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‘I and my children have no interest In becoming Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom’


Subomi Balogun

Otunba Michael Olasubomi Subomi Balogun, Founder of First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Olori Omo Oba and Orori Ebi of Arojojoye Ruling House of Ijebuland, after the yearly meeting of the family, spoke to ENIOLA DANIEL about rumours of him nursing the ambition of becoming the Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom or installing one of his sons.

What is the significance of the yearly meeting of the Bubiade, Tunwanse, Jadiara and Fusengbuwa families of the Arojojoye Royal Family?
The yearly get-together and gathering, which is the Olori Ebi is usually organised at the end of the year. And as far as I am concerned, it is a season of goodwill to everybody, and that is what I am extending.I have told everybody that I live in Lagos and spend most of my time in Lagos and I will not be able to keep up with what the family is doing every now and then, but once a year, we have a yearly get-together and that is simply what we just did.

How true is the talk of you nursing the ambition to become the next Awujale or installing one of your sons?
Whoever started the rumour that I want to become the king or want to install any of my children as the Awujale needs his/her head to be checked properly to ascertain whether he/she is normal or not.First of all, it is ungodly and unheard of in Ijebu history for anybody to be speculating on succeeding the Awujale who is still very much alive. It is wicked for anybody to be speculating about succeeding a still very much alive Oba. And I think I am old enough to know a lot about Ijebu history, as well as Ijebu custom. But talking generally, we have never heard it in Ijebu for anybody to be speculating about succession when the incumbent is still there. It is an unusual situation and I have warned everybody not to get me involved.Secondly, whoever is suggesting that I have any intention or ambition for any of my four boys to succeed the Awujale must have his head checked, such persons probably are just ignorant about me.
My needs are very few, God has been so kind to me and I don’t think it is going to be the throne of the Awujale that I would have anything about. I am old enough to know quite a lot about the tradition of the Ijebus more than the speculators. I am very much in the middle 80s, in fact, I will be 86 soon, and it has never happened Ijebu. It is a taboo.

It is a sacrilege and an unpardonable sin for anybody to be speculating about a future event. It is only the Almighty God that can make a king and any of these people speculating or showing interest may even die before the incumbent. I have always said, ‘don’t get me involved’ and I have very sound reasons. It is common knowledge that I am one of the closest people to the Awujale, who made me Olori Omo Oba and received me when I became the Olori Ebi of what we now call Arojojoye Ruling House.
Initially, we were named Fusengbuwa, but quite a lot of us then found out that the Fusengbuwa is one of the youngest of the Obas among the group of Obas that have reigned and the child of Jadiara. How could the name of a son be used for a ruling house that has his father, grandfather and great grandfather there? It is unheard of.
I am too seasoned to be involved in such things. There are not many of my contemporaries that are as closed to the Awujale as I am. Forget the personality of the Awujale, for anyone to be thinking of succession when the man is still alive is ungodly and pernicious wicked. So, I will tell anyone not to be bothered about it. The speculators who mentioned my name don’t know me. I am a contented person. What else do I want in life? I am godly and I will not encourage such.I am the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christian, so I don’t want to listen to all these speculations.

Do you know any of the speculators?
I don’t! But there are a lot of speculators around. One fellow came from the media recently wanting to give me the name that I never had. If you read my book, I was a Muslim until 14 and today, I am the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians, while my mother was the head of the women in Ijebu (Iya Suna of Ijebu) and in every family in Ijebu, you have this mixture.
Some of the top bishops in Ijebu, including Bishop Odutola, who was Sule, and Bishop Jadesimi, all had Muslim fathers. In Ijebu-Ode, we don’t know the difference; everybody comes to Ojude-Oba and enjoys it, so I don’t have any apology for that.

