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Egrets gathered, hovered above me on my announcement as king – Eleda of Eda Oniyo, Oba Awolola

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80-year-old Eleda of Eda Oniyo, in the Ilejemeje Local Government Area of Ekiti State, Oba Julius Awolola, tells ABIODUN NEJO about his humble beginning and reign as king over the last 30 years

At 80 years of age you look quite agile. What is the secret?

It is God’s mercy; it is God’s doing and I am grateful.

How do you feel reaching 80 years in a country where life expectancy is about 54 years?

I never thought I would live up to 80 years; not at all! I was brought up in a very wretched environment, so I never even thought I would make it to 50. So, how do I feel living up to 80? It’s simply God’s grace.

What kind of family were you born into?

My mother was from Oye Ekiti and my father from Eda, now Eda Oniyo. I barely knew my father; he died in 1947 when I was just about five years old. My mother handed me over to one of his younger brothers to raise me.

Were you sent to school?

Yes. After primary school, I went to Modern School. When I was in Modern Three, which was the final class, money became an issue; I couldn’t pay the £27 tuition; so, I went to Iluomoba to do menial job. In 1963, I came back to Oye Ekiti to complete Modern School and I passed. My uncle wanted to sponsor my education further, but he said he had no money to send me to secondary school. I opted for technical school and he agreed with me. I took the entrance examination into St. Joseph Technical School, Ado Ekiti and I passed. I even paid the first deposit, but unfortunately, my uncle died. So, there was nobody to train me again.

How was life after his death?

I never thought I could become a chief in life, much less an oba (king). When I left Oye Ekiti, my mother said she had an elder sister in Ibadan who wanted me to come over. She told me that the woman came to Eda Oniyo for my christening in 1942. She gave me a name then and she hadn’t seen me ever since.  I wondered what I could gain from somebody who only saw me when I was just eight days old, but my mother encouraged me. Since there was no alternative, I asked my mother to give me some time to do menial job so that I could buy clothes to take with me. I did menial job for two months before I left for Ibadan, not knowing that God had prepared the ground for me before I got there. My aunt and her husband were affluent. She worked in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Social Development; her husband worked in the civil service as well. After two weeks of sitting idly in Ibadan, I went to the Labour Office to search for a job as a houseboy. The woman I met there said she needed to know my people. I told her that I had an aunt. But on learning about my move, my aunt disallowed it. At home, she lampooned me for disgracing her; but her husband told her not to scold me; that what I did showed that I was not lazy.

My childhood ambition or real intention was to become a roadside mechanic, but my aunt and her husband did not approve of it. They had other plans for me but I did not know. There was a small piece of land beside their house; I took permission to farm on it. To discourage me, they said goats would destroy my plants. Undaunted, I set to work, fenced the land and planted vegetables, okro and maize. I was in the farm one day when they sent for me from the ministry. I thought it was for an errand, but an official showed me to an office where I was to work following which my appointment was ratified. It amazed me that a Modern 3 certificate holder could work in the ministry. While on the job, my aunt later enrolled me into an institute to learn typing.

 At what point did you join the military?

That was after I had worked in the ministry for about two years. That time, it occurred to me that the job with a monthly salary of £7 might not take me far in life. Along the line, I got information that the Army was recruiting, so I went for it. I was rejected the first day, but I returned the following day and I was recruited. We were told to come the following day for onward journey to the Army depot. I confided in my aunt’s son that I would be leaving for the Army the following morning and that he shouldn’t tell his mum. But at dawn, when I was set to go with my box, he told his mum who then rushed in to stop me.  But having made up my mind, I dropped my box, jumped over the fence and went to join the military.

We were taken to Abeokuta for training. My knowledge of typing was an added advantage, which placed me at an advantage. I suffered for about five months in the Army before I started making money to the extent that I built a house at Oye Ekiti in 1969 at the age of 27.

At what point did you become a building contractor?

