The Olu of Arepo community in Ogun State, Oba Solomon Atanda Oyebi, talks about his passion for sports, why he loved the late Rashidi Yekini and his hopes for the country, and more in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA
Do you like sports?
Of course, I do love sports and I exercise a lot. Usually, when I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is jog around the community in my tracksuit.
How do people react when they see you jogging?
Most times when people see me and recognise it’s me they get surprised and some of them greet me calling ‘kabiyesi’. There are even some instances when some other people who are also exercising will want to join me so we could all either jog or take a walk together. But usually, I tell them not to bother because I do have my kids with me. Personally, exercise is a very good thing for the body and I don’t joke with it and I also love to rest.
Do you watch football?
I used to watch football but I stopped the day I accidentally broke my television. That day the Super Eagles were playing and there was so much tension in my body, I was so carried away and I kicked the television while the Eagles were about to score because I was already shouting goal. That day I realised that it could lead to high blood pressure if I wasn’t careful and since then I tried to stay away from watching football.
Can you remember when this happened?
The incident happened a long time ago, I think it was during the era of Segun Odegbami. Back then I love football so much and whenever Nigeria wanted to play we will bring the television outside for everyone to watch. Football is a great sport but if you don’t have the nerve and the capacity to withstand pressure I will advise you don’t go near it.
Who is your favourite athlete of all time?
I love everyone that has represented the country but the one I love the most is the late Rashidi Yekini. He was a great goal scorer and I love the fact that he doesn’t have time to caress with the ball or waste time as long as he had the goalpost in his sight. His shot accuracy is top notch and that’s why for me he remains the greatest striker this country has ever had.
There has been a saying that since he retired before his demise, Nigeria has not been able to produce another top striker like him. Do you agree with that?
It is very true that we have not had someone like him but I believe one day we will have someone who will be better than him. I have seen some young players and I believe with hard work they will become great as well. Only God cannot be replaced but not humans.
Did you play football as a kid?
Of course, I did play football as a kid because it is so difficult to see a child who doesn’t play football back then. I play football for my school as a child and I also love the High Jump. These were the two sports I was involved in back then especially the high jump because it was the most common sport during our era as children. I also love pole vault a lot and I was very good.
Did you win any medals in these sports?
Competitions back then were between various schools from different communities and things were not as civilised as they are now. It was basically for fun then and not for glory or for money and honestly speaking we enjoyed it.
With the money involved in sports now, will you allow any of your kids to take it as a profession?
Of course. If any of my children and grandchildren show passion for it I am ready to sponsor them. Apart from the money involved it is also very good for the health because one way or the other you are exercising and you are staying fit which is good for the body.
Do people come to the palace to watch football games?
People come to the place to watch Premier League games and other leagues but I don’t sit with them because if I do the temptation to continue will come and whenever I watch football I practically kick the air as well. I don’t want anything that will give me high blood pressure, which is why I always excuse them whenever they want to start watching football.
How will you feel to have someone from your community represent Nigeria?
I will be so elated if one day I see someone from Arepo play for the Super Eagles because I have tried for some of them to make it to the top but things haven’t worked out for them.
What’s your plan to have a big football team come from your community?
We already have some football clubs here in the community and we are giving our support and hoping that one day they will become a football club to be reckoned with.
With your busy schedule, how else do you relax apart from your morning exercise?
I love to listen to music but most importantly I love to work out and sweat. This also involved washing my car myself even when people around me don’t like it but I will insist because I know the importance of keeping fit and it is painful a lot of people don’t know the major role sport plays in our lives.
Do you get involved in local sports?
I love to play ‘ayo olopon’ a lot because it is a game of the intellectual but it is painful that a lot of this new generation are not showing interest in it. Our local sports are losing their value the same way people are not placing so much value on our cultures again. I used to organise ‘ayo’ competitions and I present trophies and money to winners but it is not the same anymore. I love it so much because that is what we saw from our own fathers and great-grandfathers. I still have four of the boards in the palace. I also love the draft game.
What is your advice to the authority to help revive these indigenous games?
It is not just the duty of the government but every individual. We cannot allow our culture to get wiped off because what do we tell the generation to come? While many of our children don’t know about these indigenous games and our culture, the Europeans and South Americans are adopting them. we need to wake up from our slumber and revive them.
What is your advice to the youths?
My advice to the youths is to work hard and make Nigeria great. It is hard work that can take you to a greater height.