I normally have a quarterly town hall meeting as a platform to address the community, listen and seek their views about how to move the community forward. In all, I give glory to God. Which areas would you say are more challenging and what would you count as an achievement within this short period of your reign? Last year, 2018, the community built a standard police station which was donated to the Lagos state government to serve Iworo community.
Security is very important for a rapid development to any community. We built the police station to help curtail social vices within the community. Iworo is a tourist zone with beautiful beaches around us. Whispering Palm is in Iworo, including Suntan beach and other decent leisure outlets. We cannot compromise security of the visitors including investors that are already trooping to the community. Secondly, I created more streets, built resident quarters, standard shopping plaza to compliment what is on ground. You can see also, that Lagos state government is constructing a standard road starting from Aradagun junction on Badagry Expressway connecting Iworo to Akume in Awori and leading to other parts of Lagos within the creek axis. This is very symbolic because many investors who are coming to Iworo community to establish factories will have good access road and it will benefit the community on employable basis. But at this juncture, I must say I am not pleased with the deplorable state of our major road, the Badagary Expressway. The challenge of Badagry expressway is affecting us seriously. It is a federal road and I am disappointed that Babatunde Fashola, being Minister of Works was a former governor of Lagos state.
He has neglected the road and has never deemed it fit to embark on-the-spot assessment of the road.
Sometime ago, when we invited President Buhari to come and see things for himself, he flew over our terrain with four helicopter and landed at Seme to commission a project. What the federal government generates from this road is huge in terms of revenue. Government cannot spend up to three quarter of the money they make on this road to put it in order. It is a serious threat to our economy and the entire people of Badagry who are cut out of seamless business transactions. Badagry is a tourist town and the situation is not helping the tourism sector. Coming to my palace achievements, I appointed both lesser and higher chiefs that help pilot the affairs of the Oba Iworo in Council.
Community wise, minor domestic issues were put in check. Before I came on the throne, many homes within the community were living in separation as a result of amenable domestic issue. I frowned at it sternly and designed means of curtailing it. I established a community law and devised what I call ‘palace punishment’ where offenders are meant to sweep or cut grass for a period of time as a debasing punishment in the glare of the entire community. The exercise worked, and adherence to the community law as I speak to you now is well observed. I am also working on the area of curbing illicit drinks and hard drugs within the community with the help of security agents. This involves not only the consumers, but also the dealers. I have opened some jetties to make other communities within my kingdom accessible. I am also appealing to the Lagos state government to build more jetties to compliment what we have for now. Iworo community is one of the ancient towns in Lagos State created over 400 years ago. We are basically farmers and fishermen and also, have rich culture which forms our enviable heritage. Iworo have many festivals celebrated annually. They are Egun, Oro, Agun, Gelede and Agbe festivals.
