His Royal Majesty, Oba Emmanuel Olaleye Oniyelu became the first Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti when he ascended the throne. According to history, the Eseta town and the Egosi town are the two towns that come together to form the Ilupeju Ekiti. Today the current Apeju is from the Eseta family while from the Egosi family is the Obanla.
These 2 families are those who have been ruling the towns for over hundred years before they merged to become one big town following the unification memorandum which was approved and officially gazetted in 1974 by the government when it merged the two class B royal stools into the Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti. On the 18th of August, 1981, the Governor of old Ondo State, late Chief Adekunle Ajasin represented by His Deputy, Chief Akin Omoboriowo presented the Instrument of appointment and staff of Office to the first Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti, Oba Olaleye Oniyelu. This respected morach and one of the oldest monarch in Ekiti State spoke with City People Magazines ONDO/EKITI Corespondent, Adeola Shittu on his life and how he has been able to sustain his 37 years reign.
Let me start by congratulating you on your 75th birthday. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us who Oba Olaleye Oniyelu is?
I’ am Oba Emmanuel Olaleye Oniyelu, the Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti. I was born into the royal family of late Oba Akaribiki Oniyelu 75 years ago. I attended St. John Catholic Primary School in 1951. As at 1956, I would have been one of the first set of student at Ayede Grammar School but due to financial challenges, I enrolled with St.Patrick Secondary School in Oye Ekiti, and due to my financial challenges, my parent were not able to sponsor my education and this resulted in me finding a way for myself.
I was born and bred as a Catholic and due to this, I got an offer at the Catholic missionary at Ayegbaju formerly Arigidi. I was appointed the Catholic priest teacher with 3 pounds salary and i was able to save 48pounds. So with the savings, I applied for the St. Peter’s teachers training college in Akure, though I passed the examination, I failed the interview. So as not to waste my time, I proceeded to Ansarudeen Grammar School Ikole Ekiti for my teacher’s training college were I became a grade 2 teacher.
I taught for 5years before I gained admission to Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo were I bagged my NCE degree and I had my NYSC at Imo state. After my NYSC, I was posted to Aye comprehensive High school, in Ekiti state. Where I taught for 2 years before ascending the throne of my fore father’s as the first Apeju of Ilu-peju, Ekiti in 1980. After serving 10 years on throne, I went to university of Ibadan where I bagged a degree in History and Adult Education.
April this year, you celebrated your 75th birthday, how do you feel and do you fell fulfilled?
Thank you very much, first I will want to thank my creator for his grace upon me and the good people of ilupeju Ekiti, you see it has been God, for two towns to have merged together to become one, this has not happened in the history of Yoruba land and the fact that, am the first Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti makes me fulfilled and am very grateful to God for what he had done in my life, in my family, you see today am a proud father with not less than 8 to 10 graduates and they are doing great in their different profession. So in that aspect am very fulfilled as a father. During my 37 years reign as Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti, we have recorded lots of progress in terms of development and infrastructural projects. You see in all aspect of life, Ilupeju Ekiti under Oye local government is ranked the first as far as development is concerned in Ekiti state.
When approached to become the king, what was running through your mind?
At first I was like why me but I could not run away from the decision of the kingmakers and the people of Ilupeju Ekiti because despite the fact that I don’t have money, I don’t have anything, I was still picked, so I felt it was the love and the will of the people that they wanted me to be there.
Though so many things disturbed me, one was the fact that I didn’t have the experience and the issues of Obas inheriting the wives of the late monarch and that Oba will have many Oloris did put me off but due to my education and the love my people have for me, I was not forced into those traditions and as we speak I have just 2 wives, the first I married her before ascending the throne and the second Olori I married her when I ascended the throne.
Was there any prediction when you were born that your mother told you, that you will become an oba in future?
Hmm, I remember my mother told me when I was young and 38 years after it came to pass. The general belief then was that when a baby is born, his or her parent will visit the Ifa priest to know what the future entails for that child. So mine was not different, my mother went after one popular and strong Ifa priest in Ilupeju Ekiti and the priest on setting his eyes on me, prostrated and said to me “I will not offend you” and he told my mother that anywhere am sleeping, my mother should always put traditional royal beads(aku) there. So that was the prediction she told me, I thank God today that it came to pass.
