PURPOSEFUL LEADERSHIP IS SINE QUA NON TO PEACE AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Traditional institutions must be accorded priority of status and position in modern governance in Nigeria through appropriate constitutional recognition and clearly defined roles and responsibilities. This is the view of HRM Oba (Dr) Michael Odunayo Ajayi, Arowotawaya II, scion of the Arowotawaya and Oboye Lekan Ruling Houses of Erinmo who submits that traditional rulers are true mirrors by which the grassroots can be seen and therefore their positions and statuses should be harnessed for grassroots development. He speaks with IBIKUNLE IKUYINMINU, Editor and Head of Special Projects. Experts:
1. Let us start this interview by asking you to tell us in details the events culminating into your ascencim to the throne of your forefathers. Please give us a rundown sir.
Thank you. I think before anything, it is pertinent that I let you know a little about my person. I am His Royal Majesty Oba (Dr) Michael Odunayo Ajayi, Arowotawaya II, scion of the Arowotawaya and Oboye Lekan Ruling Houses of Erinmo. I was born to Asiwaju (Dr) J.O Ajayi who providence afforded the opportunity to be the first university graduate from Erinmo, and Yeye Oba Pastor (Mrs) S.S. Ajayi. She was from the High Chief Sapetu and Ejemu Families of Igbara Oke in Ondo State. I started my career in the organized private sector with the Unilever Group as at then Nigeria’s largest multi-national conglomerate, UAC of Nigeria PLC, spanning over a decade with cross functional and diverse management exposure in various sectors, and later with German Chemicals PLC (Hoescht) as Head of Consumer Healthcare where I personally re-launched major popular pharma/household brands like: Abidec, benylin Cough Syrup, Novalgin, Parazone Bleech. I was seconded to Ghana to head the Pan West African Pharmaceuticals operations as Managing Director, later to become the expatriate Executive Vice President of a US owned pharmaceutical products to cover 20 African countries. I left paid employment and I set up a management consultancy firm to support local and international businesses within the West African sub-region, while also importing for distribution Pan West African own branded medical devices. I later became the Chief Promoter and Founding Director General of the Ghana-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I was the Founding President of the Forum of Nigeria professionals in Ghana.
I attended Bishop Smith Memorial Primary School, Ilorin and Command Secondary School, Lagos. I have a first degree in Sociology with Accounting & Business Administration as minor obtained from the University of Ilorin in 1987. Let me also remarkably say that I graduated at the age of 20. I also obtained an MBA in Marketing with first class (Distinction) from the Lagos State University in 1988 and an Honourary Doctorate in Commerce in 2014. I am a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Yoruba Oodua Union, Advisory Board Member of the Nigerian-US Trade Council, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Yoruba Afenifere Youth Organization of Nigeria, and I am Patron to several other notable socio-cultural, socio-economic and youth organizations. I happened to be the first Nigerian Monarch to be a guest at the opening bell of the world acclaimed financial headquarters, the New York Stock Exchange in April, 2017. I am an author too as I have published no fewer than five books. I was crowned king on Tuesday 29th of July, 2014, and since then, I have been a Permanent Member of the Osun State Council of Obas, the highest organ of traditional rulers in the state. I guess this is detailed enough.
2. Let us look at the state of the nation today. As a seasoned traditional ruler in the country, would you say all is well with the country?
Certainly, all is not well with the country. It is very clear to every discerning mind. There is agitation for secession here and there among the major ethnic groups in the Nigerian Federation. There is hunger everywhere. There is insecurity in every quarter. Unemployment is on the increase. Moral decadence among our youths. What again? The list is endless. Even you that asked the question know that all is not well with the country.
3. In your own view, are there things which ought to be done that we have failed to do in Nigeria?
The ways and manners in which we down play on the things that bring us together as a Federation, I will talk to the leadership. There is a fundamental error in our leadership in Nigeria. But let me also say this that we all, the leaders and the followers, the Obas and the subjects, the military and the civilians, the so-called educated and the illiterate majority, in fact, every Tom, Dick and Harry, has contributed in varying degrees to the woes and sorrows of this country. But all hope is not lost yet. You saw what happened in the palace today. A whole town took a single person down to me for a case which ordinarily their own traditional ruler could have adjudicated on. If he had done the right thing (I mean the Baale), there is no need taking the matter to me. That is a case of leadership. So I will say that if Nigeria’s problems must be solved at every level, a combined macro-micro therapy has to be employed whereby the behavior of the individual as a unit and the group as interactional must submit to curative remedies. The isolation of one from the other is like the removal of a mould block from the whole edifice.. the survival of one is the survival of the other and their architectural togetherness.
4. With your nomination and eventual confirmation as most outstanding traditional ruler of the year by Hero Magazine and Nigeria Outstanding Leadership Award Platform, to what will you attribute this rare feat?
To the most High God who has always been kind to me, to my subjects, the good people of Erinmo, to the poor and down trodden who we have always used the little we have to assist. God knows I do not know anyone connected with the Nigeria Outstanding Leadership Award Platform. I know there is rewards for every good deed on earth. So this is for me to do more to my people and others that come my way. In our little way, my foundation, Oda Arowotawaya Foundation (OAF) has offered full scholarships to brilliant but indigent students in my domain while the vocational school we established gives free training to equip hundreds of youths and women with practical skills for their empowerment. And in line with our vision to leave an indelible legacy, our reign has been transformational unveiling the huge resources and potentials of Erinmo kingdom to the world while building required infrastructures to provide a platform to position Erinmo as the hub for industrialization and people centred development. We thank God ……
5. (Cuts in) Perhaps these are some of your antecedents that recommended you for the award.
Well, if you say that. And I will always return the glory to God.
6. But what are some of your remarkable achievements since when you got to the throne and which you are supremely proud of?
I thank God, like I have always said. And I will continue to thank Him for it is an established fact that “oun nikan lo ye fun gbogbo ogo” (He alone deserves all the praises). To the glory of God, we have gone this far in reconciling all the opposing chiefs within the Erinmo traditional council.