By Charles Segun Adegbite
The Elepe of Epe-Sagamu, His Royal Highness, Oba Adewale Osiberu, a first class Oba in Ogun State and the outgoing Acting President of Remo Traditional Council who stepped into Akarigbo’s shoe following the death of Oba Adeniyi Sonariwo last year, to fill the vacuum.
Oba Osiberu , an alumnus of London School of Economics and Political Science, where he bagged Post Graduate Diploma in Management of Information Systems, is a trained System Analyst who had worked as Computer Manager and Analyst both in insurance companies and banks in Nigeria and United Kingdom before he became traditional ruler.
In this interview conducted before the new Akarigbo-elect, Prince Babatunde Adewale Ajayi was nominated, he explained how he stepped into Akarigbo’s shoe, the proposed Remo Day anniversary, among other salient issues. Excerpts:
Since Oba Sonariwo passed on last year how were you able to maintain peace especially during the rites of passage and thereafter?
Well, we have to thank God for being in control all the time. I cann’t say it’s the making of anybody but God. But more importantly that was one of the reasons why I said things were tough. Again, we had to prevent such an occurrence(the crisis that occurred after the Akarigbo Oba Moses Awolesi passed on in 1988) . And the way it went was such that, as we discovered lately, one of the reasons why that occurred during the passage of rites of late Oba Awolesi (in which there was serious crisis leading to the killing of two men (siblings). Although I wasn’t here then, it was because people were not carried along.
A section of the town believed that the primary constituency of Akarigbo is Offin and so the rites of passage should be done and restricted only to that constituency. And that they should be in full control of their own community.
As you know, there are several communities within Sagamu where you have so many Obas. And in such a situation, Akarigbo, being the Paramont Ruler of Remoland and that of Sagamu, who supervises and control Sagamu. After the demise of Akarigbo, the Offin chiefs, have their powers limited to Offin. But there have always been this misconception, which won’t happen anywhere. They(Offin Chiefs) think because Akarigbo have control over Sagamu, they also would have control over Sagamu and so, when Akarigbo passed on, they were taking decision that they felt would be binding on every community in Sagamu, which was wrong.
The first thing I did then was to call all the Obas in Sagamu, apart from calling the Obas in Remo. I knew the activities would happen within Sagamu, so the Sagamu Obas would have to be carried along, and called the Offin chiefs. We didn’t want a situation where Offin’s chiefs would be taking decision over and above Obas in Sagamu, because that was the kind of a thing that caused the crisis then(in 1988).
So, we called the Obas in Sagamu: Oba Ewusi, Alado, Onijagba, Odofin, and all other Obas in Sagamu. They all came together to say this is the situation, so these are the plans. There’s a need for us to observe some curfew because of the traditional rites. Such and such areas should be where people should not go to. We had to agree among ourselves. And because that was done everybody was carried along.
Consequently we didn’t have so much problem. If we had not done that, and it was a section of the town that decided and felt that such decisions would be bidding on other people that’s where crisis would occur. People would say what you are doing there does not concern us here, so you cann’t come to my domain to do that.
To the Obas, Akarigbo is a Paramount Ruler over everybody and we are all equal, And you have to thank Oba Ewusi for what he did. I mean the current Ewusi, Oba Oyesola Adesanya. When we held a meeting, as a matter of fact, when that incidence of 1988 that you mentioned occurred. They ended up in Abeokuta. It was under a military governor then. And they all went there; the late Oba Ewusi Ogunsowo, the Onijagba, the late Lisa of Offin (a chief) and other monarchs in Sagamu.
They met with the then military governor and held a security meeting based on the Sagamu crisis. And they signed an agreement concerning the activities. I think the agreement then was that curfew for traditional rites on Akarigbo passage should be restricted to two weeks in Makun whereas it should be three lunar months in Offin. This was signed by all and agreed on.
The current Ewusi brought out the document when the issue arose for deliberation after Oba Sonariwo passed on and we met to take a decision. He was not yet an Oba when those Obas signed the document. But he got the document when he became the new Ewusi.
The moment we saw that we respected the agreement signed by our predecessors. And he said he only brought it as a reference point but that as far as he is concerned whatever is happening in Sagamu should be general. Whatever decision we take will be bidding on Makun, that we don’t have to limit it. And everybody was happy that this is being magnanimous.
