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Oloye Lekan Alabi’s Exclusive 70th Birthday Interview ‘I Stopped Wearing Suit The Day I became Jagun-Olubadan’ 



The Ekefa-Olubadan, Oloye Lekan Alabi is a man of many parts. A journalist, a traditionalist, socialite, commentator and the sixth in line to the Olubadan throne.  He recollects history, matches it with dates,names and shows age has nothing to do with memory. He also has an enviable record of serving four different government (both Military and Civilian as Press Secretary).
The former reporter with the Sketch newspaper would be 70 years in October and he answered questions bordering on his childhood, the prediction before his birth, his principles and how he got this far.
The High-Chief took the papermacheonline team  through the journey of his life, the triumphs and trials and how he excelled…
Can we start by saying a happy birthday to you?
Of course! That’s in order, I will be 70 years next month.
At 70, how do you feel sir?
I think age is a matter of number. I don’t feel any different from the time I know my left from my right, but biologically and medically one can notice recess in human activities like climbing stairs , walking in quick paces…all these have slowed down, but otherwise I don’t feel any different. I just look at it that I’m 70.  Moreso my mum is still alive, she is 92 and people still wont believe her age. I still look at myself as a child of a mother who is alive.
Recently you visited the ancestral home where you were given birth to 70 years ago, what informed that?
As I was told, my mum almost breathed her last at our home, Ile Ekerin Ajengbe, until my paternal grandmother’s older sister, Mama Adeola Alaro saw the danger. I was told life was almost going out of my mother, so she ordered them to pack and took her to her husband’s house. She was the mother of my late uncle, Baba Haroun Durodola whose corpse did not decompose for 16 years after his burial.
She took my mum to their house, SW1/60 Ile Tuntun and  that was where I was born and I was told my mum stayed in that house for three days. You know all these African belief, one must comply. I am my parent’s first child.  I remembered Daba Durodola was an extremely handsome man and very rich, he was my paternal uncle. I think we are all good looking in our family, both maternal and paternal.
What about your dad? You Hardly Talk About Him.
I can never forget my dad. Pa Oladosu Alabi alias ‘right time’, he was an extremely handsome man, hardworking and very responsible. He was very proud of me, when I entered Secondary School and became the class captain in Primary 2, 3, 4, and the School Mailboy in Primary 5, my father bought me a transistor set in 1963 when I was in Primary 6. He was a great man and very adventurous. He was working with a Dr Williams who was the colonial government medical doctor. When Dr Williams was transferred from Osogbo to Azare in the present Bauchi State, my parents followed him . My mum had to come back to Ibadan so that I could be given birth to in my hometown and not in a strange land. And by the time I grew up, my father was also trading in Yauri near Sokoto, later he moved to Lokoja. I spent my holidays with him in all these places. my father later moved our family to Enugu immediately the city was liberated in 1969 during the civil war. We stayed at number 86, Owerri road, Asata in Enugu where two of my younger sisters attended Queens College. I took part of my interest in travelling from my father.
Looking back, how fulfilled are you?
Since I became an adult I’ve always thanked God for the blessings. Those who know me intimately know that I don’t rush after anything. Before I was born, predictions had been made from both my maternal and paternal side. My mum is from Emure Ekiti, in Emure Ekiti my paternal grandfather, Baba Aaron Omotoso Osotun also contributed to the predictions, particularly my grandmother in Ibadan. They said a week before I was born an itinerant cleric, malim, those genuine prophet of that time came to our house and said there’s a pregnant woman in this house that they should take care of her baby. My birth was similar to that of King Sunny Ade who his parents had to move from Ondo to Osogbo because a prophet came to their house and prophesied that he would be great and bring fame to the family and Nigeria, but on the condition that he must be raised outside their town.
 Prediction was made before I was born and the malim after I was born was coming to our house to pray for me for one whole week. When I was told all these and I saw from the pattern of my life that everything had been ordered, anywhere I find myself there is usually promotion, advancement, and I would just laugh because I know about the prediction.
Did the prediction affect your growing up? You must have been pampered and spoilt as a child.
Let me now tell you what happened. At least I’ve grown up to know what I’m saying now. My grandmother also believed that her grandfather, Omolaja Ajengbe, one of the founders of this town who was an Akerin Balogun would reincarnate through her lineage. You know that time there was no scan, when my mother was pregnant they wouldn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl, the day I was born and she realised I was a boy she told them her grandfather is back. You needed to know my childhood, nobody must beat me…
Even your dad?
I said nobody must beat me. Again, I should not carry load on my head and there were certain duties I was excused from. My grandmother was a very powerful woman, Mama Asimawu Oduola Alabi, she was the woman leader of NCNC under Adegoke Adelabu. she was a powerful politician and a big time textile trader in Lalupon.  I could remember some aunties and uncles telling her I would be spoilt, she would take me into privacy, sat me down and said do you hear what they are saying? Don’t cross the border. She drew some borderline for me and once I don’t cross the border, there won’t be any issue.
And you obeyed her laws?
Yes, till today. I am one of those who will comply with any law, but on one condition, if it is not harmful physically, culturally and religiously, otherwise we may have to review that law, but as long as the law is made for public good, we must all comply. I’ve never been defiant, never!
Can You Share Your Childhood Days?
One day Adegoke Adelabu visited his Women Leader who happened to be my grandmother, they were coming from a campaign and they all came to our house. My father had gone to work, my father was very enlightened, he had worked with the British Roundtree company, they make chocolates. The Manager wanted to take him to England but his mother refused. In our house we had electricity and a radiogram. My father had switched off the electricity supply when he left for work, so when Adelabu came, they wanted to switch on the fan and radiogram for him and no one knew how to do that, and my grandmother was pacing up and down in confusion. I asked her, what is it? I was about 7 years old then.  I told her to ask someone to climb the chair and pull the switch, Adelabu was impressed and he gave me one shilling. I remembered he told my grandmother there that she should allow me go to Government  College, Ibadan. You know Adelabu was the best student in Government College, his records are still at the school unbroken.
 When I started school and I was first, that’s why they called me ‘ever first’ . At Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, Oke Foko in Ibadan, I was there 1959 to 1963, I was the class captain in Primary 2,3,4,  and the School Mailboy in Primary 5. My role as the Mailboy was to leave school on any school day at 11am to go and collect mails at the Seventh Day headquarters at Oke Bola. In my final year I was the Senior Prefect, everything was just falling in place, but I missed going to Government College.
 Only two of us purchased the common entrance form. Myself and a classmate, Freeman Tonara, his father was a policeman. We were the only two pupils our parents could afford to buy the forms. So I filled Government College, Ibadan and Government College, Ughelli as my second choice.
In preparation of the First Leaving School Examination, the officials came to our school to inspect and they found just an arm of Primary 6, whereas the law then was that any school must have two arms minimum of primary 6. I wouldn’t know why the school management sent away some of our mates in Primary 5,  many were asked to repeat and some were demoted to Primary 4.  It was just few of us that got to Primary 6. So, when the officials came they said no, this is too few. So they went back to the Ministry and they asked for us to be distributed to nearby schools. Some of us were sent to Bioku Primary school, I and some others were sent to Ansarudeen Primary School. It has never happened and in the confusion our headmistress, Mrs Ola forgot to submit our forms.  When they were making announcements on the radio, my grandmother followed me to school to know my centre for the Government College exams, the headmistress broke down in tears when we got there, she had forgotten to submit our forms. The odd part is this, Mr Tonara, the police officer came into the school and was shouting, he was threatening to sue the headmistress. he demanded the refund of the form right there, but my grandmother didn’t, she said it wasn’t the fault of the headmistress.
It was Mrs Ola, the headmistress who now told my grandmother that there is a new school near Government College called African Church Grammar School and that the principal  is a disciplinarian. So instead of her refunding our 10 shillings, 6 pence, she went to purchase the African Church Grammar School form for me and that was how I ended up at African Church Grammar school, and I thank God, but my first son, Olayemi attended the Government College, Ibadan.
Can you remember some of your classmates?
Some of my closest friends are dead now. I remember Segun Adelaja, Femi Akeredolu, Abayomi Adegbesan. its a mixed school, I have some women that we are still  in touch, they are now respectable grandmothers, Yemisi Daniel, Wura Olukotun, the late Mrs Kalejaye, Sola Sonoiki was the closest to me among the female because we were the best in English and Literature. We had a teacher who loved and was proud of both of us, Mrs Margaret Odu who was formerly Margaret Spiff. I also remember Olumide Odusote.
