Our amiable Kabiyesi, HRM Oba (Dr) Oluwole Olufaderin Adetimehin, FIIN, FCIB, Jimoko II, the Jegun Olu-Ekun, and Paramount Ruler of Ile-Oluji Kingdom, is a reporter’s delight. He does not shy away from any question, and he comes prepared for his interviews, easily reeling out facts and figures to buttress his lucid arguments. Kabiyesi is not a leader that passes the buck or plays the blame game. He leaves you in no doubt as to the fact that he is on top of his game. His selection in 2015, as the successor to Jegun Suulade Adedugbe, was heralded with overwhelming endorsement and acceptance. Five years into his reign, Kabiyesi gave an account of his stewardship in this Zoom interview with The Podium Media’s Publisher, Ademola Akinbola. Enjoy excerpts from the interview.
Congratulations, once again Kabiyesi on the fifth anniversary of your coronation. There is no doubt that Ile-Oluji has been undergoing a noticeable transformation in all areas. We want to thank you for the leadership you have provided, just as predicted and expected, given your pedigree. We know that as a community, we are not there yet, but we are not where we were yesterday. We thank God for that. How has the journey been?
I am not really used to praising or assessing myself, but given the privilege of this interview, I will say God has been awesome. We owe all that we have achieved or been able to do to the divine enablement that ordained our enthronement. First of all, I owe the debt of gratitude to God Almighty. A tree does not make a forest, hence I acknowledge the immense contributions of all the patriotic stakeholders on this project, both at home and in the Diaspora. Their efforts and contributions are duly acknowledged and appreciated. I specifically thank the Jegun-in-Council, Olojas, all classes of chiefs, trade groups, clubs, associations, and all others that have supported us morally and financially. It has been wonderful.
Did you ever imagine that it would turn out this way? Five years ago, the task looked daunting, and the challenges were seemingly insurmountable. Would you say that you expected it to turn out nicely this way?
To be honest with you, considering my robust corporate planning and strategic management background, I planned and prepared well for the task. I met regularly with my team made up of my colleagues in the industry and other competent professionals to fashion out a development blueprint for Ile-Oluji. A lot of hard work, critical thinking, and consultations went into the formulation of the development agenda. So, what you are seeing today is not by happenstance. The good results we are witnessing were well planned. The blueprint has worked like magic. With the support of my traditional council, things have worked out well. I was not expecting that it would be all rosy because this was my first time of getting actively involved in managing the traditional institutions of governance. I put my God first, and I was well equipped and prepared.
How were you able to achieve the smooth transition from being a corporate executive, a boardroom czar, to a traditional ruler? I asked because even though you never held a prominent chieftaincy title before you were made King, you have coped well and settled in effortlessly.
I must admit that our God indeed works miracles. Apart from you making this observation, some members of the Jegun-in-council have also had cause to ask if I have ever been schooled or coached on the art of kingship and traditional leadership. I told them it has been God at work, ordering the steps of the righteous. Also, when you are well-prepared, things will fall into place for you. The God factor has been massive. I have also enjoyed the wise counsel and unalloyed support of my darling Olori Adetokunbo, and all members of my traditional council.
There have been many innovations and achievements in the last five years. Please, give us the highlights of your transformational achievements, the milestones.
Firstly, we had to put in place some foundational principles and critical success factors without which success would have been impossible. These principles have helped. The first thing was to institute a security platform that would engender an enabling environment for peaceful co-existence and development. Across all strata of the society, we were able to assemble competent, patriotic, and security-conscious people of like minds to form the security council. We meet regularly to review issues that may snowball into a security crisis, and we have usually been able to nip such issues in the bud. The security agencies, religious groups, trade associations, professionals, district heads, and my traditional council were involved. This has helped in creating a peaceful atmosphere for the development we have enjoyed.
