Oba (Dr.) Adedapo Adewale Tejuoso has the distinction of being the only traditional ruler in Yorubaland, and perhaps the entire country, of wearing two crowns. His secular crown is that of the Osile Oke-Ona of Egba, which is the one most people within and outside his kingdom know. What many do not know is that he also wears the religious crown of an anointed Man of God. Now, if you thought tradition and religion cannot mix harmoniously for the good of society, he has been able to prove you wrong. Ask his subjects and followers.
As a king, Tejuoso is well grounded in the tradition of his forefathers, as should be expected, though not warts and all. As a preacher, he is well versed in the word of God. His penchant to lace his discussions with Biblical references and the tendency to try to live according to injunctions by the Holy Book leave you in no doubt about the fact that he is a king with a difference. Which makes his dual identity quite an interesting one.
A king as a preacher
As part of events to mark his 76th birthday anniversary in 2015, the Kabiyesi organized a five-day religious crusade at Lekki, Victoria Island, which attracted men of God from within and outside the country, with attendance of over 3,000 worshippers. It was quite a spectacle to see a traditional ruler, with his royal cap on the head, complete with walking stick, on the pulpit. And to emphasize his royalty, Tejuoso sat down to preach, against the tradition of preachers standing to deliver sermon.
“You have seen that people stand up to preach, but you haven’t seen someone sit down to preach”, he told an interviewer on the sidelines of the crusade. “Kings sit. If we were to do it as it’s been done, you are meant to stand as I am sitting, but in Christ Jesus we are all kings”.
He spoke about his decision to wear his crown on the pulpit. “You can see that I am wearing a crown tonight. If I didn’t wear my crown, passersby would not know that a new thing has started. When they see that it’s an oba on the pulpit, they would want to hear what I have to say and in the process, God will arrest them”.
The traditional institution in Nigeria and, indeed, Africa, is generally associated with fetishism – rituals, black magic and occult. It is therefore a mystery how a custodian of such tradition is able to practice his religion, especially one that abhors what some parts of the tradition holds sacred.
But Tejuoso has proved to be a different breed of king. He has been able to conduct his affairs as a king without being tied to an aspect of the tradition that offends his religious beliefs and sensibilities, like idol worship, an integral part of the activities of a king in the part of the country he comes from. He sees idol worship as an attempt to leave the Creator to worship His creation.
Clash with tradition
When Tejuoso ascended the throne of his forefathers in 1989 and served notice of his intention to remain committed to the doctrines of his Christian faith, many were there who scoffed at what they saw as an attempt to renounce the system that produced him, especially given his criticism of some of the ancient practices that cannot go with the teachings of his faith. But they were in for a surprise. Not only did he abolish idol worship, he proceeded, on his 67th birthday anniversary in 2005, to cause to be removed, the Obatala idol in his family compound at Ago-Oko, Oke-Ona, in Abeokuta, which had been there for centuries.
The action predictably incurred the wrath of idol worshipers in his kingdom who not only condemned his attempt to obliterate history, but also challenged him to an open duel to see whose god was more powerful, quite reminiscent of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in the Bible.
A fellow king went a step further to write an article in a national newspaper declaring him unfit to rule, an action Tejuoso considered a challenge to God on whose instruction he removed the idol. The king’s death barely one year after writing the newspaper article became the subject of speculations, with many linking the death to his effrontery at challenging God’s command to his servant.
Tejuoso also grabbed the headlines when he publicly renounced his membership of Order of Freemasons.
Tejuoso, Karunwi the Third, is a descendant of a long line of nobility, and the only son of the third Iyaolde of Egbaland, Madam Bisoye Tejuoso, the late matriarch of the Tejuoso clan. He was born with the proverbial silver spoon, thanks to a mother who cut her teeth in business at an early age, rising to become one of Nigeria’s most successful businesswomen and the country’s third industrialist.
However, being born into affluence did not make Tejuoso a spoilt child, as he proved to be an embodiment of discipline, on account of having decent, loving and highly disciplined parents in Pa Somoye, his excellent role model, and Madam Bisoye Tejuoso. He also had, as what he called super role model, Reverend Israel Oladotun Ransome Kuti, his principal at Abeokuta Grammar School where he had his secondary education, from 1951 to 1059.
It was Kuti who taught him that knowledge without character is like a chaff of wheat. He also received great tutorship from his science teachers – chiefs (Drs.) Femi and Dotun Oyewole, who were both his mother’s classmates at St. John’s Primary School, where his father was the head teacher in the early 1930s.
