•The Ajalorun Of Ijebu-Ife’s Interview
The sleepy town of Ijebu-Ife is in a festive mood right now. This is because of the 25th Coronation anniversary of Alaiyeluwa Oba Adesesan Afolorunso Oguntayo FCA, JP. the Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife which comes up in a few days time. He is the 42nd Ajalorun of Ijebu Ife.
City People visited him a few days ago and we found the distinguished Chartered Accountant, turned Oba to be in high spirit. He is 84, but he does not look it. He is still very agile, and bubbly. He is still sprightly and full of life and zest. He still keeps to his daily regimen. He still swims. He has a beautiful swimming pool where he relaxes. He lives well. He is one of the well educated traditional rulers in Ogun State. Don’t forget that he had worked with a multinational Oil company before he went into private practice.
How has life been in the last 25 years? How did he adjust from his existing life in the Oil sector to the boring life of a traditional ruler in an Ijebu town? These and many more were the questions that agitated my mind as I drove to Ijebu-Ife from Lagos that morning. I was accompanied by the respected Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of Obanta Newsday, Gbenga Aroyewun who is an authority on Ijebu History, Custom & Tradition. Don’t forget he studied History.
When we got there we met Kabiyeesi at a meeting and after a few minutes we were ushered into his presence at the lounge, beside his swimming pool. Kabiyeesi looks good at 84. He is always clean shaven. He is still mentally alert. He recalls dates & figures without stress. And we were soon to start our interview with this brilliant businessman, turned king. Before Kabiyeesi became an Oba he was a very successful businessman who had a chain of petrol stations across Lagos and Ijebu.
How does Oba Oguntayo feel, as he prepares for his 25 Coronation anniversary, we asked? What are his thoughts? “To be on the throne for over 25 years is a thing of joy,” he explains. “Many things have happened during the 25 years, good ones, bad ones and we’ve made history. So, I see that God has been part of my success. I didn’t come to the throne on my own. It is not also my wish that I want to become a King. It is a traditional and hereditary title, which I am entitled to and God assisted me, to be elected, 25 years ago, and since that time, the community has been quite very, very happy. But due to the situation in country now, this is not the time for anybody to make noise.”
“As usual, I would have liked to make very loud noise over my reign for 25 years, but the situation in the country does not warrant it. So, my Princes and Princesses, then decided that we should have an Interdenomination service, in the palace and light refreshment. It is going to be very, very lowkey. That is the right word. That is why we are not making much noise about it.
“But it has been a very, very interesting experience over the last 25 years.”
How has he been able to take Ijebu-Ife to greater heights during his reign?. How does it make HIM feel when he gets feed backs as to how he has affected people’s lives positively?
“The good things that have happened to us in Ijebu-Ife, are more than the negative things. Better things, success stories and achievements out number the misfortunes. The 2 come together. Good and Bad come to man. It has been very, very, thrilling, the way I met Ijebu-Ife 25 years ago, and what we have achieved now is a huge difference. Its so much. We have got a beautiful Palace. There is a Police station for the town which the community erected and presented to the Police Authority. And that has helped our security, because I suffered a great disaster in the town in 2009 when some politicians and some hoodlums murdered the Area Commander of Ijebu-Ode, in the town. We had a really rough experience. But we thank God today, everything has been rectified. We are happy. The town is bubbling. We thank God that we overcame that difficulty. There are other achievements that have taken place in the town. I celebrated the 20th anniversary, 5 years ago, under pomp and pageantry and we opened the new palace in the town, all these was done during my 20th anniversary.”
“So, this my Silver Jubilee coronation anniversary could have been another very enjoyab le occasion, with lots of meriment, but because of the situation we are making it very lowkey.” For a man with a distinguished career 25 years ago, having worked with a multinational company, how easy was it for him to adjust to ruler life in Ijebu-Ife, when he became king? “You are right in a way,” he explained. It couldn’t have been easy. I have been involved with the administration and community activity, since I grew up. I was born here. I studied here. I went to Ijebu-Ode Grammar School. After I qualified as an Accountant, I never left the town, so people recognised my contributions. And the title of an Obaship is a traditional and hereditary position. It started in 1975, when the entire Princes and Princesses, gave me the title of the head of the Omobas. I was made the Oradiremo of Ijebu-Ife, the head of Princes and Princesses. So, I have been involved. And anything good in my life, has been stationed and concentrated in Ijebu-Ife. Most of my activities have been concentrated on the town, and this got recognised. So when our last Kabiyeesi joined his ancestors in 1994, and it became the turn of my ruling house, to nominate a candidate, then people approached me. I didn’t want to accept but when I saw the sort of people who were trying to show interest, I knew they were not suitable. When people approached me and they wanted me, I had no option, because this is something hereditary, and traditional which I should not let go from my family. And because I know that those who were trying to come up may not be able to perform, I decided to be in the race.”
“7 of us were nominated at the family meeting. 7 of us were presented to the Kingmakers. We have 14 kingmakers in the Declaration of the Ajalorun of Ijebu Ife. At that time, there were only 6 Kingmakers on ground, that were alive. My title as Oraderemo is one of the kingmakers. So, you can see the problem, we were faced with. And I was to play very prominent role. Oraderemo will be the Chief that will call on any ruling house whose term it is to present a candidate. And Oraderemo is the one to present the candidate or candidates, as the case maybe, to the kingmakers. But when it was time for me to contest, I, as the Oraderemo was one of the kingmakers and I happened to be one of those contesting for the stool. So, you can see my position. So, I had to handle the matter carefully. I summoned the meeting of the family. About 7 of us were nominated. What usually happens is the family nominates, the kingmakers select and Government approves. So, we were 7, and I had to submit the names of the 7 of us to the kingmakers. But I didn’t attend the kingmakers meeting. That was where I was elected. I had 4 votes, another person had 2 votes. That is it.”
“I was appointed by the kingmakers and my name was then sent to the state government for approval. In 1996, I was then installed as the Ajalorun on the 22nd of June 1996. That is the story of how I became Ajalorun.”
“But it didn’t end there. One contestant took me to court and we went as far as going to the Supreme Court. All the cases were won by us. We thank God. Though it has been so challenging, God has been on my side. I have been able to survive everything and surmount all the difficulties and problems of ruling a community like ours. We are very traditional in Ijebu-Ife. We come from Ile-Ife and we are direct descendants of Oduduwa dynasty. That is why Ijebu Ife is so notable and important.