Distinguished guests of Ondo Kingdom, members of Osemawe in Council, other chiefs, and fellow Omolores, on this special occasion of commemoration of five centuries or 500 years of one of Africa’s most prestigious political traditions, let us give special thanks to God Almighty and our ancestors for seeing our Kingdom through 500 years of proud and enviable existence.
I offer my gratitude to members of my cabinet, the Osemawe in Council, all levels of Chiefs, the loyal, dignified men and women of our great Kingdom for their support, without which the heritage of peace, progress, and stability that we are celebrating today would not have been possible. I also appreciate the efforts of members of the Osemawe Dynasty Committee especially the Chairman, High Chief Adaja Adeyeye, Ondo Clubs and Associations who, despite other demands on their limited time and resources, have contributed immeasurably towards the success of this celebration.
I specially thank His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko for his useful ideas, understanding and support for every thing that we have laid our hands on.
Furthermore, I like to appreciate the commitment of Global Communications to our culture and traditional institutions. I also thank the Centre for Black African Arts and Civilization, National Commission for Museum and Monuments, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria and other institutions too numerous to identify in this short speech, for their goodwill and readiness to support royal effort in our society.
As accepted by Ondo tradition, renowned historians and chroniclers of Ondo history, the Ondo monarchy started in 1510 when a royal town named Ondo was founded. Ondo became as far back as 500 years a trailblazer in political evolution, particularly as it started as one of the oldest Kingdoms in the world with a female monarch, Pupupu. Between 1510 and 2010, 43 monarchs had previously reigned in Ondo, making the present Osemawe the 44th in the line of Ondo monarchs.
Our Kingdom has in the last five centuries experienced a chequered history that includes two centuries of slave trade, one century of colonial rule by the British, three decades of military rule, three experiments with civilian democratic rule, a civil war that came to us in Ore, and membership of three political states: Western Region, Old Ondo State (before the creation of Ekiti State) and Ondo State.
Despite the various challenges thrown up by this history, Ondo Kingdom has waxed from strength to strength in education, commerce, and contribution to national development. Over the years, Ondo has by the grace of God benefited from good leadership and patriotic followership. We have held our pride of place, not only in the Yoruba region of Nigeria but also in the entire federation, as our sons and daughters have continued to make significant contributions to the development of Nigeria.
One remarkable aspect of the colonial phase of the history of our Kingdom is the introduction of Christianity and Western education to Ondo in 1876. The school, the church and later the mosque have functioned synergistically to make Ondo Kingdom one of the fastest growing communities in Africa. With a heritage of religious tolerance bequeathed by our ancestors, our Kingdom has known peace for centuries, thus making Ondo Kingdom one of the most attractive environments to people from other communities in Nigeria.
The heritage of hard work, integrity, visionary leadership, and patriotic citizenship generated by our ancestors and even the current generation, inspired Ondo to establish in 1913, the first community secondary school in Nigeria. Ondo Boys’ High School, officially inaugurated in 1919, six years after its informal existence, was the first secondary school in the old Benin and Ondo provinces, what we have today as Edo, Delta, Ekiti, and Ondo States. On account of this feat in our effort at modernizing our Kingdom, Ondo became home to many from different parts of Nigeria in search of secondary education. It is reassuring that our Kingdom has remained one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Nigeria.
The commemoration of 500 hundreds years of growth and prosperity will be marked by various activities. These include a special edition of our annual Odun Oba ( Oba’s Festival) — to which we have invited people from other communities in our nation; exhibition of Ondo cultural artifacts and showcasing of Ondo music, drumming and dance; launching of Ondo Heritage Museum; award of special Chieftaincy titles to those who have excelled in their fields of endeavour and have made contributions to the growth of our civilization, and inauguration of a book project on 500 years of Ondo Kingdom. We call on you to join us in the various aspects of the special celebration.
In the tradition of Ondo’s historical and insatiable desire for progress and development, we must not end our celebration of five centuries of an enviable Kingdom without looking ahead. The modernization of our Kingdom — first started by our Kingdom’s trailblazing efforts in development of education, commerce, internal and external trade through our intensive agricultural activities in the production of cocoa, timber, and rubber, and our commitment to modernity and sustenance of our cherished values of integrity, industry, freedom, and tolerance of others – must be made to drive our strategy for growth in our sixth millennium.
Our plans for the future include the following:
- Transformation of our Kingdom into a full-fledged city. Although we are above average in physical size and population in relation to other cities in Yoruba land in particular and Nigeria in general, our Kingdom lacks many of the attributes of a modern city. Despite our cosmopolitanism, our infrastructure requires transformation to make Ondo join the world’s league of cities by 2015.
- We need to tap into our community’s ingrained spirit of entrepreneurship to bring more industries into our Kingdom, in order to keep most of our children from migrating to other cities in search of employment. The only major industry in our Kingdom, NIROWI has become moribund; so is Premier Metal. We need new industries to fuel our growing modern economy. We call on friends of Ondo Kingdom to extend benefits of the public-private partnership initiative to our Kingdom.
- Ondo Kingdom needs a Master Plan that is capable of further preparing it for its traditional role as a gateway to many towns and communities in our sub-region. This Master Plan should include a blueprint prepared by our professional and business class for the Kingdom.
- We need to use our social capital to reduce poverty or capacity deprivation and to assist wealth generation.
- Ondo’s spirit of hard work and adventure has taken many of our people abroad, thus creating a large Ondo diaspora in Europe and the Americas. It is time to increase opportunities for synergy between Ondo at home and Ondo abroad. We should tap into the current culture of private-led economy to attract material and intellectual capital from Ondo in the diaspora back to our Kingdom, to join in the journey to a new century of progress, peace, and growth.
While wishing all of us happy 500th anniversary of our Kingdom, I call on all of you for continued support as we take the next giant steps to grow and develop Ondo in its sixth century of existence as a Kingdom.
I thank God and congratulate myself as the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom for being on the throne. I congratulate members of my cabinet, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, my Chiefs, and the entire people of Ondo Kingdom for having the fortune to be part of the history-laden 500th year of Ondo Dynasty in this memorable period of our growth. It is my fervent hope that Ondo Kingdom will continue to wax stronger and that our Kingdom under our leadership will bequeath a more glorious Kingdom than the one we inherited from our ancestors.
Airo o dudo a gbe dede wa o.