The Olu of Imashayi, Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, Oba Lukman Kuoye, takes DAUD OLATUNJI through his struggles growing up and his journey to the throne
Who is the Olu of Imasayi?
The Olu of Imasayi is Kuoye Luqman Olamilekan. I was born on April 18, 1970 to Prince/Alhaji Rafiu Oladele Kuoye and Princess Suliyat Kuoye of blessed memory.
What schools did you attend?
I was enrolled at UMC Primary School, Eleja, Ado-Odo in 1973. From there, I moved to St. Stephens Commercial High School in September, 1979 and I finished in1984.
What did you do after secondary school?
I did very well the first time I took my (Senior School Certificate Examination) papers, but I didn’t pass mathematics and so I had to retake my papers at Alama Grammar School, Ado-Odo in 1985. The most alarming and unfortunate part was that my results were not released. So, I decided that instead of sitting down at home, doing nothing, I would learn a vocation. I then decided to learn plumbing but one of my brothers, who is now an architect, disagreed and insisted I must not abandon school. He said if it was someone else, he would have given his approval but for me, he would not because I was brilliant and he wanted me to further my education. But then, there was no money, so I had to work as a bus conductor until 1988 when I enrolled at Ado-Odo High School to retake the SSCE and I finally had good grades. Thereafter, between 1988 and 1989, I gained admission into St. Andrews College of Education, Oyo, where I studied Political Science, English. But when I was in my third year, about graduating, things became so hard financially that I had to quit school.
What did you do after dropping out?
I went back to do transport business and fortunately for me, I did well and I was able to raise money to go back to school. So, I went to the Lagos State University to study Social Work Administration at Diploma level. On finishing, I enrolled for my first degree.
I had a lecturer, Prof. Adebowale M.A., who is also from Ado-Odo. Whenever he saw me, he would say, “Kuoye, if you didn’t finish College of Education, please make sure you get your first degree.”
Also, I had two friends then – Prof. Adewole Atere, who now works at the Osun State University; and Dr Kunle Ogundele, who is the Director, Centre for Regional Planning, Lagos State University – who also kept mounting pressure on me that I must continue my education. With their encouragement, I finished my first degree and then proceeded for my master’s. After bagging my master’s, these people still didn’t stop mounting pressure on me to go for PhD. I applied to several universities for my PhD. I was in the middle of my PhD programme when the issue of becoming a monarch came. Presently, I am still studying for PhD at the Lagos State University.
Have you had to work with your first and master’s degrees?
I worked as a commercial manager of a transport company before I later established my own transport company.
You veered into politics at some point. Why was that?
I joined politics at a very young age. The first political party I joined was NAP (Nigeria Advance Party). Later, I joined UNCP (United Nigeria Congress Party) and became the youth leader for the whole of Ado-Odo Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State. Later on, I moved to the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) when it was founded. At the time, the PDP was tagged the enemies of the Yoruba, because the AD (Alliance for Democracy) was the ruling party. But in spite of that, in my own constituency, myself and about 14 other persons ensured that our party, the PDP, won five wards. And that was how I began to grow in politics then. I worked for the party for several years; I was a member the PDP National Convention Planning Committee in 2005/2006.
When OGD (Otunba Gbenga Daniel) was running for governor, I was the youngest among the few people called from the ward to work for the GFF foundation. We struggled and we thank God, I was made a coordinator for OGD campaign in Ado-Odo and Igbesa. When the party won, the struggle continued and in 1998 I also struggled to be a councillor. I believe that I won the election, but as I said earlier, the AD was stronger then.
I later became the Vice Chairman of Ado-Odo Local Government Area from 2003 to 2007. After that, I was later appointed as Secretary to the local government transitional committee with Chief Abayomi Tella as the chairman. Initially, I was expecting I would be chairman but as luck would have it, that was what I was given. When I was about finishing that, I was appointed as a Special Assistant to OGD and I held the position till 2011.
When did you quit politics?
In 2010 when I lost my wife, I wanted to quit politics. At the time, I was still running my master’s programme and I was also doing my mandatory nine-month internship at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta. After my convocation in 2011, I left the Government House and I was thinking about what to do next because I didn’t want to join the league of people who describe themselves as professional politicians.
I saw a job advertisement by the National Identification Management Commission and I applied for a position with my master’s and as God would have it, about two years after I applied I received a text message that I should appear in Abuja for screening; then later at the University of Lagos for CBT exam. Three months later, they told me that I had been shortlisted for the job and I was invited to Abuja. I was employed and placed on Level Nine. I was posted to Niger State. I worked there for a few weeks and then I was posted to Ogun State.
In 2014, I was posted to Ipokia and I established the Idi-Iroko and Ipokia centres. From Ipokia, I was moved to Owode Idi-Iroko and then to Ilaro. I later became the Ogun State Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, NIMC Unit. I held the position until I had to heed the call to be a king in my hometown and I resigned.
Your enthronement was opposed by one of the chiefs. Has the issue been laid to rest now?