What were the things you did as a boy?
In Yoruba culture, responsibility  is placed on the first born, they would want you to be a role model to your siblings.  I had that responsibility, which means I must lead by good examples. Secondly my grandmother was dreaming of an Adegoke Adelabu in me and from that angle too the expectation was high. Now I can see that my grandmother, my dad, mother and others could see the future.  I was taught about our ancestry, the aristocracy, the leadership, the exploits of my progenitors, so I was raised in that mould. My grandmother ensured all that. I would spend part of my holidays in Emure Ekiti with my maternal grandfather where my uncle was also the late Elemure, Oba Oshin.  There’s royalty on both sides of my family.
Then my school, Seventh Day Adventist mission school, Western Region  used to organise an annual camp meeting for 2 weeks, it was just like the NYSC scheme. our parents would pay and we would attend the camp with our mats and other utensils. There, they would mix all those would could afford to come on a large field. the first one I attended was at Ede, we went by train.They put us on the field and select at random and we would be put through leadership training and endurance. Despite being a muslim nobody ever raised an idea of conversion, they were good in those time. Lliberalism  was ensured. My name is Abdulrasheed and I attended Seventh Day Christian School. The training was of high standard  and it moulded our lives in orderliness, discipline and fairness. I also engaged in the activities of youngsters of those days, i played table tennis and visited Baba Jebe. Baba Jebe was at the place where the present Central Mosque at Oja Oba is, he was a bicycle repairer. we would go there and rent bicycles. I also played table tennis at Oloja, Gege and I played ‘toronto’.,,
What is Toronto?
 It’s what we called bootless soccer . I had a great time as a boy.
How did you come into journalism?
It was deliberate. After my Secondary School there was an exam called pre-lim that you take to enter university which I took in 1970. The centre was at the Polytechnic, Ibadan, and I was a village school teacher, that was my first job ever, at St John’s Anglican Primary School, Akinajo near Arulogun. That was the practice at that time , you had to get a job to prepare yourself till when the results  come out, or you go straight to HSC . I was in Akinajo enjoying my life. On Fridays I would come home. The ‘atokowagbowonle’ band that you see now, some of them were my pupils and they were staying beneath my apartment, the building was an official quarters and I was staying up. Anytime they were misbehaving , their father would come and call out to me ‘teacher’ and they would all run away. Their father was the official drummer of the NCNC and when he got to know that I was the son of ‘MamaI Ile Ekerin Ajengbe’ (that was what they used to call my grandmother)  wow!
So, one day he called me and asked why I was always going to Ibadan on weekends, he told me I can also enjoy myself at the village. He had an engagement that weekend and he took me. I was at a VIP, they put all sort of food and meats in front of me and I decided I was no longer going to spend the  weekend in Ibadan again. But unknown to me, my admission letter into the University of Ife was at home, nobody knew Akinajo in my family. they didn’t know the content and they didn’t open the letter. When I got the salary for that month and  came home, they gave me the letter and I opened it, I realised the interview had been conducted. I was the first passenger on that old Ife road that morning to the University of Ife. I’ve been saying this that I hope the admission officer was still alive. When I got to the office and he saw me, he shouted at me asking why I was just coming, that I came first in the exams. Despite not knowing me, he was taking me from office to office and was trying to present my case, but in those days there were standards and nothing could be done, its not now that there is a shortcut to everything.  They said what they would do for me is that I would not write the coming year exam. That month I left the village and was looking for another job in the city.
That year Onibonje Publishers at Felele advertised for the position of an Accounts Clerk, and I was very poor in mathematics, but I felt since they are a publishing company I could have an experience in printing. So, I applied, did the written exams and the oral interview. Around 4pm they called us out and said when you hear your name, stand here. They started calling names and they called the last name and said these are the successful candidates, they now turned to us and said we were not qualified and we could apply whenever there was notice for vacancy again. Later they asked ‘who among you is Mr Lekan Alabi?’and I raised my hand, so they asked me to step aside and there they told me that I came first but my mathematics was very poor, but that because of  my performance they would appoint me the first Editorial Asistance of the company. I was glad, because that was exactly what I was looking for,  and that was how I became the first Editorial Assistant of the company.
At  Onibonje my boss was the younger brother of Baba Onibonje who was the Chairman. Our department dealt with all manuscripts and as the editorial assistant they would bring all manuscript to my table, whatever comment I wrote on any manuscript is what I would pass to my boss, and he never changed whatever comment I made. Whether to accept or reject, they rely on my judgement. So Sketch newspaper now advertised position for Reporters, Writers, Readers Grade 2 and I applied . The interview was conducted by Sketch management and the Western State Ministry of Establishment. Nigeria used to have standards. Those of us who passed were invited for interview, and only two of us were employed, i and Baba Goke Morenikeji, he assumed duty a week ahead of me because I needed to give Onibonje a notice that I was leaving.
At Sketch they put me on the Yoruba desk called ‘GbohunGbohun’. Sketch in those days used to be Sunday Sketch and ‘Gbohungbohun’ was the yoruba version.
 I was a regular at WNTV. I had a column titled ‘MO RI FIIRI’. I forgot to tell you that I was very good in Yoruba, I had distinctions. In my column I was writing about current issues. So one day I went to a party and I saw a band playing just exactly like Ebenezer Obey’s.  When they had a break I went to them because I knew all the band members of Ebenezer Obey at that time. I was a member of ‘Come Let’s Dance’, I dance very well and  I was  also a member of Chief Afolabi Majekodunmi’s King of Boys Circle. It was a social circle at that time. Baba Majekodunmi was a big time transporter that , he was the King of boys, he likes boys flocking around him. He drives a Chevrolet and he would take us to parties.if you don’t dress well he would tell you not to follow him. He taught us many things, he was grooming us socially, and that time he had his eyes for those of us that are brilliant and had focus. It was the focus that led me to journalism and I became a great writer, I thank God for what He had done for me and I’m still thanking Him for what he is doing.
So I attended the party and interviewed Makanjuola the manager of the band that  sounded like Ebenzer Obey. I asked if they were Ebenezer Obey’s second band, he flared up and told me they were all copying Tunde Nightingale. I wrote the article and gave it to the editor of Sunday Sketch, the late Mr Philip Bamidele Adedeji. He published it and it caused trouble. People never believed I wrote the story because it was well written. He called me and said the article I wrote was standard for my age and experience and that it raised dust and he asked if I was the author  and when  I said yes, he asked me to write another article. I learnt there was a play going on at Obisesan Hall that night, I bought a ticket , went there and reviewed the play and gave it to him. He was so happy. he now said I should go to the photo section where they took my picture while the editor designed the montage and named the page WHATS HAPPENING. it was a review of play,books, theatre by Lekan Alabi, it was a very popular column and I became the first dual columnist in Yoruba and English, not only in Sketch but in this country. From Sketch I now went for my professional training in London at the College of Journalism 62, Fleet Street.
When I came back I joined NTV , from there I became  one of the pioneer staffers of TSOS, Television Service Of Oyo State in 1982. I was later seconded to Governor’s  Office under Governor Bola Ige as Press Secretary.  We won the 1983 election, but FEDECO said otherwise and the rest is history. But instead of allowing me to go back to TSOS the government of Dr Victor Olunloyo said no and anybody who returned to either O.Y.O or TSOS were sacked, Many were sacked and many were transferred. So they were all begging but I refused to beg. My father and uncle were puzzled, they were socialites of that and friends with Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. My father went to Adedibu, and Adedibu said ‘Lekan Alabi? Ijesa Ni Omo yen!. That was because I was so loyal to Bola Ige. He said they should bring me, but I refused. I said i would not beg. All the pro-Ige in the civil service were sacked, they were calling us UPN sympathisers. So I was home for three months without a job. Lo and behold! There was a coup.  I could remember the headlines in the newspapers then ‘Happy New Year, Happy New Government because the coup took place on the 31st of December, 1983. My father was looking at me and was wondering, was this the reason this boy refused to beg? Did he know there was going to be a coup?  He summoned the family meeting the next Sunday and relinquished the leadership of the family to me. The leadership of the whole Alabi family!.
The following month, I was reappointed as the Press Secretary to Governor Oladayo Popoola. There were many miracles in my life.  My letter of appointment came but the officials  said they couldn’t locate me, they were lying. The new government  ordered all the people dismissed, suspended and penalised by the civilian government to return, so that the new government can set up special investigation panel to look at the case.

