Oba Oladunni Oyewumi: The cloth weaver who became a powerful king
Soun, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungade III was born great but more than that he attained greatness by his sheer personality. Greatness enticed him and he charted the path towards attaining it. He brought to bear bravery; he deployed courage; boldness was his forte; wisdom and diplomacy were natural to him; patriotism to the realm he reigned over boiled over in his veins; he was a genius; he mounted on the wings of ambition and was propelled by unswerving doggedness. Legends were woven round him, he was a true legend; friends and foes alike quivered at his name, he evoked fear and respect; he was not the type to be intimidated by any power; he always evinced confidence, assuredness and conviction. Were he born in the age warfare was fashionable he would have been a redoubtable warrior in the tradition of his forebears. From the beginning he knew what he wanted and he painstakingly went after it and so when it came within his grasp he knew what to do and this he did implicitly and exclusively and with ruthlessness. He brooked no opposition, he reigned alone, he reigned supreme, he towered high, the banner of his name fluttered magnificently solely in the firmament in his realm. Like a true colossus he did bestride the narrow world, he was the king who civilization did not constrain to thrust southward and westward the territories of his realm, he was the monarch who dared the powers that be to have the prestigious beaded crown on his pate to the eternal glory of his successors, by his will and foresight a mere stool got transformed into a behemoth throne of great reverence. That is the Soun throne; beneath him it reached the apogee of greatness, first rate, among the finest, shoulders to shoulders with the most revered. Incontestable is the fact that growth and development of a nation are independent of the individual’s efforts. But without him the development of Ogbomoso would have been slower and the city assumed a less impressive character and status. Rightly and deservedly, he ranks among the great men of the world, not only by reason of volume of his inspiring deeds but of what he was. The remarkable thing however is that he began his story as a cloth weaver, who traveled kilometers to buy fiber for his trade. His death really unveiled his mightiness. The mighty and the powerful in the country including the President of the Federation, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) through his Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; state governors, and many others have either written tributes or visited the family on condolence. A truly great man is partially known by the accompanying reactions at his or her death. By both his accomplishments and reactions arising from his death, he has proven to be a great and powerful king.
Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III descended from Soun Ogundiran Ogunlola, one of the earliest settlers in the area that is now known as Ogbomoso. Much is not known about the ancestry of Ogunlola himself except that he was of Bariba stock. His father had migrated to the area on hunting expedition, serving at a time in the army of the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, near Ogbomoso, a provincial king under the Oyo Empire. Ogunlola was born of this Bariba man and a daughter of Aresa of Iresa. Aresa was another important Oba, who headed another province of Oyo. Ogunlola grew up a man of valour like his father and also took to hunting. The whole area that became Ogbomoso was part of the territory he hunted wild beasts. The abundance of game in the vicinity made him to eventually set his camp under a tree – Ajagbon. According to the accepted history other settlers had put up their camps before his coming, these are, in the order of arrival – Aale, Ohunsile, Orisatolu and Akandie. But history favoured Ogunlola as he emerged the leader and ruler of the settlement. Moreover his valorous act at Oyo when he vanquished a monstrous foe that had been the scourge of Oyo – Elemoso, shot him ahead. He volunteered to go head-to-head with him and he emerged victorious; not only that, he decapitated him and marched back to Oyo in triumph with his head. This episode brought him great honours and fame. An elated Alaafin of Oyo granted him the scepter of state that conferred sovereign power on him. His beheading of Elemoso also formed the basis for the christening of his settlement as people referred to it as the camp of he that beheaded Elemoso – Ido eni ti o gbe ori Elemoso. This over time was elided to Ogbemaso and later Ogbomoso as it is known today. Inevitably, the name encompassed all other settlements in the area and the whole place became Ogbomoso and he became the ruler.
It was that mighty man that became the progenitor of the rulers of Ogbomoso. Soun Ogunlola sired several children four of whom ruled in turn. They were Lakale (eldest son), Kekere Esuo, Eye and Jogioro. Jogioro sired Oluopo, Kumoyede and Orisamateru (Ologolo). Kumoye and Ologolo also became rulers of Ogbomoso but it was Kumoye lineage that would achieve dominance over the stool. After Kumoye, Ologolo and Olukan (a grandson of Lakale) took turn to ascend the stool. But following the end of the rule of Olukan, Kumoye lineage gained ascendancy. Five of his sons (ironically of different mothers) assumed the stool in turn – Toyeje, Oluwusi, Bayewuwon, Bolanta and Odunaro. Those five sub-lineages are now the recognized ruling families of Soun Dynasty. It should be noted though that some other lineages are in court laying claim to the diadem too.
