The Olowu of Owu Kuta, Oba Adekunle Oyelude Makama, Tegbosun III, in this interview with ISMAEEL UTHMAN and SOLOMON ODENIYI, speaks about the cultural and traditional uniqueness of his town and his support for the Nigerian Army.
You have continued to support the Service Chiefs and Nigerian Army in particular, in spite of heavy criticisms against them because of the rising spate of insecurity in the country. What is the knot that ties you with the military?
As a father of the nation, I believe the military is not only strengthening democracy and defending the territorial integrity of the country, they are also building the nation. They have gone beyond their core mandates. They deserve our support and that is why I choose to lead unsolicited support for the military. It is no doubt the support is coming from unusual quarters, but I am happy doing that.
The Chief of Army Staff on Monday commissioned a bridge within the precincts of your kingdom, what does this mean to the community?
The bridge had been a generational request and dream of my people, which was unfulfilled for years. For over a hundred years, my people have been looking for ways out to the construction of the bride, which links Kuta with Ede. From my palace to Ede, it should not take more than 30 minutes drive, but there was a barrier, the Osun River, which made that impossible. Since the colonial era, my forefathers and Ede people collaborated to have the bridge done but they could not. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president, being the Balogun of Owu, while in power flew here twice and included the bridge in the national budget, but it got no cash backing. The former governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who is a friend of mine, had it in the budget too but there was no money to construct the bridge. Eventually, God raised the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai for me. I approached him and requested for assistance and he agreed to help out. He constructed the bridge free of charge. He helped to break the Jericho wall. Kuta people will never forget this in their lifetime, the coming generations too will not. We are eternally grateful to him and the Nigerian Army. If this was to be influenced by a politician, Kuta will continue to give unalloyed support to the party that person might belong to. The prosperity of the town is tied to that road. We were landlocked. You could only access Kuta one way. But all that is now history. Buratai is a jinx-breaker.
How will you describe your experience in the last eight years that you ascended the throne of your forefathers?
It has been spectacular. We all know that Kuta is an ancient town which was founded in 1427; and it has been lacking in infrastructural development. Ever since I ascended the throne, I have been trying to bring sons and daughters of this community both at home and abroad back home to invest in the town. It has been a problem mobilising them back home. They still believe that there are witches and wizards in the town and as a result, they stayed back. We have been able to change that perception and some of them have been coming back home to help the community, as well as have secured investments. We hope others would join and the community will experience massive development. That summarises our experience on the throne.
There is an Owu town in Ogun State, is there any historical link between Kuta and the town?
I am Olowu of Owu-Kuta. The headquarters of Owu is Orile Owu in Osun. At a point in time, Orile Owu used to be known as Owu Ipole, it was also referred to as Ago Owu. The first Owu stead known as Owu Ipole was founded by Oduduwa and it was the first town he gave his directive to found and it was done for his grandchild known as Olowu Ajibosin. In 1820, there was war that ravaged Yorubaland, which scattered many people from Owu to different towns. Before the disintegration of Owu Ipole in 1427, my forefathers had migrated to the present place we occupy during the kingship quest then, that was after the demise of Olowu Ajibosin. We came here before the disintegration of people in Owu Ipole, now Orile Owu in 1820. We have Owu Kuta, Owu Epe in Ijesa. In Abeokuta, we have Owu Abeokuta, Owu Ijebu. We have Owu Ayepe, Owu Gbawojo and Owu Iposi also in Lagos State. We have Owu Obaloyan and Owu Isin in Kwara State. In Oyo, we have Owu Erunmu where elder Wole Oyelese hails from and in Ibadan Owu owned a part of Ibadan before the disintegration and that why most of the families have a tie with Owu. The current Olubadan’s grandmother was from Owu. In those days, the boundary of Owu stopped immediately after the Government House at Agodi, Ibadan. I must state that all the Owus are one. We do have an annual gathering called Owu National Convention. We have an umbrella body known as royal union of Owu and it is presently headed by retired General Opaleye, the former military governor of Ondo State, while I am the Chairman, Council of Owu Obas. We move our annual gathering from one Owu stead to the other. We had it last two years in Iwo because we have about 20 compounds that are Owus in Iwo and whether we have a traditional ruler there or not, we celebrate in towns that we have Owus. Senator Adelere Oriolowo is the Mogaji of Owu in Iwo.
What is the most unique festival, tradition and taboo of Kuta as an ancient town?
We have a grove here and I have been working hard to have it enlisted by UNESCO as a tourist site. Our forefather that led us to Owu Ipole was known as Akindele Alugbuwa. Death refused to take him away after reigning for many years. He gathered all his sons and said he was going to change abode. In those days, you don’t install a big man as a king but people with supernatural powers. We have a point at the entrance of the town where Alugbuwa descended into the ground, his wife turned to a river near the place and his horse climbed a tree and the footsteps of the horse were on the tree till now. His diviner called Atorunmopele also descended into the ground and we name the place after him.
