“No society can develop without its culture” | The Guardian Nigeria News
The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Eti-Osa Council of Lagos State, who also serves as Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Council, Aremo Olusegun Oyindasola, was recently awarded the title of Chief of Sarunmi Owu Akinale, Ewekoro, Ogun State by Oba Adewunmi Ogunleye Afogunlanafade, Towolade from Akinale, Arole Olowu. In this interview with selected journalists, the seasoned administrator talks about the need to encourage tradition and culture in society. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR was there.
As part of the events planned for the 16th birthday of Oba Afogunlanafade, the enthronement of Towolade of Akinale, you receive the title of Sarunmi Owu of Akinale. But you’re not from this town. What do you have to say about that?
Well, it’s not true that I’m not from this town. I come from Owu. Our territory extends towards this area to Lagos and the Republic of Benin.
What do you consider to be core characteristics that set you apart from the rest of the chefs awaiting this award today?
There’s not too much. I think the king said he gave me this honor because I prepared the house of the gods in Okeowo. That’s why he honors me as Sarunmi Owu of Akinale.
What does it mean to be the Sarunmi Owu of Akinale?
You know, at that time, in times of war, Sarunmi was one of the main warriors in war.
What came to mind when you were told about the title?
At first, I was just wondering. I’m a Prince of Owu, so this baffles me. The king said to me: ‘my friend, take it’. So I see it as a call to service. Nothing else.
What would the title of chef change in you?
In fact, I see it as a call to service. It is because before I was Aremo Itori and I am still Aremo Itori. I see this as a call for service. Service not only to Itori but also to the Itori people.
It’s quite ironic to see an educated man like you indulge entirely in traditional or cultural matters. Some people see it as a fetish. What makes you so passionate about your people?
In fact, I am a nationalist. So, I believe that the type of education that the colonial masters gave us is a backward education. This is because education is meant to enlighten, it is not just to get a paper degree. You must be relevant to your immediate society. I believe education is what remains after you have forgotten what you thought. Your education must therefore be relevant to your society. If your education is not relevant to your society, it means you are uneducated.
Earlier, you said something and I would like you to clarify it further. “It disconcerts me”, why would a prince, an Arole, agree to be a chief in another city?
In fact, what the king is trying to do is very simple. It’s like saying: a problem for one is a problem for all. What I did is not for this town. This is for the main town. He’s only trying to recognize me so I can do more. It’s like saying: Segun, you did it in Abeokuta, you have to come here, try to bring me closer.
Originally, you are not from this city?
It depends on how you look at it. Any town in Owu is my town. We all spread from somewhere. It’s like old farmland. So it’s the same sparse land. It’s only recently that people are just trying to delineate. Which is very unnecessary.
Speaking of chieftaincy titles, is it the culture of your roots that gave you this full drive to get involved after you made a name for yourself in South West Nigeria and Lagos in particular?
In fact, I am a culture lover. If you look at the type of education they give us, it makes us know more about Europe than about our society. You cannot grow without growing your company. Today we have so many unemployment cases, rising crime rates, it’s really appalling. This is because many leaders export jobs.
What do you mean? How do our leaders export jobs?
When you have money and you keep it in a foreign country, it means you are exporting employment to another country. What I’m basically saying is that all these titles that they give us are just to pin us down, saying that’s your root. I accept this title because of my mindset on education. Education must be relevant to your society. If you can’t help your society, you are uneducated.
So, what should we expect from you in this city now that you have been granted the title “Sarunmi Owu of Akinale”?
Society is dysfunctional. Many people don’t know where they come from and this mentality affects us. If you don’t know where you come from, you wouldn’t know where you are, talk less about where you are going. Basically, what I tried to do is very simple. There is no way to help this town without helping other villages around it. Basically what they’re telling us is: look at Segun, it’s your root. Bring in investors. Once you invested in a company, young people would find a job. The crime rate would be reduced, and a lot of development would come. People need to know their roots. Whatever you do, wherever you are, come do the same here. Thus, we can have peace and harmony in society.
You are currently an Aremo. What was your experience as a chef?
This resulted in a lot of learning and connection. Before becoming Aremo, I did not know that the Attorney General of Lagos State was from that city. The Speaker of the Lagos State Legislative Assembly hails from this city. The current Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat, hails from this region. So it makes you know your people. Plus, it drives engagement. The essence of life is to give back to society. This is because if you don’t train your staff, it will affect your children later. They will fight back. They will see you as being on top. You must always help your people reduce crime and promote development.
Are you a Muslim titleholder?
You are also a traditionalist and a Christian too. How do you manage both?
In the Holy Quran, there are five groups of people who would enter the kingdom of God on the last day. These are the Jews, the people who believe in the Torah; the Abasrah, the disciples of John the Baptist; the third are Christians, those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fourth are the Muslims, who follow the Prophet Muhammad. The fifth are neither Jews, nor disciples of John the Baptist, nor Christians, nor Muslims, but they believe in God. Who are they? They are traditionalists. It is because when they call on their God, he answers them. Look at the Hindus, the Chinese, you say they worship idols but yet they move on. You who think you worship God, are you moving forward? But you only find that in Africa. Where you have very religious people but no development. The Arabs, for example, are also Muslims but they are progressing. Well, it’s because of colonialism. This is because European countries use us to grow. They have no resources. They are plundering our resources. That’s why they grow. They determine the price of your products. At the same time, they determine the price of their own product.
People tend to see politics as a dirty game and a man of culture is supposed to be pure and clean. How do you combine the two?
I used to tell my people that whenever they complained that this government was not doing enough, I laughed. Do you know why I joined politics? It’s because I love my company. It’s because if you don’t join, one day they would legislate that a man is now a woman. We are all a product of the society in which we found ourselves. What I’m basically saying is that if you don’t participate in politics, you’ll let fools rule you. You will even give room for a homosexual to rule you because they could turn a man into a woman. They could wake up today and say look, we are making a law that all men will become women. So I’m in politics to make sure things run smoothly. Although many people see politics as a business, it is a service. If I was not in politics, it would be very difficult for me to improve society. It would not be possible for me to change society. So you have to be there to change things. There is no way to change a society without being in government. This is because they are all intertwined. You must participate in politics to serve your society. Of course, a lot of people got into politics because of the money. They see it as a short path to wealth. Politics must serve your society and there is no way to serve your society without being part of that society. You must come to the base. Giving a chiefdom title is part of the activities related to coming to the base. For most of these things a lot of people blame our political leaders because white people have come and gone but our leaders have had a lot of chances to effect change but so far we still have problems.
Let me tell you something, society deserves the kind of government it has. Every society deserves the kind of government it has. I am also a Muslim title holder.