He is the 27th Monarch on the stool of Olomu of Omuaran and Second in his lineage, coming on after his ancestor reigned in the 19th century. His ascension cam as a surprise, he neither expected it nor was he dreaming of it until providence caused it to happen to the pleasant surprise of all. He would have loved to be an Estate Manager because his father was a builder but incidentally; he ended up being a town Planner and environmental specialist who has reached the peak of his professional career, Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners. Meet the newly installed Olomu of Omuaran, amiable and homely, Oba Abdulkareem Oladele Adeoti. Excerpts:
Can you let us into your background Sir?
My name is Abdulraheem Oladele Adeoti, an Alhaji and a town planner. I hail from Idoku ruling house called Olahelu Akolade Agboluaje Olomu Efon. I am the Olomu Efon II, installed on second September 2018. I was born in 1956 and had my primary education at St Paul’s Anglican School, Omuaran and Secondary education at Government Secondary School, GSS, Ilorin between 1967 and 1971. I later proceeded to Kaduna Polytechnic where I had a National Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning. After a brief working experience, I had to improve my academic quality by going further to do a Post Graduate Diploma, a professional course in Urban and Regional Planning. After successful completion of that Course at the same Kaduna Polytechnic, I was registered as a town planner and my membership registration number with Nigeria Institute of Town Planners is 948.I also had a Masters Degree in Environmental Management and by the year 2016, I was elected a Fellow of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners. My working experience spanned from 1981 to May 31st, 2018. I rose from the ranks as a Town Planning Officer up to Chief Executive of Planning Authority, that is Executive Secretary, Kwara State Town Planning and Development Authority where work until the call by my community for further service.
What are your childhood experiences?
I had a wonderful childhood always with my father. I was born into a Muslim family and my father happened to be a bricklayer. We practiced subsistence farming along with his bricklaying vocation; after going to the farm from morning to 12.00noon or sometimes 2.00pm, I will leave the farm and join my father where he may be working as a bricklayer. In those days, bricklayers commence work by 7.00am and will remain on the site till 7.00pm. So I usually work on the farm from morning till 12noon and sometimes 2.00pm to join my father in bricklaying. My father, a bricklayer, sponsored me throughout my education.
As a Child, did you practice any pranks?
No, my father was a disciplinarian to the core. He never allowed me, despite being his only surviving male child, he gave me no room for anything but obedience.
Who are your childhood friends?
Most of my childhood friends are Christians because I went to Mission school. What kept me from changing religion is my father’s persistent warning that I must never change religion. Today, most of my friends are Christians and one of my closest friends is Israel Oyedepo, a member of Cherubim and Seraphim Church.
From the onset, you are a Prince, did you nursed the ambition of becoming a King?
Never, I had no such ambition because in Omuaran there were ten ruling houses collapsed into five and if not for the late but one Kabiyesi, Oba Suleiman Abegunde Durotoye who during his tenure pledged for orderliness and pleaded for rotational system, a situation where an Oba is enthroned sequentially to avoid distortion of facts about the ruling houses. Unfortunately, the immediate past Kabiyesi was relatively young, tough where he is today, he has become elderly and above all of us. We belong to the same club with him and we are in same age cohort. I never thought his demise could be so soon, we in our compound was hoping that, if things were not disrupted we might produce the next Oba from among the ages of our sons, not someone of my age.
Did you dream or have a premonition that it was coming?
I did not, all that I know is that I am also a Prince, the reality is that none of us in his age bracket expect that he would die so soon as to warrant looking for another royal father from the next ruling house.
How true is it that a Prince who becomes King is never raised in the palace? Did this apply to you?
Yes, it is very true; my great grandfather that was Olomu Efon the first was Olomu of Omuaran who ruled between 1819-1840, approximately 178 years apart. If you look at the time lapse you will see that it’s a long time apart. Becoming Olomu Efon II is by God’s grace and divine arrangement, I never expected it. Wishes don’t make anyone become a King, Kings are born, it is a divine arrangement by God from the heavens. It is man’s duty to have the ambition or propose, its Gods prerogative to dispose. If I had planned it, I would have said that I did this or that to become Olomu, but I would tell you sincerely that everything that happened is by God in his mercies.
How did you become a professional Town Planner?
