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VENO NEWS: A Close Up With Barr. Banji Abuloye, The Ejemu Of Igbara-Oke
Date: 17-07-21

VENO MAGAZINE crew had an encounter with Barr. Chief Banji Abuloye, the 3rd in command to the Olowa of Igbara-Oke, in Ondo State, Nigeria. Happy Reading

Q: By virtue of your title as a traditional chief and the 3rd in Command to the Olowa of Igbara-Oke, you are a community leader?

A: Yes, and the head of one of the prominent quarters in the town, by the special grace of God.

Q: How do you reconcile being a lawyer and a traditional chief?

A: Well it definitely appears like two distant poles. I am privileged to have been prepared for this by nature, first I grew up in the town, secondly my maternal grandfather was a chief whom I was very ``close to particularly in my formative years, also I had personal interaction with some of my predecessors, from Ejemu Dada, Ejemu Olofindayo and Ejemu Atere. I saw firsthand how traditional chiefs relate among themselves and as a child for whatever reason I paid attention to a few details of the system and I am not an alien to most of traditions and culture of the town.
Being a legal practitioner is just my profession. It is just like being an Engineer, Doctor or farmer becoming a traditional chief too, but the only difference is that I have found my knowledge of law and experience as a practicing lawyer useful and helpful a great deal in discharging my duty as a traditional chief, particularly in the area of adjudication and arbitration on matters, as you know experience is wisdom and wisdom is experience.
My brother, being a lawyer sound refined and exposed, while being a traditional chief appears local and primitive, is that not? Yes, you may say. Hegel the French philosopher said that the truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

Q: You are a politician too?

A: It depends in what parlance you conceptualize the nomenclature politician, if you mean a visionary person who is passionate about the common good of his people, and will travel long distance at his own expense not only to exercise his franchise but will equally mobilize people to vote rightly without taking gratification from anybody either appropriate or inappropriate and above all is a committed register member of a political party and a professional who has his primary career, to that I can say yes. And not a political jobber who is any port in storm.

Q: So we can say you are a professional in politics?

A: That is stating the obvious, in my own little way. Legal profession is my primary career.

Q: We know there are a lot of Lawyers in politics, but are traditional rulers or chiefs allowed to participate in politics?
A:You mean partisan politics, there is no law anywhere in this country that prohibits the traditional rulers or chiefs from participating in partisan politics. In actual fact if there is such law anywhere in this country, it is inconsistent with the provision of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended which is the ground norm. The section grants the citizens of the country right to peaceful assembly and association. It is a fundamental right of every citizen of the country, it provides, every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular may form or belong to any political party, union and the likes. To my knowledge as a lawyer that is the position and you may choose not to exercise the right, because of the usage of the word “may” in the provision, so you can’t be under any compulsion to join a particular political party, trade union or any Association. I can say unequivocally my right is my right, you too can declare so lawfully under the constitution.
We have had instances where some kings were actively involved in partisan politics. For Example, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife between 1930 – 1980, as at 1953 was a Member of Federal Legislative Council and one of the four Federal Ministers from Western Region. In 1960 he became the Governor of Western Region and the first black man to hold the position, while Chief S. L. Akintola became the Premier of the region the duo were members of Action Group political party, the king as a nationalist and politician was able to influence a lot of development in the town essentially University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, as at today take the University away from the town you will see that there is practically nothing that make the town tick aside from the university.
Also Sir Olateru-Olagbegi II was a politician. The Action Group political party was launched and inaugurated in his palace in 1951, though as a result of his fallout with Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Adekunle Ajasin, wherein he pitched his tent with Chief Ladoke Akintola and he became a prominent member and leader of Akintola’s Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) [Demo] and a Minister Without Portfolio. Were he not to be a politician, Action Group would not have been publicly launched in his palace. Though the distasteful and irreconcilable differences politically and the crises in his town eventually led to his deposition in 1966.
In the same vein, though in 1955, Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi, Alaafin of Oyo was suspended by Western Region Government following the outcome of Floyd Commission of Inquiry essentially as a result of his unflinching support for the causes of NCNC then. The problem is that there may arise at any given time an unsavory and dangerous contradiction that if not properly manage may snowball into a serious crisis in their domain.

Q: You appeared to be a grassroots person?

