When Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, became the Olu of Ilaro and the paramount ruler of Yewaland in 2012 many had wondered how he would cope. In the first place he was a Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Abuja, where he was based and now he was chosen to be King four years after, nobody is asking those questions again as to how he would cope. This is because God has given the young monarch who turned 50 a few weeks back the Grace and Wisdom to manage not only Ilaro but preside over the running of the entire Yewaland. It has also taken the grace of God for the real estate guru to transform the society he met all in just 4 years.
When City People visited Ilaro last week, we saw how the ancient city has been transformed into modernity. He has been able to not only restore the community back to peace, he has done a lot to change the perspectives of many indigenous people to embrace modern tenets. We gathered that because of the confidence Oba Olugbenle gave his community, many of the sons and daughters of the town have been trooping home to join him in developing the town.
Everywhere he has been since he became king, Oba Olugbenle has been preaching the gospel of peace to all and sundry. He has also been pleading with all the successful indigenes of the town to come back home and join him in the development of the town. And he has been encouraging them in very many ways. One remarkable thing about him is how he has been able to partner with the Amosun government in Ogun State to attract development to his community.
It was to get to know more about the developments in the community that City People magazine visited the monarch last week to celebrate with him. For 3 hours, the Olu of Ilaro hosted the City People team at his new private palace. He also spoke about his new life at 50 and how he has transformed the ancient city of Ilaro into the vibrant community it is today.
Congratulations on the completion of your private house. How does it feel having moved into your new mansion?
I feel thankful to Almighty God for giving me the Grace to move into my private palace. Apparently, I want to thank God because one thing is to build and another thing is to occupy. I’m not just occupying now but now trusting God to live long. To have the long and peaceful living. Most especially I give gratitude to the Almighty God for giving me the grace to start the project about 4 years ago and also to see the end of it. Even though, there are still one or two things to tidy up. I give glory to God that my 50th birthday was not marked where I was living before because I wouldn’t want to mark my 50th birthday where I was before moving here.
I think God has been so good, faithful, and loving to me. He granted my request and I think all glory and adoration to Him and that is why the private palace is named Rock of Ages Villa and we have a chapel, which is also called Rock of Ages Chapel, dedicated to the Redeemed Christians Church of God and it is also meant for interdenominational service. We also have prayer room for Muslim, who came here on visit.
How do you feel turning 50?
I feel elated. And I feel proud, privileged to occupy this type of house. Apparently when I was coming I had a vision to build a befitting house of my own but I didn’t know it was going to be done so soon. That’s why I want to appreciate the Governor of Ogun State, because he encouraged me. I remember when I visited him that he should assist us about the town’s palace. After he assisted us about that, he said Kabiyesi, go and do your own. You need to have a house of your own.
I said to myself that I’m not up to 1 year on the throne. That was 2012 and you are asking me to do my own. Before I knew it I said, what about land? although Kabiyesi owns the land but I didn’t want to buy any family land. Then, the governor quickly called the people in the Land Ministry in Ogun State to pay attention to my request. I told them I wanted a very prominent location and I don’t want GRA, where people would not be able to appreciate the vision I have. We settled down with this location. We are on the expanse of land of over 6,000 square meters. The governor apparently encouraged me and I grabbled the vision.
He personally paid for the land with the Ministry. Not that the government dashed me. He paid personally and they gave me receipts. That encouraged me to go ahead with this development. That is the genesis of the whole thing. My friends have been very supportive. If anybody told me that I would finish this project in 4 years I would have said No. Some of my friends were saying this project is big and I told them not to worry. Gradually, we started with fencing and God has been with us. The location was actually my attractions because I want to put it where all our sons and daughters would see and appreciate, that there’s nothing like coming back home. There is nothing like sowing back to your root. That is why I preferred this location. There is no witches and wizard pursing anybody. That is one of the phobia some of us have when we were growing up. Because if I too I have hidden in the GRA I wouldn’t be in a position to tell others to come home.
I think quite a lot of them are ready doing one or two projects here. If you go the other side of town now, you will see beautiful buildings. I thank God for using me to engineer this type of development.
How did you feel on the morning you turned 50?
I do tell people that age is not outside. Age is inside. You can see a 70 years old man still behaving like a 40 or 30 years old person. That means he has not transformed inside, the age might be 70 but something still wrong inside.
