‘Ooni will tell our story to the world with Irinkerindo’
It is the second anniversary of His Imperial Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ile-Ife. There are no fanfares in the media but something outstanding took place. With Ile’ya Omo Oodua festival in its second year, it seems the revered king is determined to move from the norm of pomp, glitz and ceremony heralding such occasions to create a unique platform with the festival. Wale Williams, the coordinator of the festival, considers himself an emissary of the revered king. He has a masters in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos and is well versed in the act of integrated marketing. He coordinated the Oyo festival in 2009 and Samodun fiesta in 2013 for state government. He is also vast in international franchises and has distinguished himself in brand creation and management. In this interview with Segun Ladokun, he speaks on this and other issues.
Why do you consider yourself an emissary of Kabiyesi, the Ooni of Ife?
Emissaries are representatives of a king sent to deliver important messages across the world. They carry weights like Ambassadors but no offices as they do. This has been in existence since creation of the world and long before democracy.
Kabiyesi’s focus since climbing the stool of our progenitor, Oduduwa is enormous but not daunting and you can count them on your fingers. One, expose the importance of who we are as Yoruba’s, two ensure peace at all levels amongst all Yoruba monarchies considering their importance to our unity, three, make the youths the focal point of progress, four, reach out to all descendants of Yoruba now identified in about 80 countries of the world and with a rising population of 500million, and five, bring them home and foster economic opportunities amongst all. Kabiyesi has taking his time to spread this gospel. He is using many of us to ensure that this dream becomes reality. The psyche must change from negative to positive and cohesion. I don’t know where he gets his vigour from but I can tell you that the gospel is spreading. Ileya Omo Oodua festival is just a tool in achieving all the stated points and I am only grateful for being giving the opportunity to serve.
Was that part of what you were doing with your recent travel to the USA?
Wale: Yes. Incredible achievements actually. Kabiyesi sent us to the Governor of Pennysylvania, Governor Tom Wolfe, we visited the Cheney University, the oldest black institution in the United States where we have secured an exchange programme for Nigerian youths, we have a Philadelphia hospital who is giving us a free 40 foot container of drugs, furniture and equipment. The hospital is also ready to send a team of medical personel down once a year on medical vacation. We met with the operator of Saxbys coffee franchise, a unique youth franchise targeted at empowering youths with a strategic system of employing to become entreprenuers. We had vital discussions with the Black caucuses in both the State senate and House of Reps of Pennysylvania. They want Kabiyesi to deliver a message at a joint session this year. We had an agreement with an international events company and I can assure you we will be having a USA arm of ileya omo Oodua festival this 2018 in four major cities of Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, South Carolina. Kabiyesi also sent us to the University of Pennysylvania where we invited the university and their museum to send a team to Ife for carbon testing and dating of artefacts. We want to back our claims with documented facts from a world rated institution. Kabiyesi is determined to open the region and the country to the world and bring awareness to our uniqueness as a race.
But all these are not fully in the public domain. Why haven’t you publicize these achievements?
You know there is a massive difference between interpersonal communication and mass communication. While mass communication can be massive and weak, interpersonal is slow but strong. Last year we had two diasporans attending the festival, this year we had fourteen who went through the REBIRTH process and became full-fledged descendants of Oduduwa with certificates to back it. These fourteen persons have lit up the social media and we are already assured of over 50 for 2018. While they were around, they spent monies buying little gifts, clothings, eating local delicacies and putting money in the pockets of the minutest of SMEs. On the awards level, key descendants are being recognized and they have a buy in into the Ooni’s positive project. This year we had Professor Chris Bode, the chief medical director of LUTH, chief Alex Ajippe, a young budding entrepreneur doing wonders in Ondo, Dr (prophet) Olakanmi of the Onala parish and a host of others all with incredible records and positive outlook. It has been slow, expensive, positive and very rewarding in terms of achievements. With these massive results in two years, we are not just looking at sponsors, we are looking at investors. There is a big opportunity for foreign direct investment (fdi) here. But we welcome positive supports
Tell us about this new project called IRINKERINDO?
