American businessman and cocoa merchant, Mr Jay Johnson is the Aare Ashobaloju of Eti -Oni community in Osun State. He is the first foreigner to hold a key chieftaincy title in Nigeria and that’s because of his involvements in exporting cocoa from the Eti -Oni community to overseas countries thereby contributing immensely to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Osun State and by extension the Gross Domestic Products of Nigeria.
In this interview conducted by City People’s reporter FEMI FABUNMI, the Aare Ashobaloju of Eti-Oni spoke comprehensively on issues concerning cocoa productions, how it can launch Nigeria back to reckoning, his chieftaincy title as a foreigner among other important matters. Excerpts
Briefly, fill us in on your chieftaincy title?
I am Jay Johnson from America, I am the Aare Ashobaloju of eti-Oni community of Ilesa , Osun state. It is a big privilege for me to be holding such a key position in Eti -Oni. I appreciate the confidence reposed in me by the king of Eti-Oni, Oba Dokun Thompson the Oloni of Eti Oni. I have been discharging my duties to the best of my Knowledge. Moreso, I am a cocoa merchant I export the product from Nigeria to overseas, I have been doing that for some time now.
How does being ‘Aare Ashobaloju’ of Eti Oni make you feel, knowing full well that you are a foreigner who hails from America?
Obviously, I am a happy man as regards this title.I was really very excited when the kabiyesi asked me to become the Aara Ashobaloju of Eti Oni.Seriously speaking, it is a rare privilege, this kind of opportunity are very rare. I was/is involved in cocoa production and export.
I had already established a good relationship with the community, Cocoa is really thriving at Etioni and you know already how many things cocoa can be made into. Kabiyesi must have seen and felt my impact on cocoa production and export, hence he decided to keep the relationship going by engaging me.I am happy and I will continue to discharge my duties to the best of my knowledge.
What were you involved in before venturing into cocoa productions?
I was an electrical and traffic engineer, however, I chose to venture into cocoa because of its relevance in a world market. Candy, chocolates, beverages are all gotten from it.Cocoa is an essential commodity that the world cannot do without. I have plans to promote it and also make Eti Oni a major cocoa producing area in the country and by extension the world.
Do you think Nigeria can become a major cocoa producing country in the world, knowing full well that Ghana and Ivory Coast are major producers in cocoa?
Yes, with the way Nigeria is going, if we really try to concentrate on cocoa production, then I can assure you that it will transform Nigeria’s economy. In the past, cocoa used to be the major mineral resource in the country and you will agree with me what cocoa money did for Nigerians at that point in time. If Nigerian government gives it a shot again I tell you the economy will be transformed.
When exactly were you installed as the Aare Ashobaloju of Eti Oni?
I was installed around December 2017, since then it has been a jolly smooth ride.
How much of Yoruba can you speak?
(laughs) I have been learning very fast, you know I am married to a yoruba woman and she has been teaching me a lot about the language. For instance, I can say come, go, eat, run etc in Yoruba.
Are you accustomed to our culture and tradition?
Very well, I like the food and the people.I love wearing local traditional attires, I have really adjusted to the ways of life of Nigerians. I enjoy every bit of it.
(Wife cuts in ) He loves the language and our food of course you know that’s my department.
Can we meet you ma?
I am Yeye Aare Ashobaloju of Osun state I have been married to my husband for 7 years , we celebrated our 7th year wedding anniversary on March 17th 2017.
How did you meet your husband?
I wouldn’t want to discuss divulge or go into details but we met in the united states ,precisely Washington DC many years ago.
Mr Jay Johnson tell us how profitable the cocoa business is?
Cocoa is a worldwide business, it is highly profitable, it can increase Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Products, it is bigger than most agricultural produce in the country.
If you weren’t married to Nigerian women, how would you describe Nigeria?
Nigeria is a good country one of the best country in the world.With the potentials in Nigeria, it looks like it can reach a 1st world category if things can be put into order. With little help, Nigeria can be an emerging force in the world.Seriously speaking I wouldn’t say the country will slide into the status of Canada, America and European nations but what I do know is that it has the capacity to rule the world because of the many prospects it possesses.