The Alaaye of Oke Aiyedun in Ikole Local Government Area of
Ekiti State, Oba Jacob Fatunase Ala, Okunoye II, is a man of many
firsts. He was the first principal of Ado Grammar School, Ado Ekiti; the
founder and life president of Inland Club, Ado Ekiti; the first
chairman of Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation, the first Vice
Principal of Offa Grammar School, among many others. He bestrides his
Oke Aiyedun town as the first truly educated monarch and has brought a
lot of innovations to the community since he ascended the throne 27
years ago. He discussed some of his experiences in 100 years of life,
with SAM NWAOKO in this interview. Excerpts:
How does it feel to be this active, cheerful and obviously
exceptionally energetic at a splendid 100 years of age? What is the
I don’t think I have enough words to describe exactly how happy I am
to be in this position. As a child, my mother told me that for a period
of four months after I was born that I was neither here nor there. The
face showed life but I was all skeleton. I survived it. I also had
smallpox which killed very many people who were my age, younger and
older in my community. I survived it. Ups and downs of life as I live, I
survive them. When I was coming on board as the traditional ruler, the
fears expressed by very many was that I wasn’t going to last beyond
three to four years on the throne. That was the main objection to my
nomination, that I wasn’t likely to live long. God knows exactly how He
plans His things. I’m already in my 27th year of my administration and
100th year of my life. Why should I not be cheerful and happy?
In July 1930, a group of us who were youngsters in the church came
together and we were called the Egbé Omo Ogun Krístì. We were over 30 at
that time. Today, I am the last surviving member of that group.
I was the foundation chairman of Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation,
that was after my retirement. After I finished my contract there, I was
still brought back by the then governor, Chief Michael Ajasin, as a
commissioner in the Civil Service Commission. I’ve been all over these
places, hale and hearty. God granted me that. My only deformity is that I
can’t hear with one of my ears. And in my family, it is said that it is
normal, that as you grow old you lose your hearing. I don’t know how it
happened, but in my own case, I’m not totally deaf. But for my
cataract that was mishandled.
Your Christian faith seems so dear to your heart and in your thought?
I had the benefit of being baptised as a child because my father was a
Christian. Therefore, I grew in the Methodist Church. When the time
came for me to be on my own and work, when I was at Fourah Bay College I
took a removal notice from Ibadan. As soon as I showed it to the
reverend gentleman who was in charge of the Methodist Church in Sierra
Leone, he gave me a note to the reverend gentleman who was in charge of
the oldest and the biggest Methodist Church in Freetown. I presented my
certificate and he said you are free to take the pulpit anytime you feel
so. I would have, but I was spending so much time on my study that I
couldn’t avail myself of that opportunity.
When I came back, I went to Offa Grammar School, which was more
Muslim than anything. I was the first vice principal of Offa Grammar
What was growing up like in Aiyedun, looking at the changes you’ve seen?
If likes continue to produce likes, there wouldn’t have been
evolution. It was because there had been progress. I remember that one
of my teachers told me that the giraffe developed its long neck because
it takes delight in eating the soft new leaves on top of the tree,
therefore it continously stretches its neck. I read that a certain type
of fish that had no eyes. They didn’t need it because they lived in the
darkest past of the sea and everywhere was completely dark. What you
don’t use becomes moribund. Because they live in the dark and it was
completely dark, therefore they didn’t need any eyes. So what you need
is what you develop as you grow along. That is progress. Every group in
the community, even up to Odo Aiyedun, including women and youth groups,
now keeps records. It brings to mind decisions taken at meetings and
how such decisions were reached.
As a Christian, how did you handle the sacrifices and fetish actions required of you as an oba in your community?
Yes, in those days, you cannot be a titular chief or any sort of
thing like that without being involved in some fetish things and the
like. But I easily managed the situation in my own case because you have
your sphere of influence and I have my sphere of influence. You are
asking me to come along and sit on the throne to administer. That has
nothing to do with religion. I have to face nothing more but my
administration. What you are doing is religion. If I am not interested,
that’s all, keep me out. You cannot force me and say because you’re so
and so, you must come and join us. Look, if it is that, I will go back
the way I came. You know these days of having vigils and vigils and
vigils, the question was put to me. The people who belong to the fetish
sort of group would want to come out anytime and disturb people because
they must not be seen in the dark. I said okay, let us work out a
You must have been a very active young man…
…Am I not young now?
