- Newly Crowned OLOTA, Oba OBALANLEGE
Last week Ota , Ado Odo was agog to witness the installation of the 13th Olota of Ota , HRM Oba Prof. Adeyemi Abudukabir Obalanlege PhD, MCIPR, MPRII, FHEA , by the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Dr Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo , The event was also attended by Gov. Amosun 1st class kings in and outside Ogun state and many socialites and top government officials. Oba Obalanlege, 51, practised journalism for almost 20 years before venturing into academics. A widely traveled personality, the new Olota was until the day he was installed as a senior lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, Crescent University, Abeokuta.
He was born in Mushin, Lagos State on 28 of August 1966. His parents were Prince Hassan Taiwo Obalanlege of Ijemo Compound and Mrs. Mutiat Afolake Obalanlege (Nee Anjorin) of Isoloshi Compound, Ota.
Oba Dr. Adeyemi Obalanlege is a member of the National Union of Journalists, United Kingdom, a fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK. He had before now lectured at the University of East London, England, University of Lincoln, England. He presently lectures at the school of Post Graduate Studies, Crescent University, Abeokuta in the Department of Mass Communication.
From the classroom where he has taught for years, Prof Adeyemi Obalanlege emerged as the new Olota of Ota in Ogun State. In his interview, he speaks about his journey to the throne and his plans for his people.
What has changed about your life? How easy has it been coping with this new life?
There is no doubt that it’s a new life but I have met so many people especially new family members that I have never me before, and all the traditional rulers and traditionalists who have surrounded me. It’s a learning curve for me and I have been trying to get to know what to do and what not to do, because of the sensitivity and demands of this office. The only thing is that the system tends to want to restrict people’s access to me, but I have expressed my objection to that. If people want to see me, they have right to see me and I have held on to that.
Again, in line with the tradition, how people have prostrated themselves was very strange to me. Even in the university where I lecture, when I alight from the car, student would want to help me with my bag but i try to stop them. But now, a lot would change. It’s not my kind of life but I’m trying to change. I’m a liberal person and I don’t believe in this lordship but it’s like I’m going to stay in-between. I’m not going to be a kind of king that would be so lazy and leave everything to people to do for me. I think sometimes I have to do things myself.
Like what, because the stool does not allow you to do things by yourself?
If I want to pick something and it’s within the private setting, I would do it myself. At night I would drive myself because I like driving and driving is pleasure. I like taking charge of things myself. When I’m old, somebody can do that but now I’m still very strong and agile, so if people don’t want me to drive in the afternoon, I will drive at night . When its official a driver will drive the car but at my own time when I feel people would not see me, I would drive.
Were you the one who expressed interest to be king or you were compelled, as it is in some cases?
Actually I was compelled. I wasn’t the type that wanted to go into the royal or traditional way of life. I love going to parties, meeting with friends and travelling around. But when this came up and people started dragging me into it, I initially said no. Even up to the last minute, I didn’t know it would happen. We were 22 contestants but I insisted I wasn’t interested but the elders in the family kept coming. Some elders even called me and were asking if it as my wife or family that was stopping me? They said it was the turn of our family and I was the only one who had a very rich profile to be able to clinch the position if I partook in the contest.
There was one of the elders, someone whom I have a lot of respect for. When he came to me, he almost prostrated himself for me, begging me to please run for the office. It was at that point I pleaded with him not to prostrate himself for me. I told him I would do it and that was the defining moment. People that were close to me like my cousin; we have the Adeyanjus, were in the race as well. We are from the same family. Even another Obalanlege who is a former principal was in the race. He’s my uncle and we get along very well. At the end of the day, I think it was God’s wish.
At those times, were there fears that the contest would tear the family apart?
We were warned and what we were told by the head of the family was that we should give ourselves space because of the possibility of enmity, because it had happened before. So they advised that we should keep away from each other. I wasn’t even looking at it that I had an edge over others. I joined the contest because most elders kept coming to me to run, to make sure our family got it. We have a combination of two royal families and that is why it is called Ijemo/Isoloshi ruling house. So we have Ijemo and Isoloshi ruling houses. Fortunately enough, I was the only candidate that came from the two families.my mum came from Isoloshi while my dad came from Ijemo family. That combination could be one of the factors that contributed to my emergence. But then, educational background could also count.
When you finally won after all the 5 kingmakers unanimously voted for you, how did your family members received it?
My kids felt if that was what I wanted I should go for it but the youngest one didn’t think I should take it because he felt he would no longer have access to me, but I promised him he would have access to me anytime. At the end of the day, he said I should go ahead if that was what I wanted.
What about your wife?