Oba Oladunni Oyewumi was a great grandson of Oluwusi, the second son of Kumoye to mount the throne. Oluwusi Aremu Arolafin whose mother was Adubo ascended the throne at a critical time. It coincided with the time that Ilorin, which had come under the suzerainty of Fulani elements launched its war of expansion and conquest. Ogbomoso being a nearby town faced immense danger as the Ilorin army, a calvary force, had to subjugate Ogbomoso to advance deep into Yorubaland. Thus, the burden fell on Ogbomoso rulers to evolve strategies to quash the menace. Oluwusi’s predecessor, Toyeje was generalissimo (Aare Ona Kakanfo) of Oyo imperial army. Aare Toyeje was a brilliant and brave warrior who laid the foundation of resistance against the imperial intent of Ilorin. He drew many redoubtable warriors into the community to muster formidable strength to defend the town. Oluwusi was not inferior in indomitableness. His unforgettable act was turning the town into an invincible fortress. His great accomplishment was receiving heads and people of 143 villages and towns into Ogbomoso during his reign. While a school of thought suggests it was a case of refugees and a place of refuge, another claims it was a defence strategy orchestrated by the then Olugbon, a provincial king under Oyo Empire, to enable a congregation of warlords from neighbouring communities, Ogbomoso being a more central location, to form an allied front against a common enemy. This brilliant move was highly effective. It turned Ogbomoso into an impregnable fortress that no Ilorin or any other enemy force ever breached in a century of warfare. Oluwusi, the great grandfather of Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III will ever be credited with that feat. Oba Oyewumi preserving the memory of Oluwusi named one of his high rise buildings in Ogbomoso (opposite Anglican Grammar School) Oluwusi Building.
After the reign of Odunaro, the last of the sons of Kumoye to take the throne, another cycle began starting with Ojo Abuirumaku, a son of Toyeje. After his demise, Gbagun Ajamasa Ondugbe rose to the throne. Gbagun Ondugbe was a son of Oluwusi and he was a powerful warrior too. His act of valour likewise gave rise to the title “Ajagungbade” (He who fought war to acquire crown) adopted by the Oluwusi lineage today. Gbagun had defeated an Ijesa monarch during a war in Ijesa region, beheaded him and seized his crown. He was thus Ajagungbade I. Sons of Bayewuwon, Bolanta and Odunaro – Laoye Orumogege, Ajibola Elepo and Adegoke Atanda Oayode respectively also ruled in turn. And in 1916, a son of Gbagun, Afolabi Oyewumi emerged ruler. He was Ajagungbade II. A veteran of the World War I (1914-1918), he reigned till 1940 when he died. He also foisted a glorious reign on Ogbomoso. Oke Lanipekun (Bayewuwon), Olatunji Elepo II (Bolanta) and Olajide Olayode II (Odunaro) were the next three Souns in that order. Salami Ajiboye Itabiyi II began the fourth cycle and after his demise, Prince Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade was ushered into the throne. It was the dawn of a new era, a period of consolidation and an epoch of assertiveness and pacesetting strides. So, summarily, Soun Ogundiran Ogunlola begat Jogioro; Jogioro begat Oluwusi Aremu; Oluwusi begat Gbagun Ondugbe; Gbagun Ondugbe begat Afolabi Oyewumi; Afolabi Oyewumi begat Oladunni Oyewumi.
