By Gabriel Omonhinmin
The Olowo of Owo is a paramount Yoruba king of Owo, a city in Ondo State, South-West Nigeria, which used to be the capital of Yoruba land between 1400 and 1600 AD.
Oba Ojugbelu Arere, was the first Olowo of Owo Kingdom. He was the direct descendant of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. Oduduwa is known up till now, as the father of the Yoruba people.
The current Olowo of Owo Kingdom, His Imperial Majesty, Alayeluwa, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III, is the 32nd paramount ruler of Owo Kingdom.
The name Owo means ‘Respect”. Owo was coined out of the tremendous respect the former British imperialists had for the first Olowo of Owo Kingdom, who was said to have carried and conducted himself with a lot of dignity to the admiration of the British Colonial Masters.
From the 29th Olowo of Owo, Oba Adekola Ogunoye II, who reigned from (1968 to 1993) it took the Ogunoye ruling house of Owo Kingdom 26 years to regain the exalted throne of the Olowo of Owo, with the ascension of the current Olowo of Owo on July 2019.
Before Olowo Gbadegesin Ogunoye III ascension to the throne, the Olowo stool used to be fiercely contested and highly acrimonious, occasionally resulting to a pocket of violence. Surprisingly for the very first time, in several centuries, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye III, selection and enthronement as the 32nd Olowo of the ancient city of Owo, was peaceful and cordial to the admiration of Palace Watchers. For once the whole Kingdom was in harmony as to Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye III enthronement.
For three years before Saturday, April 16, 2022, Palace Watch was on the trail of Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye III, just to have a chat with him, on sundry issues, especially matters concerning his enthronement, and the day to day running of the Kingdom. Palace Watch interview with the highly respected Kabiyesi goes thus:-
Palace Watch: Kabiyesi, Congratulations once again over your rancour free selection and enthronement as the Olowo of Owo Kingdom. What would you say is the secret behind the whole ancient Kingdom of Owo queuing behind your selection and enthronement, especially when people of Owo Kingdom are not known to agree easily on the selection of a single individual as Olowo. But in your own case, the whole town queued behind you. What was the magic?
Olowo: This is not a fair question to ask me. I would suggest, you direct this question to the good people of Owo Kingdom, who graciously made me their King. They will be in a position to tell you, why they all agreed for the very first time in several centuries, to endorse my candidature and enthronement.
I must, however, confess that I am honoured and humbled by the love, trust and utmost good faith my people of Owo displayed during the processes that lead to my eventual enthronement as the 32nd Olowo of Owo Kingdom. I’m eternally grateful to all of them and I promised to continue to do my very best, to make Owo Kingdom much better than I met it.
If you must know, I have never been distant from my people right from my formative years as a young man, up till this present moment that I occupy the throne of Owo Kingdom. I had my primary and secondary education in Owo town, even when I went to the University for further studies, I maintained regular contacts with my people and the town. When I began to work, I did not go too far from them, although I was based in Akure, I regularly frequented Owo. Hardly any week passes that I will not be in Owo. Although I was not a money bag, I had on several occasions genuinely intervened in the lives and well-being of my people. As the essence of life is to be able to do something meaningful to other people’s lives.
Owo Kingdom is unique in its own way, whoever emerges as the Olowo of Owo, must be a Prince, who is a direct descendant of Olowo Elewuokun. Olowo is selected after the Ifa has been duly consulted. A sitting Olowo of Owo Kingdom is assisted by appointed Chiefs collectively known as Edibo Ologho and other Chiefs such as the Sashere, Ojumu Odo, Elerewe Ayida, Ajana Atelukoluko, the Ifa priest of Owo Kingdom and the Akowa lyoja, who is the head of Chiefs in Iloro quarters of Owo, all have role to play in the processes that throw up an Olowo of Owo Kingdom.
According to Owo traditions, the Olowo is often appointed by king-makers, Omolowo’s after which the Iloro Chiefs under the leadership of Akowa Iloja played a significant role in the king installations. In my case, out of the 16 King-makers, Omolowos, 15 voted for me, while one voted against me. The reason why the one, who voted against me did so, was quite known and understandable. He was an in-law to the family of the immediate past Olowo of Owo, Olateru Olagbegi. We have long moved past all this. The Kingdom is now one united indivisible Kingdom, and we are all forging ahead for the general good of our people and the kingdom.
Palace Watch: Kabiyesi, before your ascension to the throne, Owo town and its environ had this peculiar problem where majority of its youths belong to different secret cults. This was like a scourge, as there were lots of killings almost every other day in Owo town and its surroundings. It was indeed a big problem then. How did you resolve this problem?
