•What City People Found Out
At the recently concluded 2022 Ojude Oba Festival in Ijebu-Ode, one family distinctly stood out. It was the Kuku family. The family is one of the horse riding families that come out on horse backs annually, during Ojude Oba, to pay homage to the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona. The Kuku dynasty is a large family, and members trooped out in huge numbers as they wont to do.
Olorogun Dr. Sunny Kuku and other elders of the family led the family when it was their turn to pay homage to the Awujale. Immediately, the Kuku family members rode into the main bowl of the Awujale Palace Pavillion, venue of the Ojude Oba, with their family flags flying, Musiliu Haruna Ishola broke into the popular Ijebu song which is used to eulogise the family. He began to sing the song Owo melo lo ni, ti o n fi omo kuku sere meaning, how much money do you have that you are joking with the Kuku children.
Over the years, this has become an Ijebu anthem. This is because Ijebu history has it that the Kukus are very rich.
City People gathered the Kukus have a rich pedigree, because many generations of Kuku’s are great men, starting from the late Balogun Bello Kuku who lived from 1845-1907. Balogun Bello Kuku was one of the warlords, as Balogun Onafowokan Otubu, Odejayi, Saromi and other legends. War was prominent in the 18th and 19th Centuries, in Ijebu-land. It was a lucrative business that brought men to prominence in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Bello Kuku was a valiant warlord.
His family is the most populous and popular in contemporary Ijebu-Ode. Chief Bello Odueyungbo Kuku was the Balogun of Ijebu-Ode and the pioneer of Islam in Ijebuland. He, as a result was bestowed with the title of Seriki Musulumi of Ijebuland. His role during the 1892 Imagbon War and his relationship with the British accorded him a tumultuous prominence in the communities. His business acumen, which was also excellent extended to the Lagos coast. His popularity and influence grew by leaps and bounds in all sections of the Ijebuland and he produced generations that spread across the Ijebu frontiers.
Over the years, the Kukus had served in various establishments both in Nigeria and overseas. Some of them were well known in their professions. They include Chief M. A. Kuku – a former Chief Accountant of P & T., Late S. B. Kuku retired as First Principal Accountant of Nigerian Ports Authority and was a Chairman of the Lagos Mainland Local Government. Late Afolabi Kuku was one of Nigeria’s most accomplished architects of repute. The Late Chief (Dr) Bayo Kuku (CON) was a legal luminary and distinguished businessman, past President Nigerian Stock Exchange, first Vice Chairman of Mobil Oil Producing Nigeria. He was also the Ogbeni Oja of Ijebuland. Olorogun (Dr.) Sonny Kuku (OFR) is world renowned academia and Physician, First African Master of the American College of Physicians.
Professor Aderemi Kuku – a former renowned Mathematician and former Dean Post Graduate School, U. I.; Dr. Stephen Kuku – former Gynaecologist to General Yakubu Gowon’s family. Chief (Mrs.) Adedeji, Iyalode of Ijebuland, Professor Arigbabu- Professor of Medicine, University of Ife, Professor Titi Kuku, Professor of’ Physics University of Ife. Retired Major Wale Kuku, Pa. L. O. Kuku, a former G.M. John Holt, Chief (Mrs.) Oreagba -Yeye Maiyegun of Ijebu. Dr. Yemi Kuku; Hon. Femi Kuku; Barr. Yomi Kuku; Hon. Gboyega Kuku-Secretary, Ijebu-Ode Local Government; Arch. Kunle Adedeji – Urban Architect; Kayode Odukoya of Bell-view Airlines; Lt. Folarin Kuku -First Black Officer in Queen’s Personal Bodyguard and others too numerous to mention are offspring of the erstwhile Ijebu generalissimo.
Balogun Odueyungbo Bello Kuku, was the Balogun General of Ijebuland. His personal achievements economically had no equal. His political achievements, administrative competence and social radiance when put together resulted in what made him a colossus both when alive and in death.
