Oba Sunday Oladapo Oyediran, a former banker is the Onpetu of Ijeruland. In this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, he speaks on a recession, farming and the unity in Yoruba land.
What is your thought on the unity, progress and development of the Yoruba race?
Unity within the Yoruba race is not negotiable if we want to be relevant in the nation’s political terrain. It is unfortunate that we are not conscious of our neighbours; they know that our strength is when we provide a united front and they work conscientiously to truncate our unity and it is easy for them to do this because our political leaders are not interested in the unity of the Yoruba race. Rather, they are interested in their own political identity, once they can identify with the winning political party, they are contented. And anybody who wants to volunteer or champion the cause of this unification of the race must be a person of means, even if you are a traditional ruler, if you don’t have the means, people will not believe or support you; they treat you as a troublemaker seeking attention. If you look at government structure, you can easily list the Yorubas occupying significant positions of authority unlike other tribes. What we need is divine intervention but it is unfortunate that we are further being divided by religion but my belief is irrespective of religious belief, if we pray together, we will get our desires.
What do you think is responsible for the increased rate in crime?
Well, one adage says an idle hand is the devil’s workshop; when people are impoverished and have nothing to eat, they will want to lay their hands on the available. Though the orientation we have is contributing to the problems of crime in Nigeria today. We believe in white collar jobs, we do not believe in putting our heads together to get things done. For instance, we have technical schools around; but there is no attention on it. If you promote technical education, people will be independent, they will specialize in trade and handicrafts but rather than promote that, what they are doing is go through your normal white collar training, then come back and obtain national employment vocational training, why do you waste people’s time to go through the normal school, then you give them vocational training. I think something is wrong with us because that is what is contributing to high rate of crime in our community and how do we come out of this? We need to provide employment opportunities.
It is said that the solution is doing back to the farm, do you believe this?
We are saying now that we are promoting farming and people should go back to the farm, it is good but what type of farming do you want them to do? Is it subsistence or mechanized? Where is the equipment? Combined harvesters, ploughs, tractors, bulldozers to remove trees, where are they? All these things are not available, yet, we are saying people should go back to farm, how do they do this? What have we brought out of our own farm settlements in Yoruba land? We are getting nothing. So in my own community, what we do is encourage people to go into cooperative societies and to learn one vocation or the other, in fact, all the children in school, we ensure they learn a vocation while in school so they can be independent. Farming is good, we cannot run away from it but we must be serious about farming and we are not in Yoruba land, why do I say this, from now till July, all our food products will be coming from the north, how are they doing it? They have irrigation system and we don’t have, and dry season farming is more lucrative than rainy season farming. So if we continue engaging in this conventional farming, we cannot make anything, we are just deceiving ourselves.
What can you say about the recession?
Though what we have now isn’t peculiar to Nigeria, I have my personal perspective to recession and the approach of getting out of it. How did we find ourselves here? Has God not been faithful to us as a nation? God has been good to us; that is why we are endowed with so many mineral, human and material resources. In the early days, we grew up to know every region in this country as specialized farmers; groundnut in the north, cocoa in the south and the revenue from this was used to develop the nation in all spheres but what was our population? Very few, that is why we could embark on development and free education with cocoa proceeds, but when God discovered that our population was increasing, he gave us crude oil and we became self sufficient and believed we had arrived, the giant of Africa and father Xmas; spending stupidly. We forgot that when you have today, you plan for tomorrow but we refused to plan, our population was increasing, yet we continued living large like when our population was few, that’s why we found ourselves in recession. Another factor is politics of hatred, we are not involved in politics of development and until we dispense with this, we cannot go forward. Until we dispense with this, we will not go far or move out of recession. We are putting our hope of getting out of recession on increasing price of oil, if oil price is going up, is exchange rate going down? We allowed our economy to be destroyed by our economists who will be propounding theories. No country that leaves her economy to be manipulated by international agencies can survive.
What don’t you enjoy as a traditional ruler?
Traditional institution is just like any other occupation, it has its good side and its negative side. For me, what I don’t like is that you sit from morning till night attending to people, you know when they bring cases to the palace, there is no room for adjournment. You listen to them, you give your verdict because there are others waiting. So if you say you want to suspend one and give them another date, do you know the number of cases that are coming the next day. That’s the only clog there, the sitting down from morning till night. I am not talking about the modern day Obas that do not even have time to attend to people; I’m not talking about political Obas, I’m talking about real traditional rulers who sit down to attend to their community’s problems. And that is where we need to be careful in Yoruba land now, we need to address that now, we shouldn’t turn traditional institutions into political institutions, we shouldn’t compete with politicians, we have nothing in common with politicians. Our aims, objectives, mission and focus is different. By the time we say we want to compete with politicians, we are trying to ridicule traditional institutions. The only thing is just the sitting down from morning till night, we hardly have time to attend to family or play with our children but though it is tight, traditional rulers must have time for their children.
What is your vision for your town?
You just touched me where my heart is bleeding. My vision is to see that town grows but unfortunately, the economic situation is not allowing things to go according to plan but even before the economic crunch, things were not as I desired. This idea of brain drain; people look at it as leaving Nigeria for other countries but it is more than that, there is migration of gifted and blessed people from semi urban areas to urban areas in the country just like we have migration from the rural areas to the city. We have even the less-city to more advanced cities leaving most of this places undeveloped, that is what we are passing through now, most of our prominent people are living in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt or even abroad. We are now telling them to come back and develop the community but they will tell you do you want me to stay where there is no light for the past three months or put a factory there? But we have raw materials but the fear of power supply, security and transportation of finished products is there, so we have that problem. I have been encouraging my people to come and develop our community; we cannot leave everything to the government, people should stop running from home and develop their communities.