Secondly, we thought of how to earn the trust and confidence of the people at home and abroad so that they could actively support our development agenda. We then decided to be more open, transparent, and accountable in the administration of the community’s funds. We introduced the quarterly town hall meeting where we present our finance and account statements, showing how much income we generated, the projects we are working on, and funds allocation.
We also usually analyse the various challenges facing us and evolve strategies to overcome them. It is important to state that it is a forum where participants are encouraged and allowed to ask questions, seek clarifications and explanations. So, gone are those days when people would say they do not know what we are doing or how we spend the money donated. We have proper records for all our financial transactions, and these records are usually in the public domain. All indigenes are also encouraged to walk into the palace and ask questions.
Thirdly, we considered it proper to put in place a youth reorientation, empowerment, and development programme. They are the leaders of tomorrow, and they need to be well-groomed and coached for the challenges ahead. This approach has proved very useful as our youths are now better educated, enlightened, and mobilised. The three factors I explained above have formed the foundation upon which our success has been built.
Let me now proceed to highlight our landmarks and visible achievements. These are things people can see physically. So, it is not as if one is blowing his trumpet or making unsubstantiated claims. Our vision from the onset was the complete transformation of the Ile-Oluji Kingdom in a way that would reposition us as a force to reckon with in the comity of successful communities in Ondo State, and Nigeria.
Most importantly, we saw the need to reconstitute and restructure the Ile-Oluji Development Committee which has now transformed into Ile-Oluji Development Council. The IDC is the main organ of growth and development for the community. It now has functional committees numbering about 30 and covering the full spectrum of the areas we need to focus on in terms of community administration. Membership of these committees comprises the best experts at home and abroad. We have been able to draw from the rich reservoir of knowledgeable, skillful, and hard-working professionals from the community.
Also, I saw the need for us to diversify the sources of our Internally- Generated Revenue (IGR). For you to successfully implement development projects, you must be sitting on a good budget. Gone are those days when the state and local governments would be fully supportive. Well, as much as they are willing these days, their capacity and capability have dwindled greatly.
So, we decided to partner with the government in the actualization of our development agenda. I will tell you two bold steps in that direction: one is the establishment of cocoa plantations as part of a five-year agric development plan. You will be wondering how Kabiyesi and his council would be able to achieve this. I am glad to inform you that the project is now in its fifth year. Without being too conservative, the acreage of the cocoa plantations that we have cultivated in the past five years is over 100. It is enormous, and thank God, we have been able to maintain and sustain the plantation.
As you know, a lot of resources go into the maintenance and sustenance of a cocoa plantation. This year, we have planted about 9000 seedlings of hybrid cocoa. Three years ago, it was 7200. The previous year, it was 7000. So, when you look at the cumulative effects after five years, it will be much. By the time we start harvesting, the tonnage will be massive. Good enough, the international price of cocoa has appreciated. At the peak of the cocoa season, a Kilo cannot be less than N1,200, which means a tonnage will sell for over N1m.
Can we say this project will return Ile-Oluji to the cocoa boom era?
Yes by God’s grace. We have started well and we are on course.
We also have a Palm Oil plantation. Five years ago when I was ascending the throne, a 30-liter keg of Palm Oil was selling for about N4000. That same year, before I came out of seclusion, it increased to N17,000. This was one of the reasons we initiated the plantation project. As we speak now, a 30-litre keg sells for between N15, 000 and N17, 000 in Ile-Oluji. That gives us the hope that towards the end of the year, it can hit N20, 000. So, if from our farm, we can produce 100 units of 30-litre palm oil, that will amount to millions of naira. So, these projects will provide funds to finance some of our development projects.
Kabiyesi, are you not planning to partner with private sector investors on these projects?
Definitely, we are not averse to partnering with indigenes at home and in the Diaspora. Our doors are wide open for interested investors to walk in and discuss with us.
