I’m almost totally blind but still write at night –Olanrewaju Adepoju
• By SOLA ADEYEMO
•Needs N7million for eye surgery
Chief Mas’ud Olanrewaju Adepoju is the Alaasa of Ibadanland. The self-made 77-year old popular Ewi exponent and devout Muslim never saw the four walls of any classroom but speaks fluent English, courtesy of his personal effort to get educated when he was very young. In this interview with SOLA ADEYEMO in Ibadan, the unassuming septuagenarian ex-broadcaster and author of some published books, speaks on his life history, his contributions to the society through the series of Ewi albums he had waxed, and his current visual challenge which has limited his efforts to wax more albums and move about willingly. He also speaks about the urgent need to raise about N7m for eye surgery in India for among other issues. Excerpts:
How did you become the Alaasa of Ibadanland?
I happen to be the Alaasa of Ibadanland. It is a title given to me by the Olubadan Oba Asanke. The title was taken away from the late Chief Bola Ige who used derogatory words against Ibadan and its indigenes. It infuriated a lot of Ibadan citizens including the Olubadan of Ibadanland and so the title was withdrawn from him through a letter.
How then did the chieftaincy title devolve on you?
Some of us were involved in looking for someone who could replace Chief Bola Ige then, including Justice Emmanuel Fakayode, another notable citizen. As we were going about looking for a substitute, we got to the chieftaincy traditional house of the then Balogun Olubadan and at a time when we were reporting to him our efforts so far, he pointed at me and asked if I had been given any chieftaincy title, and I said no. But when I discovered that he meant it and wanted me to be the successor, I withdrew from the team going about looking for substitute because I wasn’t interested in taking the chieftaincy title at that time.
At a point, the then Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Arisekola Alao, got involved and spoke to me about it. Justice Emmanuel Fakayode also spoke to me, begging me seriously to take the chieftaincy title, and it was Arisekola who financed the installation ceremony.
He bought two cows and sent them to me for the preparation. After listening to the appeal made by Justice Fakayode, I had to accept the offer, and I was given the title of Alaasa of Ibadanland, (the Shield Bearer to the Olubadan).
How old are you now?
Well, the date of my birth was quite uncertain, but some observant members of our family indicated to me that it could be June 30, 1940, and I had to adopt that day as my birthday. So, I am now a 77-year-old man.
Having lived up to this age, how would you assess your living and fulfillment in life?
Well, I am thankful to God that I have lived this long, and I still hope to live longer through the kindness of the Almighty Allah. I am self-made man and I have to thank God for making it possible for me to achieve some of those things I have achieved in life.
This is because I never went to school at all, all my years. It was not until I had passed the school age that I started picking up my education here and there. I have never seen the four walls of any formal classroom for the purpose of reading and learning.
Some of my cousins who used to come to our village for holidays were the ones I was moving about with. But at a time, while speaking, they would switch to English Language but when I didn’t understand what they were speaking, I wasn’t happy about it.
Then I started saving money like one penny, half a penny until I saved one Shilling and six Pence with which I bought my first textbook ever. That was ‘A B D Olope’ in those days. It was one of my cousins, Muili Oyedele, who started teaching me the Yoruba alphabet.
So, when I was able to read and write somehow, I had to move from the Oke-Pupa Village in the Iddo Local Government Area of Oyo State, to the city of Ibadan. When I came to the town, I learnt some trades like cutting of hair, which I practised for some time.
Then, I learnt making embroidery on some Yoruba traditional attires like ‘agbada’. Shortly before that, I did a lot of odd jobs like ‘house boy’ all in an effort to save money for my continuing education. I also sold newspapers and magazines as a vendor.
When I was able to read and write effectively, I started going to the then Western State Library which became my second home in those days. I was used to discussing with my colleagues and asking questions from them in the library. They would explain meaning of some difficult words to me.
I had been a very brilliant child such that I was also frequenting the University of Ibadan where some of my colleagues were already undergraduates. When I saw some of these colleagues discussing, I would stay with them and be stealing some of their words.
