The Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji is 89 today. As a mark of tribute, insideoyo.com’s Sikiru Akinola traces his humble beginning. Excerpts.
Born on August 26, 1928 at Popoyemoja area of Ibadan, the State capital, to the family of Olayiwola, a tailor, and Alhaja Suwebat Adetunji. He is the first of his father’s 17 children.His father had five wives with his mother as the first wife.
The story of his parents was an interesting one. Four years separated their ages and they died within four years. His father died in 1989, while his mum died in 1993. Though he had little education, Oba Adetunji speaks English and can reads.
Except for few who are music enthusiasts, not many people knew he was the one Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, K1 and others, sang his praise in some of their works. Though they were losing hope, many residents of his Popoyemoja always offered prayers to God; to grant him longlife so as to be enthroned Olubadan of Ibadanland. And the prayers were answered.
When Oba Samuel Odulana joined his ancestors, little did he know that he was the next. While the process to elevate the next in line to the throne was about to start, two High Chiefs; Omowaye Kuye and Sulaiman Omiyale, died successively.
Talking about his humble background, Guardian newspaper in one of the features it did for the new Olubadan, posited that ”it is not a life of royalty that has never known hardship. His is far from having two distinct parts with a common feature of ease. One spent in childhood shielded from the vagaries of growing up. The other of opulence as a king. For as a young man, Chief Saliu Akanmu Olatunpo Adetunji encountered the challenges of life.
He began his career as a tailor when his uncle took him to Lagos in 1949. The young Saliu Adetunji wasted no time in enrolling as an apprentice under the tutelage of Disu Alade Igbalojobi, then on No. 33, Ereko Lane, Idumota, near Kosoko, on Lagos Island. A couple of years later, he set up his tailoring workshop and as his business boomed, he bought four sewing machines, which was no mean feat in those days.
Oba Adetunji, who jumped the queue in the line of succession to the throne due to the demise of the Otun Balogun of the land, Chief Sulaimon Adegboyega Omiyale, was versed in the making of both native and English dresses until when he met the first Nigerian record label owner, late Badejo Okunsanya, owner of Badejo Sound Studios, who baptized him into the world of music business.
He started his record label, Omo Aje Records in 1957 at number 2, Oke Popo, by Oya Compound in Lagos.
The record label, which he founded, discovered and promoted many Nigerian music stars. This ended his tailoring profession as he stepped into alluring and flamboyant music industry.
He later founded and became the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of a conglomerate of three music marketing companies. The Olubadan is well known for his humility, a trait that turned his life around for the better.
Being a managing director and big boss notwithstanding, he was known to execute his customers’ orders to the letter. Another trait that put him in good stead and which set him apart from others, was his entrepreneurial spirit which propelled him out of the lowly placed tailoring vocation and turned him into one of the biggest record label owners in the South-West of Nigeria.
In an interview he granted last year, he narrated how he benefitted from his initiative and quick thinking.“A record seller had given me some records to play so as to entertain my customers when they came to sew or pick up clothes I had sewn for them. But to my surprise, rather than listening and enjoying the records, many of those customers were more interested in buying the records from me.
“I sold everything and took the money back to the man who supplied me the records. That was in 1960. The man then revealed to me that he and my dad had been in business together in 1940 and thereafter took me to other record marketers. That was how I started,” he narrated.
Chief Adetunji was later to be known as the man behind the discovery and success of popular leading Fuji star like Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, and before him, the likes of Salami Balogun, Alhaji Amoda Agboluaje, Dauda Epo Akara, Saka Olayigbade, Lefty Salami Balogun, Tatalo Alamu, Raimi Atolagbe, Sule Epo, Iyanda Sawaba, Asanat Omo Aje, among others.
The system that would see Chief Adetunji as the next Olubadan is not hereditary, but rather a graduated system in which descendants of certain households graduate through 21 stages to mount the throne of the ancient city.
Olubadan is described as ‘Life Patron Nigerian Entertainment Industry’ by Juju music legend, Ebenezer Obey. ‘What Baba Saliu Adetunji does not know in the Nigerian music industry is not worth knowning,’ Obey said of him.
His journey to the throne was a long journey. In 1976, he was chosen as the leader (mogaji) of the large, all-inclusive Adetunji family of Alusekere Compound, Popoyemoja, Ibadan, on the advice of late High Chief Sulaimon Omiyale during the reign of Olubadan Gbadamosi Adebimpe. He was enlisted into the Balogun line in 1978. For 40 years, he had to be promoted from one step to another till last year when the exalted throne of the Olubadan became vacant following the passage of Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade 1 on January 19, 2016.
Additional information from The Guardian and Thenet.ng