By Otunba Seyi Oduntan*
I consider it a privilege and an honour to be so invited to deliver a lecture on OGUN 2015: Which way, Ijebu/Remo people? Personally, it is indeed a great opportunity to interact with a gathering of distinguished, well-cultured and intellectually-endowed Ijebu and Remo sons and daughters, with proven track records in their chosen professions and of course with a heritage of success in community service to Ijebu and Remo people and indeed the people of Ogun State and Nigeria in general.
Our gathering here this afternoon is to celebrate with a great Ijebu son, who as a young man has decided it is important to look out for his own people through his vocation – journalism. Today’s second year anniversary of Ijebu News Xtra magazine, published by Pigeon Communications, and anchored by Mr Dayo Rufai, is a testament to the merit of tenacity of purpose. If you remain consistent in the pursuit of your vision, you will achieve great results. Dayo, congratulations. By the special grace of God, you’ll take Ijebu News Xtra to greater heights!
As a corporate player, developmental economist, marketing expert and politician, l do not hesitate to handle this discourse from a first principle approach by giving a historical, geographical, socio-political and economic perspectives of Ijebu/Remo nation like a process flow chart in order to lead us to the titled topic discourse.
IJEBU NATION IN PERSPECTIVES
1. History and Geography
Ijebuland is an area that covers the coastal region of Ijebu Waterside, mainland of Ijebu-Ode and its catchment area, Remo, Ikorodu, and Epe and the shore of Lagos lagoon of the old.
Historical antecedents suggest that Ijebu people have never been mired in poverty because of the strategic trade location between the Yoruba of hinterland and the coast. Early exposure to education enabled our fathers to migrate to cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Calabar, Warri, Sapele, Kano and Port-Harcourt to engage in commercial ventures and trading activities and thus creating economic opportunities for the Ijebus than other Yoruba towns.
According to Professor L. Mabogunje and Robert W. Kates in their paper titled “Sustainable development in Ijebu Ode, Nigeria: The role of social and capital participation, science and technology” at the Centre for International Development at Harvard University, 2004, stated that the city of Ijebu-ode and most of Ijebu towns are not situated in a relatively major agriculturally rich belt. Rather, Ijebuland lies within the tropical lowland rain forest region and the natural vegetation consists of variety of species arranged in complex vertical structure with an emergent layer of trees such as iroko, afara, obeche, mahogany, ekki, and kolanuts. However, challenges due to ecological factors of the soil formation limit the plantation of wide range of agricultural products to few cash crops such as kolanut, palm oil, rubber and food crops such as cassava, maize, banana, water yam. Furthermore, Ijebu-land has extensive human and natural resources that include but not limited to bitumen, clay, phosphate, kaolin, chalk, feldspar, gemstone, limestone (reserves to last over 500 years), stones and gravels.
REMO KINGDOM IN PERSPECTIVES
Remo kingdom, otherwise known as Remo metalelogbon (a settlement of 33 kingdoms) is a separate entity after asserting their independence from the Awujale of Ijebuland.
Historically, the Remo is a sub-group of Ijebus but in their myth of origin, there is no unanimity about the root of the founding fathers. However from oral history, majority of Remo Kingdom claimed their origin from Oduduwa, the progenitor of Yoruba race. They, however migrated from Iremo Quarters in Ile-Ife, settled initially at Ikanigbo Quarters in Ijebu-Ode before migrating to the present settlement with the headquarters at Sagamu.
Remo is in the forest area with green vegetation and endowed with easily distributed rainfall nearly throughout the year. The annual rainfall in the area ranges from 105cm-120cm to create a tropical pattern of climate with fertile soil that assist in cash and arable cultivation of timbers, kolanuts and other cropping.