While in the army, I felt insulted by a friend at a hotel. That friend and a friend of his were in the hotel on my bill; I was a lavish spender. The other man asked my friend what my occupation was and my friend replied by saying, “He is just a soldier.” I got angry with the condescending way he addressed me for being a soldier. It was as if, to him, soldiers were less human. So, I told them I was leaving. I mounted my motorbike and shed tears as I rode home.

When my cousins asked why I returned home early, I told them I was insulted and that I would leave the Army for further studies. They said the best bet was for me to go abroad, so that I would be able to work while schooling. My cousins said they could make arrangements for me and before I knew it, seven days after, we had begun to see results. That was how I left the Army and went to Germany. Somebody told me I wouldn’t be comfortable in Germany, considering my status in Nigeria, but I said I would cope with whatever hardship there was. I recalled that suffering was not alien to me considering my background. I was advised to go to technical college, so I enrolled in a technical school in Germany for a three-year course in building.

On finishing, I returned to Nigeria. I saw an advertisement in Lagos; I walked into the construction company and got employed. When I got home, one of my brothers said my monthly salary would not be enough for me to even take beer, but I took the job all the same. Soon after, I started getting salary increment on a monthly basis. However, I had it on my mind that I would leave after spending two years in the company. When it was time to leave, my boss made spirited efforts to stop me, but I left, anyway, to establish my own company, Oladipo Building Technique, working as a sub-contractor with big contractors. In less than two years, I had started making money. There was money in construction then. I was controlling about 12 vehicles. Somehow, I got connected to the Lagos State Development and Property Company and I started getting direct contracts and stopped taking sub-contracts. Friends were calling me young millionaire then. Whenever I got any contract, I would ensure due diligence in the execution to ensure there was no problem and as such I was getting jobs steadily.

You’ve been 30 years on the throne. Can you speak about your journey to becoming a monarch?

After my father died in 1947, I didn’t return to Eda Oniyo for a long time. Then the then Eleda died and they said the new king would come from Owa, which is my father’s house. The family searched for my contact and sent an emissary to me in Lagos. The emissary came with a packaged gift called Aroko in Yoruba. The emissary told me my attention was needed at home. They didn’t tell me that the Eleda had joined his ancestors and the purpose of their visit was for me to become the next oba.  I told them I would come home and they left. I then went to one of my kinsmen and told him about the message and the package I got from Eda Oniyo. He looked at the package and told me it signified that the family wanted to have an important discussion with me. He said it was a good thing and he would support me.

So, I travelled from Lagos to Eda Oniyo and on arrival I had to ask for my father’s compound and introduce myself because nobody knew me. I asked for where my father was buried and it was shown to me. I gave the family some money and we had a feast. My siblings were also around. During prayers, my elder sister made a curious statement. She said I should pray that an inheritance from my father would not slip out of my hands. I considered that suggestion demeaning. Here was I, a successful professional and a millionaire. What did I need an inheritance from my father for? But my elder sister insisted that I should say the prayer. She then disclosed to me that I had been selected to be the next king. She said our mother had revealed that. I burst into tears. While we were doing that, some egrets started hovering above us; the elders said it was a confirmation that our forebears had endorsed me as the next Eleda. I am a member of Celestial Church of Christ. On return to Lagos, I went to church, and there were persistent revelations that I was a king and that I had been preserved for the throne.

How did you feel leaving your business in the city to relocate to rural Eda Oniyo to assume the throne?

As a CCC member, we believe in prophecies. Everywhere I went, the prophecy was being repeated that I was destined to ascend the throne. I had no choice but to give the throne consideration. I remember one particular woman who told me that nothing could stand between me and the throne and that I should go into farming, assuring me that I would prosper in farming. Three months after I got on the throne, I started farming, planting yam and cassava. Three years later, I started planting teak. It is from the proceeds of teak that I built a storey-building. Up till now, farming has been fetching me money.

Where are the people of Eda from?

History has it that Eda is from Ile-Ife. While on the journey from Ile-Ife, the people they met on the way asked them who they were and in reply they kept saying, “We are Eda Olorun (creatures of God).” That is the origin of the name. Our family, Owa, were the first settlers before others came. That is why all the chieftaincy titles in the town are conferred here.

