- He is from Masquerade Family
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I was born into a royal family that is producing Ataoja of Osogbo. I grew up to know the Ataoja then who incidentally was from our family, Oba Kolawole Alabi.
In the year 1935, I started school. School at that period was very rigorous. We were reading Alakobere, Ijapa, Eleka Yoruba. It is when you can read Yoruba Bible that you were due for promotion to another class. I went to Adenle Primary School, Osogbo. Oba Latona the 2nd passed away in 1944. But my father was an illiterate and so he was deprived of becoming the Ataoja of Osogbo in 1944. Instead, his cousin was appointed as the new Ataoja.
I later became the Secretary to the King. In 1946, the Ataoja- in-Council directed me to take over as the secretary to the Oba because of my relationship with the king as a prince. l later took a year course at the School of Hygiene, Onireke, Ibadan. I was appointed as Sanitary Inspector after training. I was posted to Ibadan Native Authority Council. I later attended a special course with Royal Correspondence of London. I started private studies and passed my Ordinary Level exams. I again applied to the School of Hygiene where I was admitted for Higher Diploma programme and I spent three years. When I graduated, I took my Royal Examination, which is higher certificate for anybody that was aspiring for doctorate then. When I left School of Hygiene in 1961, I was posted to Osogbo Local Government. I was promoted Assistant Superintendent in 1975. That was a grade with which you can be transferred to any place in the region. I was posted to Ikare-Akoko until 1976 during the creation of states. I was asked to move to my state, Oyo State, then. I was posted to Ilesa until in1977 when I was promoted to be the Health Superintendent. Due to my qualification, my promotion was rapid. I was given another promotion to Senior Superintendent and posted to Ife until 1979 and in 1980 there was massive flooding in Iwo town, I was deployed there to manage the crisis. With the help of God I was able to manage it. In 1980, I was moved out completely with my promotion to Principal Health Superintendent 11 to work in Ogbomoso. Until 1982, as Principal Health Superintendent 1, I decided to move out of Ogbomosho because of political uproar to Ibadan as Assistant Chief Superintendent. I was managing both Ibadan and Osogbo stations. When I realised that I have spent my 35 mandatory years, I lobbied to retire. By 1984, I had spent 36 years and I voluntary retired. Thereafter, due to my experience, I was called back for different positions such as Zonal Hospital Management Board by General Adetunji Olurin administration, Chief Environmental Sanitation for Osogbo Local Government and Chairman, World Health Organization Celebration for World Health Day for four years. I also served on the Committee for the Eradication of Guinea worm in Osogbo Local Government. Later I was appointed to serve in Juvenile Court, Osogbo Judiciary Division. I later retired to my farm as a bee keeper. I was appointed Chairman, Bee Keepers’ Association between 2000 and 2010. Simultaneously, between 2006 and 2013, I was Chairman, Community Development Association, Olorunda Local Government.
How many ruling houses do we have in Osogbo?
With the new rotational order, we have five ruling houses namely- Laarooye, Sogbo Dede, Matanmi, Lahanmi and Oyipo.
Which one do you belong to?
I belong to Sogbo Dede. The issue of ruling house in Osogbo is a very long story. Part of the story is the litigation currently in court against the sitting Ataoja. He did not belong to any of the five ruling houses. He is from a masquerade family.
How then did he emerge?
It was purely politics. That is why we are kicking against his emergence. It is all the five ruling houses that are against him. And we have gone to court to challenge his eligibility. The court has ruled twice in our favour but he has continued to appeal.
Which court ruled against him?
The High Court of Osogbo. We are now at the Court of Appeal in Akure, Ondo State. We are ready to go to Supreme Court if need be because he must be removed from the throne. He is not a prince.
Is it not the kingmakers that elected him through a aelection process?
They were forced by the regional representatives of PDP in the South-west and former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. We have never sworn in an Ataoja in the night and given him his staff of office on the third day.
Apart from Oba Adenle, which other Ataoja did you witness his coronation?
I was born during the reign of Oba Kolawole Alabi in 1933. Oba Oyedokun Latona died in 1943. Oba Adenle was installed in 1944 and died in 1975 and also the last Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi too.
What are you doing to ensure that your family produce the next Ataoja?
We have agreed on the rotational system because we want to return to the old rotational system, that is male and female houses.
How was life in the palace as a prince and secretary to the Oba?
We were free to move to any of the royal families. We were also warned not to fight outside the palace or within the community. People later honoured me with Omo Oba. So anytime I was passing, they saluted me and shouted Omo Oba and I became very famous in the community.
How did you see yourself among your colleagues?
Most of my colleagues were not privileged to go school.
So what actually motivated you to go to school?
It was when the CMS missionaries came to Osogbo that we got the encouragement. My great grandfather gave them land to settle in Osogbo on which they established All Saints School and St. Makai School, all in Osogbo. These missionaries used to encourage our fathers on the need to send us to school. They sent some of us to St. Andrew’s College of Education, Oyo. This was how we started to know the value of education in our family and Osogbo. We got influence from the association of our great fathers with the missionaries. It is with the effort of the missionaries that they sent Oba Adenle to St Andrew’s College of Education, Oyo. Oba Adenle later established his private school, which is still in existence till today.
What are your plans to bring unity to your family?
I’m proposing a common purse to financé the education of our children.
What about your childhood friends?
Unfortunately most of them have died. Only two are alive.
You served for 11 years as Secretary of Osogbo Progressive Union, what were your contributions?
My contribution was to protect the prestige of the town as regards their customs and tradition. The town hall at Ayetoro road was built, scholarship for Osogbo indigenes was inaugurated, we organised some educational programmes to help develop and encourage our youths and also encouraged parents to send their children to school.
What are the important festivals in Osogbo?
We are the custodian of Osun Osogbo
What is your message to members of your ruling house?
They should resolve to be more united.
How was Osogbo when you were growing up?
We had only two cars in Osogbo in early 30’s. The Ataoja of Osogbo had a Ford car with registration number OS 1 while the second car belonged to an Ijesha man. Iron roofing started in 1929 to replace palm roofs. General Adeyinka Adebayo used to follow his father to Osogbo to sell produce because Osogbo was a commercial center in the old Western region.