Chief (Mrs.) Tejumade Adenekan Bakre, popularly known as T Black is the Gbegbaaje of Egbaland. She has other chieftaincy titles, which include the Gbegbaaje of Gbaguraland, Iya Oba of Gbaguraland, Iyaloja of Lipede Ultramodern Market to mention a few. She is the stepmother of Oba Sabur Babajide Bakare, the Agura of Gbagura Kingdom, Abeokuta, Ogun State. T Black as she is fondly called is one of the top female chiefs, who are close to the Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland. Although, she was made the Osi Gbegbaaje during the time of the late Alake, Oba Oyebade Lipede, but she has grown to become one of the favorite high chiefs of the incumbent Alake.
She grew up in Abeokuta, her father was a prominent high chief. She also married at her home town, Gbagura. She is an established businesswoman in Ogun State.
She attended Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, from where she went to Government Technical College, and later proceeded to England, where she got admission to City and Gates where she obtained an Advanced Certificate in Catering and Hotel Management. She briefly worked at Crosswiner Hotel in England, City Park Hotel in England, and later worked at Eko Hotels, Le Meridian and Briston Hotel in Lagos, Nigeria. Her late husband owns Crown Royal Hotel, where night clubbing first started in Abeokuta. T Black is till date one of the directors of the hotel. She later went into business. She is known to be one of the top household items and party gifts dealers in Ogun State. In this interview with BUNMI MUSTAPHA, the Egba female high chief opens up on how she was made a high chief twenty years ago by the late Alake of Egbaland, her relationship with the incumbent Agura of Gbaguraland among other issues.
How long have you been the Gbegbaaje of Egbaland?
I have been the Gbegbaaje of Egbaland for almost 20 years. My role model is Chief (Mrs.) Alaba Lawson. She was the one who encouraged me. I was first installed a chief by the late Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oyebade Lipede. Initially, I was installed Osi Gbegbaaje of Egbaland. That was when Iyalode encouraged me to work hand in hand with her. I started accompanying her to coronations even though I knew nothing about it then. The late Oba Oyebade Lipede, who was the Alake of Egbland then was my father’s friend. He was the one who told Iyalode to let me work hand in hand with her. I started my chieftaincy itinerary in the commerce section, Parakoyi. Parakoyi is the Ministry of Commerce in Egbaland. We were in charge of everything that happens in the market. I was later installed the Iyaloja of Oba Lipede market. My experience as a female chief has been very wonderful, like I said, at first I didn’t know what being chief entails, but as time unfolded, I learned how things were done and it has been a wonderful experience of my life.
You said earlier that your father was one of the late Alake’s friends, does that mean he was a prominent high chief during his days?
Yes, he was. My dad, the late Chief Alhaji Adetunji Adenekan, was the Osi Egba Muslim, and the life patron of Ansarudeen Central Mosque.
What part of Abeokuta was he from?
He was from Gbagura area of Egbaland.
Does that mean you married to a man from Gbagura, in your home town?
Yes, I am from Gbagura and I got married to a Gbagura man. My mum is from Owu.
What are your roles as the Gbegbaaje of Egbaland?
As the female Gbegbaaje of Egbaland, I must always be with the female Parakoyi, if a sacrifice is to be offered in the market. I must always give reports on everything that happens in the market.
Lipede market is one of the markets that had been in existence for a long time. As a matter of fact, it is the first ultra-modern market in Ogun State.
How did you become the Iyaloja of Lipede Market?
I was not present in the market when I was appointed Iyaloja of Lipede market. When I was told that I have been appointed the Iyaloja, I was surprised because I had no intention of becoming Iyaloja, owing to the fear of attending late-night meetings. It was Chief Alaba Lawson who told me not to be scared. She said I only have to give reports on anything that happens in the market. Chief Toye Coker and Oba Oyebade Lipede were alive then. I was taken to the late Oba Oyebade Lipede as the Iyaloja and he gave his blessings.
You said your father was one of the prominent high chiefs in Egbaland, that means your growing up years must be interesting, Can you tell us more about your growing up years?
My father was a very strict man and he was also a disciplinarian. We lived in our family house at Agoka, Gbagura before we later moved to Lantoro. The big house opposite Sacred Heart Hospital was my father’s house and that was where we spent our growing up years. Back then, we dared not come out of the house. We were always beaten if our father saw us downstairs. At some points, we had to bribe our father’s driver, who would always give us a sign that our father was on his way home three minutes before he got to our gate by honking three times. My father was very strict, but I thank God because I really learnt a lot from him. My father has many female children, so he was always restricting us from going outside the house.
I was my father’s best friend. I was closer to him than my mother and that made me love him than my mother. I was always happy anytime my father told us that we were going to Lagos because back then, it was only children of a rich family who could go to Lagos for holidays. Our father was strict, but he really pampered us. He was always buying festive clothes for us even after we got married. We had a few friends then till we finished secondary education and that was because we didn’t usually go out.
Late Oba Lipede installed you the Osi Gbegbaaje and you are now the Gbegbaaje of Egbaland, can you share with us your relationship with Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, the current Alake of Egbaland?
Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo is like a father to me. Oba Gbadebo has always been treating me well. He doesn’t call me by my name. He always calls me by my nickname “T Black” and you know that feeling when the King calls you by your nickname. Kabiyesi is a complete gentleman. He does not like to offend anybody. The king will always treat you well when you are good to him. There was a time we had a problem with IBEDC at Lipede market, We owed them close to 1.4 million naira. We had just one million naira, but they refused to collect the money unless we pay in full. Kabiyesi was the one who came to our rescue. He urged the IBEDC officials to re-connect our electricity supply and collect the one million naira we had and we paid the balance later.
Where does your nickname T Black originated from?
When I was in Government Technical College, Idi Aba, there were two Tejus. Anytime junior students wanted to differentiate between us, they called me “T Black” and the other Teju, “T Red”. Some people don’t even know my real name because most people call me T Black. There are some people who do not know me but know my nickname. I had to register the name, T Black, for my business.
Let us talk about your fashion and style, anytime you are at an event, you always attract attention, Is it something you have been doing before you became a high chief or you are dressing to fit the title?
No, that is me for you. When I was in secondary school, we were called” omo aje butter”. Anytime father traveled out of the country, he bought for us almost everything we wore, up to our underwear. I was already used to dressing well and fabulously ever since I was a small girl. I have my style of gele, not the regular gele style you see everyone rocking at functions, I like to stand out and also make a fashion statement.
What advice do you have for young people who want to go into business and clamouring to be a chief especially the female?
I will advise them to always take care of their home, especially their children. As my grandmother used to say when she was alive:” He who does not take care of his or her children, would not enjoy them at old age”. I will also advise them to be hardworking. I don’t believe in a woman being a full housewife. Even if you get married to the richest man in the whole world, you must have a business of your own because a time will come when you will need to support your husband financially.
Finally, speaking of your being the Iya Oba of Gbaguraland, what is your relationship with the king, Oba Sabur Babajide Bakre, who is your stepson?
We were very close. I use to take him to school back then. I always call the king my brother, not my stepson. We have always been very close even when my husband was alive, and I am happy and proud to be called the king’s mother.