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24 October 2021The Olijebu of Ijebu-Owo in the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State, Oba Kofoworola Ojomo, speaks on his journey to the throne, reign and national issues in this interview with PETER DADACanyou tell us about your background?I was born in the early 40s in Ijebu-Owo. I attended St. Patrick’s Primary School, Ijebu-Owo; Saint James’ School where I finished primary school. I spent some time in Abeokuta at Nawarudeen School, Oke-Jehun before I came back to Owo to school in Imade College where I obtained my West African Senior School Certificate before proceeding to Government College, Ughelli. From Ughelli Government College, I was admitted to Ahmadu Bello University to study Mechanical Engineering and I graduated in 1968. I worked briefly with the then Electricity Corporation of Nigeria. I worked for about six months there before I became a commissioned officer in the Nigerian Army and I served for over 30 years. I was the head of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corp of the Nigerian Army. I was also the Director General of the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria before I was drafted to become the Ojomo Oluda of Ijebu-Owo (now Olijebu of Ijebu-Owo)
Did you grow up knowing you were destined to be king?Well, I would say no because my late father made sure that the idea of being a prince didn’t get into my head. He gave every one of us the opportunity to self-develop by going to school and not getting inflated ideas about ourselves. I, in particular, did not think that this was going to happen. Though I knew that my dad was a prince, aspiring to become the Oba was not in my calculation at all.
Can you briefly tell us about your kingdom?Owo comprises of nine different communities but over time the focus has been on Owo because it is under the political spotlight. Ijebu-Owo and other communities, such as Iyere, Udashen, Ipele, Isuada, Upenme, Uso and Emure-Ile are all Owo people. The ruler of Owo is usually referred to as Ogwa, which in Yoruba has been adulterated to Owa. There was a time that Ogwa Ajagbusi-Ekun reigned and he had three prominent children – Olupona-Ajaka, Adedipe and Oludipe. Following the transition of Ajagbusi-Ekun, Olupona-Ajaka became the Ogwa. Following the transition of Olupona-Ajaka, there had to be a choice between Adedipe and Oludipe to become the king. History told us that the people of Owo preferred Oludipe, the younger prince, to become the Ogwa. But Oludipe said, according to the custom of the land, he would not want a situation where he would be an Ogwa and his elder brother would be coming to him to kneel down and greet him, so he conceded the throne to his elder brother, Adedipe, despite the fact that the people did not like Adedipe. After becoming the Ogwa, Adedipe later decided to create another empire for his younger brother, Oludipe, and that was how Ijebu-Owo came to be an entity on its own. headtopics.com
What informed the recent change in the title of Ojomo Oluda to Olijebu of Ijebu-Owo?There was no change. If you go to any town in Yorubaland the ruler of that place is either called Olu or Oli or something of that nature. So, if the people decide that they want the title Olijebu, they are only emphasising the fact that Ojomo Oluda is the Oba of their community. Except if there is anybody who feels aggrieved by it but I cannot call myself Ojomo Oluda of Akoko area. A lot of people do ask: What is this Ojomo Oluda and its role? Because in some towns, there are titles that are closely related in spelling to Ojomo, some call it Ojomu but they are high chiefs in their own places. There is a need to stress this for people to know in order not to mistake the two names. Ojomo Oluda of Ijebu-Owo is the traditional ruler of Ijebu-Owo.
It is said that Olijebu plays some traditional roles in the enthronement of Olowo of Owo. Can you shed some light on this?Well, the tradition up till date has been that the Olijebu has the final say in the selection of the Ogwa, who has since 1900 been translated to Olowo.
How long have you been on the throne and how challenging is the throne?By the grace of God, I’m over 17 years on this throne. Any challenge you find here is a challenge of leadership. The issue is you are here to act as a leader to everyone. There are Christians, Muslims and people who practise other religions. The Christians would want me to move towards their line, the Muslims would also want me to identify with them and so do the other religions. However, I have to maintain a balance because even if I am a Christian I am not necessarily a Christian Oba; I am an Oba over so many people and so many religions. Some Obas get it wrong. When they call me a Christian Oba, I tell them I am not. When there are crises, an Oba has to look into what a particular religion preaches in order to foster friendship among the people. But I think my training within the military has been a very good asset to me in handling such issues. So, to answer your question properly, I have been enjoying myself.
Is there anything you used to enjoy doing that becoming a king has deprived you of?Initially, I missed the freedom of being able to go out as I like. In the entire town, there is only one place I can go and relax, and that is in the palace of the Olowo of Owo. That is where I can eat and do whatever I like. I have siblings and friends here but I can’t go to their houses and feel free there. Those were the initial challenges and my friends also could not reconcile that sort of a thing. They say in some other places, Obas feel free go to club and so on. Well, I knew what I was getting into before I decided to take it, so I had to comply with our tradition. And over the years, I have got used to everything. headtopics.com
Do you still get in touch with your colleagues in the army?Yes, I am confined but it does not mean that we will not relate. Technology has made it easier. If you want to talk to somebody, even by video chat, they are always there. Moreover, when I have the chance, this place does not prevent me from engaging in recreational activities. I am a golfer, so when we get to the golf course, we relate. I don’t think my people would want an ailing Oba on their throne, so they have not prevented me from doing whatever is necessary for me to keep fit.
Many Yoruba traditional rulers are polygamous. Are you, too?You don’t discuss the private life of an Oba on the pages of a newspaper. So, whatever I am is peculiar to me. Read more: The Punch Newspapers »
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