IJEBU NATION AND REMO KINGDOM IN RILVARY
It is of paramount importance to delve briefly on the age long rivalry between the Ijebu Nation and Remo Kingdom to date.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is exactly 121 years (May 16-20, 1892) when the British government invaded Ijebuland under Captain R.L Bower and subjugated our forefathers to economic and political destruction. Earlier, the colonial masters in Lagos colony, under Governors Alfred Moloney, Denton and G.T Carter had tried unsuccessfully to open up Ijebu Kingdom to ‘Free and Direct Trade’ with the hinterland of old Oyo, Ibadan, Ondo, Ekiti….etc. However, the colonial administration found out that the administrative set-up of Ijebuland was a closed and well-organized traditional and commercial structure under revered leadership of the Awujale, the paramount ruler of Ijebuland. The system was so unique and unparalleled in the history of Yorubaland that the British had to wage a devastating war to destroy the set-up for their selfish interest, indirect rule, divide-and-rule tactics and their overall administration convenience to enable them control the entire Yorubaland.
In the aftermaths of the war, the Ijebus lost their economic, cultural, social, religious and political independence to become a decimated province within the amalgamated and fragile nation called Nigeria. The influence and affluence of Ijebus and hitherto to the unquestionable authority of Awujale dwindled with the passage of time to result in the present apathy and complacency of the subjects and indeed generations of Ijebus to social, political and economic development of Ijebuland.
However, it is of historical relevance to state that, despite the close affinity to the Ijebu nation, the Remo kingdom did not participate in the war between the Ijebus and the British. Prior to the Imagbon war of 1892, the Remo kingdom was faced with the challenge of how to overcome the unquestionable authority of Awujale and other fissiparous tendencies tearing the amalgamation of their 33 settlements apart and therefore the war was an opportunity to harp on their separate identity from the Ijebus for self-determination.
The aftermath of the internecine warfare between the Ijebu nation and the British without any military attack on Remo kingdom also paved way for the crucial role played by the Churches and Christianity as a religion in the emergence of independent Remo from the grip of Ijebu-Ode. However, the pre-and post-war relationship between the Ijebu nation and Remo kingdom remains the source of cold war, suspicion, mistrust, envy, rivalry and political apathy of the people of Ogun East Senatorial District.
OGUN 2015: IJEBU/REMO WHICH WAY FORWARD?
However, having taken you down the memory lane, one tends to wonder if the system has changed entirely because the economic life of Ijebu nation and Remo kingdom remains stagnant and the strategic location of the area to the nation’s economic nerve centre remains underutilized for rapid development of the area.
First things, first
In life, as the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, admonished us, it is the symptoms of a disease we often concentrate upon instead of the cause. Once we attack the cause of a disease, it is natural that the symptoms will disappear. It might take a while, but the signs will be there that the disease is nearing its end and will surely go. The above saying is true about our conditions, not just in Ogun East Senatorial District or Ogun State, but in Nigeria as a whole, where the people continue to lament about unmet expectations despite the blessings so bountifully bestowed on us as a nation by the Almighty.
Once we get the first things wrong in a democracy, it is the complaints we get from everywhere today that’ll always ensue. But once we get them right, social, economic and political developments will be in leaps and bounds. What are these first things? For me, the first things in a democracy, which the people must as a necessity decide upon long before any elections are not difficult to understand. These are basically two,
- What the people want from their government, and
- The type of persons who should represent them in government.
Managing the affairs of men is not a tea party, as some have pointed out severally. But our people often act most of the time as if they are not concerned. Some will tell you once their businesses or jobs are doing well, those in government can as well go to hell and do what they want. Unfortunately, it is later they mostly realize to their regrets that once the wrong people or persons without a vision or an idea of what the people want are allowed to run the affairs of government neither businesses nor jobs will go well.
Government affairs are not necessarily different from running a successful private organization. I should know and I believe I am competent to comment on this because some of you may know that I was once the Managing Director of Honeywell for several years, in fact, I worked with the organization for about 14 years during the process of which I helped set up some of the products that are household names to many of you. I have also been Chairman and/or Director of many public and private companies and financial institutions and I am currently running several successful companies of my own.
Clearly, there must be a vision. There must be a mission. And the goal(s) must be evidently stated along with the objectives that will ensure a wrong turn is not taken in the drive towards the stated direction for the benefit of the people who put such governments in position. This is the very essence of party programs/manifestoes or those improved upon by an aspirant running for office.
