Oba Ajibade Bakare- Agoro, Is a quintessential monarch whose reign has brought an immense peace and socio- economic development to Imota in particular and Lagos State in general. The Chartered Accountant and fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (FCA), Associate Member, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (ACIT) and Associate of the Nigerian Institute of Management (AMNIM).
The revered monarch worked with the defunct Daily Express and later Industrial Designs Associates Nigeria Limited between 1970 and 1974. Oba Agoro also had a brief stint at the Treasury Division of the Lagos State Ministry of Finance between 1975 and 1976, from where he joined Stevens Laboratories Limited as an Accountant and later joined Okunoye Adeniyi & Co.(Chartered Accountants) for his practical training in Accountancy and Audit. In 1982, Oba Agoro joined Flour Mills of Nigeria as Accountant and resigned in 1986 to his own accounting firm, Ajibade Bakare& Co. (Chartered Accountants) in 1990. His chain of business also includes Emaybee Nigeria Limited, Manufa Venture Company Limited, Ajibaco Cargo & Haulage Limited, Ajibaco Oil & Gas Limited and Ajibaco Properties Limited.
Oba Ajibade Bakare Agoro, who was a former Councilor in Ikorodu Local Government was unanimously selected by the five Imota Kingmakers in 1993 on 21st June, 1993 and was crowned as the 16th Ranodu of Imota on 31st July, 1993.
In this interview with KUNLE ADELABU, Publisher/Managing Editor, ONIYE MICHAEL, State Secretariat Correspondent and SEYI SHODUNKE, Senior Correspondent, THE IMPACT, Oba Agoro bares his mind on relationship between the two constituencies in Ikorodu, Ikorodu for Governor Agenda, development in Imota, Divisional Council of Obas and Chiefs controversy, alleged marginalization of Constituency II and governance in the grassroot among others.
IMPACT: In view of the Ikorodu Constituency II unwritten law (agreement) and in view of the likelihood that the incumbent may seek re-election, do you think the agreement is still implementable in the present circumstances?
Ranodu: In the first instance, the name Ikorodu Constituency II is never what was designed for the three major towns that made up what is today known and called Ikorodu Constituency II, rather, it is the handiwork of the Ikorodu elite to sideline others. Otherwise, it used to be Igbogbo, Imota and Ijede constituency and not Ikorodu II. That has been the means through which we have been sidelined by Ikorodu and in the process, sidelined themselves.The unwritten agreement among the three major component units of Constituency II must exist if there must be co-operation between Imota, Ijede and Igbogbo. It must exist and not a question of if it is still existing and it is the time for an Imota indigene to run for the Assembly seat and we are going to request for the change of the constituency from Ikorodu Constituency II to Imota, Ijede and Igbogbo constituency, because that was the name given to it when the civilian administration came in 1978/79. Though, the Ikorodu elites changed the name to Ikorodu constituency II to sideline us but today they have succeeded in sidelining themselves.
IMPACT: A school of thought says that the incumbent should return premised on the fact that if any new candidate is sent to the Assembly such will start learning afresh and why not return the incumbent who has already established herself and know the politics of the house for more benefits of the constituency.
Ranodu: That argument is a very weak one and self-serving in nature. This issue of rotation is always for any unit of the constituency i.e. Igbogbo, Ijede and imota, whenever it is their turns and not for an individual. This is a design to bring about co-operation among the three major component units and to prevent a scenario like what happened in Imota in 1992 during the term of late Sir Michael Otedola as Governor. It was a disagreement on these principles that caused problem here. Apart from that, if the former and present members of the Lagos State House of Assembly are called out for honour, three individuals from Igbogbo would benefit from that, because in the last seven years, Igbogbo has produced three Assembly members in persons of late Hon Rotimi Shotomiwa, Hon. Gbenga Oshin (PDP) and the incumbent, Hon Adebimpe Akinsola.
