In this interview, the special adviser on education to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, TOKUNBO WAHAB, speaks on why the state government is establishing two new universities
At a time when Nigerians are calling for improving existing public universities, the Lagos State government wants to establish two new ones. Is that a wise decision?
Basically, it’s about changing the landscape backed by available data and doing the needful for the state’s residents and Nigerians in general. Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda is very clear and explicit. It stands for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, and Governance and Security. We have education and technology as the pillars.
When we came in, in 2019, we checked the key performance indicator (KPI) and the data showed that two of our tertiary institutions – Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED), Ijanikin, and Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), Epe, were not performing at the optimum. They both had a combined enrollment of just about 5,000 as of December 2021. Yet, they were receiving roughly N5.5 billion annually as subvention.
We found out that to train an NCE student per year costs about N600,000. But what is the worth of the NCE certificate itself? We have recruited teachers back to back within the last three years of this administration and I can tell you that our criteria even say you must have a bachelor’s of education (B.Ed) and not just NCE.
So you juxtapose this with the situation where the best students always want to go to universities, while the rest struggle to choose between polytechnics and colleges of education. Yet, the poor ones who opt for NCEs would be handed the children of the best to train in future when they manage to become teachers.
Also, statistics from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) revealed that in 2020, out of 574,782 candidates that applied to sit the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) from the six states in the South West, Lagos State alone accounted for almost half of the figure at 240,829. But Lagos State has a single state-owned university while Ondo has three and Ogun, two. Not until recently when Osun and Oyo states went their separate ways on the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, the two also had more than one state-owned university. The implication is that our students from Lagos continue to struggle to gain admission to universities because other states usually introduce classification based on indigeneship.
Meanwhile, our only hitherto state-owned university, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, couldn’t admit more than 5,000 at a go, yet the applications are very high in number. So, with this number, it is apparent that we have a ticking time bomb at hand which we felt we must address frontally.
We also have the issue of discrimination against HND holders, and as a state, there is little we could do because addressing such a policy issue lies almost entirely with the federal government. Except if you go for conversion, with a HND certificate you may not move beyond level 15 in the civil service.
So, sincerely yours, we need to call a spade a spade; NCE, OND and HND are simply no longer relevant. The discrimination against them in the labour market is too much. And if I should ask, why do you think the British, which bequeathed this system of education to us, scrapped its polytechnics more than 30 years ago? It is because they saw the future ahead of time. And it is even worse for NCE. We are recruiting people for our secondary schools in Lagos and we are asking them for Bachelor’s degrees in education. You must have a B.Ed or diploma in education. So it is unfortunate but that is the reality of our time. The 21st century has gone beyond NCE holders. In fact, there is a report that says by 2020, 20 per cent of the jobs that will be available will be for degree holders.
So, consequently, we had to draft the law, approach the House of Assembly, and thankfully, Mr Governor insisted that we must convince everyone and I am glad the Rt. Honourable Speaker agreed with us and bought into the vision. So we are happy that today, we have dotted all the “Is” and crossed all the “Ts”. We now have two additional universities in Lagos State.
So by phasing out the state’s polytechnic and colleges of education, what happens to the middle-level manpower that will be required in the new Lagos?
We are not oblivious of the fact that we would need skilled workers as middle-level manpower. But the reality is that we have found ourselves in a system that is too crazy about certificates. We cannot continue to keep schools that will eventually have no enrollment. So what we have done is to return to the past when we used to have strong technical colleges where the future of skilled workers can be prepared. We are currently ramping up our investment in technical colleges. In the first quarter, we are going to have about 50 comprehensive technical colleges.
In the past, if you had a flair for handwork, they would train and certify you. But these days, all our artisans are now foreigners. Today, if a child doesn’t have the capacity to go to the university, the parents will still force the child to sit UTME, they will bribe to write WASSCE and push them there, and they will begin to struggle from first year. But with the technical colleges, we are trying to find a way to bring the old culture back, which we think will reduce the pressure on the university system because they could set up their businesses from there.
Beyond physical infrastructure, there are other academic criteria to be met before institutions can be upgraded to the status of a university. Do these schools have the required number of PhD holders?
Our academic brief has the details on that. For instance, between AOCOED and MOCPED, we have about 53 PhD holders when we merge them together, while LASPOTECH has about 60 PhD holders with about 30 others still pursuing their PhD in various fields. That is why we said there would be a transition period. For those that are not qualified yet, we will give them a definite window period to complete their PhD programmes. Meanwhile, they will still be lecturing in the subsisting structure of OND and HND programmes until the last set of students on the programmes graduates.
