Residents of the ancient city of Ibadan and well-wishers from across the country and beyond roll out the drums to honour Samuel Osundiran Odulana, the Olubadan of Ibadan, as he marks his 100th birthday
If many are asked who was the one Nigerian born in 1914, the year of the country’s amalgamation, who fought in the second civil war, served as parliamentarian secretary to Tafawa Balewa, late prime minister, and later became a prominent traditional ruler of the largest city in Africa, they will probably look skywards for help. Samuel Osundiran Odulana, the Olubadan of Ibadan, enjoys that rare milestone. This week, the respected monarch turns 100 years with choice events planned around the cosmopolitan city to honour him.
The weeklong celebration will lean heavily on the arts – docudrama, stage play, symposium and carnivals. Budding poets and writers from Oyo State will have an opportunity to capture the life and achievements of the Olubadan in poetry, articles and essays. Outstanding entries will subsequently be published. Odulana will also honour Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, David Mark, Senate president, and Toyin Falola, a renowned historian, with chieftaincy titles.
Lekan Alabi, a traditional chief and chairman, publicity sub-committee, centenary celebration, says the occasion calls for drums, cymbals and flutes. “What we are celebrating is a royal father with distinguishing features in his private and public life. Therefore, the centenary birthday celebration of such a cosmopolitan king should not and cannot be organised without the invitation, participation and conscious raising of awareness to the whole world,” said Alabi.
According to him, the political and historical status of Ibadan makes it imperative to host the celebration in grand style. Bola Tinubu, national leader, All Progressives Congress, APC, shares this opinion: “Ibadan represented the best of the Yoruba culturally, intellectually, politically and socially.” Ibadan has a unique monarchical system. There are no royal houses and definitely no squabble over who becomes the next king. For every Ibadan indigene already climbing the succession ladder, longevity is the only qualification.
“In Ibadan traditional system, a male is made the head of the family and he is called the mogaji. The prayer of every mogaji is that he should be lucky to be recognised by any incumbent Olubadan to be promoted in the traditional hierarchy. You become the Olubadan when you have successfully climbed from the bottom of ladder. On the Olubadan line, it is 22 steps. On the Balogun line, it is 23 steps,” explained Balogun.
For the Olubadan, it is a long walk to the throne. His first steps to the traditional royal stool were first taken in 1973 when he became the Jagun of Ibadan. Yet, it took him more than 30 years to climb the crucial 22 ladders to become king. He finally became the Olubadan in 2007, at the age of 93. With his advanced age, Oba Odulana is reputed as the oldest person to be crowned Olubadan in recent history.
The grand celebration of the Olubadan promises to be a salute to his grit and courage. Tinubu describes the monarch as a man of vision and integrity. “The Olubadan has been a strong moral compass when everything around seems to have gone awry. Just three years on the throne, and he has firmly established himself as a pillar of rectitude, when even next door, there is a tragic celebration of turpitude.”
Odulana is not only a voice of reason for Ibadan and beyond, he is noted for the promotion of education, a bias he has held right from his youth. As a politician, Oba Odulana founded the education committee in Ibadan. The Olubadan is a founding member of the Ibadan Progressive Union, IPU. One of the mandates of the union is to give scholarship to brilliant but indigent Ibadan indigenes.
Adegoke Adelabu, the late federal minister and member of the Western Region House of Assembly, is said to be a beneficiary of the IPU. The Olubadan was also involved in the establishment of the Igbo-Elerin Grammar School, Ibadan. Oladapo Afolabi, former head of service, is an old boy of the school.
As a monarch, the Olubadan has been working to change the status quo in the education sector. When he became king, the Olubadan insisted that anybody aspiring to be a mogaji in Ibadan must have a minimum of school certificate. He has also been championing the building of a modern palace in Ibadan. According to Lana, the Olubadan is also keen on the creation of Ibadan State.
Odulana, a first class chief, is an accomplished professional. The Olubadan brought years of experience, professionalism and uncommon goodwill to the throne. As a soldier, he fought in the Second World War among others, defending Britain. He is also a former minister of state for labour who discharged his duties to the best of his abilities. However, not many people know that the Olubadan was an amateur boxer and used to spar with friends. He also loves music.
The monarch is reputed to be a stickler for discipline and excellence. Femi Lana, his first child, believes he got the worst spanking from his father among all the children. Lana, who is a director, research and head of Microbiology Department, Lead City University, Ibadan, said the beating was so much one day that he ran across the road to his grandfather, the future Olubadan, in hot pursuit. “My grandfather came out with his own cane and my father had no choice but to turn back,” Lana told the magazine.
In spite of brushes with his father as a young man, Lana says the Olubadan is the best father anybody can have. “My father cares a lot but he is a practical individual who does not shy away from telling the truth. He was a soldier, politician and traditional leader who hardly had the time to sit down with his children because of his callings. But he is a natural father who would have loved the conventional family lifestyle.”
Lana also gives a glimpse into the life of the Olubadan. According to him, Oba Odulana is conscious of his health and loves to exercise. Even at his advanced age, Lana says Moriyike Lana, the Olori (queen), takes him on a walk around the palace at least four times a week. Curiously, Lana does not pray for the longevity gene his father enjoys. “I don’t want to be 100 years old. Once I am 80, 85, let them begin to open the door for me. A man who used to be agile, now the aging process has caught up with him,” says the 68-year-old Lana.