Oba Dr. Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan is the traditional ruler of Ugbo Kingdom, an ancient reverie town in Ilaje Local Government, Ondo State, and southwestern Nigeria. Rated by the financial magazine, Forbes, as the richest monarch in Nigeria and second richest on the African soil. With a net-worth and conglomerate spanning into billions of dollars, Olugbo has his hands litters across many pies of business littered across the world with choice properties at highbrow areas across the world.
Oba Akinruntan is currently the Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas, the Chairman of Yoruba Obas Conflicts Resolution Council. He also shoulders an academic title as the Chancellor, Olusegun Agagu University of Science & Technology, Okitipupa, Ondo State. The reputable philanthropist blessed with a large heart of Gold is also a recipient of National Honours, Commander of the Order of Niger (CON). In this interview, the Okoro Ajiga 1, Paramount Ruler, and Prescribed Authority of Ugboland, revealed some mind-blowing information affecting the Yoruba race. He addressed other salient issues by setting the records straight, correcting distorted history connecting Ile-Ife and Ugbo. Excerpts....
What’s the position of Ugbo in Yoruba connectivity?
The position of Ugbo in Yoruba connectivity still remains what it is. It is an historical fact that cannot be affected by the passage of time or circumstances. Nobody can change it! I am the first, the oldest throne in Yoruba Land. The position of Ugbo in Yoruba history cannot be contradicted by anybody. Nobody can say no to that sacrosanct position of Ugbo in Yoruba oral or written history because it is there for all to see. A lot of people are grumbling and murmuring; I see them as cowards. They are very cowardly and are not even coherent in their stuttering cowardly counterclaims that to all intent and purpose stand logic on its head because my father, Oranfe is the progenitor of Yoruba Land. Oranfe, a half-man, half spirit being is the father of Obamakin who is my ancestral father and whose dynasty founded Ile Ife and he reigned as the aboriginal Paramount ruler of Ile Ife. Ife was known at that time as Ugbomokun; So I am claiming it as the owner of Ile Ife and that claim I lay claim to is not just narratively pure but historically correct! I am still claiming it up till tomorrow.
Who exactly is Obamakin Osangan gan?
Osangangan Obamakin is the son of Oranfe. They are the owner of Ile-Ife. His father , Oranfe is the owner of Ife; Obamakin is the owner of Ife, thus, myself, I am the owner of Ife. We are still claiming it up till tomorrow! That’s the fact! Let me tell you one thing: in Ife today, if they want to get anything from god, they will say, ” haa baba mi Oranfe, Iwo loni Ile Ife, Joo je ki ohun ti mo n wa temi lowo…( My father Oranfe, you are our progenitor; let our heart desires be granted!) That’s how they pray up till today. They won’t mention the name of any particular Oba, but they always remember the name of their forefather, Oranfe. That’s it!
In your book ” A history of the oldest throne in Yoruba Land” which you published in 2016, you talked about pre-dynastic struggles that existed in the timeline of Yoruba history. Can you shed more light on that?
Now in Ife, we are the owners of that place . We have 16 communities in Ile Ife. A lot of scholars testified to the existence of these sixteen communities and acknowledged them in their scholarly work. A Professor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Prof. Wande Abimbola acknowledged it that the Olugbo and his ancestors are the owners of Ife. He also said before we left Ife, nobody asked us to leave. We left on our own volition. He noted that Olugbo left Ife to his new place on his own free will. Part of the evidence we have to show the whole world is the fact that we are the husband of Moremi Ajasoro. She is our wife. You can see that we have it here to show the whole world. You see, the fact is there, nobody can contradict it. Look at my book since 2016, nobody has been able to fault or contradict it till date. So, what are we saying? Historical fact speaks for themselves. Not only that book, OAU, Ile Ife acknowledged this fact too in their ‘Odu: a journal of West African Studies – New series No 46’. If my book is not authentic they won’t acknowledge my historical viewpoint; you know OAU for that. So anybody can say anything they like but they can’t confront me because I guard my loins with the truth, fact, incontrovertible fact of history of the significance of Ugbo in Yoruba historical relevance.