Ajagungbade III: Hopeless childhood
Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III had an illustrious ancestry; so, less could not be expected from him. But his childhood was enveloped in despair. He faced bleakness that threatened to consign him into irrelevance and a peripheral existence. But a warrior he was he assiduously worked to stir the hand of the clock of his life to clicking steadily in the right direction. He lived to reap the reward, the benefits of which others reaped too particularly Ogbomoso. He was born on the 27th of May, 1926 in the palace of Ogbomoso, to His Royal Highness Oba Bello Afolabi Oyewumi Ajagungbade II and Ayaba Selia Olatundun Adunni Oyewumi of Arowomole compound of Arowomole area, Ogbomoso. He was the youngest of his mother’s three male children. His father had many wives and 63 children. Because of his mother’s proclivity to giving birth to male children in a household where other queens had a preponderance of female children, she found herself in the midst of envies and recriminations from the other wives. In fact, Oba Oyewumi’s mother when she was pregnant with him hurriedly consulted an Ifa priest with intent to altering the gender of the foetus to a female having been warned by other ayabas that if peradventure she had another boy she and her son would be marked persons. She thus feared for her safety and the unborn child’s and so wearily trudged to the Ifa priest’s abode but a futile attempt it turned out to be. Therefore, the mother and child were much travailed. To escape the unabated animosity, his mother took him and fled the palace. She on first impulse took abode in her family house at Arowomole and later left for Ibadan, where she raised her son alone under God’s care. Thus, he was hewn in adversity.
Prince Oladunni started school in earnest, at St. Patrick’s School, Oke-Padre, Ibadan. He acquainted himself well with the academic environment but his father joined his ancestors in 1940 and so had to be taken back to Ogbomoso where he faced uncertain future again. The 14 year-old boy, was meanwhile enrolled at the (now defunct) Ogbomoso Peoples Institute, located at the premises being used by Ogbomoso Grammar School today. At this time he took up residence at Arowomole compound with his mother. It was a trying moment as he was faced with financial constraints. With no help coming their way he opted out of school to become a farm help, under one of his brothers, Dawodu Laleye, who initially promised to assist his education. His brother was supposed to fund his education but he kept on stalling and so one day, he fled to an Ijesa community to try his hand on gold mining. But there, all he could lay his hand on was cloth weaving. However, he wasn’t depressed by the slump in fortune, a prince of Ogbomoso becoming a cloth weaver but he never despaired. He plunged himself into it working with assiduity and determination. He was propelled by a robust vision; he was not content to remain in the valley of life. He strained himself to save little money and so decided to return to Ogbomoso in 1943. Nonetheless, he lost his small fortune on the way to money doublers and gamblers at Ede. Thus, he arrived in Ogbomoso penniless. He was not down nevertheless, for he harboured a grand spirit and remarkable strength.
He went back to the cloth-weaving business and had a stall at Arowomole market. He used to ride a rickety bicycle to Ilorin to buy cotton for his business, he was focused on success. In 1944, a window of opportunity opened, a maternal uncle living in Jos came to Ogbomoso for his wedding ceremony and while returning took along the young prince. He arrived in the tin city of Jos on May 17, 1944, to have a new beginning. His sojourn in Jos became the turning point for him; it was the trigger that set his life on the pedestal of success. In Jos, he hooked up with one his elder brothers (of same mother). He was Prince Moses Oyelowo Oyewumi, who eked out a living as a tailor. Prince Oyelowo Oyewumi also engaged in clothes merchandise, an aspect Prince Oladunni came in handy. Yet unfulfilled, he convinced his brother to allow him to add cloth-weaving to their line, to which his brother acquiesced. They experienced a boom in the business though at a great exertion to him because he used to trek long distances to sell the woven clothes at mining sites scattered all over Jos. He served his brother with devotion and was exceedingly honest. Even when Oyelowo went back to Ogbomoso to get married in 1945 and he was stranded back home for six months due to a workers’ strike, Oyelowo returned to see the books well kept and his business intact.
In 1946 meanwhile, the spirit of self-actualization overwhelmed the young Oladunni and he decided to be independent. This received the blessing of his brother, who gave him an old sewing machine and a sum of two pounds, sixteen shillings to start off. He bought and sewed clothes which he sold. Because he poured his heart into the work and turned out exquisite designs, his business witnessed tremendous spike and he began to flourish. Oladunni, the businessman now really began to unravel.
