“My husband is my special gift and I still cook for him at home”- Ijaw Regent
Meet the first Ijaw female King, Princess Joyce Ibimidun Adesola Oladiran-Ebiseni.
She is the regent of Apoi land, a riverine town in Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
Before she became Regent, (Regents are not expected to be married while on the throne) She is married to Barrister Sola Ebiseni the former commissioner for environment, Ondo State during Olusegun Mimiko’s administration.
In an exclusive interview with Dailyfamily.ng, the regent said her husband refers to her adoringly as Kabiyesi.
Your majesty, can you tell us about your background and what you were doing before you became a regent?
My name is Princess Joyce Ibimidun Adesola Oladiran-Ebiseni, the first Ijaw female regent.
I am in the middle position among the several children of my father. I attended Methodist Primary School here in Sabomi and Apoi National High School Igbotu and United Grammar School Ode-Irele for my secondary school education. I had a Diploma at the Federal Polytechnic Ado Ekiti after which I gained admission and graduated with BSc in Political Science from the University of Lagos and hope soon for a masters degree at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko.
When I was in Lagos, before and since graduation, I was into cold storage and distribution of fish and other aquatic resources and supply of goods to oil services companies.
I participated briefly in politics and was at different times, between 2000 and 2003, appointed Special Adviser on Women Affairs, Legislative Matters and Special Duties in Ese Odo Local Government.
I have passion for the Girl-Child Education and better life for the physically-challenged which is the main thrust of the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Exceptional Persons (CREP) a Non-Governmental Organization of which I am the Executive Director.
By the grace of God, we have made our mark in the education, training, provision, financial and medical succour for the underprivileged and physically challenged.
Your Majesty, can you tell us about the history of the Apoi people and your family as a royal lineage?
Well, that is a long assignment but the history of Apoi is well documented. The Apois are a major and most ancient tribal nationality of the Ijaw ethnic nationality rooted in the Niger Delta.
We are the aboriginal inhabitants of the historic Apoi Creek of the Southern Ijaw of Bayelsa state from where most Ijaw clans descended and to which they used to return regularly for ancient spiritual atonement.
The Kalasuwe (meaning god amongst human) was the original leader, political and spiritual head of Ijon the crown of which is inarguably the oldest and of immemorial source in the whole of Ijaw land and from where the Ijon name was derived.
The conspiracy by new settlers against the crown forced the Apoi to leave Kolokuma in the ancient times, moving westwards and planting the clan throughout present Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo States easily distinguished by the names of their communities planted along the way.
Thus wherever you come across communities with names like Sabome, Igbobini, Igbekebo or Gbekrebor, Igbotu, Igbobini, Inikorogha, Ukomu, Apaka Ojuala, Ipoke in any of the Niger Delta states, they are unmistakably Apoi.
The largest concentration of the Apoi, however, today is in the Ese Odo Local Government of Ondo State which they share exclusively and in equal administrative proportion with the Arogbo Ijaw. As a result of centuries of cohabitation with their Ikale and Ilaje Yoruba neighbours, Apois have lost their original Ijaw language and only now speak a variant dialect of the Yoruba language for which Apois are today known as Yoruba speaking Ijaw.
Talking about the royal lineage, the Kalasuwe of Apoi has two royal lineages of Ugeledumu and Ebelidumu based in Sabomi and Oboro respectively among which the stool is rotated. As far as memory can take us, 24 Kalasuwe have been documented. The Kalasuwe was recognized as a Native Authority in 1917 during the reign of Oba Jubo and designated Oba of Ijaws in the territory of the Ijaw Confederation in the list of Native Authorities in 1924 for the purpose of the British Indirect Rule system.
The nine clans of Apoi namely Sabomi, Oboro, Kiribo, Igbobini, Ojuala, Igbotu, Inikorogha, Igbekebo, Ipoke were referred to as the Ijaw confederation under the paramount rulership of the Kalasuwe, a first class traditional stool in Ondo State and South West. On account of being Yoruba speaking, the Kalasuwe and the traditional rulers as governors of the Apoi city-states are referred to as Oba. My father, Oba Samuel Adetimehin OLADIRAN, who was the last and 24th Kalasuwe reigned for 52 years from 1955 to 2007.
He was the regional manager with UAC when he was called to ascend the throne and while on the throne, he contested and won election to the House of Representatives being the first to represent the Ilaje/Ese Odo Federal Constituency. As the foremost traditional ruler, he was President of Ese-Odo District Council comprising Apoi, Arogbo and half of the present Irele Local Government, on permanent basis from 1955 till new Local Government system was introduced in 1976 when the District Council was merged with Ilaje to form Ilaje/Ese-Odo Local Government. He was also permanent president, Ese-Odo Grade A Customary Court.
Looking at Ijaw tradition, women are not allowed to be king, so, why you? When did you ascend the throne?
Culture is dynamic. Like I said earlier, the culture of the Yoruba had overwhelming interference on the Apoi culture. Female regency is well entrenched in Yoruba land and I think it is a mark of social progress which recognises the position of the female child.
So, in 2011, four years after the demise of my father, the 9 Apoi Obas met and decided on female regency with traditional conditions and eventually appointed and recommended me to the Local and state governments for approval.
Your majesty, can you tell us these conditions?
As a princess growing up in the palace am already familiar with those conditions. I already knew some of the thrones rules and regulations.
As a woman, you can’t access the throne during your monthly woman biological activity, the regent is supposed to be seen as a man and should therefore not be pregnant on the throne. In our case, the regent should either be a spinster or currently married but not a widow to avoid a status which may make the woman comfortable and unwilling to leave the throne.
As a Regent, how do you cope with male chauvinists?
I must admit Apoi people are highly civilized and exposed. The level of cooperation and support they accord me surprisingly even by the very elderly chiefs is not less if not higher than they gave my father. Am not surprised though because Apoi were among the few earliest Nigerian tribes to embrace western civilization.
In Christendom, after Birch Freeman introduced Methodism and Christianity in Nigeria at Badagry in 1842, Apoi land in Igbobini was almost the next port of call. That’s why the Igbobini Methodist ArchDiocese today covers Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and Delta States. Besides, the Kalasuwe throne among the Apoi is a deity, the occupant is like the Pope.
Can you tell us about your marriage?
By His Grace, I’m happily married with children who are doing well in their education. My husband is a philosopher, lawyer, politician, historian, in short, a phenomenon. I call him my special gift and still cook for him when am at home away from palace duties.
He refers to me adoringly as Kabiesi. I look forward to my full family life soon as arrangements are in top gear to resolve lingering disputes to install a substantive Kalasuwe.
The elites, kingmakers, our children in government are putting heads together to end all court cases towards a befitting Kalasuwe.
How do you combine palace duties and family obligations?
It has been God Almighty’s doing. Like I said earlier, my father ruled for 52 years, I was born on the throne and brought up in the palace so it has been part of me. Though it’s not all that easy.
What are the things the communities are expecting from the state government?
What are your challenges in your new position?
The greatest challenge is survival among male rulers.
What is your advice for people out there?
Indivisibility of Nigeria. We should all strive to live in honesty, always put God first for the survival of our nation.