Tuesday 22 April 2014

Olubadan-In-Line:"How I Became Balogun of Ibadanland"

Chief Suleiman Omiyale

Chief Suleiman Omiyale, born 16th November 1920 is the Ekeji Olubadan as he is the Balogun of Ibadanland. According to the culture and tradition of Ibadan, it takes 24 steps for any High Chief to become the Olubadan. This nonagenarian, who has risen through the 23 steps of Olubadan obaship, spoke exclusively to City People Event and Party Editor, ABIOLA ORISILE and Photojournalist,WALE OSANYINTOLA. 

As the Ekeji Olubadan of Ibadanland, how's it going through 23 steps so far? 
I am Chief Suleiman Omiyale, the Balogun of Ibadanland. I am the Ekeji Olubadanland. I am the Olubadan-in-line. Though I don’t like talking about my age but I am in my 90s. You know they hardly kept record when we were born, but I am fortunate to have one. I hail from Baale Ope Ape compound. I became Mogaji of my compound in 1967. From Mogaji I became Aregbe-Omo in 1972. I was fortunate to jump 6 steps.  

Why did you jump 6 steps?
Well, if I have to follow the step from Mogaji, you will become Jagun, Ajia, Bada, Are-Onibo, Gbonka. I was opportuned to jump these because of destiny. Those people died and I moved up the ladder. So it was a vacant stool. This was the same stool which was vacant and Kabiyesi became Olubadan. He was Ekarun Olubadan but 4 stools were vacant and he became the Olubadan. The 4 stools were Fijabi Otun Desaro-Osi, Lija-Akande, Akilapa. You became Olubadan by destiny.
Credit: Citypeoplemagazine

You were born in Baale Ope-Agbe compound, where did you grow up?
I started school at Mapo Baptist Day School in Mapo. My father‘s younger brother, A.B. Lawonyin who was Court Clerk was transferred to Iwo. He told my father he would like to take me to Iwo. I was with him at Iwo till 1945. My father and other Ibadan prominent indigenes then founded Islamic School. My father later told me to come to Islamic School. I passed Standard 6 and moved to Ibadan Grammar School at Oke-Ado. I did 3 years and proceeded to Ibadan Boys High School.

Because there was no university, I joined Railway Corporation back then, they come to meet us at secondary school, asking us what we would like to become. I told them I would like to become a Railway worker because when I followed my brother to Kano, I saw Railway executives that  I loved how  they dressed and that prompted me to join Railway Corporation.

My father told me to leave Railway. One day, when Railway closed late, we were robbed at Oja-Oba. I ran through Mapo to get home. My father told me to stop the job. He was the head of Tax at Mapo, so it was easy getting a job. He took me to his white friend called Bromade. I did interview and I was given appointment at Tax-Clerk. The white man said there is no vacancy at Iwo unless I will go out of Ibadan. I was posted to Oshogbo. Then later I went to Lagos.

Why did you leave your job for Lagos?
Lagos used to have ship back then. There was nothing like Apapa. I was employed by a white man in UTC (Oyinbo UTC). I was a Record Keeper and later I was promoted to Assistant Manager. I was there for a while before I was called to become the Mogaji of my compound.

Was it after you became Mogaji that you built this house?
No, I have a house before then. This is our own Palace. Whoever becomes Mogaji of our compound comes here to talk to members of his family. We have meeting here once a week with prospective Omo-Oye. All those houses you are seeing are my personal houses but this is a family house. So every Mogaji has a palace. We settle quarrel among family members. A wealthy man house should not be devoid of fight, issues, to mention few.

What was your movement after you became Mogaji?
I left my place of work and moved to Ibadan. I later joined Customary Court. This is because they were employing back in 1971. I applied, did exam and was employed as Customary Court Judge. I was there when Soldier took over, Bola Ige regime. I was transferred to Oke-Arin Court, Oke-arin until I retired. After then Sanni Abacha set up traditional council. I was the chairman of Ibadan North Traditional Council.

You were around during the Civil War, what were you doing then?
I was in Lagos working. I didn’t join Nigerian Army.

You are Ekeji Olubadan, when Olubadan became King 7 years ago, did people fight over it?
No, in Ibadanland there is hierarchy. We don’t fight over Obaship. No other contender. When he was going to be Olubadan, Balogun then in person of Chief Olunloyo was sick and I was the Deputy. I was the head of Oba Coronation Committee (Afobaje). I signed for Olubadan. We never fought over it. We knew it was his turn to become the King.

So if this Olubadan goes to meet his ancestors, you will be the next Olubadan?
Yes, that's why we pray to God too, to be on the throne.
Do you beg God for that? 
Don’t you beg God for your work too? If you don’t beg God, you cannot be a master.

Do they train people to become Oba in Ibadan?
I will say yes. The 24 steps alone will make you have all the experience required to be a king in Ibadanland. You hve to be versed and being on each step (means more experience and exposure. I told you I became Mogaji in 1967. Look at it till date, it is almost 50 years. I am on the 23rd step now. Do you know what it takes to climb that? Some people who are over-ambitious will be thinking of bad of you. It is only God who will make one ascend the throne.

Is it transferable to one’s son due to age?
You can only transfer Mogaji if you think you are too old, but you cannot transfer your Obaship. Do you think it is possible for a young chap to have all the experience we have garnered? A child cannot shoulder the responsibility (Atari Ajanaku, ki se eru Omode).

What is your relationship with the Olubadan?
It is a very cordial relationship. No fight, no hustle
Your title Balogun stipulated that you go to war, what do you do now that there is no war?
We will never see war. Initially it is only Balogun side that becomes Oba in Ibadan. It was in 1948 that they agreed it is not good for right side to become the king while the left are not favoured. So it became rotational. You cannot jump the step, no matter how rich you are. You stay on your line either left or right.

Do you think using of hierarchy and steps is the best in choosing a king?
Well, it is something that has been in existence before we were born. In Ibadan, all Omo-Oye knows all the steps. We do have meeting twice a month. We call all biological sons of Baale Ope-Agbe.

Why is it that only old people become Oba in Ibadan?
If it took me 47 years to climb 23 steps, when I was in my 40s how do you expect me to be young? It is natural, even all my sons before they will become Mogaji they would have been old at least 30s or 40s.

You have complete teeth, sharp memory at 94, how did you do it?
It is not by my might, God is not giving everybody. I know at least 50 numbers off hand. I hardly store numbers or keep them on my phone. It is God's gift. (His children confirmed that).

If you become next Olubadan will you marry more wives?
No. I have 6 already. Even our Olubadan just have one. I have my last wife who gave birth to my last children who are twins. They just left secondary school. I have many sons who are doing well in their chosen career, 3 just finished their Masters. I have 6 at University. That is their inheritance. They can’t inherit this Obaship.

How do you unwind?
I go to London twice in a year to rest.

What is your favourite colour?
I love white but I wear all cloth.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Tatalo Aremu and Yusuf Olatunji.

How true is it that Ibadans don’t do well in Ibadan but outside Ibadan?
That was then, not now. Abiola (referring to the Gov) is a member of our compound, and we hold meetings here. Ibadan we say “won ki sin eyan kan lee meji” (Ibadans don't vote for a person twice). Not our own son. They took Akala to Ooni to gve him “Apeegunre of Ibadan. We all saw what happened to him. So Abiola is our son, I pray he goes in for 2nd term.
 Credit: Citypeoplemagazine

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