Thank you very much. After secondary school education, I proceeded to higher school certificate, HSC but I dropped out. My father, despite being a stack illiterate, then said that his children don’t fail in school, how come? I couldn’t go to the University immediately; we had an uncle, who was close by, he happened to be in Kaduna Polytechnic as Head of the department. My father consulted him he said “Adeyemi, your son has not secured admission; he is still at home doing nothing, what would you do about him?” My father told him that he would ask me to see him. When he told me to go and see him, I knew that the uncle would ask for my school certificate results. I cannot immediately recollect whether he asked me to meet him at Kaduna or I went with him. He took me to survey unit along Barnawa road. It is a unit of Kaduna Polytechnic. There he met a white man called Mr Tim, who happened to be a surveyor. He is the director of the survey unit. He is a Briton. In those days things were good in the northern region, they had United Nations experts in their tertiary institutions. When he looked at my results he suggested that I can read Land survey or Town planning, so when he asked which do I prefer among the two courses, I told him that I prefer Town Planning. I was given an admission letter almost immediately. However, there is an aspect that I must mention, when we sat for what we then call Almighty June examinations, it was not a Semester system, that was in June 1975/76, after the final exams, I happen to lead the whole class of Estate Management because it was the same course, we run Town Panning with Estate Management at Kaduna Polytechnic then. I discovered that town planning was more inclined to drawings than Estate Management and I was very poor in drawing. So since I had a good result, I thought that I can change the course, fortunately for me, the head of department happens to be a Town Planner, I went to her to tell her about my plans to change course. Her name is Janet Whitehead, she overseas both Estate Management and town Planning department. When I told her about my plans to change the course she said turned me down saying: “with this good result, I will not let you go to Estate management. I reported the issue to my uncle seeking his assistance to speak with my HOD for a change of course on the ground that I don’t know how to draw. Again when my uncle met her, she refused vehemently, so I accepted fate. That was my first year, so what followed next was that I went to the library, looked for any book on Town Planning and start practicing the drawings in them, by Gods grace, when the results came out in the final year, I had the best result in projects.
Considering the various struggles and Tussle for the stool, how did you accept being the eventual choice of the king makers?
It is natural for me to be happy, I was happy, but in a way, I see it all as reaping all that my father sowed. Yoruba people always say it that whatever a father or mother sow as seed, their children will reap the harvest, good or bad. Despite the number of contestants, about four or five, people were already assuring me and congratulating me. People like Chief Eesa saying that I should not worry. He was a bricklayer that everyone loved so much in the community. Despite that in his days, the kind of house they built was this mud houses, people still loved him. He was such an expert in his job that he went as far s building up to story buildings. If you ask about what assisted me the most, I will say it was his reputation and the character of my mother too.
Now that you are no longer in service and cannot run after money like before, how would you cope with the issue of money?
If you know me well before, you will know that I am not a man after money. I am always contented with whatever I have. As a civil servant who has trained myself to live within my means, it is not now that I will start running after money. What I have, I spend, what I don’t have I don’t run after. God is sufficient for me.
Can you lead us into a brief history of Omuaran as an ancient town?
I will tell you the little that I know, my Eesa, the second in command, who is more versatile in our history, he would assist in telling you more. Omu by name is a settlement on its own and like every other Yoruba settlement; we have our attachment to Ile Ife as our ancestral home. It is believed that we migrated to that place from Ile Ife. There was a particular Ife Princess in our history called Omutoto had a son Aperan who led us with a mystical object called Ogbo, a sort of Pathfinder. When they left Ile Ife, they first settled down at Ijaregbe near Ilesha and we heard also in history that Ijaregbe and Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland were brothers. Aperan later left Ijaregbe to settle at Odo Omun very close to Ola. It was from there that he left to the present location due to drought. Omun remained so called until the reign of my forefathers who happened to be the Olomu Efon the first. It was Olomu Efon that invited Aran people to settle with him. In my inaugural speech, I stated that Olomu Efon loves the conglomeration of people. His notion is always to form a larger community and we all know that when the community gets larger, they would enjoy the advantage of many good things together. By his invitation at that time they adopted a common name, Omuaran that is Omu and Aran joined together as a community.
By reason of the place of Eesa and a prominent part of the king making process and second in command to the throne, what of a crisis between Olomu and Eesa?
