He is a successful business mogul. An influencial personality, a Philanthropist and down to earth personality. He just passed through travail of litigation for six years and came out victorious. The Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Oloyede Gbadamosi, Esuwoye II, was engaged by OLUSEYI DA’SILVA in an exclusive interview as he gives an account of his ordeal during the six year legal tussle for the throne and also shared his personal views on the Supreme court ruling and some part of his royal life. Oba Mufutau Oloyede Gbadamosi Esuwoye II is married to Olori Mistura Gbadamosi aka ‘Erinlakatabu’.
Your victory at the supreme Court is still in the news, what was your experience during the litigation?
I just thank God that the truth eventually came up. I never had sleepless night; I never had stress, I was going on with my normal life, though I was restrained from doing certain things. Some people asked about spiritual attacks from my opponents, but I never experienced any such attack. The matter is a traditional issue, the court had only affirmed the true position of our history as Offa people, devoid of political interpretation. I did not even think of the litigations because throughout that period, I am still known by my people as their head. I was still in controlled at least 95 per cent of the community and I enjoy their support. I did not even know there was anything like going on that until a day or two before the judgement. My faith in Allah did not shake Nobody was moved. I, in particular, knew that God crowns and keeps a king.
It is rumored that you expected a negative verdict so you ran out to the holy land, Saudi Arabia, is this true?
No! Even when I lost out at the Appeal Court, I knew there was a mistake somewhere or some people trying to play politics with Offa history, but I was not moved, I know that God is the best judge, so I continued with my duty to the community, it was few days to my 50th birthday and few days to fasting but we went on with fasting had the birthday celebration. Though Offa people were asking questions as to what could have happened to these Appeal Court judges that could have made them pass such judgement. But we know that the evidences available are in favour of Offa and our history. As to whether I ran away, it a blatant lie. For me, every year during the last ten days of Ramadan, I normally go to Saudi Arabia and that year, I went on my normal spiritual routine. It was there that I learnt that of the victorious verdict and I thank God, especially, that I was in the holy land when the news came. I was even sleeping that day and my wife and other people had gone for last minute shopping. I was to return on the day the judgement was delivered. I already bought my ticket. That is for you to know that I never ran away on premonition of a negative verdict. I had a return for July 1. If I had any doubt about my winning, I would have asked them to make the return ticket to be on the second or third of July so that if the reverse was the case, I would find a way to go somewhere else. But I put the return ticket on July 1 and only for me at the midday, I heard the good news that I won. I thank God.
So how did you celebrate the victory?
It is not an issue of celebration, Offa history was made a legal issue, some people who wanted to rewrite the history of Offa but God in his infinite mercies proved that he is above us all. I have only thanked God. Do not forget that those people who took us to court are also Offa people and this victory is for Offa people. The way I would celebrate this feat is by asking those people on the other side to let us work together to make Offa great as usual. Offa is a great town in history; we can make it greater by joining hands together rather than being disunited. Together we stand, divided we fall.
Recently, you celebrated your 53rd birthday, is it a way of celebrating the Supreme Court judgment?
I did not celebrate victory, because it is not about me, it is about Offa people and the law helping to put straight our history from being perverted. However, Fifty-three years is not a joke. I know a lot of my age mates and class mates that are now dead. So, I celebrated my birthday thanking God that I am still alive and happy.
As a Prince, did you have a premonition that you will someday become the Oloofa?
Not at all, I never did! I never thought that I would sit on this throne. Even for one day, I never thought of it. But as a prince, your desire is to assume the throne of your father.
You were a successful business man before being made Oloffa, don’t you think you are better without being a King?
I said earlier, every Prince aspires for the throne. When the immediate Oloffa transited, I was encouraged by my parents and people close to my parents and not the people that were close to me. To me, when I was called upon, I did not know that it was competitive because I only submitted my name and went back to my business in Lagos. It was only after some weeks, they said they had have chosen me as the Oloffa elect. There are many Princes and Princesses in the royal environment, only God knows who would become the king. It’s a matter of destiny. Even the judgment is God’s verdict made through man. Some people do not believe in God; that is why when God has chosen someone to be the king, some people will take him to court. Nobody becomes anything unless such a person is destined to be. Only God can destine someone to be the king. He is Manyashau.
Did you notice a decline in fortune because you became Oloffa?
Being Oloffa, is an opportunity to join hands with my people in projecting the course of Offa people. There is no fortune higher than being with my people working for the progress of Offa. My fortune increased and not decline. Lt me ask you, what office can be higher than being Oloffa or a traditional leader of your community? Whatever affects my business is my determined commitment to serve my people, so I don’t count losses but gain. Offa means everything to me. I am proud to be part of my people every time any day. It is my joy returning home to my people, so no loss but gain. This is not a tenured office; I will remain here till I die.
Did the throne take anything away from you socially?
Of course, I cannot do many things now, socially because I am Oloffa. But from childhood, children born in the royal environment are trained to be cautious of how they behave in public. I need to write for permission before going anywhere. My dress sense had changed, No more T-shirt, you Jeans wears etc. Whatever enjoyment I want to partake in is now exclusively indoor, in my palace, not any longer public. As a community leader, one has to be watchful of what to say so as not to lose the respect of the people. Aside that, I have become an ambassador of my people, I have to comport myself as a role model and worthy representative of the people. Even my relationship with friends and immediate relatives had changed, however, I didn’t lose my friends, I don’t give away people.
