ECHOES FROM THE PAST (4) – An Interview with the Towulade of Akinale, Oba Femi Ogunleye (Part 2)


This is the concluding part of my Interview with Ọba Femi Ogunleye, who is the Towulade of Akinale in the Ewekoro LGA of Ogun State, Nigeria. The 1st part has been published earlier on this website)

Towulade of Akinale, Oba Femi Ogunleye

* YOU BECAME THE…WHAT NUMBER OF BAALE?

“The 14th Baale. My father was the 12th Baale. Before that, in 1992 I was made the Ekerin Apagun Egba. I had been told that the Alake went on leave every August or July and he used to fly British Airways. So I asked him why he wasn’t flying Nigeria Airways? He replied that it wasn’t a good airline. I further insisted that he could not know that for certain since he had never flown the airline. So I just prevailed on my MD to approve giving our Traditional Rulers complimentary tickets, citing a case of the Emir of Kano being given royal treatments at Heathrow Airport by B-Cal (British Caledonian Airways). He approved my request ‘in principle’ after much deliberations. So I approached Alake with the ticket and he was delightfully stunned. The Apena Cocker, and Amona-Oba Sorunke also insisted on their own tickets too since they were going to accompany the Alake…and the next day, I also got them free tickets. On the day Alake was to travel, I arranged for him a red carpet treatment at the airport, including all who came to see him off. Not only that, the next day I followed him to London and made the London office to buy him all sorts of gifts, so he was hooked to the airline. On his return, he instructed that I be given a chieftain title. So Apena called me and while deliberating which title to award me, Chief Sorunke suddenly said I should be given the title of Apagun since I was a friend of Apagun Olumide. The Olumide who recently died. And since I was an Owu man, I was given Ekerin-Apagun”.

* APAGUN MEANS PUBLIC RELATIONS MAN?

“Exactly that is what it means. In fact it has no other meaning than P.R. Now the euphoria of the whole affair made us all forget that I was to have a standing title from home before I could be made the Ekerin-Apagun, so it was only 2 days to the Installation that this came to dawn, and we didn’t have an Olowu so they called Chief Duro Oluyemi , the Principal of African Church Grammer School, who was Balogun of Owu Xtians to give me a title, but he was nowhere to be found then, so they approached Chief Adewoyun, who was the Otun Balogun Apomu and lived in Saje to install me as the Apagun Apomu. That was done on Thursday night, in preparation for the Ekerin Apagun-pote title slated for Saturday. Only a few friends including the Apomus in Akinale like the Keyedes were the people who followed me to that installation. Aare Keyede who died recently was also there”.

* KEYEDE WHO RECENTLY DIED. HE WAS OTUN, NOT AARE.

“He was Aare.

(Editor’s note: This dispute ensued because there were two Keyedes who died recently just a few days from one another, one was Aare, while the other was Otun-Balogun Apomu).

“So I was presented formally to Alake on Saturday as Apagun-Pote Apomu Owu as a pre-requisite for his installing me as the Ekerin-Apagun of Egbaland. That was the title I was still bearing when I became Baale in Akinale”.

* BUT YOU HAD ANOTHER TITLE…

“Yes after I became Baale, we re-organized the Apomu Chieftaincy structure. Chief Adenekan who was Lisa of Apomu in those days before his death was my elder relative from Gudugba village. When Chief Babajide who was then Odofin moved to Oluwo, I insisted I wanted to be Lisa so that I could represent him in his absence and ensure good re-organization in Apomu. Lisa is next to Oluwo in hierarchy. I had tried to get him entrenched in the Owu something but he didn’t give himself the opportunity to be accepted. I was the secretary of the council then and we were then doing our meeting at the Jagunna’s house, Baba Ajibola”.

* WELL, WHERE I WAS GOING, YOU HAVE ALREADY TOUCHED…

“Oh yeah! And the 2nd year after being installed as Baale, the question of Oba came up. I didn’t know how they started it, but all of a sudden I was invited to the palace…”

* 2ND YEAR AFTER BECOMING BAALE?

