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It’s A Previldge My Visions For Ogbomoso Land Came To Pass In My Life Time •From 3 Schools In 1973 To Over 150—Late Soun
In this 2016 interview with The Sun’s Oluseye Ojo, the departed Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi, Ajagungbade III, shared his rise to the palace and his achievements
Born on May 27, 1926 in Ogbomoso to Oba Bello Afolabi Oyewumi Ajagungbade II and Ayaba Seliat Olatundun Oyewumi, the Soun had his elementary education at St. Patrick Primary School, Oke Padre, Ibadan from 1932-1938. In 1938, he attended the Ogbomoso People’s Institute, which was later transformed into Ogbomoso Grammar School.
Unable to complete his formal education due to lack of sponsorship, the young Oladunni cut his business teeth by trading in woven textiles, which took him on trading trips to Ilesa among other locations. He formed a limited liability company in 1967 called J.O. Oyewumi and Co Nigeria Ltd, which specialised in wholesale and retail trading. From a modest beginning, the business expanded to include real estate and hospitality. He established the famous Terminus Hotel and El-Duniya Hotel in Jos.
Through hard work, continuous self-improvement (including enrolment in evening educational schools to improve his education), he was appointed as a distributor for the French-owned trading firm CFAO in 1954. Prince Oyewumi, as he was popularly known, made his inaugural business trip abroad in 1958. The trip took him to Hamburg and Bremen in then West Germany; Paris and Marseille in France and London, United Kingdom. During his stay in Europe, he was able to explore opportunities for expanding his business by meeting businessmen and visiting factories.
Looking back to the past 90 year on earth and 42 years on the throne, how has the journey been so far?
The journey has been very good. I came to the throne in 1973. By the grace of God, I manage the administration of Ogbomoso for over 42 years now. Glory be to God, there has not been any crisis whatsoever in the city. Everybody is happy with me. I enjoy my domain and they are enjoying me as well. Therefore, it is an achievement. There is no regret. At the time I became a king 42 years ago, only aged people were made kings. But the aged people would spend three years or thereabout on the throne and would join their ancestors. But thank God that I was young when I became a king.
It is not a common thing for a person to live up to 90 years and still be as healthy as you are. What is your secret of longevity?
I do pray to Almighty Allah and I believe in God. I don’t have two fathers. It is only Almighty Allah, who keeps me up till today. I have my regular meals. I am contented. I don’t rush to have the whole world. The contentment is there.
People say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. So, how would you appraise the position you have been occupying for the past 42 years?
It is true that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. It is a delicate position and at the same time, it is a good position if you know how to rule your kingdom and do what you are supposed to do. If you are occupying a stool as a king and you promote the culture of your subjects, it will not be a delicate position any longer. Then, it will be an enjoyable and peaceful reign for you.
When you were young, was there any prophecy that you would become the Soun of Ogbomoso?
I have heard it several times when I was young, that I will become king. Many people observed my carriage and attitude and concluded that I would one day ascend the throne of my forefathers as Soun of Ogbomoso. I also had it in mind that I would occupy the stool of my forefathers. Fortunately, God approved of it.
Forty-two years ago when you were installed as Soun of Ogbomosoland, what were the visions you had for the growth and development of your kingdom, and how many of such visions have you accomplished?
I have evolved a lot of visions for Ogbomoso. It started right from the time it was becoming obvious that I would be king. I had the vision that Ogbomoso will be transformed positively. God approved of the things I had in mind then. God made it easy for us to achieve them. One of the things I had in mind for Ogbomoso is educational transformation, western education for our children. Then, the schools we had in Ogbomoso were not enough to accommodate the teeming young people. The schools were just three in number.
When I became Soun, education was my first priority. I pursued how we would have many primary and secondary schools and the Lord crowned my efforts with success. Now, we have many primary and secondary schools. We have more than 150 schools in Ogbomoso today.
There have been agitations that the constitution of Nigeria should specify certain roles traditional rulers should be playing in governance of this country. So, what roles do you expect the constitution to stipulate?