You are the Chairman of Peace and conflict resolution council among Yoruba royal fathers. What can you say about unity among Yoruba Obas?
Very good! Brilliant question! Yes, we have been doing that, trying to reconcile Yoruba royal fathers in order to foster unity amongst us. Don’t forget Yoruba is a difficult race. Let me be sincere to you and to myself, Yoruba is really a very difficult race. There is one thing we call egoism; that’s the major problem affecting us. Some of the conflict issues we have among the royal fathers boil down to egoism and complex. To make the matter worse, a lot of people without the royal blue blood assume the royal stool. So we have challenges curbing and reining in egoistic proclivities and tendencies. In those days before you can become an Oba, you must not be a southpaw, you must not be bald-headed or hunchbacked; if your father is still alive, you can’t assume the royal stool. It wasn’t possible in ancient Yoruba Land! You are getting me? If you are nine fingered or nine toed, meaning you are not complete, you can’t become an Oba. If you are a stammerer or you are a twin, you can’t be an Oba. If you are a female or child of a female kindred to the throne, you can’t be an Oba. The problem we face now is that our tradition has been bastardized, a lot of the things we held dear in our culture had been watered down and have become severely tinkered with and adulterated . My dear brother, those are the kind of challenges we are facing that we are taking our time to correct. The second one is if there is conflict between two royal fathers , we try to settle it amicably between them and we settle a lot of cases. One thing is I don’t do any of these things for anyone to praise me. I can call my colleague royal father who has an issue with another and tries to settle the issue and no one else needs to know.
Let’s talk about Ode Ugbo, your kingdom. How far have you developed this great land of your great ancestors?
Oba Akinruntan: Beautiful question! You see, I am not trying to be boastful, but the truth be told, this palace is one of the best in the world. I have 25 bedrooms and 14 palatial living rooms in this sprawling palace. If the United States of America’ s President visits, he will be conveniently hosted in this palace; I think that’s worthwhile enough! This monument wasn’t here until I ascended the throne of my fathers in 2009. I have changed a lot of things and given this kingdom a facelift. I have restructured the architecture of this terrain. The new things you can see around are the things I changed when I became the Olugbo. Of course, I have empowered my people who are fishermen with modern boats ; I have offered innumerable scholarships to our young ones from secondary school to university level, among other notable things I have done to contribute to the well being of my people. Opposite my palace here, we are planning to build one of the best hospitals in Nigeria . It’s in the pipeline and it’s coming up very soon. I am a private individual, but in my capacity, I have contributed a lot to this land. Before I ascended this throne, Ugbo was a no go area for so many people because of the fear of communal insecurity and threat to life. All that has stopped now! When I came, I told them anyone who tries nonsense, constitutes nuisance or dares to turn my kingdom to a canvas of blood where people are killed would be summarily dealt with and would wind up in jail. I told them all the wanton killing must stop; anyone who tries it is going to jail. And all the insecurity to life stopped! I am glad to say that peace, once alien to Ugbo, has returned to the land since I assumed the throne in 2009. I thank God for that. I have sent all the criminal elements bolting out of Ugbo and my people are enjoying peace and tranquility. I am a peacemaker in the mould of Henry Kissinger of the US White House way back whose name was synonymous to peace in the White House.
Kabiesi, do you think your tenants, the oil companies have done enough for the oil-rich Ilaje nation?
Oba Akinruntan: No! They haven’t. They always promise to do this and that ; I haven’t seen them do anything except for the promises. I am going to 11 years on the throne now, all they have been doing is promises, promises and promises.
How far have you been able to cope with life as a royal father?
