Iyake Suspended Lake Can Make Oyo Richest State In Nigeria-Oba Folakanmi

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Iyake Suspended Lake Can Make Oyo Richest State In Nigeria-Oba Folakanmi

Ado Awaye, a sleepy town in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State, came alive last Monday when it hosted the 2021edition of the World Tourism Day at the base of the famous Iyake Suspended Lake. The Alado of Ado Awaye, Oba (Rev’d) Ademola Olugbile Folakanmi, Makuledoye II, Asoludero, speaks with Newscoven.ng on plans to turn around the fortunes of the lake to make it a Mecca of Tourism and also to serve as a major source of revenue for the state government. 

What informed granting Ado Awaye the hosting right of the 2021 edition of the World Tourism Day?

When I got to the throne, one of my major cardinal visions was the development of this tourism site, the Iyake Suspended Lake. I came up with a three-cardinal focus namely, vision, redemption and development. Vision has to do with having the mind for my community. Redemption goes with coming down to salvage our youths who are going wayward. And development is about bringing progress to the community.

Immediately I came, I started with the last one, development. This is because I knew that that is the first language our people will listen to. We started with a lot of programme, called artivision which involved the promotion of arts and culture. This year, we have done three powerful artivision: We celebrated the World Theatre Day powerfully; we celebrated the Children’s Day powerfully; and when I did my fourth Coronation Anniversary, we celebrated it powerfully. All these got influx of tourists into Ado Awaye.

During my fourth year anniversary, we invited major stakeholders in the tourism sector in Ibadan. They came here and they saw what is on ground; what we have done by the grace of God, and the way we have turned around the tourism environment. They marveled that we have made strong and positive efforts. So, when they wanted to take a decision on where would be the most appropriate place to host the 2021 World Tourism Day, they all unanimously agreed that they just have to say thank you to Kabiyesi Alado and they only way they can say thank you is to accord him the hosting right for the 2021 World Tourism Day.

By the grace of God, the Special Adviser (Tourism) to Governor Seyi Makinde, Honourable Akeem Ademola Ige, is a close friend. Out of his appreciation of our efforts, he went all round to make sure that all the stakeholders in the tourism sector in Oyo State are informed and mobilised and they took a decision that they were coming to Ado Awaye for the World Tourism Day, this year.

Your community hosted a large number of people during the celebrations, both indigenes and non-indigenes, from outside the state. Has this community ever witnessed such a large crowd and how do you feel about the turn out?

Well, on 21 July, 2017 when I was crowned as the Alado of Ado Awaye, the Alaafin of Oyo, His Royal Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, came here. It was a day that was near to what we had yesterday, though not as much in terms of pulling crowd as we had yesterday, but we had a very great day that day too. This was because, in the past, no Alaafin has ever come to Ado Awaye to crown any oba. They will invite the oba to come to Oyo to crown him and they will now dance from there to Ado Awaye here. But in my own case, the Alaafin personally came. So, it touched the mind of my people to see the Alaafin on ground and that gave us a good number of people at the coronation. But the crowd we had then wasn’t as much as we had during the World Tourism Day celebrations yesterday.

So, seeing such a large crowd yesterday, I cannot express my joy. I am just putting up my appreciation paper this morning, when you came in for this interview, to send to all and sundry. We thank everybody; the people, the government, individuals, both private and public, tourism promoters, the obas, the media and everybody present.

What is your relationship with the Alaafin of Oyo to have made him to personally come to Ado Awaye to crown you?

Well, Baba Alaafin is, today, a father of many. The general perception people have about him is quite different from his real person, if you are close to him. I had a fear about Baba when I got appointed as the Alado. But when I moved in here, I discovered that he is a father. He will call us to tell us that he is aging and that he is looking for who to hand over the baton to among us. He will tell us “you these obas, go and work. We are looking for who we can hand over the baton to when we go home. We are looking for successors that would preserve and promote Yoruba cultural values.”

Since that very day that I heard such from him, it has been like the message was personally meant for me and I started working along that line. Among those communities that have their origins from Oyo, Ado Awaye is one of them. This is because the first Alado was a direct son of the Alaafin.

