Classics, Interviews

‘There’s no secret of success” -Ogbeni Oja Bayo Kuku

Chief Bayo Kuku

OGBENI Oja Bayo Kuku passed on yesterday (Thursday, March 5, 2015) and was scheduled to be buried on Friday, March 6, 2015, in his sprawling house in Ijebu Ode (Ogun state). He’s a lawyer who many wanted to associate with. The man of means and pillar of prosperity who was educated in United Kingdom and United States of America was heart-warmingly simple.

For him, there are no success secrets. ‘May God guide us unto the right path, and not the way of the accursed so that we may escape His wrath,’ he stated about the pursuit of success when Encomium Special spoke to him many years back…

WHAT is the significance of the title – Ogbeni Oja, and how did it originate? 

Ogbeni Oja has been in existence for many, many years. About 300 years ago long before (Ogbeni Oja Adeola) Odutola came into office. He made his research and he found that it’s the most popular, most famous office a true and sincere Ijebu can be conferred. So, he fought for it. At one stage, he said he was not going to accept it but  after a lot of persuasion, he decided to accept. And people now started saying, Ogbeni oja jaja gba. That is, that at long last, he has accepted. People in Ijebu are very proud of that office.

You said Ojajagba?

Yes. Oja ja gba, because it took them a long time before they could persuade him to take over the office. And they don’t worship any idol. Very clean. Those are the things that attracted Chief T. A. Odutola to that office.

What does it actually mean, is it the pillar of prosperity or the guardian of the market place, for the sake of correct translation?

Market in the olden days was regarded as a centre of activities, but more or less as a place where you could make and unmake. Where settlement of disputes are entertained. No other place apart from the palace is regarded as a central place for the settlement of disputes. If anything happened, you must report straight to Ogbeni Oja. So many things were settled there – and of course, the market is the centre of trade, commerce and so on. The director of the market or the chief is the alpha and omega of the market; he must be very rich. Odutola came in there and he was very rich. Very comfortable. Not only in Ijebu land, all over Yoruba land and all over the country. He became the President of Nigerian Stock Exchange, he became President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria ….

He started the first modern factory in the whole of West Africa?

Yes. He became Doctor of Law (honorary causa), he became CON, Commander of the Niger. Mention it – you find him everywhere. And naturally, in politics, he was also foremost. He represented the Ijebus. What else can you say about him? (laughs).

Why did you decide to accept that very illustrious title of Ogbeni Oja?

I regard it as a great honour to be so distinguished. No other title would have appealed to me. Odutola’s was there. I knew him not to be frivolous, and he was very, very intelligent. I don’t know of any other title that could have, in fact, impressed me. Of course, I went to his school (Adeola Odutola College). We were the first set.

He did a wonderful job. He was our mentor. There are some similarities between the two of us. And I’m like his son. When he left Adeola Odutola as a chairman of the council and they were asking him who should be the next chairman, he said Bayo should be the chairman. I mentioned that he had a Doctorate decree, honorary causa. I have also.After that, he became the president of Nigerian Stock Exchange. I became also in 1988.

When he left, his national honour was CON, I got CON (laughs). All these. When somebody went to see him, that they were thinking of who will succeed him, he would say,”You must be very stupid and foolish. Don’t you know it is Bayo Kuku who is going to succeed me?” He said so, and the person is still alive today.

So, what else do you want from God?

That’s what I am saying, Fabiyal-Allah Robikun ma’tul kathiban. It is a question in the Our’an. If you are not able to ask yourself that question, you are not treading the path of righteousness. There is nothing. And that is what Jesus said about lilies in the fields, birds in the sky. They don’t have mothers, yet they survive … Yet, they are alive. What else do you want?

What is the greatest lesson life has taught you?

Life has taught me to tread the path of righteousness. It is a difficult question. If you are kind to people, it’s not good for you to say it. A lot of lessons. I beg when I give things to anybody, not to say it. If you say it, you will be creating problem for the person who gave you. That is one lesson. The other lesson is to believe in God which everybody should, even pagans believe in God. Those that don’t believe in God, it’s a very simple answer…

But there is one Arabic word – Albarka, meaning blessing, divine blessing. We were told in one of the Hadiths, in the writings of Muhammed (SAW). He was going to get the Our’an handed over to him. He went from the first floor of heaven. When he got there, all the angels said to him, Salam alaykun waramotullahi wabarakatulu (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you). They all got up. He greeted them back. He went to the second, third, fourth. When he got to the seventh, all the angels there got up. But one did not get up. When they all left, Muhammed (SAW) then asked, why did this one not get up for me? It was like a great affront. Angel Jubril now told him, the one that did not get up is Albarka. He doesn’t go to look for anybody. You look for him. You are the one who needs him. Albarka is unique. It is good to look for Albarka in life. Like what has happened now, you created Albarka in me by saying you were coming. A good number of people will like to go to where the president is, that is Aso Rock. Why? Because they feel there is Albarka there. You must always strive in life to become Albarka. People will look for you because of what you are worth, because of what you have achieved or what you are likely to achieve. And Albarka is so many things. The sinners went to Jesus on mount Sinai and asked Him, “What can we do in order to enter the kingdom of God?” And Jesus said, your righteousness should be greater than that of Sadducees and Pharisees. We all know what they did at that time. Braggadocio. They will tell you they built the church, they did this, they did that. It is better for you to let people say it than for you to say it. And that is again what life teaches some of us.

What would you say is the secret of your success? For example, a young man who starts in life -what are the things he must do to achieve success?

There are no secrets. There is no secret. We have Ihidina Sinatal-mustaqeem. That is, God guides us unto the right path. And not the way of the accursed so that we will not see His wrath. We shall continue to do according to His will.

So, there is no secret whatsoever for success?

Once there is secret, it becomes a secret society (laughs loudly). Let people learn from what you’ve been able to do.

But a lot of young men find the path of righteousness very difficult. They believe it’s narrow and impossible?

It is not. It is the way you do it. The man who was talking to me just now will be here in another few minutes. Olakunri is an elder in Redeemed. There was a time we were joking with a pastor, he wrote me a letter calling me Apostle.


Yes. It’s good. It’s what you make life that life will make you. Even when you offend someone, the Catholics, what they say is, they pray to God to provide their enemy his own green pasture. If there is no green pasture in his own place, the sheep will go to the other man’s own and destroy it, especially when they are hungry (laughs). So, there is no secret. The only secret is God. You must let other people make use of your sunshine to dry their own clothes. If they don’t do that, people who are rich will not allow the poor people to use oxygen. The whites perpetrated all sorts of evil in South Africa but they couldn’t take the place from the black South Africans. There is oxygen for all, and you emit carbon dioxide. It is God’s heat, He did not do it as a secret thing.

Do you have any advice for the up and coming lawyers?

The advice is, tread the path of righteousness. That is the way of God, the way that God loves. You know in the ten commandments, God was not angry with them because they were fulfilling all the commandments. Just try and tread the path of righteousness, and the door and windows will be opened unto you.

 Ogbeni Oja Bayo Kuku spoke to Encomium Special in his Ikoyi (Lagos) office.

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