How would you describe Offa Town?
Offa is an ancient town that has produced prominent personalities in Nigeria and across the world. We preserve our culture and revere it. Education is like an industry to us. We are well read. We have many Professors. Many places you go in Nigeria or in all the government ministries, you will get Offa sons and daughters there. That is one thing that is unique about Offa. If you go by quota system, you will get us and we are always the best. If you call for a job interview, our sons and daughters are always at the fore. The first Professor of Geology in Africa is from Offa, he is Professor Mosobalaje Oyawoye. The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, Bisi Akingbade, is from Offa; there are so many of them in very high places. He was invited and picked from the United States of America. Go to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Deputy Governor is from Offa. Anywhere you go, you will see us excelling. The first secondary school in the whole Northern Nigeria, Offa Grammar School popularly called OGS, was established here in Offa. There is railway crossing here. From here you go to school, you join train to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria or to Kaduna Polytechnic etc. So, transportation cost was cheaper for us than for some other people in other communities. All these were to our advantage.
Foreign religions have taken over African religion in societies, how do you cope with issue of religion among your people?
We do not have religious crisis here. Offa people are one. Here in Offa, you will see a mosque beside a church. It would not cause any problem. I am both Christian and Muslim. When Christian come, my name becomes Oba Moses Mohammadu Ikikiola Gbadamosi, Esuwoye II. I don’t have to change my religion, I freely associate with my people in the practice of their various religions but Offa people do not accommodate people who do not worship God. The Muslims come every Friday to pray and the Christians come on Sundays and I attend the prayers except when I am not around. There are families here where the father might be a Christian and the mother a Muslim; the son might be a Muslim and the sister, a Christian. So how can you fight when in the same family, you already have both religions? As you can see, the room for religious crises does not arise.
In Yorubaland, Obas are known to be polygamous, how many wives do you have as at now?
I am not like that; I have only one wife and she is enough for me. Those other wives of the immediate past Oloffa are around and we take care of them accordingly as members of the royal family. Polygamy is not must for a traditional ruler, it depend on the individual concerned.
You are known to enjoy farming, do you still go to the farm?
Yes, I am still into farming; I go to my farm whenever I am less busy in the palace. I am into poultry and livestock farming and it has been like that ever before I became Oloffa.
Would you add your voice to those calling for a role for traditional rulers in Nigeria?
A role for traditional rulers will be a welcome development. If the government gives us the role, minor disputes will be attended to by us. The decision to withdraw the powers of traditional rulers is not well intended. I still have the belief that the government will have to reverse that decision some day because we are closer to the people we know their problems more than government. It is only a traditional ruler can pass judgment without fear or favour, so we need to be given a role in administration of government. As a royal father, you know every nook and cranny of the community. You know those who are bad and those that are good. You know the needs of your people and you relate them to the government. I believe with time, the government will still look into this and give us back our role.
As a first-class monarch, how well do you relate with others in your class within and outside Kwara?
I appreciate people a lot. I maintain very cordial relationship with other Obas. There are some that were my friends before now, we still relate as friends, but people Like Alaafin Oyo, naturally he is old enough to be my father, I relate with him as father, I cannot say because I am Oba then I should do things that disrespect him. Aside the royal stool, I am a traditional person, I respect culture very well.
What about your relationship with the Offa people?
If you are here during any of our festivals, you will see a large crowd of Offa people coming to celebrate with me. Offa people are independent minded and self confident, If I’m a bad person, they will not pay such homage. By God’s grace, I am a rallying point for Offa people. They love me and I love them. Offa people have friends across the tribes in Nigeria, so being friendly is expected because life is an opportunity, if you live it well, you will have peace of mind, else you will be left alone with your fate.
So what should Offa people expect from you as part of the promise to develop Offa?
I am not the one developing Offa town; the people of Offa are doing it. We have several clubs and associations that contribute money towards developing Offa. We have a culture of pulling our people to the top. Some people pulled us up, we too would pull those coming from behind up. Communal effort is more prominent here. Our sons and daughters pull resources together to make our community better, so the level of development you are seeing in Offa will be greater and not only double but become better in unknown dimensions.
Critics of Offa often say that Offa people are proud, what do you say on this?
That is not true. Offa people are achievers and they are contented with whatever God has given them. You can never see an Offa person going about begging. Even within ourselves, we would rather stay hungry than become a stooge to anybody. There is no one who knows his own value that will not flaunt it. If by that they mean we are proud may be we are. In life if you don’t know what you ae worth people will rate you at their own value, so when you let them know your own true value people will give it their term. Offa people are hardworking and exhibit sense of self value and self-worth, that I know about my people. We are accommodating and friendly with neighbours.
Any word for Offa people across the world?
I want to thank all sons and daughters of Offa for their unflinching support for me ever since I became the Oloffa, I want to use this medium to tell them to be good ambassadors of Offa wherever they are and that their good name must be cherished all the time in their daily pursuit.
From the entire crew of today’s Impact Newspapers, we congratulate you and wish you all the best