Says current constitution embarrasses, ridicules traditional rulers
‘Why Obas are silent on Yoruba nation’
Oba Kabir Adewale Shotobi is the Ayangburen of Ikorodu and the paramount ruler of the Ikorodu division in Lagos State. An engineer and astute businessman, he is also the permanent vice chairman of the Lagos State Council of Obas and Chiefs. The widely traveled monarch recently celebrated the sixth anniversary of his ascension to the throne. In this exclusive interview with ‘DARE ODUFOWOKAN, Assistant Editor, he recalled the trying moments of his reign, declaring that the Badoo killings that rocked his domain in 2017 was his worst nightmare. While revealing how the dreaded cult killings were ended through traditional and community policing efforts, Oba Shotobi declared matter-of-factly that it is untrue that it was the Nigerian Police Force that ended the killings. He also spoke on a lot of other issues including how the current constitution of the country is embarrassing traditional rulers. Excerpts.
How would you describe your experience as the Ayangburen of Ikorodu in the last six years?
It has been six very interesting years. And I must tell you I made up my mind right from the time it dawned on me that I would be the next King of Ikorodu to make the very best use of the throne to the glory of God and benefits of my people. My predecessor was a great king and father. He prepared the ground for the successes of today. I was very close to him, so I can say he prepared me well for the tasks of a king. I am also very grateful to the Lasunwon royal family. Without them, I won’t behere today.
We have done a lot since I became king. Right from putting up a new building at the Ipebi when I became the Oba-elect to ensuring that Ikorodu now has a befitting palace building, we have been working. We achieved the new palace within my first three years on the throne. Today, it is a pride for the entire Ikorodu people and I thank all those who worked hard to make this possible. The building is not mine. No, it is not for me; it is for Ikorodu and its people. But it is one thing God used me to achieve for Ikorodu as the Ayangburen.
My predecessors were in opposition to government most times. So, I made up my mind very early that I will never be in opposition as an Oba. This is because that will not bring development to the town. So, in the interest of my domain, I always make sure I don’t confront or oppose the government. Of course, I always advise where necessary and express my opinion on issues, but I ensure I am not confrontational or too critical. Those in government are reasonable people too and they appreciate opinions and advice. My good relationship with the government has led to the coming of a lot of good things to Ikorodu in the last six years.
Look around, you will see a lot of government projects being executed or already completed. Some of these we suggested and some others were brought to us by the government. Many are still in the offing. There are the ongoing Igbogbo Road project, Oba Sekumade Road, Itamaga-Ijede Road, Ikorodu Roundabout, Isawo Road and many other road projects in my domain. All these, I strongly believe, came by because we stopped being in opposition. As a monarch, I consider the interest of my domain first.
Speaking about your relationship with government, how will you describe the place of traditional rulers in governance today, especially in Lagos State?
This is not just about any state in particular; it is about the country in general. There are no roles for the traditional rulers in governance today. We are all worried that our roles have been eroded by some actions and inaction of the military government of the past years. Today, the constitution makes no provision for the traditional rulers. The truth is that the current constitution embarrasses traditional rulers. We are ridiculed by the current constitution. It is just that here in Lagos State we have a respectful and listening governor. Sanwoolu listens when I reach out to him.
When I make a request on behalf of my people, he will say Kabiyesi, send your list, and he will act on it. And when issues concern my domain or my people, he will personally reach out to me for my opinion or position. I appreciate him. Sanwoolu is one governor that has been saving traditional rulers from embarrassment by carrying us along in his administration. That way, our people are feeling a sense of belonging. Recently, he gave us eight hectares of land for VIP chalet in the G.R.A. Not many governorsare doing that for traditional rulers in their states.
Obas need to be given more roles in governance for rapid development and better security architecture. And I know Lagos is working towards that. We have been to the assembly on that and the lawmakers and the government are eager to do this for us. Once Lagos leads, other states will follow. Traditional rulers are not here to challenge the authorities of politicians; they are to support those in government. So, there shouldn’t be any fear at all. Together we will work better to make the people happy if we are allowed to come aboard and make impact.
Of recent, we Ijebu Obas in Lagos State decided to come together so as to always speak with one voice. I mooted the idea and it was accepted by all other Ijebu Obas. The late Alara of Ilara became the first chairman, and after he departed, I stepped into the seat. We have about 26 Obas in the forum. Epe, Langbasa, Ikorodu, Ibeju Lekki, Eredo, Agbowa and many more are Ijebu domains in Lagos. And the decision has paid off. It has helped our relationship with government and united us. It was the same platform we recently used to urge Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to please, contest the presidency in 2023. We decided that charity must start at home for him.
You were a successful businessman and the Odofin of Ikorodu before you became king. Did you ever think you would ascend the throne?
Efun ola, won kii ko si ori… (the chalk of success is never inscribed on the forehead). I am from the royal family but nobody knows a future king among princes. If a future king is identified at birth, there is the probability that such may not live long. But very important is the fact that I have always loved Ikorodu, even when I left to go abroad to study. I worked away from Ikorodu, in Sagamu precisely for 22 years before coming back to settle in Ikorodu. The family said I must take chieftaincy title and I became the Odofin.