IMPACT: From Assembly to the Governorship issue, because Ikorodu Division has again started campaigning and clamouring for the number one position in the state with the composition of the Eminent Persons Group. Sir, what is the feasibility of having a Governor from Ikorodu and in view of the politics of Ikorodu Constituency I and II, what role would Ikorodu II be playing in this agenda?
Ranodu: I will start answering your questions with this adage, “charity they say begins at home”. Today, Ikorodu elites feel they have been sidelined but the same elites should look inward and see how much sidelining they have done to Imota, Ijede and Igbogbo in the past years. Their actions have actually succeeded in making Ikorodu’s influence exist only on paper. This has also made Ikorodu to lose the cult-support been given to other divisions in the state. When we started the 1979 Ikorodu and Igbogbo, Imota and Ijede constituencies, and whenever patronage comes from the government, it used to come in two ways for Ikorodu constituency on one hand and Igbogbo, Imota and Ijede on the other, but in their attempts to sideline other parts, they succeeded in shooting themselves in the foot. What is Ikorodu Constituency II? Imota is never Ikorodu and from origin, antecedents and whatever, we were never Ikorodu. Even from political antecedent, Imota was part of Old Epe,while Ikorodu itself was part of Ikeja division. They requested my predecessor, Oba Adejo that Imota should be part of what is today known as Ikorodu division. People like Pa Dosun Alagbe, Otunba T.O.S. Benson and Otunba Adeniran Ogunsanya came to request of us to please leave Epe and join Ikorodu to form Ikorodu division because they are tired of having to go and serve under Ikeja. If you look at the arrangement before the newly created local government it is not an accident but a design for the areas to have co-operated together to achieve Ikorodu division. Then, all political wards in Ikorodu were A wards, while those in Imota were B wards; Igbogbo C wards and Ijede D wards. These were achieved because of level of co-operation and not through force or coercion. It is because they want to cheat us they reduced Igbogbo,Ijede and Imota into Ikorodu II as if it is only Ikorodu. They do not know that when you cut your nose to spite your face, you will be harvesting the bad deed done. So, on the Ikorodu for Governor, who among the towns that co-operated to form Ikorodu division on equal basis would not be happy to have the Lagos State government from Ikorodu? But like I said charity begins at home. You cannot be cheating us on all fronts and think we will be happy towards the elites in Ikorodu township to start shouting Ikorodu for Governor. There must be something in there for us to gain and if not, everybody will stay in his/her house (town). A Yoruba adage says, “ti apa o ba se san, a se kalori” (if we cannot swing the hand freely, it could be placed on the head). If it is a case of winners take all and we are not involved in the struggle, then, we have not lost anything. What my people and I would not take is to support you and thereafter turn back and cheat us. I for one, if it is possible, I want the governor of Lagos State to come from Ikorodu, because we started together as a division and was never a case of Imota, Igbogbo and Ijede been subordinate to Ikorodu. We actually started as equaled partners. The documents are there and I challenge anybody doubting my submissions to go and read the government White Paper on Ogunaike Commission of Enquiry of 1970. Yoruba will say, “Sesu lehin Bada, bi aiyeba n ye Bada, aye a ye awon to walehin yin (parley with Bada because it is expected that if he is successful, so will those with him). Throughout the division, nobody is reckoning again that we are still one division. Before the creation of 20 local governments, Ikorodu was a division and today still a local government when more councils have been created out of other four divisions that made up Lagos State. Invariably, we are paying dearly for the error and misjudgment of Ikorodu township elites, who felt that if other parts of the division are allowed to operate as a separate local council, Ikorodu will be left without backbone. I do not even know why enlightened men will think along that line and politicized development. “Won ni ki won ma ka aso Ikorodu kuro, … (their argument was that other towns that is made up of Ikorodu division are more like clothes that covered Ikorodu’s nakedness, but that act has debarred development and left the clothes in tatters now). They do not know that the effect of cheating a loyal partner and committed partners is grave. If we must go to the centre and agitate for governorship position, let Ikorodu elites look inward and give to Caesar what is for Caesar. They should endeavor to look into the welfare of other councils that joined them to form Ikorodu division. Invariably, we are paying dearly for the error and misjudgment of Ikorodu township elites, who felt that if other parts of the division were allowed to operate as a separate local council, Ikorodu will be left without backbone. I do not even know why enlightened men will think along that line and politicized development. “Won ni ki won ma ka aso Ikorodu kuro, … (their argument was that other towns that is made up of Ikorodu division are more like clothes that covered Ikorodu’s nakedness, but that act has barred development and left the clothes in tatters now). They do not know that the effect of cheating a loyal partner and committed partners is grave. If we must go to the centre and agitate for governorship position, let Ikorodu elites look inward and give to Caesar what is for Caesar. They should endeavor to look into the welfare of other councils that joined them to form Ikorodu division.
