Monday, March 8, 2021
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TERRIFIC HEADLINES will commence this account with the examination of the relevance of some Yoruba idioms in modern times. Because idioms might be confusing to those several people that are unacquainted with them; this piece will first examine the metaphoric angle. Yoruba would say: ‘’Two people cannot go to the law court to contest some suits and come back to be friends’’ Well, one may submit without any fear of equivocation that the good nature of one of the personalities, and the willingness of the other party to reconcile have somehow invalidated the idiom. Why? I know two prominent indigenes of Osun State who were in court for almost four years to settle political scores and later became friends; after the court entered judgement in favour of one of them. The grace of God must have been at play for forgiveness to be recorded, because it is not an easy task. The second issue is the word: ‘’Kabiyesi’’ which literally translates into: ‘’Nobody could question the person so addressed’’ But modernization, democracy, and the rule of law have made everybody equal in the face of the law, and also accountable for their deeds.  The constitution defines public officers with immunity.

It was famed Nelson Mandela who stated that: ‘’What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. ‘’It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’’ Oba Olufemi Adewumi Ogunleye, the Towulade of Akinale falls into the class of achievers by dint of hard work, resilience, and ability to rise above situations. Oba Ogunleye is the traditional ruler of the rustic settlement near Ewekoro, Ogun State. Akinale-Owu is 23 kilometres south of Abeokuta on the Abeokuta-Lagos road. The amazing story is that Oba Ogunleye, graduated in 2017 with a Second Class Upper degree in Law from Crescent University, Abeokuta.  As an undergraduate of the University, the royal father conducted himself with decorum, and adjusted to the reality and demand of subjecting himself to the requirements and regulations of the institution at the age of over 70 years in spite of his being a royal father.

The story of the life of Oba Ogunleye is one that should promote feelings of responsiveness in the younger generation, who should also be encouraged by the royal father’s terrestrial journey that has been full of challenges and obstacles. But like Thomas A. Edison, the best-known inventor of the early electrical age once stated: ‘’Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. ‘’The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time’’ The Towulade has never given up in the course of pursuing his desires. He knew acute poverty such that he never attended the three secondary schools that offered him admission. He later attended the Baptist Secondary Modern School, Saje, but withdrew following lack of financial resources. He later completed his Secondary Modern school in 1962, with the assistance of one of the teachers who paid is school fees.

Young Femi was a child of circumstances. All his ten siblings born before him never survived. He was born as the 11th child of his parents on September 23, 1944 at Awaye’s compound. In his formative years, he wore traditional metal anklets on his ankles because of the faith of his parents that he would not die; and the sound announced him anywhere he went. But God was kind to have preserved him. In search of opportunities, young Femi Ogunleye moved to the northern part of Nigeria where he worked as a battery charger. And that was after completing his Secondary Modern School education that lasted three years. Following wounds suffered from acid from the batteries, he looked for better employment and trained a shorthand/typist, after which he worked as a Messenger at the Federal Ministry of Finance Pay Office in Jos. Undaunted, he studied for the General Certificate of Education, (the equivalent of WAEC) failed consecutively for five (5) years before finally passing the examination in1968.

Providence has always worked in favour of the royal father. Oba Ogunleye soon moved over to the Middle Belt Herald newspaper, and later berthed at the New Nigerian newspaper in 1966 as line correspondent, where he was paid per line for his published stories. Fate smiled on him in 1969, when one of the subordinates of Chief Babatunde Jose, a journalism guru, Henry Odukomaiya, then Editor of Daily Times newspaper, employed him as a Correspondent, following which he attended the Daily Times Training School. Femi Ogunleye led his class. He later served as the Aviation Correspondent of Daily Times and left his imprints in that sub-sector of Journalism. In 1976, he joined Nigeria Airways, as a Public Relations Officer and rose to the position of General Manager in Nigerian Airways before retiring in 2000. He is still passionate about Nigeria having its own commercial airline and has consistently pleaded that Nigeria must bring back the national carrier to serve as the country’s image wherever it operates.

