High Chief Adebayo Oyediji, Leader of the Seriki Line of Olubadan in Ibadanland, died on Friday, July 6, 2018. He died at age 92 after his age-long struggle to become the Olubadan of Ibadanland through the Seriki line failed. Three of his children spoke with Saturday Telegraph on behalf of the other family members about what he stood for. One of them is Akogun Muyiwa Oyediji who is a business partner of Baba Oyediji in the construction and petrol station business he ran. He is not a biological son of Baba, but his ‘son’ in all ways.
According to Akogun, “Baba Oyediji is my father. He nurtured me since I was three years old because my dad died very early in life. Ever since then, he took up the mantle to train me. He did everything humanly possible for me, and he did absolutely well. Except those who are very close to us, no one would know that I am not his biological son. I was with him even when he was down. We had some private chats. He was such a vibrant person. I worked with him in his construction company. He put me in charge of many things because he believed in me. He was in charge of execution, direction and all other things leading to the successful completion of the construction contracts we handled across the country. When I floated my own construction company, Baba blessed me and I followed his pattern of operation. To God be the glory, he was always happy seeing me progress.
Baba Oyediji hated cheating. He would not stand and see anybody being cheated and he would not also allow anybody to cheat him. He was a cheerful giver who gave to people without looking back, even when he was pressed to do so. He was a devoted and trustworthy person who would be loyal to people whom he trusted. He was so loyal to Pa Adisa Akinloye, then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) National Chairman and the then Seriki Olubadan before his demise. A lot of people became chiefs under Baba when the Olubadan was three lines: the Otun Olubadan and Balogun lines, as well as Seriki line. They asked him to join them and leave Seriki line but he refused. He said he believed that a leader is a leader and he had decided to follow Baba Akinloye. When others were deserting Chief Akinloye then, Baba Oyediji stood by him. So, when he saw that he was being cheated in the matter of Seriki Line of Olubadan, he went to court. He pursued the case to the Supreme Court where a consent judgement was obtained, but was not implemented.
Last moment with Baba
At a point he was muttering words, but he was not audible. His lips were moving but he was not audible. He was shaking his head with some tears coming from his eyes, and by then, I knew Baba was about bidding us bye. Each time he saw me, he would shake his head and I would be moved to tears. There were three of us in the hospital then when Baba finally passed on.
Major regret of Pa Oyediji
Baba was touched about the non-realisation of his dream with regard to the Seriki Line issue. This is because he believed too much in the rule of law. Even when some people wanted to go to town in protest after Baba Odulana (the immediate past Olubadan) passed on, Baba Oyediji appealed to them not to take law into their hands, but to still go back to court, even though the matter had been to the Supreme Court before. Till today, unfortunately, for one reason after the other, many of them in the legal tussle are dead and the case continues to drag till today. That to me is a major regret Baba had. Baba was an advocate of one Ibadan. To him we are Muslims and Christians; we are interrelated culturally, religiously and so we should live together in unity. He was always against violence. To him, the fact that he wanted to become king would not mean that he should encourage people to get violent, and I believe that is worth it. But in reality, the issue shook Baba because during his own time many years ago, the court was indeed the greatest arbiter. He was sad that Nigeria could be turned to what it is now.
End to Seriki Line legal tussle?
That to me is left to the other chiefs in the Seriki Line. Although I know that fighting such course involves a lot of personal funds, especially when government is fighting one and it has all the machinery in place to fight. But there is a Yoruba proverb that says, “Ipejopo awon ope le pa ota” (coalition of losers could lead to defeat of the winners). Even if remaining chiefs don’t have money like Baba Oyediji to continue to pursue the court matters, however long, if God is on their side, they could be victorious some day. All is a matter of time. Even if you hold the hand of your clock to prevent it from moving, night will still fall, because God has programmed for every time”, Akogun said. Another son of Late Oyediji is Sola Oyediji, a UK-based legal practitioner. He is a biological son of late Head of the Seriki Line of Olubadan. To him, he has been in the political space in Oyo state since 1987 and has always been in close contact with his father till his departure. To him, “My father had been a mentor and an accomplished pioneer in this town. He was a pacesetter and the landmarks are still there. He was a pioneer independent marketer in the country; pioneer in the industrial estate, sawmill, agriculture and virtually all the social and religious aspects of life including philanthropy. But his mantra had always been that ‘good name is worth more than money’. That is what we cherish as children and keep to where ever we are all over the world. That is one of the trappings of this family: that you must not be involved in anything that is dirty or untoward.
I was at the hospital with him. He had an amazing appointment with his creator and so he was at peace with himself till he passed on, and that is the most important thing. He was like Jacob, blessing his children when he was to pass on.
What to miss in Baba
He had a listening ear. He would listen to anyone and give good counsel always. He had been in business since the 70s, and so he had a lot of experiences we have benefitted from him, and that has helped us immensely in our undertakings in life. He was going to his office even at 90. We all saw him as a very hard working man, and we have all imbibed this quality. He hated idling. To talk of Baba’s regrets in life, Mr Sola said, “You touched a raw nerve there. As an international lawyer, abroad and locally, and having practised all over the world, my father’s major regret is that there appears to be no rule of law in this country. It was a shocker to me when coming back, to know that there was an injunction of court and it was treated as if it never existed. I never saw that anywhere in the world. The mere fact that there is a pending application is enough to hold something, but to me and my father, it was a rude shock that people could just ride roughshod over anything. Baba believed in the law and he kept to it till the last. It is a regret that many people don’t obey the law here, and it appears the courts are virtually toothless. I must say that the Seriki matter left him not too thrilled. But thankfully, the matter still continues as he had given mandate that the matter must continue. The Chiefs are continuing the matter with all seriousness. Justice will come one day. It came for June 12. Until now, I have refused to speak on the Seriki matter because Yoruba do say “Erin o kii fon, ki omo re naa o fon” (A cub does not trumpet when a lion also does).
Seriki matter is engraved in court judgement and court judgement is eternal. The Supreme Court judgement of 1989 is there like granite. I appeared in the case together with my friend Adeniran before I went abroad again. Agbaje was leading us then and Chief Ladapo was on the other side at the Supreme Court. Because our evidence could not be controverted, we were called by eminent people of Ibadanland including the IPU, for talk. That was the premise of the consent judgement the Supreme Court gave then. And one of the options given then was that we should be the third line to join at Ekerin Balogun and Ekerin Olubadan stage. And they accepted, and everybody signed. But at the stage of implementation, they now faltered. In 1999, when they filed an appeal, the Judge at the Court of Appeal then said we should not enforce yet, but wait for the appeal decision, and they started filling the chieftaincy positions. At their third time of appeal in the Supreme Court, the same Appeal Court Judge (Justice Akintan), who had then been promoted to the Supreme Court, was the same Justice who said they should go away and implement the earlier judgement. But despite two enforcement injunctions even in 2007, they have refused. But notwithstanding, the Supreme Court judgement crystallises and it is there for ever. It is not a matter which anybody can willy nilly rubbish. The Supreme Court judgment on Seriki matter is like land judgement. It is perpetual. Somebody will implement it, honour it and observe its collective honouring one day. It is not an individual thing. The trappings of the matter will be unravelled in due course. Prince Femi Oyediji, is another son of the late business mogul, who described their father as “a great fighter who hates cheating others or being cheated. He believed in maintaining peace, just as to him, good name is worth more than money. He was a philanthropist per excellence and we the children shall continue to cherish his legacies”, he said.
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