Why is it that most obas, just like you, have many wives?

I had three wives before I ascended the throne. But basically, if you are a traditional ruler, people don’t really come close to you. They greet you ‘kabiyesi, kabiyesi’ and go to their houses. Obas don’t go around looking for or visiting people. So, the need for company is one of the reasons why kings marry many wives. In my case, when I got to the throne, I promised to marry someone from Eda Oniyo, which I did. I later married another one from Iludun Ekiti before I said enough is enough.

What are some your happiest moments over the last 80 years that you’ve journeyed through life?

That was in 1996, the day Ilejemeje Local Government was created with the announcement of Eda Oniyo as the headquarters.

How did you feel when three months later, the military government moved the headquarters to Iye Ekiti?

It was a moment of gloom, but we were strengthened by the fact that we were on the right path and we had the necessary backing of law. Before the announcement of the local government creation, there was a decree. It was the decree that created Ekiti State that created Ilejemeje Local Government with Eda Oniyo as headquarters. The local government headquarters was here for three months. The month that it was moved away from here, there was another decree, which reiterated Eda Oniyo as the headquarters of Ilejemeje. In 1999, shortly before Chief Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as President, there was another decree, which designated Eda Oniyo as the headquarters, making three decrees. These were my source of confidence that we would win with the belief that there was no way any court would discountenance the three decrees.

How was the legal battle like, from the lower court to Supreme Court?

It was not easy. We were in court for 23 years. But we thank God that the Supreme Court ordered the headquarters relocated to my domain and it is here now. It was not easy. A lot of my resources went into it. We were moving from one lawyer to the other. There is a particular lawyer, now a senior advocate, who collected N500,000 from us, receipted, to handle our case, but he did not do anything. That was part of our losses. There was another SAN who billed us N25m. I told him that everything in my community, if sold, could not amount to N25m. But in all this, I held onto God with prayers and God gave us victory.

You must be happy now that the state government has implemented the Supreme Court’s verdict that declared Eda Oniyo as the authentic headquarters.

It has been implemented, but I am not really happy because the state government is not forthcoming. The place being used as local government secretariat at Eda Oniyo since relocation in October 2019 was built by Senator Ayo Arise for us as constituency project when he was in the Senate years back. It was built as a health centre. The place is not conducive for the workers. That is where the council uses now. Although work has started on a new secretariat, we will appeal to the state government, if it is possible, to complete the first phase of the project so that the incoming administration will start using it.

What traditional festivals do you have in Eda Oniyo?

What we now focus on is Eda for Christ.

What are those things that you used to do which age no longer allows you?

In the farm, there is no work I can do there anymore; I cannot weed, I cannot plant, I cannot make heaps, I only go to farm to supervise.

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Governor’s wife advises Jerusalem pilgrims on conduct

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The returnees who participated in the 2022 pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Jordan have held a thanksgiving service to appreciate God for the successful journey.

According to a statement issued by the state government, the service, held at Chapel of Christ The Light, Alausa, was graced by the wife of the Lagos State Governor, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu.

Represented by the wife of a former Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mrs Mayowa Ikuforiji, Sanwo-Olu advised the returnees to be true ambassadors of Christ and allow their encounters during the pilgrimage to strengthen their relationship with God and the people around them.

The governor’s wife said, “You cannot afford to go back to your old ways and lifestyles. As you have been described as the light and salt of the world in the Holy Book, it means that you have a lot of tasks ahead of you.”

Sanwo-Olu then thanked God on behalf of the pilgrims for the successful completion of the exercise and the journey mercies experienced.

She said, “We bless the Lord that there was no report of any negative eventuality. It is fitting at this point to state that we are indeed peculiar people with a deep sense of appreciation and we show this trait in praises and thanksgiving to God who specifically called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

In her remarks, the Secretary, Lagos State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mrs Yetunde Gbafe, said the thanksgiving service was in line with God’s injunction as recorded in Psalm 100 where believers were enjoined to come into His presence with praise and thanksgiving.