So, we were able to carry everybody along. We know that he would have gotten a lot of pressure from his people in Makun, who were not aware of this thing. There were instances in which he had to call me that some people were being harassed. But he quelled the situation and ensured situation under his domain was put under control, without people resulting to any violence or so. We really need to thank him.
When you called the meeting of the Obas in Sagamu and that of Remo, was it at the instance of being the head of Security Committee or that you have been appointed to do so?
I always believe in one thing. I became a manager in a private organisation at the age of 29. And I was in managerial position for several years. In management you don’t allow vacuum to occur. Somebody must take a decision to avoid lawlessness or crisis. I saw that the head of Sagamu and Remo was no more. We cann’t just be drifting, okay? So, I took it upon myself to do it. So, if having done that, if at a meeting we held somebody felt “well you’ve done, this is the person that should be in control” I will willingly handover to the person. As at that time I just believe there should be no vacuum and somebody must be in control of the situation.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced since last year when Akarigbo joined his ancestors ?
Most of the challenges are those that have been happening before, In this situation, because the then Akarigbo (Oba Sonariwo) was still alive, he was the one handling it. Now when he was no more I had to take up the challenge..
We’ve not had any challenge that one can say has not been happening before. And again, because I’ve been carrying everybody along, the tension has really been down. One of the things I’ve discovered is that a lot of people tend to believe in rumour, rather than finding out the truth. Nobody goes to check.
However, in a situation where a lot of people are carried along. I mean all the Obas in Sagamu, I make sure they know the situation of things. So, when a rumour goes out and they hear, they quickly correct that. That has helped a lot.
Since Oba Sonariwo passed on, have you heard from the family or how is your relationship with them ?
You know, the late Oba Sonariwo was like a father to me. We were so close.. A lot of people would really think I’m his biological son. I was so closed to him while he was alive. Concerning being in touch with the family. I see them. They come around, Those that are around here, you know some live abroad. Those at home come to Sagamu once in a while and we talk.
In 2014, while celebrating 30th Sagamu Day, Oba Sonariwo declared his intention to start annual Remo Day, what do you think is hindering this programme?
We actually started planning for that; if you remember when we celebrated his 25th Coronation Anniversary in 2015, he repeated it, because he saw that as the beginning of Remo Day. If you remember, we brought the whole of Remo together during that coronation anniversary. There was a programme tagged paying of homage to the Akarigbo. And people came from different parts of Remo; Akaka, Irolu, and all others. Clubs and unions. They all came to pay homage to the Akarigbo then.
He got emotionally moved and repeated the need for Remo Day again. Based on this, we started planning. We used that as the beginning of our preparation for Remo Day.
It was based on this that the Sagamu Union of Great Britain celebrated 25th Coronation Anniversary of Akarigbo in U.K. And we were there. I remember that Alaperu was also there. We were with him. And he (Akarigbo) told them there in England that they should form a Remo Union. And they have started bringing themselves together. And they decided that the following year, that’s 2016, they were going to celebrate Ishokan Remo Day. At the same time we were planning for the first anniversary of Remo Day here.
In the U.K., because they needed to do that in Summer, when everybody would be free, and a lot of people would be coming because of the Summer Holiday, There was a need for them to book for Hall to use as venue, because Hall is always in hot demand there was need for early booking.
As a result, they have started planning early, gotten a venue, fixed a date as far back as January 2016, and planned to do it in the last weekend in August 2016. They have told us. And we were planning to do it after Sagamu Day in October 2016.
Unfortunately Baba (Oba Sonariwo) passed on in July. However, the Remo people in UK had planned their own to hold in London in August. The Idea was that while he was on holiday there, I would go and meet him from USA where I was then. But his death disrupted everything. But I went back since we had agreed with the Remo people in London, and that was what he wanted.
They wanted to cancel it, but since he was the one that initiated it I asked them not to cancel it, instead to use it to celebrate him. So I went there with Olotu Omoba Michael Oyedele and Prof. Dada, to celebrate him. But at home here, we had to suspend that because of the traditional rites and all that.
For us to hold it we have to get another Akarigbo, that was why we couldn’t plan for it this year(2017). The new Akarigbo will have to be installed for us to organise it.