When you say how do I feel at 50? I think I feel a little bit of maturity in things you do. Age is all about maturity. At the age of 50 and you don’t know where you are going, where you are coming from, then you need to go and examine yourself.
I will recommend that person for a deliverance.
At the age of 50 you must have come of age, you must have been able to point your fingers to what and what you have achieved. You must be able to showcase to the world the number of lives you have affected. At the age of 50, you should be able to reflect and even find out what you have done. I thank God that at the age of 50 I’m fulfilled. I know I have along way to go by the grace of God. He has brought people along my way who have helped me to achieve. I never knew I would be where I am today.
You have a twin brother. Did 2 of you meet to celebrate your 50th birthday?
Two of us are Christians. He is a Pastor in Redeemed, I was a Pastor in Redeemed. Why two of us could not hide was because two of us are the only male children of our father. My father also was the only male child of our grand parent and when you look the lineage of our family, my father was the only son and myself and Taiwo are the only sons of my father and that left two of us to be presented as candidates. We put it to the face of God, we also put it before our sisters that they should decide between 2 of us. It is not a matter of saying maybe Taiwo would not allow me to run that I didn’t want him to run. We left it to our sisters. And they chose me to run. I was not desperate for this at all. I was very, very fulfilled as a pastor.
But the condition now came because I remember I wrote Daddy GO about it, even when the family said that Kehinde you will run for the Obaship, I didn’t jump at it because I had to seek the counsel and advise of my father in the Lord, Daddy GO. Unfortunate, for almost a year the response did not come and I refused to come out to say I would run for it. When the response of the letter came, the letter did not expressly say I should go but as a Pastor you understand the deep knowledge of the response of the letter.
Most of the things I read from the letter was, if it’s the will of God, nobody can stop you but be wary, don’t join or do what you are not suppose to do. So, most of it was dos and don’t.
I thank God I grabbed the spiritual message in the response and I moved into the race. The rest is story. I don’t want to go into the politics in the race. So, there was no struggle between me and Taye. It was basically divine directive.
Did you celebrate your birthday?
The birthday has been celebrated the way God wanted us to celebrate it.
Although I didn’t plan to have a big party. You know when you are where we are, you can no longer have privacy, you don’t have control over certain issue. I remember when I told my friends that, let’s just have a band and sit down at a corner to celebrate it. They said I should not get myself involved in the planning. Before I knew it, one of them have paid for K1.
There is a hotel we built here, it’s a very big Hotel and its one of the best hotels you can think of in Yewaland. I had to rush them to finish the Hotel because if I had to hold the kind of birthday they were planning that it can’t be held outside my domain and I would like to hold it in a first class hotel.
To the glory of God, the promoters of the hall were able to put all there resources together to ensure the hotel was dedicated in good time. My friends were just the one handling everything.
The government also supported us and the management of Dangote. My birthday was apparently on the first. I had to find myself in Warri to celebrate it with my twin brother, while the real one was celebrated here on the 27. I thank God for those who came from Europe and America that they got back to their base safely.
How do you combine being a Pastor and the role of a king?
God has been able to marry the two together for me because when God gives you the knowledge and understanding of where you are, he would make ways for you to be able to manage certain things that are beyond you.
There are certain things that are beyond the king on the throne. Only God can manage it for you. So, I would say that, he had always guide us for the things that, are beyond us, as a Pastor and as a King on the throne. Go to the bible, virtually all the kings in the Bible were used by God. No king find his knowledge on the throne without the knowledge of God.
Like I do tell journalists that usually come here, even before my birthday. Basically here in. Ilaro and Yewaland, I don’t know elsewhere because our traditions are different. Here, in Ilaro I’m more or less like an administrator. Every family has their norm they cherish. When someone tells you I’m Ogundele you will know his heritage. Definitely, unless you are from mars, when you look at my name, you will see Olugbenle, Gbadewole, Kehinde (my birth) I’m also Adeboye. You will see that some of my name, has nothing to do with those things.
