Ascending the oldest throne in Yorubaland exactly a decade ago, His Imperial Majesty and Prescribed Authority, the Olugbo of Ugbokingdom, Oba (Dr) Fredrick EnitiOlorunda Obateru Akinruntan has redefined the Olugbo stool to claim his rightful place in history. He is, indeed, a monarch in his own class and epitome of everything royalty.
When the Ondo State Government in 2009 implemented the Supreme Court judgement that terminated the reign of his predecessor in office and declared his occupation of that exalted office as illegal to pave way for the oil magnate to ascend the throne, the whole riverine Ilaje community in Ondo State were ecstatic about the beginning of a new dawn. Ten years after, Oba Akinruntan has not only met their expectations, but has put Ugbo on the world map.
For the self-made billionaire and Chairman, Ondo State Council of Obas and Chiefs that Forbes Magazine recently declared as the richest monarch in Nigeria worth over $300m while the next monarch rated second was said to have worth about $75m, Oba Akinruntan has not used his wealth to change his community but his philanthropic gesture is second to none.
To convince his people that he was ready to transform his community, he permanently relocated to Ode Ugbo where he built a multi-billion Naira palatial palace adjudged to be the best and biggest in Africa. He went further to convince sons and daughters of the land to come home and develop properties in Ilaje community. Besides, he went on a massive orientation of his people to embrace Western education and see life beyond fisheries and other aquatic ventures.
Before he became monarch, people could only access Ugbo through boat from Igbokoda, but with his intervention, the road to the community has been tarred which made many to be grateful to him. Today, an oil company exploring in that community will lay a foundation of a modern hospital to commemorate his 10th year anniversary of his ascension to the throne of his forefathers.
Speaking about the anniversary, Olugbo who is the Chairman, Yoruba Obas Conflict Resolution Council said, “I am grateful to God that I can see today and celebrate 10 years on the throne. I am indeed, very happy because some people said I won’t last a year on the throne, in fact, two people that said it to my face had died. That’s God for you. No one should play God.
“One of the greatest achievements I always cherish is our ability to restore peace in Ilaje community. Before I came to the throne, it was crisis and restiveness everyday, you will be hearing sporadic gun shot at every corner. Bad boys laid siege everywhere and hardly you see people coming home, not to talk of coming to develop this community. But that has changed. There is peace everywhere now and that’s why you can see new houses springing up.
“I have also done a lot to encourage our youths to embrace Western education. Many of them think fishing is the only way of life but that is changing with some schemes we introduced including scholarship we gave them through Obat Foundation. Our youths are very critical to our development agenda because they are the future leaders. And once they are educated, it will be difficult for anybody to use them for selfish reasons.”
If there is one thing that defined Oba Akinruntan’s reign in the last ten years, it must be his unrelenting efforts to tell the story of Ugbo to the whole world as the aborigines Oduduwa met in Ile Ife. To him, his descendants were the owners of Ife and faulted the historical fallacy that Yoruba nation began with emergence of Oduduwa.The monarch said history was clear that Oduduwa met 16 communities in Ile-Ife and his forefather Obamakin Osangangan was ruling the communities.
Olugbo said, “When I told the world about this truth, Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Adeyeye disagreed, he mistakenly called us Igbo and created some crises but I am glad to note that he has agreed with me and he categorically admitted that there were sixteen communities in Ife before Oduduwa and his migrants groups came to Ife. In fact, one Professor Aderemi at his recent inaugural lecture at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife admitted this fact. I have been vindicated.”
The foremost traditional ruler in his anniversary speech said, “My traditional stool, which is adjudged the most ancient in Yoruba history, has been celebrated from time immemorial as having its roots in the peopling of Yorubaland from ancient Ife, called Ugbomokun. My forefathers, ruled the Imperial Dynasty of ancient Ife, and they were the original settlers, aborigines and owners of Ife.
“I must elucidate that we, Ilaje Ugbo are the founders of the ancient civilisation of Ife for which Herodutus, the father of history, who lived between 484 and 424 BC acknowledged and wrote, ‘According to History, there were five ancient cities in Africa between 3000 and 1000 BC of which one of them was Ife.’ By divination of Ifa and Ohanyin, my ancestors were directed to migrate from Ife to found a new confederacy which now occupies the entire coastal stretch of Ondo State from Oghoye to Abetobo, called Ugboland, the land of Peace, Prosperity and Power. On this note, I welcome everyone here present, to Ode-Ugbo, the ancestral home of Ilaje-Ugbo, where Oghonne Osangangan Obamakin, Oronmakin, Olowoyitufewa, Malokun Ogbolu, Atata Bi Okun Liri, the son of Oranfe, settled to found Erunomi Ilaje, the great confederacy which has grown to cover the entire globe till today.
