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Remembering James Oluleye (April 20, 1930- July 2, 2009)


MAJ. Gen James Oluleye was born on April 20, 1930 to the family of Ezekiel and Janet Oluleye of Efon Alaaye in today’s Ekiti State and died on July 2, 2009. Orphaned by age 14, the hard times were weathered by the loving care of his elder brother, Michael Folayan who trained him.

He attended St. David’s Anglican School Akure, St. Paul’s Anglican School and Christ’s School, Ijero-Ekiti and led his class in the Certificate Examination in 1946. He had taught in Ikoro-Ekiti, and Araromi Ago-Owu by 1949. He was at St. Luke’s College for the years 1950 and 1951. He became the first proud trained and certificated Grade III Headmaster of St. Peter’s Anglican School, Ife-Odan via Oyo in January 1952. He had other teaching stints at Osogbo, Okuku, and later St. Peter’s Anglican School I, Aremo, Ibadan. He enlisted in the Nigerian Military Force as an officer Cadet (NMP/1003) on September 9, 1959.

Earlier in life, he had written to the reigning monarch, King George VI and the Prime Minister, Sir Winston S. Churchill requesting for financial help to complete his education. With the news flash of his letters to the UK, he was summoned to the Palace of the Alaaye and questioned vigorously on his temerity for writing the highest potentate of the time. He was bound over for being cheeky.

Borrowing books from his dear friend Mr. D.A. Ashaolu, he studied hard for the Army examination and passed. His love for the Army was driven by his sense of patriotism. In his words, ‘I cherished the Army because of the disciplined life, physical exercises which are necessary and congenial to healthy souls, the pride of saying that I belong to the national legion, the spirit of adventure provided by contacts with other battalions here and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations…’ Besides, he concluded, ‘learning is made a key note to progress in life. Soldiers are the pillars of a nation; Nigeria is on the threshold of independence. Other nations will cast avaricious eyes on this land of Canaan; why then should a citizen feel shy of becoming a pillar upon which to build the nation? … I always feel like throwing in my lot in the defense of this nation…In life or death I intend that my name should be inscribed on the Honour’s List of national heroes”.

As an officer in the Nigerian Army, he had challenging postings such as Chief Mortar instructor to the Nigerian Army (1963-1964), General Staff Officer Grade 1, Nigerian Army Headquarters (1967-1970), Secretary to the Nigerian Civil War Council (1967-1970), General Officer Commanding Second Infantry Division, Nigerian Army (1970-1975), Member of Supreme Military Council and Federal Executive Council (1975-1979), Federal Commissioner for Establishments and Service Matters (1975-1977), Federal Commissioner for finance (1977-1979), Acting Military Governor, Kwara, Mid-Western and Western States of Nigeria (1972) simultaneously. He served with the United Nations troops in the Belgian Congo (1961-1962), the United Nations in India and Pakistan (1965-1966), and was the Nigerian Governor of the Boards of the World Bank (IBRD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development bank. When he was rewarded with the enviable national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 1979, a dream of well over 20 years had come to reality.

His Royal Majesty Oba (Dr) Emmanuel Aladejare Agunsoye III, and the Efon Alaaye Community honoured him as the first native to be inducted into the Efon Alaaye Hall of Fame. He was also appointed Chairman of the Elders Council in 2008 on return to Efon Alaaye. His final ceremonial outing was at a Community reception organized to honour him. He greeted the proud Efon Alaaye crowd thus; Efon kumoye!!! Omo edu ule ahun, nku ule o, nku amu’le ro. Mo ti de o. Mesinrinka!!! The response was both deafening and electrifying. Less than a year after, he departed. He authored two books; Military Leadership in Nigeria (1966 – 1979), and Architecturing a Destiny. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.


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James Oluleye
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