The major stumbling blocks to similar upgrades of institutions in the past have usually been the fate of the workers. How much assurance of cooperation do you have with the workers?
For us, since we now have the recognition, the implementation now goes to the issue of recalibrating the workers, re-classifying them, which is key. We have been engaging them for a while now, and we have assured them that the bigger picture should be the most important to us all.
Some of them who are chief lecturers don’t even have students to challenge and task them. But since the position of chief lectureship doesn’t exist in a university structure, they will have to be reclassified and adjusted to suit a system that will accommodate them in a new nomenclature. That’s what we are trying to do.
Now, the engagement is still ongoing and I can assure you that everyone understands what it takes to adapt to life situations. Everybody just has fears – fears of what would happen to my job, can I survive in a new structure? And surprisingly, a chief lecturer earns more than a professor in a university. I found that out in the course of this transmutation exercise. So we have said to them that once they are reclassified, nobody will take their money but they must be ready to be adaptable to this wheel of progress.
So for us, we have said no one will be jobless, except it is expedient that there is nothing we can do about it. And that may happen when we have to merge the two colleges- AOCOED and MOCPED, and we eventually have excess faculty, then others should agree to go somewhere else. But we want to make it as seamless as possible, and as painless as possible.
What happens to the students currently running the ND, HND and NCE programmes?
Now, for the students, if you come in for a university degree, they will give you lectures under the university platform. For the hitherto existing programmes, they will continue to run until they finish. And for the NCE in particular, the two affected institutions were already running degree programmes in partnership with various universities including University of Ibadan, Ekiti State University, among others. So they already have the structures in place. What is left is just for them to own the programmes instead of running them in affiliation with other universities. So what we have done is that rather than cutting corners, they are now empowered to stand straight and acquire the required human resources and relevant tools.
You just mentioned acquiring tools and human resources, where will the huge resources needed come from?
I am very glad and proud to say that to avoid any itch, the government insisted on a reasonable take-off grant and there is a budgetary allocation for them in the 2022 budget. The take-off grant is very substantial but I would not be specific here.
Let me also say confidently that this governor in the past two years has ramped up the infrastructure deficit and tried to bridge the gap even in LASU. You can go and find out. Contractors have been mobilised to sites to give all these institutions a befitting world-class look.
In LASU for instance, the faculty of education is one of the biggest of the faculties, and so the new faculty of education being built will be one of the best in the country. And then, at the end of 2021, contractors were also mobilised to build a world-class tech hub there. It will be multifaceted and multi-disciplinary so that you can have space there.
When the governor came in 2019, he increased the tertiary institutions’ subventions across the board and even gave them bailouts. One or two of them, with due respect, are owing pension funds. So we need to know who diverted the funds. You can’t ask for a bailout without telling us who touched the funds. We can’t do things the same way and expect a different result.
But we can confirm to you that students are still cramped together in certain classes in LASU, especially with the introduction of stream one and two sets. How do you now justify the creation of additional universities?
Now, realistically, when you have infrastructure deficits, you don’t bridge it overnight. We have a very deliberate attempt to bridge it. We have done and are still doing that for LASU. So many structures are currently and simultaneously being put up, including those that had been abandoned for more than 13 years, such as the library building, among others. Because we understand that the government is a continuum, we have taken it upon ourselves not to leave any project abandoned. The three universities and other tertiary institutions are currently enjoying massive investments in infrastructure but we agree that we cannot do everything at once. And for your information, doing all these has in no way affected the sub-sectors of education, be it primary, secondary or other levels of tertiary education, such as the school of nursing and school of health technology. The governor has even taken up some responsibilities that ordinarily should be handled by the state’s universal basic education board (SUBEB).
What the governor has just done is to be deliberate in his approach. Yes, we agree there is a deficit but within two and a half years of this administration, more than 1,000 schools have been uplifted and he is not even stopping at that. But the result will not come overnight, realistically. And I will tell you why. We have over 18,000 private schools in Lagos State, why are they thriving? Because they have seen a gap, a niche, a market and that market is because most of us, elite, with due respect, through the years, deliberately killed public schools. I am a product of a public school, you are a product of public school. Go to your hall of residence in OAU, compare it to when you were in school. Even then, it was not as good, but today it is just totally bad. I went to UNIBEN and when we got to its law faculty where we were trained, people were weeping. What happened? Government took its eye off the ball. What happened to the federal government colleges? Go back there today, you will be shocked.
Now if you would agree that the existing universities are in bad shape, why should we continue to build new ones instead of fixing the old ones? Do you agree with ASUU’s request that new state-owned tertiary institutions should not benefit from TETFund grants in their first 10 years of existence?