Wale: IRINKERINDO is a reality project targeted at fostering youths involvement and participation in the growth of Yorubaland. It is a project determined to tell our story to our youths using the power of involvement. We need to move away from the formal story telling format that has not helped in strengthening our history leading to denials even amongst our person. It will touch of selflessness, philanthropy and knowledge of our rich history. There will be one main winner with 4 sub winners. The winner will be called Aare Ife (King of the youths), while there will be Balogun Aare, Otun Aare, Osi Aare and Iyalode. For one year, the winners will run a palace that will interface with youths on behalf of His Imperial Majesty. For one year, this palace will run with the royals operating developmental project on behalf of kabiyesi. The whole process of the competition will be exciting and very involving for a lot of youths. We will be expecting more than 5000 youths who will be directly involved. This will open up the ancient city and allow our youths appreciate our history. In the past, before the kabiyesi became Ooni, histories about Ile-Ife have been whitewashed to a point that parents warn their children not to visit Ife during the period of Olojo festival. But things are different now. When the comes out once a year during Olojo festival, it is a period for people to pray and ask for anything from Olodumare because Kabiyesi goes into seclusion for 7 days praying and fasting before he wears the crown, the angels come out and guide us and those who pray and ask, receive. Last year the crowd was big, this year’s Olojo witnessed a mammoth crowd. We are still trying to figure out how kabiyesi will walk with the crown next year looking at the growing crowd.
But the story is that people are usually sacrificed during the festival?
Wale: (Laughs) it is the harm we do to ourselves and our rich history. We spend time to malign our history and rely so much on others history to explain who we are. You see if you ask many they will tell you the Ooni should not be seen and don’t agree with his many travels. But none of them have been to Ife of late. Many also forget that Queen Elizabeth spent her early years on the throne to go around the world to build networks and ensure that many countries remain linked to the monarchy. It led to many of us believing more in the British passport than ours. Do you know how much money is generated annually from people visiting the Buckingham Palace? Billions of pounds? The next king after Queen Elizabeth will not need to work so hard anymore. Buckingham palace is just an exquisite architectural design. Ife has exquisite historical points. We are bringing attention to that. Let me also talk about King Leopold II of Belgium. He killed more than 30million blacks in Congo and frittered away our wealth to build Belgium. Today, many of our people visit Belgium on tourism and take pictures at these inglorious points dripping with our brothers’ bloods and we don’t flinch at this but spend time to malign ourselves and people trying to bring positive awareness to who we are. We cannot arrogate solitude to our monarchies and when we are bashed or called barbaric we begin to get angry. It is time we tell our own story and bring the world to their birth place, Ile-Ife.
And that is what IRINKERINDO and Ileya Omo Oodua hopes to achieve?
Yes. IRINKERINDO as a reality event plans to use the youth as the weapon of change, of progress. Kabiyesi will tell a story and refer to a missing artefact. The youths are to search for it in a massive jungle, the person that finds it will be the Aare-Ife for one year. But the process of search is actually the minute part of the whole project. The process of selecting individuals or groups from amongst the youths in itself is unique. The selfless project they will be involved in and the process of charity with as minimal as N10, 000 will actually reawaken that ‘be our brothers’ keeper’ notion that is part of who we are. Our youths will discover that life can be changed with as little as N10,000. It is not yet uhuru for the person or group that finds the hidden artifact. The process of returning to Ile-Ife in itself is another challenge. Our hope is to ensure that for very edition, more than 500 new young businesses will be developed amongst our youths. We want to tell our story and whip up that entrepreneurship spirit in our youths. I don’t think you are aware that there is the Aje (wealth) shrine in Ife. This is where the art of business was started. The winner will go home with a great gift, companionship and will tell the world of who we are.
Sounds interesting. When do you plan this event?
First quarter of this year by his grace.
What is your advice to the federal government on monarchies? Should there be a place for them in governance?
I think any government should not push them aside at all. And im being honest. Today, because of the high level of corruption even our own citizens outside the country malign our politicians and don’t respect them when they meet them outside the country. Our politicians themselves are not confident and have to behave themselves. I have shared tubes in London underground with more than five of our leading politicians before since year 2000, they always look brow beating. When Ooni lands at any airport, our citizens out there become proud. Foreigners regale at the beauty of our tradition. Imagine the Edo state government sponsoring the Oba of Benin to visit Europe. Wow, the effect will be massive. We have so many monarchies too in Nigeria that also command this kind of respect. I think government should select some of these strong royal leaders that command this kind of effect and allow them foster and woo investors to Nigeria. It is uncommon, direct and confident building. The renaming process of our diaspora brothers and sister that came for the Ileya omo oodua festival was a marvel to them. Two of them actually wept and said so much about the effect they have about coming home. Imagine these people coming every year and bringing more people. There was something one of them said that continues to ring bells in my ears. He said ‘everywhere we go, people are just smiling, and it is very welcoming.’
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