Thursday, 29 December 2016

What former Ooni of Ife’s media aide, Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola told Asabeafrika before his death + His grouse with Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar

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High Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola, The Obarisa of Odogbo Ijesa

IN one of the books authored by Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola, “From the tube to Royalty” late Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II) the former Ooni of Ife who died towards the end of year 2015 described Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola who died last Tuesday December 20th, 2016 in his Ile-Ife (Osun State) residence as a man of great inspiration. The Olubuse II said “I see Funmilola as a thorough professional. At close quarters, I saw the evolution of a man born to do what he loves to do and the story of his life and calling will surely serve as a great source of inspiration for the present and the future media practitioners and P.R. managers and for those who want to learn the tricks of professional excellence without putting their private and family life in jeopardy. This man’s story is a veritable repository of knowledge for the youth looking for mentor and direction in life, my own story is recommended, this is really an adventure worth exploring, a story well told. I recommend it without reservation”.
 Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola was indeed one of the influential personalities that dotted the royal courts of Ile-Ife during the life time of Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II) As Director of Public Affairs to the late Ooni, Chief Olorunnisola, a former broadcaster turned Image Maker paid his dues in the royal court with a straight 26 years service after his 11 years stint in professional broadcasting.
Sometimes ago, the highly revered traditional prime minister and Obarisa of Odogbo Ijesa opened his Enuwa square, Mayfair road, Ile-Ife office to your soar away Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika and gave us the interesting story of his 26 years service to the palace of Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II).
Chief Funmilola  Olorunnisola was born in 1950 to the family of Chief Samuel Onifade Olorunnisola of Odogbo, Ijebu-Jesa and spent 11 years at Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) Ibadan. He rose to the position of Controller of News before he was appointed in 1983 as the Chief Press Secretary to the then Governor of Kwara State, Chief Cornelius O. Adebayo. He joined the Palace of the Ooni of Ife few years later and rose in rank to become one of the most respected Palace Chiefs.
The Late Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola
 He told Asabeafrika the story of his life and how he became the image manager of Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II). Before his death, he was appointed Special Adviser on tourism affairs to new Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja II).  We represent the interview today in loving memory of the Ijebu-Jesa born icon.  Enjoy the excerpts only on Asabeafrika
How would you describe your experience working with the Ooni of Ile-Ife?

Well I will ordinarily say it is a thing of pride that I have been here for quite some time, working for the Ooni of Ife, the ruler of Ile-Ife, the Source, the cradle and the natural capital of the Yoruba people. So, I feel particularly proud. In respect of that, I am saying that you should take note of the fact that I have been here for twenty-six years. When you earlier told me that you worked in a place for eight years, I laughed a little because I have been here for twenty-six years.
Late Ooni Oba Sijuade Olubuse II
And in any case, if I could manage the press and the public relations apparatus of such a great man, and this has been going on for twenty six years now, it only means there is a common chemistry. The chemistry is alright between the two of us. I thank God that He gave me the opportunity to work for him and in all honesty, I couldn’t have wished for a better place. I have all the contentment in the world and I have the reasonable comfort that makes me believe that it has been a thing of joy for twenty six years to have been working for the royal court of Ife.

You left the academic sector to come and work in the royal court. Why did you take this decision?
Chief Olorunnisola's boss, Ooni Sijuade with Elerin of Erin Osun, Oba Yusuf Omoleye Oyagbade
No, I didn’t leave the academic sector. I was a broadcaster. I was in broadcasting for an unbroken period of eleven years. I was on television, I was on radio and I was even one time Chief Press Secretary to a serving Governor. The Governor of Kwara state at the time who was in the saddle for only three month before the General Muhammadu Buhari regime toppled him
Who was that?
Cornelius Adebayo. I was his chief press secretary for three months because it was (Gen.) Buhari that booted all of us out. It has been a very thorough career but in every field relevant to mass communication because that is my core discipline. That is where I have a focus on. Since I started my working career in life, everywhere I have worked would be traced to mass communication, there is no doubt about that because here we are talking of press relations and public relations. So, I have been running the press and public relations apparatus of the royal palace for twenty six years.
Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola
How would you define the pressure that comes with your office as the image manager of a man described as the epitome of Yoruba royalty in the world and whose image draws large patronage from all over?
It is alright. All the moments are really very good to really experience. But you will not really stay at the level of visitors coming or the invitations being received from all over the world. You will take note of the fact that often times; we even have controversies here and there. But you got to manage all these things.
The Late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade with GDA interviewing him while Chief Dele Momodu, Chief Olabode George and others look on
He (The Ooni) by all standard, is one of the greatest men in this country and the moment you are great, you will think of successes all the time but there must always be times when you ruminate on the contingencies of possible failure, so, there are times like that, you know it is a peculiar profession with its own challenges. If you divide the whole world into three, there are those in category one, category two and category three. The category one is those people who actually know you and like you. Category two are those who know you and do not like you. And category three are those who are even indifferent to your status, they don’t care. They don’t want to know who you are; they are not perturbed by your existence. Either you are a success or not, it doesn’t matter to them. But it is the responsibility of an image maker or public relations practitioner to make sure that those in category one, those who know you and like you maintains that perception, by whatever strategy you can really invoke.
The late Ooni of Ife with ex-Lagos MILAD, Raji Alagbe Rasaki (Paying homage)
Category two, those who know you and do not like you, you must work on them too, so that they will be able to probably change their perceptional status to that of category one or you try to reduce them to a very reasonable minimum. Then category three, those who know you and feel indifferent, ah! They cannot sit on the fence. Work on them too, let them try and take a position. Let them like you, we need them to join category one. If they want to take a position of not liking you, let them take it. You know you are already working on category two so that those who do not like you will come to category one. It doesn’t matter if those people who are indifference come to category two; something is already working on them there. So, that is the whole essence of public relations practice itself or image making generally.
The Late Ooni of Ife with Senator Iyiola Omisore (Greeting him)
Using your metaphoric analysis of the category two brand of people, it would seem these brand of people, who are in the haters’ club had a field day under the military regime labeling your principal a military apologist. How were you able to handle those issues around him?
No, I don’t think you are totally right in your assumption of his personality in relation to political situation of that time because I was here and I witnessed most of the happenings. Those people who would always be carried away by some other attributes like envy, jealousy and so on will form their own opinion. You cannot blame them; I mean God created everybody with certain idiosyncrasies. So, if that is exactly what some people chose, you cannot blame them, you can only pray for them. You see the only way to obliterate an untruth constantly told; or rubbish an untruth constantly bandied is to hammer the truth on the head even more constantly. You don’t have to abuse them, if they tell a lie, if you know it is a lie, it only means the truth must be hiding somewhere. Your job is to bring the truth out and hammer the truth on the head more constantly than the untruth is being hammered on the head. You understand? That is the only way, for instance if a governor is being accused of non performance and so on, you don’t have to abuse the people accusing you of non performance, you too go ahead and begin to propagate every single thing that you consider as your own achievement in office. Continue to hammer on this, shout it to the north, shout it to the west, shout it to the south, and shout it to the east. That is the only way you can win, don’t abuse anybody. Anybody who says you have done nothing, leave him to his own opinion. But you too must prove that you have done certain things. That is if you have done those things and the only way to do it is to propagate your achievements and let them know that these are the things you have been doing in the last couple of years or thereabout.
Is that why your principal has refused to react to allegations made by the Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Adetona that he got six hundred million dollars to trade off Chief MKO Abiola and the June 12 struggle?
The Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona
No. you know what? The position traditional rulers actually hold, is suppose to be a particularly elevated position and if you see a traditional ruler playing to the gallery, may be for cheap publicity or cheap recognition if you join in that type of rubble-rousing, then you will be part and parcel of the noise making crowd and what the generality of the people on the street call “roger”.