“2nd year! I became Baale in 2004, and Oba in 2006. March 31st in 2006, I was crowned as Towulade. The story of the other chieftain title is equally interesting. Haven been Apagun, I had authority to attend the Owu Council of Chiefs meeting then after the demise of Lagbedu. The meeting was being held in Balogun Obasanjo’s house once a month. There was a letter from Ibogun-Olaogun to the Government which was redirected to the council. The content was that they wanted the Government to approve their clamour for Obaship. Obasanjo then said that these Ibogun people want to give him a bad name. If he gave his consent to their demand, people will say he was responsible for causing commotion, and if he refused, they would say he didn’t have the love of his community. He confessed he could not handle the matter and suggested a committee be setup to handle the matter. Prince Bola Ajibola was made the chairman of the committee and they had about a week to submit their report. At the next meeting the report was read and it was recalled that 10 wards in Ewekoro LGA had requested for Obaships from their ranks of Baales. Awowo was one of the 10 wards. When deliberations ensued I insisted that Akinale could not be subordinate to any communittee in Ewekoro, citing historical facts that it was one of the first Owu established settlements of the area where warriors used to meet to strategize their invasion policies during their war campaigns towards the coast. War leaders like Lapeleke, Shonlu and Gbalefa. Obasanjo cautioned that my submission should not be ignored so the committee asked me to write a report. In my report, I made it clear that I was not talking about Obaship but Akinale was a historically important township that could not be ignored as it blended all Owus together. So really I was not surprised when the Obaship issue germinated and I was selected. In fact it was a Thursday and I was at the golf course in Lagos when Papa Olori-Igbimo (Sodeinde) called me to appear at the palace early the next morning. The only emphasis to his message was that I should make sure I was befittingly dressed for a formal occasion”.

* AND THAT YOU SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY GUESTS?

“No he didn’t even say that. If he had, maybe that would have set me on the course of imagination of what could possibly be in store! The next day at the palace, I saw the other Baales, all ceremonially dressed too, and we were all pondering on what was about to happen. Then when I went upstairs with ‘egbon’ Ajibola, I saw an array of crowns and asked what was going on…to be told that we were all going to be crowned Oba on that day. I went into immediate stupor and was afraid. I had no idea what it entails to become an Oba – whether my hand was to be cut or I had to eat something strange, mysterious and forbidden. I was totally confused! (Laughter) “I quickly called Akinale and asked all my relatives and associates to make haste and come over to the Palace. I was the only person that could bring guests due to the proximity of Akinale. All the other Oba incumbents performed the ceremony alone”.

* WAS THIS EARLY IN THE MORNING?

“Very early. At 7.30am! You know what happened?… Our certificates were dated 10am appropriately signed by the governor”.

* SO ALL THESE EXPLAIN THE REASON FOR YOUR BEING CHOSEN AS OBA – STARTING FROM YOUR BAALESHIP TO YOUR EDUCATING THE COMMITTEE ABOUT THE PIVOTAL ROLE OF AKINALE IN OWU EXPANSION HISTORY?

“Yes. And also there is no way they can avoid linking it with the history of our progenitors. Lapeleke was an important Owu warrior, and if I come from that stock, it is convenient for them to put me in reckoning”.

* WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY SIR?

“23rd of September, 1944. I shall be celebrating my 70th next year by God’s grace”.

* AND YOUR FAMILY LIFE. WIFE, CHILDREN?

“Yes I am married. The second wife now. My first wife died 8 days after I was installed as Ekerin-Apagun in 1992. (Pointing to a picture on the wall taken at his Installation ceremony) That is the last picture I took with her. She died in a motor accident. I waited some 3 years before I re-married. God has been so kind in that the woman has been with me for 17 years before we now had a set of twins!”

* WHAO. WHAO!

“Wonderful. Wonderful!”

* THAT WAS LAST YEAR?

“Yes, July last year. It was Baba Obasanjo who came to Christian the children at their naming ceremony”.

* MY CONGRATULATIONS SIR.

“Thank you very much”.

* WELL THESE ARE CHILDREN THAT PROMISE TO FOLLOW IN THEIR FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF YOUR OWN BIRTH TOO WAS RATHER EXTRA-ORDINARY.

“Yes, yes”. (Resounding laughter).

* ARE THEY BOYS OR…

(Interjects) “One boy, one girl”.

* NOW WHAT ARE YOUR ROLES AS AN OBA IN AKINALE.