One afternoon i was at the Total fuelling station at Bodija when one of our uncles, Engineer Popoola who was a cousin to the Military Governor saw me and asked ‘Lekan, how is your boss? I thought he was referring to Bola Ige and I said ‘Oga has been taken to Lagos’. He said i wasn’t talking about Chief Bola Ige. I now approached him and he asked why I’ve not resumed. It was through him I heard I’ve been appointed. He asked me to come to his house in the evening , I went there and he told me the Governor said they couldn’t locate me and he was already thinking of appointing another person. He now said if I was still interested I should come to the office the next day. That second day I wore one of my best suits . When I got to work I pinched myself, I felt I was dreaming.
 Working with Bola Ige at that time must have pitched you against Dr Omololu Olunloyo?
Dr Olunloyo wrote the foreword to my book.
So you never had any problem with him?
Nothing personal. Till now he still calls me. You need to read my book, Speaking For Governors and what he wrote in the foreword of my book. Let me quote him, he said ‘he would have loved to retain me as his Press Secretary but for some do- gooders, that they didn’t want  Lekan Alabi’.
What did you learn from that experience?
I learnt that destiny can never be changed. Remember my beginning and the predictions. For Dr Olunloyo to have accepted to write the foreword, it was enough gratitude . For him to have written that he would have loved to retain me. Governments must be careful, particularly when they are new. There are people that would come, give bad advice in the sense that they want to take a pound of flesh. They are there in one’s family, group and religious sectors. Anything that has to do with leadership. May God give them good advisers and aides that are God fearing. People that won’t call white black.
You Had an Unbeatable Experience working with 4 different Governors, How did you achieve that?
Yes, I worked with one civilian and three Military Governors as a Press Secretary.  Let me just tell you this, its my destiny. The last  person I worked with,  Brigadier Sasaenia Adedeji Oresanya didn’t even tell me anything.  It was at the tail end of his government  in 1989 that he asked me to make a request and that he would grant it. That was March 30, 1989. And I asked him to sponsor me to Hajj. He was surprised, so he sponsored me and I left his service as Press Secretary. The day we were going to Hajj  was the day the Odua Board was also meeting and the Military Governors were the heads of the board. so Oresanya was the current chairman then. So when we were about leaving for Hajj, one of the protocol officers, Kola Fatunbi saw me, they went to pick the food for the Odua Board at the government house and he shouted ‘egbon congratulations’. I thought he was greeting me for Hajj and I was thinking whats the big deal . He now said ‘you have been appointed the Public Affairs Officer of Odua. They’ve already taken the press release of your appointment to media houses’.
You know why the Governor did that? When he came I was coordinating the publicity promotion for ODUA INVESTMENT COMPANY LIMITED. Idiagbon and Buhari said they should stop rotating meetings between Akure, Ibadan and Abeokuta. so the meeting was holding in Ibadan permanently and he asked me how much they paid me and I said I wasn’t paid, I was then coordinating  the AGM and also their publicity. I think he found out from the secretary to the Military Government that i wasn’t getting paid for that. That was how the job came. so when i arrived Hajj whenever they were doing special prayers I would just be like, God Me? what a gift!
What did you attribute all that to? 
Destiny. Although the prediction may not be specific, but in clear terms they said I would be  great. I told you the drill I went through from my grandmother, my grandfather, my parents. they always sound it to my ear ‘leaders don’t do this, leaders don’t do that’.
You learnt from a lot from great people, you sat at the feet of giants..who would moulded you say moulded you to what you become?
all of them had hands in it. I told people this, when great men and women accept you into their inner recess please don’t bring any personal problems to them, particularly financial problems. Don’t raise it, because they will be scared. Let them see their values in you. The late Parakoyi of Ibadanland, Chief Bode Akindele is a man of standards, extreme protocol and if I would say with all due respect that our association lasted for 36 years. Look at the first lady Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mama Folake Solanke, look at Bola Ige, Dr Yemi Farounbi…these are great people but they welcomed me into their fold. I always ask myself what they see in me. I’ve never lost my sense of self discipline and i don’t ask them for money. I also remember Arisekola Alao of blessed memory. Chief Ebenezer Obey too. I danced live in front of Obey 50 years ago at the Oyenuga’s party. That was where we struck our friendship and by the time I became the social page editor of Sunday Sketch in 1974 they all became my friends. If you needed anything to do with reviews, plays you must come to my desk. There were just three Sunday papers in Nigeria then. The great Sunday Times, Sunday Sketch and also Punch started i think as weekly then.
Working with four governors, was there any particular time your work put you in trouble?
Ah! I had issues with MKO Abiola who was my mentor. Everybody knew we were so close. He would invite me to come to Lagos when he had matters to discuss. Also Kabiyesi Arapasowu Olubadan, I was his confidant. I was his official director of protocols and confidant. When kabiyesi wants to discuss something in confidence with me, none of his family members, even wives must stay with us. Oba Yinusa Bankola Ogundipe. I was his confidant.
 What happened that time, Alaafin of Oyo, Ikubababa yeye was going to make MKO Abiola the Aare Ona Kakanfo and the relationship between Governor Olurin and Alaafin Adeyemi was stormy. I was press secretary to Governor Olurin at that time. so Abiola invited Babangida who was the  Head Of State to the installation in Oyo, but Babangida  sent the Chief of Air Force, Alfa to represent him and my boss was already in a ceremonial army uniform because it was going to be a big ceremony and we wereat the Government House waiting to receive the representative of the Head of State. They had sent a signal a day before that Babangida was not coming but that he would send a representative. so when Alfa drove into the Government House he wore a civilian dress.
Are you asking me?  I dont know. So my boss saluted him and Alfa said it was a private thing that Olurin shouldn’t bother to go, that he should go to his work. Alfa went to oyo and asked us to step back. Abiola got furious and when he was interviewed and they asked why the Military Governors did not attend his installation, Abiola said ‘all those ones  are eaglet Governors’…eaglet Governors? A full colonel of the Nigerian Army who fought in Lebanon and won medals. Then Raji Rasaki and Akhigbe you called them eaglet Governors? I wrote a rejoinder which rubbished MKO Abiola and it was published. The tone was ‘what do you take yourself for…’
And he was your friend?
Ah, I was avoiding him. If i see him at any function I would hide, but he later wrote a letter of apology.
Did he reach out to you after your rejoinder was published?
Ah! In the military days? Security would be watching out for you to see if you are double-dealing. That would be too dangerous. Its best to be straightforward. All the people that know us together, particularly his family stigmatised me. Later they now transferred Olurin and I started working  with Oresanya. University of Ibadan was launching one foundation and Abiola was the toast of any foundation at that time. so he came to the University of Ibadan. That time was different, not unlike now when thousands follow a Governor everywhere he goes. That time only four of us would follow the Governor out. The ADC, Director of Protocol, NSO and the Press secretary, definitely we would be standing behind the Governor. When I saw Abiola at the event, I was scared.
Did he see you?
I was behind my oga and his back was also turned to me, so I pulled a straight face, but the MC broke the ice as he recognised the VIPs, he now said my senior, Akogun Lekan Alabi is also here. So Abiola looked back and said ‘oh, you are here?’ Akogun Apaye, (he used to call me that) I quickly went to him and he said he would be sleeping in Ibadan that day and we should meet. I went to meet him at the vice chancellor’s chalet and he asked me why I was running from him, he said you did your job, any good press secretary would do what you did. I was like ‘so you were not angry?’ He asked me to come on Sunday and I went to his Ikeja home and that was how it ended. He told me my life history that day. You know he was also not an ordinary being?