A positive mind conditioner strategically pasted in all the classrooms at Abeokuta Grammar School, which read thus – My character is greater than my books – also helped to shape the character of the man who would one day become a role model to others.
Tejuoso’s membership of Rotary International District 9110 has contributed immensely to sharpening his life. It is from the organization he learnt the virtue of serving others without counting costs. He also learnt that the organization teaches its members to work with others to achieve a better society for all, thus bringing hope to a troubled world. He therefore recommends its membership to all business as well as professional men and women.
The royal father studied medicine outside the shores of Nigeria, and returned to establish the Tejuoso Group of Hospitals, becoming a highly successful medical practitioner. But even as he ran his hospital chain in Lagos, overseeing, in addition, the Tejuoso Group of Companies as chairman, he never lost consciousness of the fact that the call to perpetuate the tradition of his forbearers would come one day. That call materialized on May 20, 1989, when he was crowned the Osile Oke-Ona of Egba.
Spiritual role model
Tejuoso has Jesus Christ as his spiritual role model, without whom he says he is absolutely nothing. He looks up to Jesus for humility and steadfastness in God, trying at all times to emulate all his attributes. “My ambition is always to do His work and that of His Father”, he told Sun newspaper in an interview to mark his 22 years on the throne in June, 2011.
“I look up to Him for the role he played as the Son and representative of His Father while on earth and up till now”, he said. “My prayer is that I should always do the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit keeps telling us what to do. May I always be able to display as much as He did display when He was physically present on this planet earth”.
He spoke further: “When I was in school, I was dealing with God the Father. I later graduated to God the Son, and now I am working with God the Holy Spirit”.
Oba Tejuoso holds the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
The mention of the name, Madam Bisoye Tejuoso, brings to mind Tejufoam, a nationally popular brand of foam products that were household names from the 1970s through 80s. So popular was the brand that its only major competitor was Vitafoam, arguably the leading brand of foam in the country at that time.
The phenomenal success of Tejufoam was attributed to Madam Tejuoso, whose name rang a bell throughout the country as Nigeria’s third indigenous industrialist. Many Lagos residents today probably do not know that the popular Tejuoso Market in Surulere was named after the legendary Egba woman in recognition of her business acumen and contribution to the state’s and, indeed, the nation’s economic growth.
Madam Tejuoso was born into a royal family. Her father was a chief and a famer, while her grandfather was Oba Karunwi, the Osile Oke-Ona of Egba, Abeokuta. She attended Igbein Primary School and Idi Aba Teachers Training College, both in Abeokuta, and got married at the age of 18 to Joseph Somoye Tejuoso, a teacher, relocating to Zaria where the latter was working.
She made a foray into the business world by trading in foodstuff with mostly southerners, using the railway to transport goods from Zaria to Lagos. She became an agent for the United African Company, and later Vono, for whom she was a distributor. Her success during this period grew in leaps and bounds, and in no time, she started to acquire real estate in different parts of the country.
Madam Tejuoso’s success as a major dealer in Vono mattresses on Broad Street, Lagos, attracted the attention of a Norwegian businessman who sought a partnership with her for the purpose of manufacturing foam products in the country. The partnership took off in 1964 with the commencement of production of Cool Foam by Polyurethane Limited, the company that was jointly owned by them.
A disagreement in 1970 over the manufacture of foam and carpet caused Tejuoso to break away from the company to go solo. With a loan from the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank, she set up Teju Industries Limited for the manufacture of foam products. It didn’t take long for the name, Tejufoam, to become synonymous with high quality foam products, like mattresses and pillows.
Madam Tejuoso’s industry and contribution to the growth of the Nigerian economy earned for her a national recognition, in the form of the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).
Senator Lanre Tejuoso
Lanre Tejuoso is probably the most prominent child of Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, perhaps on account of being a senator of Nigeria. Before he emerged on the national political scene, however, Lanre had attained some level of prominence as a successful medical doctor, apart from being a scion of the Tejuoso dynasty and a grandson of the immensely popular Madam Bisoye Tejuoso, the late Iyalode of Egbaland.
He is a prince, which means he might one day sit on the throne of his forefathers, the same throne on which his father currently sits.
Lanre enrolled at the University of Lagos Staff School in 1967, and got admitted into Igbobi College in 1974 for his secondary education. He gained admission into the University of Lagos in 1981 to study medicine, and obtained his MBBS, later specializing in telemedicine and medical computing outside the country.