“Well, they say what we cannot repair, we should not touch (rendered as a Yoruba proverb). In those days when I used to come and visit my father who was Baale, I did not know that poverty reigned so supreme within the populace. So the first thing we did was to ask how we can improve their life style. We discovered many of the children would not go to school because they did not have common 10 Naira, or pants to wear etc. so I consulted with my wife who is an educationist. She is the head of school of Corona College. We decided to start with the school children and changed their school uniforms, providing them with new uniforms and new school furniture. We didn’t buy the furniture per se but because my Olori was involved with a private Institution in Lagos, when they were upgrading their furniture, we got concession for the old ones. We also introduced vocation training after school hours like carpentry etc. so that by the time they finished Primary 6, they would have learnt one trade or the other and if they could not further their education, they were already well placed.”

* INTERESTING!

“Secondly I approached all my friends for help and those who felt I had done something good for them while I was in service. Through these efforts we have 2 major boreholes in Akinale. Now if you go into the town you will see that we have public water, and those who can, even pipe water into their houses. Moreover, electricity is now regular and the village life-style has tremendously improved. Also here there is no community land. In the days of old, Owus were very generous with land such that any new comers were allowed free access to land for as long as they could manage it. The regulation I have put in place however is that before you can sell your father’s land for whatever reason, all members of your family must be informed and come to me to give their consent so that any disputes over unauthorized sales is brought to the barest minimum. I also designed a certificate titled Lapeleke Dynasty, so if you don’t have this official certificate, which the Land Ministry is also aware of, your land transaction in Akinale is null and void. Moreover after the sales, I wount allow you to just take the money and go to Lagos. You will be obliged to repair or enhance your family house in Akinale. When that is all done, you’ll then be free to take with you whatever change is left to anywhere you chose! (laughter). “So there is growing developments here. I have also brought so many investors here. The VeePee plastic industry from Sango is coming here to build a factory. Obasanjo has built a factory here now. The Fountain of Life Mission from Lagos have also purchased land here to build a University. So in another 5 years, the economy of this place is going to be completely transformed…and that’s my joy. If you go into the village now, I know about 6 different Poultry farms including Feed Mills, Piggeries, Fisheries etc. At this year’s Akinale Day coming up in May, we’re going to launch a Palace building fund. We’re going to have street lights and also public toilets. We have 4 quarters here (Itun Oluwo, Itun Adifa, Itun Olori and Ago-Ijaiye). Each one of them has been giving a public toilet so that they will not be going to the bush to defecate and mess up the whole place. In my administration, I have Olori-Itun which are the 4 heads of the quarters who represent them in my cabinet. Of the Oloyes, I have Balogun, Otun, Osi and Ekerin. I have a Baale. My Baale is like Olori-Igbimo. He is the one that looks after everything”.

* YOUR BAALE IS YOUR PRIME MINISTER AND CHIEF OF STAFF.

“Yes”.

* YOU SAID THERE IS A PALACE BUILDING FUND COMING UP.

“Yes. This one here is my personal palace which I built for myself. The community must have its own for future monarchs”.

* I NOTICED A SCHOOL PROJECT.

“Yes. That’s the one the government is building. It is part of the model schools they are building. We gave them the land. And it is coming at the appropriate time because adjacent to it is the site of the Grace University being proposed by the Fountain of Light Ministries”.

* I SEE AKINALE EMERGING AS THE COMMERCIAL NERVE CENTER OF EWEKORO IN FUTURE.

“Yes. That’s what we are planning for”.

* HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR FUNCTIONS IN RELATION TO THE OLOWU’S?

“Like every other Oba that Owu has particularly on the Lagos axis, we have a joint responsibility, and they tend to lean on me as a model because here in Ewekoro, we have a joint meeting of Obas and Baales forthnightly. We are the first to have such joint meetings of Obas and Baales. We coronets are just a step above the Baales so we hold meetings with our Baales to ensure peace and unity in our areas. Any crisis that could develop to create problems for the Olowu is clipped in the bud here at the grassroots level”.

* THOSE ARE THE MEETINGS YOU HAVE ON ALTERNATING MONDAYS, RIGHT?

“Yes. We have them on Mondays. In fact we have one coming up tomorrow. Conflicts in villages and inter-communal crisis are amongst issues that we resolve here”.

* AND YOU INAUGAURATED THIS MOVEMENT?

“I did, I did”.

