Hurray. The Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife, Oba Adesesan Afolorunso Oguntayo is 80. But he didn’t celebrate it big because of the passing away of his wife. Not too long ago, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spent 3 hours with him at his palace. He interviewed him on his life at 80 and he revealed a lot about his life and the institution he represents.
He is one of the most respected Kings in Ijebu and Ogun State at large. Ijebu-Ife is one of the ancient towns in Ijebu. He is the 42nd Ajalorun. He was appointed on the 16th of May 1996 and received Staff of office on 22nd June 1996.
This month makes it 21 years on the throne. And over the last 2 decades, this Chartered Accountant turned traditional ruler has done a lot to uplift his community, like the upgrade of the District Hospital into a General Hospital which is being fully rehabilitated. His list of achievements is long.
He has also resuscitated the traditional institutions and festivities in the town without affecting the religious beliefs of his subjects. Now, members of Ijebu-Ife Christian Association pray weekly every Friday for the whole community in the palace.
He was able to raise over N10 million to complete the Central Mosque of the town during his first year coronation anniversary in 1997. The Muslim community members also pray weekly every Thursday for the entire community in the palace. Also, the Security of life and property is enjoyed through effective vigilante group organization by the community.
There is also the creation of Ajalorun Trust Fund for the benefit of less privileged members of the community.
Ijebu-Ife Rotary Club was inaugurated in 1997 and humanitarian projects were carried out i.e., supply of potable water, educational materials to schools, eradication of polio, ringworm diseases and supply of a giant generating set to Ijebu-Ife General Hospital.
There is the Save Your Sight programmes at the General Hospital, Ijebu-Ife. (The community enjoyed free eye tests and operations in November, 1996).
There is also Prompt action on the rehabilitation of Comprehensive High School, Ijebu-Ife, owing to damage by storm and the Launching of the New Palace Fund took place during the 5th Coronation Anniversary. It was completed last year.
What has helped Oba Oguntayo is his exposure. He is very educated. He is an Accountant. He is also widely travelled.
He was born on the 25th April, 1937 at Ijebu-Ife, in the then Western Province now Ogun State of Nigeria by Omoba Alhaji Raji Osibadewa and Omoba Alhaja Safuratu Omolade Oguntayo (nee Ashiru). He was born into the Royal Family of Olufowobi Oguntayo; his grandfather a direct son of Princess Adeoti Adeite. Princess Adeoti Adeite was the daughter of. Oba Olumona Afurkeregboye the 36th Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife. In the same vein Oba A.A. Oguntayo hails from the Amesofe Ruling House through his mother Alhaja Safuratu Omolade Oguntayo (nee Ashiru) who belongs to the Amesofe of descendant of Olofin Boyejo from whom Olufesogbade and Afurukeregboye Ruling Houses are offshoots. He started his primary education at Christ Church Anglican School, Ijebu-Ife in 1943 during the Second World War. He left this school in December 1949 and completed his primary education at St. Michael’s School. Owu-Ijebu in December 1951.
Immediately he completed his primary school, he gained admission into Ijebu Ode Grammar School, the Premier Secondary School in Ijebuland, in January, 1952. He was to spend six years in this school but because of his brilliance, he was one of the few selected students who sat for the West African School Certificate Examination in December, 1956 after their fifth year in the College, like the brilliant student he has been all along, he passed this examination in flying colours in grade one. In December, 1956. He was admitted to the school of Agriculture, Moore Plantation, Ibadan. After a brief spell in this school, he decided to change his career and he then joined the Federal Audit in Lagos where he remained until he entered the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology. Ibadan from 1958-1961. When the College was converted into University of Ife, he was elected the first Presidents of the Students Union, like a man destined for leadership position. In 1962, he completed his professional training in Accountancy at the Leeds College of Commerce, Great Britain. In 1963, he joined (British Petroleum) now African Petroleum (AP) as an Accountant and later rose to be Chief Internal Auditor.
