Mr Abiodun Sowunmi is a director of Smash F.M 88.1. A broadcast journalist by profession. He was also the first general manager of Freedom Television in Ilesa. The Alatan of Atan-elect in an interview with Gateway Times shares more about his journey so far and why his approval as Oba- elect is still pending.
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Abiodun Sowunmi. I am the Alatan of Atan- elect. I am also a broadcast Journalist by profession. I have been a Chief Executive of two broadcast outfits (Uniq 103.1 and Freedom TV), prpject manager of a couple of radio and TV stations. I am the first General Manager of Freedom Television in Ilesa and currently I am a Director of Smash 88.1 FM.
Tell us about your education?
I went to May Flower Junior School at Ikenne, Ogun State. I had my secondary education in Molusi College Ijebu Igbo. After that I proceeded to Olabisi Onabanjo university, Ago Iwoye where I studied English then I went to United Kingdom for my post graduate studies at Keele University Staffordshire. I was in UK for twenty years. I left UK as a director of a company called Together. I relocated back to Nigeria in 2006 where I continued my career in journalism.
What prompted you into journalism?
I love journalism as a career. I said it earlier that I have been into journalism before I was appointed the Alatan of Atan
How did you become an Alatan of Atan – elect?
I was not one of the 75 Obas installed by the immediate past governor of Ogun State. Mine was prior to that. It was a replacement. There was an Oba in Atan-Ota prior to now but the Oba transited on March 19, 2018 and a regency council was appointed by Alake and subsequently the Kingmakers commenced a selection process which involved four people.
I emerged as the choice of the Kingmakers. After that it was submitted to the Egba Traditional Council last year. The Egba Traditional Council ratified my appointment and Alake of Egbaland formally communicated the decision and his consent to the Senator Ibikunle Amosun ‘s government.
It was reported that your appointment was not signed by Governor Ibikunle Amosun?
Yes, It wasn’t signed, because it was strange to me then and it is only the governor that can explain that. But I just left things that way. Nothing transpired between us . Even at the last minutes we tried to get things done but for inexplicable reason(s). It is beyond my own comprehension.
But I gathered that there was also some political pressure from Olota of Ota who came to claim ownership of the town which never belongs to the Ota people. The towns and villages constituting Gbalefa Peninsula were taken from Egbado towns of Ado-Odo and Ilobi through the 1834-1845 wars.
The Egba, Egbado, Egun and Awori people had been living in peace until recently when Olota ‘ s baseless claims destroyed everything. Atan is Egba’s land under the Alake of Egbaland and I don’t know why Olota is ignorant of history.
Was there any petition against you then?
No petition against me. I went through a selection process and my appointment was ratified by the Alake of Egbaland.
Was there any rift between you and the immediate past governor?
I cannot say that I have any disagreement with him. I am a journalist practicing in the State. I co-owned a new radio station. I was and am not ready to go into conflict with government. I will rather cooperate with the government to uplift Ogun State, I still cannot explain why it was not signed. It is beyond my own understanding.
Are you not surprised about your pending approval, Despite the cordial relationship between you and Amosun?
To be honest with you, approval comes from God and that is the truth of the matter. Whoever wants to be a king or governor or any other position should look upto God. it is only God that ordains people.
The fact is human being can use or misuse power, but ultimately the power belongs to God. In the case of the former governor Ibikunle Amosun, I didn’t have any issue with him, no quarrel. Today I don’t know why he has not signed it. Although I have not spoken to him since then and he has not called me. As far as I am concerned, man proposes but God disposes. Whoever has the power to appoint can also disappoint.
Do you see Amosun as a betrayal despite your relationship with him?
No I didn’t see him as a betrayal. God’s time is the best. I am glad for one thing, he played no single role in my emergence. He had no clue I was in the race for the Atan stool.
But when he got a ratification letter from Egba traditional council, I thought he was surprised. For me it is only God that has power to enthrone or dethrone. If he had signed the approval letter that time, I would be grateful to God.
He didn’t sign it, that’s okay. It means God doesn’t want him to sign it to claim the glory for it. I don’t think I have lost anything. When God’s time comes, my selection will be approved.
But I thank God I was not one of the suspended 75 Obas installed by his administration. I would have had to await the Government panel’s review outcomes.
Hence I am not one of those who will be sick and tired over the review panel. I think God made it impossible for him to approve my election. I won’t fall on the wrong side of history.
Do you think Amosun has a favorite candidate for the position?
