My father paid us as his salesgirls, then made us spend all on his ice-cream —Olori Olusola
Former MD/CEO of City Express Bank Plc, Olori Olusola Adedoyin-Alao, is a bubbly woman with vast exprience in the banking industry. Politics, which is her new passion, has taken her to many places, meeting people and sharing her dreams. In this interview with CHIMA NWOKOJI, SYLVESTER OKORUWA and SEGUN KASALI she reminisced on her life journey and how she got to where she is today.
WHAT is being Olori costing you?
As an Olori, I should not be partisan when it comes to political issues. But in the last dispensation, I ran for the Senate in Kwara State because the Senate President left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressive Congress (APC). That was my main reason for going into politics. I was with Chief Tony Anenih that day and he said PDP would not die in Kwara. Since I am from Kwara, he asked me to go and galvanize people for the PDP so that the party would stay afloat. I went to Kwara and we did a lot of activities. That was how I got involved in politics. I ran for the Senate but I didn’t make it.
That move must have attracted criticism.
How did you handle the backlash?
My sister was also into politics, but my dad didn’t feel comfortable that the two of us should be in politics. My father felt that too much to have two of his children in politics in Kwara. He advised against it, but at times you just have to do what you have to do. I did it and PDP stayed. But after Bukola Saraki came back to PDP, some of us that were at the other opposite end moved to APC. My sister was formerly in PDP but left for APC while I was in PDP.
That sounds like you still have political ambition.
No. Not that I have thrown in the towel, because whatever I can still do for my community, I will do it because it is my father’s origin. I went to school in Agbamu for three years. I have love for Kwara State, though my husband is a king in Oyo State. Now, I belong to Oyo State and even as an Olori, I really do not have too much of a choice. I will always have a responsibility to Kwara State and the same time to Oyo State.
You and Saraki appear to have a history.
It was a matter of ideals and ideologies. Unfortunately in Nigeria, people don’t look at the ideals but the party. The Senate President’s ideology is totally different from mine. It wasn’t personal because Bukky, Gbemi and I grew up as friends. He is my brother and my friend, but we don’t have the same political ideology. The families are very close and the Saraki families are very good. Dr. Saraki has a hospital in Dosunmu. He was our doctor because my father’s business was in Dosunmu. There were two major doctors in Lagos then; Dr. Ajenifuja, who was very strict and tough, and Dr. Saraki. Dr. Ajenifuja would threaten if he wanted to put something into your mouth, so little ones were always terrified of going to him. But Dr. Saraki was gentle. He would give sweets or a biscuits to calm children. So, as a child, who would you want to go to if you were asked to choose between Ajenifuja and Saraki?
There must be many memories of your childhood days.
Lots of memories because at the time of growing up in Lagos, the way my father and Chief Okoya Eleganza did it was that they paired us together – myself and Basira, one of his daughters, and then my younger sister. On Sundays, they usually took us out on a boat and from there to the Chinese restaurant. If they couldn’t, they bought Chinese food and brought it home for us. Then Lagos was very free, not this crowded. Everything was simple and nice, with all the people I grew up with in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, especially my friends, would walk from one place to another. You could stroll on the street with no aboki, no taxi driver. Everything was just so calm and serene. Unlike now that everywhere is so crowded- you cannot jog, you cannot walk on the street. My uncle would take us to Queen’s drive by the waterside with his camera and took pictures of us playing. Lagos was like small London then.
You were obviously born with a silver spoon
I wouldn’t say that because my father was very strict. In fact, when you hear the honk of his car, you fret and looked for where to hide. I remember him taking us to Lagos Island in Idumota where he had a very big office. I think he was the first person that brought ice-cream machine to Lagos. Then, he used to sell handbags, leather belts, suitcases and things like that. They would throw it on the floor and we would market the wares to potential customers. Whoever sells and makes money, he would collect the money. I think ice cream was 5 pence then. Your salary for the day but the money would end up in his pocket because we spent it on his ice cream. So, you eventually don’t get to take anything home. It was like we were working for him but he was paying with one hand and collected the money with his second hand. If he wanted to do it, he could give us free ice-cream, but he never did. Indirectly, he was not paying, but rewarding us with ice-cream.
There must be an unforgettable punishment you received.
My father normally likes his things being precise. He always said where you took anything, we must put it back there. One day, I forgot to return what I took from the drawer because I was playing. He came was looking for it but I had forgotten where it was. He told me to stoop down. The punishment in our house then was to stoop down. If you did otherwise, he whipped you with a belt. He flogged my elder sister one day that she jumped from the second floor to the ground floor in her night gown and was running on the street. I saw her running on the street and I followed. We started running on the street. You would think he would look for us. He didn’t. He always said ‘when you are ready, you will come back home’. In those days, where could you run to? From Victoria Island, there were few houses, so nobody would take you in. When they see you on the street, they would know who you are because there were very few families in V.I then. I think Danjuma was living next door, while the Obaguns were living a street away. So, very few families around and they all knew who you were. You would be taken back to your family house.
