When the doyen of Juju music, Chief Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, popularly called ‘Baba Commander’ waxed that record in which he sang about destiny that the choice one makes when kneeling down (before his creator) is what one encounters on arrival on earth, yet on getting to this side of divide, everybody begins to hurry/hustle, but what the intention of God is concerning every individual is secretively known to Him, (akunleyan, ohun ladayeba, a daye tan, oju n kan gbogbo wa, ohun t’Oluwa o se ko fi han enikan), he surely must be on a very deep inspiration.
Looking at the life journey of His Imperial Majesty, Oba Dr. Sen. Mohood Olalekan Ishola Balogun Aliiwo, Alli Okunmade II, the reigning Olubadan of Ibadanland who by the grace of Almighty God attains 80 years on the earth surface today with his arrival on 18th October, 1942, it is absolutely impossible to pick holes in Chief Obey Fabiyi’s evergreen label from which the above quoted verse was made. The eldest of the last three surviving children of his mother, Alhaja Awawu Balogun (Iya Onibeba), the present position he occupies is nothing, but purely the function of having been predestined.
Born and raised at the dusty Lalupon around Railway Station in the community now located in Lagelu Local Government Area of Oyo State to a successful Produce Merchant, Alhaji Ibrahim Sanusi Balogun and one of the prominent members of Aliiwo ruling house, he caught his open arms attribute which till date becomes his disposition to life from that environment where he was at a very early in life exposed to interaction with people of diverse cultures and languages, who were mostly traders that patronized his father, and making use of the rail system as their means of transportation. In fact, he had his Quranic education from a Northerner, though, his father’s trading partner who became a friend and was staying over for days in the community during business trips.
One could say that the journey to today’s Olubadan’s position unknowingly began from that community, when his father felt he could come back home to Aliiwo in Ibadan to vie for the position of Mogaji which then became vacant. The desires of God for mankind are wrapped in the belly of time, modifying Baba Commander’s song. In the contest for the Mogaji’s post, his father lost out. There and then, the old man decided he had had enough of his sojourn at Lalupon and decided to stay put in his father’s house (Aliiwo) after all, it is said that a child’s father’s house doesn’t frighten him. (Ile baba omo kii b’omo leru). The young Lekan was already attending a primary school in Lalupon and with a brother of his in the same place, his father felt there was no point bringing him to Ibadan, a decision that didn’t go well with the young boy. Unlike now, it was a period of total obedience, when children were not given to arguing with their parents and so, the young Lekan could not voice out his resentment of his father’s idea. However, what he would do to show his displeasure was kept in his mind.
Then, Aliiwo had one of his sons, engaging in transportation business and on whose route fell Lalupon. So, each morning when the man was going out, he would be asked to take Lekan along and drop him off at Lalupon to attend his classes. But, as soon as the man dropped off the young boy and moved away, our reigning Olubadan would turn back and trek down to Ibadan. His father would not know that he was back in Ibadan until when it’s time for the 2.00 p.m. Islamic prayer when the old man would come out for prayer in the Mosque and see his young boy hanging around. The man would beat his son thoroughly for disobedience, but, the young boy remained defiant as the same story would be told the following day. In his biography, ‘The Portrait of an activist’, it is reported that this cycle of the young Lekan going by vehicle to Lalupon early in the morning and trekking back almost immediately without fulfilling the purpose for which he was sent continued for some time before some elders in the family prevailed on his father not to unduly punish him again for his choice, but to look for another school for him in Ibadan. This was how he was enrolled at St. Cyprian Catholic School, Oke-Offa, Atipe where he completed his primary education and where he was exposed to Christian doctrine and his unbiased disposition to Christianity till date.
The young Lekan had no luxury of attending a secondary Grammar or High School like some of his peers, rather, he was enrolled at the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) Modern School in Anlugbua, on the way to Basorun, which was then said to be a distinct village. The then Modern School, which was for a three- year programme could be likened to today’s Junior Secondary School, but, its certificate was valuable one thousand times more than today’s BECE certificate. Here, the young Lekan again demonstrated his ‘revolt for the system’. He was then living with his brother, the late Hamzat Adewale Balogun working as a civil servant, but engaging in correspondence to better his lot educationally. Discreetly, the young Lekan was reading his brother’s course materials and lo and behold, he sat for Qualifying Examination, which was like the then ‘G.4’ at the end of his second year in the school and came out in flying colours. Thus, he had no business staying for another and the final year in the school. With his certificate, he got a clerical job with an Optician at Oke-Bola in Ibadan and started saving money for his further education abroad.
It was in the United Kingdom (UK) where the young man went for the proverbial golden fleece that his real person both as a highly cerebral person and an activist came into manifestation. Despite combining academics with work, he was dazing his classmates both at Southall College and Brunel University mostly whites in performance and at the same time a torn in the flesh of the UK authority for his condemnation of racism and the emancipation of the blacks. It was in the Queen”s land that his path and those of the late two governors of both Kano and Kaduna States, Alhajis Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa crossed and their bonds of friendship strengthened. Show me your friends, I will tell the type of person you are. The life pattern and what the late two former governors stood for in their public lives till their final call by their creator was a testimony of who actually the present Olubadan is. An organized and working society without any form of disruption like workers’ strikes or disruptive students’ demonstration, he stayed in the country for 10 unbreakable years, no visitation to Nigeria at all and it paid off as he was able to wrap up his academic exploits with a P.hD save for the thesis which he later completed while working in Nigeria.