Oba Akinruntan: Well, I am enjoying it. I am on the throne of my forefathers, so it’s for me a great pleasure. Before I became the Olugbo, I have been a successful businessman by all standards. So, I have been a moderately excellent dresser all the way. Now that I am an imperial royal father, I am always in tune with royal fad and fashion, always very careful with what I wear because I always make a statement with my outfit: my cloth, my shoe, my crown, my royal staff, even my car, they always rhyme. I am very stylish person with my royal Vogue and this has come a long way. I could remember vividly as a businessman, I went to the US in 2007; I was invited by President Bill Clinton to the White House for an award. I could still recall my dapper blazers and all. I bought my outfit at Rosiny in London. The shoe I wore too, I bought the pair at Rosiny also in London. My tie alone was fifty thousand pounds ! So, when they saw me, they marveled at my dress sense. After the whole event and the photo opp’ and we had shaken hands, Bill Clinton told me I am an admirable man, an outstanding Nigerian with an admirable sense of dressing. I asked him there and then, Mr. President, how did you single me out of so many business elite corp in Nigeria for the honor and award? Bill said they profiled me and my business concern and concluded I have made an impact in my business life deserving of mention and global recognition. He said, how many Nigerians can give an account of their grass to grace rise in the business world in my country? Only a few! He said my background and integrity accounted for the honor the White House has bestowed on me. If you look at my profile, I put it there that I started my oil business from bottle to gallon, to Jerry can, to drum, to dispensing pump before I could have a fueling station. That is my grass to grace story. America wants to know how you started your business, so, my profile really impressed them. My background is transparent and my business is transparent as well, strong enough to pass the test of integrity and due process. So, all along I have been taken things in my stride and I have been enjoying every bit of it. I have coped well so far and I have no course to regret my decision to occupy the stool of Olugbo.
What is responsible for your daring courage?
Smiles….you see my courage is the function of my mindset. A clear conscience doesn’t fear accusation. I am always daring because I have nothing to fear. It’s God who has given me a lion heart oo! You don’t dare he whom God himself has specially made and not regret it! Yet, I don’t have or use anything; it’s God!
What do you have to tell people about Coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country?
Well, thank you for that. Coronavirus is real! Coronavirus is real; coronavirus is real. Our people are encouraged to please note that this virus is a novel virus which cure has not been found and it kills within days. I want to appeal to my people in Ilaje, Ondo State and Nigeria to adhere to all the COVID 19 safety protocols as prescribed by the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force. Watch your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, wear your face masks if you are going out and if it’s not essential, stay indoor! I want to thank our Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for his sustained campaign for safety across Ondo state concerning the deadly coronavirus. The Governor is concerned about our safety, so each person should please take responsibility for a healthy living so that we all can survive the pestilence.
How about palliatives. Have you thought of giving your people palliatives?
Most definitely, yes. I was the first in this country to give palliatives to my people. I gave them food items and money and it cut across the kingdom. I told you earlier that the well being of my people is my concern. I have given them palliatives and I will still give them again and again until this COVID-19 challenge clears off. Ondo state government in the able leadership of our Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had also presented Ondo state people with palliatives. I thank him for that too.
Finally Your Imperial Majesty, your advice to your people?
Thank you very much. I preach peace among the people of Ode Ugbo. Without peace, there can’t be development. I preach contentment because when people are not contented with what they have, their activities brew trouble and unrest. I preach to love among my people. Let’s love ourselves so that together we can work for the growth of our kingdom. I want to tell my people to be patient with the Ondo state government because Gov. Akeredolu meant well for us. He has promised us the Deep sea project; he has promised us Ugbo / Ilaje free trade zone. If we have these two alone, even me, I don’t have to go to Lagos again. That’s why we all need to support Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s second term bid because he is a man of his words. I want to appeal to our youths to run away from crime. They should not do “Yahoo yahoo” because it doesn’t last. Our young ones who are ladies should not go into prostitution. It’s not a way of life. And above all, let’s all learn how to trust God because He knows what is best for us.