In about 48 hours, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu, will be 75 years old. Saturday Tribune’s duo of OLALEKAN OLABULO and SEGUN KASALI get prominent personalities making revealing notes of their personal encounters with him.
Chief Teslim Junaid Eko is the head of the Lagos Traditional White Cap chiefs. He can best be described as a member of the inner caucus of Iga Idunganran. Considering his closeness to the kabiyesi, Saturday Tribune decided to begin the journey of unveiling the sides to Oba Akiolu which are unknown to the public with him.
Having served with the immediate past Oba of Lagos, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan and now serving with Oba Rilwan Akiolu, what differences have you noticed?
They are different in their approaches. There were things that Oba Oyekan tolerated, maybe, because he was an elderly person. Oba Akiolu does not tolerate such things. He would tell you the way it is instantly. Oba Oyekan would call you and still be asking you questions but Oba Akiolu would condemn what is wrong immediately.
What are other peculiarities of Oba Akiolu?
Kabiyesi is a very strict and disciplined man. He does not compromise. He tries to instil that discipline in people around him, including the chiefs. He wants us to earn respect in our different domains through our conducts. He detests his name being dropped in places. Whoever drops his name without his approval is in serious trouble with him.
How does Oba Akiolu respond to traditional issues, being a devout Muslim?
He is not the Oba of any particular religion. He is the Oba of Lagos and the leader of all religions. He responds perfectly well to issues that have to do with tradition but when he has any reservations about a particular thing, he does not hide it.
He was a tough, disciplined officer —AIG Tunde Ogunsakin (rtd)
Can you share with us, your personal experience with Oba Akiolu?
I knew him when I was a junior police officer and he was then a senior officer. People referred him to as being tough then but what I realised was that he was very disciplined and frank. He was a very strict police officer. He did not encourage corruption in whatever form. If you were a corrupt officer, he would deal with you but if you were diligent and free of corruption, you won’t have any problem with him. He was a very thorough officer and full of life.
What other things can you say about him?
Oba Akiolu is somebody that does not abandon you as long as he is sure that you are not corrupt and that you are diligent. He has continued to advise me. He was monitoring me through my years at the EFCC and the ICPC. I used to visit the palace for advice during my time as the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Fraud Unit. When he retired and became the Oba, for you to be close to him, you must be free of corruption. Most of the things I did in SFU then, he was always present. There was a workshop attended by the Metropolitan Police, Baba was present and his presence was appreciated by the United Kingdom police. When I was inaugurating the forensic laboratory at the SFU, he was also in attendance and offered advice.
If Oba Akiolu likes you, he likes you —Prince Ademola Dada, immediate past chairman of Island Club
How do you see Oba Akiolu?
The Oba of Lagos is a transparent person. He is a man of several parts. He does not talk anyhow. If he likes you, he likes you. He doesn’t listen to gossip. He tries as much as possible to carry people along. If he feels you are being cheated, he stands by you.
What was your impression the very first time you met him?
I met him before becoming the Oba of Lagos, when he was serving the nation as a police officer. I met him together with former Inspectors General of Police, Smith and Ehindero. Everyone has always been talking positive of him.
Why people misunderstand him —Ojora of Ijora and Iganmu Land, Oba Fatai Aremu Aromire Ojora
In the next couple of days, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, will clock 75. How well do you know him?
I have known him for 45 years now. He is my elder brother. In fact, he was the one that trained me. I am very lucky to have passed through him. It is a privilege to go through his tutelage. I have passed through a lot with him. By the grace of God, he was the one that made me the Ojora of Lagos. He made me a White Cap chief and later promoted me to the present position of the Oba of Ijora. I have been very close to him for a long time.
Can you share with us, some of those moments you talked about?
We have shared a lot of moments together. I have shared a lot with him. We are from the same royal family, Aromire Onitana Royal Family. We are from Oloto Royal family. He is my blood brother and as family members, we have shared a lot together.
Is there anything people out there don’t know about him?
What people don’t know about my brother is that he is a very principled man. He has a principle and he keeps to it, irrespective of what happens. That is why some people misunderstand him. He sticks to his policy. He always says the truth. My brother will call red, red and black, black. He does not hide things from people. He says it the way it is. For this reason, many people misunderstand him to be another person. That is how he was trained.
What about his growing up?
