Aale Okelerin Ogbomoso celebrates 80, speaks on why he wrote book on history of Okelerin
His Royal Majesty Oba Samuel Babatunde Oyebamiji Amao II, the 12th Aale of Okelerin who recently clocked 80 years, in this interview by editor, FEMI OGUNLANA, recalls his interesting youth experiences, his rise to the throne of Okelerin, his achievements and future goals. He also speaks on his two-in-one book, titled, ‘The Beginning: The History Okelerin and the Autobiography of Oba S.B. Amao II (the 12th Aale of Okelerin),’ which is billed for public presentation on March 19, 2022.
How does it feel to clock 80 years?
It is beautiful. I give all glory to God. With the environment I found myself, I enjoy it, I don’t even feel my age, with the caliber of people surrounding me; my children, biological, non-biological, friends, it is an interesting environment, I give glory to God.
Did you know you would become Oba?
If I say I did not know I will become Oba I am lying because from my childhood people had addressed me as ‘Baale Okelerin,’ in fact, when I was in school, during end-od-year programmes, I was always cast in the role of Oba, so, it was from childhood that leadership had gravitated towards me, that had been the experience.
Which schools did you attend?
I didn’t have the opportunity of studying much academically. But the four walls of classrooms I saw included Native Authority School (now D. C. Basic School), Masifa, in Ogbomoso. Subsequently, I proceeded to the Baptist Secondary Modern School, Ahoyaya, Ogbomoso. After leaving the school, I worked briefly with Nigersol Construction Company, which was an Israeli company executing contracts for the Western Regional Government led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I later joined UAC in Lagos, its sub-division of Pan Electric. The company sent me for technical training at its technical school, where I specialized in electronics. I worked with the company for about 15 years before pulling out voluntarily to start my own company.
Can you share some of the pranks you played as a young boy?
Growing up in my community here, Okelerin, which is the centre of the most interesting festival in Ogbomoso then, Egungun was wonderful. I was deeply involved in the kunduke (junior egunguns) thing. I reveled in wearing Egungun lapel just as I rented it out, I mean the lapel, and I always had an eventful period during the festival, the atori (cane) beatings, the running helter-skelter and the tension associated with it. As I said earlier being made leader in any group started from my early days, I was always the leader in any peer group; even where those older than me were present I was made the leader. There were some within my family compound older than I am, that when we went out and others accorded me headship position, and they tried to protest that they were older than I am, they would be told that you could only claim you are older in your compound but here, ‘Samu’ (Samuel) is our leader, all this made me to have an interesting and memorable youth.
So all this reinforced your belief that in the future you will become Oba?
I knew God had a purpose for my life, but I never thought it would manifest this way – emerging Oba, though I took it reluctantly. My father too was Baale Okelerin. After his death, the family wanted me to take over but I said no saying I was young and that it would disrupt my business in Lagos. Meanwhile, some people in our compound, who were not eligible to the chieftaincy were sounding me out, ‘Samu, are you interested?’And I told them pointblank it did not interest me. They now felt the coast was clear for them, that is when I told them that if I am not interested, it does not mean I should allow ineligible persons to take it over or dash the chieftaincy out. That is how I sponsored my elder brother, Chief Ezekiel Olaniran Adigun Ojebode, the 11th Baale Okelerin, it was in 1986. Unfortunately, his reign was not long, he died in 1991. There was vacancy again and they called me again and I said no again. I had an uncle that had initially agreed to take the stool but in the last minute he declined. I asked him why and he said he had a dream that he would die if he should assume the chieftaincy. ‘So, who do you want to die?’ I asked him. This is someone whose first child I am only two years older than he was. Moreover, those people in our compound I said were ineligible did not relent in hijacking the stool, that was why I took up the position: And to the glory of God, God has been supporting me, I have no regret taking the position.
Can you shed light on how you were able to clinch the change of title of the chieftaincy from Baale of Okelerin to Aale of Okelerin and becoming a part II recognized Oba?
Before my enthronement as the Baale of Okelerin in 1992, the Oyo state government instituted a Commission of Inquiry to look into chieftaincy disputes in the state, the Oloko Commission of Inquiry. The commission was inaugurated by Governor Kolapo Ishola but it did not begin sitting until I was installed. So, I made passionate requests to the commission. One of my requests to the Oloko Commission was to make me an Oba, though we used Baale in Ogbomoso. Oloko told me an Oba is superior to Baale but I told him I did not agree, that it is just nomenclature. I said unless Emir of Zaria is superior to the Chief of Jos, he said no. I told him in Plateau they use Chiefdom, in Zaria they use Emir, in Sokoto, they use Sultanate, here in Ogbomoso, we use Baale – Baale of Ogbomoso, Baale of Okelerin and so on. Justice Oloko now advised me to seek upgrading to an Oba, that that was what the Oyo state government recognizes. He further advised me to take step to seek a change in nomenclature from Baale to Aale. He said his commission had no power to upgrade anyone to Obaship position. Aale is the name of my progenitor, the founder of Okelerin, who was the pioneer settler in this area now known as Ogbomoso, and that is why we describe Okelerin as the Genesis of Ogbomoso. What we now know as Ogbomoso started in Okelerin. I applied for the change of nomenclature and it was granted and put in a Gazette. The recommendation was approved.
And there was no opposition?
How did you now get elevated as an Oba?
I applied to the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs. I was interviewed, I was successful and the Council of Obas, under the chairmanship of Iku Baba Yeye, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, recommended me and the Governor approved it. That was in 2010.
But you did the coronation in 2018?
I was supposed to do the coronation immediately but unfortunately, the local government then was not cooperative. But when it was convenient, we now did the formal coronation in 2018, I had been recognized as Oba since May 2010.