A: It is incumbent on a traditional chief to be a grassroots person, you must connect greatly with your people, you must be accommodating and accessible to them, you must have listening ears and should not be self-opinionated. As a traditional chief, you can’t afford to be cocky or birdie no matter the level of your education and or exposure, you must come down from your high horse for your people. Anything traditional is local and indigenous, as a custodian of tradition your life must reflect custom, culture and tradition of your people.
In actual fact, if you are installed as a young man, you must chiefly imbibe humility and pray without ceasing for divine wisdom, that doesn’t mean you should not be assertive whenever the need arises, even Jesus Christ instructed his disciple to be therefore wise as serpent, and harmless as dove, that is to have tough mind and tender heart. Sometimes the only thing you need to scale a hurdle may be toughness of your mind without minding whose horse is gored, sometimes it may be tenderness of your heart, but ability to decipher the one that is appropriate at any given time is divine wisdom.

Calls to serve your people as a legislator trending on the internet, what are your views on that?
Sincerely speaking, I cannot pretend that I didn’t read some of those posts myself, and even beyond that I have received series of phone calls in that regard, even from people I have never met in my life but are from our community. Just to put this on record, I have not categorically informed anybody or group of people that I am running for an election. Truly I have increased my participation in partisan politics essentially for the common good of our people and community at large.
The proponents of these calls, have only expressed their opinion which I believe they are entitled to and I sincerely appreciate them for taking it upon themselves to do that, such is one of the great gestures anyone can receive, particularly when there are a whole lot of people who are qualify and capable as well. The proponents by their own analysis only know what they have seen in my humble self, as you don’t dance in the village square and rate yourself, the villagers will have to do that. Above all I have not declared for anything.

Q: What are your plans if you succumb to the pressure, will you make a difference?

A: This one is in two folds, firstly my plans if I succumb? Definitely there will be wide, wild range consultations across the constituency to seek the opinion and support of the political gladiators in the constituency both old and young, essentially the stakeholders regardless of their political affiliation, so that one would not end up putting the cart before the horse, after some due consultations, one may discover there is no need to proceed because my school of thought politically is issue based and people oriented politics. You don’t just throw your hat into the ring when you are not sure of your strength and had not taking time to assess the applauds to motivate you.
Secondly, as to if I will make a difference? Without sounding immodest, there are a lot of things that ought to be done to touch the lives of the constituents that we have not seen done at all, against that backdrop if one should toe that path of putting in place what you believe should be in place to touch the lives of our people, by special grace of God one will definitely make a lot of difference.

Q: Many believe politics is a dirty game, what is your take on that?

A: That is their perspective. Now you call it a game, we must understand that every game has its rules according to which is being played. If it is football you play to win the trophy and not to brake somebody’s leg or hand. By the time you enter the pitch with the ultimate aim of breaking somebody’s leg to win, then you don’t have good intention at all. Those who play it, politics as a dirty game are those who enter it with no good intention, their whole lives depend on either they win or lose. I have said it to our people, and I still maintain that position, acrimonious politics and campaign of calumny has never done any community good, and we can’t expect anything good to come out of it for us, we must discard it to move forward.

Q: How will you rate the performance of Arakunrin Akeredolu, the Executive Governor of Ondo State?

A: Without mincing words, Arakurin Akeredolu, our amiable governor in this nascent democracy in the state has unprecedented record in some areas that has touched the lives of our people. To start with since 1999, nobody has industrialized the state more than him, if you doubt that the statistics are there. In terms of infrastructural development, no stake holder from a community in the state in his sincere opinion will give him an average mark but an excellent remark, the shrewd and fastidious ones may give him good.
In the recent time, his stance on security of our people and their properties is clearly unprecedented in the state, even in the country among his contemporaries as a governor, as we speak he stands out in that regard. Security of life and property is sacrosanct, he is a lawyer he knows that by his training and he has really displayed that. My brother don’t let me deceive you, I love him for his courage and boldness. However, there are still rooms for improvement in governance in the state, the reward for hard work is more work. If you have been rated to perform well in the first term, by your performance you have raised the stake, and naturally so, you are expected to perform more in the second term as you have gained the confidence of the electorate to be given another term as one good term deserve another term, a good term not a bad one.

Q:Youths are the leaders of tomorrow what are your plans for them if you eventually have the opportunity to serve in the capacity in which your people are calling you to serve?

