His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of ife in this interview explains his passion for tourism, youth empowerment and why he believe Yoruba people should unite and make economic progress.
Kabiyesi, why are you a Nigerian to the core?
I have no choice than to be who I am. Firstly, I am a Nigerian by birth and also by inclination. I am a Nigerian by every measure of it and regardless of my international exposure, I am still a Nigerian. So, I have to act as such. You too should be who you are in acts, deeds and perception. That is the only way we can grow this nation. We have to encourage our youths. Before I became a king I could not lose the grip of my relationship with the youth, I believe in youth empowerment and I am very close to them. The general saying that do not forget your root, my root are the youths. The stool is dedicated to them and they are over 70 per cent of the entire population. I flew in from Sokoto to La Campagne where I went to launch a project with His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto. Our major discussion was Nigeria and nothing else other than Nigerians how we’ll continue to empower youths and tourism which is an important aspect that can help in that direction.
Why do you think tourism is important ?
Tourism is important, as it is one economic sector which Nigeria, as an entity, and Nigerians as a people, have not come to terms with, in relations to its economic indispensability. Tourism is a movement. It deals with movement of the people and its attendant’s economic implications. Since I came here, I met a lot of Nigerians who are aware. I don’t know how a lot of people are aware of my staying here and they have been coming here in droves to visit me and there is no way their visit will not rubbed off on the economy of this area. This is one of the impacts and efforts of tourism. I am a tourism gospel spreader and I cannot or no longer hide myself. So I have to continue to preach the gospel of positivity on things about the country in such a way that it will positively affect the growth of the country. If we have positive movement in the area of tourism, it will empower a lot of youths. Look, when I came here, I was very impressed with what I saw. I was welcomed by over 100 youths; the ones that were beating the drums, the ones that displayed traditional dance, (male and female) the ones that were smoking sea foods, over 100 youths being engaged here and being paid for work done in this tourism enclave!
How do you feel about your decision to spend time in this village at this tourism enclave?
I just do what is supposed to be done. This is what we should do to encourage local investors in tourism sector and keep our youths employed. Nigerians must learn and embrace the culture of patronising the numerous tourism sites for whatever reasons. My coming here will domesticate my spending for the benefit of the workers and the public in general. You can imagine if the president of this country goes to Obudu Cattle Ranch, that is a big statement or the Senate President or Vice President goes to Tinapa to just go there to relax with his family or some of the governors go to Yankari Games Reserve. It will not only boost the economy of the sector, it will domesticate our spending and improve the society for better.
I Hope this will not be a one off thing?
It will not be and it is not a one off thing. I will be visiting others sites in other States not just to make a statement about tourism but to showcase my commitment to the germination and growth of domestic tourism. I am not limiting my Nigerian patriotism to only engaging Nigerian Resorts and tourism sites because even my personal effects and accessories are mostly Nigerian. It is not only in La Campagne but all over the country. As far as I am concerned, my purchases, the beads I am wearing is hundred per cent Nigerian. The gold in it are locally sourced from Osun State. In terms of gold, I can never buy gold outside the country, the beads are made from Osun and Edo States. The Benin Kingdom are known for that, that is part of the things that come out of Nigeria and they link with tourism. I moved from Sokoto to La Campagne in Lagos. Think of the financial transaction involved, I mean travelling with over 60 people!
Do you have any regret about this?
I don’t have any regrets. I am happy that the financial aspect of my travel goes and circulates within Nigeria. This is what it should be. I am very happy here. I am very close to nature. I have a resort too but I didn’t go to my resort because I am partnering with the owner of La Campagne and I want to have a feel of his resort, which is very African in concept. I am very excited that I am here. You can imagine if you have a lot of our leaders patronising tourism sites in Nigeria. If you go to the United States of America for instance, there’s Camp David. Look at what happened in Germany where all the world leaders met at a resort there. Think of the finance involved. Think of the amount of money injected to the economy of Germany, the resort and the impact of such on the people. This is what I am saying and so I travelled from Sokoto to La Campagne. I could have chosen to move from Sokoto to Paris , the United Kingdom or the United States of America but I am not going to do it, let us grow our domestic tourism.
Is that why you declared Ile-Ife as a tourism zone?
Yes, there are too many mysteries in Ife land. We cannot hide it again so you have to look for how to partner with the right people and I haven’t regretted that partnering with Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, the proprietor of La Campagne Tropicana. He has been in this business for the over 30 years. We are not competitors but we share the same vision. He has a resort and I have one resort too, so the best bet is to collaborate. I am very excited being here and I love the setting here. It is rural based. An ideal African setting. An ecotourism enclave.