He worked with this Company until 1969 when he said good-bye paid employment. Alaiyeluwa is Chartered Accountant of high repute, a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria as well as a fellow of the Association of Certified Accountants of England. His appointment which was confirmed by the Ogun State Government on Friday, 17th May, 1996, was greeted with thunderous applause and appreciation. He has since been enjoying the support of all and sundry within and outside his domain. He is happily married to Oloori Ruphina Olayinka Oguntayo (nee Okunowo) of the Balufe and Aloran Chieftaincies of Ijebu-Ife. The marriage is blessed with successful children. He is a very proud grandfather.
How has the last 20 years been on the throne?
It has been interesting. It has been challenging too. We plan to celebrate my 20 years on the throne between June 22nd and 26th.
20 years to some people is a long period, but to God it’s just like yesterday, 20 years is gone. Being on the throne as the Ajalorun for the past 20 years has been quite thrilling, it has been quite impactful of a lot of experience. Some people ascend the throne through their own making or ambition but for those who ascend the throne of their forefathers by been called by the family to come and lead the community it is a bit of sacrifice.
I am happy that God enabled me to accept it. I accepted it and he has been with me for the past 20 years to manage the affairs of the community spiritually, socially, traditionally it has been so. I thank God for this within the last 20 years we can say Halleluyah! Ebenezeri! This is the extent God has helped us.
How did the whole idea of you becoming Ajalorun start? What were your initially feelings?
Becoming an Oba in Yorubaland as far as tradition is concerned and history is concerned is not what anybody can aim to be. You must belong to royalty as a Prince or Princess.
In the past, most of the children of Obas, I mean the Princess and Princess usually run away when they know there is a vacancy because Obaship institution is the greatest sacrifice that you can make in your life, to serve God, to serve the society and to serve your people Obaship is service. You want to leave a legacy when you are gone that you did serve your people.
I belong to the 3 ruling houses that can ascend the throne in Ijebu-Ife. At this particular occasion it was the turn of my fathers maternal paternal section because my great grand mother was the daughter of the 36th Ajalorun who gave birth to my grandfather Olufowobi. Olufowobi gave birth to my father Osibadewa and my father Osibadewa and my father gave birth to me. So, we were already a member of that family in fact in 1975, I was unanimously made the head of all the Prince and Princess in Ijebu-Ife. Sine 1975, I have been in that position. That position normally serves as the crown head, the regency if there is vacancy.
So, as soon as there was vacancy and it was the turn of my family the game started. The family met, about 7 candidates were nominated at the family meeting and the names were sent to the kingmakers and the kingmakers selected me as the Ajalorun.
Fortunately, or as history will have it, my position then as the Oraderemo (the head of Omoobas) was also a kingmaker. Oraderemo has very important role to play when it comes to nominating an Ajalorun in Ijebu-Ife. In the declaration, he is the one will summon the meeting of any of the ruling houses. He will be the one who will send their names or present them to the kingmakers and Oraderemo is one of the kingmakers. You can see how important my position then was, as far back as 1975. So when in 1994 late Kabiyeesi, Baba Oba Oyenuga, joined the ancestors, I started playing the role, as Oraderemo to the point of submitting the names of the candidate, including my name but I deliberately didn’t take part in the election. I absented myself from the kingmakers meeting. So, at that time, there were 7 kingmakers, minus myself, they had 6 kingmakers that decided. The 6 met and 4 voted for me and 2 voted for the other candidates. That is how I was elected by the kingmakers. They then submitted the name to the state government. There and then I was approved to be the Ajalorun in 1996.
Of course there were civil cases. Some discontented candidates went to court and in fact the final judgement was obtained in 2005. So it was confirmed in 2005, finally at the Supreme Court, that I was the approved Ajalorun, so it has been so tough and some even appealed wanting to challenge the judgement of the court even though we have been to the Supreme Court.
At the time you ascended the throne what did you meet and how have you been able to improve on the quality of life of your people?