For me, if I had my way, I would say don’t just start giving them grants in their first years of establishment. Maybe 10 years may be too wide for the window, maybe for the first two and a half years to be sure that they can even sustain such institutions. Take, for instance, we are setting up two universities as a state, and I can give you the details and our sustainability plan. We know the enrolment number, the existing schools’ internally generated revenues, how much we give them as subvention. So I believe it is in order to stop new public universities from accessing TETFund grants until we are sure of their sound footing.
Meanwhile, I am of the opinion that the existing policy that only professors should be vice-chancellors should be tinkered with. I believe professors should face academics and they can come in to function as deputy vice-chancellors in charge of academic matters. This is what we see in other parts of the world.
How affordable will the new universities be for the children of the common man on the streets of Lagos?
I can assure you that the fees will be as affordable as possible. And I am saying this because I know that, all over the world, university education is not cheap. But we are subsidising because we understand that the economy is poor and the social structure is really not there to help the people. For instance, LASU charges N57,000 for freshers. So, before the first set of students will come in, the schools will do the numbers to determine it.
Let me also give you an insight; do you know how much these schools currently charge for their sandwich degree programmes which are run in affiliation with other institutions? Their students pay up to N350,000. But we can’t charge up to that because we want education to be accessible, yet we want to give quality to our citizens as Lagosians. That is the ultimate wish of the governor, for Lagosians to have the best.
- Premium Times
Ngozi Ekeoma: How Nepal Oil boss defrauded Nigeria of $10m
Mr. and Mrs. Ekeoma further instructed him and one Ugochukuwu Onwugbuna to form a firm in Liberia called Dexter Oil Limited to conduct oil trading transactions.
Ngozi Ekeoma, CEO of Nepal Oil and Gas Services Limited, might face jail time for allegedly defrauding the government of $10 million in subsidies.
This is in response to a recent plea by Chukwuemeka Ekwnuife, a former banker, to the Honorable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami SAN, over the alleged scam, ENigeria Newspaper understands.
The former banker requested the AGF to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute Ekeoma and submit its previously completed investigative report on the oil marketer, according to this publication.
“Re: Petition against Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma and Mr Eme Ekeoma of Nepal Oil and Gas Services for theft, fraud, and collecting over $10 million under the petroleum subsidy scheme,” Ekwnuife said in a letter dated October 12, 2020.
According to him, the EFCC has been dragging its feet on the petition written by his attorneys, George Ikoli and Okagbue, dated October 22, 2018, and his letter of reminder of supplementary on the fraudulent activities by Mrs Ekeoma and her husband for about two years.
While expressing his discontent with the EFCC’s handling of his petition, Ekwnuife stated that he had promised to provide more information about the alleged subsidy transaction that occurred in Liberia and Nigeria in 2014, but that no invitation had been given to him.
“I’ve been on trial for claims relating to these transactions that were twisted to accuse me, and I’ve decided to tell the world the truth about my ordeal, but the EFCC has opted not to perform its job, with all due respect, and come out with its conclusions.
“For the umpteenth time, I have decided to file this petition to request an investigation into my complaint against Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma, assuming that this will yield the desired result. The exemplary integrity the Ministry of Justice and the office of the AGF have demonstrated since assumption of leadership has given me the confidence to send this letter,” Ekwunife continued.
The former banker, who left Sterling Bank in 2014, told the Lagos Special Offences Court in Ikeja that the businesswoman pleaded with him to join her company and help her issue credit to her businesses.
Mr. and Mrs. Ekeoma further instructed him and one Ugochukuwu Onwugbuna to form a firm in Liberia called Dexter Oil Limited to conduct oil trading transactions.
In an earlier petition to the EFCC, through his solicitors, George Ikoli and Okagbue, dated October 22, 2018, the petitioner additionally included documentation demonstrating Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma and her companies’ fraudulent operational activities (and received on Nov. 6, 2018).
The suit states, “The records represent evidence of the transfer of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) intended for consumption in Nigeria to boats for later sale overseas.”
Meanwhile, Ekwunife is facing an eight-count allegation of stealing, together with Structured Energy Limited, for taking a total of N168.5 million from Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma’s enterprises.
The EFCC claims that Ekwunife stole the money from M.R.S Oil and Gas, Exit Energy Limited, Globin Oil and Gas Limited, Bond Energy, and Greenage Energy Limited, all of which are Nepal Oil and Gas Limited properties, at various periods in 2014.
However, in his defense, Ekwunife claimed that Mrs. Ekeoma, the owner of Nepal Oil and Gas Limited, used him to arrange fake papers in Liberia in order to receive money from the Federal government through a subsidy system.