Olowo: Well, as you rightly pointed out, this secret cult thing among our youths then, was a major problem we needed to tackle frontally, and that is exactly what we did. Our approach, in solving this problem, was multi-dimensional. We began solving this problem traditionally and adopted other methods and approaches. All cumulatively help to bring about the relative peace we are having today in the Kingdom. Although the daily killing of innocent souls, which was most unacceptable to us then had reduced drastically, we are not resting, we will continue to do our very best to ensure the safety of lives and properties in the Kingdom.
Sometime back, the youths involved in these secret cults came out in droves and renounced their membership of these cults, and surrendered their weapons, there were about 3,000 of them. This brought about the much needed peace in our kingdom. Although we are very happy that the children involved eventually heard our plea to renounce their cult membership, it wasn’t just a tea party to get them to surrender their arms. We must thank the Ondo State Government who went into collaboration with us, to achieve this fit.
In a deliberate effort to engage these children after they have renounced their membership of these secret cults and keep them permanently busy, the Ondo State Government decided to establish the Jugbere farm settlements.
These children were in the process given plots of land and money to cultivate various crops. They were already doing very well, when the Fulani herdsmen nefarious activities came to upturn the enormous gains we have already made. These herdsmen went about kidnapping, rapping, killing and destroying the farms these children were giving huge sums of money to cultivate. This has led to most of them abandoning these farms as we speak.
In spite of this very painful development, we are still appealing and pleading with some of them to be focused.
Let me therefore seize this opportunity to appeal to the Federal Government to do everything within its powers to halt for once the reckless adventure and menace of these Fulani herders, who have made our immediate environment very unsafe. As the saying goes, the idle hand is the devil’s workshop.
The Fulani herders have again succeeded in making our youths idle. Our youths need to be fully engaged for them to be productive and useful to themselves and the society where they live. A deliberate effort must be made by the Federal alongside state governments across the country to keep our children busy. The only way to achieve this, is through the establishment of cottage industries, small and medium scale industries across the country, as this is one of the ways to fast track the economic growth of the nation at large. It is a known fact, that the government alone can’t provide these industries, but the government at all levels need to provide the necessary incentives, policies that will attract and encourage the private sectors to queue into their programmes.
For these dreams to be actualized and flourished, we need to have regular power supply, good road network and drinkable water supply as these are the incentives that act as the bedrock for any economy to grow. Once these facilities are in place, especially regular and constant power supply, artisans and other small and medium enterprises in the country, will be able to function maximally to the benefit of our people and to the nation at large.
Above all other things, what is required for any nation to have direct foreign investment is security and regular power supply. Once these things are in place, they attract better direct foreign investment than portfolio investments.
Palace Watch: I am told that some gold deposits have been discovered in very large quantities in your Kingdom. What is happening to these gold deposits in your kingdom? Is the Federal Government now manning it?
Olowo: I can’t say categorically, that the Federal Government is the one manning the gold deposit discovered in Jegbere areas of my kingdom. What is known is that, there are lots of illegal Miners at work in this area of the state. They are alleged to be Fulani men. We the indigenes can’t go near the place, to see the level of activities there, because the people involved in this illegal mining are heavily armed and fortified. The illegal activities in these areas have gotten so bad, that, we are told that helicopters do occasionally land in these places in our forest to evacuate the gold they are manning illegally.
All the illegal activities are bastardized the nation’s economy on daily basis and they are never accounted for. And the large majority of our people are suffering living in penury in the midst of plenty. Hence, we are pleading to the Federal Government to do something urgent to stop this assault on our natural resources before our people decide to take the laws into their hands to protect their lives, their properties and their God given natural resources.
Palace Watch: We are again approaching another election year in 2023. Politicians are known to move around Palaces making promises they do not fulfill to traditional rulers and their people. What are your expectations as far as the forthcoming general election is concerned?
Olowo: By virtue of my position as a first class traditional ruler, I am apolitical. I do not have any special expectation or special interest in politics, other than good governance that will be beneficial to the generality of my people.
From what is obvious to all the people in the country, in the past six to seven years, the majority of Nigerians have been suffering. All the problems that resulted in present day excruciating hardship of our people cannot be put squarely on the doorstep of the present administration at the center. It is the ripple effect of the cumulative bad leadership we have had over the years in the country.
Our main concern now, as Nigerians, is not to apportion blame to any government, past or present. Now, we will be having another opportunity in four years to pick a President, who will help navigate the country’s economy from the woods. This is therefore no time to begin to think of political party or parties. It is the general interest and well-being of Nigerians that should be paramount to all. We must therefore, join hands to look for a person, who has the vision, experience and leadership background and qualities to lead Nigeria at this critical time of our national development.
My appeal therefore, is for all well-meaning Nigerians to join hands in electing a person, who will see the country out of its present economic and political quagmire. Once this is done, we all shall have a country to be called our own, and will be happy once again as a people.
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