Like I told you, I have been so much involved in the affairs of Ijebu-Ife, long before 1975, when I became the Orademo (the head of the Princes and Princesses). I was born here in Ijebu-Ife, bred here, schooled here I attended Ijebu-Ode Grammar School for my secondary school and since I even qualified as an Accountant and before, I don’t think I spend a week or a month in Nigeria without coming to Ijebu-Ife from my paternal side, I am from Ijebu-Ife. From my paternal side, I am from Ijebu-Ife, from my maternal side I am from Ijebu-Ife. Even my wife is from Ijebu-Ife from one of the prominent chieftaincies in the town. You can see how Ijebu-Ife has been part of us.
So I know the administration of Ijebu-Ife. I know the in and out of Ijebu-Ife. I know what it is to administer a community like Ijebu-Ife. Obaship is a traditional institution. We are products of tradition even though it has been codified by law, to modernise.
All our responsibilities is purely based on traditional activities, traditional governance if the people and this we had inherited for ages since Ijebu-Ife was founded and it has been on and we still cherish it. We so value it, that we find it difficult to do without it in administering the town. I am happy that having been part of it, having seen the town since I ascended the throne things have changed, things have improved.
There are so many things that were being done in ignorance but since I became the leader of the community things have changed. Tradition is very dynamic. Those we can change we are changing it so that in future there will be progress in the town.
On our way here sir, we saw the very magnificent palace that Kabiyeesi has just built. Why did you build it? What did it take to accomplish it?
Thank you. That palace was built on the same site of the old palace before. As soon as I ascender the throne I decided to do something about the then small palace built on a vast expanse land in the centre of the town.
As one of my ambition, as one of the legacies, I want to leave I decided that there must be a befitting palace, for the town. My philosophy that I believe is that if you get to a town, to know the sort of person that are there and the quality of people there, you can check 3 things. You should first see the place of worship of the people like the Mosque, and Churches. Is it magnificent?
Is it a place God can listen to their prayers. Then, the market. How does their market look like? Is it clean? Is it organised? Then the next place they notice or look out for is where the king lives. Does the leader who is the king have a nice palace, a befitting one?
So knowing that, as soon as I ascended the throne I started work on it. I made it my objective to achieve those 3 things. I have done them successfully. The last one is the new palace which by the grace of God, we are planning to commission on the 25th of June this year.
Before you ascended the throne you were an Accountant and a distingusihed businessman. What was life then?
Right from my youth, I can say I have been extremely lucky. I have enjoyed the grace of God. I came from a Muslim family, my father, my mother were devout Muslims. I sponsoired both of them to Mecca. But sometime in 1978, I decided to be a Christian even though I had qualified in my knowledge of the entire Koran. Up till my secondary school. I was still a Muslim. All my certificates all still bear my Muslim name. But in 1978, I decided to change. I attended Ijebu-Ode Grammar School. I decided I will prefer to be a Christian than a Muslim. I can recite the Quran well but the interpretation I didn’t know. I believe and I was sure at that time that I can get nearer to my God through Christianity and there I have found very successful in all my way of life. I am not condemning other religions but it depends on you which you prefer.
Why did you choose to become an Accountant?
Its Gods making. When I left secondary school in 1966, I came out in Grade 1. I first went to School of Agriculture at Moor Plantation. I resigned later to go and join Federal Audit in Lagos. A former Auditor General, Mr. Ahmed, encouraged me to be interested in Accountancity and in 1958, I gacined admission into the Nigerian College of Arts and Technology. Thats how I started. I never failed all the courses. I graduated at a very young age. It was God making.
Nobody told me to do it. But I took it up and my basic qualities interest in me, my intelligence and brilliance enabled me to qualify at an early age.
You have done well for yourself in business. How did you achieve that feat?