The turn around
The then Prince Oyewumi now set his eyes on making a goal for personal success and fulfillment. It was a decision that turned around the narrative of his life. At just 20, he began the journey to the top. He took his savings of about 50 pounds to start trading in bicycles, specifically, double spring Raleigh. He got his consignment from Lagos. The business paid off handsomely. However, life is always full of twists and hurts. He fell victim of a fraudster once again. He had an offer that appeared rewarding that involved obtaining his merchandise directly from the UAC, which he would come at very cheaper rates. But the man who came up with the proposal was a swindler. They arrived CFAO warehouse together enraptured by the prospect but his partner had other plans. Oladunni handed the money to the man, the man dashed into an office as if to make payment, but he vanished into thin air with the money thereafter. He had lost four pounds, fifty shillings. It was a crushing blow but he soon gathered himself together to re-fire. At this time too he took time to further his education notwithstanding the setback he suffered. He enrolled himself for evening classes at St. Paul’s School in Jos. Still passionate about entrepreneurship, one day, he took a bold step by strolling into a GB Olivant sales outlet to look over the shop. This step he took re-ordered his life. He met a certain Scot national, a Mr. Smith, who was a manager in the outlet and they became acquaintance. Their friendship blossomed and shortly after, Mr. Smith proposed a business deal to the Prince – to offer him good on credit. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands. This opened a new vista of prospect for him which he masterfully explored. Through Smith he met several other expatriates, who also found his honesty and entrepreneurial acumen worthy and entrapping. He met a Mr. Holford, the manager of the then Barclay’s Bank and was encouraged to open an account with the bank. The bank advanced him credit facilities with which he grew his business. In time, he expanded and soon had business dealings with other multi-national conglomerates like PZ, SCOA and CFAO.
Meanwhile, on June 8, 1950, he became a family man, at a young age of 24. His wife was Alhaja Igbayilola Oyewumi (nee Laleye), who died in 2019. From this time, events began to unravel rapidly which turned his life around for the better. In 1954, he was made the sole distributor for CFAO in Jos. He now became a big time business man and travelled to France in 1958 and to some other European countries including Germany, where he was appointed as the distributor of Becks beer in Nigeria. He made some other business deals across Europe which entrenched his international status as a company magnate. He also consolidated in Nigeria; he became a charming Prince dashing across Nigerian cities to forge new friendships and deals.
Behold, the cloth weaver became king!
His fame soared impressively across Nigeria, becoming widely known as the “The Prince.” His business interests too cut across many sectors. He built the popular Terminus Hotel in Jos and later in Osogbo before that of Ogbomoso. Now, the stool of Soun became an attraction to him, he desired to help his community develop, to leverage on the connections he had forged over the years. He bided his time. The opportunity finally came in 1973 sequel to the passage of Oba Salami Ajiboye Itabiyi II who died on June 2, 1973. It became the turn of his Gbagun royal family to produce the monarch of Ogbomoso. From the family, several candidates showed interest, he put his hat in the ring too. He got nominated along with one other and when ninety four family members met to consider the final two candidates, it was forgone conclusion, he had endeared himself to all by his magnetic personality and so, the votes swung in his favour, nicking an overwhelming ninety votes out of ninety-four. He had become the Soun-elect. A cloth weaver had become king! He was traditionally installed on December 14, 1973 as the 20th Soun of Ogbomoso.
Record of heroic feats
Nobody ever thought he would amount to anything but he rose to become the ruler of his town, first among equal. Like Julius Caesar who said he would rather be number one in a village than being number two in Rome. Caesar was destined to be first in Rome and up the ladder of ascendancy he mounted to be. Oladunni was imbued with vision and ambition and was blessed with an uncanny ability to scheme grandiose missions. He was daring, brave and bold. He was a repertoire of knowledge and history, formidable in battle and unwavering in the pursuit of his goal. For his Ogbomoso, he spared no efforts and expenses to accomplish his designs and desires. Lawyers were his friends for he knew they were the veritable soldiers to fight the modern war while the grit he needed to muster legal counsels to pull the killer shot and how to effectively deploy them he possessed. Many foes fell at his feet! Once he decided on battle he never dithered. He was keen and far sighted all which formed the arsenal with which he fought his battles. He brooked no nonsense, he abided with no rivalry. He was supreme where his trunk extended, he towered high like the sun reigning alone. His was a glorious reign. Some of his fascinating accomplishments for record purposes are therefore highlighted in subsequent paragraphs.