Secondly, to run a successful business, we hardly allow just anybody to run its affairs. We recruit the best of the best for our private businesses instead of allowing mediocre people without vision, commitment or ideas to come near them. Why do we leave the running of our governments in the hands of individuals and groups of persons, which none of us will ever allow near the businesses we own?
Democracy and its institutions
Democracy presupposes an informed choice among competing options by the electorates, who believe such a decision will have positive impacts on their lives. The choice can be a political party or candidate, but in arriving at a decision to pitch tent with a particular side, the electorates would have carefully considered the pros and cons of its decision. In the process of doing this, and after it would have been done, there are institutions that safeguard democratic values thus preventing same from being turned on its head by political office holders and their associates who might want to become dictators.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is very young. Ordinarily, in a developed democracy, citizens watch every step of those in government at every opportunity using the institutions of democracy in such places to raise the alarm or ensure corrections when officials deviate from their mandate or not doing what the people want. It is also through such institutions that commendations often go to persons or political parties who might have done well in the discharge of their mandates. A democracy being young is not a question of its number of years. The maturity of a democracy is measured in terms of the strength of the institutions serving as its pillars, such as,
- An independently strong judiciary, devoid of men and women of straw, who take bribes to pervert the course of justice,
- An independent, strong, reliable, corruption-free and professional law enforcement agencies that complement the efforts of the Judiciary to ensure that the rule of law prevails all the time,
- A vibrant, brown envelope-free and independent mass media organizations staffed with highly motivated professionals playing their assigned roles of information dissemination to assist the people make informed decisions in a democracy, and
- An independent civil society organizations that cannot be compromised through bribery and corruption.
Without deceiving ourselves in this regard, it is very clear we are nowhere near any of the four key points above. What that should tell our people is that they need to guard their loins with extra efforts so that elected and appointed office holders do not always act to disappoint them.
Today’s lecture is therefore primarily about the choices facing the people of Ogun East Senatorial District – Ijebus and Remos – as they consider which political party or candidates to support towards the 2015 general elections. But kindly allow me to say that, it is also my modest contribution to how we can deepen Nigeria’s young democracy in a way that the average citizen of this country will feel happy that those elected or appointed into positions of authority are doing things that the people really want.
Since 1999, when the current democratic dispensation began, Nigeria has had its fair share of problems, with lamentations by almost all and sundry about unmet expectations. Being governments put into office by the people, not soldiers through their guns, expectations remain high about dividends, which the people legitimately believe should have been accruing to them from the activities of those in government. Some of these dividends include,
- Improved security of lives and property
- Easy access to affordable education
- Gainful employment for young graduates and the unemployed
- Easy access to credit for businesses
- Provision and maintenance of quality infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and potable water
- Easy access to quality healthcare services
- Provision of affordable housing for low and middle income earners, and
- Cheap, but high quality food.
Regrettably, the gap between expectations and realities on the ground have been very wide, forcing many to have a rethink about the benefits of democracy in a country that has endured years of military rule with its attendant problems. Questions, such as why elected and appointed public officials ignore the needs of the people once they get into office remain on many lips till date. But only a few have dared to consider the role(s) of the electorates in their misfortunes, which is why the title of this lecture, “Ogun 2015: Which way, Ijebu/Remo people?” applies to all Nigerians.
As a starting point, we need to look inwards within this geographical location for guidance as to what we are missing out on. It is also perhaps an opportunity to look into the strategic position of Ijebu nation and Remo kingdom as a sleeping giant with vast human capital and untapped natural resources as summarized above to highlight the great potential of the state within Nigeria.
Geological studies have confirmed that Ijebu nation and Remo Kingdom in Ogun State lie within a geological formation with potential for huge commercial reserves of hydrocarbon resources, what we all commonly know as Crude Oil and Gas. The Dahomey (Benin) offshore area that borders both Lagos and Ogun State had marine shales, accumulation of oil and gas deposits but yet to be fully explored. The state also lies in the South Western area of Nigeria with over 40 billion barrels of proven reserve of cretaceous tar sands of the litho stratigraphic sequence hosting the bitumen outcrop stretches from the boarder of Edo State, through Agbabu in Ondo State, concentrated in Ijebu Waterside area of Ogun State and stretching to the shore at Lagos State.
