Olowu Kuta: The bridge, the builder

Installation of the 13th Olowu of Kuta, Oba Adekunle Oyelude Makama about a decade ago has evidently accelerated pace of development of the Owu town. But beyond that, Oba Makama has also risen to become an instrument of a peaceful coexistence among Yoruba towns and communities in one hand and between the Yorubas and the Arewa based on what he called cultural integration. TUNDE BUSARI writes

The ambiance inside the hall at the Palace of the Sarkin Shasha and Head of Arewa community in the 17 Southwestern states, Alhaji Haruna Maiyasin in Ibadan was charged and unwelcoming to the battery of reporters in attendance. The day was a Thursday in the month of March 2017.

The tensed situation was post-mortem of what was reported as an ethnic clash, which had occurred in Ile-Ife some days earlier. Each leader of Hausa community from different towns in the southwest, talked tough and seemed to have only waited for the meeting to take the next action, which, a source revealed, could mean a reprisal against their host communities.

But a Yoruba traditional ruler was conspicuously seated right there at the meeting religiously taking note of each remark and also decoding their body languages. And when it was time for this royal father to address the visibly agitated audience, complete silence descended on the roomy hall.

Dressed in a tastefully embroidered ofi fabric, the Kabiyesi spoke in a flawless Hausa Language, which appealed to emotions of the hausa/ fulanis and eventually put out the gathering inferno. That traditional ruler was no other monarch than the 13th Olowu of Kuta, Oba Hammed Adekunle Oyelude Makama (Tegbosun III).

In his company to the peace meeting was the then Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola Senior Special Assistant on Arewa Matters, Muhammed Bashir Hussein, a Northerner, who complemented Oba Makama’s preach for a peaceful coexistence between Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani communities. Sarkin Shasha Maiyasin was so impressed by Oba Makama’s mediation strategy that he immediately issued an unambiguous directive to his people to return to their states with that good news and a strong warning against violence in any guise.

“The two tribes have inter-married and have many things in common. We should not allow the clash to disrupt the peace in the land. The Yorubas are not against the Hausa or Fulani. We should take what happened in good faith,” he admonished.

The above is one of a number of verifiable references of what Oba Makama symbolizes among hundreds of traditional rulers reigning on Yoruba landscape. Born by a soldier father with whom he lived in military barrack, a multi-ethnic community, the Olowu grew to see every Nigerian, regardless of colour and faith, as a member of his extended family with whom he must relate and relate indiscriminately.

This pan-Nigerian world view would shape his future he lives today and sustain his fraternity with Nigeria military establishment, regularly making a case for the army at every opportune time. Even when public mood is not favourable to complimentary words for the army, especially over the insurgency long ravaging the North-eastern part of Nigeria, Oba Makama would stick to his gun and releases press statements to educate public on challenges which have been an albatross to early overrun of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.

To him, Nigerians should rather show appreciation to the fighting troops rather than taking them to slaughter slab, saying and insisting that Nigerian army are drawn from Nigerian society, inferring their pains should be shared by Nigerian public through words of encouragement to forge ahead in their operations.

Of all Chiefs of Army Staff in office since his ascension to the throne, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, now Nigeria Ambassador to Benin Republic, appeared to have bonded more remarkably with Oba Makama, evidence of which is the construction of River Osun bridge, which General Buratai facilitated and ultimately commissioned in September 2020 in Kuta.

The Tabloid.net gathered that for over a century, Kuta, Ikoyi and Ede had been disconnected from one another by lack of bridge over the river, a situation which directly took a toll on the economic development of the towns, especially transportation of agricultural products, many of which were wasted in the forest.

After many futile efforts to build the bridge by his predecessor, Oba Situ Bamgbade who was said to have even sought aid of the immediate past Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, in 2019, Oba Makama shared his agony and that of his people with General Buratai, after a meeting in Abuja. Having listened with a rapt attention and felt the genuine pains in his guest, the Borno-born General put a call to the Nigeria Army Engineering Construct Regiment Corps, Ede with a directive to mobilise men to the site.

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“How would you or anyone think I will forget such a God-sent person? Even if I want to play an ingrate (God forbid), will history forget him? That is the angle from which those who don’t understand should see my relationship with him and the army,” Oba Makama, who named the bridge after Buratai via a creative acronym- BAILEY (Buratai Army Indigenes Legacy Edutainment Yearly-enthused.

Significantly, the commissioning of the bridge witnessed a convergence of who-is-who of the society, military and civilian including no fewer than 23 traditional rulers from Osun, Oyo and Kwara States on Kuta. The town, which migrated from Orile-Owu 1427, was a place to be as a surge of dignitaries flooded the main street and the Olowu’s palace, which was also unveiled the same day.