Again when i was 60, we had a party at the Civic Centre. A week to my party Alaafin lost his eldest daughter, Princess Akofade, she died at the UCH so Alaafin couldnt attend. Later he sent me a message to choose any weekend and that he would host me and my family. He also asked me to come with the media to the palace in Oyo. We chose a date but suddenly Sikiru Ayinde Barrister too died, we mourned him for a week and we now went to Oyo. Alaafin threw a feast, the media were present and he gave a speech where he spoke for over an hour and he said so many things about me. You know he also had issues with Bola Ige and Olurin?  He said throughout that period I never issued a statement against him. That people in position as advisers should learn a lesson that one day they would leave the office. That time it was God that saved me. People went behind to tell Olurin that I was close to Alaafin and that I  always go to Oyo, but my uncle was in Oyo for over 40 years and I must go and visit him. My advice is for those who manage whatever they claim to manage for Presidents and Governors, they should all be careful. How can you be insulting personalties and important people. you can go to issues, but don’t personalise to please your bosses.
At 70, how do you feel with the present situation of the country?
This is not the Nigeria  our fathers and mothers dreamed of. Nigeria of their dream and the one we met was Nigeria of merit. You get things by merits and not by who you know. When you get things by merit, your colleagues and people you are in the same class will respect you. But for the Federal Government to be talking quota and giving admission to those who scored 20 percent, there’s no way the ones with the 80 percent will not look down on the quota candidate. Because if not for the Federal Character, it cant be so. The Federal Military Government under Ironsi turned Nigeria to a Unitary system. whatever happens in Gombe must happen in Owerri without considering the culture, resource and the needs of the people. It is deception to be saying Nigeria is one,we are a country of many nations. so we should copy regionalism with less job for the Federal Government. Let us go back and do it as it was done in the past. Western Region had Agent- General in UK, Eastern Region   had, Northern Region also ha, then Nigeria had High Commissioners. All these confabs, restructuring…how many confabs have we had?. Go to the reports, implement them. But the first thing to do is to decentralize the system back to what they call true Federalism. Ironsi turned the government to provinces, because he had hidden agenda. Zik said its only a matter of time when the Igbos will take over Nigeria, that was before the Nzeogwu coup. Unification decree of Ironsi meant they could transfer civil servants from Kano to Ogoja, they could transfer from Ibadan to Katsina. Then you look at it, what is our size in the Federal Civil Service? Sir Ahmadu Bello is my number 1 man. he was a realist who was telling Zik, Awolowo and others before they got the independence that we should sort our differences before we go into union, but they said let us take independence first, Ahamdu Bello was telling them they should resolve because we are not the same, he was saying that, in reality and pragmatism. He was my number 1 nationalist. Another thing about him was the love for culture, what he wanted to be in life was to be the Sardauna of Sokoto. They predicted when his mother was pregnant that he would be the reincarnation of Usman Dan Fodio. Despite that the British handed power to him, he chose Sir Tafawa Balewa to become the Prime Minister. I cant see that happening in present Nigeria. Ahamdu Bello was not interested in Prime Ministership, he only wanted to become the Sardauna. Another thing, I’ve said it that if anybody can show me the picture of  Sardauna in suit, that I would give the person a million naira on the spot.
He never wore a suit?
I’m yet to see the picture of him wearing a suit. I also stopped wearing suit in 2002 when I was promoted from Mogaji to Jagun- Olubadan. Ever before I quit government service, I’ve always loved traditional attires. I’m a real Yoruba man. That time when i was working with the government i was wearing the best suits in the world. I was going to Italy to buy suits. But the day I became the Jagun Olubadan in 2002 I said bye to foreign clothes and started wearing strictly traditional attires. Because promotion, enhancement should not be exterior but interior. You must follow your culture, embrace it and be sincere.
You are a practising muslim and also a cultural ambassador, how do you fuse that?
culture and religion are parallel, they are both from God almighty. There are over 200 religions in the world. The two most popular ones are Islam and Christianity, the Ifa worshippers too will say God, Jews have their own and culture is the identification of each tribe with names, dresses, food, language music and philosophy which are all from God. They will never meet because they are parallel. They still promote and practise their culture in Israel, same with Saudi Arabia. It is the black man, thank God we are also waking up. The Chinese and Japanese have woken up. Look at the Queen of England, if I’m correct she is the longest serving monarch in the world. There are certain things and culture they observe during the installation of the Queen, but its not always shown to the world. Many things they hide, yet they are advancing. Modern day Israel was created in 1948, its now a world power. Every year Saudi Arabia develops facilities for pilgrims.
You are the Ekefa-olubadan, the 6th in line to the throne and you are just 70 years. Had there ever been a time an Olubadan was that young?
Olubadan Kobiowu was the youngest Olubadan. He became Olubadan at 50 in 1964. But what the Ibadan Traditional Chieftancy system pronounces is the order of God almighty based on destiny. Anyone who would become Olubadan must have chosen the crown from heaven. Its not by might, its not by exams, its just destiny. And there are 3 stages as i was told by the late Oba Arapasowu . He said the three major celebrations in the life of an Ibadan man and his family is the day your father’s family chooses you as the Mogaji, he said if the mother of a Mogaji is alive, she should be reeling on the floor because her son becomes the head of her husband’s clan. You know at that time they don’t get pregnant before marriage, so there’s no way a bastard would come into the family. Second celebration is when a Mogaji is promoted and the third which is the grandest is when an Olubadan is crowned. The king of this verse town, stretching from Asejire to places. Is that a town or a country? For you to become the traditional head and the symbol of ibadanland with our economic power and social power, its a matter of destiny. Once God said you will become an Olubadan, its a matter of time, place and how.
Why did you leave the Odua Group 6 years ahead of your retirement?
I just decided to leave when the ovation was loudest. Something just told me to leave. The GMD at that time, Adebayo Jimoh didn’t want to approve my letter, even the other Directors, they were trying to persuade me not to go, but i told them it is a great honour. Some people were chased out of office, I needed to go that time but I’m a friend of Odua. If you need me anytime , i would be available. You know Odua survived Babangida’s decree? Babangida decreed the dissolution of Odua after the Gideon Orka coup. He said any meeting that allows governors to be meeting to be dissolved, funnily they didn’t lift a finger against the NNDC, Kaduna. They set up a body of trustees marking out things to sell. So I ran to MKO Abiola,  I waited for about 9 hours to see him. When he saw me he was scared and was like, Oloye, what happened? i said its a serious matter. I didnt go for my sake, but for the sake of the Yorubaland, do you know what that means? To dismantle Odua? I told Abiola everything, and between 12am that he saw me and 5am, the matter was resolved . I remembered vividly what he said that night, ‘go and tell my people, nothing can remove Olumo, nothing can remove Oke Badan, Odua will stay’ and I said thank you sir and that was it!
At 70, what are the things that would change in you?
The doctors did certain prescriptions on what you should eat, drink once you are 40. There was an article i once read in a magazine ‘how to fire your boss’. The author outlined some things you must do before you get fired …like paying all your mortgage, your children must be out of school, dont get caught in any court case, pray against illness…i carried that book about and i said i was going to follow that . The day our last born graduated, I was glad. So my retirement was planned, timed.
Now, I’m engaged in syndicated writings, lectures and seminars, the traditional title and duties increased and i have 3 weekly live radio analysis that keep my brain very alert. I do exercise and I love eating amala.