Furthermore, the presence of this heavy crude oil makes the state a potential oil-producing state in the upstream petroleum activities with proven crude oil and gas reserves like the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
For the sustainable economic and industrial growth of the senatorial district we are envisaging, the Ijebu nation and Remo Kingdom must grow in thoughts, ideas and forget those things that divide them. The area must not remain too individualistic and conservative but open and free-minded to pull resources and effort together as a cohesive people in developing the area. The role of individuals, groups and social clubs to stir the conscience of our people and proffer solutions to the economic and industrial growth of the area is, therefore, a welcome gesture. Ijebu nation and Remo Kingdom have the natural advantage and tendency for rapid transformation from the present level of neglect and under development state that it presently occupies. If this senatorial district must grow and develop into a modern, respectable and pragmatic area, we must be ready to task, exploit, promote and coordinate our vast human capital and natural resources; intellectual property, goodwill and endowment in all fields. We must propound a regional Economic Agenda centred on the natural gifts of commercial savvy, resourcefulness, entrepreneurial skills, hard work and result orientation of our people. These policies must be strong enough to attract our sons and daughters in local and foreign diaspora to return home; to buy-in and to add value to our communities using well-learned and well-earned skills from foreign places. As peoples, we must help to discourage the societal apathy for protecting their enterprises at home in order to generate the required confidence and encouragement from such developmental entrepreneurs.
However, in modern times, sustainable economic and industrial growth of an area cannot be achieved by accident, coincidental factor, puritan ethics, and knee-jerk response to market forces, lip-services or interest. It certainly cannot be left to Government alone. It must be a well-coordinated and planned developmental program by the indigenes, supported by the government and promoted by eminent citizens. Our social, economic and political relevance as a people will not be judged by the number of age-groups, clubs and owambe parties or individual breakthroughs and excellence but also by our aggregate success as a united people of Ijebu nation and Remo Kingdom. Our interest, vision and commitment to this fundamental change in the area are better addressed through this common goal.
Ladies and gentlemen, throughout the ancient and modern societies, education is the means by which people develop their mental knowledge to think rationally so as to respond creatively to their world of existence and also the aesthetic impulse of human being. Over the cause of history, education has developed progressively to recognize the value of intellectual exploration of human mind in order to standardize the behaviour of mankind. The success of developed countries is, however, based on this basic principle and thus the need to provide qualitative education for their children become imperative and a non-negotiable task.
Nigeria as a nation, therefore needs to learn from that deliberation policy of the developed world in order to create a well-informed, knowledgeable and modern society to turn around the fortune of the nation. There is no gainsaying the fact that education is the key to the future development of the county and it is, therefore, the mutual reasonability of the government and parents with possible support of high net-worth individuals of the senatorial district as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) in order to provide qualitative and comprehensive education to our children in Ijebu nation / Remo kingdom.
In simple terms, given the reality of the job market and problem of employment in Nigeria of the day, citizen of the senatorial district must be at the forefront of a societal change especially in the area of human capital development and entrepreneurship potential of the youths as part of the contribution to meet the new global order in the area of societal development.
It is of relevance to refer to the last World Economic Forum ‘2012 where the founder and chairman of the forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, shocked the world with his declaration that: “Capitalism in its current form no longer fits the world around us, rather, the success of any nation and business model for competitiveness in the future will be less based on capital and much more on talent”. This transition he described as “moving from capitalism to talentism”.
In that respect, it is importance to appraise the status of the nation’s education policy and standard vis-à-vis its relevance in today’s reality. May I ask this pertinent question? Where are the jobs with growing number of youth unemployment especially amongst the graduates in Nigeria in general? To answer this question, let’s take a recent advertisement in the newspaper by Dangote Group as a case study to reflect on the nation’s growing rate of unemployment in today’s harsh economic environment and the government insensitivity to the plights of Nigerian youths especially the graduates from the tertiary institutions nationwide. As posted in The Guardian Newspaper of February 1, 2013. Mr. Chidi Jacob, an Author/Talent Coach wrote and I reproduce verbatim:
“Recently the Dangote group was looking for 100 trailer drivers but unexpectedly, the company received 9,170 applications out which 8,460 are B.Sc holders, 704 master degree holders and six PhD’s. What exactly does this incident tells us about education, career development and job opportunities in the changing dynamics of the national global competitiveness? Perhaps, the employment potential of graduates on Nigeria is just 10%….!