Wearing of beaded crown
His major act upon his selection was to announce he would wear the exalted beaded crown that is the preserve of classical Obas in Yorubaland on the day of his installation. At his ascension, Ogbomoso traditional ruler answered to the description of Lord i.e. Baale. But Oba Oladunni was discontent with this. He was of the view that Ogbomoso had gained tremendously in importance and significance and so deserved a greater prestige starting from the title of its ruler. He felt Ogbomoso deserved a title worthy of its name and the position of eminence the city had reached in terms of contributions to the evolution of Yorubaland and Nigeria in general, supply of invaluable men to advancing the cause of Yorubaland and Nigeria and sheer size of its geographical area. In fact, in the sixties and seventies Ogbomoso was captured in the national censuses as the fourth largest city in Nigeria. Thus, the grandson of Gbagun Ondugbe moved swiftly and daringly to do what his predecessors did not do – wearing of a beaded crown! His pronouncement to bedeck his pate with the beaded crown thus alarmed the Yoruba Obas, from Ife to Oyo, to Abeokuta, to Orangun-Ila and so on. The land reverberated with oppositions against a minion putting on the diadem that set them apart. Hurried meetings to come up with measures to forestall him were held. “It will be a sacrilege for this upstart to go ahead with the audacious plan.” They conspired against him; they forced the hand of the Military Governor of the then Western State, Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi to stop him. The governor in the true tradition of a man of arm threatened thunder and brimstone but Oba Oladunni was unmoved. He was adamant in the true spirit of his Ajagungbade cognomen. It was at a battle in Ilesa in 1867, where he led an Ogbomoso contingent to, that he reportedly beheaded a sovereign and took his crown!
Oba Oladunni Oyewumi explaining the rationale behind his decision to wear the beaded crown had stated, “People are enthusiastically according me greeting, ‘K’ade pe lori, ki bata pelese,’ (Long live the king, long may you wear the crown and sandals!) But where is the crown? So, it will amount to a mockery of my position if I am without a crown.” He further made reference to the heroics of his grandfather – Gbagun. His traducers asked him to name the Oba from which Gbagun claimed the crown but he strongly countered: “Name the Oba that lost his crown and I will tell you from whom he gained the crown!” They had no answer to this. The ding-dong persisted. The Military Governor continued to warn him in stern notes just as the local council threatened not to fund the installation ceremony if he insisted on wearing the much vaunted beaded crown. He remained undaunted. He dared the whole establishment and came out victorious. He called the bluff of the council which threatened not to fund the ceremony, he funded it himself. And so he appeared in the beaded crown both at the installation and coronation ceremonies on December 14, 1973 and January 12, 1974 respectively. Oba Oladunni Oyewumi illustrated lucidly the unconquerable spirit of the ancient Ogbomoso warlords, which made the difference during the Fulani onslaught against Yorubaland in the1800s. That was the first of his numerous accomplishments for Ogbomoso. An untoward consequence of this plot against him is the loss of the prescribing authority of the Obas to determine who wears beaded crown to government.
Granting of Obaship status to Soun
The contributions of Oba Oladunni Oyewumi to the growth and development of Ogbomoso cannot be exhausted in volumes of books not to talk of a news magazine as this. He had breathed into the city his adventurous spirit and cosmopolitan outlook to make an unbelievable impact. He was the monarch that built a semi-town into a metropolis of no mean value. He was the overlord who after strenuous struggle changed the status of his stool, from Baale to Oba. Many of us, who walk the streets of Ogbomoso today, filled with pleasure about its magnificence, would have grown up in a bucolic community. This traditional ruler had the temerity and then credit of changing the narrative. He had something in him that propelled his grand ambition of turning his realm into an Eldorado. And he brought greatly to bear his wide connections and charming personality in pursuing this goal. These stood him in good stead to attract developments. Another notable accomplishment he brought to pass was securing the title of Oba for Soun chieftaincy. Nicking this was yet another battle of nerve and unwavering determination. It was distasteful to him sitting on a stool of Baale. His realm had attained such renown that the title of Baale was not befitting for his chieftaincy. The success he attained with the wearing of beaded crown during his installation formed the fulcrum of his future battles in that regard. Bedecking his pate with the beaded crown without dire consequences further bolstered his resolve to go the whole hog. Thus, his next target was securing elevation of Soun’s stool to that of an Oba. That was unprecedented in Yorubaland. In fact, no Baale previously ever