What about music?
The whole world will tell you, Yusuff Olatunji is my number 1. Not only because he was my father’s friend or that his band played at my naming ceremony, but I tell people just listen to him, the philosophy. listen to his lead drummer, Kasumu Isola. for a band to have remained together for close to 50 years without breaking up, it tells a lot about him. if you see his house at Lafenwa, Governor Osoba changed the name of the street to his name.
For someone that doesn’t seek financial favour from people, how rich are you?
prosperity is better than richness. Richness is the balance of the money in your bank accounts, but when you are prosperous, you have more than enough for your need , people will think you are richer than what they say. again, there is contentment. Even if you are the richest man in the world, contentment is key.


‘why I married the Ooni of Ife’ -Ronke Ademiluyi




-Ayotunde Ayanda
The convener of the African Fashion Week, Princess Ronke Ademiluyi is one of the wives of the Ooni of Ife, in this short interview, the fashion designer, a great grand-daughter to Ooni Ademiluyi traced her background and why she fell in love with the present Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi…
What’s The Usual Life In A Palace For An Olori?
My great grandfather was Ooni Ajagun Ademiluyi, he was the 48th Ooni of Ife, so I’ve always been used to royalty, I’m a blue-blood. I’ve always known everything about the palace and royalty. Now that I’m married to the 51st Ooni of Ife, for me it’s just normal because it’s something I’ve always been used to. Waking up with duties, doing my work as well, doing my cultural duties, bringing everything together is just something I do effortlessly, because I’ve been used to it from a tender age. When His Majesty ascended the throne in 2015 I had that opportunity to be a part of the whole thing, so I’m kind of grown with him and he is being someone like a mentor, he mentors me a lot.
How Did You Adjust To Life In Ile-Ife Compared To The City Life In Lagos, Did You Miss Anything?
To be honest, I don’t really miss anything because I don’t like the traffic in Lagos, we all know how hectic Lagos can be. Living here is more like an escape from the city life. I have my work that I do here as well, His Majesty established an adire factory for me where we make adire and train people, we work with students from the Universities. For me it’s another life aside from the one in Lagos.
There is a change in your dressing, as a Queen are there some clothes you are forbidden to wear?
My position comes with my appearance as the wife of a king, you can be called at any time to do anything, so you must keep up that appearance because you are representing your husband wherever you are. If you are dressed in jeans or not dressed in a proper way it would have an adverse effect, people will start talking. People would feel that I even being a princess I supposed to know better.
In a royal setting there is usually polygamy and Kabiyesi exercised this recently by marrying you and five other wives, how do you cope?
First and foremost I must say polygamy is part of the African culture. If you look at all the Oonis, from  Ooni Oduduwa they all had many wives, even my great grandfather, Ooni Ademiluyi had 47 wives. It comes with the throne and its part of the throne, polygamy is an African culture and part of the throne of Ile-Ife. My husband’s predecessor, Ooni Olubuse had 11 wives, that’s the culture.
Why Did You Marry The Kabiyesi And What Was The Attraction?
I can tell you I fell in love with him because of our culture, for the upliftment of our culture.
What was your childhood like?
I had a very privileged background as one of the only children of Prince Adebolu Ademiluyi, I have three brothers, I’m the only girl. I was born in London, precisely the Paddington Hospital where the royals in the Uk are born as well. I lived in Sussex Garden while growing up before we moved back to Nigeria. I did a bit of my school in Nigeria, my primary school was Adrao International School and then my mum who is from Akure decided that we should go over there to also learn from her people, so I was in boarding School at Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School, Akure. I went back to London for my A’Levels, later I went to London University where I studied Law, despite always wanting to spend all my life in fashion and textile.
Why did you study Law?
Fashion then was frowned at. They see it as the lowest for those who are not intelligent, unlike now where African fashion is now a huge thing. I’m in love with western designs but I look into Africa for inspiration. They call it ethnic fashion, tribal fashion, African fashion, there s no name they haven’t given it, but the bottom line is that it is African. Africa has like 3000 tribes and each tribe has its own unique fashion culture. No matter how close your borders are, when you see kente on someone you know maybe this person is from Ghana. In Nigeria we have about 500 ethnic groups and we have our different fashion. Regarding African fashion, i think we are still scratching the surface, we haven’t started yet. Fashion wasn’t lucrative when I was growing up, so I wasn’t allowed to study fashion. My mum’s sister that I stayed with was a retired Judge, so I used to go to court with her, it was from there tht the inspiration came to study Law, but I never practised, after stdying Law I went straight into fashion.
For someone who had given a lot to fashion, what has fashion given back to you?
Fashion has given me a lot. I showcased about 2000 designers from about 26 African countries and I have been the success story of the most emerging and successful African designers. For me I’m happy, I’m fulfilled when I listen to testimonies of what others have been able to gain from what I started. Fashion has given me fulfilment and it will continue giving me.
Your store Rukiz in Lagos was popular then with the high-heeled and the most urban, what happened to the business?
Rukiz was a chain of store I had when I moved back to Nigeria in 2001, it was actually Rukiz that exposed me into the fashion industry. When I was in school in London I used to do a little bit of fashion but after my studies I decided to move back to Nigeria and that was when I established Rukiz. I had a chain of 5 stores, two on Opebi, one in Surulere, one in Lekki and one in Lagos Island, they were all doing well, but when I decided to move into African fashion industry I decided to close Rukiz because I couldn’t get a proper management structure. With the African fashion I was all over, I was in the UK and around different African countries. So, the management of Rukiz store was lacking and that was why I closed it to focus on African Fashion.
I started African Fashion Week in London in 2011. African fashion wasn’t popular then and people were like why do I have to call it that, I was advised to change the name but I went with my gut-feeling and established the African Fashion Week London. The venue we took then could only accommodate 700 people, but we had a turn-up of 4500 people and that was when I knew the world is hungry for African fashion and its been growing since then and this has inspired so many African fashion around the world, there is hardly any city in the world that doesn’t have an African Fashion Week which was based on the success I achieved.
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‘I fought under Charles Taylor in the Liberian civil war’ -Oluwo of Iwo




in this exclusive interview with AYOTUNDE AYANDA, the Oluwo dissects major issues in Yorubaland, his background and how he wins all his battles…


By November this year, you will be marking eight years on the throne as the Oluwo of Iwo kingdom. If there is one thing you have enjoyed about being the king of this town, what could it be?

As soon as you are made the king, you must be able to define the position you are holding and why you are being called the king. My prayer everyday on this throne is that I should be greater than my forefathers who once occupied this seat. I also pray that by the time I leave this throne, whoever is coming after me should be greater than me. When I first got on the throne, we realized that some of the things we knew were things we were made to believe but we found out that things were what they ought to be. So, the first was to challenge the status quo by asking questions and making your research.

What did you find out about the throne and what has changed in almost eight years?