He was showered with maximum care, pampered and spoilt, but these were not enough to deter him from choosing a rough path as a life- time Warrior. His grandmother wanted him to be a Trader. Though he became one, but with a difference, a trader who dealt in arms in exchange for slaves and other materials. He was a kind and generous businessman, compassionate and broadminded. He was said to be an epitome of self contentment. He was and still the only individual who has been decorated as the Balogun General of Ijebuland, while his predecessor was still alive. There is not such in the history of Africa put together. He was envied and plotted against. Despite the fact that he had enough to oppress and suppress his adversaries he chose peace by excusing himself from the town, first to Okelele in Oru and finally Ibadan (Isale Ijebu) at that time.
His own people again sent for his head, he came to fight, but on second thought, he left for Ijebu Ife, his grandmother’s town. Another highpoint that brought him prominence to the fore was the defeat he gave Ogunshegun of Ijebu-Igbo. Bello Odueyungbo saved the Ijebu -Igbo people from Balogun Ogunshegun. He subdued the Ososa rebels. He stopped blood shed in the quest of the colonials to colonize Ijebu. His exposition, experience and maturity were the magic that resolved the Danosungbo (Imagbon) war. He rejected kingship of the land offered him on a platter of gold by the Europeans, in recognition of his sterling qualities. His social acumen was responsible for the first masterpiece of a building that for hundred years still stands out as a good architectural showpiece. He died a symbolic death, a death that was sung for a century later.
His military exploit adventures, business bravery and social charisma were unrivalled. He was a friend to the Oba of Lagos, a friend to the colonial master, the conqueror of the Baribas, fearful and fearless. He was religiously historical in person, from paganism to Christianity and finally Islam. He single handedly founded (started) the Ita-Oba (Ojude Oba) that is being equated with the Brazilian Carnival in Brazil.
Lets tell you more. The late Chief Bello Odueyungbo Kuku was born in Ijebu-Ode in the year 1845. He belonged to the “Mafowoku” age group.
His father was Daddy Odusanya of Mobasoro Quarters in Ijebu-Ode who had 29 children of whom few may be mentioned here:
Chief Odueyungbo Kuku was the second Balogun of Ijebu-Ode • Chief Odunuga, the 5th Balogun of Ijebu-Ode and fat her of the late Ashiru Koda • Chief Olukoga, an Olisa of Ijebu-Ode and father of the late Akadiri Olisa • Chief Olugbile, an Egbo of Ijebu-Ode and grandfather of Saka Abebefe of Mobasoro, Odusote Keshinro, father of Shanusi Gonge of Ijada, Ijebu-Ode, and • Odubeno, father of the late Okusi of Oyingbo, Ijebu-Ode.
His mother was Detimoku, the fourth daughter of Madam Adeoti, an illustrious Erelu of Ijebu-Ode. Other children of the Erelu were Madam Eki, mother of Daddy Adesalu; Adebule Apon-ngbaori, father of Odidi; Odunowo, father of Oniyepo; Debowale, mother of Koko of Iyanro, Ijebu-Ode; and Nofi, grandmother of Bowale.
Chief Kuku was the only child of his mother. She died a few days after his birth, and so, the duty of his care and up-bringing, therefore, fell on his grand mother, the Erelu of Ijebu-Ode, and it was for this reason that he was named “KUKU” (meaning a Survivor). The name given him by his father was “Odueyungbo”. During the naming ceremony of young Kuku an Ifa priest revealed a lot about how his life would be.
This sooth-sayer predicted Chief Kuku’s future life’s achievements, popularity and affluence.
With the two parents’ leading positions in Ijebu-Ode and with their fabulous wealth, it could be easily imagined how much care would be lavished on the motherless child.