dared wearing a beaded crown until he did it. Government had no law or regulation against what he did at the time and so he escaped the backlash, though more than that his courage and will largely buoyed his resolve against any thought of penalty. Yet, he did not become swollen headed or overly haughty with his accomplishment, he rather pacified the governor, he was conciliatory and reached out to his brother monarchs, which thawed the opposition against him. He did not rest on his oars and he consistently impressed it that the Soun stool deserves being promoted an Oba in the interest of natural justice. He submitted several memorandums and government (then the Oyo state government, the state having been carved out of the Western state in 1976) with the tacit support of the Council of Obas got officially pronounced as Oba in December 1976, along with the Baale of Ibadan. The two became crown-wearing Obas. It should be noted that his feat it was that rubbed off auspiciously on the Olubadan chieftaincy. His wearing of a crown during his installation sparked a campaign in Ibadan too and so he was now recognized officially as a crown-wearing Oba. Another aftermath of this unprecedented accomplishment was igniting a flurry of reviews through Chieftaincy Commissions of Inquiries as well as promulgation of statutory regulations on chieftaincy matters by the government. Also, he became the pathfinder for other traditional rulers to seek elevation.
Becoming a member and subsequently the Chairman of Council of Obas
Oba Oladunni Oyewumi was not done. He had set for himself the onerous task of enhancing the status and prestige of the Soun throne. So, he now began to push for a spot in the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs. He brought great assertions to bear as well and this became another of his success story becoming the first Soun to sit among the leading traditional rulers in the country. Not only that, he was inaugurated as chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas on December 12, 1995, for a term of two years. It was a dramatic battle; upon gaining ascendancy as a member of the traditional council in the old Oyo state, he joined hands with the Alaafin of Oyo and Olubadan to fight the permanent chairmanship of the body by Ooni of Ife. They went to court, threw various punches, made use of the media and pulled diverse strings. Eventually, Osun state was excised from Oyo state. But this battle only changed the theatre and dramatis personae as Soun and Olubadan now had Alaafin to contend with sequel to the latter’s proposition to be conferred with the position of permanent chairman of the council. They had pushed for rotational chairmanship between the three. Ultimately, Soun was sworn-in as chairman in December 1995.
Boundary dispute with Oyo
This is another bitter and tasking battle. Before his ascension, in fact, as far back as the early 20th century, Ogbomoso and Oyo had been locked in a boundary dispute. While the Alaafin put the boundary between the two contiguous cities at Oba River that flows near Ogbomoso, Ogbomoso insisted it was at Ipeba, further up towards Oyo. It was Baale Adegoke Olayode that began the court case during his reign between 1908 and 1916. His exile in 2016 meanwhile put the matter in limbo until the ascension to the throne of Layode’s son, Olajide Olayode II in 1966. The matter did not receive the interest of his successor, Ajiboye Itabiyi II, who joined his ancestors in June 1973. The coming of Oba Oladunni revitalized the legal tussle. He recruited the best lawyers, bearing the heavy expenses even though several communities which fell within the land in dispute of Ogbomoso heritage openly canvassed for Oyo. But that did not deter him, a redoubtable warrior he was. And in a landmark judgment in 1984, he secured victory at the court when six Justices of the Supreme Court out of seven gave verdict in favour of Ogbomoso. Thus, Soun Oladunni Oyewumi fended off Oyo, thrusting the power of Ogbomoso further west and south.
Construction of a modern palace
When he came on the throne, Ogbomoso’s official monarchial residence had become antiquated. Oba Oyewumi found it unbefitting for the status he projected. Indeed, he refused to sleep there, preferring to come to the palace every morning from his personal house he built at General Area pre-ascension, which had touch of modernity. The chiefs frowned at this but he would not budge. Therefore, shortly after his ascension he mobilized his subjects with active participation of Ogbomoso Parapo to build a palace worthy of the name Ogbomoso. Reverend Aisha Ige was appointed the chairman of the committee that raised fund and supervised the project while Chief Peter Oluranti Ogunniyi was secretary. Oba Oyewumi took the lead role in accomplishing the project. He spoke with the Ewekoro Cement factory to acquire cement at a cheaper rate; and several times, he released his personal money to enhance the execution of the project. In 1978, the new palace, standing imposingly and elegantly at the centre of the premises was commissioned. He also in 2003 had a reception hall commissioned in the palace ground, which he named Oladunni Hall.
