It is neither an accident nor mere happenstance that my subject for today became not only one of the most powerful monarchs in Nigeria but also the most learned; perhaps.
As a blue blood, an heir apparent to one of the most powerful thrones in Yorubaland, the young prince knew that he may be king one day. He dreamed the dream. He knew what he saw in the dream. And he was happy living in the world of his dream. Even though some thinkers believe that a man is no better than his dreams, the prince knew that what he saw in the dreamscape was none of those fantasy stuff that many dreams are made of. He was convinced that though noble birth confers great honour and privileges on members of an eminent family, it is neither a warranty nor collateral for merit or competence or expertise.
As a young man, Prince Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran knew quite early that, truly, royalty brings instant recognition and puts the beneficiary in that echelon where money, women and influence reign. But he refused to be carried away by any of those in the knowledge that though some of those things may make you one of the most sought-after men around, what secures the future for the royal is his strength of character, personal convictions and the goals he sets for himself. With these at the back of his mind, the young Aromolaran brushed aside all princely fantasies and tastes and upped the ante for himself. He desired more than the traditional stool. He aimed for the sky. He resolved to be king in a different kingdom – the academia. However, if providence ever permitted him to sit on the throne of his forefathers, he wanted to do so with a PhD in his bag. He wanted to be an academic of an uncommon hue, the first PhD monarch in Nigeria.
“Education is life,” he once told me in an exclusive interview I had with him in his palace in Ilesa shortly before my appointment as Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Ghana Limited in November 2013. “Education is light. It dispels all darkness.”
As the last born of his mother, the probability of Adekunle becoming king seemed like 40:60. Like the Biblical David, who was the last of Jesse’s sons, Prince Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran was the last of the children born to his mother, Olori Tinuola Aromolaran, for his father, Oba Oduyomade Aromolaran I. The elder Aromolaran ruled Ijesaland in present day Osun State, from July 1920 to July 31, 1942. Like David, the shepherd boy, who Prophet Samuel, acting on God’s instruction, anointed to be king over Israel, God Almighty favoured and chose Prince Adekunle Aromolaran, in the goodness of time, to be Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland.
Also, like the Biblical Joseph, the dreamer, the prince followed his dream. He resolved that if he was ever chosen by God to rule his people, he would want his name specially emblazoned in the Royals’ Hall of Fame for his good deeds, not only for his native Ijesaland but also the entire Yorubaland. And he lived the dream. He burnt the midnight oil and scored big.
By the time he was chosen to succeed Oba Peter Adeniran Olatunji Agunlejika II, who joined his ancestors on September 26, 1981, having ruled from September 24, 1966, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II had not only bagged some degrees in Economics, he had also become a publisher of repute in Africa. He had written dozens of books on economics and government, and become a millionaire publisher.
As a student in Ilesa Grammar School, between 1970 and 1974, I read two of his books, Economics for West Africa (published in 1968) and Revision Notes in Government. That was before my first love, the sciences, separated me from both subjects. In Ghana, where I have sojourned since December 2013, the name Adekunle Aromolaran still rings a bell in the consciousness of those who read his books for their ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examinations in Economics and Government in the 1970s. Nigerians of that era, who studied those subjects, have the same nostalgic feelings about this great author and his products.
One of such men is another great mind and my very good friend, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, the Òràngún of Òkè-Ìlá in the Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun State. Before ascending the throne, Oba Abolarin, an accomplished lawyer, had been the former legal adviser to Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, during his tenure as Senate president. The monarch once told me that he read Oba Aromolaran’s books while preparing for his ‘A’ level examinations in Economics and Government. Such are the fruits of Oba Aromolaran’s fertile mind and intellectual acuity.
Born on October 13, 1937, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II received a B.Sc in Economics from the University of Ibadan in 1964. With that, he enlisted in the old Western State Civil Service and was sent on several courses abroad. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge would see him enrol for a management course at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). Later, he got his Masters in Development Economics.
In 1965, he obtained a Graduate Diploma in Public Administration at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. Not too long after that, he started his PhD programme at the University of London but later transferred to his alma mater, the University of Ibadan. He became the first Nigerian monarch to hold a PhD. His work was supervised by Prof. Olajuwon Olaide, a former vice chancellor of the University.
A worthy recipient of the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), Oba Dr Aromolaran II has been honoured with several doctorate degrees. These include an LL.D (honoris causa) by the Federal University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, where he served as chancellor between 2002 and 2012. A trained teacher, prolific writer, and erudite scholar, Oba Aromolaran II, resigned from the Western State Civil Service in 1971 and plunged into private business. He established the highly successful Aromolaran Publishing Company Limited, Ibadan. He published about 100 books, most of them selected as the official titles for the West African Examination Council’s ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examinations.
Although Ilesa, the headquarters of Ijesaland, has witnessed some progress since Oba Aromolaran ascended the throne in 1982, many believe there is a lot of room for improvement. Many of the citizens would like the highly revered monarch to collaborate more with the Government of the State of Osun in attracting investments to the town.