We found out that  kingship in Yoruba land is more spiritual than the physical. I am not the real king, the real king is actually Olodumare and Olodumare cannot be seen. Kingship is not the position of humans but one that was created by God. When you greet the king in Yoruba land, they say Kabiyesi o. So who is the Kabiyesi? I can’t be the Kabi o kosi (Unquestionable One). Olodumare is the owner of the odu, which literally means the codes of life; the owner of creation. There is nobody in history that answers that name. Olodumare simply means the one who knows where all of us are going and where it will all end. So for me, being able to define what kingship means and propagating it across the Yoruba land. Many who aspire to take the institution of kingship don’t know that they are talking the institution of God. What they don’t know is that the institution of kingship is a different one entirely and shouldn’t be compared to worshipping deities. You don’t mix God’s institution of kingship with Ogun or Obatala or Sango. But people get it wrong when people worshipping will use water to make rituals for the king is supposed to be the representation of God.

You a monarch who doesn’t believe in worshipping deities but you couldn’t have become a king without some of the traditional rituals you don’t want to have around you. Who do you worship now and do you worship it?

I worship Olodumare without having to go through Sango, Obatala or any other deities. My role as a king is to put people who are worshipping their fathers on the right track. The king does not practice all religion. The king should not be involved in any religion that needs you to pass through another god to talk to Olodumare. When kings these days want to defend this, they will say they are following what they met as tradition but I always tell them that they are following what is from the Dark Age. You must learn to correct the mistakes of your father. As a Yoruba man, I believe that tradition can be done without worshipping deities. Worshipping deities is not tradition; it is not culture. It is a religion of some people but worshipping Olodumare is the widely acceptable religion and way of life. That’s why I feel bad when I hear people calling on angels to come and rescue them or help them take their prayers to God. You cannot call an angel to come and do anything for you because they are not responsible to you. It is like somebody working for me in the palace who suddenly disappears and when I found him and asked where he went to, he told me that a man called me to come and work for him. That maid as far as I am concerned does not have a job in the palace again. That’s the same way you can’t call angel Gabriel and angel Michael because he can’t help you. Unless his master, God sends him to you, he will not answer your call. It is same way you can’t send an angel to God; he will not deliver your message because you are not his master.

Do you believe in magic?

I don’t believe in magic, I believe magic is just like a dream comes true. You will hear people say somebody attacked them in their dream but they woke up later. That’s not true. If that person has such power to attack you in your dream, you can’t wake up to tell the story. There are many deceits out there that they use to trick people. These things are not real. But God made us kings over everything He created. I am not under any deity or traditional influence; I am far above all deities known to man. What people call Orisa simply means the specially chosen ones, so everybody is special in the face of God. But Kings reign supreme over those who are specially chosen such as Ogun, Obatala, Sango and other deities known to man. The people erroneously say Oba alase ikeji Orisa but that’s not correct. Oba is not the second in command to any deity, he’s above all deities. Other Obas who have not discovered the truth can continue to play second fiddle to the deities. I just want people to know and change. If you look at the Bible, who did Moses, David and Jesus Christ, Noah and even Abraham consult before having access to God? They spoke directly to God alone. So why do we have to speak through somebody before we have access to our father? So, why do Yoruba people want to see God through somebody else? God is indescribable. So, the king represents God on earth. If I go to church or mosque, I have gone there to bless their prayers because I am the only one empowered by God to bless people’s prayers as God’s representation. If a king recognises God and worships Him alone, if he goes to a mosque or church, he has gone to bless them. That’s why I said the Yoruba race is the most blessed in the world. God blessed us so much that we don’t have to be worried about anything as long as we can call Olodumare and worship Him. Christians and Muslims need to understand that they don’t have to bow down to any other deity. The future of the Yoruba is very bright.

Recently, the Ooni of Ife and veteran actor, Pete Edochie were in the news because the latter greeted the Ooni by shaking hands with him. As the custodian of tradition and culture of the Yoruba race, what do you make of that scenario?

 I believe that a king should know his office. When people see their religious leaders, they want them to pray for them and bless them. But do you know that the blessing of a king is greater than that of any religious or spiritual fathers you can think about. But the problem is that people don’t see  that a king’s blessing is greater than that of any religious leaders. Many kings belong to a secret society where you see that a road side mechanic is not only a member, but the boss. Kings have become so hopeless in their offices that they don’t know that the day you become a king, you are not expected to be part of any secret cult. Do you know we don’t have the Yoruba Council of Obas? We supposed to merge the kings in Yorubaland together which will be greater than any other secret society. But some people won’t let that happen because they want to weaken the traditional institution. So, as first class kings, we must come together and take back our institution but it can never happen because the kings will never agree that Olodumare is the owner of the stool.  In Ogun State, they worship Agemo and their kings worship with them, Oyo worships Sango, Ife will say it is worshipping 400 deities. I don’t know how they came about 400 deities. They need to tell us the names of each of the deities. If all kings come under the umbrella of Olodumare, we will enjoy the respect they desire. If you attend functions in the North, only the President can sit with the traditional rulers. Ministers, governors and other political office holders will sit behind their Emirs but in Yoruba land, they relegate the Obas to the back seats, you will be seeing Senators and House of Reps members at the front that even state house of assembly members will sit ahead of their Obas. Kings have become powerless in Yoruba land. That’s why I was talking about secret cults, imagine a Sultan in the same secret cult as a mechanic, what do you expect? You can see what is wrong with the Yoruba kingship, they have signs and will signal to him, they can even tell him they would kill him, that’s why they are powerless. 
This man, Pete Edochie is probably in a cult with his own king over there. The Igbos lack respect, they greet their fathers standing doesn’t bow to their elders; they shake them.
If you were in that situation, what would you have done?
I will not shake Edochie. We’ve seen the likes of billionaires like Dangote, Taiwo Afolabi bow when they want to greet me. Otedola bows, even the President, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu bows, Baba Lai Mohammed bows, these are great men but symbols of humility. I can show you their pictures, you can see where President Tinubu greeted me, a whole President!  But If I were in the shoes of the Ooni, I would not shake hands with that man. If you are coming to greet me and you can’t bow, then keep your greeting. I have met eminent Nigerians who would greet me with humility and I will in return extend my hand to shake them. 

Nigerians are groaning under the yoke of fuel price hike occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy, what do you think of this decision by President Bola Tinubu at this critical time?

Removing subsidy is the best thing to do for the survival of the country. Subsidy is an organized crime with some elites sharing the money. Who are they subsidising for? Do you subsidise petroleum products? You subsidise housing and healthcare. Petroleum is luxury, so you don’t subsidise it. Let’s build our railways with that money and our roads as well. Let the government start giving palliatives and increase the minimum wage.

You have brought a lot of class and royalty to this throne in the last seven years, but some people argued that the standard you have set for the kingdom is too expensive for the town to manage. What does it cost you to be classy?

It can cost you so much and it can cost you less if you are confident in what you are wearing and how you carry yourself. You can use an Ankara to propagate your style. You can even use Kampala to elevate your status as a king. It depends on how you move with confidence and boldness no matter what you wear.

You are a luxurious king, but they say luxury is not cheap…

It doesn’t come cheap but the way you carry yourself will make people come and ask you what are you wearing and who makes what you wear. That’s why I tell people that a king’s luxury is his people. If you are milking your people as a king, you will be enjoying luxury in fear and that doesn’t add up to being bold and confident. I am the first king in the world that the people rose to fight on his behalf when some people said they wanted to dethrone me. My people will fight for me because I don’t take anything from them. So my people are my wealth, my strength and boldness because power lies in the hands of the people and I am serving them.
You will clock 8 years on the throne in some months time, there had been attempts to depose you, you’ve fought different battles…which of these shook you the most?
None! Nothing in life that I pass through that I don’t expect, they are tests. There is no peace in the world, every day we fight, the only place where there is peace is the grave. You wake up and fight every day, even God doesn’t sleep. So, no attack shakes me. If you are in a school and you write an exam you’ve prepared for, you must pass. I’m always prepared and God is my strength.