Mrs Ekeoma testified that Ekwunife assisted her in registering many companies in Liberia to enable her to import various petroleum goods, mainly Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), under the petroleum scheme fund (subsidy scheme) with the FG.
According to the ex-banker, the oil marketer used him to facilitate bogus papers in Liberia in order to steal millions of Naira from the Nigerian government through the subsidy scheme.
“I assisted her in setting up several firms like Structured Energy Resources Limited, Dexter Oil Limited, Ritrak Supply and Trading Limited, Gulf Trading and Shipping Limited – all registered in Liberia,” Ekwunife stated in his evidence.
“At various times, these firms were utilised by the Federal Republic of Nigeria to carry out transactions and documentation relating to subsidies. We created supporting documentation such as the Bill of Laden, product recertification, quality certificate, and certificate of origin.
These documents were created outside of Nigeria’s borders and used for trades that never took place in the country. For non-live trades, the documentation was completed in Liberia (feasible).
“We (referring to himself and Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma) exploited these documents to carry out fraudulent activities in Nigeria by using documents drafted outside the nation to conduct commerce that was not supposed to take place,” he said.
Another witness, Mr Anthony Abraham, had previously testified in court that there is a tie between a former banker, Chukwuemka Ekwunife, and a businesswoman, Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma, in an alleged subsidy scam that occurred in Liberia and Nigeria in 2014.
Mr. Abraham, a financial consultant, said he met Ekwunife in Liberia while attempting to open accounts and register several businesses.
Mr Abraham stated that he was introduced to Ekwunife by a former client and a friend, but that he couldn’t recall who that person was.
Mrs Ekeoma Ngosi, the financial expert said, was a friend long before he met Ekwunife, whom he only met while working for a bank in Liberia, First International Bank.
“I met the defendant, Chukwuemeka Ekwunife, while working in Liberia for a bank named First International Bank. He came to Liberia to do business, intending to open accounts and register several firms. He was referred to me by a former client and friend of mine, whose name I don’t recall,” he explained.
The witness stated he couldn’t remember if that friend was Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma when asked.
The defense counsel, on the other hand, handed the witness a document containing multiple emails of transactions that he sent to Ekwunife and copied Mr and Mrs Ekeoma, and asked him to identify it.
The witness identified the emails and said, “Yes I sent these mails to Tochukwu71@yahoo.com (belonging to Ekwunife) and I copied three others namely; Ekeoma_Eme@hotmail.com (belonging to Mr Ekeoma), Ibeyanma72@yahoo.co.uk. (belong to Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma) and U firstname.lastname@example.org (belonging to Mr Ugochukwu Onwuegbuna).
“The emails were sent as a result of transactions in an account, Dexter Oil Limited, which was opened by Mr Emeka in Liberia and the account was opened with the same name.
“After it was opened, I wasn’t the direct account officer but an officer was assigned. Though I had an overview of the transactions.
The account received both inflows and outflows. Mr Emeka was the sole signatory of the account and instructions would normally come from him to run the account.
“I was asked to copy Mr Ugochukwu, who is also a Director in Dexter just as Ekwunife, and then copy both Mr and Mrs Ekeoma in each mail”.
When asked how he knew Mrs Ekeoma, he replied, ” I’ve known her for many years – long before I met Ekwunife. I’ve never had any business transactions with Ngozi before I met Ekwunife. But Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma has a relationship with the defendant, Ekwunife “.
When asked why he copied Mrs Ekeoma if there was no business relationship, the Consultant replied, “I was asked to copy these people and I literarily don’t know all of them”.
The matter was adjourned till September 30 for continuation of defence.
Iyiola Olatokunbo Edun,the Executive Director, Grace Schools is poised to raise the bar of academic excellence and educational growth.
“IF TRADITIONAL RULERS ARE GIVEN THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE, THE SECURITY SITUATION WON’T BE AS OVERWHELMING AS IT IS NOW” Oba Oyelude Makama Tegbuson 111
By Akudo Abengowe, Sam Fadipe, Godwin
If you have never heard of Kabiyesi Tegbuson, then you can meet him through this interview. Kabiyesi can be described as a man of many parts, a crown king, a blue blood, a civil engineer, an entrepreneur, a leader and a detribalized Nigerian, who has lived in and visited most states in Nigeria and speaks many languages as well. The first time I met Kabiyesi, he was looking like a regular man without the strappings of his office. He wore a white long gown and was very tired from his trip, though we had a few conversations with the other colleagues I went with, and then the interview was rescheduled for the next day. I got more curious after that visit and sought to find out more about Kabiyesi, of course, the internet had enough materials on him. However, nothing prepared me for the wealth of knowledge and deep insight that Kabiyesi has about almost every topic. His leadership values and principles are inspiring and should be replicated by every leader. His approach to issues especially relating to the development of his community should be imitated by every leader. When you read through this interview, you would understand why Kabiyesi is making landmark achievements in his community Owu-Kuta and for his people. In this interview however, Kabiyesi goes a bit deeper and reveals a little bit more about himself. Without much ado, let’s meet Oba Oyelude Tegbuson….
