Unless God ordains you, you cannot become king —Olu Akpata Of Akpata
Oba Fredrick Durojaiye Mayobalogun ND, JP, the Olu Lagedu IV, the Olu Akpata of Akpata, Oworo, in Lokoja Local Government area of Kogi State was full of praises for the President of Dangote Group for siting the Dangote Cement Company Plc. in his domain.
Tell us the history of Akpata…
Akpata is an ancient town. The founder was Olu Lagedu, who hailed from Ile Ife. He was a great hunter and warrior, who through the oracle, was led to where we are presently.
He was given some signs that would enable him locate this place. Some of the signs were: An antelope under an Epa tree.
He also discovered an antelope called Etu under an Epa tree, which is why before now, Apata was known as Ipatun, meaning there is going to be an antelope. He located this place many centuries ago.
Having spent about three years on the throne, how has it been?
There is no way we can compare royalty with other leadership positions, and unless God ordains you, you cannot become a king. It is common knowledge that God, the Creator of heaven and earth is King over kings.
I never contended for this position. They invited me several times, but I turned down the offer because I didn’t need it for anything.
I was doing well in my business. Before I was enthroned, I was not too rich, but I was also not poor. At my level, I was able to cater for family.
Since I came on board in October 2014, God has been in charge. So, everything has been easy, since He is involved. We have not recorded any evil occurrence in the community; it has been progress all the way.
The community’s administration is so unique, and the king is at the apex, while we have some Bales who are in charge of the quarters. Each of them settles issues in his quarters, which development he is also in charge of. After the Bales, we have high chiefs and lower chiefs.
Akpata is a cosmopolitan city because of its proximity to Lokoja. Presently, there is no adequate land for more development in Lokoja. So, in a short while, people will be coming down here. Akpata is a city per value of its landmass.
The number of people living in a community does not determine how great that community is. What determines a community’s greatness is its potential. This community’s potential is enough to make it a city.
How is the relationship with your subjects?
There is nothing like peace, leadership position is an opportunity, although that does not make the leader the best person. No, it is just an opportunity to test our qualities. We have leadership skills, qualities and styles.
My leadership style is very democratic. I am very transparent and sincere with my people and of course, I make life easy for myself. I carry every one along and make them to be aware of my programmes.
They brought me here just like the electorate that elected their leader. They came together, put their resources together and decided that I was good for the position. In my absence, they were clamouring that I must be the one, and even when I rejected it four times, they insisted I must be the one.
So, how would I not be democratic? The relationship between us is very smooth.
When there is free flow of information, there will be no problem.
I constituted various committees and Bales to look into various issues after which they are brought to me for endorsement. And whenever an issue is beyond them, they pass it to me and we gather together to trash it.
As a royal father, what are your memorable moments?
If anybody had told me that I would be a king, I would have disagreed. Even up until early 2014, I never imagined it.
If God is involved in your case and He is journeying with you, especially when He is invited to take charge, you will never be put to shame.
We have recorded lots of remarkable achievements that this community would live to remember.
The first thing we did when we came on board, in conjunction with my subordinates, was to build a place for ourselves. We also built for security agents.
We did all that was required and we went straight to the Commissioner of police, because there was no police post or any security presence in our community.
Fortunately, the then Emmanuel Ojukwu commissioned Akpata Police post on December 1, 2015. That was the first project.
Security is a priority for any community, no matter how wealthy or hardworking. So, it was approved and commissioned.
Secondly, I discovered we had only primary school. So, I proceeded to Universal Basic Education office to request for a junior secondary school.
Thank the Lord that I was not denied. It was approved and the community built a block of two classrooms for the takeoff of the junior secondary school.
We started with 13 pupils. Presently, we have about 80 pupils.
We withdrew all our children from schools in the neighborhood, because of the hazard they were being exposed to on their way to school. Teachers were immediately deployed and the school commenced.
We have also been able to construct several drainages and culverts in our community. We also created access roads. We hired some of the road construction equipment, while some companies assisted us with some. We were able to reroute the community and everywhere is accessible.
We have a government-approved layout. So, people don’t just build anyhow. We have our streets and access roads and everything required of a town that has a future. Every one doing anything here must adhere to laid down rules.
We are grateful to Governor Yahaya Bello. Not even a chemist shop was available in the community. So, whenever our women are in labour, they are either taken to Lokoja or Kabba Junction for delivery. We have lost many women and their babies in the process.
I approached Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) office through current Special Adviser to the Governor on SDG, Alhaji Abdulmumuni Okada and he approved a Healthcare centre for Akpata. It is about 90 percent completed. It is the fastest in Kogi. What remains now is just to put the aluminum roofing sheet.
This community has increased more than triple fold since I came.
People are trooping in from different places. When we had issue of security challenges, we cried out and government sent a mini military barracks to my community.
