The new Alara of Ara Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oba Dr Olubayo Adesola Windapo, Oyelade-Abidogun 1, belongs to the Ajadi Ruling House, the 5th in line of the current 6 ruling houses. He is a descendant of the Oyelade-Abidogun section of Iraye Oba compound. He is the 3rd to ascend the throne from Ajadi Ruling house and the 10th Alara of the new Ara.
The King attended St. Luke’s Anglican School Lalupon before proceeding to the prestigious Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan where he wrote his WASCE in 1979. Olubayo got admitted to the College of Medicine, University of Lagos in 1981. He has been a past President of Rotary Club of Gbagada, Chairman PolioPlus Committee for Rotary International District 9110, Nigeria and now a level 2 Assistant Governor in the district. Equally, he was once the National Secretary and presently the 1st National Vice President of the Old Boys Association, Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan, .his alma mater.
The King is an active member of Association of Rural Surgical Practitioners of Nigeria (ARSPON), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and a Fellow of Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) among others.
Our crew, John Adegbenro and Olutayo Irantiola had a chat with the new Monarch and herein below is an excerpt-
PDC: It is an opportunity to meet a new Monarch, we know that you are bringing a lot of difference based on this new assignment as the Alara of Ara Kingdom. How prepared are you for the throne? Did you have any premonition of you coming on the throne?
Oba Windapo: Thank you very much. Let me first of all welcome you to Ara Kingdom.
As a little child, I remember when I was about a 3 year old boy, I was playing with some of my little friends, somebody was passing, and I can’t figure out whether he was a clergyman or anything, in Lalupon. Then, the man just stopped, he looked at me and asked for my parents, they were sitting not too far from us- “taani mama okunrin yen (who is the mother of this child?), ewo ninu won, (they asked which one of us?) he touched me. I remembered he told them e ma na omode yi o, ti e ba ma naa, e ma naa lori o (don’t beat this boy, howbeit, if you want to do, do not beat his head), telling them that I was going to be a great man, telling them that oun kan so fun yin ni (that he’s just warning them) and he left.
However, I did not remember all this for ages, but before my father died. He was made the Balogun of Lalupon, where we were brought up, and he threw a big party. The then Alara of Ara, that was about 1993 or 94, the Alara came, and he was furious with him, he told him frankly, “You are a Crown Prince, why are you accepting chieftaincy title from Lalupon people?” That your Crown is at home, you shouldn’t be doing that, the Alara going to refuse to eat, but we persuaded him that nothing of such will happen again. He reprimanded my dad. When he left I asked my dad, what he said to him. My dad now said, you don’t know one thing, we are from a Royal linage, we are Crowned Princes in Ara, that if that monarch joins the ancestor, the thing is not far from him or any of us.
I never remembered, until my father eventually died, and my late Uncle was inviting me to join him in being a part of various meetings in Ara, that I should not leave him alone, that now that my father is late (being the only son). I started following him for these meetings and the very first day I came, the way I was received actually told me that something was in the offing, there were this two elderly women that told me omo mi, ma je ki eru ba e o, nkan to wa niwaju wa yi o, nkan nla ni. (Don’t be afraid, what we have ahead of us is something big, something that will need somebody courageous). I really still did not understand, until my uncle began explaining to me that we are on the way to the throne, we have a court case ahead of us that once we get through with the court case, then we should be ready to choose the King, that if I am interested, he is ready to support me.
Not quite long after, some of my colleagues, they started telling me funny stories about myself. There was this lady, I never told her that I was from a royal family, we were having a meeting at rotary centre in Lagos, and I was then the Chairman of PolioPlus committee. So after the meeting, she called me aside and said Doctor, ejo e ma ma si ori le mo, pe oun ri ade l’ori mi meaning Doctor (please don’t be leaving your head uncovered, I can see a crown on your head) at that meeting. I was supposed to even have my ‘end polio now’ cap on my head that day, but I forgot. I said ‘Ronke!, Ronke!’ when did you become a prophetess, she said well, that’s the way she saw it.
Another friend of mine, who was not so religious, not spiritually inclined, we were at a party when he told me that ‘Olu Windy’ -that’s what my friends call me- I had a dream, and I saw you on a throne. This was a guy that we party together, and I never mentioned to them that I was going for anything anywhere. I’m talking some five years ago. So as they started saying it, then my interest started growing in ascending the throne. It was then that I started putting together the bits of memories.
I know what the situation in which Ara is and obviously a Monarch needs to be there, there is a lot to do and I have started putting efforts at achieving this.