This is indeed a sign of our times, which confirm that going to school for the sake of passing out with a certificate is made worthless by the changing economic climate especially in Nigeria of today. However, to be relevant in today’s competitive climate of employment potential, certificates must carry creativity behind them and therefore, there must be an added power of passion for sustainability alongside the competence to produce a competitive advantage. The Ijebu and Remo people should, therefore, be at the vanguard of youth employment programs by encouraging creativity among the youths in order to stimulate their passion to become entrepreneurs so as to develop Ijebu nation/Remo Kingdom.
It is therefore my considered opinion that an area with its array of accomplished public and private sector technocrats, captains of industry, bankers, investment guru, academicians, engineers, doctors, public relations/entertainment impresarios, administrators, among others, should as a matter of urgency:
- Initiate a 5 year Developmental Agenda (Ogun East Senatorial District Marshall Plan) by packaging workable, achievable, sustainable and viable investment initiative with reference to both the human endowment and business resources in Ijebu nation/Remo Kingdom.
- Initiate a cooperative funding arrangement…
- Yearly organize workshop, seminar and symposium to appraise, analyse and interpret both the state and local government budget proposals on order to encourage the 2-tiers of government to spend more resources and also pre-empt all aspiring politicians to focus on developmental agenda especially job creation for youths vis-a –vis infrastructural development.
3. Source for and encourage foreign investors to establish industries in the area using our natural resources. For example Remo Kingdom grows kolanut, the hausa eats the kolanut while the Ibo appreciate kolanut in their culture. And to be best of my Knowledge, there is no factory to manufacture world-class wine and other derivatives of kolanut in the entire Remo kingdom.
What an irony?
4. This senatorial district should focus on the need:
i. To encourage our youths and elders specially the political class to sink their various socio-political differences and unite so as to have a common voice in the development to Ijebu nation and Remo Kingdom.
ii. To liaise with our traditional rulers, chiefs, community leaders and elder to encourage Ijebu/Remo sons and daughters home and in diaspora to establish industries and create job opportunities for youths.
iii. To minimize the weekly wastages through various ‘owambe’ parties and spend judiciously the scarce resource to establish sustainable industries.
iv. To document the achievements through autobiographies of eminent Ijebu/Remo citizens in order to accord them a permanent place in history and hall of fame while at the same time encourage the youths to see them as role models, emulate and follow their footprints to success.
Hope for the future?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me make it categorically clear that there is famine in the land! Our people are hungry, they are frustrated, they are disillusioned, they are tottering on the brink of hopelessness and they are angry.
A major intervention is required for our people in order to ameliorate the crippling effects of a downward spiralling economy. Our people have not felt the effects of the so called SURE-P (Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program). This is a program that was designed to reduce the full impact of the fuel price increase introduced early 2012 and which caused massive inflation through price increase in foodstuffs, transportation, housing and other basic needs of our people. We realise that some funds have been released but it has not trickled down.
Unemployment continues to rise unabated despite the potentials of the region. I have traversed vast sectors of Ogun East and the message is the same. Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
People want to be able to feed their families through sustained employment programs that can provide incomes. Universities are closed as a result of the ASUU strike and the inability of the Federal Government to resolve the impasse. The resultant effect is that we have many restless and idle youths at home who are getting increasingly frustrated. This is a potential time bomb. The parents themselves are frustrated knowing fully well that they are suffering from a double jeopardy situation of having paid school fees with nothing to show for it and at the same time coping with feeding their wards at home when they should ordinarily be in school.