IMPACT: There is also the cry for marginalization regarding the sole seat for Ikorodu Federal ConstituencyI in the National Assembly which has been occupied by Ikorodu Constituency I and agitation on this has intensified. What is your position on this?
Ranodu: That is what I have been saying. If they want others to join them in agitating for Ikorodu for Governor, they must consider us too for other patronage too. They cannot monopolize the Federal Constituency position, because it belongs to entire Ikorodu division and if they reckon with us at all (Igbogbo, Imota and Ijede), they should know that morally and legally these people too are entitled to the position and that is the more reason they caused the name to be changed to Ikorodu I and II from Igbogbo,Imota and Ijede constituency. They should start addressing the issue from home by considering Igbogbo, Imota or Ijede sons and daughters for the House of Representatives position, then, we can now know that we are also major stakeholders in the arrangement of clamouring for Ikorodu for Governor. They have to note that Ikorodu is not the same thing with Ikorodu division, they are two separate entities inspite of the name.
IMPACT: Sir, people will also like to know the secret of monumental development recently in Imota as exemplified by the multi-million naira state government’s projects like Rice factory, the ring-road, asphalt plant among others. And why the rest of Ikorodu division are shouting of lack of state presence I doubt if Imota could. What is the secret?
Ranodu: God Almighty is the secret. He knows that I have toiled for Ikorodu division in terms of supports for whatever happens in Ikorodu township and other parts. Since 1979, I have been involved in the politics of this division before my enthronement and that was 36years ago. It is because God Almighty wanted to redress the wrongs done to my people that made my enthronement as Oba possible. I know the history of Ikorodu division more than any other Oba and even the political elites, because I started serving when Ikorodu division was just 7years old and I have some documents with me that you cannot find elsewhere. We started Ikorodu as equaled partners in 1967/68 when Ikorodu Division is been carved out from Ikeja and Epe, Ikorodu township was not like this. What we know as Ikorodu then was between Oke Ota –Ona, Ojubode and Ikorodu garage. All these other developments were aftermath of the creation of Ikorodu division, invariably, it is our common wealth as a division they have been using for Ikorodu township’s development and also using it against us the co-partners. They should be aware of the day of reckoning which is even here. Today, not a single person from Ikorodu is in the cabinet as a Commissioner, except those appointed outside Ikorodu arrangement. Is that not a food for thought? In those good old days, it used to be minimum of two. “Eni to ban se ka, nigba to baya afika ara re” (there is always negative reward from bad deeds). Ikorodu is covering our own identity because if we are allowed to develop naturally, people we realize our strength. Back to your question, it is because I advocate all days to the government that these people (Ikorodu elites) are cheating us and asked them to come around to see things for themselves. When the Governor Fashola finally came, he could not believe that Imota is as large as this, because they are portraying us as a hamlet. The governor saw it and said it is not okay for everything to come to Ikorodu township and I gave him a document that also made him to realize certain facts. Thank God, he is a listening Governor and God Almighty will continue to spare his life and take him to higher level.