Among top government functionaries in Kuta was Governor of Osun State, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola who was accompanied to the two-in-one event by his deputy, Mr Benedict Alabi and some commissioners as well as head of service, Dr Festus Oyebade.

Some traditional rulers could not hold back their excitement at General Buratai’s contribution to Kuta development. The Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin told our correspondent: “What General Tukur Buratai represents to me is a detribalized Nigerian who has shown us that the army can be used for physical development of the country aside their statutory role of protecting national integrity of the nation. What we have here in the bridge is quite unprecedented, impressive and memorable. This is the first time I would hear army undertaking such community initiative project.”

The Aare of Ago Are, Oba Abodunrin Kofoworola also remarked, “General Buratai is a fine and gentleman and focused. His disposition to duties shows his high level of professionalism. I have had contact with him in Abuja before Kuta. He is a very pleasant personality with a large heart which endears him to his guests. The bridge, constructed on his approval, has never happened in the past 100 years as well stated by the Olowu-Kuta.  The General has written his name in gold in the South-west and Osun State I particular. Coupled with assistance he extended to the Olowu-Kuta, he has shown an army with civility and a good leadership.”

In the same vein, the Sabiganna of Iganna, Oba Saliu Oyemola Azeez offered, “General Buratai really surprised me; I did not expect him to have such a civil attitude to Nigerians. He is professional in his approach to issues and accommodating too. With this laudable project, he has laid the foundation for soldiers to take up community development projects to ameliorate sufferings of people of the grass root. In fact, words cannot adequately express my feelings about what General Buratai has just done for the three towns”

The Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Olabomi added, “I am impressed by the involvement of the army in solving the age-long problem which the people of the three towns had faced for over 100 years. It was a big trauma for the agrarian people whose live depend on agriculture but faced obstacle of taking their products to market due to the absence of bridge on the Osun River. General T.Y. Buratai has finally wiped out tears from the eyes of these people. I commend him for having identified with these people. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I would see soldier performing this function. Generally, we believed that all about soldiers is to fight. I give thanks to General Buratai for changing that mindset now. I also thank my colleague, the Olowu-Kuta for using his contact to facilitate the project. I congratulate the people of Kuta for having him as a change agent. Finally, I thank His Excellency, Governor GboyegaOyetola for supporting and encouraging traditional rulers to use their contacts to complement government effort.”

In addition, the Olu of Ile-Ogbo, Oba Habeeb Adetoyese asked, “Did you know that while the programme was going on, I kept observing the comportment of General Buratai? What I saw was a soldier who has not lost touch with humanism. He sees himself first as a civilian before he is a soldier. It is because of that reason he was able to feel the pains which the people of Kuta, Ikoyi and Ede had passed through due to the challenge of the river which had made the road impassable for more than 100 years.  What he has done is different from what we used to know of soldiers. I join others to also give kudos to him for coming to our aid in Osun State.”

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The Olukoyi of Ikoyi, Oba Hafiz Badeji Akinmoyero also added his voice: “By what this God-fearing General has just done for us here in Kuta, Ikoyi and Ede, let me say if you ride an horse inside my belly, you would have smooth ride. I hope you understand that words. I am extremely happy for him. My father made first attempt to see if they could construct the bridge in 1967 but the attempt yielded no fruit. Could my fathers have imagined that a soldier would come in future to construct the bridge? This is a wonderful job, and we shall not forget General Buratai. I also thank the Olowu-Kuta, Oba Makama for using his connection to make this history happen during our reign.”

Finally, the Olororuwo of Ororuwo, Oba Qamarudeen Adeyemi revealed, “I have seen some soldiers but the affection I just saw in General Buratai is something else. That is just, to put it mildly. He appears to be a different military officer, His comportment, despite his higher post in the army, is amazing. He epitomizes what an average soldier should be, as regard his blend with the civilian populace to the extent of constructing bridge for towns which are far away from his home state. He is unique among chiefs of staff who have passed through this country. It would be difficult for anybody including future generations of the three towns to forget General Buratai.”

General Buratai was no less elated by the downpour of praises as he recalled that Nigeria Army Engineering Construct Regiment had always risen to occasion in infrastructural development of Nigeria, pointing out that the army under his command is peopled by professionals driven by patriotism and strong commitment to discharge their constitutional obligations to the nation.

“We know the role it played after the civil war virtually all roads in those days are done by Nigerian engineers. They are experts who delivered quality jobs at cheap cost,” he said.

Though the bridge and the ultra-modern palace further sold Kuta to the world, Oba Makama had since his coronation in 2011had put none of his people, resident home and in the diaspora, in doubt of his mission to elevate Kuta to a higher height among Yoruba towns and communities. Notably, asphatic roads and police post and a yet-to-be completed massive town hall are features of Kuta now while Oba Makama has become face of the town, currently holding position of Chairman, Supreme Council of Owu Obas comprising no fewer than 40 monarchs of Owu sub-ethnic ground extraction.