Tourism is a neglected sectors in the country. But, with what happened during the celebrations yesterday, one can see the possibilities and the potentials inherent in the sector. What are the concrete efforts being made to develop the Iyake Suspended Lake?

A lot of efforts are being made. One of the efforts is the artivision programme that I mentioned earlier. If you search Google where tourism is being rated, you will see that the Iyake Suspended Lake has been rated 4.9 out of five points. And in a post-COVID-19 era, over 100,000 people have visited the lake, as a result of our promotions and noise.

There are some numbers of platforms that the Iyake Suspended Lake has gone into. We have created a website; we are on Facebook and also on Instagram. So, all these things make information about the lake to go viral. And in my own little contribution, I just wrote a book, Iyake Suspended Lake, The Pride of Africa, which we believed will also add to the potentiality of the lake going viral.

Iyake Suspended Lake is unique for several reasons. One is the outstanding universal value, being the only natural suspended lake in the world, and this makes it a delight for tourists. Two, its spiritual content add to the strength of its potentialities. A lot of people, including prominent and popular Nigerians and musicians, have been here. The late Ayinla Omowura, the popular Apala musician, came here to the mountain and he thereafter sang the song, “Oke rere ti e gbe mi re, mi o ni jabo mo yin lowo”. It became his most popular song. The late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister also sang about the lake. He went to Disneyland in the US, but he was also here. The late Baba Haruna Ishola was here too several times.

I don’t want to be mentioning names, but most of our politicians in this country, before they become anything, do come here to pray. Many governors do come here. However, they abandoned the lake after they have achieved what they wanted.

While seeking to modernise the lake, what are you going to do to make sure that it retains its mystical nature?

The number one thing we are clamouring for is to have the entire place fenced with wire. It would also have a gate so that we can have access control and not just allow free entry anyhow. Entrance will be controlled so as to be able to monitor whatever that is going on there. In 1952, there was a teacher, non-indigene, who came to work here. He went up the mountain and damned the consequences and he paid for it. He went into the lake and we could not find him till now. If the access control is created, it will keep the security informed and it will also help to maintain the mystical nature of the lake.

The most important thing is the spiritual nature of the lake and that is where the planned Iyake Festival comes in. For about 35 years, we did not have an oba in this town. Our last oba died in 1983 and I came to the throne in 2017, making it 34 years of period of interregnum. Imagine that long period of time when there was no movement and no celebrations. It gave us a lot of serious setback. That is why we have decided to come up with the Iyake Festival. It is a spiritual festival.

What is the level of collaboration between the community, the state government and other stakeholders to facilitate the development of the lake?

We crave the support of the media in this regard. This is because, in the past, a lot of administrations and governments have come and gone. They made a lot of promises but nothing has been done. Since when we came on board, we have had a lot of contacts with the present administration in Oyo State, especially with the presence of the Special Adviser (Tourism) to Governor Seyi Makinde. Honourable Ige is a man on ground and, with the chairman of the Oyo State Tourism Board and all others concerned, we are sure that, by the grace of God, the present administration in the state will do something.

We have marked an area as the Oyo State Pavilion and we have talked with Mr Governor that we would want the state government to come and build the Governor’s Square in that place. When that is done, it would always propel the mind of the governor to always go there.

Mind you, I stated earlier that I started with three things: vision, redemption and development. Now, if the government does not have the vision, it would be difficult, because of the distance between here and the capital city, Ibadam. Except such a governor has a vision, he may not want to leave Ibadan to come to Ado Awaye.

Ordinarily, even if the governor wants to come to Oke Ogun, what would he come to do at Ado Awaye, apart from coming for campaigns? He would rather wants to go to Iseyin, Saki, Ibadan and other places like that. But, with what we have here, any government or governor that has vision will know that he should be here.

We sent a delegation to go and look at the suspended lake in Colorado, US. They came back with the report that the hanging lake in Colorado, despite being artificial, is accounting for about 50 per cent of their GDP there. Can you see what we are losing? Immediately they returned, we put up a press release to inform the world that we are losing 50 per cent of our GDP in Oyo State. This means that, if that place is well developed and we have the 50 per cent, we don’t need to go to the Federal Government before we can do things. Our unemployed youths are cursing us because God has blessed us with what it takes to take away unemployment from our community and out people.