You mean different things to different people. Some people believe you are troublesome and some will say you are different. How do you really see yourself?

When I get to an event and I am not given the right seat, I will tell them that I am a First Class Oba; you should treat me with royalty. Anywhere I am, I always ask for my right  because nobody is going to give it to you on a platter of gold, you have to demand it. When I first became the Oluwo, I realised that this throne had no respect or dignity. The royalty and dignity had been beaten down and almost nonexistent. My first outing as the Oluwa I was placed in the 16th seat and I said no, this is not my seat, even in Abuja, I would say no! I know my class in the comity of Obas, so I don’t take  anything that falls low of my class. In the Western House of Chiefs, I am number three.
People can say I’m troublesome because they don’t understand what I fight for, I fight for my rights in a diplomatic way, that is me! I always tell the truth. I don’t like the situation where people ask me about myself and I won’t be able to answer. I’ve gone through a lot in life, do you know I was in the Liberian war…
As A Soldier?
I fought under Charles Taylor in the war. Ive passed through a lot, this is a story for another day.

How did your journey to throne begin and what prepared you for this seat?

You know that we Yorubas are very deep spiritually, so our kings are chosen by the Olodumare Himself. So I was chosen by God to be king, especially for the role I am playing in the Yoruba land today, which is to bring all kings back to Olodumare. My father was a prince, a very high prince from Iwo,  known as Prince Kola Akanbi, he was an Insurance man that worked with Marine Engineering owned by Fajemirokun. I grew up in that house beside Bovas fuel station at Total Garden in Ibadan. I attended Omolewa  Nursery and Primary school. On the eight day of my birth, somebody came and told my parents that they should not give me the names they had prepared for me. He came with the prophecy that I would be a great king and dropped the names I would be called- Adewale, because he would bring the crown home, the crown that has been lost from our family for over 400 years, and I would also be called Olusegun, because he would fall to no attack and also  Akorede and Abdulrasheed. He warned them that if they call me any other names, people would be dying. They said the man turned back and disappeared. That was what happened on the eight day. I was at Iwo Grammar School, but some spiritual issues happened in 1981 that I had to leave, later I finished at Oba Akinyele. Along the line I lived in Akobo where I met the family of the present Ooni, it was part of my kingship journey. The Ooni was younger than us then, but his elder brother, Tunji Ogunwusi, was my friend, we used to play soccer together, he was in St Patrick’s. God later used me for them in the future.

You contested against 40 other princes of Iwo but you emerged winner. Did the Ifa pick you at that time?

Tell me one king that Ifa picked in Yoruba land. The person who is picked by the governor is the one God has ordained to be the king. There is no Oba in Yoruba land that will say Ifa picked him. It is after the governor picked you that you now become a king. Ifa doesn’t have any power over the governor. May be you watch too much Nollywood movies. Even during our forefathers, they would make the most powerful person at that time king. At that time, I didn’t even know the governor because I had just returned from Canada but I told other contestants who are far richer and popular then that I am the next king even if you know Barack Obama and the governor, it will not change the fact that I am the next Oluwo.

How did you become the Oba if you didn’t know the governor?

When Olodumare wants to work, you can’t even understand how He would do it. Just for few months before I became the king, Olodumare just opened a channel. I didn’t even meet the governor until the eve of the day I would be announced as the king. I met him at 1am and that was all! It was the work of Olodumare, the god of the Yorubas, the god of our fathers and you can’t understand it. When God brings a king, He brings him for a purpose.
Has this throne made you richer?
No, I’m just here serving and that is the purpose. I’m here to serve, nothing else.
You recently married a wife from the North, many would have thought as a Yoruba Oba, you will marry a Yoruba woman, what informed that decision?
many Yoruba women listen to rumors and they don’t give rooms, they judged, many rumours were being peddled and I was judged. The former Olori was a set up, she was part of the attacks, and they paid her to do a lot. She poisoned me twice. She even lured me to a mall in Canada where she paid an assassin to kill me. But as God would have it, the assassin was someone I’ve helped in the past, and he couldn’t do the job.  I don’t smoke, my people can attest to that, but she coerced me to help her do some things, you know she is a Jamaican and she made me believe she must smoke to survive. You can imagine a woman you don’t have problem with recording you in your own bedroom, it showed she had an agenda. All my friends back from Canada know I don’t smoke. 
I married from the royal family which I see they are loyal and honest to their husband and I married from where I’m comfortable with.


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We Are Planning To Revolutionize Nigeria’s Real Estate Industry – Idowu Lamidi, CEO, Dollar Construction Company




Idowu Lamidi

The CEO of fast-growing multinational construction company in Nigeria, Dollar Construction Company, Idowu Lamidi, recently  shared his view on how he ventured into construction business and why he decided to build quality estates in Ibadan among many salient issues… Excerpts

Can our readers meet you?

My name is Idowu Lamidi, I started my life in Ibadan, before going to the North. I bagged my HND in Land Administration and I am currently studying Business administration in Nasarawa State Polytechnic. In Dollar Construction Company, our lives have always been on business and we are in Ibadan not just to make money, or build estates but build homes for people. Once you people have a good home, crime will reduce. For someone living in a tattered house and you are threatening such person with prison, he will even tell you that there is no difference with where he is staying and that is why when people go to prison, they come out hardened, but someone that has comfort runs away from problem. That is why an adage in English says “the owner of a glass house will not throw stone” that is why we are here.

You said you grew up in Ibadan, you were born in Ibadan, but you are from Oyo town.  Why did you take your business first to Abuja before you came to Ibadan?

In the course of doing my Industrial Training in Abuja with a company, called ADCAN and it was from there that I started the company.

What brought about the name Dollar Construction Company?

In 2007, when I wanted to register the company, I and my wife trying to form name from our names but could not come up with one, then I told her that we should sleep over it When I woke up, I just tell her that the company will be called Dollar Construction Company. She said what kind of name is that and I told her that is a name that everybody would always remember.

Today, people know my company name more than they know my real name.  In some area in Abuja, if you say you are looking for Idowu Lamidi, people asked you, nobody bears that name here. But once you say Dollar Construction, everybody will know that because everybody need promo and they see that currency as an achievement even today if you take one dollar which is not up to a thousand dollar, even some adults if you give it to them and you give them one thousand naira, they will prefer to take one dollar. It’s about something catchy that anybody can remember, like if you are coming to any of our estate, I’m going to dollar estate, the only question they will ask now is which of the dollar is it the dollar phase one, two or three. We make it so easy to remember.

The situation of the third phase is formerly Oyo State Trade Fair Ground, how did you acquire this kind of massive land for your project?

The land used to be for Trade Fair ground, which is under Oyo State Ministry of Commerce and Industry and it acquired Wemabodtech to build neighborhood market.  When my company joined Wemabodtech, we told them this is a land locked area, and that it would only be good for building homes.

