A business mogul and elder brother of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11, Prince Adegboyega Abimbola Ogunwusi is today installed as the Sooko Laekun of Ile Ife. He speaks with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE on his growing up days with the Ooni, the responsibilities of the title and the changes he desires in Ife.
You have been chosen as the Sooko Laekun of Ile Ife, how does it feel being a chief of His imperial majesty?
When I was told about the post, I was elated. I feel it’s an honour and great responsibility on my shoulder. I thank God and appreciate kabiyesi for giving me the honour. I feel more excited that I have been given a role in collaboration with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan to achieve his role and leave a legacy. I pray that God will grant me the wisdom and support from necessary quarters to carry out my duties in order to boost kabiyesi’s legacy and impact the community.
What responsibilities does this title confer on you?
Sooko means head of princes. In the olden days, in each of the ruling families there is a sooko. These then were referred to as Soroko because people didn’t have easy access to them. In Ile Ife, one of the ruling house is Giesi and this has pockets of princes and leaders. Ogunwusi family belongs to this ruling house. To see kabiyesi, all the princes must go through someone and that is Laekun. To be Sooko Laekun, you must be someone kabiyesi can trust, confide in and discuss with on daily basis on issues that has to do with the progress of the community among other things. You are an eye of kabiyesi. It’s actually a significant role.
And how do you hope to combine these responsibilities with your chain of businesses?
That is the simplest task in front of me. In business and life, you have to prioritise things. I place premium on community life and will be closer to kabiyesi and Ife now. I have businesses within and outside the country and they can run themselves easily.
Tell us about yourself?
I was born over 50 years ago to the family of Prince Oluropo Ogunwusi and my late mum, Madam Magaret Wuraola Abegbe Ogunwusi. I won’t say we were born with silver spoon but I thank God for the kind of upbringing we had. We are six in number-I’m the first, followed by Prince Adetunji Ogunwusi, Princess Folashade Fadairo, Princess Adesola Olojede and then kabiyesi Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife and Princess Adebimpe Daudu. Another sister of ours is Princess Folusho Adepemi Kolawole. I was born in Ile Ife and spent some time there before we relocated to Ibadan, Agodi-Gate precisely. I attended Seventh Day Adventist Primary School in Ibadan, Fatima College, Ikire and later OSCAS, Ile Ife. I studied Geography at the University of Ibadan. I later did ICAN and before I traveled out of the country with my late wife, Tinuade Ogunwusi, I worked in the bank and mortgage industry. I am one of those who started Access Bank in Apapa. On getting to England, I retrained myself on IT and worked with British Telecommunication, Cap Geminine and Super Drug. I was there till I lost my wife. I relocated to Nigeria after this incident and joined my brother who was into real estate management.
What did your parents do for a living?
My dad was a broadcaster and worked with the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) and Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS), Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), and Osun State Broadcasting Corporation. My mum worked at the Medical Records Unit of the University College Hospital (UCH), before she retired and went into trading. We lost her in 2012.
How was growing up like especially as a prince?
We all grew up in love and had respect for one another. We didn’t throw any air around as princes and princesses. Our parents were disciplinarians and inculcated in us the fear of God and humility. We never displayed arrogance. Our parents always sounded it in our ears that what was worth doing at all was worth doing well, so they ensured we put in our best in all that we did.
What was the Ooni like as a young person?
Our Kabiyesi was born an entrepreneur and was very inquisitive. Our grandfather used to carry him on his laps and was fond of calling him Obalola. He always showed that trait that he could look after himself and he also loved to help people and share whatever he had with them. He was always bringing friends home to eat.
What fond memories do you have of your childhood?
I earlier told you Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi was inquisitive as a child. In the house then were wall sockets and we used to cover them to avert danger. Kabiyesi in a bid to know what was inside the socket, one day unscrewed one of them and got shocked as he touched the wires. He shouted,”Adesola pami o, Adesola pami o (Adesola has killed me).” The funny thing is that Adesola, his sister, was at that particular time miles away. I also remember my school days at Fatima College. Being a boarding school we had to adapt to any condition to survive. Since we had bushes around us, we would sneak out of the school premises and hunt for food. We would say,” we are going on jungle”. Anyone caught by the school authorities was in trouble.
It appears our culture and traditions are being jettisoned for foreign ways of life. For example, Yoruba our mother tongue is gradually going into extinction as people dialogue more in English Language. What can be done to address this?
I quite agree with you that this practice is becoming very rampant and that is one of those things kabiyesi is looking into right now. He recently initiated a programme, ‘So Ede Yoruba Si Omo Re.’ This is to create an awareness and encourage parents and guardians to teach their children as they grow up in Yoruba Language so that the language will not go into extinction . People are already looking into that and this is expected to be implemented in Ile-Ife community and the society at large. He’s also looking at how the government can introduce this in the school curriculum.
In the past the traditional institution was viewed with awe, but today the situation has changed. Three monarchs were reported kidnapped in Lagos, Delta and Jos. Those of Delta were killed while a ransom was paid for the release of the third. What has happened to the royal institution to necessitate this occurrences?
I won’t say people don’t have regards for royals anymore, but what we are experiencing in our society today is what is happening in the whole world. Cultural awareness matters, we have to educate people about our culture.
As you become a chief, what changes do you plan to see in the town?
I’m very positive that in few months time and with the goals and foresight of kabiyesi, Ile Ife will become a tourist center. One other area kabiyesi is focusing on is youth empowerment. We have to do more in this regard to boost Ife community.
In our clime, many times chieftaincy titles go to the highest bidder, what’s your take?
Fortunately for me, this is a post that has to be occupied and that which Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi feels he needs someone he can trust and the choice of me was made by our amiable kabiyesi. So there is no need for any highest bidder in this case.
What’s your hobby?
I love to play tennis and travel a lot. I also love meeting people and driving.
Do you mean leisure drive?
Can one really do a pleasure drive with okada drivers around? I drive long distance and I enjoy it.
What’s your favourite attire?
It was shirt and trousers –English cut, but now with my new responsibility, it’s our traditional attire-agbada with cap and beads because I will be representing my kingdom.
Are you a designer freak?
No. But I love good shoes and love to dress well.
Which is your best colour?
What drink is your favourite?
I’ve stopped drinking coke, now I take water
I thought you would say wine?
No, it’s water.
How do you relax?
I listen to music.
The old school, that is juju-Orlando,King Sunny Ade; Micheal Jackson for pop music and jazz. I also listen to up and coming Nigerian musicians and Christian music.