go to school during the day and at the weekend they can come back to learn some things. Things like renewable energy, welding, art works since we intend to also go into tourism development, so that they will be able to create some art works that can be sold. And we also look at areas where modern techniques of producing or providing farm products.
For instance, if you have a cassava farm, it is not only to be producing that cassava and be selling but we can have an industry, a kind of cottage industry that can use the cassava to produce garri. We are Ijebus here and all of you know what they call garri Ijebu. These are things that we are known for even our fishing industry also, we want to see how we can micro manage it in such a way that we can preserve the fish and we can package it in such a way that we can even begin to export to other neighbouring countries and internally within Nigeria.
You have lived in the city for so long, aren’t you going to miss this?
When you came in here didn’t you see that there is a lot of peace around here away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos? Everything is fresh here, the ambiance and everything is just great, and everything is just fresh. So, those are some of the things that people don’t know that they can enjoy here. With all the road networks that the government is doing now, this will be the next place that people can actually come and live. And once the government is able to put the 4th Mainland Bridge and improve on the multi modal transport facilities: the use of water, land and by road, people can move from one end of the state to another. So many people can actually live here and be working in Lagos and it will decongest Lagos.
Why did you study Economics at the university?
I actually wanted to study accounting but when I took my JAMB exams, I don’t know how my file got to economics department and I was given that admission straight away at first batch. As an economist, you will be a manager of resources. As if God knows that I will still get to this point of becoming a King. I even had to acquire a master’s degree in economy. So, I have no regrets as well that I studied economy and I can tell you that economy is a bit more dynamic.
What has changed about you, now that you are an Oba?
I have been my normal self even up till now nothing has changed. A friend sent a congratulatory message to me. We attended primary school at the same time in Ibadan and he started saying things like from my young age, I have always lived and comported myself like a king. That everything about me, the aura radiates that of a king and that there is no quality that they are looking for in a king that I don’t have. Even my past experiences made me realised that this is divine.
What was it like growing up?
Actually I was born in Ibadan; my parents were working in Ibadan then, even though my dad was born in this community. I grew up in Ibadan but every year we come home for Sallah. My parents were Moslems, they were born Moslems though they converted to Christianity later. So we used to come home for Ileya just like the period that just past, and each time we come home, I remember those days, we will go to the stream to fetch water. We go to swim in the river and all those things, so each year I always look forward to it. I am in love with the community, I am very, very proud to come from this community, I love my people and I have always been coming home. I built a country home here and I didn’t know God was preparing me ahead. So, like I said everything was divine.
Tell us about your favourite food?
I think amala is my best meal. I also like pounded yam with vegetable and I like yam and eggs as well. Maybe fried eggs or steamed one.
How do you relax when you are not working?
I enjoy traveling, I enjoy reading, I like to read a lot and I enjoy listening to music. I am more of an academic.
What genre of music appeals to you?
I like Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Orlando Owoh and I like Wasiu Ayinde.
Can we say that Kabiyesi is very stylish?
I have always been a conservative dresser. I love to wear suits to the office as a corporate man… And when I am wearing my native I am a bit detailed about it too.
Now that you are Oba what is going to be your signature?
White is good, blue is good. White is purity and blue is peace. My dressing will always go along that line, you know white and then blue and at times you just want to mix the thing, I don’t believe in dressing expensively but I like very decent way of dressing.
Being a public person now you might have lost some privacy, how are you going to manage it?
I have always been a private person, even with the throne you can see that it is a very, very traditional stool. There are certain things I can’t do definitely anymore. That is what the throne demands and I have accepted it.
How has the community been coping with the impact of COVID-19 ?
We held some palliative programmes, at a point even when the pandemic was really on during the lockdown. We had to come down to do some palliative for all the communities around here, and they are have been very, very grateful and I will continue to do that for our people by the special grace of God. Because you can see that it is purely an agrarian community where people have very low level of income. So while we are trying to bring development to the community we also see how we can assist, particularly the young ones, the widows and then the elderly within our community.
Recently, you were honoured with the Honourary Doctorate degree by the European-American University of Commonwealth of Dominica?
I feel highly honoured and elated to be honoured with Honorary Doctorate Degree of Arts by the –European- American University of the Commonwealth of Dominica. You don’t know that people are watching your actions or inactions and they give honour to whom it is due at the appropriate time.
The honour is what I continue to cherish for the rest of my life very because it came at a time that i just ascended the throne and will be a constant reminder of my responsibility and pact with my subjects.
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