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My dream is to turn Owu-Kuta into world-class tourist centre — Olowu Of Owu-Kuta

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Oba Makama


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His Royal Majesty, Oba Makama Oyelude, Olowu Of Owu-Kuta, Osun State gave Palace Watch an opportunity to know the history of his people. According to him, the Owu people among the Yoruba stock are settled in 29 towns and cities across Yoruba land and Nigeria. But there are also three Owu settlements abroad. These are Owu Tosso and Owu Wydah in the Republic of Benin, with the third being a large settlement of Owu people in Great Britain. His ancestors were said to be the first to leave Orile-Owu, the original settlement of all Owu people in 1427, long before the inter-tribal war that resulted in the mass exodus of the other Owu people in 1820. Today, Owu people are regarded as the Jews of the Yoruba race. That gave Palace Watch leeway to probe.

Kabiyesi, what led to your progenitors leaving Orile-Owu in 1427?
My forebears left Orile-Owu, a place in between Ile-Ife and Gbongon in 1427. That particular place we all left to settle in various places was once known as Ago-Owu. It was also at some point known as Owu-Igbole. According to Yoruba history, Owu was the first settlement Oduduwa created. We are also known as the first grandchildren of Oduduwa.

By my estimation and history, I am the 13th Olowu of Owu Kuta. My ancestors were initially hunters and farmers, but culturally, Owu Kuta is a place to behold and cherish, as far as Yoruba history is concerned. As we speak, we have an age-long festival that will attract UNESCO and other international agencies’ attention, alongside other cultural tourism organisations to Owu Kuta.

The festival, known as “Anlugbua,” is celebrated annually. Anlugbua Akindele, a famous hunter and warrior was our progenitor that led us from Orile-Owu to Owu-Kuta, where we are presently settled. He left Orile-Owu because he was not given the chance to reign after his father’s passage. His younger brother was made to ascend the throne, which angered him. So, he left and later settled in a place called Ikutamiti (I evaded death.) It is Ikutamiti that was shortened to Kuta.

After reigning for 300 years, my progenitor decided to sink to the ground, instead of dying physically. The spot where he entered into the ground is where we annually converge to celebrate. The place is now a historical site. If my predecessors had done the needful, the place would have long achieved local and international prominence. As a very little boy, I grew up to know a tree very close to the shrine on that spot. His horse’s footprints can still be seen by the side of a tree there. Unfortunately, that tree was not properly preserved, my people allowed it to die.Not too far from where he sank to the ground, his wife, the queen, also turned herself into a river. Today, that river is known as Odo Aya-Oba (The Queen’s River.)

What has been your experience so far?
Since becoming king seven years ago, I have reigned with mixed feelings, in the sense that my subjects are not moving in the same pace with me on issues of development of this town. Owu-Kuta is an ancient community, and my vision is to see the place developed to a global village, with all the amenities in modern cities you find across the globe.

My dream is to see Owu-Kuta developed to a point where all the comfort of life available in other civilized places are also found here. Once we get to that level, we will begin to attract people from all over the world back home. Though it may seem like a very tall dream, but to me, it is realisable. But for the dreams to be achieved, my people need to work with me at a very fast pace. It has not been very easy, but I thank the Almighty God that we are getting there gradually.

But what have you done to make your people key into your dreams?
I have gone the extra-mile, both at home and in the Diaspora, to make my people see and appreciate my dreams for Owu-Kuta. As we speak, I have changed lot of things here. I have engendered peace in Owu-Kuta, because without peace, we can hardly develop as a people and any other thing is nothing but an addendum to the role of a king.

The primary role of any traditional ruler is, among other things, to maintain culture, tradition and peace. Our business as kings is to preserve our people’s cultural heritage. We are not religious leaders. A traditional ruler in the Southwest is never a religious leader. None of us traditional rulers here was crowned in the church or mosque.

Since I ascended the throne, I look for sons and daughters of Owu-Kuta everywhere I go. I gather them together and I have been encouraging them to return home. Some of my sons and daughters that are good tenants in Lagos, Enugu, Kano and Maiduguri are landlords back home. I am also making it very clear to them that it is not when they have the ambition of becoming a councilor, local government chairman, senator and what have you that they would begin to think of rushing back home to sign nomination form. No, that is not our approach here.

Our attitude here is: If you do not come home frequently and join us in all our activities towards developing this place, or you do not have a house at home, we discourage such people from exploiting us. You must help develop our home before the benefit at home can help throw you up for high offices.

