This interview was first published in 2018 when the royal father visited Denver, Colorado. It has been re-published again for your consumption.

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Denver Colorado has never had it so grand as was witnessed recently. The city welcomed a throng of Egba royals from Nigeria, who arrived for the 7th biennial convention of the Egba National Association, Colorado chapter. The Colorado ENA played host to 15 chapters of the association, and laid out a spectacular three to four days of pomp and pageantry, beginning with the opening ceremony on August 30th. The stately occasion was declared open by the paramount ruler of the people, His Royal Majesty Oba, Dr. Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, CFR, Okukenu IV, The Alake of Egbaland.

The convention was a crammed set of events that lived up to the hype. The event venue was colorful as the guests, including His Royal Majesty, donned similar patterned beautiful tie-and-dye attire, proudly produced in Egbaland.

Hotels in the Mile-high city were fully booked, as guests came from within and outside of Colorado. The Alake, and his Olori came from Nigeria, with a retinue of Egba high chiefs.  The Ogun State Secretary to the Government, some top government officials, and trustee members of the Egba Heritage Foundation were also present in their glory. It was a great pleasure having all those dignitaries in Denver, a city known for its sky high mountains that bears a resemblance to the rocky terrain of Abeokuta, city of the Egbas.

After the events, Vera Azuka Idam, the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Afrik Digest magazine, met up with the distinguished royal father himself, and he was gracious enough to express some thoughts, and answered some personal questions. Excerpts below.

The Alake of Egbaland at his 80th birthday on the 14th September 2023. Credit-BellaNaija

Getting up to Speed
I am the Alake of Egbaland, the paramount ruler of the people of Egba. These great people were the first in Nigeria to learn to read and write. Our people are over 2.5 to 3 million in population, occupying the south-western part of Nigeria, on some 60 by 40 miles territorial area. Egbaland founded its capital city, Abeokuta in 1830, and 13 years later, the missionaries came. This was when the art of reading and writing started in Egbaland. And along came the freed slaves too- I mean Egbas who returned from Sierra Leone. This gave my people an edge over the rest of Nigeria. Egbaland is the land of many firsts. The first secondary school, CMS Grammar School was established first in Abeokuta in 1859, and later got transferred to Lagos. The first newspaper in Nigeria, started in the same year, the first hospital, the first pipe borne water, and so on were in Abeokuta.

What Brought the Alake to Colorado
I have come here this year to attend the convention. This is the 4th biennial convention of the Egba National Association (ENA) that I have attended. We have a total of 18 chapters of the association, consisting of our people that live in different states of the US and Canada. They come together towards the welfare of their members, and to assist with development at home in Egbaland.  So we discuss this every two years and review what they must have done, and plan ahead against another two years. They hold meetings intermittently among themselves, but I join them every time with the high chiefs. This is what has brought me here. Two years ago, it was held in Toronto in Canada, four years ago it was in Houston Texas, six years ago it was in Maryland, and 8 years ago, I did not attend that one. That was in Florida. So, that is my mission here.

Alake’s Pomp Reception
I arrived in Colorado on Thursday night, 30th August. The hospitality of the Colorado chapter has been fantastic. Right from when we arrived, it has been great. We have enjoyed great attention. They have been taking us to places. We had the opening ceremony on Friday night, and it was a huge success. Each of the 15 chapters attending this year presented their individual plans and achievements. On Saturday night we had the award ceremony, and on Saturday afternoon we had the picnic. On Sunday morning we attended church service, and on Sunday evening we had the gala night. So it’s been four days of brilliant activities. Members of the chapter volunteered to clean certain areas of the city, but I was not involved. It has been a very successful outing.

Children of the Monarch at his birthday celebration. Credt-BellaNaija

Award Night and Awardees
The award ceremony was to reward those who have been supporting the association in one way or another in the last two years; those who have shown leadership qualities, some of them are not based in the US. They include Deaconess Doyin Ogunbiyi, a three-time commissioner in Ogun state; Otunba Olumide Osusina, Dr Leke Badmus, Chief Obadeyi, and Dr. Zents Sowunmi.  The award is to serve as a stimulant to some people who may be lukewarm in their support, to know that they too can be honored when they so freely offer themselves in the service of the association.