As soon as I qualified, I first joined Federal Ministry of Finance at Tinubu there. We had BP Oil now Forte Oil. When they employed us as a qualified Accountant, we had nothing doing. They put me arrears of Revenue to collect all the arrears that have not be collected. We were to be looking at the old files. By providence, I saw an advert in the newspapers that BP wanted an Accountant. I just walked into their office. I had an interview and they took me. I was paid N1,600 three times my salary at that young age in 1963. That salary was that of a Chief Accountant in government parastatals and it will take me about 15 to 20 years to reach in the service. So, I took up the job. That is how joined BP West Africa in 1963 first as Internal Auditor, Branch Accountant, and rose to become they Chief Asst. Group Auditor for West Africa. The expatriates were our colleagues in those companies. Because we were good they wants to leave us. So after 6 years I began to eye private practice. I had a school where I was teaching young people. That was how private entrepreneurship came to my mind. After 6 years I left. I had my own house then. Had 2 cars. In BP we had a contributory pension. I left BP in 1969. My area account manager called me and asked me why I wanted to go. I said to him, I have made enough money for you all over West Africa. I want to go and make sure money for myself. They could not convience me.
I set up my private practice Oguntayo & Co later during indigenisation, I decided to go into industrial projects. So, I have interests in some companies and set up some industries myself. That is how I got into entrepreneurship.
Kabiyeesi is stylish and elegant. How did you develop that aspect of you?
Accountants always dress well. They are usually very meticulous. Very conscious of what they are doing. They are always neat.
Our profession demands that you take resonable care in everything you do, so we take good care of ourselves. And accountants are well paid. It is the way you present yourself that people will assess you.
We are not flamboyant but we are decent. Thats me as an Accountant.
Whats your relationship like with the Awujale?
Awujale is the Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland. He is a great King. In Nigeria, he is the longest reigning Oba. He ascended the throne at a family early age. He has experience.
Fortunately in History, the Awujale and Ajalorun were the prominent Obas, when the British came in 1992, there were 5 major kings in Ijebuland then. They were called 5 Obas (Oba Marun) in those days. Awujale was No 1. Akarigbo was No 2. Ajalorun was there. Olowu and Dagburewe. Those were the Oba Maruns. And there were records that Ajalorun should be next in rank to Awujale. In 1937, when Remo was carved out of Ijebuland, Remo became its own division. There was a judicial report that made Remo to be carved out of Ijebuland and they were called Remoland. So the remaining Ijebus are together.
So the Ajalorun is expected to be the next in rank to Awujale. There are records. There are gazettes. There are decisions in the traditional council to support this but for one reason or the other, the government is not looking into this question of seniority. That is why I want to put Ajalorun back to its proper position. As I said, from 5 traditional kings, there are over fifty something kings now, and we are all Part 2 Obas. This was established during the reign of Governor Daniel. We are all been taken as if we are all the same. We are not. Of recent some Obas were made first class, but you don’t promote Obaship. Obaship is traditional. People who know our tradition know who is who.
As far as Ajalorun is concerned, Ajalorun traditionally, and Awujale, from oral history and even from Intelligence report, are both children of Oduduwa of different mothers because we in Ijebu-Ife are the Ife in Ijebu. We used to say Ife-Ijebu. We came directly from Ife. We didn’t come with the entourage of Awujale.
According to the history handed over to us from our greatfathers, we got here in 1450. That is the 1st Ajalorun and I am now the 42nd Ajalorun on the throne. From intelligence report and oral history, we understand that Obanta to who left Ile-Ife looking for Oluwa got to Ijebu-Ode in 1470.
But all these histories have been turned around. Nobody knows which is the true story or the true position. So far so good, Ajalorun is one of the paramount members of the state council of Obas and also member Ijebu traditional council. And so whether we like it or or not under the leadership of the Awujale, Ajalorun and Awujale must work together and be at peace. That is the way I see it.
Kabiyeesi is 80 but you don’t look it. What is the secret? You are still very fit and you are still very agile at 80…
Don’t let me deceive you or deceive myself I am not young. Yes I am 80, the face may look smooth, but the body is feeling it. Ajalorun is an old man. He is not a young man. In any case, how you look depends on your style of living. If you live well, you are careful of what you eat, you are careful of what you drink, and the association you keep and you know what to do to keep fit, in health, you will get it right. You must not get too much indulgence of anything. You will get into trouble if it is not well managed. I believe in exercise. I believe in using my brain, keeping fit is it.
Just try and keep fit. By that I mean mental fitness, physical fitness, spiritual fitness. Once you are doing that you will live long. And I pray that I will live very young too.