* AND YOUR FELLOW OBAS DON’T FEEL THAT YOU…

(Interjects) “Not at all. In fact they are the ones who insisted that we make this place a permanent location for the assemblies. I had earlier proposed a rotation. And I am trying very well to live up to that responsibility and recognition. I am not shacking that at all. Again we are also pursuing the cases of some of our Obas who have not yet been recognized by government. We are pleading with Olowu and government and all those involved to look into their cases. We also do not discriminate among the Obas regardless of where they come from, but we are Owu…and that is paramount in our interests. We hold meetings with Olowu, with Alake etc. For example we were there at the last Lisabi Day celebrations. Alake was happy that we came. In all cases we take our requests first to the Olowu, but because of personal relationships we also inform Alake and let him know that Olowu has been informed. So due to this multi-lateral relationship, we are able to get a lot of things done”.

* SO YOU INTERRACT WITH ALAKE AS WELL?

“Yes. Very well”.

* HOW MANY CORONETS ARE IN OWU?

“Sixteen of us were installed. Some others came who were not appointed by Olowu…like Ibogun Osunboye, Alaguda and Akinfala”.

* HOW MANY ARE RECOGNISED BY GOVERNMENT?

“The matter is complicated by some who are not appointed by Olowu. These are appointed by Daniel. But of the sixteen appointed by Olowu, the recognized ones are 6. They are Akinale, Owowo who came later and not part of the original 16, Jagunna, Wasinmi, Abalabi, and Ilepa”.

* SO REMAINING TEN THAT ARE YET TO BE RECOGNIZED?

“Yes”.

* HOW ABOUT YOUR CHIEFS?

“Most of my chiefs are not serious. They are just decorative. That’s why I mostly use the Olori-Ituns. Most of my chiefs don’t live here and hardly come home. My Balogun lives in Lagos. My Otun…I haven’t even seen Otun after he was installed as a chief. Osi and Ekerin live in Abeokuta and hardly come home. They use their church and other things as excuse so I just ignore them. They just don’t understand their responsibilities to the community. They don’t understand at all. That’s just it”.

* CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A TYPICAL DAY OF THE TOWULADE IN AKINALE VILLAGE?

“My day” (exclamations). My day! Well, before I added this school thing into my schedule, as early as 7am, they come in with one kind of problem or the other. Apart from Akinale, people from other villages come here. Since I hold meetings with the Baales, matters that they ought to have settled amongst themselves, they bring them here. Problems like cattle rearers entering their villages and their cattles eating their cassava. In such cases I need to call the leaders of the Herdsmen to negotiate settlements otherwise it would degenerate in them fighting and cutting themselves with cutlasses and daggers. Sometimes it is issues of security like when they were passing through Ewekoro, they were attacked by armed robbers. I have to call the DPO and lodge reports and look for enforcements. Other times, people will enter into other peoples’ farms and do unauthorized things. In fact, yesterday I had to mediate in a land dispute over a land bought by VeePee from Otta in this area. One of the land owners said he was not a party in the sales and went to court disputing 40 acres out of 100 acres. The court now gave an injunction that nothing should happen on the entire land. This was challenged by the purchasers because only 40 acres was being disputed, so a canvass injunction over the entire 100 acres is irregular, so they wanted a vacation of the courts injunction on the remaining 60 acres so that they could continue their work there. Invariably the two parties came to me to try a negotiated settlement out of court. In that case, I need to visit the land myself and investigate the history of the place. On finding out that the disputants opposition is premised on his being excluded from the initial deal, we are now looking into placating him by offering him a separate settlement. So those are the type of issues that come in regularly on a daily basis.”

* VERY REVEALING!

“But now that I go to the Covenant University to study Law on a full time basis, I have less time and that takes me off the village to go to school. Most cases are then postponed to after 4pm when I come back from school. Tomorrow’s meeting of the Council of Obas and Baales for instance, we are going to discuss the issue of some Baales not being paid their stipends by the Local Government. And this has happened because the whole issue has been politicized because some were appointed by Alake, some were appointed by Olowu. I have carried their matter both to Alake and Olowu, so tomorrow we are going to discuss how we are going to set about resolving it. In some areas like Morekete and Abule-Owu, they are having land disputes. The Olujobis are said to be owners of the entire land, but now when land is becoming gold, everybody is tring to sell one land or the other and they are taking themselves to various Police Stations. So tomorrow I am going to the place myself with the committee appointed to look into the issue. They will then submit their report for us to take necessary actions”.

* THESE LAND MATTERS ARE NOT WITHIN AKINALE WHERE YOU HAVE YOUR OWN LAND SALES REGULATIONS AND CERTIFICATE IN PLACE?

“No they are not within Akinale, but Ewekoro generally”.