“Also, it is important to state that Ilero, the aboriginal palace of ancient Ife, adjudged as the first palace of Ugbomokun, from where Osangangan Obamakin, my direct ancestor ruled before he received Oduduwa into Ife, is still in existence along Iremo road in present day Ile-Ife. The eternal resting place of Oranfe, Onile Ina, the owner of Ife, and indeed the entire world, is in Ilero till this day. The quarters of my forefathers, where my kith and kin (who undertake principal roles in the leadership of Ile-Ife) reside are in existence till today. The most sacred part of the modern palace in Ile-Ife today is called Ile-Ugbo, and the most ancient markets in Ife, Oja Aiyegbaju/Oja Oranfe and Oja Eji-Ugbomekun/Oja Osangangan Obamakin (Oja Ife) were founded by my ancestors, Oranfe and Osangangan Obamakin respectively. For the avoidance of doubt, my ancestors instituted the Aje Diety of wealth, prosperity and commerce in Yorubaland, and they migrated to the Coastal parts of Ondo State, Nigeria, and not to the South Eastern parts of Nigeria.
“The entire oral and academic reference (relating to the founding of Ife, the institution of the Aje Deity, the Moremi episode, the powers of Malokun Deity and the migration to found a new confederacy as directed by Ifa and Ohanyin) is to Ugboland in Ondo State, and not to Igboland in South-East Nigeria.
“Furthermore, I have opened an empirical/scientific phase in Yoruba history and I have made available over 2000 carefully researched historical, cultural and scientific evidences (Archaeology and Anthropology, Linguistics, Ethnography, BioTech/DNA, Ifa Corpus, Festivals and Rituals, Songs and Folklores, Totems and Cognomen etc) available to academic historians and researchers. The body of facts have given indisputable credence to the antiquity of the stool of the Olugbo of Ugboland, and the aboriginality of the people of Ilaje-Ugbo in Ife, and by implication in Yorubaland.
“In addition, Ilaje-Ugbo is endowed with the greatest fishing, marine and port facility capacity in Nigeria. Ugboland had the earliest incursion into Yorubaland by the Europeans (Portuguese, Germans, Dutch and later British) who berthed at the ports of Erunona, Ugbo for Trade and Commerce. Our Salt (Odoro) was globally traded by the Europeans, and our Treaty of Friendship, Trade and Commerce with the British dates back to 1884. In the same vein, Ugboland, adjudged consistently as the most peaceful part of the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria is endowed with crude oil in super commercial quantity and Ugboland is the index of Ondo State in the Niger-Delta. Aside the fact that Ugboland has the largest fresh and salt water fishing capability in Nigeria as well as phenomenal offshore and onshore crude oil deposits, Ugboland has the highest marine and port facility capability in Nigeria, and I am elated that Ondo State government has commenced projects in that direction.
“Once again, my gratitude goes to Ondo State Government and particularly to our performing Governor, His Excellency, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, and his amiable wife, Her Excellency, Arabinrin Betty Akeredolu for their unflinching support since my ascension to the throne. I make bold to say that in the history of Ondo State, no other administration has delivered on roads and general infrastructure, education, healthcare, security, economic growth and human capital development as much as the administration of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. I look forward, with excitement, to the end of his first tenure as the Executive Governor of Ondo State, and the commencement of his second term to enable him continue his service of excellence so as to make Ondo State the greatest in the committee of states in Nigeria.
“Also, I must commend the laudable efforts of all Obas in Ondo State since I began my tenure as Chairman, Ondo State Council of Obas. I cannot quantify the support, accolades and cooperation that I have received from all Monarchs within and beyond Yorubaland, including members of HRM Heritage Forum, Yoruba Obas Forum, 130 Krowns Club to mention a few. Ki Ade Pe L’ori, Ki Bata Pe L’ese. “Finally, I am overwhelmed by the love, submission, support and passion for Ugboland from my Princes and Princesses, Olugbo-in-Council and other illustrious sons and daughters of Ugboland, who have contributed to my numerous streams of successes in the past ten years.”