PDC: Before you assumed the throne of your fore-fathers as the Alara of Ara, and now there are certain things that you may be missing now that you have become the Oba. What are those things? Things that you were doing before that can no longer do again
Oba Windapo: You know honestly, I can tell you that I’m not missing anything, and that is the truth. I am a party person, I’ve not seen any difference, even if I get bored, which hasn’t happened yet, and I can’t see myself getting bored with the number of people around me, there are so many interesting thing to do around, people will come, discuss all sort of things with you, there are so many things that will get me occupied, that I can’t even be bored around here, I love the environment, the fresh air, and when I need something in terms of food, I get almost everything fresh. I was brought up in a village setting, so now that I’m here it’s just like I am back home. I’m enjoying everything, I’ve not been missing anything. And to make life easier, what I’m used to, that is Medical Practice, I have already set up something here, Royal Medical Hospital. I got there almost every day, I go there to see what they are doing. I still operated a patient within the last one week, I’ve done one or two surgeries here, so what am I missing, except the Lagos traffic
PDC: Talking about roles, you have social roles that you play, before becoming a king, it could be quite different from the roles you will be playing from now, because I know Rotary is about service to humanity, and kingship too is about service, medical practice also is about service. We have different shades of services. So, how would you harmonize all of this or really project your vision or deliver what you have as mandate for the people of Ara?
Oba Windapo: Actually, before making up my mind about coming here, and taking this role, I have not seen any difference between what I was doing in Lagos and what I am going to do here. Rotary has prepared me for leadership, and for service. Rotary is essentially about service, and coming here, is a higher call to service, and you see my activities as Rotarian, I just psychologically brought them here, on Wednesdays, when I am supposed to attend my club meeting, it’s like my week is not complete until I attend the Rotary meeting, what I have done here, I am still waiting for a little more time, because there are rotary clubs around. Rotary club of Oshogbo actually meets on Wednesdays too, in fact it is a twin club to my club in Gbagada, and we do things together, over the years. Now here, what I have done not to miss anything is that I have fellowship, even by my role, I need to be closer to God, I need his protection, wisdom and what have you. So I have imbibed listening to the word of God as another part of me, at the same time when Rotary meeting is taking place.
My medical practice here is Non for Profit, it is just me seeing my people getting the service, and I know the money is not there, this is an essentially agrarian society. It so unfortunate that we have two government health centres here, and you can’t get paracetamol from any of them, one is still opening, while the other is already overtaken by bushes somewhere down the road. The one that appears to be functioning, the workers are just there to sleep and wake up nothing is happening there, and that has brought that need for having a private practice that can at least deliver the service, whether the people have the money to pay or not is that is not my problem, as long as they get that service, some other people will pay.
I have contacted an organisation that they are working on getting us Community Health Insurance, as a corporate service to Ara, because they have other clients that are really delivering what they want, but they can do something free for us in Ara, and we are working on that. Such that people can be stipend for medical services for the whole year, and they can come to the hospital anytime to get whatever service. So the role has not really changed much because even in Bariga where my practice is, if you ask anybody, they will tell you, money is not the headache in my practice. It is not a major consideration that somebody can come and get the service is of paramount importance to me. There are so many things that we can gain from other people, most of them have been useful in other areas, and what are we talking about, God has blessed me in that environment. Giving back to the society is really what is uppermost in my mind. The role has not really changed, other than the fact that these are my own people
PDC: Another role that Traditional rulers plays, they are the custodian of culture, and even from your outlook, you are beginning to reflect culture, and Ara is a town with rich cultural background, for instance, they don’t rear dogs in Ara, how prepared are you in ensuring that the people’s culture is well preserved and protected?
Oba Windapo: Thank you very much. You see, the culture here, if you have any Ara settlers in any other clime, I think the things is in our blood. There is virtually nothing that happens here, that doesn’t happen in our compound in Lalupon. In fact a dog cannot even stray into our compound, that dog is considered dead. We have missed a lot in terms of cultural heritage in this town with the interregnum of 10 years without a Monarch, that’s a lot. We have the Alami and Egungun festivals asides others that we celebrate here.
All those things that we have missed in the past few years, will be brought back and I understand that because of religion, the late Alara left a few things out, but now I see all these things as part of what we can develop to make Ara another centre of culture and tourism. Ara will become the destination for tourists and other visitors. I’ve already started discussing with people that can help us develop Ara, so that it can become a centre of attraction to tourists. The culture of my people is paramount on my mind, the things we have left behind in the last few years, we are going to resuscitate them and I know Ara will come back to its old glory
PDC: With our own investigations, we are made to know that you are of Anglican Christian faith. I want to know how some of these doctrines that you have imbibed over the years will not interfere with traditional religious practices, because born-again Christians have abandoned some of the cultural practices of their fore-fathers
Oba Windapo: You see, the trouble is a lot of us, we mix culture and tradition with religion, my own religion is Christianity, and that has nothing to do with our culture. The Yoruba’s say nigba ti agbado o ti d’aye, nkan l’ediye nje meaning before corn came into existence, the birds were feeding on something.Before we imbibed Christianity, our people had their own beliefs, whether Ogun or whatever. Those people still believe in them, I still respect their belief and I will encourage those who believe in them to continue. We are here as a part of the third world, just like India. 90% of India practice Buddhism or whatever they practice. If you go to an Indians’ office, he has one god or the other that he is worshipping and are they not doing well?