Personally, I can’t imagine new legislation. In the first instance, if you are a king, you are a king over your kingdom, and you must ensure that the kingdom experience continuous progress. The king must carry his people along and they must jointly ensure that socio-economic growth of the Kingdom. I must say that the people in every kingdom must not think government will do everything for them. The people must also play their own part and government will also play its own part.
When I became a king, electricity was epileptic. I ensured that the presence of the then National Electricity Power Company (NEPA) was brought to Ogbomoso with a view to having regular power supply. At the same time, I ensured that law courts were established in Ogbomoso. Prior to that, people in Ogbomoso used to go to courts in Osogbo in the present day Osun State.
In the same vein, I ensured that we have one of the Area Command headquarters of the Oyo State in Ogbomoso. Before then, the authorities of the Nigeria Police used to send policemen on the ranks of Inspectors and Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) to Ogbomoso from Oshogbo. Now, we have Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of the Ogbomoso Area Command. Ogbomoso is big and it trends with civilisation. We cannot be going to a town that is not as developed as Ogbomoso to dictate to us.
In Yorubaland, it is no longer news that supremacy battle among traditional rulers is on the increase. What would you say is causing it and what would you suggest as the way out?
There is no feud among the traditional rulers. But the crisis is usually caused by the politicians. When every king was reigning of his kingdom, we all know how we rule. I would not go to another kingdom and give order. The other kings cannot also come to my kingdom and give order. If we want to work together, we would sit down together and nobody would ask who is superior and who is not. But when politicians came, they always choose a leader for the monarchs, which supposed not to be so. The politicians should not drag monarchs into politics. Kings are to sit on their thrones and rule their kingdoms and fashion out how they will attract development to their kingdoms. I will not go into politics and I will not campaign for any political party. I am okay with whosoever that becomes political leader, irrespective of the party affiliation. I will not go and beg political leader for money.
So, what is your assessment of politics and governance in Nigeria? Would you say the country is making progress or is retrogressing politically?
The country was peaceful when the politicians that took over from the colonial masters were in government. But things started falling apart right from the time contest for political offices began. But things have not changed since then. It is supposed not to be so. Promotion comes from God. Whoever God appoints should be supported. But the positions they occupy are for limited time. In governance, administration comes and goes. But each administration should do what is best for its people. The transition process from one administration to another should be free of rancour. There should not be campaign of calumny.
The major setback came when state creation began in the country. I became a king under Western Region. I have seen it all. No one was fighting another person. But from the time the politicians did state creation, problem started. Before the first set of states were created, we were told the policy would ensure steady growth of communities because government would be closer to the people. After the states were created, things changed. It is the same when and after local governments were created. We used to have Ogbomoso local government and I am the head of traditional rulers council. Later, they said we should divide it into five local governments. This has led to division in the same Ogbomosoland. You would hear someone telling another person that he could not benefit from certain gestures because they are not from the same local government; but it the same Ogbomoso.
Can you tell us about your family background?
My father, Oba Oyewumi Afolabi Ajagungbade II, was a king. I was born in the palace. If you are not a Prince, you cannot become king in this place. My grandfather was the Ajagungbade I. So, in Ogbomosoland, I am the 20th Soun.
Can you tell us your journey to the throne?
I completed my primary education, but I did not complete my secondary education before I ventured into business. Then, I did not have a father. I only had a mother, who raised me. For the business, I relocated from Ogbomoso to Jos, in Plateau State. In Jos, my uncles taught me the principles of business success. That was in the 1940s. I started my own business in 1944. Then, Jos was like Europe, in terms of weather. Then, if you wanted to drive by 8a.m., in Jos, you must put on your headlamp because of fogs. But things are different now in Jos.
Then in Jos, the Whites were the major businessmen such as UAC, CFAO and so on. But I had an advantage in relating with the Whites because I could speak English Language. There was no market in Nigeria then. The Whites would only bring the goods from abroad and gave same to us their clients for distribution all over the country. Business transaction was good then. As we took delivery of the goods, we would have known how much profit we would make. But the White men had preference for those of us that could speak their language.
How did you feel when you were invited 42 years ago to occupy the throne of your forefathers?
When there was vacancy, many princes showed interest. I also showed interest. But God has predestined it that I will be the king. We voted in the palace before my emergence. A total of 100 people voted for all the contestants for the throne, but 96 among them voted for me.
