The Olowo of Owo kingdom, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Gbadegesin Ajibade Ogunoye III at the weekend buried his mother, Yeyesa Adenike Ogunoye in style. In this interview with THE HOPE correspondent in Owo, Jimoh Ahmed, he spoke about his mother’s qualities in glowing tributes and why she was exceptional as a wife, woman and mother. Excerpts:
Kabiyesi, how would you described Yeyesa Adenike Ogunoye II as a woman, wife and mother?
Yeyesa Comfort Adenike Ogunoye who happens to be my lovely mother was exceptional in the midst of women. Apart from that, she was totally loyal to my father. She loved my father so well that to her, my father’s decisions were usually taken by her with totality and religiously too. She obeyed my father without resistance, without persuasion because of the love she had for him.
The two were so closed that they became confidants. My mother was the closest wife to my father, late Oba Adekola Ogunoye II, the then Olowo of Owo. She was directly responsible for the upkeep of my father. In spite of her pivotal position in the palace, she never demanded for anything as a favour from her husband.
As a wife, Yeyesa Adenike Ogunoye was friendly and supportive of my father during the visisitudes of life that faced him during his trying period. She was not my father’s first wife, she was the sixth because she met five other women in his house before he became the Olowo. She was friendly with her husband and all the people around him and in the community. She hardly quarreled with anybody and her exemplary character soon radiated to the town and she became the toast of many.
There was a time she went into the business of frying beans cake, Akara. She was giving them out to people freely to eat. If you came to her and told her you didn’t have anything to eat she would give you some for free. It got to a point that people said the business was charity. Even the little profit she made my father would collect because when my father contested for the stool of Olowo and lost to Sir Olateru Olagbegi II, he faced a lot of vicissitudes and persecution and some of his wives left but my mother stood and stayed with him through thick and thin.
She was with my father, she never waivered. That was why when my father became the Olowo in 1968 while people were congratulating him they were also congratulating my mother for standing tall behind my father.
For this, she was rewarded with the title, Yeyesa of Owo and transformed to the matriarch of the palace.
As a wife and mother to all princes and princesses, who is Yeyesa?
By virtue of my mother’s position in the palace, as the Yeyesa of Owo Kingdom, the closest to our father, she was virtually in charge of the palace. She was such a responsible human being, so accommodating that in her avowed commitment to the upkeep of the palace, you will never know the difference between her own children and children of the other wives. She was responsible for the care of everybody. She never questioned the authority of the king, even when my father took new wife, my mother would be the first person to know and would gladly welcome the new wife and make sure such new wife was given necessary attention. She trained new wives about the procedures in the palace and all the wives had confidence in her to the point that whenever they wanted to put to bed, she was always the first person to know as her place was the first point of call by the other wives.
In traditional African settings, especially in polygamous family which the royal house is known for, there is always rivalry between wives. How did mama coped with this?
My mother never gave room for this. Although, like every other polygamous family, we too had our experiences. There was jealousy and hatred, but mama never looked at this. She was open minded. She took care of all the children of my father without looking at the fact that others have their own mothers too.
In fact, there is one of my brothers who lost her mother at the age of five and by virtue of her position it was easy for her to assume the role of mother for him. She took care of him to the extent that none of us knew she was not his biological mother.
I only got to know he was not given birth to by my mother through a conversation with her when I was in my junior classes in the secondary school. I cried that day because I had been thinking he was my mother’s second child.
Such was the care, unity and oneness with which mama groomed all of us. Mama made sure the bond that binds us, I mean all the children of Oba Adekola Ogunoye II was so strong.
What is the bond between Your Imperial Majesty and Yeyesa?
So strong. I am her last born, so you could imagine the kind of bond between her and I as a mother and child, particularly, as regards my position among her biological children. We were so close. The relationship was a very special one. When I was in primary school, I could not afford to leave her for once. If not for the fact that education is necessary, I don’t think I would ever leave her side.
At times, I would leave class; my school, Government Primary School, Owo, shares boundary with the palace, so I would always leave my class to come home to see her. Such was the intimacy.
Kabiyesi, perhaps you have reasons to appreciate those who were with you during this period.
I thank the people of Owo for their kindness and love shown to me and my mother. I thanked them for honouring her, even in death. I want to thank those who honoured her with their kind words and comments, I want to thank those who are building monuments in her name, especially, the Ehinogbe community who is building a health center named after her.
I also wish to thank all the good people who have come to the palace to greet me. I specially want to thank all my royal fathers for their support.
It also gives me a deep sense of relief to thank Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, and his Deputy, Hon. Lucky Ayedatiwa, members of the Ondo State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Hon. Bamidele Oleyeloogun and other members of the political class for identifying with me at the passage and funeral ceremony of my lovely mother.