When Oba (King) Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo visited Detroit this week to meet with local business leaders and promote development projects in Nigeria, all were eager to hear more about the array of investment opportunities in the African nation and what they might expect in terms of return on investment. What may not have been expected though was to become so absorbed in the possibilities of conducting business in Nigeria — enough to make travel plans — that they began visualizing what these bricks and mortar developments would look like in the continent’s largest economy.
As the charismatic and knowledgeable traditional ruler addressed potential investors at Detroit’s Music Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 26, he presented practical concepts for economic development in the “Giant of Africa.” Shouldering the responsibility for the lives of more than 5 million citizens, is a daunting charge, but one that Oba Gbadebo was born to — literally, and a charge he intends to implement with all of the resources that his position and prestige bring to bear. He is a reserved confident man who tells a compelling story of his mission to improve the quality of life for Nigerians.
“The King is everything to the people over whom he is king. Some see him as the person who should solve all of their problems for them. Just as with the Jews in the Bible, when they selected Saul, they said they wanted to have a King like other nations. And some said, ‘God is already your king, you don’t need another king.’ But some said, ‘We want someone who will fight our battles for us, who will lead us in battle, and who will promote our development.’ And that is what an Oba is … someone that people will come to in tears and leave with a smile.”
The 30th ruler of the Egba people, which includes 4.6 million people in Nigeria and countless more in the Nigerian diaspora, King Gbadebo is remarkably adept at negotiating with government entities on behalf of Egba and Nigerian citizens. Having been groomed by centuries of tradition and scores of learned leaders, he is a naturally astute and confident when it comes to affairs of the state.
“The King does not play partisan politics,” Gbadebo states emphatically. “But as for the politics of development, [I] relate to the government at the local level, at the state level and at the national level, to demand what truly belongs to the people. As father of all [I] can’t afford to be partisan … but it is from the government of the day that[ I] can get support and comfort for the people.”
The support and living comforts King Gbadebo works so arduously to secure, involves working with governments and economies around the world. “We have our doors open now for investments from all parts of the world. What I am doing is interfacing with what governments are doing at much higher levels, and that is to attract investors to our country. … [Like] the conference that took place in Washington only two weeks ago to get the United States to show more interest in bringing investments to Africa, now I am here to talk to Americans so they can invest in Nigeria in general and in Egbaland in particular.”
Larry Alebiosu, President and CEO of Fashion International Men’s Clothing says the king’s visit is significant for a number of reasons. “This is huge,” exclaims Albesiou, we need to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negative stigma of Africa, especially in the United States. When royalty visits it sheds light on the positive things that are happening in Africa and helps backward thinking people understand that Africa is a civilized society.”
Foremost on King Gbadebo’s list of priorities for economic development in the nation is education. He adamantly asserts that building state-of-the-art schools and preparing students to assume well-paying jobs in construction and service industries is essential for quality living in Nigeria.
“The economic climate in Nigeria is 1,000 times better than it was 14 or 15 years ago. At that time the government controlled the economy, but now the private sector has been allowed to move in. Government only creates the atmosphere for business to develop,” concluded King Gbadebo.
King Gbadebo and his advisors will visit Dallas and Houston, Texas before traveling to London and then home to Nigeria later this week. Gbadebo will discuss natural power initiatives as part of his economic development agenda for Nigeria and Egbaland.