A: That is a cliché, “youths are the leaders of tomorrow”, a terrible one. Since I was a teenager same was been said, for example in 1990 or thereabout one of our brothers contested for counsellorship election in NRC and he adopted a slogan, “Young shall grow” he was considered to be too young then as he was contesting against those who as at then were retired civil servants, he won the shadow election of his party but lost at the main election to the man old enough to be his father. I like his courage, he adopted the slogan because he was considered too young, a university graduate then, that our brother should be sixty years or thereabout now. That time I was on the verge of expiring as a teenager. Then we were being told, that we are the leaders of tomorrow. That cliché and our leadership chance will forever remain mirage unless we trot out of it and convince ourselves that the tomorrow being referred then is now and today. How old was General Gowon when he ruled this country, how old was Awolowo, Akintola, Enahoro and the host of others they were between 25 to 35 years. So the tomorrow is now and we must all work towards it.
I was privileged to be engaged in a serious political discussion with an old politician from my town, he is in his seventies or close to eighty years now. He lamented that better part of their youthful years as politician was wasted by the military as partisan politics was proscribed by each successive military leader. He told me the role they played politically in the then Idanre/Ifedore Local Government Area and beyond in 1979 and 1983 I was amazed when I realized by my calculation, that at that time he was in his early thirties.
We need reorientation, most youths have wrong mentor who they are fashioning their lifestyle after, that is why you see that abuse of various substance is everywhere now. Ifedore Local government is not just anyhow local government, it is that of intellectuals and brilliant minds. At a time in Igbara-Oke alone we have more Professors than Akure, am not sure of the stand now, but the last time I checked, Igbara-Oke alone has fifteen Professors the number which some states don’t even have. Also check the profile of our incumbent local government chairman in the local government, you will be amazed, so everybody must buckle up.
As for my plans for youths if I eventually have the opportunity to serve my people in the capacity in which my people are calling me to serve. Hmm, I believe in people oriented politics and policies. I am a conventional contented person and I thank God that he has given me grace to overcome cupidity. There are a lot of things that will benefit the youths in a great deal but are not in place in our polity there. There is no single public library in the local government, it is a shame on us all. A friend of mine who we were in the same class in university served one term as a member of the house of assembly in Oyo State, he gave public library amongst other things to his constituency. Don’t let anybody deceive you, there is no alternative to education that is one of the things my father told me, and today I can say categorically that he was right.
Also, in the whole of Ifedore local government area, there is no single vocational center since 1999, too bad. The miniature one we used to have in Igbara- Oke then called better life, a pet project of a wife of one of our military heads of state, which is a military legacy, out of reckless abandonment been converted to the office of Civil Defence in the local government. Shall we say military has more people oriented policies and or programme than our democratically elected people, God forbid.
Sport is a unifying factor and a great driving force among the youths, which some can make career of. We have a lot of talents in sports wasting, particularly football, some are even already wasted. When you see people with appellation of a football stars, they didn’t wake up one day and nicknamed themselves so, it is largely the talents they have displayed which is akin to such superstar in football or any sport. They are not known beyond their towns in the local government. There is no avenue to showcase their talents beyond their towns as there is no platform for them to be exposed to those who may pick interest in them and project them. In fact, there is no single public lawn tennis court or volley ball court talk less of mini stadium where people can hold and organize standard football competition or any game at all in the local government.
Scholarships to motivate the brilliant students and assist the indigent ones. Also, no information technology center for our youths in the local government, this is unsavory. All these can be done at personal capacity by our representatives. Sorry if I am talking too much or becoming unduly emotional.
No problem sir, these are good points and information.
You can see, there are a lot of things that ought to be done to assist and launch our youths to a great level, but these things are not just there for them, some people at the helms of affairs don’t even see need for them. For example, one of my uncles is a professor of physical education in one of the universities in USA. He is sprinter. My father told me that, that his cousin was a policeman early in his life, he joined police with a school certificate wherein he had less than requisite number of credits to secure admission to a tertiary institution, but he was a good sprinter and while in police he continued the sport and was representing his command on one occasion and performed excellently well, that was where one man saw him and took interest in him. The man asked him if he has the required number of credits in his school certificate examination to secure admission into a tertiary institution, and he said no. The man told him if he could write another examination and pass with required number of credit he would assist him. My uncle did GCE as a policeman passed well, that was how he found himself in one of the Universities in USA to study Physical and Health Education. Were he not exposed the way he was, probably, at best he would have retired as Superintendent of Police because he is close to eighty years now. You can see what platform and exposure can do for our youths, but these platforms are not just being provided.

Q: Your message to the people?

A:First, our people should be more security conscious. They should mind where they go and how they move around. Nowhere is really save now. They should not lose hope in this country, some great nations today were in condition worse than our present situation in this country, they came out of it. Our people should not be apolitical, we must all get involved in deciding who is to represent us at any level. It is only when a candidate is not popular that election can be rigged against him without any crisis. If we all get involved positively we shall surely get it right. As the saying goes, your failure to participate in politics will make you to be govern by people with far less knowledge than you.
Thanks for your time sir.
You are welcome.

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