All hands must be on deck to develop Ijebu-Jesa
— His Royal Majesty Moses Olufemi Agunsoye, Abikehin Ekun, Agunsoye II, The Elegboro Of Ijebu-Jesa
When Oba Taiwo Aribisala, Ajigiteri II, who was the 23rd Oba of Ijebu-Jesa joined his ancestors sometime in March this year, six princes from the town’s ruling homes were thrown up to ascend the throne.
Among the princes was a 60-year-old engineer, who was then in the service of Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment at the Industrial Inspectorate Department. He was the zonal coordinator of five states, including Jos, Edo and Oyo, among others. It was from Ibadan that he covered four other states before retirement. Against all odds, he was finally nominated to become the 24th Oba of Ijebu-Ijesa. What happened? How did he beat the other princes, who are more formidable financially?
These were the questions many asked. On November 7, 2017, the entire Ijebu-Jesa town, as well as all adjoining villages was thrown into festive mood, as traditional drummers and singers led Osun State Government officials and visitors to the coronation venue of Oba Moses Olufemi Agunsoye, Abikehin Ekun, Agunsoye II as the Elegboro of Ijebu-Jesa. After presentation of staff of office by Mr. Olubisi Samuel Odewumi, Special Adviser to Osun Governor, Rauf Aregbesola on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Palace Watch had an interview with Oba Agunsoye.
What was the magic that assisted in your emergence as king?
There was no special magic. We had the Iwarafa kingmakers. Six of us contested the throne, but all of us can’t be kings at the same time. The mantle has fallen on me, and life goes on.
My second take on the matter is that, it is good to have money, but in the true sense of it, money is not everything in life. The way and manner the good people of Ijebu-Jesa clamoured and ensured that I ascended this throne of my forefathers is a true testimony to the fact that good name and integrity are much better than riches.
First, I went into the race because it is my birthright to do so. I was born into a royal family, and it is only God that determines the end of an individual’s life. I just retired in January this year from the civil service at the age of 60. I honestly didn’t know that God had another plan for me to continue my service for my people. We thank God. My ascension to the throne is a continuation of my service to humanity.
The majority of people who clamoured that I became their king are ready and willing to assist me to make a huge success of it. Everyone around here knows this fact. So, my being a king today is not an individual effort, but a collective one. The communities are solidly behind me, especially the elites. They all said, since you are now on the throne, we are all ready to come and help develop Ijebu-Jesa. With this I have no fear at all that I have a lot of people who will guide, support and do all within their powers to develop Ijebu-Jesa during my reign.
As you can see, I am not a millionaire. My not being a rich man was one of the things they used to campaign against me during the contest for this crown. They said I was just a civil servant who might not be able to cope financially with the situation on ground in Ijebu-Jesa. Immediately I ascended the throne, I made it very clear to all concerned that Ijebu-Jesa’s development should not be seen and taken as an individual effort. We must, therefore, work collectively to develop this place. Even the only thing that billionaires and businessmen and women talk or think about is how to make profits. But it was communal efforts that brought me to this throne. So now, I have a lot of people supporting me who are not looking for profit, but how to contribute meaningfully to the development of our place. This is what I call service.
The development we are talking about comes in two ways: Individuals and government. The government aspect has to do with communal roads and hospitals, which concern the local government. Both local and state governments are needed in the area of labour, job creation and employment. All these go with other practical developments.
At individual level, we need people around here who would help set up small and medium-scale industries, to help with youth employment. We must continue to work towards giving some brilliant, indigent students in secondary schools in communities around here scholarships and partial scholarships, and also to some youths in the universities, such that when these children eventually finish and start to work, there is no way they would abandon the communities that helped to see them through schools. This is the spirit we should encourage now that I am on forefathers’ throne.
As we speak, there are people ready to assist financially, morally, and even with ideas. Some people don’t have money, but they have lots of ideas, which rule the world. Once the idea is on ground, implementation will follow almost immediately.
What are you bringing to the table as the new Elegboro of Ijebu-Jesa?
My vision is to see to the rapid development of my people and place. I already have a vision on how to accomplish this. My background as a core civil servant in the Federal service has already prepared me for the tasks ahead. I intend to draw up a 10-year development plan. I have, therefore, put in place an economic team on how to develop Ijebu-Jesa. All we need do now is mobilise and start development in our area toward the 10-year target. We are already working on how we are going to get across to various governments – local, state and federal – to see how they can be of help to us in various areas.
As a retired civil servant, I have already told my people I won’t just sit down at Ijebu-Jesa; I need to take my crown and go to Abuja to meet the commissioner in charge at the Federal Civil Service Commission and ensure that allocations for my people are filled. I intend to also go to the Federal Ministry of Industry from where I retired and get in touch with some of the people I met on the field, when I was still working to see how they could be of help, especially qualified youths. We are also making efforts to help interested youths to learn trades and become artisans. Afterwards, we intend to provide them with required tools to start their own businesses and manage lives. Once this is done, stealing and other criminal vices will be reduced in our communities.
Also, I intend to remain apolitical. Whosoever comes visiting my palace I will bless him. I can’t attract capital development to my area without politicians’ assistance. I will do my utmost to cooperate with them whenever the need arises, but I don’t intend to compromise myself in the process. I will regard all of them as my children, be they from right or left. I have been defending budget as a civil servant all these years. I will prepare and present my document properly to them and defend it to ensure it is properly implemented.
My principal concern now is how to mobilise my people to pay more tax into local government coffers, so as to raise internally generated revenue (IGR) to a reasonable level. Once the IGR is up, alongside other revenues from the state, no local government chairman or administrator would be able to say they don’t have money to develop their areas.
I am also working very hard to ensure that our youths embrace agriculture full time. Governor Rauf Aregbesola has revived the Awolowo type of farm settlements. With this, most of our youths are already returning to the farms. We are agro-based communities in Ijebu-Jesa. We are appealing to government to help our farmers with tractors and all that they require to go into modern-day farming. Once this is done, we will see how we can help the youth secure agricultural loans so that they can produce to their capacity. I would also appeal to local, state and federal governments to put in place structures that will help farmers mop up their produce once they are available in the market. Marketing Board, like the one Awolowo once introduced in the old Western Region, will do the magic. Once farmers know there are markets for the produce, they will work round the year. If this continues for a long period of time, there will be sufficient food in the land.
On disunity among the Yoruba Obas, I think the current Ooni of Ife is setting the pace. He is, therefore, giving us the baton to continue the race of peace in Yoruba land. Within a week of my installation, all the Obas within my vicinity have visited me. I have personally visited the Ooni of Ife. So, plus or minus, the unity among Yoruba Obas is becoming more solid. We do not need any division at this stage. The Ooni has exhibited humility in all he has been doing. Once we begin to speak with one voice as Yoruba Obas, whatsoever we might require from government or any other body, we will surely get it.
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