You started your tenure by employing over two thousand widows and other people to be cleaning Ife, is that part of the tourism agenda?
Well, it’s not just two thousand people. Right now, we are clocking about 6,000. That number is only for tourism. We are now looking into agriculture. Soon, we are going to unveil our agricultural project for the people. The tourism guards are busy cleaning up Ile–Ife tourism zone. But for tourism, you need to tidy up the entire environment and make it look serene, so when tourists come, they will look at the serene environment and fall in love with the town and tell others to come and visit. This is why we had to employ the over 6,000 people which include the widows, most of them victims of Ife-Modakeke war of many years. We have many widows so I called upon them, we are all one now and told them the only war we are going to fight is the economic war. I made it clear, as the Ooni of Ife; I will not engage any town in war. The only war which I will fight is economic war. I will raise all ammunition of welfare to fight poverty and wretchedness in Yoruba land. This is a war I will fight with all my might, energy and agility. But to carry weapons against one another is capital NO. But against economic war against poverty and wretchedness, I will do everything positively needed to destroy these two monsters that are reducing the dignity of my people in the eyes of all. And the ammunition for this is tourism. Tourism is the nuclear bomb to eliminate poverty. I will deploy this efficiently, by the special grace of God and support of Nigerians.
You are so concerned about unity, cohesion, and togetherness. Are these tourism related?
Yes, because all the entire section of Ifeland belongs to the entire Yoruba race and the entire world. If there is no cohesion I wouldn’t have movement so we have to first of all bring together peaceful cohesion, in place for them to know what we have. Tourism cannot thrive in an environment of disorderliness, chaos, violence and disintegration. If we want tourists to be here and to have confidence in Yoruba land, there should and must be peace. That will enable the tourists, the confidence to traverse Yoruba land without any fear or favour and without any reservation about hospitable attitude. Tourism cannot thrive in an acrimonious environment, and I must do this because we have to encourage intra Yoruba land tourism and interaction, without suspicion. A scion of the Alaafin of Oyo must be able to feel free in any part of Yoruba land while any Ekiti man should be happy anywhere in any part of Oodua territory. That is how it should be and that is how it will be.
In terms of tourism assets, where lies Ile-Ife Tourism Zone?
If we are talking about Ife alone, the assets are many and multifarious. Remember Ife is the cradle of mankind. Ife is the source. It is not only historical, it is ancient. That alone is immeasurable and incomparable asset. That Ife has the Tower of Babel, harbours the Noah’s Ark, the artefacts, historical and spiritual centres, the Ifa Temple, the first stone cobbled road, the Opa Oramiyan and all the ancients groves of creation and the House of all the crowns of all Yoruba Obas. These are just for Ife as a city. But when we are talking of Ile–Ife as a tourism zone, it is about the Yoruba land. It is about any territory which is occupied by the scion of Oduduwa. It is a huge lot; it is another movement which all of us must be part of it to liberate our people from wretchedness and poverty by using the tourism bomb.
There was an article written about your movement from one Kingdom and traditional ruler to the other and the title of the article was What does Ooni want and Sir I want to use the privilege to ask you today that what do you intend to achieve with all this movement from one palace to the other?
What I want to achieve is simple, peaceful coexistence and a peaceful working relationship. In the bible it is 1 against 1,000 in the bible again it is 2 against 10,0000 you can see the difference between 1 and 2 ,maybe when it is now 10 it will be against millions . Yoruba adage says a tree does not make a forest we can do it all so in unity there lies a great strength let people start abusing me I will continue with the tour I am not yet through with the tour. I ‘ve not gone to Ekiti, Ondo but I have been talking to them because we are all progenitors of Oduduwa, we are all from the source, and we have to all work together as a team to take the entire Yoruba race to the promise land , its important and I will keep championing and focusing in Unity of the race.
To what extent are you involving the Yoruba in the Diaspora?
First of all, this is the root, Yoruba in Diaspora are watching us with keen interest , the good thing is that they are even more interested in the Yoruba , that we hear, because I have a good platform to communicate with them you know we are mixing modernity and tradition here and social media age, so it is very easy for the Yoruba in the diasporas to coordinate themselves . The beauty of it is that we have more Yorubas in the diaspora than in Nigeria, in Brazil we have over 100 million Yoruba that are conscious of this and they are happy about it. As I am here in La Campagne, the Ambassador to Brazil is here with her mother with me and just like we have in Brazil same for Cuba, Australia Equador, Sudan Yoruba in US and Europe . What I am saying is that it is easier to coordinate them than people at home and with God on our side we would continue to champion the course of the race.
Excerpts from interview with Alarinka Agbaye.