by Stanley Azuakola
The Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu, played host to members of management staff of The Sun newspaper on Saturday and he had plenty to say.
By the time he was done speaking, it was all but clear where his party affinity lies. Just like the Alaafin of Oyo, it appears that the Lagos monarch leans towards the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria.
Before becoming the paramount ruler of Lagos, Oba Akiolu, used to be a police officer. In fact, he rose to the level of Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) before he was retired “forcefully” in 2002 after 32 years of service.
On Saturday, the Oba berated the federal authorities at the time who denied him promotion and eventually retired him. He didn’t mention names, but Olusegun Obasanjo was president in 2002. But despite the fact that, according to him, “they were forced out by intrigues,” Oba Akiolu who would clock ten years on the throne in May says he has a lot to be thankful for.
He warned those who felt that they could “capture” Lagos (another subtle dig at Obasanjo) to think again because as the Olowo Eko (Owner of Lagos), that would not happen under his watch. He recalled that certain politicians had once boasted that they would take over Lagos by force, but were eventually resisted and humiliated.
“I will never compromise Lagos for anybody. It will never happen. God Almighty Allah and my ancestors will never allow it to happen. And no matter what anybody is planning in future, only a lawful, democratically elected governor will rule Lagos. Nobody, even if it will cost us the last drop of our blood, I repeat it, nobody can take Lagos away illegally from Lagosians. And I mean it.
“Ninety per cent of all the well-to-do people in this country made their money from Lagos. When they came, they were labourers staying under Carter Bridge. But in just 10, 20 years, you see them putting up high-rise buildings. And Lagos people don’t discriminate against anybody.
“But for anybody to say, ‘I will capture Lagos, I will take Lagos,’ God forbid that. Only a democratically-elected governor, a governor elected by popular votes, will always rule Lagos. I don’t take sides with anybody. But I’m for the well being of Lagos and its people.”
That last sentence by the Oba fits perfectly into the fable that monarchs are neutrals and non-partisans. But monarchs also live in the country, they listen to the news and they follow happenings in the polity, so it is normal that over time certain preferences will begin to show. Some comments made by Oba Akiolu concerning Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, might shed light on his own preferences.
“They believed I was the father of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the then Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They forgot that Bola Tinubu is my relation and, as they say, blood is thicker than water.
“But for God and the prayers of well-meaning people in this country, where we are in Lagos today, we wouldn’t have got there. But for God and for people like Bola Tinubu, we wouldn’t have got to where we are in Lagos. And I say this anywhere.”
He told the visiting The Sun team about his time in the police when his traducers in the NPF accused him of being an ambitious prince who was interested in becoming the Oba of Lagos.
“But it is only a bastard-prince that would not aspire to sit on the throne of his fore-fathers,” he said. “Anybody that is not ambitious in life is as good as dead.”
“In 1988, I was in Mecca with the former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun. Then, everybody was praying to Almighty Allah, asking for what they wanted. What I, then Prince Akiolu, said at that time was that, ‘God, I’m inside the Kaaba now. Please inherit the throne of my forefathers for me.’ And God heard it. I don’t know what police retirement had to do with a prince wanting to be Oba of Lagos. But you see how God works? I left the service in March, 2002. A year and two months later, I was crowned the Oba of Lagos. So I’m going to Mecca to thank Almighty Allah this year again,” he said.