Before leaving the UK, the young man had become a family man already with the first four children of his and he was armed with two letters of employment by both Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria in the present Kaduna State and the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State as a Research Fellow. But he opted to go to Zaria just for the fun of knowing better his country since Ile-Ife is a stone throw to Ibadan, his place of birth. Then, the peace of the country was never under any form of threat, be it kidnapping, assassination or what have you that currently pervades our land. Just about two years in the service at ABU, he was already fed up with the system because of the government-tailored research he and his colleagues were restricted and subjected to and as God would have it, the result of another job interviews he had before he left the UK at the Shell British Petroleum (Shell BP) was released and he was successful. He didn’t consider it twice before he resigned his ABU appointment and joined the oil company, forcing his relocation to Lagos and later to PortHarcourt.
It was just about two weeks ago, that a family, (husband and wife) Edeki to be precise, who were both former colleagues of his paid him homage in his palace that the woman (Mrs. Edeki) again testified to his activism in the company. She asserted that he was seeing far ahead of them in his approach and that though amazed at his sudden exit from the company just after a brief stint of six years during which the Olubadan was earning promotion on yearly basis, they later realized that he was being propelled by his destiny. Against his company or any company’s rule at all, the oil worker became a regular feature on television, the then NTA each time he came to Ibadan, which was virtually on weekends, making incisive political contributions. Initially, he was ignored after counseling him on the danger of losing his job, based on his political inclination by his friendly boss, but, after some time and to avoid embarrassment, he threw in his resignation letter. He came fully into politics aside his consultancy job which he retired into after the oil company voyage. With the influence of the two of his late Northern friends mentioned earlier, (Rimi and Musa) and more importantly the talakawas ideology professed by the late Alhaji Aminu Kano, the leader of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) he pitched his tent with the party. One thing led to another, he left the party and joined the late Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria People’s Party (NPP) under the banner of which he contested the 1983 gubernatorial election in the old Oyo State alongside Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the late Chief Bola Ige of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), then the incumbent governor.
His becoming Mogaji in 1986 was not his making. As noted earlier, the loss of the father in the contest to become Mogaji in 1955 or thereabout was a factor that fate used to make him one. How? When Dr. Lekan Balogun’s predecessor was removed by the family, the consensus was that his father’s lineage should be allowed to produce the successor. The father’s loss in the contest in 1955 was not because the family didn’t love him, but, because his grandfather had once held the Mogaji title and made it up to Abese Balogun, about six steps to Olubadan throne before his demise. The same family now felt the Abese lineage should produce the new Mogaji and by tradition then, the eldest person usually held the position, but, in this instance, the concerned eldest child of Olubadan’s father said he’s too old for the title and said it should be given to his younger brother, Lekan, an offer he too vehemently rejected and had to be prevailed upon by the members of family and the rest as they say is now history.
What has been written has been written. The person we are celebrating today almost had life snuffed out of him in the same 1986 when he had an encounter with armed robbers, who shot at him directly in a fuel filling station around Challenge area in Ibadan. He was then riding a Peugeot 505 Evolution and the robbers in daylight opened fire on him in the lower part of his abdomen. But, because he didn’t fall down immediately, he attempted rushing at his assailants during which the gun fell from the criminal and bravely, Olubadan picked it and attempted firing back, but, the setting had been disrupted making futile his efforts. While doing all these, he was already losing blood and he had to be rushed to the hospital in Oke-Ado from where he was transfered to the University College Hospital (UCH) where surgery was performed on him and the bullets extracted. Talk of a chick that would eventually become a cock that would crow, it would never be a prey to its predator. (Oromodie to maa ko laye, asa o ni gbe).
The opening paragraph of this piece quotes from Chief Ebenezer Obey, coincidentally, I won’t end it without another quote from Obey’s professional rival and brother, Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye popularly known as King Sunny Ade (KSA) who once sang that “Ori to maa d’ade, bo pe, bo ya o ni lati dade, Ori to maa joye, bo pe, bo ya, o ni lati joye IYEN NI TI LEKAN, OMO BALOGUN MI” (emphasis mine). KSA’s raw translation is that “a head that is destined to wear crown would wear it either in a short or long time, the same thing goes for the head that is destined to be titled, no matter how long or short, it would surely come to pass, that is what has played out in the case of LEKAN, the son of BALOGUN”. Just after about four years as Mogaji, he got promoted as Jagun Olubadan under the same Oba Yesufu Oloyede Asanike that he became Mogaji. Following the gradual process as dictated and directed by nature, he became Otun Olubadan in 2016 until the Olubadan throne became vacant on 2nd January, this year and automatically became the Numero uno in Ibadan traditional system and got it formalized on the 11th of March, 2022 when he was installed and presented with Staff of Office by the Executive Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde. A case of what must be will be!
Happy birthday, Kabiyesi, long may he reign in robust and sound health.
Ogunsola is Olubadan’s Personal Assistant (Media).