Koleoso: The lion of Oke Ogun turns 80
If there are credible and eminent citizens the Nigerian state has produced since the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914, Chief Michael Adeniyi Koleoso, an indigene of Saki, Oke-Ogun, Oyo State, is one personality that falls into the category.
To capture the essence of the great man who has contributed immensely to the development of his country since he joined politics, Koleoso can only be described as a point of reference.
As once posited, the great politician and astute businessman, who turns 80 today, shares similar qualities and similarities with the likes of Dr. Nelson Mandela, late former president of South Africa and Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore and former leader of the People’s Action Party (PAP) going by his truthful, committed and doggedness in political struggles for the liberation of the people, which till today makes him one the most respected leaders in Nigerian and in Oyo State especially. He is, in fact, the undisputed leader of the Oke Ogun people.
If there is anything that also endeared him to the people of Oke-Ogun, just as the Yoruba nation perceives the late Premier of the Old Western Region and founder of the Action Group (AG), Chief Obafemi Awolowo today, it is the fearlessness and urgency with which the octogenarian speaks when it comes to the under-development of Oyo State and the peculiarly bad situation of his area, a region considered as the food basket of Nigeria.
He has not only fought relentlessly for the good of the people of Oke Ogun, he continues to plead with his kith and kin to do right by the people and shun their personal or sectional interests and forge a common front for the people.
Every nation or human community has a way of producing men and women whose courage and selfless service inspire their people in their darkest hours or trying moments. Such are the people who etch their ideas and their entire being on the hearts of their people by speaking words of courage and acting out in total conviction those things they believe in. Koleoso has been such a man.
With such courage of conviction, such men break down barriers, build bridges and liberate their people. No one can claim that the people of Oke Ogun are fully liberated. But no one can accuse Koleoso of not doing his best.
It is well acknowledged that Chief Koleoso is among the very few Nigerians, who have shunned the path of convenience in the pursuit of the truth, most especially as it concerns the benefit of the masses that he ably represented in all positions of authority he ever found himself.
Once the fight is for the people and the cause is just he threw himself into battle and never looked back. Such is the level of his commitment to integrity that even in politics, an arena brimming with dubious and duplicitous men and women in various offices, who parade themselves as leaders, that it is an established fact that you cannot but revere Koleoso for his honesty and you can detest him only out of your own mischief and dishonesty.
He was born into the family of Emi-Abata of Saki on April 30, 1938, Koleoso had his primary education at Baptist Primary School, Ajegunle, Saki before proceeding to the famous Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, between 1957 and 1961 where he was one of the school’s best students. He was at the School of Hygiene, Eleyele, Ibadan for the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and the Advanced Certificate (RSII), equivalent to the HND, in 1965 and 1966 respectively.
The octogenarian joined the civil service of the Western Region as Head of the Health Department of the old Saki District Council and spent some time in the service before venturing into business by establishing a company named Esmak Nigeria Limited. His business focus then was commodity distribution, transportation, real estate and hospitality. Such was his entrepreneurial ability that his level of success till date is the stuff of legend.
Known for his lifestyle of order, balance, discipline and self-restraint, which natural threw him up as one of the role models, his devotion to the common good of his people and Nigerians indeed took him into community leadership, which he enjoys till date.
At 80 when majority of his contemporaries have either been frustrated due to the confused state and hopelessness Nigeria seems to be in today, Micheal Adeniyi Koleoso, well known as Babalaje, is still up and doing speaking truth to the powers that be on the need to place priority on development and progress of the country before personal interest.
He was elected unopposed as a Councilor in the Ifedapo Local Government Area of the Old Oyo state in 1976. In 1979, he was elected a member of the State House of Assembly representing Ifedapo Constituency on the platform of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). The late erstwhile governor of Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige, later appointed him a Commissioner in the State Executive Council.
“His efforts as a leader and administrator speak volumes of his person. His great courage remains a source of admiration and his political sagacity is well acknowledged across all political divides.” As once analysed, “he is one of the few repositories of knowledge and a fountain of wisdom from which current and future leaders drink to their own benefits or whom they can only ignore to their eternal damnation.”
It is on record theta he almost single-handedly produced the late Lam Adesina as governor of Oyo State in 1999. Chief Koleoso went on to serve as the Secretary to the State Government from 1999 to 2003. He later became the National Chairman of Alliance for Democracy AD, the first and only Oke Ogun indigene to lead a national party in the history of Nigeria till date. He also led the group of elders that anointed current Governor Abiola Ajimobi and was the undisputed godfather of the state government until he fell out with the current governor on principles.