At this time, I served as a petrol station attendant, and from there I started taking part in television and radio programmes with the then Radio Nigeria and the WNTV/ WNBS, now defunct. My contributions to programmes caught the attention of the WNTV and WNBS and they offered me an appointment as a contract officer in the Programmes Department. I was there for quite some time and I did a lot of work there.
Does that mean that you also practised as a broadcaster in the past?
Yes, indeed. That is what I am about to explain to you. I worked in the programmes department translating and reading Yoruba news to the people. I was also producing and presenting ‘Kaaro, Oo jiire’ on radio and television. And I was producing and presenting ‘Tiwa n Tiwa,’ a Yoruba magazine programme on radio. I was producing and presenting ‘Gbele Gbo’ a musical programme on radio.
And I was the only voice producing ‘Ijinji Akewi,’ a programme introduced by myself and aired at 6.25 a.m every morning to encourage people going to work to know what to do and what not to do at work. I was handling 13 different drama groups and I was producing and presenting them. Because of shortage of staff at the corporation then, I used to manage the continuity some times and then I would close the station at 12 midnight sometimes. I was overloaded with work that I was reading news 13 times in a week in Yoruba. But later I discovered that it was a tough training ground for me.
At the time when I was in broadcasting, we established a drama group led by the late Adebayo Faleti. He was our leader then. He was the leader and founder of ‘Egbe Alebiosu Drama Group.’ I was part of it. At another time when Egbe Alebiosu had problems with some of its members, I established my own ‘Akewi Theatre Company’ which was extending entertainments to various parts of the country including the North where Yoruba -speaking people lived in appreciable number. All along, I had no programme for myself except doing broadcasting full time.
It got to a point when my contributions especially in Ewi industry caught the attention of the management and they wanted to start publishing my Ewi at the corporation level but with copyright residing with the corporation. When they suggested this to me, this copyright issue, I vehemently resisted and it led to my final disappearance from the broadcasting scene.
They give me the condition that I had to submit the script of my past Ewi broadcast on radio and television on or before a particular date, I had to resign my paid appointment and I paid one month in lieu of notice. That was what was responsible for my sudden disappearance from the broadcasting scene. And thereafter I established my own company: Lanre Adepoju Records which is now LANRAD Records Limited. And then I started waxing my Ewi metaphysical records for my innumerable fans.
Thereafter I engaged other up-and-coming artistes who patronised our label for the entertainment industry.
With all these revelations, I could say that your inability to go to any formal school must have denied you some opportunities in spite of your natural endowment…
You are right. My having no formal education denied me a lot of things when I was in broadcasting. It got to a stage when I had to apply for a loan to buy Vespa which was at that time quite some amount of money. But because as at that time I didn’t have any certificate to present, the corporation denied me the loan. I didn’t have it despite the fact that my name was a bombshell everywhere. You see life is interesting. When I was putting efforts and spending money on my education, some people thought that I wasn’t honest enough that I didn’t go to school and that I could speak English fluently.
My knowledge of English Language attracted the university communities to the extent that they were inviting me for lectures including the University of Ibadan, the University of Ife before it became Obafemi Awolowo University, the University of Technology, Minna, the University of Technology, Akure, and the University of Lagos just to mention a few.
I thank God who made it possible for me to go that far. At a time, I started writing books. I am the author of ‘Ladepo Omo Adanwo’, a drama book; ‘Sagba diwere,’ a drama book; and ‘Ironu Akewi,’ the first anthology of my poems.
Each of these three books was adopted as a textbook even to the university level at that time. Later, I wrote ‘Orirun Yoruba’, which was also popular. I am also the author of ‘The Absurdity of Trinity,’ which is in English. I am a self-made man completely.
Overseas, innate intelligence and natural endowments are recognised in people and so catered for instead of insisting on certification before people are employed. You have been a victim of such. What is your advice for the government on this?
Well, I think government should set up a powerful committee that will look for talents, and not for people who could speak English alone. This is because there are so many talents being buried here and there in Nigeria. This situation should be reversed and the government should come in to ensure Nigeria progresses on the ability of good citizens to make meaningful contribution to the orderly progress of the society.
What is the condition of your Olanrewaju Adepoju Records now?