Initially, she wasn’t really pleased with it, but when I told her about how my elders have been compelling me, at the end of the day, she gave in. we live in Dublin, and I only came here to lecture, so every two months I travel back to Dublin just to see my family. Now this seems to be permanent. They may not come immediately but as time goes on, my wife would definitely relocate but maybe my kids would be coming to visit before they decide on what to do. So I think I’m going to miss my immediate family for a while. You see when I emerged as a king, it took me some time to reflect because I had to go and meet with my family in Dublin. I was there for a while but some people felt I ran away. I went to reflect on the whole thing and I think it’s a calling from God. If God doesn’t really agree with it or if he doesn’t think it’s the way forward for me I don’t think it would have happened. But I think its God’s making and so I have no choice but to lead the people of Ota.
On the outside, the belief is that there are many sacrifices and hidden things that surround the traditional stool and some of these tend to clash with peoples religious belief. Were you ever at a crossroads, considering your faith?
No, because I have my own mind and at a point, when I came across that challenge, I told them point-blank that I would decide my own religion. There was a kind of argument, but I made it know where I stand. I told them I would support and fraternize with them but I have my religion.
Serious arguments trailed the declaration by the Awujale earlier in the year that Ijebu Obas would have a right to be buried according to their faith. What is your view on that?
I told them I want to be buried in accordance with my religion. It was a kind of argument but I made my point known. I believe in the traditional way, but I want to be buried in line with my own religion and I told them it’s my right and it’s not negotiable.
But at old age when you would have passed on, you won’t have a say?
Well, I won’t have a say but by what I have signed, I believe a king should have that right to decide how he wants to be buried. The only thing is that as the father of all, we are to promote the traditional values; it’s our culture and we should hold on to it. Everyone has a right to hold on to their main belief.my first name is Adeyemi which is an indigenous name, while my middle name is Abdulkabir. The traditional name comes first. It is one of the things I have sworn to promote and which I would do, and as a king, I have to promote all the religions. But what I’m saying, which I have made known to the traditionalist, is that I decide the way I want to be buried and it has to be what my religion prescribes. There is no conflict there and it’s going to be documented.
Before you became king, were there perceptions you had about the stool that you have had to correct?
Yes, actually, in the past, our elders have made these rituals so scary and had driven our youths away from it because they created fear in them. No, it cannot work like that; you would continue to destroy our culture by trying to create an atmosphere of fear. My main task is to promote our cultural heritage. If we make it open, it will be another goldmine for us. Let us open up our festival so that people will come and visit, attend these festivals, identify with them; lets modernize them. That’s my take.
You grew up in Mushin whereas you are from Ota, does it mean you never tasted royalty until now, given that you never grew up in the palace?
Yes, we are from Ota but we lived in Mushin. So, I didn’t have the opportunity to grow up within the royal set up, but I knew from the outset that I was from a royal family, though I didn’t believe I would become a king. We lived on the popular ladipo street, and I remember the egungun festival when we use to have Alado, which used to be the main masquerade. It was dominant then. it was of gangster egungun and anytime it came out, there was bloodshed. It was always a tensed atmosphere, with all the hooligans and street boys. I used to stay in front of the house to watch proceedings and look at people fight with guns and knives. So, mushin was a tensed area, not for the faint-hearted then.
What about your parents?
My mum was a teacher and also had a shop where she sold provisions, like baby food and variety of drinks. We used to have two tiers of school; morning and afternoon shift. So, my mum, being a teacher would go to school at Ansar ud deen college, Isolo between 8am and 1pm. At that time I would stay in the shop. By 12pm, I would lock the shop and go to school, s she would resume at the shop. That experience has helped me so much in life, because I believe you have to work so hard to succeed. I loved my dad but I was closer to my mum.
He use to go to work in the morning and come back late in the evening. My childhood friend was Tunde Shofowora, who I also a journalist. He used to work with The Guardian and we worked together at This Day. I was okay with the experience and I went through it, being the first male child. I came from a humble background. I mean I sold bottles drinks on Aswani Market. I hawked while I was in secondary school, and my teacher had to come and talk to my mum that she wouldn’t like to hawk drinks again. That was how she stopped me, but she told my teacher that she wasn’t the one that sent me and that I was the one that always offered to do it to help. That has always been my way of life. My mum worked hard but with large family and siblings going to school, I felt that I should help anyway I could. That was why I went out of my way to do that.
How did it feel when your classmates saw you?
When they saw me in Aswani market and they called me soft drinks seller, I would invite them to come and buy if they needed it. I didn’t care, after all it wasn’t forbidden. I saw it as part of life. So I was once like that. I have gone through so many experiences in life, so you cannot tell me not to relate with somebody. Because I was there before. That is why I’m very close to the grass root, including the elders and from time to time, I try to help some people In need, like paying their hospital bills. It is lack of money that makes people resort into self-medication, which is one of the things the government should take a good look at. Government should be able to take care of everybody including those who do not have money. There should be a kind of healthcare coverage, such that even if you do not have money, government should be able to bear the cost to a certain level of treatment. So, I relate with all sort of people, both the people at the lower end and those in the upper class. I love my interaction with them because it enables me to know their problems.