We hope that the Iyake Festival, especially with the team we have in place, will challenge the government of Oyo State, the Federal Goverment and all the people that have the opportunity to invest that this place, if invested in, apart from generating fund for us, it will also improve our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR); it will improve our foreign exchange; it will solve the problem of unemployment; and the spiritual factor there will also be maximised.

They mentioned Bethesda River in the Bible; people go there and they got healed. If we are to have it here, we would seek to demean it by calling it an idol. I thank God for people like the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Iba Gani Adams. When I invited him here in 2018, my Christian people were saying ‘oh, this kabiyesi have turned into an idolator’.

But when Iba Gani Adams came, he changed our belief. He said he discovered that the people of Ado Awaye are not progressing because what we have, we call it an idol. He told us that Kaabah in Mecca was an idol centre, but Prophet Muhammed repackaged it in an Islamic way and it is now making a lot of money for Saudi Arabia. He also told us that Jerusalem was once a place for the idol-worshippers, but the coming of Jesus Christ turned it into a centre of pilgrimage. He told us that if we can repackage the Iyake Suspense Lake and join hands with the Alado, it will become one of the best in the world. We see a vision that Oyo State will become the richest state in Nigeria and the pride of Africa.

You are coming from a Christian background where you are a prophet. How are you able to relate this with your present position as an oba, a pure traditional institution?

When you don’t know your way to somewhere, you will be troubled. But once you know your way, there will not be any trouble any longer. When I was about to be crowned as an oba, the Lord told me, “my servant, go and do your findings about me beyond the pulpit. You know me on the pulpit as a pastor, but go beyond that and get to know me. Find out the I am that I am beyond the pulpit. Find out who I am in the Rod of Moses. Find out about me in Red Sea. Find out about me in the Lions’ Den.”

When I heard that, it took me time to find out who is God. I felt that this is too much for me. How do I go about it? I don’t understand. But He told me that if I can be open-minded, He will walk with me. Even, if I choose not to be open-minded, what can I do?

The very day I received the divine call to be a pastor, I was seated as a bank manager. I am a banker by profession and I had rose to the level of a manager. I heard the voice, “resign now, not tomorrow”. But I attributed it to Satan because I suffered to go to school. I heard the same voice second time and by the time I heard it the third time, low and behold, I wanted to get up but the wooden chair on which I was seated glued to my buttocks. Those who witnessed it are still alive. It was right there and then that I put in my resignation letter. It was typed and I signed it and immediately thereafter, I was relieved of the wooden chair. I didn’t wait to pack my personal belongings from the office. That was how I started my church ministry. That was in 1996.

How is the journey so far?

I was in the Deeper Life Church then. I went to a Bible School from there. I went to the God Will Do It Ministry because, by the grace of God, I have the ministry of deliverance. By 1998, we started the church. When we wanted to start the church, something prompted the title. In 1991, I was at the Deeper Life, Iseyin. We had an encounter with the Oro Cult people. It was brutal day; we were beaten with fetish canes and wounded, but not defeated spiritually. When we were taken to the hospital, my mouth was stiched and the scar remains till today.

There were two ladies among us that were beaten; they were at the throes of death and the doctors have all gone home. I was called out in the spirit to do deliverance for these two ladies and if I don’t do it, they will die before daybreak. But I asked, ‘with what do I do the deliverance?’ I asked because my lips have just been stitched. Eventually, I did the prayer, but my lips got broken again as a result. But after about four days, the ladies came back to life.

That was how we started. That same night, I heard the message, “Royal Lamb”. I heard it three times. So, we started the church ministry and named it the Royal Lamb Apostolic Church. Many people were asking, “why Royal Lamb?” What has it got to do with the church when we have names such as Evangelical, El-Shaddai and other names in the Bible?” But I told them that was what I heard.