I am really satisfied with the awardees. The citation which was read on each of them showed that the awardees are people of excellent caliber and honor, and showed that they deserve the honor being conferred on them. And they are poised to do more.

Achievements So Far
My achievement has been mainly in unifying the Egbas and preparing them for greater heights. We had a glorious past. Our heroes were great. Our people signed a treaty of friendship with the British in 1893, whereas some of our neighbors had to fight with the British, and of course God is always with the army with the bigger guns. They all lost men and material, but the Egbas signed the treaty of friendship. Since then we have been leading in technology, commerce, and education. Name it, we have the Egbas there. So my mission here is to ensure that we do not lose that leadership position. I am here to solicit for more scholarships, boreholes for our villages and towns, to solicit for more healthcare delivery equipment for hospitals, like screening equipment for our people, and so on, anything that would take us to the modern era; that would promotes scholarship, gainful employment and skills acquisition for our people.  This is what has been my guiding principle and that is why I have come all the way from Nigeria.

The Alake dancing with his Queen. Credit – BellaNaija

Response from Members and Public
The response has been amazing. This is the 4th one I have attended. The turnout has been increasing all the time. The number of chapters that have joined, and the new ones that are going to join have been increasing. Two days ago one of the chapters, on its own, undertook to award a hundred scholarships for January next year to Egba indigenes in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. So the response has been enormous and increasing every year. That is what has encouraged me to keep coming here every two years. You know that my predecessor, our revered Oba Oyebade Lipede did not come to the United States; he thought it was too far. But I have come to the US several times, and I am really glad to be here. My grandfather was the first king in the whole of West Africa to visit Britain in 1904, so I am following in his footsteps.

Things that give the Alake Fulfillment
I derive fulfillment in knowing that my people own the best industries; are the best brains in Nigeria. I will be fulfilled when my people are captains of industries; when the best schools are located in Egbaland; when we have more quality universities in Nigeria than any other part of the country. You see, I am a difficult person to please. I am not going to rest on my oars on little achievements, no! We cannot rest on insignificant achievements. We cannot promote mediocrity. We have to promote the very best. We are going for things that will make our forefathers very happy in their graves.

Role in Politics
I do not take part in partisan politics but I take part in politics of the best schools, of the best hospitals, of the best homes, of gainful employment and agriculture, in promoting Ofada rice – our home-grown rice – to be the best in Nigeria, to be well packaged for export all over the world. That is the kind of politics I take part in. The government that we have in Ogun State has done a lot in this direction. So I thank God for the past seven years that the government has done exactly what we have prayed for that God would do for us over the years. We pray that succeeding governments will do even better. That is our prayer.

Is the Alake Humble?
I will tell you that arrogance takes people to nowhere.  You know, pride they say, goes before a fall. I take pride only in what God has done for us. I take pride in glorifying God, because when I do this, He does even more for us.

Alake’s Favorite Quote
I have many favorite quotes but I will give you one. You see, I try to be diligent in whatever I do. The Bible says “Seest thou a man diligent in his business; he shall stand before kings and not before mean men.”

On the Olori, Queen of Egbaland
I arrived here with my Olori, the queen, and my Egba high chiefs. I always travel everywhere with my Olori, except for local journeys. If I have to dash to Abuja from Abeokuta I don’t take her, because she runs her own business too. I cannot take her unless it is very important and her presence is required. Otherwise, she has to be with me when I travel out of the country. And remember, I am the first Alake to have only one wife, because I want peace of mind.

The Olori has been very supportive. She has been with me for 47 years. We were in the army together, that is, we lived in barracks together. When I was being moved up and down, posted everywhere, she was absolutely supportive and has continued to be a pillar of strength for me.

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