I mean when you were much younger than 100, you must have been very active?
If you don’t remain active, you become moribund and you are packed
and put by the side. You must be active and calculative in whatever you
As a strict, disciplined person, how did your wife cope with you?
Very, very, simple. She knew my rules. My rules are very simple. I
bring up issues and we both agree. That’s what we are going to do. It is
the woman who takes care of the home. Don’t hide anything from your
wife. If you hide anything from your wife, the day she discovers that
you’re hiding certain things, you get into trouble. Be very plain. I had
one or two children out of marriage. I didn’t hide it from my wife. I
let her understand that I fathered them. But since you came on board,
that’s the end. If anybody comes along when I pass on to say that he’s
older than the baby of the family, disown him. My baby of the family is
already 51 years. So, if anybody younger than that comes along claiming
that I fathered him, tell him that he is a bastard.
So, polygamy was out of the question in your days…?
What do I want to do with polygamy? You want to play manhood and show her what?
Where did you grow up?
My beginning was here in Oke Aiyedun. Between 1926 and 1930, I was an
‘osomalo’ with my father. We dealt in textile materials and so on. What
‘osomalos’ did was that if I wanted my money from you, because we
normally sold on credit, and you tell me you don’t have my money, you
must find it. The day I set my eyes on you and I want my money, you must
get it for me! How I played the trick, I wouldn’t know. I would play
the trick that would make people say, look here, unless you give this
man his money, he will kill himself… That’s why we say ‘osomalo’. I’m
going to squat, I will not even sit before I get my money. There were
several episodes of that.
Which primary school did you attend?
The Methodist Primary School at Aiyedun here. After the primary
school, I taught for a year as a junior teacher. It was a must for the
Methodist. Then I went to Wesley College, Ibadan to train as a teacher.
Then I came back to teach here, went to Kogi to teach in primary school.
After three years in primary school, I went back to my alma mater to
teach. A lot of people passed through my fingers between 1945 and 1948
and then again between 1975 when I finally retired from service and 1979
when Ajasin came on board. Teaching was my profession. When I was a
pupil teacher in the primary school, I was a flogger. When I wanted to
give you six strokes of the cane, I tell you to stretch out both hands
because I couldn’t waste my time raising my hands six times. The two
hands must be there and you must keep steady otherwise I begin again.
Which are some of your remarkable students you can still recall?
My wife was one of the many students I treated in that way. My own wife!
Did she come back telling you some of those things?
Oh! Yes… They are still living today, one of her friends had said to
her: ‘Ha! You’re going to marry that man? Ha! You are going to receive a
lot of whipping! But I confess to you that we were together all the
time till she passed on, we never settled any quarrel with somebody
coming in. If she had any disagreement or she felt bad about anything,
we settle in bed.
Which other students do you recall, apart from your late wife?
I recall a few of them, and that is why they have all said they want
to honour me with their presence at my 100th birthday celebration. Some
of them who recall my attitude and the way I brought them up said they
must honour me. I remember Matthew Adepoju who is a practising lawyer in
Ibadan. Mr I. A. Babalola is also a lawyer, he was my first housemaster
when I was at Ago Iwoye Secondary School. The way you relate to people
will make them cling to you.
Looking at your nuclear family, didn’t your strict ways tend
to make any of your children defiant if they find your strict ways
How can they find it difficult when I brought them up on point of
discipline? You are growing up and from the child is brought into this
world, this is how the child is going to be fed and when it is time to
go to school, you let them go to school at the right time. Give them
every opportunity that they want to go to school. They come back, you
give them their meal. I don’t normally eat any evening meal. This is
because when I complained to Mrs Solaru, a nurse, that I was having
constipation, she recommended light meal in the morning, very heavy
meal, if you like, in the afternoon and very light, if you have
anything, in the evening. I kept to that, my children kept to that. I
had a rule in the family, if your last meal for the day had not been
completed and finished with by sunset, you would go to bed on an empty