As he prepares to mark his 55th birthday anniversary on Tuesday, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III, shares his life story.
How do you plan to celebrate your 55th birthday?
It will be just like any other day. I will be with my family and a few friends to celebrate it. I will ruminate over my life and thank God for the journey so far.
How would you recall your early life?
I came into this world on July 6, 1966. I was two years old when my father, Oba Adekola Ogunoye II, ascended the throne in 1968. I started my primary school at Government Primary School, Owo. I had a little stint at the Government Primary School Owo. I later lived with my late sister who was an engineer, Princess Bolaji Ogunoye, who was working in the Ministry of Works in Akure, where she enrolled me at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Akure shortly after FESTAC ’77.
But things changed when my late sister was on leave and went to Lagos, so I had to return to Owo. Ondo State was then newly created and the Federal Government distributed luxury buses used to all states after the celebration of FESTAC. Ondo state’s own was then used as a commercial bus plying Akure-Owo, Akure-Ondo. I had to be going to Oke Mapo to board the bus to Akure in the morning to school and would return in the evening in the same bus every day.
When my sister returned to work and came back from Lagos to Akure, she asked me to come back to Akure. But since I had found new friends in Owo and was subsumed, I told my sister that I was not going and then stayed back. But my sister reported me to my uncle, Monday Fadamitan, who locked me up in his room and flogged the hell out of me. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, my uncle forgot to lock the door when he went to see his visitor off, I then bolted away.
When I got to the palace and my father saw the scars, he said it was too much and asked me to stay behind. That was how I continued my primary education at Government School, Owo and did not go to Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Akure again. I went to secondary school in Owo and then to the university to read some courses. Then I had masters in Public Administration and later capped it with a degree in Law at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba -Akoko.
I joined the civil service in Ondo State and rose to the position of Permanent Secretary before I ascended the throne of my forefathers.”
Were you under any instruction to dethrone any of your chiefs when you were appointed as the Olowo?
There is no need for all that in order to ensure there is peace in the kingdom. We should all give the town’s development the benefit of the doubt. I believe that everybody cannot support me. Once the greater number of our people is behind me, I should stay focused and face the challenges of leadership. Nobody has advised me to do that (dethrone chiefs), and they knew I would not do that. I cannot find any reason to do that anyway.
What would say are your achievements so far as the Olowo?
I have provided the expected leadership and I ensure we have peace. I believe that without peace, the development of the town would be compromised. I want peace in the kingdom. This is a clear departure from the regular experience of the past where there were primordial leanings and divisions. Now the kingdom is united and focused towards development.
The other achievement is that we have been able to rally round our governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who we see as our great Ambassador. We see him as our pride. The kingdom rallied round him and he succeeded in his second term bid.
On infrastructure, a lot of our roads are being worked on by the state as new areas are opening up. I can as well put it on record that today I received in audience officers of land and Permanent Secretary of Infrastructure. We had a discussion on the dualisation of Ifesanmi /Mobil to Ikare Junction Road, which will commence any moment from now.
During my quest to become the Olowo of Owo, I told the youths that there would be employment. Now, some of them are gainfully employed. We encouraged some who are interested in agriculture. The state government also gave them cocoa pods in the cocoa plantation at Jugbere Farm Settlement. Unfortunately, the issue of herdsmen has impacted negatively on the use of these farms.
How have you dealt with the issue of cultism in your domain?
A lot of our youths are involved in cultism. We have taken practical steps and a lot of them have renounced their membership. We used the instrumentality of our culture to fight the scourge. Some were made to use the traditional belief system to renounce it, and there are consequences for going back. We have a lot who renounced their continued participation in it. So now, it has gone down drastically.
Are you bothered by the menace of herdsmen attacks in the Southwest and other parts of the country?
Our gold deposits in the government reserve in Owo are being exploited by these herdsmen. We have been having discussions. It is the government who can put a stop to it.
What informed the chieftaincy titles you have awarded so far as the Olowo?
It is for those who have contributed immensely to the development of Owo. They deserved to be honoured and we are still doing it; honouring those who contributed to the development of the town. This is to appreciate the indigenes.
What is your relationship with the Olagbegi family like?
We are from the same family. We are cousins. We are from Elewuokun Dynasty; the Olagbegis, Ogunoyes, we are all one. We are cordial and have a healthy relationship.
Is it true that your late father was a very powerful man?
Well, that is that. The fact remains that monarchs are powerful. The Olagbegi was also powerful. Any Olowo that rules has always been powerful.
Your father, Ogunoye II died at very old age. Your mother also died recently at the age of 95. What is the secret of their longevity?
“The secret of their longevity was because of their love for their people, peace of mind and service to humanity. My late father was interested in giving service to Owo. He was friendly but very tough when the need arose. He was feared and honoured. My mother was loyal and beautiful. He was loyal to her husband. She would do anything to satisfy you. She was a dedicated woman. My desire is to follow in my father’s footsteps, service; ensure development, unity and peace. I believe these are the catalysts to develop the community and love for humanity.
During the last election, you campaigned publicly for Governor Akeredolu as a traditional ruler. Why?
Not only that I supported him publicly, we saw the quality that he was made of. He delivered greatly to the people of Owo Kingdom. He is a good ambassador, so why not? It was not only me that supported him but the whole Owo Kingdom, so that he would continue to deliver, and he has never disappointed us ever since. The good people of Ondo state are enjoying the dividends of democracy. The governor distinguished himself not only to the people of Owo but across the length and breadth of Ondo State.