The establishment of LAUTECH and Federal Polytechnic Ayede
Until his office Ogbomoso had no (secular) tertiary institution. The only degree awarding institution in the sprawling city was the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary (NBTS). Attracting one thus became a duty. The establishment of LAUTECH was preceded by massive campaign to found secondary schools. At the time of his installation there were only four secondary schools in Ogbomoso – Ogbomoso Grammar School (1952), Ogbomoso Girls High School (1959), Ogbomoso High School (1965) and Ogbomoso Baptist High School (1973). To kick-start the process of boosting secondary education he inaugurated a committee styled “Ogbomoso Education Development Committee,” headed by Chief N.A. Adibi (principal of Osogbo Grammar School) with Chief J.B. Ojo (principal of Ogbomoso Baptist High School) as secretary. The committee also had university eggheads as members. The effort resulted in founding of many secondary schools in Ogbomoso zone especially in the neighbouring communities. Other schools Oba Oladunni Oyewumi facilitated to Ogbomoso are the Federal Government College, the Baptist Nursing School and the Government Technical College. In many respects, he committed his resources and latched on his connections to achieve this. He knew the importance education would confer on his people and domain and spared no efforts to improving the sector. The ultimate however was the establishment of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in Ogbomoso. The university, which took off in 1990 was coveted by several towns in the old Oyo state. There was cutthroat struggle to have the university located in their towns. Soun stood impressively in the forefront of securing approval for Ogbomoso mobilizing his people to cinch it, articulating papers to support the claim of lack of equity in the spread of higher institutions among the five senatorial districts in the state with Ogbomoso at a disadvantaged position. He exerted his influence along with other patriots to secure the institution for Ogbomoso, spending heavily on the project. It was thus to his credit and others’ that the Oyo state government awarded the university named the Oyo State University of Technology (OSUTECH) at inception for Ogbomoso. He did not abandon the project afterwards; he released his houses to temporarily accommodate staffs and helped in solving several other problems that arose. Moreover, few years ago, when Oyo and Osun state governments of Abiola Ajimobi and Rauf Aregbesola respectively starved the institution of fund which threatened the institution’s survival, Baba was in the forefront of the crusade to make it solely owned by Oyo state, causing several paid advertorials to be published in national dailies to advance the cause. The benefits arising from this over the years cannot be exhausted. It has been of tremendous boost to the economy of Ogbomoso, in fact it is its mainstay today.
Similarly, the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic Ayede within Ogbomoso zone had its input, though primarily Senator Ayo Adeseun deserves the highest credit for the polytechnic for initiating it and seeing to its approval. But at a crucial point others made invaluable contributions one of whom was the late monarch. He helped in mobilizing other indigenes of means to aggregate their influences to get the approval in the face of mounting competition.
Boost in infrastructures
His reign was of remarkable addition to the infrastructural developments of Ogbomoso. He did not rest until he built a modern city. Many modern facilities he caused to be brought to Ogbomoso. He worked productively with people including sons and daughters who could facilitate developmental projects to the city. Thus, during his reign (though most of these could still have come without him but certainly they would have at a slower rate), there was a leap in infrastructure domiciliation in Ogbomoso. Road networks improved, post office services received a boost, Ogbomoso was made a judicial headquarters, fire service got off the ground, construction of a 132 KVA sub-station is ongoing, telecommunication services improved, spike in number of banks, first four-lane road was constructed, construction of stadiums, zonal headquarters of State Security Service (SSS) and Police Command, state and federal governments’ housing estates, industrial estate etc all sprouted during his eventful and implausible reign. Also, economically, it was a jolly good ride as he himself activated a number of businesses. He built hotels (Terminus Hotels and Royal Crown Hotels), founded Oyewumi Motors, built skyscrapers for company uses and the most visible one in the twilight of his reign – the magnificent Ajagungbade Plaza at Oke-Ado is striking example of his vision.