Royalty is sacrifice, and I made a lot of it in those years without expecting anything in return. And as Odofin, I learnt a lot from my predecessor. He tutored me freely without hiding anything from me. I was born in Ikorodu and I grew up in Ikorodu. Though I never had the premonition that I would be king, I must say I was somehow well prepared for the position after I became the Odofin. Twenty-four of us contested for the throne and I emerged as the king. So, I thank God, my family and the good people of Ikorodu for finding me worthy.
There are lots of arguments these days on the relationship between Obaship and tradition. What is your take on this as an Oba?
First, let me tell you that as the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, my relationship with the traditionalists and the traditional system is very cordial. It has to be because the Obaship institution belongs to the traditionalists. There is no two way to it. God gave the institution to them and nobody has been able to change it. All through the process leading to my being crowned, I never saw the Imams or the Pastors. It was the Olonbas (traditional worshipers) that I saw. They handled everything until I was crowned and government gave me the staff of office.
So, how can I now say I am now a Muslim or a Christian and I will not recognise them? How can I turn my back on them? I cannot do that because I understand their place in the Obaship institution, especially in Yorubaland. I am an Oba that went into the Ipebi and completed the rites. No Oba that went through that can say the traditional worshipers are not important. My role is to bless all their legitimate activities and support them as and when due. I have been doing that and I will continue to do that. I will never disappoint them because they crowned me.
A couple of years back, Ikorodu was in the news for a very wrong reason: the Badoo killings and other security issues. How did you ensure an end to the menaces?
In 2017, the Badoo issue came and we confronted it headlong. I must say that period was a real nightmare for me as a king. I was troubled but determined to restore peace to my domain. Let me say it clearly that the police didn’t end Badoo killings in Ikorodu. They don’t even know how we ended the menace. That was why I challenged Mr. President when I met him in Abuja whether he was still hearing about Badoo. You will see that majority of the suspects arrested are not from Ikorodu, but we haboured them. That is the price we paid for development.
When people ask me how we did it, I tell them some matters are better not discussed publicly. But what I can tell you is that we appealed to God when the menace and killings became unbearable. We made a lot of sacrifices as leaders and traditional rulers. We engaged and supported our local security apparatus strongly. All hands were on deck across Ikorodu division to end the killings. We cried out to God and God answered our prayers. We made a lot of efforts and we thank God that today, it is a thing of the past.
On that premise, let me say it clearly that community policing is the solution to the current insecurity bedeviling our country. When the people of a community police their community themselves, they do it better than strangers who are posted down to police a terrain they are not familiar with. For example, here in Ikorodu, police don’t make arrests without the help of our local security agents. They work together for better results. Crisis will always come with development. What we must do is find ingenious ways of tackling the problems when they come.
Also, the problem of unemployment is adding to our security challenges. Let us employ these youths and insecurity will reduce drastically. Governor Sanwoolu is doing a lot in that direction and I am praying to God to bless his efforts with good results. He is creating jobs and creating wealth all over the state. Look at what he is doing with the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). One hundred and two new vehicles were recently acquired. Even if it is just four new persons that will be employed to man each one, you can calculate the number of youths and women that will have jobs. And he is doing a lot on the Waterways too.
You were mentioning some of the projects of the state government in Ikorodu division…
Yes. One thing I find impressive about the government of the day in Lagos is consultation. The government will always consult us before anything. Just recently we were at the budget review programme to discuss projects and plans of government for next year. I have also been discussing with the governor. Apart from the projects I appreciated him earlier for, we are discussing some more. I have asked for a stadium in LASPOTECH. The location is central for the entire division. I am asking that Ikorodu General Hospital be upgraded to a teaching hospital. I have a list of inner roads I want the government to open up across the division. The 4th Mainland Bridge project is very important to me.
Also, we want the government to give Ikorodu division our own theatre or cinema. Other divisions have and we want one too. We want the Imota International Market project to be completed as well as the rice mill too. We were asking for a fly over at the Ikorodu Roundabout, but we learnt that is not to be. Something that will solve the gridlock problem there has been proposed and work has started there. I have a petrol station there and I already volunteered that if it is affected, I am ready to sacrifice it. Many houses will be affected and we are already discussing with the owners as government is ready to compensate them.
I am also glad to tell you that the government is on the process of upgrading LASPOTECH to a University of Technology. We went to the assembly to discuss that too recently. I have asked for more retail markets for the many street traders in Ikorodu. On our own, we have plans to redesign and reconstruct the Ita Efunlase which houses our ancient palace at Ajina. I have asked five renowned Architects to work on that. I have the designs and plans here. I am talking to relevant state agencies on this and I am very optimistic about it. It will boost our tourism.
What is your position on the agitation for Yoruba Nation?
Look, I want you to know that traditional rulers in the southwest are not talking about the agitations because the time is not ripe yet. Very importantly, we will never, as leaders, support violent agitations. When Awolowo and Azikwe struggled for independence, they didn’t engage in violence. It is not by violence that freedom will come. Many nations are free today without violence. It can only come through discussions and reconciliations. They should make their presentations and not resort to violence. When the time is ripe, it will come. We are very concerned about the violence aspect of the agitation. And that is why we are all calling on government to address the issues of insecurity. Violent agitations are not good for any society.