Before enrolling at the University of Lagos for a course in Mass Communications, Oba Femi Ogunleye had seen it all. But this never reflected in his conducts and relationships. He was encouraged by his colleagues and friends at the Daily Times, Dr. Femi Sonaike (deceased) and Prof. Idowu Sobowale. In spite of the fact they had been friends for several years, these lecturers never spared their friends – Oba Femi Ogunleye and late Chief Tunde Elegbede, who later became General Manager of Ogun Radio, who was also a student. Elegbede and Ogunleye bonded admirably as the oldest students in the Department of Mass Communications. They never exhibited any form of arrogance and blended perfectly with fellow students who were much younger in age than the duo.  Who dared joke with Prof. Idowu Sobowale’s course: Precision Journalism!  Dr. Idowu Sobowale (as he then was) would fix lectures at periods when students planned to travel; saying to nobody in particular with a serious mien: ‘’If you like, don’t come. ‘’I am a fool; I don’t mind’’. Chief Tunde Elegbede and Kabiyesi Ogunleye would only grumble silently: ‘’Why is Idowu behaving this way now?’’ But they always attended those lectures.

The story of a 75 year-old very important royal father, who is still studying rigorously in Universities is an unusual spectacle in this clime. A very diligent and purposeful personality, Oba Olufemi Adewumi Ogunleye is currently at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, where students are stretched to the limits. He behaves responsibly and mixes freely with co-students, who regard him their father; old enough to be a grandfather to some of his course mates. Oba Ogunleye stays in one of the hostels and attend lectures regularly with lecturers at times firing questions to Kabiyesi to answer during lectures. And he does so very humbly and dutifully.  Imagine a royal father residing in a hostel with fellow students without the retinue of palace aides to attend to his needs. Only his driver. He probably might be aiming to emerge one of the best students to be called to the bar, having scored an impressive grade in his first degree. And he is not tired yet. Oba Ogunleye aims to pursue a Master’s programme in African Comparative Law and specialise in Chieftaincy Law, after completing his Law School education. He might be following the footsteps of his big brother; who could be regarded as one of his subjects, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who bagged a Doctoral degree at the age of over 80 years. Their resilience is understandable. Owus, an ethnic group in Yorubaland were, in times past noted as warriors who were robust, valiant, and daring. Oba Ogunleye actually started with a Diploma in Law programme at the Crescent University, Abeokuta, and was awarded an Upper Credit, which made the school management encourage him to enrol for a Degree in Law.  He was in Crescent University between 2011 and 2017.

This writer has known Oba Olufemi Ogunleye for 40 years as a kind-hearted and gentle personality, who mixes very well without any trace of arrogance. Oba Femi Ogunleye used to be a great socialite, particularly as a member of the Association of Friends, a group of influential socialites that Chief Ebezezer Obey sang about in the 1980s. He is also a golfer. ‘’Egbon’’, as we used to address him in those days, (now Kabiyesi) never missed any of those engagements; and would also put up appearance at social functions to which he was invited. Like the Biblical Jonah, he attempted to resist the clarion call of his community, Akinale-Owu to become a traditional ruler. But he buckled under intense pressure, particularly from influential Owu personalities. He was named Baale of Akinale in 2004, elevated to an Oba in 2006 by the Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu; and  has been further elevated into the Egba Traditional Council and Ogun State Council of Obas.  As Towulade of Akinale, Oba Olufemi Adewumi Ogunleye superintends over about 60 Baales in his area of jurisdiction. They meet every Monday of the month, we meet to discuss issues affecting the various Owu communities under my domain.

But for now, the Towulade of Akinale-Owu, Kabiyesi, Oba Olufemi Adewumi Ogunleye, having enrolled at the Nigerian Law School, sheds the toga of a royal father for that of a student while on the campus, and must adhere religiously to all the rules and regulations of the institution. He must answer questions from lecturers and must complete his assignments timeously. When Kabiyesi heard about my new books, he directed one of his fellow students, Oyesiku Adelu, who is one of my favourite juniors in the journalism profession to put a call across to me right from his room in the hostel. I asked Oyesiku how a peasant like him found it comfortable to enter Kabiyesi Ogunleye’s room. The royal father prayed for me and said he never expected any lesser performance from me. He in fact requested I joined him at the Nigerian Airways decades ago; an offer I rejected because I never loved to live in Lagos. It takes an extremely humble and self-effacing royal father to mix with fellow students like Oba Ogunleye is doing. Kabiyesi is indeed an enigmatic person and a case study for those interested in writing about royalty and meekness.

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