By Chris Onuoha
Oba Oladele Idris Kosoko, the Ogundeyi II, Oniworo of Iworo Kingdom in Olorunda local goverment area of Lagos State assumed the throne on April 12, 2017. The former House of Representatives member (Badagry Constituency) in the second republic is also a retired military officer.
After retiring from the military in 1979 and acquiring academic degrees from home and abroad, he went into business and politics.
A Muslim by birth, he converted to Christianity and became a Superior Evangelist in the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC). Oba Kosoko speaks on the challenge of infrastructural inadequacy in his community among other issues in this interview.
In few months’ time, you will be clocking two years on the throne. How has it been?
It’s really challenging, but with God, everything has been under control. Without cross, there will be no crown. Some challenges like minor disputes, land matters, domestic and social issues among others will always be there but the need to resolve them is the reason we are here. We are closer to the grassroots than government and dealing with their issues is very tasking but we always overcome with wisdom. I have a quarterly town hall meeting where l address the community, listen and seek their views about the way forward.
Which areas would you say are more challenging and what would you count as your achievements within the short period of your reign?
Last year, 2018, the community built a standard police station which we donated to Lagos State government to serve Iworo community. Security is very important for development in any community. We built the police station to help curtail social vices. Iworo is a tourist zone with beautiful beaches around us. Whispering Palms is in Iworo, we also have Suntan Beach and other leisure outlets. We cannot compromise the security of our visitors and investors trooping to the community.
Secondly, I created more streets, built residential quarters and a standard shopping plaza to complement what is on ground. You can see also that the state government is constructing a standard road starting from Aradagun Junction on Badagry Expressway to connect Iworo to Akume in Awori and leading to other parts of Lagos within the creek axis. This is very symbolic because many investors coming to Iworo to establish factories will have good access road and it will benefit the community in terms of employment.
But I must say I am not pleased with the deplorable state of our major road, Lagos-Badagary Expressway. The challenge of the expressway is affecting us seriously. It is a federal road and I am disappointed that Mr Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works, was governor of Lagos State. He has neglected the road and has never deemed it fit to embark on-the-spot assessment. Sometime ago, when we invited President Muhammadu Buhari to come and see things for himself, he flew over our community in helicopter and landed at Seme border 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 denied 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 lesser and higher chiefs that help pilot the affairs of the Oba Iworo-in-Council. Many minor domestic issues have been addressed. Before I ascended the throne, many families within the community had been separated. 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 as 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 state government to build more jetties to complement what we have. Iworo community is one of the ancient towns in Lagos created over 400 years ago. We are basically farmers and fishermen and also have rich culture. Iworo has many festivals celebrated annually. I have set up a committee to upgrade these festivals to attract tourists and to enhance our visibility in the global tourism map.
You are an evangelist and at the same time a traditional ruler. How do you operate against the backdrop of the insinuation that traditional rulers are fetish?
It is not true when people say kings are fetish. Ordained kings are neither idolaters nor fetish. 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 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 was just a pronouncement from God.
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The tongue is the authority and kings are meant to exercise this authority without bias. Don’t forget that an Oba is ordained by God and installed by the people. All those references to traditional practice are not a mark of fetish. In my palace, there are people who handle certain things. Jesus said in the scripture that He came to the world not to destroy the law but not to lead the people astray too. That’s why there are palace chiefs that perform certain duties without a king apparently getting involved.
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 several times. 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 has more than one religion. There are Muslims, Christians and traditionalists. It is in the king’s position to accommodate all and the people are happy with me. The people have always been there, and a king cannot come and abolish their heterogeneous rights overnight. I may not participate but l must ensure that everyone lives in peace. In my palace, you will find ingredients for prayers such as kolanut, oil and salt. 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 waned 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 the way for it coupled with the existing lineage. I grew up in a disciplined environment. I am from a Muslim background before I converted to Christianity. I am naturally a self-determined person without relying on family fortune. I picked that from my mother. She 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 king many years after. Although my father was not a king, 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 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 didn’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 had found me capable and I would not force myself if they said no. After I convinced her that it was the community choice, she called me and blessed me to go ahead. It was a big tussle then. We were about seven contenders for the throne but God chose me.
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 wass anybody’s turn, I will support, but if God had chosen me, I needed all the support to succeed. However, only few of them have come forward for common engagements but during town hall meetings, they all come for 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 in the state. I have been very active in the state Council of Obas’ projects and in the Conference of the Yoruba Obas held in Ile-Ife.
Nigeria will be going to the polls to elect new leaders soon. As a former House of Reps member, how do you see politics now?
Nigeria democracy has come to stay without military interference. We are growing politically but have not gotten there yet.
One major challenge I see is the recycling of old politicians, maintaining positions back-to-back. I am not happy with former governors running for senatorial election. A governor, for instance, is the controller of a state under which senators, federal House and state Assembly operate. It doesn’t make any sense, having governed a state for eight years, you stoop low to vie for a senatorial position. It’s absurd. You know the state laws. Which law are you going to make again? I will advise ex-governors to sit back and play advisory role and allow upcoming ones to take over.
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As a traditional ruler, our role is to preach peace in our communities, and never allowing anyone to disrupt the democratic process we are building on. People should come out and exercise their civic responsibility and elect who they think will work for them.