In Kuta, we do not sell pounded yam and groundnuts, but we eat them. That is part of our taboos. The reason that led to this is that when Alugbua descended, he instructed us to call on him when we have issues. Some of his kith and kin believed while some did not. Some of them got drunk one day and went to the spot where Alugbua descended to dare him. They drew the chain and called on him. He came out with his fighting sword and began to kill the people; he thought he was fighting the enemies. When he got to the market square called Oja Mosun, he looked back and the pill of yam slipped his horse and fell. When he fell, he saw the marks on the faces of the people he had attacked. As he was struggling to get back on his feet, the shell of groundnuts got in-between the hooves of his horse. Since then, it has become a taboo for every indigene of Kuta to sell yam and groundnuts. Some people have tried it and paid for it, including one of my predecessors who brought some Islamic clerics and tried to pound yam. They also gave people money to people to start selling pounded yam. All of them died mysteriously. We are Africans and not Jews or Arabs. We have our culture and traditions and for that reason, no Yoruba monarch is enthroned in the church or mosque. We are to maintain culture, traditions and peace according to the letters given to us by the government.
But there are some traditional rulers in Yorubaland who are turbaned during their crowning, what do you make of this?
Traditional institution is the sole responsibility of the traditionalists. Erin Ile and even Offa are still traditional but when you look at Ijagbo and others, they are Kwara State, they are Northern Nigeria. The influence of Fulani caliphate is there. In our own neighborhood, Iwo has a mixture of that. It is left for Iwo sons and daughters to determine when they find themselves in that. Did the Obaship in Iwo start with the Fulani caliphate or with the traditional rulers? They need to know where the dilution came in.
What are the festivals being celebrated in Owu Kuta?
Alugbuwa is a festival celebrated annually in this town. It is celebrated in December and holds much significance to us than other festivals. We also celebrate our masquerade and Oranmiyan festivals in September. There is a particular compound that migrated from Ile-Ife to join us; the festival is of importance to them. We also have Esu Onile Oloke. We also associate with things known to be the Yoruba culture and traditions.
How is the Alugbuwa celebrated?
It is a seven-day programme done with a procession to the groove. We offer prayers there. You can equate it with modern day’s birthday celebrations. In the first day, a particular compound, Idile Olode, which has what is known as Ibayin, celebrates it. After this, the warriors go on hunting expedition for Alugbuwa. Alugbuwa himself was a hunter and warrior. The king will then pray for a prosperous new year. On the third day, each compound will come to pay tribute to the monarch with whatever they have. They are followed by the chiefs. In those days, it used to be with farm produce, arts and crafts and other things the compounds are known for. On the ground finale, the king will lead the community to Alugbuwa groove and offer prayers and sacrifices. They will take anything they find on their way back. People are expected to keep something on the road for them. It is like a fun spoil of war. The festival is always very interesting. We have discussed with National Museum, Federal Ministry of Culture and employed a consultancy firm to improve on the festival.
With the advent of modernity, some traditions are going into extinction; do you have any tradition that has been abandoned by your people?
Nothing is static, but we are trying as much as possible not to allow our cultural heritage to go into extinction. Irrespective of modernity, we are striving to preserve our culture. As a monarch, that is what I am expected to do and I will not derail.
What have been your achievements since you ascended the throne?
I would have loved you to ask my people this question. It is not good to blow one’s trumpet. The palace, as massive as it, is one of my major achievements. I moved the palace here. This place was called Igbo Igbale. Some hundred years ago, this was the place they execute criminals. The Oro people also made use of this place. The masqueraders also had their abode here. It was an evil forest, so to speak, but I have changed all that now. All my predecessors since 1427 used their different compounds but I made up my mind that I am going to have a palace built during my time.
I also single-handedly built a police station and I procured a patrol vehicle for the police. I spent about N6 million for the channelisation of erosion to prevent flooding at Isale Oba. Although, I was promised I would get a refund for that, but I am yet to. I was able to construct rural roads to the tune of N240m through friends from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The same ministry also helped with the construction of solar lights in the town, worth N18million and they also installed solar panel in the palace worth N23m. I have enlisted Kuta sons and daughters into various federal institutions. I have equally assisted many sons and daughters of Kuta that were willing to travel legally. We are still willing to do more.
How will you advise monarchs go about relating with their subjects?
I advise them to be open-minded with their subjects. God has ordained every traditional ruler for an assignment. They should do it diligently. In those days, it was the people that served the king, but it is the other way round now. We must offer service to our community. Monarchs must also learn to be tolerant and see themselves as being privileged because there is still a king that is above us. Don’t go against your people, you’re there at their mercy. To our subjects too, the more you take care of your king, the better you get out of them.