We assist government to drive development
-HRH Alhaji Aliyu Kelvin Danesi, Oba Danesi II, Aidonogie Of South-Ibie
He trained as a lawyer, but ended up a banker. Fifteen years ago, some of his very close friends became worried and shocked, when His Royal Highness Alhaji Aliyu Kelvin Danesi, Oba Danesi II, left town to answer the call of his people, urging him to become the Aidonogie of South-Ibie. These friends, who knew him in the mid-70s, felt he was too humble, quiet and urbane to become a king. The questions then was: “What could have been Kelvin’s motivations, rational and attraction to want to leave a very lucrative and promising bank career for the palace?” The Palace Watch had the following conversation with him
Can we take a more in-depth look at the reason(s) you think traditional institution is the much-needed vehicle in present day Nigeria that will assist government to drive development at local and national levels?
Traditional institution in Nigeria, as far as traditional governance and politics are concerned, is about the best-known and most cherished institution in the country. This is because it is the basis upon which societies are constructed. The political, social, cultural and economic lives of societies in Nigeria were constructed around the traditional institution. So strong are the bonds between traditional rulers and their people that during the period of colonial rule, the British, in their references to the people of this country as a collective entity, regularly employed the expression: The Chiefs and people of Southern, Eastern and Northern Nigeria.
Traditional institution has many variations in different parts of the country, based on ethnic varieties and differences in local traditions and experiences. But it has also many common characteristics, the most notable of which is the fact that the position of traditional ruler is an inherited and not an elective office, which normally runs through a number of royal families or lineages that take turn to select candidates for presentation to traditionally recognised ‘kingmakers’ for formal election to the office.
It has been 15 years since you ascended the throne. What have you done concerning the development South-Ibie?
Without been immodest, I have done my utmost best, since I became the Aidonogie of South-Ibie to attract development to this place. I have also deliberately gone out of my way to cajole and galvanise the indigenes to help in its development. The result is what you are seeing around here today. We give glory to Allah for His mercy and kindness.
When we were growing up, you were a very shy and quiet person. You didn’t participate in some of the pranks we played then. Was this deliberate, because you knew that someday, you would become a king?
No, I never dreamt of becoming the Aidonogie of South-Ibie. That was the least on my card. One thing was certain though; I knew I was born a prince. Therefore, I needed to conduct myself well wherever I went, within and outside my family circle. I never wanted a situation, when later in life, people will say, ‘We caught this young man sometime or years back doing this or that which is not good and can, therefore, not vouch for his good moral quality, character and integrity.’ So I was very conscious of all that I was doing then.
Up till this very moment, I watch very carefully all that I do, as I would not want to bring shame or dishonour to the Danesi family or disgrace my people. This has been my life.
Why did you decide to become and Oba, when there is actually nothing to gain financially from the throne? Or, is there anything special about the throne, which you know that we are unaware of?
Yes Gabriel, there is something special about the throne, which you are not quite familiar with, since you were not born a prince. The spiritual consequences of refusing to become an Oba, when your people want you to be, are dire. Comfort and personal gains are never the consideration. Why do you think people like the Sultan of Sokoto, who had a flourishing career in the army and some other traditional rulers across the country, who were doing very well in their chosen careers, have left all that to ascend the throne? If you ever decline such an offer as a prince, you are doomed for life.
South-Ibie is an agrarian based economy. What are you doing as an Oba to ensure that your people take adequate advantage of all the agricultural potentials?
I have ensured that my people are all organised into cooperative societies, as this is one of the ways they can access loans and key into other federal and state governments programmes. I am also leading by example, as I am presently a farmer. I have fishponds and other farm.
The act of farming I learnt from my grandfather, even though he was an Oba during his days, when the community tended to provide for a king and take very good care of him and his entire household. My late grandfather still made out time to mount his horse and head to his farm. And if you asked him, “Are you on your way to the farm?” He would respond, “Yes, because any man who relies on others to feed him is likely going to die of hunger.”
How are your people coping with high interest rates and cost of farm imputs?
Interest rates as related to agriculture and farming in general are quite manageable. Some of these interest rates are only on the capital given as loans. And once the capital is promptly serviced, there is never going to be any problem.
How do you cope with politicians and their antics?
Well, politicians around here know for sure they can’t mess around with me. I don’t collect money from them. They also know me to be a very blunt person. I say things the way I see them. If a politician is not doing well, I do not hesitate to say so. Even a former governor of this state, who happens to be my personal friend, knows me for this. Once politicians know your position on certain issues, they do not fool or mess around you. My principal concern as the Aidonogie of South-Ibie is how to better the lots of my people. That is my focus and that is what I wake up to achieve every single day.
How is the cooperation among traditional rulers in Edo North like?
I must confess that the traditional rulers in this part of Edo State have a perfect working relationship. We meet regularly, at least once a month. It is at this forum we discuss issues concerning our people and how to get government to improve their lot. We also meet regularly, when security issues arise. Not only that, we occasionally meet with security personnel in this part of Edo State, all in a bid to ensure that our people’s lives and properties are secured. There is no pretence about it; we have very good relations as obas and kings in Edo North.
What were the gains during the visit of Oba Ewuare II?
Before he ascended the throne, traditional rulers from this part of Edo State had a very good relationship with his late father. And it is this same good relationship Oba Ewuare II is trying to maintain. No doubt, we had very fruitful deliberation with him. We were all happy he came visiting.
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