You came from a humble background, but you went to school in the United Kingdom. How did it happen?
I had HND in mass communication and while in school, I started my journalism career with the mail newspaper. I was the Ogun State correspondent and when I finished I joined the republic newspaper where I met Prof Idowu Sobowale. Being an academic and professional journalist, that inspired me that I had to go further in my education. When he moves to republic as the managing director, I loved the way he combined both. He was in UNILAG then. He knows everything and when he came into the newsroom, he would go to sub-desk. He was unlike some managing directors that didn’t know about journalism. We saw many changes in his time and the newspaper became more professional.
With that, I was motivated to further my education. From the republic, I moved to Lagos state polytechnic as the public relations officer.it was when I left I left LASPOTECH that I moved to This day as a Travel Editor and a lot of people including the publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, respected me a lot sometimes he referred to me as Chief or Kabiyesi because of the way I dressed and the way I comported myself. I got along with a lot of people, like my then News Editor, Victor Ifijeh; Billy Adedamola, Bolaji Abdullahi and even Waziri Adio, the Executive Secretary of NEITI.
We did a lot with the travel page but when I left, no one could actually carry on. I carried out three productions in a week and we had patronages from hotels, airlines and that was why Nduka really loved me because he knew I made money for the company. However my wife was born in England, so with that, I was to travel to the UK to continue my education. It was like a family relocating to the UK. It was when I got there that I attended the University of Leicester for my masters in mass communication.
At Leicester, I met people like Dr Tunde Akanni, who lectures at LASU now; also Dr Ismail who is an associate professor of the University of Lagos. Three of us were together at Leicester and we really got along very well. It was after my masters that I decided to come back to Nigeria in 2004. I started publishing Food International magazine because I saw it as an area that hadn’t been explored in Nigeria. The food industry was coming up then so I went to Greenwich University in London and I did a post graduate course in food safety and quality management, just to know how the food industry works. So I started the publication and the Ogun State government supported me with adverts.
After a while things were not working well in terms of revenue generation, so I went back to England. And that was when I got into Public relations industry in the UK. I was involved in the PR in the hotel industry, corporate gigs and I also did something for the Nigerian Tourism Board when they came for programme in the UK. I helped them in the PR aspect for their participation at the event. Those were the things I did for almost 10 years.
With such an engagement, why did you come back home?
I felt like coming back home; I was home sick. But before then I thought I would have a career change, so I applied to the University of East London, and I got employed as a Lecturer in Journalism. Later I moved to the University of Lincoln where I also taught journalism and it was at this point that I felt I should go for my PhD. Fortunately enough, while I was teaching Journalism at the University of Lincoln, I got a scholarship for my PhD programme at the university of Antwerp in Belgium. So, I was commuting from England to Belgium by train. I was going once in three or four month to Belgium to meet my supervisor and I did that for three years before I got my PhD in communication studies. It was after my PhD at I decided to relocate to Nigeria, and I got a job with crescent university as a senior lecturer. I was there until I emerged as the new Olota.
Between teaching and when you practiced journalism, which did you enjoy most?
While I was teaching, I was also involved in Journalism, so I enjoyed both. You find out that when you have practical background, you would enjoy teaching, because nothing is hidden and you are able to lead your students. At crescent, I took them in introduction to journalism and newspaper production, because I majored in print, which doesn’t mean you don’t know anything about broadcast and public relation. Actually, I also taught at LASU and I took them in critical writing and writing for the mass media. I also took public relations, and planning and campaigning.
Now that you are a king, would you still want to lecture?
Yes actually. In fact, before next month I would be conferred with full Professor by Crescent University. Right from the start, I used to lecture post graduate students, so maybe from time to time, I would still do that. But I think my lecture will be based on research. I will still lecture but it’s not every day. I actually dropped my resignation, but Prince Ajibola insisted that he wouldn’t allow me to go because I’m an asset to the institution. In fact, few days ago, he rang me just to say hello to me and I don’t think we should severe that relationship because he has been very nice to me. He said they shouldn’t stop my salary until I say I want to go but he wouldn’t be pleased. He said he had heard so many things about me and that is why he would want me to continue.
What would you miss the most about the kind of life you v been used to?
I’m a liberal person but becoming a king now, the way I talk to my friends outside and the way I hug them is no longer possible. But while inside, I could still do that. The name Ota given to me, is a golden to me and I have to promote it and behave like a royal king. When I’m in my house or I’m indoors, I think I’m entitled to my real life.