If you are planning a market, many things have to be put into consideration. Good road network must be one of the considerations and the situation must be between three or more communities. The proposed site, which is eleven hectares, is too big for a one-community market. If you look at where this land is situated, apart from Aerodrome Estate, every other thing here are like educational institution. To our left here, we have The Polytechnic Ibadan, to our right we have Aerodrome and Ventura Plaza, directly opposite us, and we have University of Ibadan. Surrounding us, there is no community as such; then who are you now building the market for? Secondly, the road to access the market is not there, you do not create local streets to access a market of this magnitude because it will cause a lot of traffic. You cannot tell people what to sell in their markets, people that will be bringing rice in trailers, people that will be bringing beans, tiles, lightening in trailers, and different kind of things. That is why you see today, iwo road is always jam-packed, it is not because of too many cars, but because of too many tucks accessing the place at a time. Look at Gbagi Central Market also, because of those trucks also coming to drop goods, they are not cars that you can just quickly reverse and move on. Before a trailer can turn, it will take nothing less than 15-20 minutes and you have like 10-15 queues to turn, you are going to have issues. We now advice that we cannot use it for market, it has to be used for residential, because one, this area again at night, it’s always like a ghost town, the schools close by six, four, three, everybody goes home, there will not be any activities. However, making it a home, by 6 o’clock, people start coming back home, it gives life to the place because when you have a home, you will have transportation system that runs 24hours around that place. It gives the police also comfort that are there that there are people who will call the police when things go wrong or if there is any crime trying to take place. If it is a market, once it is 6  o’clock, the market will short down totally that is why we now applied for change of use to the executive governor of oyo state through the ministry of land and the governor gave us the change of use and that is why we are now doing residential and not marketing.

Talking about the phases that you have, phase one, two or three, is it a strategic kind of progress for you to keep having different phases, even if the phase one is still not yet developed. What exactly are you trying to achieve by that?

To make estate ready is not all about the building alone. We may have the building and I do not have money to buy furniture because if you are moving to a new house, my mindset maybe different from yours. In Dollar Phase one, most of the houses there is completed but the owners have not moved in maybe because, some want to move in with a new car or I cannot move in with my old furniture but once you have made the road available, security, light and water, the estate is ready for you to move in. That is what we have been able to achieve in our phase one, and in our phase two, people have already moved in. If I did not move in to my house does not mean that the estate is not ready. The estate is ready but how I may look at it with this kind of hose that I might have, I need a Bentley Car to accompany the house, I need to move in at my wedding ceremony, I need to move in with this, these furnitures are too old, it now depends on you. Some people will even move in and even say it is even breakthrough for me to have finish this house. Moreover, it is not about moving phase one to phase two, I can assure you that we are going to have up to phase 5. Now, the prices of these estates are different, if you cannot afford to buy in phase one, you can go for the phase two because our phase two is cheaper, phase 3 is more expensive than phase two and phase 1. Your taste in the environment you want to live in, I keep telling people, our estate, we are going to provide same quality of infrastructure; it may not be same quality of house. In our phase 2, we allow bungalows, but in our phase one and three, nothing like bungalows. These are houses of contemporary, if you ask an architect; they will tell you contemporary houses are what we are building and not what we are used to.  The phase 2 is a bit cheaper so that Civil Servants and the middle class can also afford it. Those are the reason we keep opening different phases to accommodate as much people as available that need houses.

We have seen some of your achievement in previous projects like phase one and phase two, and this one, one will be pushed to ask that how do you plan to finance this project considering the current unfavorable economic situation in the country. What is your plan for this project?

Well, financing of housing project, they say it takes community to raise a child. That is our strength and that is why you see that we do not have good car, because our priority is to deliver these estates. Our plan is to have a good road, neighborhood, a place you can raise your child, like in this estate now we always have an open space where we call green area. We also have a recreation Club house, I don’t mean night club. Like on Saturday and Sunday, you are not going out, you just stroll with to the club house with some games for the children, where adult can take cool drinks and listen to countryside music those are the things we are doing in all of our estates. All these are planned, these are not after thoughts. I always tell people that we have limited estate in Ibadan. What we have in Ibadan mostly are GRA because the property owners came together and put gate doesn’t make it an estate. This is comprehensive development, we have a clinic here, and we have everything here.

So what you are saying in essence is that what differentiates these estates is not the infrastructure bodies but there are buildings and structures.

You started in Abuja, what attracted you to Ibadan?

Yeah, our plan is to conquer the southwest because if you are doing well outside your home, it does not talk good about you. First, how many people can afford to buy our kind of houses in Ibadan? We look at that first, how many people can afford to buy same houses in Abuja? A businessperson will use that to plan. We are planning to conquer the south west to provide housing, but it may not be possible for us to build building in Oyo or in Oshogbo, Ede or in towns and villages across southwest, but it is possible to provide site and services in those area so that people now build their strength.

Dollar Construction is it only for Estates. What other things do you do there?

We are among the category B in Federal Government contractor list. We have category A which are the Dantata, Berger, Chinese, CCECC, and others. We are doing government contracts very well, year in, year out that is why you see that it is very easy for us to provide infrastructure in our estates. The only equipment we have in road construction is the spreader because it is not what we use often but we have all other equipment and it is so easy for us to build roads in our estates.

There are lot of estate/construction companies in Ibadan and some will say, buy one take one free, what stands dollar construction over all these construction companies?

Housing is something that everybody prefers. In my lifetime, I plan to have as many as possible houses because it’s one way of transferring wealth to generation yet unborn. Those people saying, buy one land and take one arm free they have their targeted audience and in which it is working for them because somebody that bought land which is 600 thousand and you give him ram that is worth 350 thousand, I think the person has his mindset tied somewhere. We are targeting our own audience. They are targeting their own audiences, that is the reason you see most of those estates will not see the light of the day because it takes a lot to build an estate, not Baale that will just sell land and call it one estate, which is still good because they are also providing services to people. If you that can buy land of N100million, I do not think ram will be your priority. However, it is nothing out of place to appreciating our clients by getting those gifts during festive periods but your primary reason of buying property with us is not for ram.

Having successfully exhibited the previous estates the phase 1, what is your mega plan for year 2023?

What develops cities mostly, not just the housing. When we have good houses and nobody to live in it, it does not make sense or so. Our mega plan for 2023 is that we want to make industrial layout. Oyo-Ibadan road at least we should have so many industrial lay out there, Lagos-Ibadan, we should have a lot of industrial lay out so that we can have industries coming in and that will make our houses affordable, because if I’m working in a good place and the company can provide affordable housing, my problem is half solved. Our houses are very affordable with the kind of amenities that come with it. There are houses for N3billion, N5billion, in Lagos, Abuja, I have build house that I have sold for N3.5billion before, N1.4billion before and almost N2billion before. If we are having same kind of structure that is much lesser here, I do not think it is not affordable. We are into site and services, which means that you have gotten your land, and we’ve made the infrastructure, street light, water system, perimeter fencing and you sell to people in plot maybe 500, 600 and individuals build what they feel like, that is what is called site and servicing.

One of the challenges faced in real estate not only in Oyo State but in every other place is scandal…how have you been able to be scandal-free? And, how have you been able to be free from the ‘omo onile’ factor?

Experience has taught us a lot of lesson, even people buy property from us knows that we have a milestone payment plan. If the person dies in the process, in all our form, we have the next of kin to the person on it. We will contact the next of kin of such person. It doesn’t allow us have issues, and when the issues are cleared, everyone hands off. For us now, all our offices are always at the site, you come to us at the site, and you meet us at there so that you can easily know quickly if anything is happening. For every site we have sold, we also report it to EFCC. Every month we report our transaction back to EFCC to know who own the site or house. Our workers know so it will be difficult for you to say that person is no longer the owner of the house because there will be too many testimony against you. When we are selling house to you, we give you speculation and it is not that you will just buy the land and you will now run to Abuja and say maybe after 20years you will come and resell it, we will revoke it. We have not had issues of selling land to one person and we say this land does not belong to one person again, we can revoke If we sell land to you and we give you payment plans and you default 3 times. We will revoke and it shows that you do not have capacity for that kind of project and there will not be any need to embark on it.

How do you stay focused with what you are doing?

I started real estate at a very tender age, when I was just 24 years old. I have worked with some big companies in the real estate sector before I started my company. I believe that the greatest enjoyment is for someone to sleep and this is what I do, and if I see one bottle of cold drink, I can take if the opportunity provides itself.

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