* SO YOUR DAY EXTENDS BEYOND MANAGING AKINALE…

(Interjects) “Oh yes. Akinale is just one of…”

* (counter-interjection) WHAT I MEAN IS THAT IT OVERLAPS INTO AREAS OF THE JURISDICTION OF OTHER OBAS?

“Yes. Very much so. It does”.

* TOMORROW YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SCHOOL BECAUSE OF…

(Interjects again) “Oh yes. Because of the meeting. I’ll be at the meeting throughout”.

* WHEN YOU MISS YOUR LECTURES, WHAT HAPPENS AT SCHOOL?

“Luckily because I am Kabiyesi, or perhaps because I have had advance knowledge of many other things, my lecturers understand my schedules and are adequately permissive, except if it is a course that I must share with other elective students. If it is in a Law class, they can help me manage my lectures, but when it is an elective course like Political Science etc, I have to go. (A telephone call comes in and Kabiyesi explained afterwards that the caller was the Civil Defense Officer attached to him, elaborating that the man was saying his gratitude for generosities extended to him). “In the days of old, Obas used to be showered with gifts…but nowadays it is the other way around. Some of the elders would come on a visitation to the palace with a gift of a bottle of Schnapps costing at most N500. On taking their leave, they expect a transportation cost relief from me of at least N1,000, and they usually get it. Who is the looser? (Hysteric laughter).
“Another thing that puzzles me… and I don’t know why that happens is that during the mass recruitment exercises into various organizations, people will troop down to me even from Abeokuta for letters of reference. And I used to say they could have gone to Olowu who was nearer to them. Writing letters of reference at that time on a day to day basis was nearly a full-time job for me”.

* I BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED BECAUSE OF YOUR NETWORKING AND PR BACKGROUND.

“Well, I thank God for that”.

* THE SAYING GOES THAT UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN. IN THIS CASE, IT SEEMS IT IS BOTH THE CROWNS OF AKINALE AND YOUR PROFESSIONALISM.

“That’s great. You know that workshop I did for the Obas was a remarkable success (referring to ‘A One Day Retreat For Traditional Rulers In Egbaland, Ogun State’, held on 20th November, 2012). Initially I had some challenges but everything later leveled out. Out of the 70 Obas invited, we had an attendance of 65, and even Baba (Obasanjo) was quite impressed and entertained them, addressed them and gave them lunch. You know the event was hosted in his house. Right now I am working on the compilation of a summary of the whole event, and the various lectures delivered. When concluded, we shall publish it”.

* HOW ABOUT A LIST OF YOUR CHIEFS SIR?

“Well I have a Balogun, who is Chief I.O. Egunsola. Others are the Otun, the Osi who is Chief I. Oloyede, the Ekerin, Chief A. Adeniran. My Baale and Olori-Igbimo is Chief Ramoni Faleti. The Oluwo who is also an Igbimo is Chief Aremu Ogunsola. Asipa is Chief Taiye Amusa. Bobajiro is Chief Gani Lasisi. Iyalode is Chief Nimota Oseni. Iyaloja is Chief Mrs I. Egunsola. And there are also 14 other supporting chiefs”.

* BUT I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ALSO INSTALLED SOME CHIEFS IN THE UK?

“Oh! There is also the Ajigbeda, Chief Mrs Tayo Ajakaye. The Lika Aje, Chief Olowu Mohammed. The Jagunmolu, Chief A. Makanjuola”. (pause, as if to audit the list) “And the Akogun, Engr Chief Wole Adebayo”.

* THANK YOU KABIYESI FOR YOUR VALUABLE TIME SACRIFICED OVER THE LAST 2 HOURS.

“It is my pleasure, Asiwaju”.

The interview was then wound up and photographs taken of the Towulade of Akinale beside his array of golf trophies meticulously arranged on top of a book shelf in one side of his well stocked library. Another was taken beside yet another shelf where his array of crowns, royal walking sticks and horse tail ‘irukere’ are equally neatly arranged. Oba Femi Ogunleye is a master golf player, but unfortunately because the interview extended late into the evening (beyond 8.30pm), we neither had the time nor the will to continue discussions into that area of his endeavors. Perhaps a follow-up interview in the future may reveal even more about this well accomplished Oba of Owu Kingdom, surrogated to the Olowu of Owu, who has an enviable grasp and understanding of his rural Akinale community and is well respected in the surrounding environs.

THE END

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