How is your relationship with the Awujale since this rumour started?
Ask any Ijebu, they will tell you. The Awujale, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, made me the Olori Omo Oba of Ijebu land about 30 years ago and Awujale and I are very close, we belong to the same age group and it has been like that from the moment we met and got introduced somewhere in London.The only person I visit in Ijebu, apart from my family house, is Awujale, and I think without being presumptuous that I can count myself as one of the closest friends Awujale has and we still remain so. People are being mischievous and want to be wicked.The speculations is unheard of in the history of Ijebu, it is devil-inspired speculation. It is only God that can choose a king. 

Another contentious issue is the nomenclature, Arojojoye, which some groups claimed is their title. What are you doing about this?
We are not in a hurry. This thing requires a lot of serious consultations and I have already started consulting, it is not a selfish request. What happened is that Fusengbuwa is one of the youngest of the Obas that have reigned in the group, so it is an anomaly to name a house after one of the youngest members of the family. It is like someone trying to name my affair after my youngest son. The number of Obas within that group are so many and it was just immediately after the colonial era.
When the British came and were signing the treaty with the Ijebus, it was an Oba Tunwanse who was there. So, they named the place Tunwanse Ruling House. Then this group who claimed to be from Fusengbuwa went round and said their own father was older, but it is not true that we could not name the house Tunwanse or that it should be Fusengbuwa, forgetting the fact that Fusengbuwa’s father, Jadiara, is in that group, likewise his great grandfather, Owa Otutu-bi-osun, who established the Idowa, and 21 distinguished Obas.
So, the family, in its considered opinion, felt it was not right. There are a lot of mistakes made in those days. So, I think about three years ago at a similar yearly meeting, someone raised the issue and as soon as he said it, everybody agreed and we concluded that it should be Oriki (cognomen). We all considered the Oriki and everybody started dancing and singing Arojojoye, Adele tejiteji, omo afaro pojo, which means that he puts on loin’s velveteen, that whenever it is raining, he will put it on. The Ijebu Obas in those days, instead of wearing Agbada, had big velveteen covering themselves.
So, in getting this done, we have to go stage by stage. It is over three years now and I am aware that consultations are growing on and in fact, people in Abeokuta are not unaware of this, but we are waiting for the right time. There is no hurry in getting the record straight. I come from many big families in Ijebu, including Balogun Odunuga family. Balogun Odunuga was the son of Porogun. In addition to that, there are many of us well established who cannot say that the family should be named after Subomi Balogun, because I am one of the youngest.

Since the name has been changed, do we still have Fusengbuwa in Ijebu?
There are people who came directly from Fusengbuwa and it is a unit in Arojojoye. All we are doing is to resolve the abnormally. My grandfather used to have a place as a cowshed. So, when my old man built the house, he named it something from the cowshed, Igadile, for someone now to say it belongs to me or for any of my siblings to say that the family belongs to him; I will not allow anybody to name anything after me. I still have elder sisters, one elder brother a few months older than me.

So, Fusengbuwa exists and you saw today that one or two people came out to speak for them?
Now the ruling house is large and there are still some other people who may not really be known to you and people are studying the history and taking advantage of it, what is being done to ensure proper documentation to separate the weed from the chaff?

First of all, it is sacrilegious and against the Ijebu traditional for somebody to be parading himself to be the next king when there is still an Oba. It has never happened. By the time the last Awujale left, I was already a lawyer and I was 59 years old. Nobody dared to come out.

The person aspiring to be the next Awujale, does he know whether his God will not call him first before the incumbent? That is why I disassociate myself with anything relating to that. I don’t want to be dragged into so many things. At my age, I will not be wrong if I say I am retiring and ask the younger ones to carry on. I am a seasoned person and 100 per cent Ijebu.

There is also something about the Ijebu custom that we met: Children or women are not given priority; you must be a male descendant. I am from a female line. My own great grandmother was the first daughter of Oba Tunwanse and her elder brother was Oba Adekoya Olukokun of Gberegedeloba and I come from a noble father, so there is nobility all around me. While my father’s side named me Olasubomi, the people from Tunwanse named me Adesubomi, and I am not looking for anything beyond what the Almighty God has done for me. I am contented and grateful for what God has done for me.

In this article:
Subomi Balogun
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