Let me ask you all these questions. Why is Ogun State not yet an oil producing State? Just think about it. Ondo State is an oil producing State earning additional income for development through the derivation formula, yet I have been told that the oil block responsible for that situation lies almost 80% within Ogun State territorial waters. Regardless, why have other oil blocks lying on Ogun State land not been allocated for development when many investors have sought to explore and exploit the potential?
The development of the deep sea port project at Olokola, which has the deepest sea port in the whole of West Africa and perhaps the whole of Africa has been continuously delayed since 2003. Are some people working against the economic development and commercial interest of our people? This is an area that has the potential to bring massive economic advantage to these areas, the resultant effect of which is the creation of thousands of local jobs for our people, rural infrastructural development, massive industrialisation, gigantic housing projects, new arterial roads and unsurpassed economic activity to rival even Lagos on a long term basis.
So who is articulating and screaming these concerns of ours to the centre at Abuja? Who is fighting hard for us to ensure that our cries are heard? All I hear is a whimper from the centre. Shall we continue to watch while the benefits accruable to our people are frittered away by some other people? Shall we continue to ‘siddon’ look while the elephants continue to fight and the vast masses wallow in poverty and unrelenting suffering?
Change for good
According to Barak Obama, the President of the United States of America and leader of the free world:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”.
We need change in this system and in this region; but not an ordinary change. We need Change For Good -The good of our people, their children, their families, their jobs and their general situation. It is time to grab the bull by the horns if we are to elicit the desired change; not an ordinary change, but CHANGE FOR GOOD!
2015 will be a year of surprises. A year in which Ijebu and Remo people will decide how they want their voices to be heard: A year in which they choose who can best add value to their lives; A year in which they assess what is on ground that has multiplied their lot positively; and a year in which those who are best capable of filling their hungry bellies are evaluated.
Our people are not stupid. They have become more enlightened and politically smarter than they were in 1999, 2003, 2007 or 2011. When the leadership of their respective parties is in disarray, they become disillusioned. They know that a house divided amongst itself cannot stand therefore they become jittery, they plead for peace and harmony in the interest of the party. When this fails, they move on and look for a more peaceful environment. The die is cast. Our people have become migratory, going forwards and backwards searching for the right political environment that can better their lot post 2015; but above all, probing, diligently assessing and trying to decide for the right person with the precise background, the correct pedigree who empathises with them and who feels their pains and can fulfil their aspirations.
Which way Ijebu/Remo People?
Ijebu and Remo people with their nine local Governments and vast population will be a major deciding factor in the political terrain of Ogun state in the year 2015. But first, they must bury the unnecessary rivalry, the cold war, suspicions and mistrust that has pervaded the system and speak with one voice. They must continue to articulate their needs and grievances. They also need to support all infrastructural development in their various areas because this is the foundation, upon which we can build long-term and therein lies the multiplier and trickle-down effect for future development.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in my opinion, this is the way.
I wish to thank you all once again for taking the time to felicitate with Ijebu News Xtra today and for your interest in the growth and development of Ijebu and Remo people in particular, for the sustained development of our State and for the peace of Nigeria in general. I sincerely look forward to engaging and sharing ideas with you on similar matters in the future
Thank you and God bless
Otunba Seyi Oduntan, BA. Dip. M. FCIM
Parakoyi Bobagbimo Akile Ijebu
Otunba Fuwajoye, Iworo-Ijebu
Otunba Osigade of Ijebuland
24th November 2013
i. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia
ii. Prof. L. Mabogunje, Robert W. Kates and the President and Fellows of Harvard College CID working paper No. 102, January 2004.
iii. Creating Political Awareness amongst the Ijebus
– A speech presented at the Annual Luncheon of
Ijebu Frontlines’ Club, Ijebu-Ode
By Engr Kayode Sote, FNSE, August, 15, 1992.
iv. Developmental Agenda for the Regberegbes
-Egbe Bobagbimo (Okunrin) Akile Ijebu in Focus
by Engr Kayode Sote, FNSE, May, 18, 2013.
* Excerpts from a speech delivered by Otunba Seyi Oduntan at the 2nd year anniversary lecture of Ijebu News Xtra at Grand Inn Hotel & Suites, GRA, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria on Sunday, 24 November 2013.