Last week Monday, the Baba Oba of Ile Ife, Prince Oluropo Ogunwusi turned 75 but he marked it quietly in his house in Ife. He is the father of the reigning Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi. The news caught many people unaware because he didn’t plan any big party. His plan was to just take gifts to a motherless babies’ home and celebrate it with them. But some of his children and family members who already knew the date showed up to celebrate with him. His children were around. It was an open house. There was the cutting of the cake. His wife prepared food and there was merriment. But many were surprised that he didn’t throw a big party, because as they reasoned, Prince has every reason to celebrate for very many reasons.
One, 75 is a landmark age. Two his 5th child has made him proud, becoming the new Ooni of Ife about a year and a few months ago. Not only that. From available history he is the 1st Baba Oba to witness the Ooni ascension to his forefathers throne. There are those who feel Prince should have also celebrated the fact that he is turning 75 in good health and with joy and happiness.
Many people who meet Prince Oluropo often marvel at how this former broadcaster has managed to look refreshingly young in good health. Not only does he not look 75, he is sprightly and blessed with a skin that glows. You could conveniently cut off 15 years off his age and no one will argue with you.
He is blessed with the Grace of God and the Wisdom that he manifests all the time. There is also his humility and modesty. He has always been a humble and God-fearing man. He says he has been through a lot in his 75 years and all these have shaped his world view. He got born again a few years ago and that has made him to keep reading the Bible over and over again, with the effect that Prince Oluropo now quotes from the Bible copiously, off the cuff. Many thought with his son becoming an Oba his lifestyle would have changed but City People saw that nothing has changed about the modest life of this elder statesman, who has had a distinguished career in broadcasting. He still lives in the modest bungalow he built very many years ago in the heart of the town Ile Ife. The only difference is that the building has just been repainted. What has changed about his life is that he now has to contend with a stream of visitors who throng his house daily to consult him. These are people who have one complaint or the other or those who need favours from Kabiyessi but who can’t reach him. He sees an average of about 50 to 100 people a day. He has never been exposed to such a lifestyle before now.
Gone is his former quiet lifestyle in Ibadan, suddenly he has lost his privacy for good. He has to see virtually all those who come to see him whether he knows them or not. And he has to sit down for hours and listen to their complaints and cater to their needs on behalf of the Ooni. So those who don’t have access to Ooni’s place, go to him. How does he cope? How does he feel being Baba Oba of Ooni?
These and many were the questions City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE asked him a day after his 75th birthday at his home in Ile-Ife last week. Below are excerpts of this interview.
How did you feel yesterday when you turned 75?
I give glory and thanks to the Almighty Father. He is the giver of life. He is the lover of comfort, to be able to weather the storm of life from day one. It’s been through the grace of God. The gift of life comes from the Almighty God. It was with a thankful heart that I received the very few people who came because I didn’t plan anything. The little that happened yesterday just came to me as a surprise. To the Grace of God. And the children came all the way from Lagos. They were able to really rally round. I just return all the glory, all the adoration, all the praise, all the thanksgiving to the giver of life, the Almighty God, the only source of light throughout the entire world. That was how I felt.
Your style is unique. Many people expected you to roll out the drums to celebrate because 75 is a milestone year. Why was it low key?
I am the shy type. I am very shy. The Yorubas have a popular proverb which is very true about life. Ti isu eni ba’ta, a ma mbo jeni.
During these days of recession if you slaughter 10 cows people will consume it in a jiffy. What I really did was not to make a show of anything. Because the level God has brought us to now, we have to be very careful. All we should be doing should be to give Glory and Thanks to God every moment of our lives.
What I did yesterday was to prepare food for the less privilege people. We packed everything and we reached out to them. What we need to do right now in this country is to help the needy. We should call on people who are well to do and those who can really afford a meal or two a day to do it for the less privilege who can’t afford anything. They have no hope. We should reach out to them.
When we say we are celebrating birthdays what are we doing. It is highly pertinent on our own part to keep giving glory and thanks to Almighty Father. All He wants from us is to continue to thank Him.
What else did we do? We sang some choruses of faith to God. We reached out to the poor, to the needy within our own limits. We returned all the glory, all the adoration, all the praise, all the thanks-giving to the giver of life. Everything is according to the goodness of God. Everything depends on the Grace of God. What is Grace? Unlimited favour from God.
I really thank God for protecting my life up till this time 75 years, to be able to weather the storms of life is not by my power or by my might but by the spirit of God.
I like to quote scriptures a lot, because all we need to know about life is there. I lost my father in 1998 at age 100. The news came to me in Ibadan. I saw him the night before. I was coming from Osogbo, so I drove straight to go and see him. I had a chat with him. He couldn’t talk but he gesticulated and I left him. One of my juniors was sent to me the following morning. Once I saw Folarin coming I knew Baba was no more. He said Baba passed on 7 am that day. By the time we went to carry him to take to the mortuary he had become stiff because the spirit of God within that body had gone. So we ought to give glory and thanks to God. He is the giver of life.
What are the major challenges?