What I can say is that I have known my brother since his days at the then Nigerian Radio Corporation, before he joined the Nigeria Police Force. I have been used to him since his early life. You could see then that he was destined for greatness and he had the leadership qualities inherent in him. Everything he touched turned to gold. He does not fail in any task. I observed that in him. He made a lot of Obas and chiefs in Lagos today what they have become.
What has Oba Akiolu done differently from his predecessors?
They all have their peculiarities and they have different styles but Oba Akiolu has brought us closer to the government. If there is anything I have learnt from him, it is hard work. He is very hard-working and he encourages others to work hard. He made me realise that being an Oba does not mean that you should be idle. There was a day he called me and some other Obas and advised us to be creative. He told us to get something doing. He opened our eyes to the fact that being an Oba does not mean that you should not be engaged in any other thing. His advice led me to becoming a successful farmer. I thank God today that I have achieved a lot through his advice.
Do you know of any Kabiyesi’s regrets?
I thank God for his life. I am sure he doesn’t have any regret. If there is any at all, he would be the only one to talk about it. I cannot point to anything he failed to achieve in life. My prayer for him is that the Lord should grant him long life.
I thought Oba Akiolu was brash —Chairman, Island Club, Mr Olabanji Oladapo
Can you recall your first contact with Oba Akiolu?
I saw him as a brash person initially but when you get closer to him, you will know that he is full of humility and understanding, and he radiates simplicity. You need to know him to be able to understand him.
How would you describe his personality?
Oba Riliwan Osuolale Aremu Akiolu I, the distinguished Grand Patron of The Island Club, is a man of many parts. Kind to a fault, generous beyond the level you can consider, kind hearted and highly religious, loved by all and hated by a few. As our grand patron, he advises us and promotes friendship. His common phrase is “What do you want from yourselves in the club other than to be friendly with each other?” And that is the essence of clubbing. No dull moment with him. On behalf of the Island Club, I wish him many more years, prosperous and exceeding goodwill. May God continue to be with him.
He had always been interested in royalty —Chief Lanre Rasak
How did you meet the Oba of Lagos?
I met him as a police officer and he was a fine gentleman. Of course, while serving as an officer, he knew that he had the royal blood. He had special interest in royalty and it was not a surprise he was able to ascend to the throne. He knows the way Oba should behave. He knows what the Oba should do in any given circumstance. I salute his courage and his fight for justice.
How would you describe his personality?
We are very lucky in Lagos to have him as the Oba. He is a man of peace and fairness to everybody. He is humble and disciplined.
Baba is cerebral and addicted to truth —Rt. Hon. Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun, Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly
His Royal Majesty is the custodian of tradition. Before the advent of modern government, the Oba was the overlord of the area called Lagos. I know that, then, the area called Lagos was from Isale-Eko, somewhere in Eti-Osa East. There was no Oba in those areas then. It was the Oba in Lagos Island that covered them then. All the market men and women paid obeisance and gave him his dues. But with the advent of modern government, taxes now go to the state government and that was when the Oba of Lagos was being referred to as Olowo Eko. He remains the permanent chairman of the Council of Obas. He has been doing wonderfully well, keeping to tradition. He is a man that is addicted to truth, very cerebral and experienced.
Oba Akiolu is a pillar to Lagos markets —Babaloja-General of Lagos, Alhaji Wasiu Atanda Balogun
What can you say about Oba Akliolu and the development of Lagos markets?
Kabiyesi is like a father to the leaders of all the markets in Lagos. We run to him in times of distress and he never fails to assist us. We call on him whenever any market is about to be renovated or when there is a problem between any market and the government. He is always involved in market activities. He stands by us and settles our disputes.
Any personal encounters with him?
The Oba Akiolu that I know is very polite, very disciplined and a respecter of tradition and values. He settles many misunderstanding without taking such cases to court and the two parties will laugh at the end of the day. He does not take sides with anybody. He is interested in the progress of everybody.
Oba Akiolu is a peacemaker —Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, NURTW chairman
What is your impression of Oba Akiolu?
Oba Akiolu is someone who loves to ensure peace; he is a peacemaker. Baba does not encourage those who get involved in criminal activities. He is a strict disciplinarian that will not want to be associated with criminals.
What are the contributions of the traditional ruler to the development of the transport business in Lagos?
Oba Akiolu advises us on how best to move the transport business forward and he is very much concerned about peace in all parts of Lagos State.
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