•As 3 Families Jostle To Take Over From Oba ONIRU
•What No One Will Tell You
Who will be picked as the next Oniru of Iruland to take over from late Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru? That is the big question on the lips of very many people who do not know how Obas are picked in Iruland, Lagos.
We can tell you. We can tell you that the race for a successor to late Oba Oniru has started in earnest. The tradition is that once a reigning Oba passes on, the next ruling family is expected to pick a candidate within 30 days. The Council is expected to notify the next ruling house. If they can agree within the stipulated time, a candidate will emerge. But if they can’t agree, different other processes and methods will be adopted.
Many don’t know that the Oniru family is not the only family in line for the Oniru of Iruland stool. There are 3 different ruling families in Iruland. They are (1) Abisogun Ruling House (2) Akiogun Ruling House where late Oba Oniru is from and (3) Ogunyemi Ruling House (They were the ones who stepped down for late Oba Oniru).
City People can authoritatively reveal that, less than 40 days after the death of this first-class monarch, the Oniru of Iruland. His Royal Majesty, Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru, thereAbisogun Ruling House, over who to pick.
An Online medium revealed last week that a tussle has indeed begun over the race for the stool, with many candidates showing interest in the coveted seat.
It is believed that the lobby has started in high places, as some of the interested candidates were said to have circulated their curriculum vitae among the kingmakers and have started talking to top officials of the Lagos State Government in-charge of chieftaincy affairs in the state.
It was gathered that the matter has torn the family apart as none of the candidates is willing to step down for another.
It was however, gathered the Kingmakers have started necessary consultations, both traditionally and officially, and that the needful would be done in due course, while those interested in the office “have been cautioned to allow the people in-charge do their work so that Iru land would have the right traditional ruler at the right time.
Part of the problem is that whoever will take over from Oba Oniru must be able to match up to his enviable profile. He has raised Iruland to a height that his successor must be able to compare to both late Oba Oniru’s intimidating profile, and accomplishments.
Under the reign of the monarch, Iru land, the host of the highbrow Oniru and Victoria Island, became a mega location with investments and buildings worth hundreds of billions of naira. So, who can take over effectively from where he stopped?
Let’s tell you more about late Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru who had a life-long preparation for the position of a monarch.
Born in 1937 when the Oniru Palace was at Igbodu, a village within Egbere (native name for Victoria Island), the strongest influence on his life was his late father, the legendary Chief Abiodun Oniru, the Thirteen Oniru of Iruland who did not spare his children the indulgences and luxuries that spoilt the children of the high and the rich.
Very early in life, the young Prince was sent to live at Oju-Oto (now Massey Street, Lagos) with a much older cousin, Madam Abike, who had no issue after several years of marriage. There, the Prince went through the rigors of domestic chores, like running errands, sweeping the floor, washing plates and fetching water while attending school at St. David’s Primary School, Lafiaji. He later completed his primary education at Araromi Baptist School, Lagos.
He grew up to learn how to face work and play very seriously. He played football, engaged in wrestling and took part in swimming at the Onikan Swimming Park. Soon, he returned to Igbodu where, with his other siblings he worked on coconut farms, harvesting and peeling coconut husks, before taking them to markets to sell.
Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru recalled that the proceeds from coconut sales went into paying their school fees. From Igbodu Village which was not too far from the present Oniru Palace, the children walked some three kilometers along bus paths to their primary school at Otoke which was another village within Victoria Island. After leaving Primary School, the Prince attended Eko Boys High School for his secondary education.
As a youth, he was quite active in school, playing football for Eko Boys High School. His trait for responsible leadership began to show early in life when, as a member of the Oke Popo Boys and Girls Club, he was made the Financial Secretary and later the Club Chairman. A man of amiable disposition he still retains most of his childhood friends and playmates. Among them were late Mr. Justice Muri Okunola, who died Dr. Ademola Caxton Martins and Professor Ogunbona, both now lecturing at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. There are also Dr. Babatunde Dabiri, Dr. Deinde Shitta, Engineer Adeniji Raji, Engineer Adeboyega Martins, Mr. Musibau Mudasiru and Mr. Adewunmi, a banker with UBA.
