The newly coronated Olota of Otta, Awori Kingdom in Ogun State, Oba Adeyemi Abdulkabir Obalanlege is a trained journalist who has proved his mettle in that field.
In this interview, he chronicles his journey to royalty. Excerpts:
One could safely assume that this new position is an unfamiliar terrain for you, and a lot must have changed. How easy has it been coping with this new life?
There is no doubt that it’s a new life, but I have met so many people, especially new family members that I have never met before, and all the traditional rulers and traditionalists who have surrounded me. It’s a learning curve for me and I have been trying to get to know what to do and what not to do, because of the sensitivity and demands of this office. The only thing is that the system tends to want to restrict people’s access to me, but I have expressed my objection to that and I have held on to that. Again, in line with the tradition, how people have to prostrate was very strange to me. Even in the university where I lecture, when I alight from the car, students would want to help with my bag but I try to stop them. But now, a lot would change. It’s not my kind of life but I’m trying to change. I’m a liberal person and I don’t believe in this lordship but it’s like I’m going to stay in between. I’m not going to be a kind of king that would be so lazy and leave everything to people to do for me. I think sometimes I have to do things myself.
Like what, because the stool does not allow you to do things by yourself?
If I want to pick something and it’s within the private setting, I would do it myself. At night, I would drive myself, because I like taking charge of things myself. When I’m very old, somebody can do that but now I’m still very strong and agile, so if people don’t want me to drive in the afternoon, I would drive at night (laughs). When it’s official, a driver would drive the car but at my own time when I feel people would not see me, I would drive.
Were you the one who expressed interest to be the king or you were compelled, as it is in some cases?
Actually, I was compelled. I wasn’t the type that wanted to go into the royal or traditional way of life. I love going to parties, meeting with friends and traveling around. But when this came up and people started dragging me into it, I initially said no. Even up till the last minute, I didn’t know it would happen. We were 22 contestants but I insisted I wasn’t interested but the elders in the family kept coming. Some elders even called me and were asking if it was my wife or family that was stopping me? They said it was the turn of our family and I was the only one who had a very rich profile to be able to clinch the position if I partook in the contest. There was one of the elders, someone who I have a lot of respect for. When he came to me, he almost prostrated for me, begging me to please run for the office. It was at that point I pleaded with him not to prostrate for me. I told him I would do it and that was the defining moment. People that were close to me, like my cousin; we have the Adeyanjus, were in the race as well. We are from the same family. Even another Obalanlege who is a former principal was in the race. He’s my uncle and we get along very well. At the end of the day, I think it was God’s wish.
You came from a humble background, but you went to school in the United Kingdom. How did it happen?
I had HND in Mass Communication and while in school, I started my journalism career with The Mail Newspaper. I was the Ogun State correspondent and when I finished, I joined The Republic Newspaper, where I met Prof. Idowu Sobowale. Being an academic and professional journalist, that inspired me that I had to go further in my education. When he moved to The Republic as the Managing Director, I loved the way he combined both. He was in UNILAG then. He knows everything and when he came into the newsroom, he would go to sub-desks. He was unlike some managing directors that didn’t know much about journalism. We saw many changes in his time and the newspaper became more professional. With that, I was motivated to further my education. From The Republic, I moved to the Lagos State Polytechnic as the Public Relations Officer. It was when I left LASPOTECH that I moved to This Day as Travel Editor and a lot of people including the publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, respected me a lot. Sometimes he referred to me as Chief or Kabiyesi because of the way I dressed and the way I comported myself. I got along with a lot of people, like my then News Editor, Victor Ifijeh; Billy Adedamola, Bolaji Abdullahi and even Waziri Adio, the Executive Secretary of NEITI. We did a lot with the Travel page but when I left, no one could actually carry on. I carried out three productions in a week and we had patronage from hotels, airlines and that was why Nduka really loved me because he knew I made money for the company. However, my wife was born in England, so with that, I was able to travel to the UK to continue my education. It was when I got there that I attended University of Leicester for my Master’s in Maas Communication. At Leicester, I met people like Dr. Tunde Akanni, who lectures at LASU now; also Dr. Ismail who is an Associate Professor at the University of Lagos. Three of us were together at Leicester and we really got along very well. It was after my Master’s that I decided to come back to Nigeria in 2004. I started publishing Food International Magazine because I saw it as an area that hadn’t been explored in Nigeria. The food industry was coming up then, so I went to Greenwich University in London and I did a postgraduate course in Food Safety and Quality Management, just to know how the food industry works. So, I started the publication and the Ogun State government supported me with adverts.