In 1953, Adesoji Aderemi was appointed a minister without portfolio in the Nigerian House of Representatives, and he attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2 of that year, shortly after which he was conferred with the title of a Knight of the British Empire (KBE).


“Some people demand honour from their fellowmen and sometimes, by sundry devices, succeed in forcing and enforcing it. Others, who are very rare in their breed and number, command honour: They evoke it, they deserve it; and they do so because of their profound, worthy and abiding contributions to the welfare and happiness of their fellowmen, and the greatness of their fatherland. Oba Adesoji Aderemi became the Oni of Ife in 1930. At that time, 50 years ago, the only reputation Ile-Ife had was that it is the cradle of Yoruba people. But within 10 years of this rule, Aderemi had transformed Ile-Ife, by Nigerian standards, into a modern town, a virile business centre and a haven for the acquisition of secondary education, which was a very rare facility in those days. As a natural ruler, Oba Adesoji Aderemi can be described as a radical traditionalist.”

Furthermore, “Oba Adesoji Aderemi… through out his time, his sole concern at all times was the welfare of his dear people in Ile-Ife and Nigeria.”

This was the beautiful eulogy delivered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo at an open air memorial service for the late Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, at Enuwa Square in Ile-Ife on Saturday, July 11, 1980. This eulogy aptly and succinctly described the life and times of Ooni Adesoji Aderemi.

It is a settled historical fact that Ile-Ife is the cradle of the Yorubas. We may not believe the myth of Ile-Ife as the origin of human race, but we cannot deny the historical root of Yoruba people as a whole in Ile-Ife.

Adesoji Aderemi dominated the landscape of the Yoruba nation for an uninterrupted period of about 50 years, until his demise on July 3, 1980.

He was a member of the Oshinkola ruling house of Ife. He succeeded Ooni Ademiluyi Ajagun, who died on June 24, 1930. Adesoji was the first literate Ooni.

It is an interesting historical fact that Adesoji Aderemi was destined for the royal stool of Ooni right from birth. He was born on November 15, 1889, every inch a royal, to the family of Osundeyi Gbadebo and Adekunbi Itiola, Osundeyi’s 19th and last wife and a native of Ipetumodu. On the day of Adesoji’s birth, his father had just arrived from a war expedition, and as a gifted seer, Prince Osundeyi carried the baby in his arms, gazed intently into his face and was happy at what he saw.

He instructed Adekunbi to search for red beads, which they presented specially to the baby, pronouncing him an Ooni, a future Ooni, who was yet an ancestor Ooni, who had come back through their family.

Prince Osundeyi named this unusual baby, Tadeniawo Ayinla Adesoji Aderemi, and the baby took his first footsteps at seven months, after which he started walking.

A restless spirit, everything about Aderemi was quick and fast. He started his formal education in January 1900 at St. Phillips School, Iyekere, Ile-Ife.

Aderemi left school in 1906, became a pupil teacher in 1907, and immediately registered with an overseas correspondence school, for private tuition, backed up with private lessons from the late Bishop A. B Akinyele, to whom he paid visits in Ibadan. He joined the Nigerian Railways Corporation in 1909, initially serving in the constructions section, and then working in various other departments as station manager in Port Harcourt, Iwo, Ile-Ogbo, Offa, Ibadan and several other places in the Western Region from 1919 to 1921, when he resigned, having saved up some money to set up his own business. Adesoji Aderemi came into instant success when he started a motor transport business, as well as the trade in produce-buying and general merchandise.

After a brief tutelage with John Holt of Nigeria, he became an agent of the United African Company (UAC) and later a factor for John Holt Ventures, Mclever and OLGeyser. Aderemi traded in three cash crops: Cocoa, cotton and palm kernel, which he bought from Iwo, Ede, Ipetumodu, Gbongan, Ile-Ogbo and Ibadan. He hoarded these produces, while speculating on an upturn in their prices. He was reported to have made so much money from the subsequent upturn in the prices of the commodities, that he threw a party for the people of Ile-Ogbo, where he was living at the time, to show his joy.

He started his transport business with a fleet of lorries, ferrying people and goods to and from many places around the country, including Onitsha and Kafanchan.

Upon ascension to the throne in 1930, Oba Adesoji Aderemi began his modernist policies for the growth and development of Ile-Ife and the Yoruba nation. He founded Oduduwa College on January 22, 1932 at Ajamapo, Ile-Ife.