In his reminiscences, Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru spoke of the hard training he received from his father and the experience he gained during the process of his upbringing. There was no house-help or any domestic assistant. The children did all the work. Nobody would tell anyone what to do, every child had his or her duties that must not fail. Father taught them to be thoughtful and to be of service to others and the village community.
PAPA’S RIGHT-HAND MAN
As he grew older, Prince Oniru got familiar with the public life of his father who had many prominent citizens as friends. Among them was Herbert Macaulay the radical politicians who was professionally a surveyor. Macaulay had done the surveying of lands in Lagos, including the Oniru family lands and he was quite familiar with the travails of the Oniru family on the compulsory acquisitions of their land. Among other friends of late Chief Abiodun Oniru, were late Jubril Martins, a lawyer, Mr. Biney, the father of the late Kwaku Biney, Pa Doherty; wealthy Pa. Da Rocha, as well as Pa. Emmanuel, father of Chief Bode Emmanuel and Dr. Bose Emmanuel. Being in the circle of the elite and the highly enlightened was a reflection of the character and caliber of Chief Oniru himself who was that time pursuing a battle in law courts against the Colonial Government over the compulsory acquisition of his family lands. The more Prince Idowu knew about his father’s public life, the more involved he was with his struggles. On several occasions, he was sent to the Lawyers to deliver or obtain messages. At another time, he would go to tenants on the family land to remind them of their rent arrears. He accompanied his father to the courts and listened to arguments for and against.
By the time he finished his secondary education in 1962, Prince Oniru had become fully involved with the family struggle for justice and compensations on the family land taken over by the government.
The profession of law, medicine and banking to which many of his peers had taken, would not suit the nature of the up and coming prince. He chose Civil Engineering and left for England by the sea on March 30, 1965, to study at the London Polytechnic. Before traveling out of the country in 1965, he married his first wife now Olori Aramide who had their first child Adesegun on March 11, 1965. In three years of serious attention to his studies, he completed his course and returned to Nigeria on July 21st, 1965. The following month, tragedy struck with the death of his mother on August 6. As soon as he got over this and settled down, he pitched his tent with his father who had by then set up a company to develop the remaining family land in Victoria Island and Lekki into a housing scheme and layout plots for lease. The company submitted a plan to the Lagos State Government early in 1968 for approval.
THE UNJUST LAND SEIZURE
While waiting for approval, the family got privileged information that the then military government had decided to adopt the plan for its own purpose and was going to compulsorily acquire the land from the Oniru Family. The Family was therefore not surprised therefore when the Lagos State Government placed compulsory acquisition notice on the land, the last parcel of land owned by the Oniru Family. The Family under Yesufu Abiodun immediately went to court with the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as its lawyer. While the matter was still pending in court, a delegation of the Lagos State Government led by the Military Governor himself set out for the United States in pursuit of investors that would provide funds for the execution of the Land Development Plan. Insider information once again tipped the family of the Government’s move. Without the delay, the family dispatched its own delegation made up of a lawyer, and Prince Idowu Abiodun on the trail of the government delegation. It was a hide and seek game. Over there in the United States, the family team which had obtained a copy of the state delegation’s itinerary pursed them from place to place in New York and Washington. As soon as the State’s delegation completed discussions and left, the family delegation would move in with facts and figures to debunk the government’s position and warned the Americans not to put their money on a land that was still under litigation.
The government delegation returned to Lagos hoping to proceed with its plan on the land. The family delegation returned to Lagos satisfied with its tactical moves in the US and ready to proceed with the lawsuit against the government acquisition of the land. It was a matter of great joy for the father, Chief Abiodun Oniru to see his son, Prince Idowu now playing a more prominent role in the struggle, which had begun before he was born. If the State Government had won the case and the acquisition had stayed, the family would have lost everything both the land and their grandiose plan to develop it. But the father, a veteran in land litigation had taken all necessary steps to present the Family case through their lawyer, the late Pa Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The final court verdict given in 1974 was that the Oniru Chieftaincy Family, who had been one of the biggest landowners in Lagos should not be robbed of their last parcel of land and turned into a landless landlord. As a result of this judgement, the then Military Governor of Lagos State, the Commodore Adekunle Lawal who was appointed in 1975 directed that the area now known as Oniru Private Estate under implementation. Thus the waiting game continued until 1979 when Alhaji Kayode Jakande was elected first civilian Governor of Lagos State. The action of the new administration of the land.