Well, because of the factor of Nigerian economy so many people are no longer in a position to buy CDs or cassettes of certain classes of people. But I have now gone on website where my works are being sold. My website is: http://www. olanrewajuadepoju.com, where people buy my Ewi hit-hot series of records. If you visit that site, you will discover that almost all my 100 albums are there.
If you are enabled, can you still write and wax albums or Dds?
I am still writing especially in the night when I think I am free from interruptions and disturbances. I have written so many Ewi now awaiting publication, recording and final distribution to the people. But the only challenge I have now is my eye problem. The eye problem is really disturbing me.
What is the condition of your sight now and what really caused the defect?
Well, you know, it is a very long story. There was a time when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu wanted to go for second term in Lagos. He contacted the then governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lam Adesina, to help him get in touch with me, and when Lam phoned me, I asked him to book an appointment with Asiwaju.
I went to meet him in Lagos and he briefed me properly about his achievements and what he had in mind for the future. Then I insisted on seeing the projects he had done during his first term in office. He appointed some government officials who took me round the projects with siren-blowing vehicle. When I was taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, they showed me a unit where they were taking care of those who had eye problems. I could see that the equipment there were similar to those brought by the Saudi Arabia Ophthalmologists when I was bringing them to the country.
I then asked them how I could be treated because my right eye had by then giving some signs of blindness. When they examined me, they referred me to the scanning section where they discovered that it was retinal detachment. They gave me a letter to the Eye Foundation in Ikeja.
There, they said that their normal charge was N600, 000 which I paid much later. So, they did the operation by putting the retina together again. But much later after the operation, it was discovered that it didn’t work. I lost sight completely in the right eye.
The left eye with which I now do faint work started giving some problems too, and then I had to take that to a private hospital where they removed the cataract, but they said that cataract and glaucoma were present in the eye.
The glaucoma was very stubborn and it is still there. One of the members of my religious organisation: The Universal Muslim Brotherhood, went to India with his wife who had kidney problem. They did the surgery successfully and when the young man came back, he said the defect in my eye can be done in India because they did about three in his presence and he knew that they could do mine. So, we got to the Ophthalmologists there who insisted on seeing the medical reports which they would send to the Embassy here so that they could give us visa.
When we calculated all the expenses including the visa, the ticket, medical bill, the hotel accommodation and other expenses, it was about N7m. This was about few months ago. A lady in the US wanted to give me an award as she was giving to celebrities across the world. She contacted Wale Ojo-Lanre, the former NUJ Chairman here in Oyo State and former Chief Press Secretary to the former Ekiti State Governor Mr. Segun Oni. The kind-hearted young man came here on behalf of that lady who said after listening to one of my Ewi hit hot: ‘Kadara,’ her life changed for the better.
When Wale came here, he saw me being piloted around the compound, he was touched and he promised to make contacts so that we could raise the money. He then put it on the Internet, even without discussing it with me that he would go that far. He later explained why he did that and I was convinced. Since then we started reaching out to the people through that medium.
After some pleasant responses from across the globe, Wale asked for my bank account which he published and some donations have been coming in in trickles since then. The people in India insisted on seeing the medical report and I have got one from the Ring Road State Hospital here in Oyo State, while I am awaiting another one from the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan here.
But the strong appeal now is for people of means to come to my aid and assistance. I could have done it myself but I invested heavily on a project which is yet to be yielding result. I cannot continue to wait indefinitely and that is where the problem is.
How much have you got and like how much would you still need to facilitate the travel and operation?
We have just got some money under N1m. We still have a lot of money to raise for the operation to be successfully done.
Which set of people do you really have in mind that can assist you in this critical period of yours?
Well, so many people have advised me to contact Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. They had asked whether I don’t know him. I said I waxed a record for Asiwaju Tinubu, and I waxed a record for Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State. I waxed a record for Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, now a minister. I waxed a record for Rauf Aregbesola, the Ogbeni of Osun; and I waxed a record for Alao-Akala. I also waxed a record for Senator Abiola Ajimobi. So, if all those, or any politician or businessmen who have the fear of Allah can come to my assistance in this hour of need, I will greatly appreciate them.
Adepoju’s contact: Zenith Bank account number 1011948680
Culled from New Telegraph