In case you didn’t know, the Ijesa, a generic name for the people of Ilesa, Ibokun, Esa-Oke, Ijebu-Jesa, Ipetu-Ijesa, Osu, and Ilase-Ijesa, among others, are honest, hard-working and highly principled people. The Ijesas place an optimum premium on education. An average Ijesa family would sacrifice anything and everything to get its children educated. The Ijesas is also widely acclaimed for their vigorous agrarian culture and unique business urbanity and tact; an attribute that earned them the sobriquet, Osomaalo. Transliterated, Osomaalo means waiting patiently to get paid for merchandise earlier supplied, or waiting to claim your right which is being denied you or being trampled. No matter how hard you try to frustrate them, they would wait.
As recalled by Arambara of Telifisan Moluabi, on its Facebook page, “Ilesa, the traditional headquarter of Ijesaland, is the capital of the first local council in Nigeria, the Ijesa/Ekiti Parapo Council.” The council “was established by the British Colonial Administration on June 21, 1900, and comprises of the present Ondo and Ekiti states. Ilesa was officially named by Owaluse, the warrior grandson of Ajibogun Ajaka, the Owa Obokun Onida arara, the most accomplished son of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race of Southwest Nigeria and the Benin Republic.”
Ilesa, the hometown of the performing but grossly misunderstood incumbent governor of The State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is home to the wave-making International Breweries, and Ilesa Grammar School; an institution that has produced many giants in commerce and industry, politics and governance, academia and religion, just to mention a few.
Some of the school’s products include: Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, former governor of Lagos State popularly known as LKJ; Dr. Abel Goubadia, former INEC Chairman; Chief Philip Umeadi (Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s running mate in the 1979 and 1983 general elections); Prince Adesuyi Haastrup and Erelu Olusola Obada, both former deputy governors of Osun State; Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Worldwide; and the late Rev. Alexander Abiodun Adebayo Bada, the second pastor of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) worldwide, who succeeded the founder, Pastor Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oschoffa.
Ilesa Grammar School also produced some superstars in the temple of Justice. They include: Justice Alfa Belgore, former chief justice of Nigeria; Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, former chief justice of the Gambia, ex-president, Seychelles Court of Appeal, erstwhile judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Justice Kayode Esho, former justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; Justice Oye Agbaje-Williams; Wole Olanipekun, S.A.N; and Chief Mrs. Funmilayo Awomolo, S.A.N. (my classmate).
Still, there are more. They include: Alhaji Wahab Folawiyo, a business tycoon; Prof. Femi Odekunle, Africa’s first professor of Criminology, and former chief of staff to ex-chief of general staff, General Oladipo Diya; Prof. Wale Omole, former vice chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, former vice-chancellor, University of Lagos; Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, former vice-chancellor, University of Ibadan, now Minister of Health (he was four years my senior at Ilesa Grammar School); and Prof. Idowu Olayinka, current vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan, also my classmate. These are just to mention a few.
Aside from producing billionaire-business magnates like the late Chief Lawrence Omole, the late Chief Ajanaku, the late Chief Ladejola Oginni, the late Chief S.B. Bakare, and the great Chief Ibidapo Obe, Ilesa is abundantly blessed with an honest, energetic and highly resilient populace. The land of fire-spitting ancient warriors is endowed with a great climate and excellent soil for an agrarian revolution. Its land brims with large deposits of world-class quality gold and allied solid minerals.
Although these minerals are legally and illegally mined, there is not much in the social and economic life of Ilesa, and indeed, Ijesaland, that commensurates with what is taken from its soil. Many Ijesas earnestly yearn for the Government of the State of Osun and the local authorities, working in tandem with the federal government, to ensure that Ilesa, indeed Ijesaland as a whole, benefits immensely from the blessings beneath their soil.
It is believed that if the town, whose indigenes are noted for commerce and dynamic marketing, and which contributes enormously to the economies of the South-West and Nigeria, is given accelerated development, the terrible scourge of youth unemployment now plaguing Ilesa would be history. The massive population of jobless youth turning to Yahoo Plus (a euphemism for money rituals) and land grabbing, prowling the place, and making life miserable for compatriots and prospective investors, would reduce. And once that is achieved, peace would reign. Inhabitants would sleep with their two eyes closed. And everybody would live happily thereafter.
I end this tribute by joining other Ijesas, at home and in the diaspora, to congratulate our worthy and progressive Oba at 80. I pray God Almighty, who has been Kabiyesi’s help in ages past and his hope for the future, will fill his days with joy and peace; keep him in sound mind and good health, and further fortify him to lead Ijesaland to unprecedented growth and immeasurable prosperity. I also pray I will be there to felicitate with the paramount ruler when he celebrates his centennial anniversary, and beyond. Happy birthday, Kabiyesi Oba Alase, Igba Keji Orisa.