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How I abandoned medical practice for community service, by Oba of Iragberi

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Oba Makanju of Iragberi and the Oluwo of Iwo at a palace ceremony

Iragberi located a few kilometres from Ede, Osun State, is an agrarian community, growing crops including rice, cocoa, coffee, cassava, maize, beans, yam, kola nuts, among others.

The progenitor of the town and the first king was Oba Akoni-Agogo. Historically, the said Oba emigrated from Effon Alaye, now in Ekiti State and took the traditional title of, ‘Arageri’ meaning: “The Thunder (ARA) Conquers (gbori).

The current Aragberi of Iragberi is Dr. Folorunsho Agboade Makanju known as Ilufamiloye Osunsoko 1.

On Saturday, July 7, 2018, the agrarian town witnessed massive influx of visitors from all walks of life, including over 60 traditional rulers. It was a day, the Oba gave out his daughter, Princess Anna Adeola Makanju, in marriage to a white American, Alexander Joseph.

The American groom came with a large delegate aside his parents, Dr. Charles Francis Denny and Mrs. Carol Hoffner Denny.

The Ooni of Ife, as expected, was the father of the day, while the Oluwo of Iwo, alongside other Obas played supporting roles.

The Aragberi in a chat with The Guardian disclosed how he ascended the throne and his contribution to the development of Iragberi

Why did you leave your highflying job as medical director in the Federal Ministry of Defence to ascend the throne of Iragberi?
Things are not just as simple as they tend to look. I was really enjoying my job in the Ministry of Defence, as I also had the opportunity to consult for so many international organisations, when I was called to the throne. After much pressure, I finally bowed to the people’s will and came home to be an Oba. I must confess

I was enjoying my job at the Ministry of Defence, as a trained surgeon.

There are many reasons that made me bow to the pressure of my people; one of which is, Iragberi is an ancient town with a very powerful history. For 25 years, we had an interregnum; there was no king. During the interregnum, so many things happened and the town was almost relegated to the background. Some people seized the opportunity of our problems to assume powers that never belonged to them. While all these wrongs were going on, my people were doing all within their powers to persuade me to come home and assume the position of the Oba. I honestly did not find this pressure funny, as I was so much interested in my medical practice; as at that time I was consulting for about 25 hospitals in Lagos, apart from my work at the Military hospital.

At some point, I was the Chief Consultant and E-Surgeon to the Presidency, during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida. I began to give in when I was consistently reminded of the history of my grandfather, Osunsoko. It was that history that made me to take the title, Osunsoko 1. Osunsoko was not only very powerful and rich; he had a lot of mystical powers. It was for his greatness that neighbouring towns till date eulogise his attributes. But instead of Osunsoko, my grandfather assumed the throne of Iragberi when it was his time. He believed that his powers were much greater than ascending the throne of Iragberi, so he refused to ascend the throne. So, when my people came to me and recounted all this, I just couldn’t fathom why I should leave my lucrative medical practice in Lagos to become the Oba of Iragberi. This was on for six months, even someone from Iragberi came to me in Lagos and said: “Look as powerful and rich as your grandfather Osunsoko was, he never got to the throne of Iragberi, now people are saying, they think the people from your lineage are destined never to assume the Obaship of Iragberi. If this assumption is not correct, why should they be asking you to come and ascend the title of your forefathers and you refused.” It was that very day, something struck me, and I consulted a few of my friends, who advised I take the offer, adding that it is an honour and I should take it. That was how I got here.

Five years on the throne, how has it been?
Well, so far so good. I must say that I am not regretting that I came home.  One, the life here is much more different from what I am used to in Lagos. Anyhow, I have long adjusted to life here. Governor Aregbeshola in an obvious attempt to make me busy, appointed me a member of the Board of Ladoke Akintola Teaching Hospital, all this amount to a particular conclusion that I did not make any mistake coming home. And to be honest, I have enjoyed a lot of support from my people and we are all in it together. They just have to support me.

It is not just easy to assume the position of an Oba, what is the financial implication?
It has not been easy financially. I will not because of that abdicate my position as an Oba. While in service, I had some investments, from which I do get some money. Although, it is not enough, it has somehow helped.

What are you doing to develop Iragberi now you are on the throne?
We are making steady progress in the areas of healthcare and agriculture.

How have you been able to deal with land and other communal issues?
I must thank God that we are making steady progress. Immediately, I ascended the throne, I appointed some chiefs in key positions to advise me on certain issues; this has been very helpful. As you may be aware, I was never here, so, it is most difficult for me to know what would have happened with regard to land speculators. But with the advise of the chiefs and other indigenes resident in the town, we are able to deal with the matters and very quickly too.

Could you mention a few things Iragberi people have benefited since you became Aragberi?  
As I had earlier pointed out, the situation here was very bad, especially during our interregnum. And I looked into all aspects, what struck me, is the fact, that my people are predominantly farmers, using crude methods of farming, so, we introduced mechanised farming. Luckily, we grow rice very well in this part of the country and with the help of the state government, who keyed into the Federal Government programme on rice planting and other agricultural programmes; we have introduced mechanised method of growing rice. Today, Iragberi has become the rice farming centre of Osun State. It is here government brings all the tractors, fertilizers and other modern implements for rice farming. This is where other farmers from the state come to collect whatever they need for their farming.
Iragberi is where farmers across the state get money and are taught the mechanism required to grow their farms.

Luckily, about three years ago, some Israeli companies came here to ask for land for mechanised farming and we gave them about 200,000 hectares and within a very short time, they have started to export their farm produces from here. As we speak, they have again embarked on another planting season.

Secondly, we have modern and standard hotels alongside event centres for guests to rent whenever there is any event in the town. As you can see, I am deliberately encouraging the opening up of Iragberi. I have also made the Olori to open up shop for cement, so that, people constructing one thing or the other could have easy access to cement. These are some of the things I have been doing to open up the town.


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