Your Majesty, let’s know a bit more about your background?
His Royal Majesty, Oba Hameed Adekunle Oyelude Makama Tegbosun III, I am the Olowu of Owu-kuta and the Chairman, Supreme Council of Owu Obas. I am a man of many parts. I was born in the north, grew up in the north. I grew up in Maiduguri partly and Zaria partly and served in Minna, Niger state. I am a civil engineer; I have my BSc in Civil Engineering. Even before I ascended the throne of my forebearers, I’ve been into construction. I have a registered construction company that I have been using for the past 25 years Kingroad Construction as far back as when I didn’t even know that destiny will toss it upon me among other things to be on the throne. Furthermore, I enjoy a very fraternal relationship with my friends and acquaintances up north. I could be qualified to be a true Nigerian because I have friends even in the east; valuable ones. You know if you call someone a valuable friend, you would have been together for quite a number of times, which I could call them valuable friends in the real sense of it and it has rubbed off positively on my community.
How was your growing up like?
Growing up, my father Prince Oyebayo Oyelude was a soldier. I was born in Abakaliki and taken to Maiduguri. I’ve never gone so deep into telling anyone because I’ve been waiting to drop it when I clock 10 years on the throne. If God spares our lives, I’ve planned a lot of activities. That’s the period I wish I could have come up with an autobiography and other things like that. Coincidentally, I was born in the east but brought up in the north. As a child, the first water a child will take, I took it in the east so I’m qualified as an easterner but not as a Biafran (laughs). Yes, I’m qualified as an easterner, so if Agalata must come, not that type of Agalata. Some years back, Eze Njemanze gave me Enyioha (Friend of all), he did not know I’m a prince that is entitled to the throne. If you look at the meaning of the title Enyioha first of all, it tells you about my personality and character. Eze Ndi Owerri Njemanze gave me Enyioha when I went to represent General Babangida in all the activities then. That was the day Rochas was launching the first Rochas Foundation School. I commissioned it on behalf of General Babangida.
I’m a Nigerian, a detribalized Nigerian. I believe in a united entity of this nation. I believe in togetherness; we can aspire to anything in this country and we can make this country great. I don’t believe we can do it all alone or individually. All the agitation is political, it’s strictly political. If any Igbo man is the president, nobody will call for the breaking if the country. When Obasanjo was there, there was no call for the country to break. No Yoruba man said he wanted to separate. So, it’s strictly political and I, with all sense of reasoning think if the country survived civil war, we will survive this one too.
Sir, what about your educational background?
I attended primary school, I attended secondary school. Like I told you earlier, next year, the activities would have taken up almost one week of planning for our 10 years anniversary on the throne. We have a lot of things to showcase; we’ve moved our community close to 100 years beyond where we met it. God has been merciful we’ve done that. For most of the things I’ve not told the media before, I believe that is the appropriate time to tell the media.
The prerequisite qualification for a traditional ruler is that he has to be a prince. Hence, I’m not applying to be a minister to describe the national assembly, so we’ll go deep into my biography when I want to do that. God will spare our lives; it’s going to be a week-long program that will attract Nigerians. East, North, South-south: you will see them there.
So, sir you don’t want to talk much about that?
I don’t want to go deep about that because a lot of work is ongoing, so don’t let me preempt those who are working on certain materials.
Sir, what about your leadership vision, policies and the rest?
As you are aware, ours is aristocratic, from generation to generation, ours is not like the real political leadership. Traditional institutions are aristocratic. If you are married to the family, you got a child, naturally he’s a blue blood, so the leadership is in-born. My philosophy about leadership at the traditional level where I am is a clear departure from the past. In the past during the time of our forebearers, the community serves the king but now we (the kings) serve the community. Gone are those days when the community serves the king with what they have. Those that didn’t have what to offer the king will use their bodies to farm for the king. As royalty, that’s what they do then, but now we strive hard to make sure we serve the community. Many people even forget that as a traditional ruler, you don’t have a budget like the local government chairman or the commissioner or governor. If your community does not have light, rather than going to the politician, they will go to the palace and say Kabiyesi, there’s no light.
