Friday, May 13, 2016 1:29 pm
Pioneer General Secretary of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), who is currently Omola of Imala, in Abeokuta North Local Government of Ogun State, His Royal Majesty, OBA (APOSTLE) MOSES ADELANI ADEGBOYEGA OLABODE, ODUNFA II, MNI, spoke with GBENRO ADESINA about the recently created Local Council Development AUTHORITY, LCDA, in Ogun and clarifies certain historical issues relating to his town.
Q: Kabiyesi, as I entered your palace, the first thing that caught my attention is the picture of Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, conspicuously displayed. What is the relationship between the two of you?
A: Oyo Empire is the source of Imala. We are a direct descendant of Alaafin. Imala people migrated from Oyo town between 14 and 15 century and settled where we are today. The truth is that we are Oyo people who settled in this part of Nigeria. An Imalian has a dual citizenship in Nigeria. They are Imalians in Ogun State and they are Oyos who settled in Ogun State. So, whether they are here or there, they are at home. Any of them that relocates back to Oyo is entitled to the rights and privileges of Oyo town and by extension Oyo State because that is our origin by nature and creation. I am sure that it will interest you that the crown of Imala is from Alaafin. So, we are all the children of Alafin. The history, intelligent report and other documents state that we are descendant of Oyo and we are kith and kin of Alaafin. We are children of Alaafin. Imala crown was obtained, granted and approved in 1803 by Alaafin. This is an extension of Oyo town and that is why you will not see Alaafin allowing anything bad to happen to us. Have you seen a father allowing anything to happen to his children? No. I am confident that there is nothing Alaafin cannot do for this town. I am also sure that the whole of Abeokuta province up to Benin Republic was Oyo Empire in those days. We are the true sons of Alaafin and we are the first representatives of Alafin within this area. Imala people who want to go back to Oyo can and such will be accorded the full rights of Oyo indigeneship. As I am telling you now, we have our own quarters, Alowo-esin in Oyo and we also have it here. Alaafin is the royal father of Omola. We have Alowo-Esin quarters in Oyo as we have it here.
Former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu brought a twist to the local government administration in Nigeria when he created LCDA in Lagos to technically increase the councils in Lagos. Other states are copying him. Against its criticism, how do you see the incursion of LCDA into our system?
Tinubu has proved himself as a rare leader that is difficult to come by. He is not a selfish leader and he has sacrificed a lot for this country and Africa by extension. Many of us do not appreciate him now. As the saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it and no prophet is appreciated in his homeland. Whenever I see Tinubu, I remember late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. These are rare politicians who are guided only by the interest of their people.
What Tinubu did in Lagos is still a reference point in Nigeria and that is what other state governors are copying now because he brought government to the doorsteps of the nooks and crannies of Lagos State by the creation of LCDA. He is a great reformer of time. He is a politician with good vision and mission. He should be appreciated for introducing LCDA into our political system.
How do you see the recently created LCDA in Ogun State?
I see it as a welcome development. It simplifies the creation of councils in Nigeria. This is the only way the state government can bring development to the grassroots and address lots of injustice that arises in the area of local government creation which favour some geo-political zone than the others.
In your own opinion, which level of the government should be saddled with the creation of local government?
Ideally, if we are to go by what is practiced in civilized nations, creation of local government should be the statutory responsibility of the state government. This will take care of lots of things and settle some political issues which are unhealthy for the nation.
The development of the state lies with the state government. The state government knows the areas to group together and makes a council. It has a practical knowledge of the number of councils the state should have. With the state, there should not be excessive councils or inadequate councils. Then unhealthy politics surrounding the creation of council is addressed.
So, can we describe its present status as anomaly?
No system is perfect. Only God is perfect. But the creation of local government by the Federal Government is abnormal and misnomer.
I learnt that there was Oke-Ogun Local Government with headquarters in Imala, what led to its demise?