My own is to moderate what others do. They can do their festival anytime they want to, but my own is to moderate. Like I told you, if you want to celebrate your festival for 2 weeks, I will tell them or convince them to reduce the number of days. . So, this are some of the moderation. And coming to the issue of Oro. I have brought a little bit of moderation into it. People are beginning to see reasons why some of these things need to be moderated. We are not saying you should not do what you believe in because the law of Nigeria allows it. So, there’s freedom of worship. Do you say because you are a Pastor the other should not worship their own gods. No, my own is to ensure that you cannot seal off the economic of an area because you want to hold a festival. A situation where you now said people should not move at all, children should not go to school. In this age! It has a question mark. Yes, there are things you want to do, that you believe in but we can always moderate it. Look at Dangote cement for example, it operates for 24 hours. Almost 90 percent of their staff live in Ilaro here. So, is it possible for me to now say that nobody should come out. What signal am I sending to the investors, what signal am I sending to the rest of the world. So, these are the messages I pass around to our royal fathers that If you want your area to develop you need to find a way to moderate some of these things.
We are now in the global world, if you don’t go with what people are doing, they will what leave you behind. I thank God that my people have been very, very understanding. Yewa is now more peaceful than I met it. Some people still believe they just have to do it, I thank God the government of the day have been very corporative.
They have stood their grounds.
Can you share with us some of the development that have come to Ilaro and Yewa generally since you ascended the throne?
I thank God for where we are today. It is one of the changes. Anybody who know where I live before would know it’s a huge change. People say show me your friend and I will tell you who you are. If you go there and see where I am now, it’s a huge change.
But this one is my private palace and that is why I have put everything into it because when you are in a hurry for a change like my president that is why I have this injury on my finger I have put everything into it because I know everything about building. Dangote Cement came of at a time I ascended the throne and when I came, there were lots of Crisis (2012/2013) was a serious and a challenge period for us in Yewaland, when the change was coming but how to manage it became a problem. Development was on ground, how do we manage it. Virtually every vacant houses were taken, people were building. By the time Dangote Cement starts house rent went up.
That forced our people to start building. Some of the areas we have problem were majorly the accident, the carelessness on the part of the drivers. So, we have to sit down, talks to our people around Ibese axis. It was only God that intervenes. Thank God today, Dangote has opened up another road from Ibese to Onigbedu.
That has actually reduced the tension. So, those are some of the changes. I doubt if people sleep in Ilaro again because there is now night life and that is why most of their staff prefer to live in Ilaro than staying around Ibese axis. Even the Yewa Frontier Hotels where we had my birthday is another development that would impact and draw other investors to Yewa. We are planning to have Yewa gulf court at the hotel and some other recreation facilities.
Today, by the support of the government, Olabisi Onabanjo University’s Agric Campus has moved to it permanent site in Ayetoro.
I can say that in Ilaro where I domicile the development has been sporadic. One of the largest maize farms in Nigeria today is located here in Ilaro. These are some of the things I can mention.
What programme do you have for the youth to take them off the street and how is you relationship been with other Obas?
As for the youth because I’m also a youth, I have a lot of programme for them. I remember I came on the throne 2012, we used to have a festival we celebrate here, Orona. I looked at it and I had to removed all the limitation around it.
We used to call it Orona day but when I came I said, we cannot finish the programme a day and we would not achieved much, so we now changed it to Orona Ilaro Festival. We added Festival because people could know it’s a festival. And I made sure it was registered with the National Tourism Board as a national festival in Calendar of all Festival in Nigeria. So, those are the things I did immediately I came. We also introduced marathon race football competition also introduced for secondary school children. We have “Sisi” Ilaro pageant to encourage our ladies to showcase their beauties. So, these are the things we have been able to do. Ogogo also came with “Onigba” Aje”. And if you look at all the programmes, its basically for the youths.
Apart from that, I noticed that nothing in Yewa land connects us together. Everybody was just on its own unlike the Ijebus that will do Ojude Oba which all the Ijebus gather. Egba with Lisabi day.
So, when I came with the idea with traditional council here that we should be having Yewa Festival. We have started with the first one, second one would be held this years because it’s a huge investment, that we are trying to see good sponsors and that can sustain the festival over time. We have the same programme in the UK and America. Thank God in America they have had 2 Yewas day. UK has had. It was a huge success. So, we are trying to galvanise all our children in diaspora. We have had one in Abuja, already we have one in Lagos Yewa Union, its spearheaded by a Professor of Unilag. With this amalgamation of people I can call to ask what the problem they have in each zone or place because I know we can not rule everywhere as a paramount ruler. People must be there with you and you must know your people.
My relationship with other royal fathers are cordial. Talk about the paramount rulers I met, there all my fathers. It’s not all about pride. humility is the key. We work together. Infact, I find it very difficult to call them Kabiyesi.