‘why I married the Ooni of Ife’ -Ronke Ademiluyi
‘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.
We Are Planning To Revolutionize Nigeria’s Real Estate Industry – Idowu Lamidi, CEO, Dollar Construction Company
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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