It is one of those things in a system with abnormal kind of system like that of Nigeria. We have suffered a lot of unfair and injustice in this part of the country. Imala is an ancient town which is the only province in Ogun State during the colonial period that this injustice is done to for whatever reason. It was the military government that cancelled all the local government created by the civilian administration and we were affected. Afterward, we had Abeokuta enlarged local government which was later divided into Abeokuta South and North which Imala is part and parcel of.
But let me say this, it may interest you that we first had a local government administration in 1947 when the colonial master created Imala Native Authority with headquarters in Imala. It was recognized as a unique settlement because it predates the settlement of the Egba in this part of the country. History has it that while Imala was established between 13 and 14 century, Egba came in to be in 1830, which is 19th century. In 1954, Awolowo created Imala District Council with Imala as headquarters, encompassing Ibara, Ilewo and Isaga axis. Later Governor Olabisi Onabanjo created Oke-Ogun Local Government around 1979 and 1983.
Can you tell us the effect of cancelling the local government by the military?
It is better imagined than said. With the local government then, developments had started trickling in. The town had started developing with people coming in but the moment it was cancelled, everything just standstill. Go round, it is like they are not part of Nigeria. Before I came to the throne, there was no single hospital apart from the old maternity home built by western region. The road in the town was constructed by Awolowo in the 1950s. No portable water, nothing.
The withdrawal has a lot of effect because it was a real setback for this place. We lost out in the area of development from all ramifications even the adjourning towns and cities including intruders have been encroaching our land but we are resisting them. Our rights are denied and stolen. Progress, nil. The cancellation of the local government affected us too badly and for decades, till dates, governments presence is quite far. The action brought regression to this community.
But why was it not restored when Abacha created local government?
A: Abacha set up the Mbanefo commission of enquiry to look into local government administration and correct all the imbalances the military created. We were part of those that submitted memorandum and we knew that Oke-Ogun was among the local governments recommended and approved by the Abacha Regime. By the time Abacha announced the local government created during his era, Oke-Ogun has been removed. Its removal till today is a mystery. At this junction, we want to thank the government of Governor Ibikunle Amosun who is bringing it to life again as one of the LCDAs. We are very hopeful that if justice is done, Oke-Ogun will come back to life and its headquarters will be domiciled in its old Imala home. We equally believe that Obada market in Idiemi which is part of Imala will be retained.
Why must the headquarters be in Imala?
Oke-Ogun Local Government has always been domiciled in Imala. Why will the present administration change it? Since 1947, Oke Teshiri has been the home of the council and it can’t be changed now. To take it elsewhere will be the most unfair, and unjust that any government can do to Imala. No government will want to do that.
Afon LCDA is struggling to have Obada, what do you have to say?
I think we have made our case known to the relevant government agencies that Obada has never been part of Afon Local Government. I will give you some documents before you leave. There have been agitations here and there. There is court judgment that has settled the case long time ago. There have been many issues relating to it and even as at now, the distance between the boundary of present day Imeko Afon Local Government and Abeokuta North Local Government is about two kilometers. How then do you want to jump?
Government is not going to change the boundaries that have already existed but create LCDA within the existing local government and maintain the boundary within the local government. It is strange and can’t be explained. It is not justifiable because the land belongs to Imala and nobody can take it. It was when Imala won the case that they went and created Owode Market which is Owode Afon Local Government many years ago. Why now do they want to claim what doesn’t belong to them.
Since you came to the throne, to what extent can you say that Imala as a town has enjoyed government presence?
I have tried within my capacity to ensure that the government presence is felt. It was during my period that the divisional police headquarters which was taken away was restored, we have model health centre built by the federal government. I know that the government of Amosun is trying to extend projects to our area.
Q: Can you mention some of the projects?
A: One of the projects is agric multimillion naira project which is between Tibo and Imala area here.
Q: There is no motorable road in Imala. The major road constructed by Awolowo in 1950s has been washed away by erosion. What do you have to say?