You mentioned the other time that Okelerin is the Genesis of Ogbomoso, I want you to expatiate on this?
What is now known as Ogbomoso as I told you started from Okelerin. Aale was the first settler in this vicinity. His family had been here years before another person was noticed at Ijern, that is Ohunsile, the progenitor of Baale Ijeru. Later, another person, Orisatolu, the progenitor of Onisapa came. Then, Akandie, very close to this place at Isale–Afon also came. Then, much later, close to us here, Ogunlola came to settle at Idi-Ajagbon (a tree), But each settlement operated autonomously before the amalgamation of the whole five settlements.
How then is the name of the amalgam Ogbomoso and not Okelerin?
The name Ogbomoso came about because of the incident that happened to Ogunlola, who killed an Ijesha Oshomalo trader. In those days, Alaafin was the overall suzerainty, while the Olugbon was the overlord here, and he sent him (Ogunlola) to Oyo for his due comeuppance over manslaughter. It was during the Ogbooro war, he was, supposed to be killed but he said let me face this Elemoso killing your soldiers and Oyo people ruthlessly. You want to kill me, send me to duel with him, it is another death sentence. They sent him to contend with Elemoso and he was able to kill Elemoso and beheaded him. Alaafin now told him to stay in Oyo but he requested that he be allowed to go back to his camp to continue to live under the Ajagbon tree. Alaafin acceded and people now started to refer to his settlement as ‘Budo eniti о gbe ori Elеmоsо’ (The camp of he that beheaded Elemoso). That is how the name evolved as overtime ‘Ogbori Elemoso’ was elided to Ogbomoso encompassing the other settlements.
Did that not anger your forefathers that the name of the settlement of someone that came much later overrode theirs?
Then, there was love and cooperation. Meanwhile, things like that continue to happen today. There is an area in Ogbomoso today known as Papa Alajiki. The name of the area evolved from the name of a mosque erected by a certain Baba Alajiki. However, the original owner of the land is the Osi Agoro family. But the whole area is now known as Papa Alajiki. There was a time that Baba Agboola Adibi (of blessed memory) protested that it should not be called Papa Alajiki again that the land belongs to them, the Osi Agoro family, but it was not Alajiki that requested that it should be called Alajiki area. What will change that name won’t be easy. That was why I built Aale Shopping Complex at the Blind Centre area; the whole place belongs to us – Blind Centre, Adeniran, Low Cost, Restore, Ayedaade and so on. I discovered when I first came to the throne, this one will say I am going to Adeniran, I am going to Blind Centre, will I ask they stopped calling them those names? So, I decided to build a shopping complex named Aale Shopping Complex to reflect the land ownership history.
Now, what is the meaning of Okelerin or let me say how did the name evolve?
My progenitor, from the northern part of the country, Nupeland, was a brave hunter, and he decided to settle here because of the thick forests inhabited by elephants. I have elephants’ tusks as relics today. When I was a young boy there were still a lot of thick forests in this area. And the area being hilly, it was named Oke-Elerin (Hill of Elephants).
Kabiyesi, you have written your biography and the history of Okelerin is contained in book, can you tell us the title of the book and why it is written?
The title is ‘The Beginning: The History Okelerin and the Autobiography of Oba Samuel Amao II (the 12th Aale of Okelerin).” I wrote the book to correct certain things people are saying that are not however correct, particularly the founding of Ogbomoso. Many commercial writers and historians have conjured crooked histories to suit their pay masters, so, this has come out of the horse’s mouth, the authentic history of what is Ogbomoso is contained in that book.
I learnt your 80th birthday celebration should have come up on February 4, but that you did not celebrate it that day because of the death of the former governor of Oyo state Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao – Akala, on January 12.
Yes, the former governor was a brother, a friend and a confidant, we were so close. He was a member of the planning committee of the 80th birthday; in fact, he had been assigned some roles and so in order to honour him we had to postpone the event. His remains could not be in the mortuary and I will be celebrating.
Kabiyesi, what are you looking forward to now?
Glory be to God, I have been trying to bring Okelerin people in the Diaspora back, to come and join hands in developing the community, not Okelelin alone but the whole of Ogbomoso. The demise of some of our important personalities in Ogbomoso in recent times is u misfortune. We need to come together irrespective of political leanings or primordial sentiments.
Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, what is the state of things within its fold now?
Unfortunately, I am not yet a member of the council, I think they hold their meetings regularly.
What message do you have for the people of Okelerin and Ogbomoso as a whole?
The message I have for the Okelerin people is they have been supporting me they should continue to support me. Ogbomoso in general we should unite, there is strength in unity. We should come together, I am appealing to the political leaders to work together for the progress of Ogbomoso; individualism will not help us.
I read in history that during the Yoruba Wars of the 19th century, Okelerin hosted Yoruba warriors and their allies to a war meeting, what is the significance of this?
When things like that happen, they congregate in Okelerin to take decisions. Of recent, in the 50s when we had the first tax riot (not the one that claimed the life of Oba Olayode), Okelerin was the epicentre, where the Ogbomosos generally took decisions and that is why we also hosted the Egungun festival yearly until they turned it into a war thing.
So, what are you doing to prevent in the future the violence now associated with the Egungun festival?
We have been able to curb it with the help of the government and the security agencies, let them restrict themselves to their areas. In its place, we have introduced a beautiful programme – ‘Okelerin for Christ,’ the Muslim faithful too had their programme, we should not adversely affect others with our religion. We are thinking of a carnival in its place also like that of Ijebu-Ode.
Kabiyesi, how much support do you receive from your wife, Olori Deborah Ojuolape?
The greatest support I can think of comes from her. God used my wife to change my life. Because as a bachelor, I lived a very rough life, but Good used h