Owu sons and daughter, spread across five states including Kwara, have since formed an all-inclusive Royal Union of Owu People union initiated by the late Chief Akin Olugbade in the late 80s. They meet periodically and hold their annual special gathering tagged Owu National Convention in every December, 30th edition of which was hosted in Orile-Owu in Osun State in 2021, and it witnessed on December 11, 2021 turning of surd for the Orile Owu new town scheme and national administrative headquarters of the Royal Union of Owu People performed by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a leading member of the union.

Oba Makama’s sterling performance as the numero uno of all Owu Obas has earned him more leadership roles in community development, the latest of which was his visit to Kabba, Kogi State on December 28, 2021. Oba Makama was in the Okun town as royal father at the 5th Okun Yoruba Karele festival, where Kabba indigenes from far and near returned to their root and renewed their unity. It was another historic event for Oba Makama who led a party of traditional rulers to the event and gave a good account of himself as a monarch who has set agenda of a more united Yoruba for himself.

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While the Olowu of Kuta is never an irredentist, an advocate of a fragmented Nigeria, he, however, sees oneness of the Yorubas as a strength which, according to him, should be explored for the collective interest of the ethnic group. “We were very proud to reunite with our brothers and sisters in Kogi State. We related under an atmosphere which instructed that we should continue to reach out to one another regardless of distance. I am happy to note that Kabba hosted a very colourful programme, which is rich in tradition, and I appreciate the Obaro of Kabba, Oba Solomo Dele Owoniyi, the traditional ruler for the reception he extended to us and preparedness to open up Kabba to the rest of Yoruba. I also give kudos to the Yeyeoge for championing the course of Okun people in the area of emancipation. My prayer to God is to continue to strengthen the Okun people,” he said.

On his way back home, he had a stopover at Ifaki-Ekiti as guest of the newly installed Olufaki, Oba Adegbenro Falore, a former senior official of the Department of State Service (DSS). He had also visited the Okere of Saki, Oba Khalid Olabisi and was, in addition, a cynosure of eyes at the installation of the Oniba Ekun of Iba Kingdom, Oba Sulaiman Raji in December 2020.

It is debatable that any other Yoruba oba shares prominence with Oba Makama at public functions hosted in states across length and breadth of the upper Niger. Frequency with which he shuttles between his Southwest and the North makes it difficult to predict his work schedule. And at those events, save for his full Yoruba attire complemented by his crown, he blends flawlessly with his hosts. He was in Keffi, Nasarawa State on December 18, 2021 at the appeal fundraiser ceremony for the Tukur Buratai Research Centre (TBRC) in collaboration with the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, where General Buratai described leadership as “the process through which an individual establishes direction, influences a group, and guides the group toward a certain purpose or mission.”

He is a proponent of consultations with high and low as a vehicle to achieve responsive leadership, hence his regular visitations to two former Heads of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida; the latter is his former principal under whom he served in different capacities and built his network of contacts across different sectors.  When Babangida made attempt to participate in politics in 2003 and 2007, Oba Makama was Chairman of the IBB vision, a group saddled with responsibility of working on strategy to mobilise for the aspiration. He also frequents the Palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Eniitan Ogunwusi where he usually holds a tete-a-tete with Oba Ogunwusi on Yoruba course.

 The Olowu is reversely often surrounded by a set of Obas, who compliment him, especially on his trips within and outside Yoruba states. These traditional rulers include the Ologburo of Ogburo, Oba Agboluaje, the Onigege of Gege, Oba Kazeem Orioye, the Onibode of Bode-Osi, Oba Nureni Abioye; the Olowu of Obaloyan, Oba Kamorudeen Abioye

Oba Makama is a respecter of the media, electronics, print and digital, hence his palace boasts of a sophisticated media department equipped with 21st Century digital tools, which update public of his day-to-day activities within and outside the palace. He is lifetime Patron of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), Osogbo Chapel and hosted the members and executive to end of year lunch and an evening with the monarch on December 30, 2021. A month earlier, he was guest of the Southwest Group of Online Publishers (SWEGOP) in November 19, 2021 at Development Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital where he had a no-holds-barred session to the delight of his hosts.

History has it that Anlugbua Akindele, who was a hunter and warrior led people of Kuta from Orile-Owu to the present location in 1427. Akindele was said to have left Orile Owu in protest following his younger brother’s ascension to the throne left by their father at his expense. Ikutamiti is original name of Kuta. Akindele reportedly reigned for about 300 years, after which he disappeared into the earth, resulting into the celebration of Anlugbua Festival. His wife also turned to what is today Odo Aya Oba.

 

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