I will say that I have been bent but not broken. Over the years, to really make two ends meal was a major challenge. There were little constraints here and there at that time. In those days, education was so costly. In fact, some communities in some parts of Yorubaland used to come together to sponsor a single person in the university. What I am trying to say is that, to really exist has always been a challenge of life. Apart from that, after your own existence, what of your children. You have to be able to cater for them. After you cater for them you should teach them the way of the Lord. For these children, if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child, according to the word of the Lord.
In those formative years of my children, it was a real battle, battle royale, Caning them was not enough. I had two of them who had developed toughness to caning. If you give each of the two 50 lashes of cane they won’t shed a single tear. Then, we had to go into prayers to stop these children from going haywire. We subjected our children to prayers and fasting. That was the order of the day in our family. And we instilled the discipline of humility in them. It is in every one of them.
What I am trying to say is that my own very existence was a challenge. To really come up with a family was also a challenge. To really teach them the way of the Lord was a challenge. To really mold them was a challenge. By the time they were passing out of school it was just with prayers and fasting that they were able to make it.
You don’t look 75, what is the secret?
It is due to the grace of God. It is only God. He is the keeper of life. He strengthens people. And by His grace. I am able to keep up. When God puts you through that grace, your life is devoid of any debilitating sickness which can turn you into an old person in a matter of days. Your life is devoid of any problem. Even when you have financial problems you are able to have faith in the Lord.
There are bound to be problems in life. But have faith in God. My faith is the Almighty God has helped me. It has been my sustenance of life. It is what has been keeping me through. Every moment of my life I will keep on thanking God. I love God and I don’t nurse any grudge in my heart against anybody. My heart is free. I am a happy man. I always clear my mind of any intrigue. That is part of the reason behind my young look.
You are a very simple and modest man. How did that aspect of you develop?
Let me start by thanking God who has made me who I am. If you know the way of the Lord. If you know God right from your youth then you will know that it is good to be simple. You need God to be able to battle with the unseen problems of life. Even with the people you see, it goes beyond what you see. According to the scriptures you are not wresting with Flesh and Blood, you are wrestling with principalities and powers. You are wrestling with rulers of darkness, unseen forces. If you are even able to withstand them at daytime what of nighttime, when you are fast asleep? Many of them fly at night perpetrating evil here and there. I used to tell my children since they were kids that the Almighty hates the haughty. If you are so proud and you do gra,gra,gra, where will it lead you to? It won’t lead you anywhere.
That road even if its paved in gold will lead to destruction. It is good to be humane. If you bring yourself down God will lift you up. I thank God for everything.
How have you found your new role as the Baba Oba?
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. We thank God. God has been faithful.
During Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi’s transition period, your family went through a lot of challenges but you never showed it for once. You kept on saying please pray for us. Where did you get the inner strength to wade through all those trials and tribulations?
I thank the Almighty father. He is the unseen Jehovah. He knows us. You cannot wrestle with life. Its not possible. There is more to life. You cannot wrestle with unseen forces of evil.
Do you have specific roles you play as Baba Oba (the Kings father)?
There are divine roles. There are traditional roles. Both are mixed together. The sum total of it all is to serve as a helping hand. People have turned my house into a mini-palace. People come at will. They come with different requests. They come with things like, oh, I just heard this. I thought I should let you know. And it needs divine wisdom to be able to really attend to all these souls, because take it or leave it according to the word of God in Daniel 2:21, that the Almighty God changes Times and Seasons. He removeth kings and he sets up kings because there should be continuity. And the Almighty God giveth wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those that seeketh understanding to be able to deal with people, you need that wisdom of God. Some people will come and talk to you any how. These are people who I can easily describe as suffering from verbal diarhhea. One needs Wisdom and Patience to be able to listen to the people, to be able to tell them and what to tell them can only emanate from the Almighty God. I like what the word of God tells us about wisdom in the Bible, in Job 28 vs 28, that the fear of God is wisdom and to really hate evil that is Understanding. Just fear God. I won’t plan any evil against you or against anybody. Let anybody come with any bias mind or with any spurious demand, God is there. If you fear God, it means you have Wisdom. If you hate Evil, then it means you have understanding. Wisdom comes from God. In everything you do, even to run your own home, you need Wisdom, Understanding and Patience, whether you are the husband or the wife.
When Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi was trying to become king you practically had to relocate to Ife from your Ibadan base. How have you found relocation in the past one and a half years?
Nothing is static. Before now, I had set a target for myself, that I will come back home after a few years, that I don’t want to become Baba Ibadan. Home sweet home. I had planned to return home to do my own bit, to really uplift the standard of my people. Gods time is always the best. His ways are not our ways. Since 2015, you cannot believe it, I have not had a single night in Ibadan and I never prepared for this change overnight like that.
Since it came, I took up the challenge. This small structure I built several years ago was inspired by the Holy Spirit. I built it whilst I was in service. I just felt why should I be coming to Ife to do one thing or the other and be staying in hotel.
God has helped me to build a small structure in Ibadan, why not come home to do likewise. Now, it stands to my own advantage. I give glory to God.
Photo Credit: Vanguard, Slanky