How do you relax?
Swimming. But now, we don’t have time for that because we are always on the move. So, relaxation for me now will probably be attending events and when you are not in the mood to smile, you are forced to do so.
Well, what do you do when you are in a position where you have to maintain a particular face? When the new palace is completed, maybe we may have time. Even exercising now, it is like we exercise as we go. Before, we used to find time to exercise.
Are you an indoor Olori?
My husband has always been a socialite. He calls me an introvert because if I don’t need to talk, I won’t talk. But if there is need for me to talk, I will talk. But he is always going out, having fun everywhere. I only go out when it is absolutely necessary, especially when it is family or someone I respect so much. But now that he is an Oba, I have to go with him. My husband would say I think like a man. In my family, we are all girls. We were brought up strong and there was no discrimination regarding whether a man or woman should do something.
Kabiyesi told us you are helping him with some habits
His loud voice. Once he raises his voice, I try as much as possible to keep calm. If he sees me calm, he would ask me if he is raising his voice and I would say sir, you are raising your voice.
That means you have his key.
Not that. Why did God create man, so that where he is weak, I, his wife, can be strong and vice versa. As a pastor, I used to tell my people that the husband is the head and the wife is the neck. That is the way it works. That is the relationship of a man and woman.
- What is your take on Atiku Abubakar going to court to challenge the results of the presidential poll?
Kabiyesi also said you made him who he is today
My husband can be very impulsive. If he wants something done, he would throw in one hundred and one per cent. If he says he wants to assist you, he puts everything into it. He goes overboard. When I see that that is happening, I tell him Kabiyesi, why don’t you take it easy? I know you want to assist this person but in doing so, don’t just take the decision for the person, make sure you talk to the person so that you are both on the same page. I can only advice. And to the glory of God, he is a wonderful person. As my husband can yell, there is also a soft part of him that you won’t believe he is the same person. I remember after he became king and he raised his voice in his palace one day. I said kabiyesi, your voice is a bit loud. His aunty said there is an adage in their place; “Ogun ojo jumo, lo mu ni sa lo ri ile Igbon, which means Orile Igbon is always battle-raging and they are all like that in their family. They are always battle-ready. Only two of his brothers, who are full-time pastors, are calm. Daily battle makes people run away from Igbon kingdom. They are always battle ready. That is the meaning of Ogun ojo ju mo. When they are praising them, that is some of the words applied. Olugbon, in the ancient days, was known to be the wisest of Oduduwa’s children. They said he was the one that was always at the forefront when they went to battles. You know they say “ko baje laye Olugbon, ko baje laye aresa, ko baje laye onikoyi”. Those three worked together. They were brothers. Olugbon happened to be the Chief Strategist whenever they were going to battles, but he didn’t go and battle. He sought the diviners and the Ifa people to know what was going on at the war front. He sat back and communicated with his younger brothers who were in the battle front. For anyone to play such a role, he must be battle-ready at all time.
How did he get you to agree to start a relationship?
A lot of people don’t know that he is a firm CAC person and a prayer warrior. The first time he went to minister in CAC around Ago-Ijaiye, I was shocked when the pastor called me later and asked if I knew what they used to call my husband when he was young. I said no. They used to call him “Afadura wole esu” (someone who scatters the house of Satan with prayers). I was attracted by the way he used to pray. He still prays. That was the first attraction and it is something you hardly see in him. We got closer and started praying together. As I said, he is always ready to assist. And when he wants to assist, he gives one hundred and one per cent.
Lessons from your dad
I have discovered that all the experiences I had in life are something now very useful to me. Like I told you about my dad, I was always in trouble, so I decided to live with my grandmother after finishing my secondary school in Kwara. When I wanted to leave for her place, my father said that there is no electricity, no water and that I would suffer, but I insisted I was going to stay with grandma. Fortunately for me, it was helpful because I wouldn’t have been able to cope with my husband’s royal priesthood. My grandma really prepared me with royal ethics. As a Princess, you are served, but what I have come to realise is that as an Olori, it’s the reverse; you serve people. As a princess, you put your feet down and they bring food to eat but as Olori, you have to supervise the cooking. I cook myself because nobody cooks for my husband. I don’t allow it. I cook his food myself. As a princess, what concerns you if people come to the palace. Here, I am the one that will put the food on the table and we all eat together. So, that has really prepared me. I know all the local dishes. I know how to make them. I was telling my husband about soap industry. I know how to make local body cream. I know how to make ori (sheabutter) and other little local essentials. So, there’s so much skills that I picked up growing up that my mother skillfully passed on to me. All of that prepared me for the life I am living now and book reading also prepared me for being a queen.
Are you passing this down to your children?
You think the message is sinking in this modern age?
They ask a lot of questions. That means they are listening.