What position are you among your siblings?
Among the children of my father, Oyewumi, the position that I occupied was very low. I had many elder brothers.
What are the memorable moments that you have had in the past 90 years that you have been born and the past 42 years that you have become a king?
I am happy that Ogbomoso has moved forward. It is not the same way I met it. So, there is no memorable thing I can mention, than to say I am happy that Ogbomoso is developing. Many people now live in Ogbomoso and economic activities are thriving. I built a modern palace, which took four years to complete. I packed into the modern palace in 1978.
What would you like to be remembered for?
The legacies are in place already. I don’t have to start mentioning them again on the height I have taken Ogbomoso to. The legacies spanned across the various sectors and they are there for people to see. People will also talk about my good character.
What advice do you have for the government?
My advice for governments is that they should take care of the people. They are in positions of authorities. They should spread the goodies to the people they govern. They should ensure that they put smiles on the faces of their subjects. Those in government should not marginalise any segment of their domains that, probably did not vote for them to get to the office.
Many people believe, there is rancour or misunderstanding between you and Alaafin of Oyo. What’s happening?
There is no rancour between us (he pointed to a framed picture on the wall of the place where he sat with Alaafin on the same couch and both of them were discussing). You can see that we were both laughing there. Everybody is keeping his own domain, without fear or favour.
There have been agitations for the creation of new Oyo State. Where would you prefer should be the capital of the new state among Ogbomoso, Oyo and Oke-Ogun if it comes?
Nobody in Ogbomosoland would say no to creation of new state. Geographical, to say the truth, Ogbomoso should be the capital. It is the second largest to Ibadan. All the infrastructure for Ogbomoso to be the capital of the new state are more than enough. Therefore, if government will divide Oyo State into two, then Ogbomoso should be the capital of the new state.
The Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs had a permanent chairman and a former governor of the state changed the chairmanship to rotational arrangement among Alaafin, Olubadan and Soun…
(Cuts in) There is no permanent chairman again. It is on rotational basis now.
But Alaafin, according to what we gathered in the public, is still the permanent chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs?
Had he ever voiced it out as he used to say it before? Don’t commit him. Did you hear him say: ‘I am the permanent chairman?’ Otherwise, he would commit contempt of court.
What advice do you have for the sons and daughters of Ogbomoso home and abroad in ensuring steady growth and development of the land?
Usually, we all want Ogbomoso to progress. They know very well that progress of Ogbomoso is my motto.
How old were you when your father joined his ancestors?
I was 14 years old.
How many ruling houses do you have for the throne of Soun of Ogbomoso?
We have five ruling houses. All the five ruling houses belong to one tree. The one tree is our forefather, who married five wives. Each of the five wives, according to the workings of God, had one boy. They rule according to seniority.
In the old palace of the Soun of Ogbomoso, there are many artifact and one of them is a special iron chain. Every visitor to the old place would have to cross the chain before getting to the main chambers. What is the significance of the chain?
As in every palace, there is a throne in the old palace and that is where former kings ruled Ogbomoso. The chain is in form of scissors. There is no how you would enter the old palace and you would not cross the chain. If you cross the chain and you have evil intention, as you prostate for the king, you would not be able to stand up again. Not only that, other items of native intelligence are in the palace and we have not lost them to civilisation. Also, there is a tree – Ajagbon, at the back of the old palace. That was the first place our forefathers settled when they came to Ogbomoso.
There is tortoise in your palace named ‘Alagba.’ What is the significance of the animal in the palace?
Alagba is for entertainment. It walks around and we take care of it. Alagba is now 343 years old. I met Alagba in the palace. Tortoises do live long. The tortoise fell sick around 2009 and we took it to Ibadan for treatment. The male tortoise had a very big bump on its neck. The veterinary doctor said Alagba would undergo corrective surgery. But the doctor said the chance of survival of Alagba was 50-50. They asked if they should operate on Alagba and I said: ‘You are the doctor, do whatever you want on the tortoise.’ Then, the doctor could not touch the tortoise and we brought it back to Ogbomoso. It is now in good health.