When your mother told you this, how did you take it?
Dont forget I was born into a royal family though I was not the only child of my late father. But I never read meanings to it, at first I was really afraid and on the second hand I was like how will two town come together to become one but by the special grace of God this is my 37 years on throne ruling the two towns.
How do you feel each time you remember that you are the first Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti?
I am always happy and like I said am so fulfilled. You see one of my prayer to God is to see the two town living in peace and unity because I have a history and I want my children- children to know that I was the first Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti and during my reign, it was peaceful with lots of progress. You see the structure here is simple and I will say similar a little to that of Ibadan. Since the two towns came together to become one, the Obanla is next to me, the obanla will become the next Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti. Until 2 to 3 years ago when the Obanla passed on, we worked together for the progress of our town and our people. Last year, a younger person was elected and conferred with the title of Obanla, the new Obanla is an educated elite, who has the interest and progress of this town at heart. So I will say Ilupeju has come to stay.
In the last 37 years when you ascended the throne as the 1st Apeju of Ilupeju Ekiti, how have you been coping with the challenges?
You see life itself is full of challenges, compared to ruling thousands of heads with different behaviours and characters. As a king, I will say it takes the wisdom of God to rule for 37 years without crisis. What i did at first when I ascended the throne was to divid the town into 9 administrative units and we usually have meetings weekly and we settle anything that happens in the town. But later on, we increased it to 13 administrative units headed by the Olojas and Baloguns. Their role is to settle matters in their different quarters but the bigger ones are brought to the palace where we resolve it and this has been one of the reason ilupeju is peaceful but I won’t say all things are OK just like that because we are all human beings.
Can you share with us, some of your achievements on the throne?
In Ilupeju Ekiti today, I will say it has grown in terms of development, educationally and security wise. You see when I ascended the throne we had only public secondary school but today, we now have both government public and private schools in town. Another important fact is the number of scholars and graduate the town has produced compared to then. We have good roads, we have churches and mosque. We have modern palace and state of the art health sector, magistrate court, the newly constructed and commission ultra modern market, we have divisional police headquarter, banks and so on that had been achieve by the town in the last 37years of my reign through the Ilupeju Ekiti Development Association.
As a Catholic, how do you balance your role as a traditional ruler and a Christian?
Thank very much, you see I studied History and Adult Education at the university of Ibadan after my 10 years on the throne and this has really helped me in my journey. You see we have three religions and history make us to believe that we must not neglect one for another because of our believe. My position today places me above all religions because am an Oba to the Muslim likewise the Christian and the traditionalist. So I have no problem with that and I will say am coping and none is affecting the other.
Your throne is no doubt older than Ekiti State, how will you rate the involvement of government in terms of the development in Ilupeju Ekiti?
You see whatever development you see in Ilupeju is the work of our sons and daughters who unite together to assist themselves for the development. You see anything we have achieved today in terms of development is done by the Ilupeju development association but not withstanding we still need to appreciate the government because education is very costly as they employ and pay teachers salary, same goes with the magistrate court, Ilupeju built it but the government put the judges there, same with the police station, you see Ilupeju Ekiti takes the first rank in all of Ekiti and they are known for self development. Though we can’t override the governments support.
What attracted you to your wives?
I met my first wife in 1972 that’s 45 years ago and we are still together, she is my mother and I am her father. I married my second wife in 1982, 10 years interval and we have been living together, making success together and doing everything together. Though I have no regret taking a 2nd wife but the reason was that as Kabiyesis I need to marry from my town because my first Oloori is a native of Ikere Ekiti while my second wife is from Ilupeju Ekiti. Going by the tradition kabiyesi dont have one wife, so this lead to me taking a second wife. My first marriage clocked 45 years this year while my second marriage is 35 years. You see am one of the lucky people on earth, like I said, am fulfilled.
What do you do to unwind?
When I was still young I used to play football a lot but now all I do is reading and visiting my farm. With these am more relaxed.