I doubt if such can happen, but if it does, the elders in the community will quickly wade in because it will be devastating to the development of Omuaran as a community but essentially, the Eesa is educated and matured, just like I am too. Matters are best settled with maturity and understanding bearing the interest of the people at heart. Both of us have come a long way together even when we were nobodies, we dealt with each other based on mutual respect and we are fond of each other.
Let’s talk about your marriage, how did you meet your first wife?
Do you think I have many wives? No, I have just one wife for now. As a Muslim, I am entitled to four wives and as a traditional ruler, I am entitled to marry between up to ten wives, but for now I have only one. I don’t want to be too assertive, only God knows tomorrow. Haven said that I must emphasize that I will like to stick to only the one that I have because I don’t want a problem for myself and she is the only one since we got married. She has been a wife and a mother to me and also to her children. She is very supportive; I see no reason to be looking for another wife. So as to how we met; I always have the passion for ladies with very long hair, os I first saw her at a social gathering. Then I asked a friend to tell me about her and he told me what he knew about her but didn’t want to tell me enough because as at then I had two or three other girlfriends and one of them happens to be related to that my friend. Since I know her name and her description, I was hoping that we would meet again someday, but as fate would have it, I wet to see a younger brother of mine and asked her about the then girl with all descriptions and that my brother said that he knows her and incidentally, she lives close to his environment. I got a description of her house and went to see her. On my first visit, she welcomes me partially but told me that she has someone she was dating and I told her that I don’t mind and that if at her age she doesn’t have a suitor, then something must be wrong with her. She told me that I should not come to see her again and I replied to her that I will keep coming and that the worse that would happen is for her not to welcome me. I continue paying her a visit until she later started welcoming me and allow me into her brother’s sitting room as her guest because she lives with her brother then. Luckily for me, the guy she was dating was not from Omuaran and her mother had told her that she would never welcome anyone outside Omuaran as her husband, so when she told her mother about me and with my father’s popularity in Omuaran, everyone she told about me readily welcomes the idea of our union. My people also welcome her and that was how we started until we got married.
When you met your wife, what was the first attraction?
Naturally, in my family, one thing is common, bald head. We usually don’t have hair on our head. As I told you, I followed a brother to a ceremony where we met her, when I saw her, I noticed that she had long hair, which dropped down to her back and it was all natural. She didn’t add any attachment to her hair. But I have a bald head; it was the long hair she had that attracted me to her. I did not initially know that she was a Muslim but after making enquiries; I realised that she was a Muslim because of her name. My father took me to a Christian school but he told me that I should not change my religion. Today, most of my friends are Christians and one of my closest friends is Israel Oyedepo, a member of Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Though, I make friends with both Christians and Muslims, my father’s instruction did not let me change my religion. His wishes, persistently sounded in my ears were that I don’t change his religion. I had my primary school education at St. Paul Primary School and had my secondary school education at Government Secondary School, Ilorin and that was where I had the opportunity to learn Quran and Arabic language. So, I have the opportunity to learn the Bible and the Quran which have helped and guided me in life.
As a handsome young man, how did you cope with admirers when you were younger?
I am hearing this from you for the first time that I am a handsome man. I passed through youthful age like every other youth. I had no problem with admirers. I had girlfriends but after I met my wife, I stayed with her.
It is on record that you pioneered house numbering in Omuaran, what informed of that decision?
My profession motivated me. When you leave in an environment where you have clusters of houses, we call something as houses being legible, just like handwriting houses may not be legible but have numbers. If you number your houses, sharing of mails will be easy to respective location, in crime prevention will be greatly assisted, it also help in property rating. It is so important, we did it in 1983/84 but some people read political meanings to it. They were trying to score the pass mark. They wanted to claim the success as theirs so it was aborted. But I was able to produce a sketch plan of Omuaran town.
How did your people view the exercise then?
It was well applauded. A similar exercise later came after that one , you see the problem with us in Yoruba settlement is that we like titles. Some people like big titles; they want hierarchy of chiefs and seniority in those hierarchies. Some were biased, standing against the success of the project are those that believe that their names did not appear on the street naming such that the exercise had to be cancelled. So till now, most f the streets were not named. As the Chief executive at the planning office, I put in lot of efforts towards it but unfortunately, it was politicized just as it happened in my community, some people wanted to take the glory. Aside that there were many consultants, that came to my office but who were just telling white lies about it. They presented what is not practicable. Some submitted their Dossier, or call it Profiles in house numbering promising that they could make N300billion for the government by doing house numbering and I wondered how was that possible? You see, all things being equal, it ought to be the function of local government council and that of the state government but the state government having the expertise, people with the technical knowhow, I partnered for a synergy with my local government to do street naming, I started with what I call piecemeal approach to house numbering, that is why you can see some houses numbered at Basin road, Gaa Akanbi but that is not the real global house numbering.