We provided accommodation and they have been here since April last year. This month makes it one year they arrived in my community.
So, Akpata is a place to invest, as it is very secure and simple, accommodating and comfortable. The atmosphere is very conducive. So many things are happening and helping our community to grow.
Also located in Akpata is Crest Agron Farms, with the largest cassava farm in Nigeria. The organisation donated one borehole. I personally drilled one borehole, because of increased population.
How has location of the largest cement factory in West Africa impacted on your community’s fortunes?
We are grateful to God that Dangote sited his company on our land. It is said that to everything, there is a season and of course, not until the season comes before you start enjoying the benefits.
Having Dangote Cement Plc. in our community is an act of God. He is a man uniquely made by God, Who sent him to deliver the poor masses. We would be considered ingrates, if I failed to tell you what God has done through Dangote.
Some years back, in the entire Kogi West Senatorial District and Okun land, our community’s name was hardly known. People didn’t know us because of abject poverty, and we had no representative anywhere.
But God sent this man, who came and turned our land around. It is like the Biblical rejected stone that later became the cornerstone. What we are today is due to the presence of Dangote Cement Plc.
I was one of the people that participated in the primary survey and exploration of that company in 2000. We never imagined it would turn out this way. Dangote’s presence has really brought succour, wealth, exposure and development to our land.
In the area of education, as far back as 2005, he started a scholarship grant to assist our children, so they would be able to compete with their contemporaries. And we have been enjoying that till today. Not only that, he also built some blocks of classrooms to make learning easy for our children.
In the area of corporate social responsibility, he has built so many boreholes, thereby making water available in our communities. It is said that water is life.
If you don’t eat for some days, there is no problem, but if you fail to drink water for seven days, you may die. He has provided us with solar water, hand pump borehole and overhead tanks. He also supplies water for our need with tankers.
Similarly, he reconstructed our roads, culverts and drainages. It is due to Dangote’s presence that the road from Lokoja/Jebba Junction to Zariagi-Obajana has become one of the best. He has also constructed roads within our communities.
Presently, we are aware of an agreement between government and Dangote Cement Company to construct a concrete road from Obajana to Kabba. In addition, he has employed our children in the company. So, we now have our representatives at the different levels.
Apart from Dangote as the primary company, subsidiary companies are coming up because of the cement company. The cement company in Obajana is the biggest globally at the completion of line five, which is ongoing. This alone has done us a great good.
Why are your youths so at peace with Dangote Cement?
Like the Bible said, the way you train a child has tremendous impact on his/her life, because as he grows, he may not likely deviate from it. Nigeria is divided into six geopolitical zones, so our cultures vary, and these have effects on our lives. Orientation matters.
For instance, in Akpata/Oworo community, you can see there are old men and women of over 80 years, but they chose me of less than 40 years to be their leader.
This is because of the way we have brought ourselves up. God has used Dangote to plant this company here, and he cannot uproot it. If the youths destroy it, they are also destroying their future.
Secondly, many of our children will grow through Dangote. Recently, the company’s Academy inaugurated the third and fourth batches of junior technicians. He is using the Academy to train them free.
Where is employment in Nigeria? We have been able to sensitise and orientate them, by making them to know what it takes to set up a company and grow it to become as successful as Dangote Cement.
So, when they grow up and eventually set up their own companies, would they be happy if somebody woke up one day to destroy all they have planted? So, it is the result of the education we have given them.
Again, because the elders did not exhibit these types of tendencies, the youths don’t have any reason to do so.
The younger ones did not grow up to see the elders doing evil, so how would they now start such? We are here to curb such heinous behaviours, and I would not allow youths to destroy the future of this community.
I might not be 100 percent correct, but I think I am one of the youngest monarchs in Kogi State, so this is a trial. Akpata has become a testing ground for whether today’s youths can actually lead in the future.
They have given us a shot at leadership, so it all depends on how we handle it. Thank God our youths are cooperative and they know the importance of this company.
For this reason, even if people come here today, with the intention of influencing youths to do anything evil against the progress of Dangote Cement Company, they would not succumb to it.
Very soon, our children would graduate from the Academy as junior technicians and engineers. I was also a beneficiary of Dangote training.
Immediately I graduated in 2003, I was absorbed by the company. And though a novice, I was trained in computer and drawing. I was the one in charge of printing.
I was in charge of distribution of the drawing to Effelex, Access and Julius Berger, among others. I was the first indigene to be trained among the various host communities of Dangote Cement on drilling machines.
Later, I was made head drilling before I left in 2006. So, what has this man not done to make us embrace him?
Indeed, all we need to do is support him and ensure that his business thrives. So, we would pull our physical and spiritual resources together to fight whoever plans to wage a war against Dangote’s company in our domain.