He did his National Youth Service Corps programme at the Nigerian Ports Authority, after which he worked briefly at the family hospital – Teju Hospital – as a medical officer.
Though a medical practitioner, Lanre, with business acumen that runs as the family DNA, made a foray into the world of business, serving on the boards of several blue chip companies, including Berger Paints Nigeria Plc, as well as Custodian and Allied Insurance. He is also on the board of Teju Industries Limited and Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso Hospital. He also ventured into education, founding Avicenna International School and Buckswood School.
Entry into politics
Lanre first made an attempt to represent the Ogun Central Senatorial District in the Senate during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president. He met a brick wall in the person of Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello who apparently benefitted from her father’s goodwill and patronage to win the right to represent the district in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
At the formation of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2010, he emerged a strong force to reckon with in the party in Ogun State. In fact, Lanre, it was, who raised the hand of Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the party in the 1011 presidential election, at the party’s national convention at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
He later joined the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that teamed up with CPC, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form the All Peoples Congress, on which platform he contested and won election as a senator.
Lane had, prior to his election as a senator, served the people of Ogun State as commissioner in the administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, handling three different portfolios of Youth and Sport, Environment and Special Duties. As a commissioner, he is credited with achieving distribution of 500 electricity transformers to all parts of the state; management of a seven megawatt power plant; modernization of the June 12 Cultural Centre; introduction of solar power to rural areas; upgrading of the major dam that provides water to residents of Abeokuta; introduction of special marshals for environment and modernization of the MKO Abiola Stadium.
In the Eighth Senate where he is the chairman of the committee on health, Lanre has, from inception of the current dispensation, distinguished himself as one of the young lawmakers the country is looking up to for new direction.
Princce Kayode Tejuoso
Kayode Tejuoso, KayTej, as he is fondly called, is the second son of Oba Adedapo Tejuoso. His mother, Olori Adetoun Tejuoso, is a princess, a granddaughter of Reverend Sadare and a great-granddaughter of the Awujale Gbelegbua.
Like Lanre, Kayode attended the University of Lagos Staff School, after which he gained admission to Government College, Ibadan, before proceeding to Cotton College and Concord College, both in the United Kingdom. He returned to the University of Lagos to study Computer Science, graduating with B.Sc. degree. He did his mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps programme with the Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
He collaborated with the Plateau State Government in the areas of power, steel and mining, before joining the family horticulture and animal husbandry business as administrator. He also worked in the construction industry, dealing in the lease and sale of heavy duty equipment, a business that gave him access to various state governments for whom he handled big construction jobs. One of such businesses is his current partnership with the Lagos State Government on waste collection, disposal and management.
Kayode is the chairman of LAGTECH Limited, an arm of the Lagos Lottery System that has given the lottery industry in Nigeria a new face with the use of technology. Having succeeded in using lottery to empower a good number of people, he went a notch higher by launching the Ogun People’s Empowerment, a poverty alleviation initiative, in June 2010.
Kayode’s interest in politics dates back to his childhood days, with involvement in community politics in the Ilupeju area of Lagos where he grew up, becoming quite active in the late 1980s. His activism earned him appointment as Youth Coordinator of the Social Democratic Party for Mushin Local Government Area in the Hope ’93 Campaign Organization of the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola during the 1993 presidential election. He served as director of finance in the office of the Lagos State chairman of the Grassroots Democratic Movement during the Sani Abacha dispensation.
At the return of democracy in 1998, Kayode joined the Alliance for Democracy, soon rising to the position of Lagos State financial secretary. In recognition of his organizational ability 2007, the Babatunde Fashola Campaign Organization appointed him its director of mobilization in 2007, an assignment he carried out with great expertise, with outstanding results at the election.
An accomplished mobilizer, Kayode is credited with contributing substantially to ending the eight-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State.
He is married to Funmilayo Tejuoso (nee Smith), a lawyer, politician and former deputy speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, and they both have five children.
Prince Femi Tejuoso
Femi Tejuoso is a graduate of the University of Lagos, with an MBA from Nottingham University, in the United Kingdom. He served as Chief Executive Officer of Helios Towers Nigeria Limited, and was a partner in the company’s Operations Group, overseeing investment due diligence for the group.
He has a rich pedigree in managing businesses in Nigeria, and also held positions at Bayer (UK) and Avis Petroleum in Nigeria. He was a director of Interswitch.