A: The problem of roads and infrastructural development is not limited to Imala but nationwide problem. We have had it so bad but things are changing. I must say that the road linking here from Abeokuta down to Ilara which is a boundary between Nigeria and Benin Republic is a federal road. You know within the state, the government of Amosun is trying to do a lot and I think they are trying to readjust. Amousn has realized that the only road entering our town is bad and he has told us that it has been enlisted among the priority projects to be executed before the expiration of his tenure. I believe the Federal Government will also rise up to the occasion and come and rehabilitate and construct their own portion from Abeokuta to the border of Benin Republic so that we can enjoy good roads. Most of the investors that are willing to come and invest here, their major headache is the road. The government of Amosun has repeatedly assured us and we know that he is a man of his words.
Q: I learnt that during his campaign in the first term, he promised that if he wins, he would construct this road and the people gave him their votes but he failed in his promise. He has promised again as you said, are you so sure that this time, he will live up to his words like a credible person?
A: Let us be fair to him. We have no course to doubt him because we know that he is a man of his words, a through breed professional and administrator and he is not just an ordinary politician, he always meant his words. We know that he will do it. Work will soon start.
Q: What are the resources you have that the government can partner with you?
A: Land for agriculture. We have mineral resources deposit in our area and we are trying as a community not to allow illegal miming and that is why we need to partner with government at federal and state level for exploration of solid mineral in our own territory.
We need assistance in the area of exploration to know where minerals of what quality, quantity and nature that will make Nigeria become centre of attraction in the world of solid mineral resources. So, we need government quick intervention to come and do very highly state of art exploration to know because we know that we have very high deposit of solid minerals.
A: Vesper, caoline, coas, life stones and others.
Q: Could you clarify the controversies over the status of Imala whether it is Egba or Yewa?
A: There is no controversy at all. Those who are making the controversy are making it because they lack knowledge of history. All of us that migrated from Oyo and settled here are once known as Egbados. What is Egbado? The true meaning of Egbado is that the people who settled the Egbas. “Awon re fegbado”, meaning that they are the one who settled the Egbas when they came. Some people who lack sense of history have even be peddling unfounded rumour that we Egbado change our name to Yewa because we do not want to be seeing as an extension of Egba. The reason why we change our name to Yewa is far from that. We didn’t change our name from Egbado to Yewa because of the erroneous believe that we are an extension of Egba. No. We change the name in 1995 so as to maintain a common identity among all kith and kin in the western part of Ogun State. According to a renowned Professor of History in Nigeria, Professor Anthony Asiwaju, the decision was to reflect the affinity the people share with their domain through the Yewa River, as research conducted among the inhabitants of the area, showed that they had no ancestral link to the strange name known as Egbado. The people, who constituted Yewa Division of Ogun state, can now explore their common identity through unity in diversity to form a common front for the socio-economic and political emancipation of their domain and by extension the state.
Q: How did they settle the Egbas?
A: When the Egbas came here, they met the Egbados and they had to knock and said that we wanted to stay with you. And the Egbados said, ok, stay. They gave them where they stayed, Abeokuta and other areas they occupied. That is the true history and anybody that wants to controvert it will have to do lot of works to turn lies into truth. We are the original land owner of what constitute Abeokuta. Then, when the colonial masters were arbitrarily partitioning Nigeria for easy administration, they came up with Egba and Egbado divisions and because we are at the centre, we were grouped among the Egba division. There are three main components around here: Egba, Egbados now Yewas and the Aworis. Take for instance, history has it that Owus originated from Orile-Owu in Osun State. They are Owus in Abeokuta. We are full fledged Yewas but we are in Egba division. Imala is in Egba division not under Egba division. Culturally and traditionally, we are Yewa. Those who are saying that Egbado is an extension of Egba have lost their sense of history. How can Egbados who settled the Egbas be an extension of Egbas? We came first before the Egbas. Odun Ifa, the first who was Omola when Egbas came was the 7th Omola. Imala is Yewa community in Abeokuta North Local Government.
Q: What do you want to say to the Imalians spread across the globed?
A: My advice is that they should come home and develop their father land for their own benefits and the benefits of children unborn.