I still have some classmates of mine that will be troubling me to find a contract for them and I’ll say no, it’s not like that. I can only offer them farmland. I can dash you a certain farmland to start farming. But as many of them do not know that my own philosophy on leadership at the traditional level is that I believe, perhaps because I’m the youngest to have ever found myself on the throne in my community as the 13th Olowu of Owu-kuta. Nobody of my age grade according to history has found himself there. I believe I should be a catalyst of development rather than just sitting back and counting time and the tenure of a traditional ruler ends when he sleeps and does not wake up, that’s when it ends. So, every day and every moment counts. No week or month passes by without me making any significant breakthrough in the community since my enthronement. So, my leadership has always been about giving back to the community, doing more, enticing and attracting one or two things to the community. I am always doing that and I forget every day that I have personal issues, I have kids. That is the way it’s going.
So Kabiyesi, how will you describe the current challenges facing traditional institutions in Nigeria, do you think the government is really paying much attention to the traditional institutions?
No, the government itself has missed it, the politicians missed it rather. In terms of welfare, the last administration that did a resemblance of welfare to the traditional institutions was General Abacha’s administration. It was during his time that a memo was issued that is still being followed till today. No other government has ever thought of any good thing for our traditional rulers other than the military administration of General Abacha. He said they should be given 5% of gross allocation to the local government. Out of that 5% they will remove salary and in a local government at times you will find 5 traditional rulers and in some you will find 20. In the east you will find autonomous. So, from that 5% all the traditional rulers are being paid, it’s not the state government that is paying them. It comes from the federation account. They will pay the traditional rulers then they will pay the chiefs stipends. The government got it wrong especially the civilian administration under the current democratic setting.
No constitutional rule is made for traditional institutions and no adequate welfare package while the citizens are expecting much from the traditional rulers. So, the traditional institution has not been faring well but it is striving hard to remain relevant. No more powerful traditional rulers; all we have now are influential traditional rulers. The colonial masters took most of the powers of traditional rulers away so as to subjugate us to their colonial mentality because they met us well organized under the traditional system. They met us well organized so they had to withdraw those powers from the traditional institutions. They vest our earlier politicians, the Awolowos, the Sardaunas. It was during the time of Awolowo they removed the first Alaafin, the father of the current Alaafin. It was during the time of Sardauna they removed the grandfather of Sanusi and if we dig into the archives, we will see what happened in the east and the far south. So, the first set of politicians had to crash the rest.
There is no chapter where the traditional institution is mentioned in the Nigerian constitution and if the traditional rulers are given their rightful place in the Nigerian constitution, the security situation that is overwhelming the country now will not be as bad as this. As a king, you will have district heads, you will have ward heads and you will have compound heads. If a visitor comes, the compound head will notify the compound about whose house the visitor sleeps. The compound head will forward it to the district head and the district head will forward it to the king and then we monitor with checks and balances. But now everything is just in the contrary. That is why I’ve always been advocating that this democracy we are practicing does not suit us. We don’t need to copy America hook, line and sinker. America’s presidential system does not suit us. We should sit down and fashion out our own system based on our peculiarity that will suit us. What is wrong after civil war from 1967 to 1970, what is wrong in ceding the presidency to the east? nothing! What is wrong in an Igbo man becoming chief of defense; becoming anything without hesitation in this country? Power should devolve from the federal. A lot of power is concentrated at the center. Devolution of power should come. There are people calling for restructuring, I don’t believe in restructuring, what are we restructuring? Let there be devolution of power. What is the Federal Government doing with marriage registry? What are they doing with agriculture at the federal level? Federal Government should remain with defense and external/ foreign affairs. Every other thing should come to the states. If the north does not want beer to be sold in their place, they should not share from the VAT and tax. That is devolution of power under true federalism. You say you want to apply Shari’a law. If an Igbo man has a depot of Nigerian brewery, Hisbah will go there and confiscate it and Nigerian brewery headquarters here pays VAT every month; billions and it will be shared across federation accounts and you are not rejecting yet you say one Nigeria. I think our intelligence in this country needs to really sit and say that we want true fiscal federalism, are we practicing it? Then let’s domesticate a system that will work for us. This Nigerian system was copied through Jimmy Carter, we don’t need to copy them. When we copy America, we say we lay fundamental human rights but when DJ Switch said there was genocide, she fled away. When it happened in America in Capitol, they said it was insurrection. That place that it was only one person who died, they said it was insurrection, homegrown terrorist. May God save us.