Late Chief MKO Abiola....Awujale of Ijebu Land, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona alleged late Ooni of ife sold for a fortune during June 12
You are joining the ‘Rogers’. There is no point, it is like I fighting with a younger one. (Points to his PA), look at this my boy now, it doesn’t mean anything to him if I say he is stupid…’why are you doing this, why are you doing that, you are a very stupid man’. It does not mean anything to him. But it means the whole world to me if he has to say ‘Aah, don’t say it again o’, don’t say it anymore o. I will say it back o’ and he has not even said it. But even by saying he would say it back, it tells all. What else do I need? I have been rubbished. It simply means I have been rubbished. So, what will the Ooni gain by calling any Oba names? But if you believe that is what you should call the Ooni, there is no point. If the Ooni now begins to reply such, people would say, ‘ah, ah, sebi he says he is this, he is that?’, so, there is no point for a reply to such issues. Truth shall always prevail in the end.
Ex-President Ibrahim Babangida....A close friend of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II)
Recently, your Principal brought some traditional rulers from across the divide of the Niger to Ile-Ife, among them was the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano and Obi of Onitsha to mention a few. Do you see Oba Okunade Sijuade playing the role of a unifier due to the political situation we found ourselves today?
The idea is that the old man has always been a nationalist. He has never allowed politics to really dampen his enthusiasm at fighting for a strong united country. When he became the Ooni of Ife, he deliberately cultivated two other top traditional rulers- the Obi of Onitsha and the Emir of Kano. Even though the emir of Kano has always been a friend before he became the Ooni of Ife, he deliberately cultivated them and they were moving from the north to the south, from east to west.
Late Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II) Chief Olorunnisola said he was a Great Nationalist
They were always doing things together-we call them three musketeers. And what the Ooni believe must obtain is a situation whereby any northerner will be able to sleep with his two eyes closed anywhere in the south, anywhere in the east. An easterner should also be able to sleep anywhere in the country with his or her peace guaranteed. That is exactly what they have been doing for about thirty years and because the Emir of Kano and he belong to the same age group, so they found it particularly easier to do so, especially with the former Obi of Onitsha. And when Baba, the Emir of Sokoto, I mean Abubakar not Maccido, when he died because he was a very old man, Dasuki came to the saddle. Of course I knew exactly how they connect into one another to make sure that they almost became four. You know they were initially three, but they almost became four. And when the Sultan was deposed, Maccido came in and they became very tight. That is why it is the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife who is representing the south that is co-chairman of the traditional ruler’s forum in Nigeria. If at this trying times, these traditional rulers can show to the public that ‘look, we are capable of dampening this raging sociopolitical/security problem’, then, we have to accord them their own respect. The truth of the matter is that we have a big challenge in our polity. But they (Traditional rulers) are trying in all ramifications to demonstrate that they are capable of sponsoring peace in the land. Then, come to think of it, it is even the government that is not even reckoning with the traditional rulers. If you go through the constitution of Nigeria, there is no place, not one page, I am saying it with every sense of responsibility; it can be verified. Go from the first to the last page; you won’t see where any mention of the role of Nigeria’s traditional rulers is inserted just one mention, none. It has been like that since 1999.
But why, have you ever try to find out?     
It was the government of Abdulsalami Abubakar that expunged everything that has to do with traditional rulers.
And you see that as a political sabotage?
Of course the traditional rulers are the closest to the grass root and the people. They know exactly who did what. There is hardly anybody that enters into this town today who is a stranger that the Ooni of Ife would not know. And you want to say that of every other villages and kingdoms. So, if these people are capable of knowing and planting peace within their environment, it only means it can actually go round if all traditional rulers are involved in political governance. They (government) don’t even hold meetings with them; they don’t even bother about their input.
(Cuts in) I think this is the position of the former Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki, in a recent interview in TELL magazine, that means there is a problem. Can there a solution through constitutional amendment?
Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola to Asabeafrika....'Abdulsalami Abubakar messed up the traditional institution in Nigeria'
You know what? Some of the people who rule Nigeria today even said it is an archaic establishment, they don’t want them. This is an era for the young ones, etc, and you can see the young ones-the Iboris of this world, what they are doing to Nigeria. All these so called young ones because you cannot be talking of youth-youth-youth, and you see what the youths are doing to Nigeria.
Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clarke....Calls James Ibori a thief
If there is anybody who has been particularly very loud against the excesses of James Ibori in the South-south, it is somebody who can be referred to as a traditional chief or traditional ruler in his own right that is Chief Edwin Clark. He knows exactly what everybody is doing around him. So, if traditional rulers are there, it doesn’t mean that they don’t know exactly what to do to bring peace to the country. In fact, with the situation in the country now, where the traditional rulers are not taken into consideration, it makes the young governors to think that they can do whatever they like with power which is quite wrong.
You are actually right, couple of years ago, a governor in the south-west nearly sacked a traditional ruler for daring to make his wife and first lady go through some embarrassment as a result of her late coming to the oba’s daughter’s wedding in a church. The king later apologized through a memo to the governor.
You can imagine that, that was quite unfortunate.
Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola to Asabeafrika...'Nigeria can never break'
So, you think the constitution should be amended to fit in traditional rulers?
Certainly, they must have a role to play. It would not happen if the Sultan believes that certain responsibilities has been assigned to him to shoulder, it would not happen when the Ooni believes that certain responsibility has been assigned to him to shoulder and it is like that in all traditional domains. You can imagine the effrontery of this (BOKO HARAM) people by going to even throw bombs at the emir of kano’s palace. That is the extent to which this disrespect has degenerated to. Whereas, if they knew that the emir of Kano was still who he was, they will never dare it. If it is not as if he has not been mentioned in the constitution not even one line. Not one line (Voice Rises with anger written all over his face) they didn’t even say a thing about the role of traditional rulers in the constitution of Nigeria since 1999. Not one line. That is the work of Abdusalami Abubakar; he expunged anything that has to do with traditional rulers from the so called people’s constitution, which the military enacted anyway.
Do you believe in sovereign national conference?
 I am 62 and I think I have all the rights in the world to hold unto an opinion. At least in this case, in this context I want to really say what I want to say it as my own personal opinion. You see, for as long as people believe that there should be no round table conference, let me call it ‘round table conference’, Nigeria will not grow. Nigeria will never grow. Because, somebody just joined us together without any condition. There must be certain conditions that determines how and the way we live. There must be certain conditions.
Do you nurse the fear that Nigeria could break like the United States of America predicted?
That is not my prayer. I do not pray that Nigeria disintegrate because I believe the more united we are, the stronger we become. That is my personal opinion too but that should not be at all cost. It must not be at all cost. It must not be at the detriment of one section of the country to the other section of the country; while others are perpetrating evil, some others are suffering the effect of the recklessness of others who are perpetrating the whole evil. No, I think we must sit down and tell ourselves that while we are perpetrating evil, while we are hacking our own people to death, while we are burning places of worship, we have posterity at our instance to judge us. We need to ask why? What really do you want? If it has to do with the backwardness of certain section of the country compared to other places, what exactly have the leaders of those other section been doing to right the wrong?  They take money every month, what exactly have they been doing? And in any case, even if we must go right down to memory lane, I think when the Awolowos were planting tomorrow for a good number of us here, what were their leaders doing? When they said they did not want independence, they did not even bothered about free education or whatever and it is free education that turned this area to what it is today. It is not as if there was any extra-ordinary federation program anywhere, but the fact remains that everybody who gained from the proceeds of free education knows the importance of education. And you who actually gained from the free education service, you will want to do everything even if you must sell your house to give your own child quality education and that is what people are not doing over there. We need to sit down and draw a line of convenience in order for us to be able to live in peace.
Can you tell us a bit of your humble beginning?
Baba's Scion, Prince Sunmisola Olorunisola with ex-Presidential Aspirant, Chief (Dr.) Dele Momodu
I started with WNTV and later moved to NTA. I was a pioneer staff and management staff at Television Service of Oyo State; we call it TSOS at that time. It was right inside BCOS compound. I captured a lot of things in there which cannot represent everything that I would have loved to write (later showed this reporter a copy of the book). You can’t write everything anyway. The book is available for library. It is a total package of my experience on the television and as a perception manager in the palace. A compendium of diverse views, opinions and activities in the two industry; I think it also summarizes the totality of my experience in the media and the palace. 
Thanks for talking to us
The Late Chief Funmilola Olorunnisola
Well, I think I appreciate you because you come across as somebody who follows events and very, very religiously too.


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