Suffice it to say then that young Kuku was the darling and favourite child of both parents and be grew up in most congenial surroundings and was brought up with every care and consideration as was sufficient to spoil many other children born under similar circumstances. But surprisingly enough, this was not so with the young Kuku, who, at a tender age of 15, cast aside all luxury attentions that were being showered on him and decided to embark on a trade like many other less favoured young men of his age. This decision was a shock to his grandmother, the Erelu, who found it most difficult to reconcile herself with the youngman’s idea of working when there seemed to be no cause to do so.
But after persistent pressure on the part of the boy, his grandmother had no alternative, than to yield to his request at last.
In spite of all the molestation and harassment, he suffered from the hands of Ijebu-Ode people, Chief Kuku’s wealth, affluence and popularity grew from strength to strength and these were so phenomenal that he decided to quit his grandmother’s compound and erect a building of his own befitting his status.
During this period, Chief Kuku’s level of civilisation was far higher than that of an average Ijebu man owing to the fact that by his trading activities he had established contacts with Lagos Merchants both Europeans and Africans. For this reasons when he decided to build a house, he went out of the beaten track of erecting a mud and thatched house; he brought from Lagos, Brazilian Craftsmen who gave a first class workmanship as they were highly skilled in all the aspects of their trades. On completion of the building, Chief Kuku named the house “OLORUNSHOGO HOUSE”.
It is a matter for praise and appreciation that whatever the present ultra-modern Architects might create on the present day buildings, none can be compared with the work of architecture of “OLORUNSHOGO HOUSE” for what the house has in design and style.
The foreman carpenter was Mr. Balthazar Reis of Griffith Street, Oke-Popo, Lagos, in memory of those workmanship the “OLORUNSHOGO HOUSE” stands today as a monument. The red bricks used for the house were made by Brazilian Masons in upper part of Owa Ikoto stream which was later known as “ERI JOLO” (Jolo, being the Brazilian name for bricks).
Like the Egyptian Pyramid thousands of hands were employed in transporting the bricks and other materials from Owa stream to the site of the building at Ita-Ntebo, a distance of four kilometres. All the internal walls were papered and the decorations consist of a telescopic standing kerosene lamps, velvet- couches with chairs to match, ceiling lamps, expensive
mahogany sideboards, carpets and many
other invaluable items of furniture, all of which, were ordered from Europe and transported from Lagos by canoes.
The building of the house, which commenced about year 1897 was completed and opened for habitation early in 1900. Till today the house stands as a monument of beauty and a Brazilian architecture per excellence..
The internal decorations and furniture even now in modem age are very hard to beat both in arrangement and elegance.
Chief Bello Kuku had about 40 wives and 57 children of whom 31 were males and 26 females. In this respect, he excelled his father, Borogun, who had 29 children. Two of his sons. Gbadamosi Tayo Kuku and Akadiri Sonmori Kuku later became the Balogun of Ijebu-Ode, while other children and grand children occupy eminent positions in the community, and it is quite significant to note that while the memory of the life of his many contemporaries have faded away, the life of this great man still remains green and fresh.
On the 12th November, 1907 his corpse was buried in his compound at Olorunshogo, duly laid in a concrete vault the mouth of which was sealed off with a door. The door was surrounded with concrete dwarf ails on four sides and very clean river, white sand was strewn thereon.
According to Muslim practice for great men in those days, members of his Mosque Jamat would gather round his tomb every Friday to offer prayers for the repose of his soul.
This practice had been going on since his death, but in 1927 when such prayers were being offered and at the same time spreading the sand with their hands it was discovered that the door had become weak and frail showing indication of decay due to age.
Arrangements were quickly made to replace it but when the old door was removed and the vault opened, behold! The body of this great man was found intact lying peacefully as it was laid there some twenty years previously.
The news spread round Ijebu-Ode town and a large crowd thronged to Olorunshogo House to see the body of a man whose reputation had become a household legend all over the country.
The vault was there and then sealed off permanently and a modern tomb erected on top of it.
It is significant to note that a few months after the incident, his eldest son and the first Mogaji (Arole) of the house, Chief Gbadamosi Tayo Kuku died on 21st of June 1927 as if to commemorate the very important event.