Sir I want to ask, you said there is no specific role of traditional rulers in the constitution but then the roles the traditional rulers are called to play or are expected to play in terms of solving crisis
(Cuts in) That is just a natural role. If there is a state law and ethics, not the Nigerian constitution, each state has law and ethics, every traditional ruler in Nigeria that is being appointed after being selected by the oracle or whichever means they use in their respective places. The natural role of which the government transcribe into the instrument of authority, they said it is to maintain culture and tradition. You see a traditional ruler that is walking and preaching the Bible, it is just an aberration; no traditional ruler in the south-west where I come from is being enthroned in the church, so we are not religious leaders. We are to maintain and preserve our culture and tradition. No traditional ruler is enthroned in the mosque in the south-west. In the east, they are also not enthroned in the church, strictly traditional institution.
That role is natural because an average traditional ruler that is a true traditional ruler has a connection with his ancestors and the land. So, the people will naturally pay obedience to him and if there is anything, there is a court in every palace. We met our forefathers doing it, average citizens will even prefer to go there than to even go to conventional courts that they will adjourn today and adjourn tomorrow and there will still be miscarriage of justice eventually but they know. Even a retired judge will prefer his case to be tried in the royal court than going to conventional courts because when they ask him to swear, he knows the consequences. One million people can swear with the Bible, one million people can swear with the Qur’an, nothing will happen.
Sir can you talk about the Nigeria of your dreams?
The Nigeria of my dream is a country where everybody will have an equal opportunity. Nigeria of my dreams is the nation where we will remain peaceful and coexist in harmony. A society where you don’t need to know anybody to attain any height in the country. On merit, you can attain any height, that is the country of my dream. The country of my dream is where you will not be asked where you are from before you merit something. Provided you are a Nigerian and a human being, you are qualified to be anything. Nigeria of my dream is where what happened to Obama in America, in Kenya to become the president of the most powerful country in the world won’t stop an Igbo man from becoming governor in Osun state in the future. It won’t stop an Osun man from becoming governor in Igbo land in the future. That is the country of my dreams.
Coincidentally, it is only the military that does that. The military will post a Hausa man to a core Yoruba state, post a Yoruba man to a core Fulani-dominated area and nothing will happen; everybody will keep quiet. A Nigeria that we will unite like the way we unite and watch football. You know when there is football, you don’t hear of Biafra or Oduduwa. You neither hear of Arewa, you hear one Nigeria. So why can’t we practicalize that in our coexistence. That is the Nigeria of my dream, where every national issue will not be mistaken for tribal sentiment.
Sir, I want to take a look at your vision, you said you want to transform Owu-kuta into a small London. So how far would you say you have gone in achieving that and what is that big milestone that you are expecting to do for your community?
I am moving at my own pace but I’ll leave majority of the answers to my subjects. They are the ones that are supposed to be answering that. It will be even left for me to blow my trumpet and I’m not used to that but I can conveniently without any fear of contradiction still repeat that I have taken Owu-kuta over many decades more than where I met it but I’ll remind you when you are in Kuta to go round and ask my subjects because I want to even have a feel; they are the ones to be answering that.
Your majesty, you are a philanthropist
(Cuts in) An Oba is not supposed to be a philanthropist, I’m just doing my little bit. Check the Bible, they will take from those who don’t even have to give those who have. That’s the definition of Oba; they will take from those who don’t have. If you don’t have in cash, you will have in farm crops, if you don’t have in farm crops, you will use your sweat to work for the king. What is the essence of tax? Who spends the tax? It is only that God put it in my mind that I should be doing the little I’m doing. That is why in Yoruba there is a proverb that there is no help me carry this load in the palace, it is help me drop this load.
That is the way our forefathers have been doing it. In their town, the same thing. If you have a farm, you have a lot to harvest and you want the king to have one out of it. It is proof of ownership that you are the owner of the land. It may be as small as one corn but they will take it there then and when you don’t even have, the elders will measure a portion of land for you to farm for the king. That’s why I said my own philosophy on leadership is different. We are the ones serving the community rather than the community serving us.
So, what propelled you to make that decision?
A lot of things. One, my community is an ancient community and with my exposure, I look at it that the community is lacking in many things so I really need to rally my subject’s round. What they expect from the political class, if they could find it at the royal palace, then that will be everything. I’m used to that due to my modern upbringing. I believe if a person mistakenly comes across me, he should have one thing or the other to say about me at the end of the day. Rather than doing juju or take money to one pastor that will gather it and buy plane, no matter how poor you are, if you have given, it is a big sacrifice. It is a big one rather than doing juju or giving pastor or alfa that you think is praying for you but is sleeping instead. Your giving is enough sacrifice. Not blood sacrifice, it’s about giving alms and it will work like magic.
