The Oniba of Iba in Lagos State, Oba Sulaimon Raji, tells MUHAMMED LAWAL about his childhood and what makes him different as a traditional ruler, among other issues
What kind of family were you born into?
I am from a royal family in Iba and my mother is from a royal family in Igbesa, Ogun State. You can see that my parents are from royal families. My children can also become kings due to my mother’s royalty background. My father’s mother, from Ogun State, was also from a royal family. My grandfather is from Iba where I am a king.
I am from a poor family. My family is a large one. We have Idowu Balogun, Ashade, Busari, and Ikete families, among others. I am from the Ashade family. There are many Ashades.
Why were you from a poor yet royal family?
I grew up with my father who was a poor man. He was a farmer.
How many siblings do you have?
I have many siblings.
How did you spend your childhood?
My childhood was okay, I thank God. Who am I? As a child, if I did not go to the bush to fetch firewood, I would not get food to eat. I have worked as a porter. I have worked as a labourer on a construction site. Not long ago, I bought a hotel but never knew that I worked as a labourer during the construction of the hotel. I have worked with a company that empties septic tanks and I used to be a lout. If I did not do those jobs, my family would not have found food to eat, but I am a content person. Many of my friends have died as a result of wanting to become something, so, who am I to be alive?
Did your parents ever tell you that you would become a king?
In 2016, I was chosen by an oracle to become a king in Igbesa, Ogun State. In the end, my father and a deceased king (Oba Oseni of blessed memory), did not agree. They asked me what I was going to do in Igbesa and advised me not to go there. I was advised to focus on my job. I never knew that one day, I would become the king of Iba. I never dreamt of it, but people have been calling me Adesina.
What is your level of education and which schools did you attend?
I attended Local Authority Primary School and later attended a government college. I could not proceed beyond that because there was no capacity to do so.
What was your occupation before you became a king?
I was a transporter and I am into real estate management.
Can you narrate how you emerged as the Oniba of Iba? Was it by election or selection?
I became a king when the late king (Oba Oseni of blessed memory) went to meet his ancestors and the oracle was consulted. Before that time, we had a case in court and we won the case on July 3, 2018. The former king was a father to me. He trained me and made me who I am today. The former king’s death on May 3, 2020, led to the consultation of Ifa at Idowu Balogun to inquire about who it had chosen by the custodians of rulership in Iba. During this journey, my family chose me and there were many other contestants from other royal families. At the end of it all, God said I would be the one to sit on the throne of my forefathers and I thank God for what He has done.
You were a unionist before you became a king. Can you briefly share your experience as a former chairman of Nagari Nakowa Motorcycle Owners and Riders Associatioin, Lagos State chapter, an affiliate of the National Union of Road Transport Workers?
I thank God for everything. I was the chairman of okada riders in Lagos State. Then, it was tough. In 2015 when I contested the chairmanship of the association, it was very tough but I won. It was between me and one of my brothers who is a Baale now. After the election, we continued the journey and the association is Nagari Nakowa Motorcycles Owners and Riders Association of Lagos. When I became a king, the government asked me to continue with it. So, they thought it would not disturb my traditional rites. I took it (the responsibility) since I will not take my crown there (to NNMORAL).
Did you face any opposition from a ruling house before becoming a king?
We have four ruling houses and they were a big opposition. I faced the court and I went through different challenges. Today, we have no opposition again in the community; we are all one. Everything I do in the community today, I cannot do without them and they have been assisting me because I cannot do it alone. I love them the way I love myself.
Why did some people feel that you did not deserve to become the Oniba of Iba?
People will not contest a bad thing with you; it is what is good that people will contest with you. Even your biological child could contest the thing with you. He could say, “Why my father, why not me?” Your biological siblings are not left out too. As a human being, if you do not face challenges, you have to check yourself well. May we overcome our challenges. If you do not harbour ill feelings about others and you keep helping people, your prayers will be answered.
How would you describe your experience on the throne? Has it been challenging or rewarding?