As far as I know, no. All the Baales rose in support of me, we were four that contested but I was elected by the Kingmakers. There was and is no single petition against me. It still baffles me, because I thought my case should have been easier for Amosun to sign. I am the only Oba-elect ratified by Egba Traditional council that his letter has not been released. I don’t force things, I leave things to God. if you are in a position to do something and you did not do it, It is because God says you will not do it.
Is there Anyone in the position of Oba- Atan now, since your letter has not been approved?
No one because the Egba Traditional council has already ratified someone, which is me. So no one is in the position now, it is vacant.
What can you say about the crisis between Alake and Olota?
There is no crisis. Look what Olota wants is to be a Paramount ruler that is his desire and he is not hiding it. He has told many people. He was a journalist. He doesn’t have any personal issue with me.
His mission is that, he wants to create an Awori empire. I will never begrudge him for that. But we the indigenous people of Gbalefa Peninsula are Egba people and we are with and under the Alake of Egbaland. There is no way we will leave our own people and our land.
Dr Obalanlege has forgotten that Alake was the one that gave consent before his appoinment as Olota was approved. Without Alake’s consent Dr Obalanlege wouldn’t have been an Oba. Ota was conquered in 1842 and since been under Alake. Therefore Ota town is part of Egba land.
Olota wants to be a Paramount ruler and i dont think it is possible because we have four Paramount rulers in Ogun State and if Olota insists on it and has his way, then other Obas will want to be Paramount rulers in Ijebuland, Remoland, Egbadoland.
They will begin to challenge other Paramount Rulers. So when are we going to stop degrading Yoruba’s culture. Why do we continue to divide rather than unite our people? The ambition of Olota is not desirable and achievable.
How can you react to a report that Alake imposed Obas on Awori land?
That is not true. Alake has never done that. When four Obas were coronated in Ota last year, it was Alake that gave the consent and he crowned them. Olota was the 5th that Alake consented to and crowned in Ota town in 2018. I can show you a copy of the consent letter written by Alake of Egbaland, before Dr Obalanlege can be installed as the Olota of Ota. So there can never be a case of imposition to start with. Ota town is part of Egbaland. Alake is the Paramount ruler of Egba land so he can never impose Oba on any community or town. Rather it is Olota that is imposing people on our land in Gbalefa Peninsula.
Do you think Olota is acting under the influence of his qualification?
To be honest I respect his academic achievements and he has done very well for himself but when it comes to traditional matters, Olota still needs to go to a university of traditional royalty otherwise he will not be challenging Alake on his consenting rights. Yes he has a right to be ambitious, he is a professor of a particular field (Mass Communication) but he is not a professor of traditional royalty. The professors of traditional royalty are the Paramount rulers, (The Awujale of Ijebu land, The Alake of Egba land, the Akarigbo of Remo land, the Olu of Ilaro). Those are the professors of royalty. They have the history, and all documents in relation to culture and traditions. Olota is aspiring to be a Paramount ruler and if he is allowed to have his way, it will have huge implications for the rest of our old provinces. Someone else can stand up in Ijebu and challenge Awujale. His predecessors have never done that. why him? We all need to live in peace. I respect his achievement. He is a young man. we want peace not war, he is not interested in all the 6 court judgements in favour of the Alake of Egbaland. But he wants to achieve what is not achievable through self-help.
What is your view on the suspension of the 75 Obas?
The suspension of the 75 Obas by the current government is right, because Amosun failed to follow the due process before the coronation of new Obas in at least 10 towns and villages in Gbalefa Peninsula. He didn’t involve or carry the people along before giving them Obas. You don’t even know whether it is necessary. He didn’t inform the consenting authorities in all the 10 cases. He didn’t consider the situation of some villages before imposing Obas on them. Thank God there is a panel set up already to review the process followed. The panel is headed by Olu of Ilaro to dispassionately look at the issues. I dont blame our Governor. Well the governor has to be careful in dealing with traditional matters. He has not taken any step against any particular person. He is God’s fearing. He is, probably, going to allow the truth to prevail at the end of the day because we don’t want war in Gbalefa Peninsula. We want peace.
What are the criteria for coronating Oba in Egbaland?
It is not about being influential. There are certain criteria, the infrastructural facilities, social facilities, government’s presence and a lot of other factors. I know a community where there is no police station, no primary school, no health centre, and the last Amosun administration gave them Obas. Some do not even have even private clinic and you installed an Oba there.
What is your advice to Olota?
He should stop challenging Alake of Egbaland, and he should shelve his plans toward grabbing our lands. He should also go and study the history of Gbalefa, we want to live in peace, we want to relate with him, I don’t have any personal issue with and respects him and the throne he occupies, but not to the extent of sacrificing our land. We won’t give our land out.