He became so financially successful that he was nicknamed “Atobatele” (already famed as king) by his contemporaries and the people of Ile-Ife and also “Ooni Ola” (Tomorrow’s King). Adesoji bought his first car in 1920 and by 1930, he had used three cars, which included one with an open roof. His fame was a pain in the neck of the then reigning monarch, Ooni Ademiluyi Ajagun, that he was charged with impersonation and the large flamboyant display of wealth at the upper palace court of the Ooni. He was fined £25 for this. Quite interestingly, the sum of £25 that he paid as fine was returned to him by the Ife local council on his ascension to the throne in 1930.

It is important to note that Reverend Josiah Stanley Adegun Adejumo was Adesoji’s mentor, teacher and guardian in primary school. Rev. Adejumo was then vicar of the St. Phillip’s Anglican church and also doubled as the headmaster of St Philips Primary School, Iyekere, Ile-Ife. Adejumo was to Ile-Ife, an early pathfinder.

As an interesting corollary, Alaayeluwa Okunade Sijuwade II, born on January 1, 1930 to Prince Adereti Olubuse and a grandson of Oba Adelekan Sijuwade Olobuse I, who was the first Ooni ever to travel out of his domain, succeeded him on December 6, 1980.

At the invitation of the colonial governor, Ooni Adelekan Olubuse I embarked on the said trip, which was to Lagos, in 1903, to give a ruling on whether the Elepe of Epe was entitled to wear a beaded crown. That unprecedented journey to Lagos, according to the government gazette, caused a stir in Yoruba land. As a mark of respect to the Ooni, all Obas and princes momentarily vacated their thrones throughout the period of the Ooni’s sojourn in Lagos. When the Ooni finally arrived in Lagos then, transported in his hammock, under the flutter of a colourful, giant, royal umbrella, and with his retinue of courtiers, he was a sight to behold. And when he finally gave his verdict, presumably through an interpreter, he had his back to the colonial governor, since no mortal, not even the representative of the English monarch, could behold his face.

Upon ascension to the throne in 1930, Oba Adesoji Aderemi began his modernist policies for the growth and development of Ile-Ife and the Yoruba nation. He founded Oduduwa College on January 22, 1932 at Ajamapo, Ile-Ife.

On December 19, 1931, Rev. M.S. Cole, an Anglican priest, was on his way to Lagos from Ilesa, where he had gone to conduct a feasibility study sponsored by the Ilesa indegenes and elites in Lagos, on the desirability of the founding of a secondary school in Ilesa. On his way back to Lagos, he branched at Ile-Ife to see his friend, Reverend J.S.A Adejumo.

Rev. Cole was well received By Adejumo, who took him to the Palace of the Ooni for traditional salute and felicitations on the evening of that day. Cole informed the Ooni of the essence of his visit to Ilesa and his intention to establish a secondary school there, with the sponsorship of Ilesa indegenes in Lagos.

The Ooni, quite impressed by this, asked Rev. M.S. Cole to rather stay back in Ile-Ife and establish a secondary school for him. On January 22, 1932, the Oduduwa College, under the proprietorship of Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, and with M.S Cole as its first principal, was established in Ajamapo, Ile Ife.

The first Ife graduate, who returned from Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, with a Degree of B.A. Dunelm and whose mother was Ooni’s classmate in primary school, also became a principal of Oduduwa College in 1946.

Oduduwa College became the first privately owned college in Nigeria, followed by the Aggreh Memorial College, established by Dr. Alvin Ikoku in 1934.

In 1935, the Ooni aided the installation of the Ife water works at Mokuro, Ile-Ife. Adesoji Aderemi brought telephone services to Ile-Ife in 1938, when these were hitherto unknown, and built an official residence for the Ooni.

In 1943, the colonial government acquired a site and built structures for a proposed military barracks in Ile Ife.
The men of Ile-Ife resented this move, on the ground that soldiers would begin to acquire their wives. The Ooni took this protest to the colonial officers, who immediately abandoned the effort and left the structures unoccupied. The military barracks was eventually relocated to Ede.

In 1944, the Seventh Day Adventist Mission was desirous of establishing an hospital in Ile-Ife, and the Ooni allocated the abandoned structures, meant for the soldiers, to the Mission. Hence, in 1944, the Seventh Day Adventist mission hospital was established in Ile-Ife.

But before the defiance, doggedness and perseverance of Adesoji Aderemi and Oba Ladapo Ademola, the Alake of Egbaland, the colonial governor-general, Sir John McPherson, who had resisted the listing of the independent motion on the order paper caved in.