Was it the government that didn’t show interest or lack of funding that frustrated the plans?
Government has interest in it, they even believe in Public Private Partnership, PPP but there are some factors, some interesting parties I will not want o to speak much on these. The government having a good sharing formula, 75/25, 25/75 or whichever way they agree is okay for Government/ PPP partnering but some interest parties frustrated it. All that is required for this to succeed is very simple thing; good sensitization of house owners on the advantages of the operation and how much they need to pay to get it done. Most people will even be happy that their houses are numbered. If as much as one thousand five hundred is charged people will gladly participate. If I was given an appropriate take off grant, I would have finished with all the houses in Ilorin but the consultants that were eager to make more money from government caused a flop, Their intension was to invite corporate bodies to come and pay for it so that they can make junk money and put in their accounts.
Back to your people, what is the unique thing about Omuaran people?
Omuaran people are predominantly hard working people. Talking about Omuaran, you are talking about education and commerce. In Lagos, you will see our people in their numbers. The slogan “Owo lee je” that is it will cost money was started by our people in Lagos Omuaran is not lagging behind at all. When Kwara State was born in 1967/68Omuaran produced two Permanent Secretaries, so in terms of education, we are not lagging behind. In commerce, we are at the forefront. In farming, go to Ile- Ife, Dagbaja, Aba Jesha, Sekona you have our people there as Cocoa farmers and doing tremendously well. Just like I put it an average Omuaran man is a hardworking person.
Are these the reasons you see Omuaran people as special?
Yes, when you talk about Omuaran as a people, you are talking about Integrity, hard work and diligence. In the commerce and Industry we were pioneers. One of our indigenes, late chief Salimonu Owolewa was the first to establish a steel rolling mail in the whole of Northern Nigeria. It was established in Ilorin, it was called the Kwara Commercial Metal and Chemical Industry, KCMC, it was behind old Philip Moris factory at Gaa Imam, Ilorin. It was in this company that steel and Iron rods were first produced in the whole of northern Nigeria. That company started in 1977 in Ilorin. Chie Owolewa was a co director at Universal Steel, Ogba in Lagos before coming to establish the one at Ilorin then. In the field of education, the first graduate of Mathematics in the entire Northern Nigeria, Chief Samuel Adeniyi Oladunmade is from Omuaran. He is an Oxford University graduate of 1954. He is still alive. He was the first black Principal of St Paul’s Anglican College, Zaria, Kaduna State; It is a missionary school. The first Actuarial Scientist in the entire Northern Nigeria was Chief Elisha Adebisi Fabiyi, the Chief Executve of Everyman and Company, an insurance broken firm. This same Chief Adebiyi established Kwara Investment Company, KINCO, in 1967. In 1968 he was the pioneer General Manager, kwara Investment Corporation and retired in 1975 on Permanent Secretary Grade; he is still alive. Omuaran people still dominate the iron rod merchandize in Lagos till date. Our people are hardworking and reliable.
What are the traditional and cultural events for which Omuaran is well known?
I told you earlier, our ancestral home is Ile Ife therefore whatever you find at Ile Ife is replicated here in Omuaran. Egungun worshippers and their festival. Though some of the masquerades no longer come out but Eegun Elewe is still waxing strong. Others like Sango, Obatala, Orisa Oko, Enle ile and several others. There is usually an adage in Yoruba “Ebi yi o npani ju to loosa oko lo,” meaning that an Olosa Oko worshipper might be very hungry, he or she would not dare touch his harvested new yam until the festival is performed. Several other festivals still hold.
These cultural and traditional practices, what are their implications or importance to Omuaran town?