Sir, this situation whereby you are doing a lot for your community and actually have the good of the community at heart then what will be the roles of the house of representatives and the people representing at the government level?
They are doing what they could do. In my case, most of the political appointees from my kingdom are always having me to contend with because of the pace at which I am moving. We have a representative, last week he was tarring a road, Oba’s constituency project; he said this is what I want. We have the chairman of the local government there. There is none of them that I give breathing space except they serve. If they don’t serve, we all ensure you don’t get there back because politically I owe my community and every reasonable leader, quote and unquote I will support the government of the day because they are the ones that have the budget to do good to your community. If you are a traditional ruler and you antagonize government, you are not the one to suffer it. You may have a way to feed yourself but your community will suffer it throughout the tenure of the administration that you antagonized as a traditional ruler. So,
my good relationship with the current administration is paying off for my community. There is nothing I will request for that they will not look at.
Sir, can you share some of your values with us
Like I told you, I am working on certain things and I will factor you people in. Some major editors are working on certain things. I will factor you people in. Your big brothers in the industry, the media are working on certain things for our 10 years anniversary. Some of them who are friends are doing selflessly. Some will commission to do it on consultancy basis because it’s going to be an elaborate one.
Of recently, there has been a push for the Oduduwa nation by Sunday Igboho. As a traditional ruler of the south-west and even the Alake of Egbaland is challenging Sunday Igboho to come down to Abeokuta. As a traditional ruler, are you in support of that action?
You will just have a simple answer. Creating a country or breaking a nation goes beyond mere telephone and data. Who are the people behind it? How many people have been consulted? Is it easy to create a country out of a country? If it were easy Ojukwu would have succeeded. If it were easy, when Awolowo did not become president he would have attempted something. This is just mere politics and it will pass.
Do you think that the man Sunday Igboho is exceeding his powers?
I don’t want to discuss about him, I don’t want to discuss Sunday Igboho. As far as I’m concerned, I’m a critical stakeholder by virtue of my position as a traditional ruler, every traditional ruler in this country is a stakeholder. How many traditional rulers have the so-called agitators held meetings with? Do you want us to be like Southern Sudan that fought themselves to a standstill after almost 20 years and the United Nations asked them to do a referendum and they voted? Then up till today, Osun state that is not as buoyant as Lagos state is more buoyant than Southern Sudan. Southern Sudan is suffering from hunger and famine today. Is that where you want us to go? No well-thinking Nigerian will say that at this crucial moment of our nation building, we should be thinking of unreasonable separation. Even in the east, a section of MASSOB is calling for separation. Uwuazurike is not calling for separation. Uwuazurike’s MASSOB has different faction and ideology contrary to the ESN case. Ask those who are calling for separation. Is it on the streets that the separation will come? Don’t they know the army barracks to protest there? Let them go to the army barracks to protest and I will know they are serious. Ojo cantonment in Lagos is there, Ikeja cantonment is there, so many. In Ibadan where the agitators are from, Odogbo cantonment is there. If I see them moving and marching to the army barracks, I will say yes, Oduduwa nation or they move to Obinze barracks, not inside the bush and say they are doing ESN. Go to the barracks and say we’ve come with our own odenigwe, no one Nigeria again; then all of us can say our sons and daughters are ready. I don’t think we are ready for that now. The country does not need it; we need prayers more; we need to be united.
When you say you don’t want one Nigeria, an election is happening and you are participating. Senator Abaribe stood surety for Nnamdi Kanu. Why doesn’t Nnamdi Kanu ask Abaribe to resign first and say we don’t want Nigeria? Abaribe is a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let’s leave the aspect of Sunday Igboho for another time. Have you seen Nnamdi Kanu ask any senator to resign? Abaribe is the closest senator to him because he stood surety for him. Since his father died, Abaribe has been his next of kin till today. He did not ask Abaribe to resign from his position as Federal Government of Nigeria senator (laughs).
Sir, what’s your advice to Nigerians as we are going through economic “shakeup”
My advice to my fellow Nigerians and our subjects within the 6 geopolitical zones is that, we should be resolute. We should be patriotic at heart. Most of the prosperous nations have passed through more than this before. We will overcome it; it is a challenge in the course of nation building. The pandemic has made the world’s economy a little bit slow and worse but we’ve entered recession and come out of recession. If the economy is slow in developing but there is security, there will still be rest of mind and investors will come, but the insecurity is being heightened by the political class. So, our political class should have the fear of God and remember that we are all going to die and be answerable to God who sees all of us.
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