First, the Jakande administration took the bull by the horn by implementing Lawal’s decision and restoring the parcel of land to be the Family. Secondly, in 1980 the Administration approved the family’s layout plan which would facilitate the development of the land.
Thirdly, in anticipation of the evacuation of tenants and squatters on the land, the Governor embarked on the Ilasan Housing Scheme to accommodate the evacuees from the Oniru Family land at Maroko.
Fourthly, the Administration allocated a suitable land of 5 acres along the beach for the family to build a befitting palace. The allocation was for an annual token fee, a mere peppercorn denoting that they were the original landowners.
In addition to these good gestures, the land along Ozumba Mbadiwe where Pa. Yesufu Abiodun Oniru had his residence was allocated to him in his personal capacity. Although some who were dissatisfied with the decision to store the Maroko land to the Oniru Chieftaincy Family went to court, succeeding administrations after Governor Jakande endorsed his government’s decision.
Chief Yesufu Abiodun wasted no time in the construction of the palace, a magnificent building which was completed in 1984. It was his last major achievements as he died before he could move into the new palace.
How He Became An OBA 24 Yrs Ago
In view of the established order of succession, the next Oniru should have come from Ogunyemi Ruling House. Of course, nobody could have denied them their right to nominate a candidate from among their brethren, but the larger family interests and a unique display of magnanimity and statesmanship prevailed. The Elders and Members of the Ogunyemi Ruling House led by Madam Christiana Abeke Alder conferred and decided that late Pa. Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru had labored so much and for so long for the family.
His death at the moment of victory without enjoying the fruits of his labour moved members of the family to agree that his sons should be considered as the successor. They decided that if members of the Abisogun Ruling House would support their stand, it should also concede the stool to a direct son of Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru of the Akiogun Ruling House, as a mark of appreciation and compensation for late Pa Chief Yesufu Abiodun’s memorable services. Pa Wahab Ogunbambi the overall head of the Oniru family then asked the elders of Abisogun Ruling House.
After their family meeting, the Abisogun Ruling House led by Pa. J. O. Joshua also expressed appreciation for all that Pa Yesufu Abiodun Oniru of the Akiogun Ruling House had done and agreed to concede the stool to his son. It was at this point that Pa. Ogunbambi called on Akiogun Ruling House headed by Pa Amusa Otun to nominate a candidate. Thus, the larger family interests and concord prevailed.
Prince Idowu Abiodun Oniru, the eldest surviving son of the deceased Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru was then finally nominated. Some members later went to court to contest the majority decision. The case dragged on for nine years until judgement was given in favour of Prince Idowu Abiodun Oniru in 1994. Thereafter he was capped the 14th Oniru that same year. In 1995, he was accorded official recognition as a first-class Oba and crowned at a most colourful ceremony. The new Oba who hails from Akiogun Ruling House took the official title of His Royal Majesty, Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru (Akiogun II), Oniru of Iruland.
How He Developed The ONIRU Estate
While still waiting for the court’s verdict to confirm the family’s decision on his appointments as Oniru-Elect, the Prince continued the land issue from where his father left it at his death. He wasted no time in assembling expert opinion to advise him on the best way to develop the 732 acres of land currently at the disposal of the family.
At the end of the brainstorming exercise, a plan to sand fill the land and develop it into a modern estate was arrived at and its implementation had made rapid progress since 1994. Prior to the take-off of the development plan, the period 1991-93 was spent in vigorous planning, negotiation with intending contractors and inspection visits.
Oba Idowu Oniru said that he was not the first Oniru and he would not be the last. Therefore, he believes that the little land that is left for the family must be so well planned to provide for the resettlement of the family members scattered to various distant places. Family members would also be given preference in commercial plots on the Estate.
The Oba has established a Works Yard somewhere on the Estate where youths in the family would be trained in concrete technology and encouraged to work in the Yard. His main objectives are to have more and more employment-generating enterprises like the British International School set up on the Oniru Private Estate from which the youths of the family could benefit. His Royal Majesty forward to the time when youths of the family will be employed as engineers, site supervisors and in other professional areas or set up their enterprises. He enjoined those abroad to come home and invest in the Estate.