For example, with the Egungun festival it is believed that every other year, fathers in heaven will descend and come to the earth on a visitation and the way to welcome them is the practice of masquerade, the Egungun. There is a compound in Omuaran that is called the custodian of Egungun. We even have an adage “Aafin lagba omu” signifying that the Masqurade seniors Omuaran because it was brought all the way from Oyo to Omuaran. By 2019 there would be another Egungun festival in Omuaran and by culture the Olomu must produce an Egungun Elewe from his compound. This is what makes the ruling house significance, not all ruling houses produce this Egungun except the one on the throne. The ones you see several masquerades come on, those are just to entertain the people and guests. You will see them on my installation day. Those that come out at such occasion just adds glamour to occasions. There is also this Egungun by hunters called “Layewu.” Layewu is also among the Egungun that still come out every other year, though not very regular.
Is there any known taboo in Omuaran?
In those days, they don’t sell pounded yam in Omuaran, but now it is a common sight. You find it everywhere and that makes the place homely for our visitors. You find “kolobe” swallow food without soup which anyone can buy and go home to eat with his or her own soup. Once you have your soup at home, you will find what to eat it with cheaply. When Omuaran became headquarters of Igbomina Ekiti division our people had to do something about the taboo culture. An average settler that live in Omuaran for up to three months will not like to return to his place because food is accessible and cheap here. The hospitality rate of our people is so high, we are welcoming and warmly.
Coming back to your ascension to the throne, can you tell us some of the traditional rites performed during that period?
Well, there were traditional rites that were performed but none was a diabolical. One such is the traditional seven days stay with Eesa, the second I command to the throne. That period is called Ipebi. During that seven day, the Eesa will host the new Oba for seven days. The tradition is neither diabolical nor a fetish type like I said earlier. It’s a period of teach the new Oba how to conduct himself in public, how to respond to issues, and about hierarchy of Chief. The Chiefs will be introduced to him and he will be taught to know the Ologuns, that is warriors, Irejes, Warefas ,and other issues about the town. My experience while I was at Ipebi, you know I told you that I work as a Town Planner. I can visit up to ten cites in a day, it was at Ipebi that I got to know that my movement will be limited and that I cannot go out as I like. My Eesa caged me in a room, I was not even allowed to watch television. I accepted it all because it is tradition that must be respected and followed. As early as the third day I had become used to it and I don’t even come out again. It is in the room where I was caged that those Chiefs ad Warrior came to pay a visit and were introduced to me. Ipebi is a period of teaching the Oba elect about the people, culture and tradition.
Is there any aspect of your experience at Ipebi that you want to be abolished or modified?
No, I told you that there was nothing diabolic about the rites. These foreign religions Islam and Christianity have changed many things and the diabolic aspect of most cultures have been changed. May be in those days, there were culture of using human as sacrifice but now to even use a goat as sacrifice is not even acceptable. There is nothing sacred about the rite. We pray in Jesus name and in the name of Allah, there at Ipebi.
What are the things that changed in your life since you ascended the throne?
One of such things was my freedom that is no longer there, moving out of the palace to greet friends was no longer possible, I can only send emissaries. Sometimes I feel personally moved to pay the visit but I just wouldn’t be allowed. For example when we lost the first Governor of kwara State, Brigadier General Lasisi David Bamigboye, it was painful to everyone and because I am well known to some of the family members, I wanted to pay condolence visit especially mama Moniyepe that I was very close to but I was not allowed to go. It pained me so much I wanted to see this woman in person to commiserate with her but I was not allowed to go. I sent a high powered delegation yet I was not satisfied. Since it is the tradition that prevents me from going, I had to stay back. It was a few days back that I called her on phone and she said that she understands my situation and that I should not worry, the bottom line is I am no longer a free man. I cannot join my brother in their ceremony, sit down wine and dine with them or pay a visit and determine to sleep in a friend’s house, that can never happen again. Every aspect of my life is now moderated.
How are you able to strike a balance between socializing and your role as a traditional ruler?
Here in Omuaran, I was a member of the Unique Club, incidentally the late Kabiyesi too was a member but on ascension to the throne I am now father figure overall, no longer to be seen as a member but as a father. Even my professional institute level, I was the immediate Chairman of Kwara State chapter and member of national council but ever since I became Oba I have not been able to join them, but as time goes on, I will find a way of being with them even if once in a while but certainly, it cannot be as it used to be.
As a certified Town planner, do you still consult in respect to your field of specialization?
I am a fellow of the institute, my number is 265. Yes, they still call me to me, you see, it is an acquired knowledge. As, my former staff in the Town Planning still call me to ask how to go about certain issues and I respond.
Kabiyesi, thank you for giving us your attention.
You are most welcome.