Some of my people called me to say they want to be worshipping Ogun, I don’t have to be part of it, if that is what they believe in. I don’t see it as a sin to give them money, let them go and do whatever they want to do. But for me, we are all calling the same God that we believe in. From my surname, you will know that my grandfather was a priest of Orisa nla, but at the same time, when Christianity came to Ibadan district, he was one of the earliest converts, you know that small church you see in Lalupon, its number 4 in Nigeria, I don’t want to go into the history of Anglicanism. As far as I’m concerned, there is liberty for religion, and it will not affect my rule, and it will not affect my own belief.
PDC: Since you have been around as traditional head of this community, what are the major challenges you have noticed in this community that deserves the Government’s attention?
Oba Windapo: If you want to know the challenges, they are just too many, but let me just start by telling you that the 3 challenges of the third world and these 3 are very high here, and they include; poverty, ignorance and diseases. You see, I know people who will wake up in the morning and there is nothing to eat, you know, this is an agrarian society, life is very simple. People will go into their farms, and by the time they work up and down, something will come out, either something to sell, and get money, or something to eat at home, but in terms of diseases, we have a whole lot of that as our problem. Before I came, the closest health facility in in Ejigbo, a neighbouring community and with the poor transport system, you can imagine how people are dying from very minor ailments. Malaria as simple as everybody talks about it, it’s a very deadly thing. In fact, people die from malaria more than HIV or Hepatitis, and of course much more than cancer, but then my people could not get adequate treatment. You came along our road, so you saw how dusty the whole environment is. So all these, they need government attention. Look at our schools, it is so sad, our secondary school here, we need teachers for at least 10 subjects, and these are subjects that children are going to write WAEC on at the end of the year, so how do we go about that? These are some of the problems we have.
PDC: While you were speaking earlier, you mentioned that there have been some interregnum of about 10 years between the last king and you coming to throne, and we know that the people of Ara as a whole, they have a lot of expectations. What are your plans to meet these expectations, and what are some of these expectations?
Oba Windapo: This is a community that hasn’t had a leader for 10 years, and even at the time we had leadership, his exposure was limited, being of very little education, if he had any, so you see, the society has been deprived of so many things, and everybody has been expecting that this is a ‘Been to’ meaning an exposed person, so they say, he must come with a lot of goodies for the people.
Yes, I’ve prepared for that; firstly, they must never be disappointed, even before getting here, I’ve made a lot of contacts, within government, among my friends, NGOs, amongst others. Now that I’m sitting on the throne, the work has just started. Before now, I have been getting a lot of support, a lot of promises, even your being here is a form of support from one of my brothers. So the expectations in terms of provision of infrastructures, provision of jobs, securing micro-credits on all these. The first thing that gained my attention was the health facility, which happens to be my own area of specialization, we have started in practice, and the facility is for our people.
Before now, during dry season, the people depended on the local rivers for water supply, having to drink from the same river others have walked in, within this last few months, we’ve been able to drill about 3 boreholes, currently working on 2 more. Hopefully, by the time we have up to 20 boreholes in the town, you won’t have to walk more than 100 metres before getting water, and that is going to be a major breakthrough.
As for our schools, we have started talking to PTA organisations around, and we are trying to recruit retired teachers, since they are much better than these funny people walking around as teachers now. We have also been working on the true orientation of our people. A lot has to be done, and I have prepared for all of them. I just need the support of our people, which I am getting, and God being with us, Ara will regain its old glory by the grace of God.
PDC: Sir, what is your message to the people of Ara?
Oba Windapo: As I said earlier, we have missed a lot of things in this town, there have been a lot of issues concerning my coming to the throne, but let’s forget about that now, God has installed me. So, we need to work together, we have a lot to work on, we need to be prayerful, because I believe it is only God that can assist us in achieving all these goals we have set to achieve. We need to put all hands on deck for Ara to regain its old glory. I was particularly very unhappy when I visited a nearby village few days ago, I remember visiting there about 27 years ago, and was astonished at the level of development, and within these last 27 years, there haven’t been much change here. So I would like us as a society to work together for Ara to regain its old glory.