Thirdly, there is the Ultra-modern shopping complex at Oke Alaafia, opposite the temporary site of the Federal Polytechnic. Again, it is meant to be one of the sources of Internally-generated revenue. The quality standard is so high that people coming to hire to lease the shops are ready to pay good money. The project is progressing well and will soon be delivered. These are some of the things we have done to diversify the revenue base of the community.
Leading people is not an easy task, especially in our part of the world. What are the challenges you are facing, and how are you surmounting these challenges?
Frankly speaking, as I told you earlier, anybody assuming the rulership of a kingdom should be ready for criticisms and attacks. It is never a smooth ride. Despite the fact that my selection and appointment was unanimously and overwhelmingly accepted by the generality of Oijefon at home and abroad, I have never been deluded that there will be no opposition by people waiting in the wings to throw stones or spanners into the wheels of our progress. But, rather than see them as opposition, we see them as challenges that will prompt us to take stronger, better strides in our march towards the wholesome development of Ile-Oluji.
Let me dwell a little more on that. One of the things affecting the achievement of our development goals is the lack of trainee artisans and professionals such as electricians, bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers, etc. We don’t have many of them, and their attitude to work is nothing to write home about. This is seriously militating against the effective implementation of some of our development projects.
The solution to that is to embark on outright education, training, reorientation, and empowerment programmes for our young ones. We have to reinvent the old order that we were born into which is that everybody must be industrious. You must work hard. You cannot just be lazy and be depending on your brother or Anty in Indiana. All our young ones must work and contribute to the development of the community.
We embarked on a fundraising exercise during my fifth anniversary in June to acquire road construction equipment. Thank God our efforts have been rewarding to a great extent. Without being immodest, this was fundraising that was well acclaimed by all Oijefon at home and abroad. Almost everybody keyed into the project. We have not yet hit the target but what we have achieved so far is reassuring that we will get there. We are at the stage of constituting a tactical committee that will coordinate the sourcing of the equipment. We have gotten more than half of what we are looking at.
Still, on the highlights of some of our achievements, I instituted a three-year water borehole project to ensure the wider provision of potable water for the generality of our people. It has gone on very well, and it is in its third year. I do not intend to stop it after this year. I still hope to take it to the districts. You need to see the rate of expansion of the Kingdom. We need to cater to the critical needs of the people. We won’t leave it for the government alone.
We have also had agric empowerment scheme for our young graduates who could not secure jobs. We were able to provide Agricultural tractors and equipment to set up training programmes in conjunction with the Federal Polytechnic, and the results have been tremendous. It got to a stage where the FedPoly was issuing certificates of completion for these programmes which they can use to access start-up Agric loans from the Bank of Industry. This was an initiative of one of my high chiefs. We always brainstorm in the council to come up with innovative projects.
Similarly, we have put together a lot of economic empowerment programmes and the contributors included Olori (Dr) Adetokunbo Adetimehin under her Hephzibar empowerment initiative. The Arabaa Foundation and the Ondo State First Lady have not been left out. All the projects were designed to attain economic independence for the beneficiaries. Olori Adetimehin even went ahead to set up a financial empowerment scheme to support them with working capital loans. If you get to Ile-Oluji, you will see many people working as entrepreneurs in the areas of aso oke, catering, sewing, etc.
On education, we realized that no good can come out of any society where people lack basic education. It is a good foundation for everybody. On a larger scale, the community stands to benefit when people are educated. So, right from the inception of my reign, I introduced scholarships for SS1 to SS3 secondary students, and this is still ongoing. We have finished the first stream and we are on the second stream. There are individuals and organizations working with Kabiyesi on this.
The Ile-Oluji Assembly (IA) has been a strong development partner of the Jegun-in-Council and IDC. The IA is one of the unique platforms that Ile-Oluji is very proud of. We have about 500 indigenes of Ile-Oluji on the Assembly, generating development ideas and providing financial support as occasions demand. This is an innovation you can’t find elsewhere, and we thank God for this.
To be continued.
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