60 years after, Ilara-Epe savours kingship rituals
For indigenes of Ilara, Epe, the rituals that come with installing the community’s king is not what they were familiar with until weeks back. They may have been told, but had not experienced it. And this was because the new Alara of Ilara, Oba Olufolarin Olukayode Ogunsanwo, that was installed earlier this month, came 60 years after the former, who died last year, was enthroned.
When he was asked how he feels to be king after serving in the Lagos State Civil Service, Oba Ogunsanwo, who was excited to go through the rites, said: “Well, it is God that chooses kings. I never knew I was going to be a king. The last Oba reigned for 60 years. It was after his demise that there was a need to pick a replacement — so an Oba has to be chosen, selected, elected and appointed to take charge of the community’s leadership. It has been a wonderful experience going through the traditional rite.”
He continued: “I was selected by the kingmakers as the 55th Alara of Ilara Kingdom, this took place due to the demise of my predecessor, His Royal Majesty Alayeluwa, Oba Akeem Okunola Adesanya ll, who joined his ancestors, in October 2018, having spent 58 years on the throne. As at the time of joining his ancestors, he was the longest reigning monarch in Lagos State. He became King at the age of 16 and reigned for 58 years, so he passed on at the age of 74. May God continue to bless his soul?
“After that, in November 2019, the kingmakers said it was the turn of my ruling House, the Telade Ruling House to produce the next Alara of Ilara Kingdom. Having received a notice to jump-start the process from the state government through the Eredo Local Council Development Authority then, eight of us were picked as contestants and the list was forwarded to the kingmakers in Ilara. The rest, as they say, is history. I was crowned on Thursday August 6, 2020 and His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, presented me with the staff of office and instrument of appointment on Sunday August 16, 2020.
History was made that day, because the community had just witnessed another installation of a new king, after 60 years. The elderly and the youths were all excited to see a new king being installed.”
On his transition from someone who served the state as a civil servant to now serving his community, he went philosophical, saying it is only God that chooses kings and when He wants to do things He makes everything perfect. He stated that his 26 years in public service, rising through the ranks to the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service was a call to duty to assist the government to get revenue for the betterment of the citizenry.
“It is with tax money that most things are done, infrastructure, roads, education, transport, health services and so on. So when the opportunity came and I was called, I prayed about it, I consulted and I said why not serve my people. As the Yorubas will say, Ile la bo, isi mi oko all that we have been trying to do in the public service let us try it here and see how we move this community forward.”
Oba Ogunsanwo was, however, optimistic that things would turn better for the community, under him, as it has potential in the areas of tourism, fishing, farming to mention a few.
“You must have noticed and observed the potential we have in this community. It only takes a visionary leader and someone that has the passion for his people to actually want to be on the right side of history to come and change things and ensure that the community excels in every aspect. We are blessed here with arable land for agriculture, in terms of farming and fishing. We have a lot viable land; good soil, good weather and then we are surrounded by water, lagoon and ocean. So, fishing is part of the natural resources that the Almighty God has given to this community.
“And then, we have a lot of human capital resources as well. We have capable hands; we have people that are well read. And if we all join hands together and put our heads together, I want to believe that this community will become a mini London, where everybody will want to be and the community will be very, very proud of.”
The newly installed king hopes to partner with the Lagos State government, through keying into the THEMES Agenda of Governor Sanwo-Olu.
“We are also going to take some initiatives as well as invite private investors to come see the kind of things they can do to improve the economic potentials of the community.” In all of this, he disclosed that the empowerment of youth would be key to him.
He has been a city man. But with his new assignment, he is expected to move back home fully. What is it for him to move from the city back to a pastoral community?
“When you came in here, didn’t you see that there is a lot of peace around, away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos. Everything is fresh here, the ambiance and everything is just great. So, those are some of the things that people don’t know that they can enjoy here. With the road networks that the government is doing now, this will be the next place that people can actually come to live. And once the government is able to put the 4th Mainland Bridge in place, improve on the intermodal transport facilities; the use of water, land and by road, people can move from one end of the state to another easily. Many people can actually live here and work in Lagos, and it will decongest Lagos. That is part of the agenda, which we want to work with the Lagos State government.”
On his growing up and childhood aspirations, he said he is from a very humble background, with his father, who is still alive, a retired civil servant and mother, a retired headmistress.
“In those days, when you talk about a teacher’s child, it depicts a very good background and good upbringing. They taught us humility and hardwork. And there is no shortcut to the top than hard work and then serve your God diligently. I think that contributed a lot what I have become today and I am very grateful to them.
“I am glad that this happened in their life time. My father is 83 and my mother is 78 and I am the third child of the family, but to God be the glory, it has been a very good experience. I am very proud of them.”
On what informed his choice of economics as a course in the university, Oba Ogunsanwo disclosed his initial choice was accounting, but after JAMB result was released, he did not know how his file got to Economics Department, where he was offered admission. He nonetheless did not regret it.
“As an economist, you will be a manager of resources. As if God knows that I will still get to this point of becoming a King. I even have a masters’ degree in Economics. So, I have no regrets, because it is a bit more dynamic.”
Since he became Oba, what has changed about him? He said: “I have been my normal self, nothing has changed. A friend sent a congratulatory message to me. We attended primary school at the same time in Ibadan and he started saying things like from my young age, I have always lived and comported myself like a king. That everything about me, the aura radiates that of a king and that there is no quality that they are looking for in a king that I don’t have. Even my past experiences made me realise that this is divine.”
Amala is Oba Ogunsanwo best meal, though he also likes pounded yam with vegetable as well as yam and eggs — fried or steamed.
To relax, he enjoys traveling and reading. “I like to read a lot and I enjoy listening to music. I am more of an academic.”
What genre of music appeals to you? He said: “I like Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Orlando Owoh and Wasiu Ayinde.”
Asked whether he would be a fashionista king, Kabiyesi said he has been a conservative dresser. His signature, in terms of dressing, would be: “White is good, blue is good. White is purity and blue is peace. My dressing will always go along that line. I don’t believe in dressing expensively, but I like dressing decently.”
Recently, the European-American University of Commonwealth of Dominica awarded him a honourary doctorate degree. “You don’t know that people are watching your actions or inactions and they give honour to whom it is due at the appropriate time,” he said.
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