During the time of my immediate predecessor, the late Oba Gbadebo Idowu, who reigned for over 30 years, there was no such chief as you suggested. He (my predecessor) said when he assumed the throne, he did not meet any such chief in the Imashayi Council of Chiefs. And in the records and documents that I have before me in the palace, there is nothing like that.
Very soon, we will be filling the vacancy. I have set up a committee that will handle that. For almost 37 years, the position was unoccupied and the alleged occupier equally knows this fact.
What plans do you have for the kingdom?
I have short-term and long-term plans and I am working on them and by God’s grace when I am through, I would have developed the town. We have manpower but there are no industries in Imashayi and this is one of the areas of focus.
How do you plan to bring industries to Imashayi?
When I came on board, I was looking at how I could bring 5,000 businesses into Imashayi because that is one of the things that can change the status of the indigenes and residents of this town.
Look at Igbesa; initially there was only one road that led into igbesa but now, Igbesa has many routes. From our end here, we don’t have any route. Igbesa is highly industrialised now. That is what I am planning for Imashayi.
Did you always know you would become an Oba?
Let me be sincere with you, I did not. I had become the Aare of Imashayi in 2006 because of my prominence in town. But I did not envisage becoming the king.
How did you emerge as your family’s choice for the throne?
We had a family meeting in Imashayi and they told me my family would produce the next oba. I said it was fine but I was not interested in becoming an oba. My dad called and said, “Omo Oba (prince), why did you reject the offer?” Also, one of my brothers came to me about five times to convince me, but I insisted that I was not interested.
Why were you not interested?
I had other plans. My projection was that by October 20, 2022, I would resign as a public servant and do some other things that I have always wanted to do. That was how I had programmed my life. And I am not a power monger. Instead of myself, I was putting forward my junior brother, Mr Rahmon Olanrewaju, who is the spokesman for UBA International. But he too refused the offer. In fact, he even came down to Ado-Odo and told me, “Egbon (big brother), you are the one who should be the oba because you are closer to the community.”
Still not convinced, I suggested another brother but he equally declined. After that, my family called me to a meeting and warned me against rejecting the offer. They even asked me, “Do you want this thing to go away from our family?” And that was the point I gave in after consulting with my clerics.
How many wives do you have?
I have three wives now. My first wife was the late Alhaja Fasilat Bankole. We started when I was in secondary school. She was in Ado-Odo High School and I was in St. Stephen in Imashayi. We had a challenge (having children) and the family thought that I was impotent. So, I had to try someone else. And this is the reason my son from the second wife is older, by three months, than the firstborn of my first wife.
When my second wife had an issue, I married the third one. I am not marrying again. My younger wife is still active. We married about 23 years ago. She can still give me more children.
How long have you been on the throne?
I was given the staff of office on August 26, 2021. We consulted the oracle and I spent a month in Ipebi. I wore the traditional village crown, which came from Oyo in about 1776 or so. I have been on the throne for close to five months.
What has becoming an oba changed about you?
A lot of things, because I’d like to describe myself as an extrovert. But as a community leader, you must limit yourself to certain things. You cannot be talking as you like, as it were.
Secondly, I am somewhat temperamental but this position has taken that from me. Politically I was well-known for taking a stance – if you are not for me, you are against me. But in this position with some of the steps I have taken, a lot of people think I am a fool. But I know I am not a fool. In fact, I was even advised by His Royal Majesty, Oba Dr Kehinde Gbadewole, Olu of Ilaro of Yewaland, who said to me, “Alayeluwa, talk less; it is not every matter that you should take interest in.” And as I said in my message during the coronation ceremony, my own kind of oba can’t be everywhere.
How do you combine running PhD programme at LASU with being a king?
I have started sitting down with my colleagues. In fact, I told my lecturers, “Please, I have dropped my obaship at the entrance of the lecture room. If you want to send me a message, go ahead.”
And that is why I don’t go to the lecture room as a king but as a student. I don’t wear my crown to school; I will just put on my small cap. At times, I go in there with just buba and sokoto. And that is why I am being accorded the status of a student of the university. In fact, during my inauguration, many of my lecturers came. They told me, “In Yewaland, you are the boss; but in LASU, we are the bosses.”
Do you still have time to read as much as you did before becoming a king?
Studying for PhD is different from first degree and second degree. After the first exam, the rest is about making presentations and doing fieldwork. I have been presenting papers and I am also a member of the association of medical workers as well as NASU.
How do we manage your religious belief and tradition?
After I became an oba, I went into seclusion because it is normal for me to observe the necessary rites. I was taken to the shrines and taught how to handle the shrine traditions. While I was in Ipebi, I prayed five times daily (as a Muslim).
Are there things considered as taboos for the Oba of Imashayi?
When I was in Ipebi, I was told I must not eat catfish and cow intestine. But after I came out, they said I could go on to eat them. In Imashayi, we don’t eat mushrooms.
How do you relax?
Since I became an oba, I have not had any opportunity of relaxation. Virtually every week, I do have programmes.
What is your favourite meal?
I love eating yam and palm oil but I haven’t been eating it much because the type of oil I like to use is not available in Imashayi.
What is your favourite music?
It is would be music of Osupa (Saheed) and Sefiu Alao.