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Nigeria needs $12bn to clean up oil spills – Report

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Nigeria needs $12bn to clean up decades-old oil spills in southern Bayelsa State over a 12-year period, a new report revealed on Tuesday, as it singled out two international oil companies, Shell and Eni, for being responsible for most of the pollution.

Oil majors in Nigeria have long faced legal challenges over Niger Delta spills, which they mostly blame on sabotage and vandalism of pipelines and illegal refining.

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission said in a report that it started an investigation in 2019 on the impact of spills and looked at evidence from forensic scientists, blood samples from people in affected areas and company data, according to Reuters.

The investigation discovered, among other findings, that toxic pollutants from spills and gas flaring were many times higher than the safe limits in samples of soil, water, air, and in the blood of local residents, the commission said.

“The report finds failures of strategy, prevention, response and remediation by oil companies,” it said.

Reuters stated that a spokesperson for Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited said the oil firm was not privy to the final report and could not comment.

An Eni spokesperson said the oil spills were due to theft to feed illegal refineries as well as illegal exports and sabotage but the company undertook to remedy all spills.

Most of the gas produced from Eni’s Nigerian unit was converted into LNG and fed local power plants, the spokesperson said, adding that “Eni conducts its activities according to the sector’s international environmental best practices, without any distinction on a country basis.”

Toxins that cause burns, lung problems and risk of cancer were widespread while oil company-led clean-ups were often poorly executed and could further contaminate soil and groundwater, the commission’s report said.

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Experts advise marketers to leverage technology

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Experts have advised marketing professionals to take advantage of technology to revamp marketing tactics.

The marketers were admonished at the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria Ikeja Chapter 3rd Annual Public Lecture held recently in Lagos.

Speakers at the event said due to the highly competitive marketing arena, marketers must be willing to adjust their approaches in response to shifting market trends and economic circumstances, to remain competitive and achieve success.

The Ikeja Chapter Chairman of NIMN and Chief Executive Officer of Procon Group, Adebayo Oke, noted that the conference was basically to review the position of things in the institute in the face of the country’s dynamic economy.

He said, “We all know that in terms of political economy, we are going to be having a change very soon. Where we are coming from, there are issues that have affected consumerism in terms of the power of a consumer, choices and whether it will get tougher or better that is why we are here. To also share knowledge among the top practitioners to floor it down.”

According to him, a lot of quacks are in the market and most companies believe marketing is anybody’s function.

“And going forward, we are going to be regulating the practice of marketing across all industries and in partnership with the international brands in the areas of marketing, including the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK, amongst others,” he stated.

He disclosed that the institute would be partnering with most companies to ensure that only certified marketer would be allowed to practice marketing, to enable the institute get rid of all the quacks.

The President and Chairman of Council for NIMN, Idorenyen Enang, in his keynote address, highlighted the significance of marketers harnessing the potential of technology while ensuring that they adhere to ethical principles of the profession.

He said, “The benefits of technology in streamlining operations are widely appreciated. However, concerns about job displacement due to AI have arisen. Marketers must strive for a harmonious implementation of these technologies, striking a balance that mitigates such disadvantages.”

He added that while automation greatly enhances efficiency, there is a potential loss of intellectual capacity as the current generation prioritises speed, brevity, and simplicity.

Also, the Head Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Media & Insights of FrieslandCampina WAMCO Plc, Ifeoluwa Obafemi, said, “In the phase of technological advancement and changes in consumer behaviour, as marketing professionals, we should set our organisation in a future forward mode. For businesses to maintain a competitive edge in the present-day business environment, undergoing a marketing transformation is a necessary process.”

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Axiom Intel Limited, Kolawole Oyeyemi, said, “Marketers should attract and retain their customers. Nowadays, customers are now more informed and know your business more than you do because they now compare your services to global best practices.

“There is a revolution in technology which has assisted in creating tools and devices and building platforms to allow customers to interact with companies across the world.”

According to him, it is a volatile environment and things one does not think will connect one’s business may connect from a very long distance.

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