A chieftain of the Yoruba political and social group, Afenifere and member of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Chief Koleoso’s supreme efforts in contributing positively to the socio-economic and political development of Sakiland, Oke-Ogun, Oyo State and Yoruba land have not gone unnoticed as he was conferred with the chieftaincy titles of Babalaje of Saki, Are of Ogbooro, Akogun of Ijeruland, Amulutoro of Ojeland and Otun Bobagunwa of Gbongan in the State of Osun.
Koleos’s voice is still active in the trenches of politics, his voice is still roaring in unmatched stridence in the cry for justice not only in Nigeria but also in his native Oyo State.
At 80, he is one man his people are looking up to for a future in which they are treated as equal stakeholders in Oyo State and in Nigeria. He is the one they look up to for leadership into a future in which justice and equity reign.
The Oke-Ogun region of Oyo State is one of the materially richest part of Nigeria, one that has a lot to contribute to the development of Oyo State and Nigeria but which, for many reasons has remained the most undeveloped and the most marginalized in the country.
The resources of the region, according to experts, commissioned by one of the sons of Oke Ogun, shows that the area is richer than some African countries, including Botswana which is rich in diamond and is one of the most prosperous African countries.
In solid minerals, Oke Ogun has no equal in Nigeria. In almost all sectors of agriculture, the region is beyond compare.
Marble, dolomite and others are in Igbetti, Olorunsogo Local Government and in Oriire. Tourmaline and tantalum are in Komu, Itesiwaju, Tantalite in Sepeteri, Quartz in Itesiwaju, Columbite, talc and several other minerals in all parts of the region.
Indeed, the development of Oyo State into one of the most buoyant economies in Africa can be taken for granted on account of the mineral deposits in Oke Ogun, according to Debo Adesina, an indigene of Oke Ogun region, the man who has commissioned studies into how Oyo State might realize its full destiny.
On tourism, that same region is blessed with almost too much. There is the Ado Awaye suspended lake, Igbo Oba in Kisi, Ebedi Hill in Iseyin, Asabari Hill in Saki, Akomare Hill in Igangan and many other natural tourist attractions waiting to be developed. The Ikere Gorge Dam, which has the capacity to boost the agro-industrial development of the whole of Nigeria as well as supply power to the people, has been abandoned for years.
And the human capital in the area is comparable to what obtains in any part of the world.
But the people have suffered and continue to suffer neglect and underdevelopment. They live in abject poverty and are regarded as second-class citizens in their state.
Poverty is very much alive there and the educational institutions there are dilapidated.
Successive governments in Oyo State have treated Oke Ogun as the backwater of the state to which governors and other office seekers only go for votes at election time alone.
These are the ills Koleoso has fought all is life.
Chief Koleoso has served the nation at all levels: local government, state and federal, and he has devoted his God-given resources to the development of his fatherland, Nigeria and to the betterment of the people of Oke-Ogun.
He remains on the progressive side of politics according to the principle practiced in the Old Western region during the First Republic under the leadership of the immortal Obafemi Awolowo.
As a member of the Action Group (AG), a leading member of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the aborted Third Republic, a member and later national chairman of the Alliance for Democracy, his progressive credentials are unassailable.
As he turns 80 today, it is difficult to improve on the tribute paid him by Moyosore Bonuola, one of the rising political stars of Oke Ogun and Oyo State last year on the occasion of his 79th birthday: “In the attempts to capture the essence of a great man, the parallel can often be stretched. With justification too. The temptation to see a Nelson Mandela in a man who is committed to the service of his people and is ready to sacrifice everything in the fight for their liberation can be compelling. It is not out of place to see a Lee Kuan Yew in a man who dreamt up big dreams for the people but is practically weeping at the refusal of his successors to follow through with the vision he and his old colleagues laid down for their society. Micheal Adeniyi Kolesoho, a political great draws these and many other positive parallels.
Truthful, committed and dogged in his political struggles, he remains today the most respected politician in Oyo State and the undisputed leader of the Oke Ogun people.
He speaks with the directness and urgency of an army general giving orders in battle. Especially when it comes to the under-development of Oyo State and the peculiarly bad situation of his native Oke Ogun, a region he has fought for all his life, his words wears the tone of emotions and his pleas to leaders to do right by the people becomes a cry from the heart.
It is a known fact that nations and every human community has a way of producing men and women whose courage and selfless service inspire their people in their darkest hour. These are people who etch their ideas and their entire being on the hearts of their people by speaking words of courage and acting out in total conviction those things they believe in. With such courage of conviction, such men plant their feet firmly even on the ground, break down barriers and they speak out their honest minds on any issue, not caring whose ox is gored.”
Certainly, Koleoso has etched his name in history by standing up for the people.