In 1948, he inaugurated the Egbe Omo Oduduwa and in the same year, he visited England and served as a delegate at the African Conference in London, held at the Lancaster House.

In 1947, he established a newspaper, New Times of Nigeria, and served as the publisher, while Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the managing editor.

This newspaper was the precursor to the Nigerian Tribune, which was established in 1948 with about 12 investors: Oba Adesoji Aderemi, Obafemi Awolowo, H.I.D Awolowo, R.A. Jagun, G.F. Ojuntalayo, Johnson Omisore, M.S. Sowole, J.O. Longe, A.I. Aina, J.F. Aina, A.A Okunsanya, and Awoyemi.

Oba Adesoji Aderemi and H.I.D Awolowo had the largest shareholding worth £1,000 each in the business, with Obafemi Awolowo having a shareholding worth £500.

In 1953, Adesoji Aderemi was appointed a minister without portfolio in the Nigerian House of Representatives, and he attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2 of that year, shortly after which he was conferred with the title of a Knight of the British Empire (KBE).

In 1953, Anthony Enahoro, a member of the parliament moved a motion for the independence of Nigeria in 1956. Then, the Western Region had four federal ministers: Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, Chief S.L. Akintola, Chief Bode Thomas and Chief Author Prest. The Eastern Region had three ministers: Okoi Arikpo, Eni Njoku and A.C. Nwapa. The North had four federal ministers: Usman Nagogo, the emir of Kastina; Alhaji Tafawa Balewa; Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim, and Alhaji Mohammadu Ribadu. The southern Cameroon was represented by Dr. Endelley.

But before the defiance, doggedness and perseverance of Adesoji Aderemi and Oba Ladapo Ademola, the Alake of Egbaland, the colonial governor-general, Sir John McPherson, who had resisted the listing of the independent motion on the order paper caved in. The motion was subsequently debated and defeated, and Adesoji Aderemi had to tender his letter of resignation from the cabinet to Sir John McPherson, the governor-general.

His colleagues from the Western Region followed suit to create a constitutional lockjam. In 1954, Adesoji was appointed the president of the Western Region by the House of Chiefs. He too this to the next level by becoming the first African governor of the Western Region in July 1960, succeeding the former British colonial governor, Sir John Rankine.

Ooni Adesoji Aderemi was the first to hold such a post in the entire British colonial Africa. And, he functioned effectively in the office as both Ooni and governor, with vigour, grace, panache, dexterity and humaneness, as a true symbol of the royal stool of Oduduwa. He was in office till May 29, 1962. Oba Adesoji Aderemi used the influence of his position to advocate for the siting of the then proposed University of Western Region in Ile-Ife in 1962, in recognition of the ancestral status of Ile-Ife as the religious and cultural matrix of the Yorubas. The University started from the current North Campus of the Ibadan Polytechnic and finally moved to Ile-Ife in 1967, which was to Aderemi, the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. The Ooni and people of Ile-Ife donated about 130,000 acres of land for the new University.

Aderemi built a magnificient mansion, “The Atobatele Lodge”, before he ascended the throne of Ooni in 1930. The Lodge was later occupied by Barclays Bank. Being a man of deep foresight, Adesoji built the popular Glass House on Iremo Road, Ile-Ife, as his family compound, which his family of several wives and over sixty children relocated to upon his passage in July 1980.

Oba Adesoji Aderemi lost his first son, Magistrate Adedapo Aderemi, on October 16, 1963. Obafemi Awolowo had equally lost his first son, Segun Awolowo, on July 10, 1963. About a month earlier, in September 1963, Prince Adedapo Aderemi had celebrated his father’s 33rd year anniversary on the throne of Ife-Ife with a big party.

The death of Prince Adedapo Aderemi prompted the Ooni Adesoji Aderemi to write his will, which was drafted in 1964 with the assistance by the legal titan, Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams. Quite unfortunately, Chief F.R.A Williams himself did not leave a will, despite having a nuclear family of a wife and four children. Oba Adesoji Aderemi’s will listed about 11 surviving wives and 64 children, with tremendous assets.

His surviving children, who have been trail blazers in various fields of endeavour are keeping Adesoji Aderemi’s fondest memories and legacies alive.

Femi Kehinde, a former member of the House of Representatives, is principal partner in a law firm based in Ibadan, Lagos and Abuja.