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By Bianca Iboma
For natives and residents of Ibeju-Agbe, the ancestral seat of Oba Rafiu Salami, Ogunbase 1 Onibeju of Ibejuland throne and the entire Ibeju-Lekki Kingdom, this isn’t just another Yuletide season. It’s much more than that. And to use the exact words of the Onibeju himself, “it’s unique, memorable, historic and above all, a season to once again give thanks and glorify our creator, God almighty.”
The moment, indeed, calls for jubilation and clinking of glasses not just for the fact that it’s time of wild reverie globally, but it’s an auspicious one for the Lagos community. It’s the coronation anniversary of the monarch. And tomorrow marks his decade on the ancestral stool.
For Oba Salami and indeed, his subject, the journey has been one of challenges and success, a journey that has recorded more hits than misses.
“When I tried to look behind me just last night, I recall that I was formally enthroned as the Onibeju of Ibeju-Lekki dynasty about 10 years ago. And I said to myself, how time flies,” the royal father quipped when asked about the journey so far, his face wrapped in a grin of fulfillment.
He said his initial challenge as an Oba was precisely how to transform, not just the traditional stool and the hard working people of Ibeju Lekki kingdom but also how to transform the entire land space within the Kingdom. And so, the idea of attracting quick development and translating the hitherto sleeping land to a kingdom of attraction were born.
Also hatched, according to the oba were the idea of transforming Ibeju to a glorious kingdom; a land flowing with milk and honey, a place that would attract tourists from all over world. He was also bothered with the idea of transforming Ibeju land to a Kingdom of economic sustainability, economic viability, economic security, peace and unity.
Ten years has lapsed into the bowel of history since he came up with those lofty dreams and ideas.
Asked to take stock of his decade on the throne ahead of his anniversary tomorrow, Oba Salami recalled: “For those who were privileged to be around when I had my five years coronation anniversary, they would recall that I did make a bold promise then, saying, ‘I am believing God Almighty that when we shall gather here again in another five years’ time (to celebrate my 10th year on the throne, Ibeju-Lekki would easily pass for the Dubai of Nigeria and by extension, the Dubai of Africa.
“Yes, the above were actually my words. To those who were then in attendance, what I said could have just been echoed like mere words. To me as a king, they were not just mere words, but a bond.”
Even at the risk of sounding immodest, he said he has been able to accomplish most of the goals he set for himself. But, he said he’s not about to rest on his oars.
“Under my watch, IbejuLekki has continued to enjoy peace, unity and security. Beyond the above, Ibeju Lekki has also enjoyed tremendous co-operation and a huge magnanimity from the state government under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.”
All of these put-together, according to him, have culminated in the presence of several quality investors amongst other well-meaning Nigerians who have made Ibeju their home.
For instance, some of the major gigantic projects that have either been proposed or are already having their bearings on Ibeju-Lekki include the new multibillion Naira International Airport, the new Sea Port, the Dangote Refinery, the Lekki free Trade Zone, the Atlantic University and the fourth Mainland Bridge. Others include, the Eleganza Industrial City, Coscharis Motors and the new Computer Village, among others.
“Take a walk around the nooks and crannies of Ibeju and you would marvel at the all round massive development going on. If you say it has become a Mecca of some sort to investors, you would not be wrong. Instead, you would only be stating the obvious. Today, Ibeju-Lekki accommodates various small and large scale industries, assembly plants, packaging plants, to mention but a few. In fact, unemployment has dropped drastically amongst the indigenes and other residents in my kingdom,” he said, short of thumping his royal chest.
He added that beyond the earlier mentioned, Ibeju is also increasingly becoming the residential choice of several Lagosians.
“The influx of people indicating interest in owning residential property is becoming quite overwhelming. New estates are springing up in Ibeju, almost on a daily basis. People are coming, building schools, health facilities, recreation facilities and other social amenities to increase the standard of living in lbeju. Lest I forget, Ibeju as at this day could easily pass as one of the major tourist centres in Lagos State, if you know what I mean. The very rich culture of our people cannot be overemphasized. Indeed, aside from its very rich heritage, Ibeju is arguably one of the biggest kingdoms in Lagos State.”
“No doubt, our people are peace loving. Significantly, the peaceful disposition of our people could largely be credited for the influx of all tribes into this part of Lagos State. Peace aside, we are very well accommodating no doubt. Permit me to state unequivocally that Ibeju Lekki is home to all.”
According to history, the Kingdom actually derived its name “Ibeju” from three parcels of land that were separated by swamp. As a result of its natural arrangement Agbeduwa, one of Oduduwa’s sons migrated to the area in search of a camping site. Despite the fact that he needed a camping site, his choice was informed by the fact that the land must not be too far from the lagoon. He was attracted to the current location of the town as provided by the peninsular because he had noticed that the spot was about the largest of the three parcels of land fronting its shores (Oju-Agbe). Having taken and settled on the part of the area, he merely named it after its size, “IBEJU” meaning this land is the largest. The kingdom, today has existed for well over 700 years old.
oba Salami said the best of Ibeju is still to come just as he commended his Council of Chiefs who he said have worked tirelessly day and night with him, the incumbent governor and “the good people of this kingdom who have demonstrated their unreserved cooperation and also ensured that peace reigns supreme in the land.”