‘No society can develop without its culture’
Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Eti-Osa Council of Lagos State, who also doubles as the Chief of Staff to the council chairman, Aremo Olusegun Oyindasola, was recently conferred with the chieftaincy title of Sarunmi Owu Akinale, Ewekoro, Ogun State by Oba Adewunmi Ogunleye Afogunlanafade, Towolade of Akinale, Arole Olowu. In this interview with select journalists, the seasoned administrator talks on the need to encourage tradition and culture in the society. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR was there.
As part of events lined up for the 16th anniversary of Oba Afogunlanafade, Towolade of Akinale’s enthronement, you are being conferred with the title of Sarunmi Owu of Akinale. But you’re not from this town. What do you have to say about this?
Well, it is not true that I’m not from this town. I’m from Owu. Our territory is extended towards this area even down to Lagos and Benin Republic.
What would you consider as basic characteristics that stand you out from the rest of the chiefs waiting for this conferment today?
There’s nothing much. I think the king said he gave me this honour because I prepared the house of the gods in Okeowo. That’s why he is honouring me as the Sarunmi Owu of Akinale.
What does it mean to be the Sarunmi Owu of Akinale?
You know in those days, in the time of war, Sarunmi was one of the leading warriors during the war.
What came to your mind when you were informed of the title?
Initially, I was just wondering. I’m a prince of Owu, so, it baffles me. The King told me: ‘my friend, just take it’. So, I see it as a call to service. Nothing else.
What would the chieftaincy title change in you?
Actually, I see it as a call to service. This is because before now I’m the Aremo Itori and I’m still the Aremo Itori. I see this as a clarion call to service. Service not just to Itori but also to the Itori people.
It’s quite ironic to see an educated man like you to give in fully into traditional or cultural matters. Some people see it as being fetish. What makes you so passionate about your people?
Actually, I’m a nationalist. So, I believe that the kind of education bestowed on us by the colonial masters is a backward education. This is because education is meant to enlighten, it is not just to get a paper degree. You ought to be relevant to your immediate society. I believe that education is what is left after you must have forgotten what you’ve thought. So your education must be relevant to your society. If your education is not relevant to your society that means you’re not educated.
Earlier on, you said something and I would like you to shed more light on it. ‘It baffles me,’ why would a prince, an Arole, accept to be a chief in another town?
Actually, what the king is trying to do is very simple. It is like saying: an issue to one is an issue to all. What I did is not for this town. It is for the main town. He’s only trying to recognise me so I can do more. It is like saying: Segun, you have done it in Abeokuta you must come here, trying to draw me closer.
Originally, you are not from this town?
It depends on how you look at it. Any Owu town is my town. We all spread from somewhere. It’s like a farmland in the olden days. So it is the same sparse land. It is just recently that people are just trying to demarcate. Which is very unnecessary.
About the chieftaincy titles, is it about the culture of your roots that gave you this full action to be involved after you’ve made a name for yourself in Southwest Nigeria and Lagos especially?
Actually, I’m a lover of culture. If you look at the kind of education they are giving us, it is making us to know more about Europe than our society. There is no way you can develop yourself without developing your society. Today, we have so many unemployment cases, crime rates escalating, it’s really appalling. This is because a lot of leaders are exporting employment.
What do you mean by that? How are our leaders exporting employment?
When you have money and you are keeping it in a foreign land that means you are exporting employment to another country. What I’m saying in essence is that all these titles that they are giving us are just to pin us down, saying that this is your root. I’m accepting this title because of my mindset about education. Education must have relevance to your society. If you cannot help your society then you are not educated.
So what should we expect from you to do in this town now that you have been conferred with the ‘Sarunmi Owu of Akinale’ title?
Society is dysfunctional. A lot of people don’t know where they come from and that mentality is affecting us. If you don’t know where you are coming from, you would not know where you are, talk less of where you are going. Basically, what I tried to do is very simple. There’s no way you can help this town without helping other villages around. In essence, what they are telling us is that: look Segun, this is your root. Bring in investors. Once you invest in a society, the youth would get employed. The crime rate would be reduced, and a lot of development would come. People must know their roots. Whatever you are doing, wherever you find yourself, come and do the same here. So we can have peace and harmony in society.
You are currently an Aremo. What has been your experience as a chief?
It has brought about a lot of knowledge acquisition, and connection. Before I became an Aremo, I never knew that the Lagos State Attorney General is from this town. The Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly is from this town. The current Lagos State Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat is from this area. So it makes you know your people. Also, it brings about commitment. The essence of living is giving back to society. This is because if you don’t train your people, it will affect your children later on. They will fight back. They will see you as being on top. You must always help your people to reduce crime and enhance development.
You are a Muslim titleholder?
You are also a traditionalist and a Christian too. How do you manage the two?
In the Holy Quran, there are five sets of people that would enter the kingdom of God on the last day. They are the Jews, the people that believe in Torah; the Abasrah, the followers of John the Baptist; the third are the Christians, those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fourth are the Muslim, who follow Prophet Muhammed. The fifth are neither Jews, nor followers of John the Baptist, nor Christians, nor Muslims but they believe in God. Who are they? They are traditionalists. This is because when they are calling their God, he answers them. See the Hindus, the Chinese, you say they are worshiping idols but yet they are advancing. You people that think you are worshiping God, are you advancing? But you only find that in Africa. Where you have very religious people but no development. The Arabs, for instance, are also Muslims but they are advancing. Well, that is because of colonialism. That is because the European countries are using us to grow. They don’t have any resources. They are plundering our resources. That’s why they are growing up. They determine the price of your products. At the same time, they determine the price of their own product.
People tend to see politics as a dirty game and a man of culture is meant to be pure and clean. How do you marry the two?
I used to tell my people that whenever they complained that this government was not going enough, I just laughed. Do you know why I joined politics? It’s because I love my society. This is because if you don’t join, one day, they would legislate that a man is now a woman. We are all a product of the society in which we have found ourselves. What I’m saying in essence is that if you don’t participate in politics, you would allow fools to govern you. You will even give room for a homosexual to govern you because they could turn a man into a woman. They could wake up today and say: look, we are making a law whereby all men would become women. So, I’m into politics to make sure that things are run normally. Although, a lot of people see politics as a business whereas it is a service. If I were not into politics, it would be very difficult for me to better society. It would not be possible for me to change society. So you must be there, to change things around. There is no way you can change a society without being in government. This is because they are all interwoven. You have to participate in politics to serve your society. Of course, a lot of people went into politics because of money. They see it as a short way to wealth. Politics ought to be for service to your society and there is no way you can serve your society without being part of that society. You must come to the grassroots. Giving a chieftaincy title is part of the activities involved in coming to the grassroots. For most of these things, many people blame our political leaders because the Whites have come and gone but our leaders have been given a lot of chances to effect changes but up till now, we still have issues.
Let me tell you something, society deserves the kind of government they have. Every society deserves the kind of government they have. I’m also a Muslim title holder.