If you have not taken up the position of a king, you will not know how it is. It is only who God has given the power to do so that He enthrones. Since I became a king, God has been helping me to carry out my responsibilities. God has made it easy for me. Everything I have done has been successful. Before I take a step to do anything, God has already answered the prayer. I am only concerned about community development and the progress of the people in the community. I want people to be happy, that they are all doing well. That is why my community has progressed so much. This is not by power, money, or spirituality; it is by God’s grace. I thank God for what He has done for me. People wonder whether I have been a king for many years because of what I have done. However, this is my third year on the throne.Related
During the contest over who would become the new king, those who contested against me had more qualifications than I did. Some had Master’s and doctorates. I was the only one with a school certificate but I prayed. Today, we are all on the same level. Why me? What do I have that someone has not had before? I use myself as an example to people. In the past, people used to hire me to fight for them but, I thank God today because it is not by my power and I will continue to tell the truth. If anyone uses my influence outside to commit a crime, that person will face the consequences.
Well, before I became the king, I did a lot of things. When I was living in Igbo Elerin, I used to rehabilitate the roads in the community and I did not contest any political position. I just love the people in the community and we cannot leave everything for the government to do. When I became the king, I continued rehabilitating the roads in my community. I constructed a bridge recently, before constructing the bridge, I spent over N20m working on the road when I saw that there was a problem. I rented a machine for 30 days to do that. Despite that, whenever it rains, the work gets damaged. I looked for an expert and we built a bridge with my money. I spent over N100m. Also, I recruited security guards and I bought two motorcycles for their patrols.
Where was the bridge built?
The area where the bridge was built is called Igbeyinadun (New Haven Estate) in the Iba community. I want my community members to be happy, so I bought a transformer as well. Since I became the king, I have bought seven transformers. Since the removal of the fuel subsidy, I have been donating food items and sharing palliatives to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal. I also built a health centre and equipped it with some machines and chairs. I also built a court. Also, I have over 300 employees working in my hotels, filling stations, and my real estate company.
Every community has its dos and don’ts. What are the things forbidden in Iba?
Let me keep that to myself. On December 7, 2023, which is my coronation anniversary, you will know them.
Are there festivals Iba is known for?
Yes. They are Yewa, Ayoka, Egungun, Ogun and Esu (festivals).
You wear golden beads instead of the normal ones worn by many traditional rulers. What is the reason behind that?
Well, there is no big reason behind it. It is just for fancy, style, and aesthetics, and I use them to dance too.
There are concerns about the prevalence of cultists and internet fraudsters in your community; some people even think Iba is becoming a haven for criminals. Is that true?
If only you knew what it was before I became the king. I have called all the boys together and warned them, I have also empowered them and given them some jobs to do. Everybody knows that since I became the king, I have been engaging them, telling those who do not have a jobs not to commit crimes. In the past, one could not pass the Iba community at 2am because they (criminals) would waylay you. But we thank God for today, now everyone can now work and feed themselves. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We have asked them what they want and we have empowered them.
Many monarchs are known for having more than one wife. How many do you have?
I have two beautiful wives.
Do you plan to marry more?
For this, it is as God pleases.
How many children do you have?
I am blessed with many great children.
You have been described as the committee chairman of Lagos State Park Administrators. Are you really the chairman?
I have been seeing posts on social media platforms questioning my participation in union activities as a king. At least, a king who does not have a job will have to feed.
How did you emerge as the chairman? Do you have a letter of appointment from the state government as the Chairman of LASPGA?
It all started when the government called us to say that they had suspended the activities of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria in the state because of the chaos and killings going on. There was a fight that broke out at Iyana Iba which led to the death of some people. The government saw that it could not lose control of the state and decided to appoint me to oversee the affairs of the association. The reason why it appointed me was because I had worked in that capacity before and it understood that I could manage the affairs of the union without any issue. The (then) Special Adviser on Transportation to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Sola Giwa, inaugurated us and it was published in the papers. Since then, there has been peace in Lagos State.
Don’t you find it strange being the committee chairman of LASPGA and a king at the same time?
Truly, I am a king, but I do not take my kingship to work. I do not carry my crown to work or wear agbada and beads; it is against the rule of traditional rulers. There is a difference between union work and the palace. Before I became a king, people knew what I was doing. They know that I am a peace ambassador; that is why they appointed me, and I united everybody and things have been working smoothly in Lagos State. I work hand-in-hand with the government and my colleagues.