He reigned supreme and alone
The Ogbomoso king of 48 years loved glory and victories. And to achieve it he fought many battles and wars. He did not tolerate challenge to his reign. His objective was always to keep up the status of his throne and preeminence of his domain. He fought with vigour the matter of paramountcy and primacy. Within and without he engaged in several royal tussles many which were fought in court rooms, some resulting i,….n fisticuffs and others breeding intense animosities against him. He gave no respite to those who opposed his grand ambition. He also preserved the sanctity and respect of the traditional institution against erosion by even government officials. If he was to attend a function a state governor would attend, he would time his arrival moment to coincide with the arrival of the governor so they would make the entry together and would avoid having to stand as statutorily required at the entrance of the governor. Native intelligence and wisdom were his forte; and these he brought to bear excessively to advance his cause. He bred fear into his opponents; many perceived him as supernaturally powerful. Many legends were woven round him; he was said to have disappeared several times in the face of danger. Few minutes to an auto accident he stopped the car to urinate, for while he was doing that the car was in parked position had a tyre burst. Had he not stopped the tyre would have burst in top speed and the resultant carnage can best be imagined.
The last roar
“The Merchant King” was adept at using his subjects to achieve his vision of a greater Ogbomoso. He identified the crucial sources of power and influence and strategically drew them close to make them partners in the progress of his domain. Many highly placed and brilliant subjects he formed acquaintance with, made many honorary chiefs; he also had a way with government leaders whom he courted and who courted him. His incredible personality brought the powerful swooning at his feet for relationships, many inspiring good returns and favours in favour of his domain. He used his subjects exceedingly for the good of his town. In 2020, he conceptualized the formation of a stakeholders’ committee of Ogbomoso’s prominent sons and daughters to further the drive of the goal of development. Thus, in December 2020, he rallied over forty persons of Ogbomoso extraction, who had attained high places to form a body later styled Ogbomoso Consultative Council (OCC). He was the chairman while (now late) Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, Major General Oladayo Popoola (rtd) and Dr. Saka Balogun were chosen as coordinators. Membership was composed mostly of the leading politicians, technocrats and chiefs Ogbomoso could muster presently. Its major purpose is articulating the dream of having Ogbomoso as capital city of a new state as well as pursuing other progressive goals. The meeting place was a chamber in the palace. OCC is one of the monuments he left behind and one prays it will accomplish good things for Ogbomoso.
His last years
Death is inevitable for all mortals. The end will come when it will come. Having accomplished so much for Ogbomoso, the years of exertion began to take its toll on Oba Oladunni Oyewumi as his health began to fail. Being a tall and hefty man, his legs began to sag. He had crammed a lot into his 95 years existence. The time to take a bow approached ominously and quickly. He couldn’t walk long distances again without support and then he needed aid to even take a stroll indoors. He stopped attending functions. But he was still acutely aware of his environment, sharp and sound minded and retained the commanding edge to his voice. He remained the ebullient Oba, quick witted and intolerable to audacious whims and caprices. He amassed even greater wealth after he succeeded to the throne. In the early hours of December 12, 2021, over sixteen years after he was sworn-in as chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas, he took the final bow and transited to the great beyond. He was buried same day according to Islamic rites. He left wives and over thirty equally successful children. All his children were adequately educated and doing excellently well in their various professions. He was the architect of so many other beautiful things in Ogbomoso which space will not allow their mentioning. He forged religious harmony, never was religious or sectarian crisis heard in Ogbomoso during his reign. He received many awards for his efforts. He was conferred with the honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by LAUTECH; he received the National Awards of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2002 and the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), was made the first Chancellor of Plateau State University and many others. But he had his dark sides and failures too. He couldn’t as much as he desired and tried make Ogbomoso a capital city of a state. He couldn’t turn Ogbomoso into an industrial city. Concord among traditional rulers in Ogbomoso zone was a mirage during his reign; he couldn’t help that because that would antagonize his dream of reigning alone and supreme in an environment suffuse with many historical and beaded crown-wearing Obas. One can conveniently say that in terms of accomplishments, only his great ancestors – Soun Ogunlola, Toyeje Akanni Alebiosu and Oluwusi Aremu could rival him. In the final submission he will be remembered as the Oba who made Ogbomoso a fuller and greater dominion.