This peculiar approach is yielding bountiful results, as people are rushing home to do tangible things. With the advent of Internet and other ICT gadgets, we modern traditional rulers are very lucky, as we are able to connect our people all over the world by the tip of our fingers. If we genuinely use the Internet for what it is meant for, we will produce more results as traditional rulers. I have personally been leveraging on this gadget.

In the area of commerce, we want to ensure that most of the farm produce and other products we harvest here does not just waste away, as is presently the case. We are talking very seriously with government to help provide all the infrastructures that will make these things affordable. If we have good infrastructures, industries that will make very good use of farm and other products will follow.

Similarly, we have a very good relationship with Osun State Government, and some other friends at the federal level. If such infrastructures as good roads are provided here, farm produce can be moved intermittently with other services. Kuta’s farmers are hard working and will make good use of these advantages.

Presently, Kuta’s farmers get very little money for their perishable produce, because they are unable to move them to where they will yield huge profit. Oftentimes, the produce gets wasted. As we speak, a lot of infrastructures are being planned here. We are also looking at how we can get corporate organisations involved in our infrastructural development drive. For instance, if an investor comes and invests in electricity, that will help us a lot, as we could seize the opportunity to invest in silos that will help us preserve foods and other produce.

This type of investment will also help our farmers greatly, because as they are harvesting their produce, there are already buyers. The produce are bought off them and then put in the food banks. If the produce are not processed here, they can be transported to other locations, where they are required, as we have a railway station very close to Kuta.With the Nigerian Army’s intervention, with the decision to build a baling bridge for us, we will now be linked to Ede in Osun State.

Commerce and other business activities will surely be on the upsurge. Some weeks back, the Nigerian Army Engineering Corp, on behalf of the Nigerian Army high command, visited us to assess the situation of things on ground, with regard to the immediate construction of the much-awaited bridge. The Nigerian Army is an organisation that keeps to its words. We are, therefore, very hopeful that construction works on these projects will soon begin.

In the area of human development, we are already training some of our youths. Kuta youths are not lazy; they are industrious and productive. Our cultural bond is still telling on most of them, as very many of them would not want to destroy their parents’ names, which mean a lot to us here. We are working hard to make them future leaders.

We are aware our youths must be adequately trained to equip them for the task ahead, which is what we are trying to do. Happily, they have been studying and working hard to become great men and women. They have so many role models here that they look up to. I try to inform our people globally of what is happening to our people via the Internet.

In the area of health, maternal mortality rate in this part of the country is very low. The life span of the average Kuta man or woman is about 110 to 120 years, far above what the United Nations (UN) said is for an average Nigerian in other parts of the country. We have more than enough health facilities here.

Out of the five health centres here, two are very well equipped. They could be compared to health facilities in any place. But our problem here is lack of qualified medical staff to man these facilities. We have been discussing with Osun State Government about it, and they are ready and willing to do something about it.

What are your future plans?
In the next 10 to 20 years, if God spares our lives, I would want to see Owu-Kuta of my dream. By then, this place will be known as the small London of the Southwest.In the area of security, without which no country can truly develop, I
would want the Nigerian government to henceforth embrace community policing in the true sense of it. On the issue of community policing, the traditional rulers will have lots to say about security happenings in their domains. Police officers and other security personnel posted to these domains must be indigenes that know the terrain very well. It is wrong to post non-indigenes, who cannot speak the people’s language to police areas they know nothing about. You can’t take an
Oshogbo indigene to Bayelsa State and expect him to know Ekeremor in and out. You also can’t bring security personnel from Ahoada and expect him to know Owu-Kuta inside out. Community policing is solution to the present security challenges in the country.

What is your view on Federal Government’s plan to make direct payment to local councils?
I read a little bit about the NFIU regulation that brought this about. This is a development with a double-edged sword. It is heartwarming to know that the Federal Government is trying to live up to its promises in this area. Remember that in his first term, President Muhammadu Buhari said he believed in local government autonomy.

With this action, he has demonstrated his belief clearly. But this autonomy will not fly, because most state governors are averse to it. If you check our history, some local government chairmen that have no second address, once the money gets to them, they will embark on projects that have no direct bearing to the grassroots.

Presently, the state government is controlling their funds, so there is this degree of checks and balance. I only hope that with time, some of the local government chairmen will deliver dividends of democracy to the people. We traditional rulers are aware that Local Government is nothing but native authority. We will therefore, not let them be, if they are not doing what is expected of them, with the huge funds that will be coming to them directly. They have to be accountable to our people. So, we will not give them breathing space. We the traditional rulers will now begin to play the role of watchdogs to ensure these funds are judiciously used for the people’s benefits.


In this article:
Oba Makama Oyelude
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