Really, at that time I did not know what the name means. It was in later years that the reality of the name dawned on me and I now understood why it came in. In fact, from then on, people have stopped calling me by my real name; they started calling me Baba Royal and here is the result today.

It was alleged that some hoodlums used to gather at the base of the mountain to smoke Indian Hemp and this can discourage potential tourists. Are you aware of this and what do you intend to do to stop it?

Yes, we have started. We have a community that, for 35 years, did not have an oba. You should imagine the lifestyle of 40-year-old children of that community. Children of 40 years of age developed in an environment where there was no fear; where there was no guidance. The Bible says, long time therefore, Israel has been without a teaching priest and everybody begins to do what they like. So when there is no head, the body will lose control. The town lost control for almost 40 years. As a result of this, the young ones were growing to become vagabonds, Indian Hemp smokers and all sorts.

When I came to the throne, some people came to the mountain and, like you said, they were chased away. The chairman of the town came to report to me. We went there; I dressed in a knicker. The chairman and these youths were exchanging abusive words, but I kept quiet and I was watching because I wondered that if I was the one that abused them, they will also abuse me in return. I allowed them to have the exchange for about 10 minutes. I now turned on the town chairman and rebuke him.

Meanwhile, I was gathering information while watching them. I told them about two popular Yoruba musicians and I asked if they know the two musicians. They said yes. I told them that these two musicians smoked Indian Hemp and they became great men and that they too can be smoking Indian Hemp and still be great and useful to the community. I told them that if we have the types of the two musicians in the community, we would not be calling each other unfortunate. They all became sober and paid obeisance to me; something they did not do when they were having the hot exchange with the town chairman.

Now, to answer your question, remember that I said I have three missions-vision, redemption and development. My encounter with those youths is where redemption comes in. For us to have the redemption, we have to start from the known to the unknown. The known is development. If the youths can witness what happened yesterday (the World Tourism Day celebrations) on four or more occasions, then they can change and become useful.

Since yesterday, after the celebration, I have been receiving a lot of comments from these boys. They have been coming to me, expressing joy and happiness. They are gradually beginning to see what can make them to be reasonable and useful. You cannot use coercion; you will only worsen the situation, doing so. So, my slogan is vision for redemption through passion for development. When the development comes, the redemption would be seen and we are on course, by the grace of God.

The community was said to have been in darkness for over three years. How would you handle the issue of lack of electricity?

There was light, but about three years ago, we had a problem with our transformer. A lot of efforts were put in place to make sure that the transformer works, but to no avail. It was not until early this year that the government procurred another transformer for us. But that one also developed the same problem.

We are working socially, physically and spiritually to get the problem resolved. To the public, it is a social problem, but to me, it is a spiritual problem because the whole attack is against my throne. The last occupant of the throne from my royal lineage died in 1818. So, for about 200 years, my own lineage did not produced an oba until my emergence in 2017. The other royal families have monopolised the throne; they saw it as their birthright and they have been rotating it among themselves. They did not expect that somebody else can ever emerge from my own lineage. If they had ever thought about such a possiblity, they never thought of me. In fact, if they had put it into vote, I don’t think I can get up to five votes. But because it is a divine act, my enthronement as the oba became a reality.

But these people are not relaxing. They are thinking of all means to frustrate my reign. Their thinking is that if there is no peace in the community, the people can revolt against me. They did all they could to achieve their aim. I used to see propitations at the entrance to my palace, but God is always ahead of them.

Having failed spiritually, they thought that they can succeed, if they can go physical and combine it with spiritual forces. But then, we too are not resting on our oars. People are praying for us too. In a short while, electricity would be permanently restored to the community.

Indeed, yesterday was a good day for me because among these people that I talked about, some of them made vests for the World Tourism Day celebrations. They printed my photo and that of Governor Seyi Makinde on the vests and they came to me at the venue of the celebrations to greet me. They told me that I should forget the past; that they are now back to support me. This is a manifestation of the vision for redemption through passion for development. Such a people would not have reckoned with us if not for what they saw. But we are just unfolding our plans for the community. A bigger event is coming up in December, by the grace of God and, with the support of the media, we shall get there.