IMPACT: Sir, how will you describe the effects of these projects on Imota?
Ranodu: The economic multiplying effects of the projects are unquantifiable. As a Chartered Accountant, if you ask me to quantify it, it will be an impossible task, because it is beyond what I can comprehend. Those things that we lack before the two factories were constructed were coming from outside. More private sectors participants are now trooping into Imota because of the Rice and Asphalt factories.
IMPACT: There is no way I can conclude this short but exclusive interview with you without touching on the controversial nature of Ikorodu Divisional Council of Obas and Chiefs. The issue came up at the Ikorodu Division Public Service Summit recently. What is your view on this?
Ranodu: I happened to be very lucky to have served Ikorodu when I was young and continued to serve until I was made an Oba, which is also continuation of my service to the people. There are documents backing these things and the enabling documents that were used in creating Ikorodu division and nay Ikorodu local government of old states that the traditional council should be headed by these four obas, starting with Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Ranodu of Imota, Alajede of Ijede and Adeboruwa of Igbogbo and should be done annually. So we are co-partners and there are government gazettes backing this up. There is Government white Paper on Justice Ogunanike Commission of Enquiry which looked into what it takes to create Lagos State from the old Colony. To answer your question, the issue of Ranodu of Imota been subordinate to Ayangburen of Ikorodu is never there and will never be there. The Ayangburen of Ikorodu monopolized this position since 1974 to the detriment of other three Obas and that is why people look at it as they are the only one entitle to the position. Oba Ajibade Agoro is now voicing out because I saw the document black and white when Ikorodu was just 7years old and have all the documents and if anybody is in doubt let such come to me. It is not a question of Ranodu of Imota fighting Ayangburen of Ikorodu. Oba Ajibade Bakare Agoro is not fighting Oba Salaudeen A.A. Oyefusi. It is a question of the position of Ranodu of Imota and that of the Ayangburen which is inheritable by other people. So, the Ikorodu elites should purge themselves of that.
IMPACT: Sir, as a three-term councilor, I will like you to do compare governance at the local government level then and now.
Ranodu: It was about service, commitment and dedication to the people and community. It was the way I served that made my people considered me for the position of an Oba despite my objections. During my time, I was donating my salary as a Councilor to the party and also to my people in Imota that sent me there. For my people to raise me to become an Oba, it is a reward of service I have rendered when I was a young man representing them in the council. People no longer go into politics with the mind of service but for themselves. They are no longer considering impacting on the polity and helping their constituents to benefit and that is why they always fight for personal benefits. I started representing my people when I was just 29years old in 1978 and it has continued like that till now unabated. I resigned from politics in 1992 because I do not have any time to practice my profession as a Chartered Accountant without knowing that God has his own design for me. I resigned in 1992 and was installed an Oba in 1993 and this is why I have dedicated my life to the service of my people. I left politics because it was monetized and does not give time for my own practice, though I pledged my supports, but God brought about my enthronement in 1993. Anybody especially the politicians who are willing to know about service should come to me for lecture. Unknown to me, I tried to run away from serving my people on temporary basis, but the following year God made my service permanent. I was selected to be the Vice Chairman during the Awolesi period until a parliamentary system was adopted which made only the Chairman to be chosen directly and Vice elected among the councilors. At the particular time, an elderly man was also chosen from his ward to become the vice, and because of that I jettisoned my people’s request for me to stand against the elderly man. I have no problem defeating the elderly man because of my popularity and acceptance, but the Vice Chairmanship position was never the primary reason I was in the council and my tradition does not train me to go into contest with an elderly man. I was pressured and convinced to stand against the man and work closely with Awolesi but I stood my ground. In term of service, my philosophy has always been like that of former American President J.F. Kennedy that says that people should not think about what you can gain from American, but think about what you can do for it.