I have personally set up committee to upgrade these festivals to attract tourists and to enhance the community visibility in the global tourism map. You are an evangelist and at the same time a traditional ruler. How do you pilot both opposite positions with an assumed insinuation that traditional rulers are somehow fetish? It is not true when people say kings are fetish. Ordained Kings are neither idolaters nor fetish. Let me tell you. People misinterpret the role of Obas and perhaps, term it fetish without adequate knowledge of their responsibilities. David in the Bible was a king. When Moses was called upon to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he confronted Pharaoh with a mere stick, and when God commanded him to throw the stick on the floor, it turned to a snake. You cannot call that fetish because it is just a pronouncement from God. The tongue is the authority and kings are meant to exercise this authority without bias. Don’t forget that an Oba is ordained from God and installed by the people. All those references to traditional practice are not a mark of fetishes. In my palace, there are people and hierarchy that handle certain things for the palace. God says in the scripture that I came to the world not to destroy the existing law but not to lead people astray too. That’s why there are palace chiefs that perform certain duties without a king apparently getting involved in all things. In that case, has your faith as an evangelist been affected with any palace traditional rites or performance that questions your religious belief? It is a very logical question. Like I said, I have been asked this question time over. As a Superior Evangelist in the Celestial Church of Christ, and as a traditional king, there is a mutual understanding to carry everyone along without necessarily affecting my faith in God. Some chiefs are designated to oversee certain things in the palace. The community is not a one religion entity. There are Muslims, Christians and traditionalists in the community. It is in the King’s position to accommodate all and the people are happy with me. The people have existed from creation, and a king cannot come and abolish their heterogeneous rights overnight. For me, I will not participate but must ensure that everyone live in peace. In my palace you will find ingredients of prayers such as kolanut, oil, salt and other things. My palace stool is an altar of monarchy. There is nothing fetish under it. As a superior Evangelist in my church, I follow what is written in the bible. My faith as a Christian has not tilted despite being a traditional ruler. As a growing child, did you have any inclination that you will be a king? Kingship is not what I grew up knowing but I may say my disciplined nature paved way for it coupled with the existing lineage. I grew up in a disciplined environment. My family was from a Muslim background before I converted to Christianity. I am naturally a self-determined person without relying on family fortune. I picked from my mother. She was a sort that will encourage you to do whatever you set your mind on. She loved all the children equally but did not influence anyone’s life decision.
After the death of my father in 1972, she became the pillar of the house. My mother died on January 6, 2015, and coincidentally, April 12, the day my father died was same day I was appointed as the King many years after. Although he was not a king, but my forefather was. I inherited the throne from my grandmother side. To become a king is not easy especially with many qualified contestants aiming at the same throne. How did you overcome yours? There was really a challenge, big one. Nobody gets to the throne on a platter of gold. My mother initially discouraged me because of what you mentioned earlier as kings being diabolic. It amounts to even losing life and my mother said; she doesn’t want to lose me. She advised me to forget about it saying “after all, I have been blessed with wealth.” I told her, that the community has found me capable and I would not force myself if they say no. After I convinced her that it is community choice, she called me and blessed me to go ahead. It was a big tussle then. We were about 7 contenders to the throne but I would say, God chose me before the people. But all that has been settled. The others had no choice but to agree on who the king makers chose. …and what is the relationship like, with your fellow contestants? I extended the hand of fellowship to them because kingship is a call to serve and the palace doesn’t belong to one person alone. I told them, if it is anybody’s turn, I will support, but if God has chosen me, I need all the support to succeed. However, only few of them had come forward for common engagements but during Town hall meetings, they all come for mutual deliberations. What is your relationship with other Obas in Lagos especially Oba of Lagos? I have a healthy relationship with all the Obas in Lagos State. I am a member of the State Council of Obas. It is a composition of about 86 monarchs out of over 200 Obas we have in Lagos state. I have been very active in State council of Oba’s projects, including the recently held Conference of the Yoruba Obas in Ile-Ife where I participated actively in certain deliberations that concern Obaship in the Yoruba land and diaspora. Nigerians will be going to poll to elect new leaders soon. As a former Federal House member, how do you see Nigeria politics now? Yes, I was formerly a member of Federal House of Representative during the shortlived Shagari regime, representing Badagary Constituency. In my own opinion, Nigeria democracy has come to stay without military interference anymore. We are growing politically but has not gotten there yet. Developments you see today are as a result of democracy but more need to be done.
However, one major challenge I see is the recycling of old politicians maintaining positions back to back. I am not happy with former Governors of States still clamouring for Senatorial seats. A governor, for instance is the controller of a state under which Senators, Federal House members and State Assembly comes under. It doesn’t make any sense, having governed a state for eight years, yet still stoop low to vie for a senatorial position. It’s absurd. He knows the state laws. Which law is he going to make again? I will advice ex-governors to sit back and play advisory role and allow upcoming ones to take over.
As a traditional ruler, our role is to preach peace and tranquility in our various communities, and never allowing anyone to disrupt the democratic process we are building on. People should come out and exercise their civil roles and elect who they think will work for them. Chris Onuoha