Oba Kasali: I Never Knew I Hail from a Ruling House Until Stool Was Declared Vacant

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He never knew he was born into a Ruling House, let alone dream of becoming a king. That is the testimony of Oba Abdulsemiu Orimadegun Kasali, Orimadegun, the new Adeboruwa of Igbogbo town, Lagos State. In this interview with Femi Ogbonnikan, the traditional ruler, from Ijaolu Ruling House, who until his recent installation as the new Adeboruwa of Igbogbo, was a state counsel with Lagos State Ministry of Justice, narrates how the lot fell on him during the selection process by the kingmakers

Can you tell us about your background?

My name is Abdulsemiu Orimadegun Kasali. I was born on October 20, 1968, in Lagos, at Ebute-Metta. Precisely No. 78, Kano Street. The place is popularly called Oko Baba now. I attended United Native African Church School, Odunfa Street, Ebute-metta for my primary school education. Thereafter, I attended Denton Grammar School, Ebute-metta between 1980 and 1985. Later, I proceeded to St. Gregory College, Obalende, Lagos, for my Advanced Level (A/L) education. Immediately after the completion of my A/L examination, I gained provisional admission at the University of Ibadan to study Law. I was offered admission in the 1990/91 session as a result of the disruption in academic calendar due to crisis and we were made to graduate in 1997. Thereafter, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and we were the last batch in Lagos, before the opening of the Abuja campus. We were the first set to be called to the Bar at Abuja, before the splitting of the Law Schools into many satellite campuses. After my call to the Bar in 1998, I proceeded to my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. I served in Bayelsa State in 1999. And coming back to Lagos, I joined the Law Firm of Pinheiro & Oguntade Company between 1999 and 2000. While in the Chambers of Pinheiro & Oguntade Company, I proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in 2000 for my Postgraduate degree programme in Law (LLM). I finished on time, because of logistics and administrative reasons. I graduated with them in 2005, even though I had finished my examination, the project and every other thing in 2001.

Did anybody mentor or influence you in your chosen career?

The career came in as an after-thought, because initially, I took personal interest in International Relations and Politics. I was very much in love with that course called Political Science and International Relations, everything combined. I was offered admission to study Political Science in the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo campus. I think, that was in 1996 or 1997. But my elder brother was equally studying Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu state. And when the information got to my uncle, Pa Olatunji Odusanya (mni), he called and admonished me to consider another course of study. As a matter of fact, he advised that I should pick Law. And that was how I started with what is known as the Law profession.

Where did you do your pupilage?

Well, I had my pupilage in the Law Firm of Pinheiro & Oguntade popularly called, then as “The Bungalows”. We had our office, then at either No 4 or No 14, Ade Akinsanya Street, Ilupeju, Lagos. In that Firm, we had a combination of erudite Lawyers, in the persons of Mr. Kemi Uthman Pinheiro (SAN) and Mr. George Folu Oguntade, equally a SAN. Mr. Folu Oguntade is the son of that erudite Supreme Court Judge, Hon Justice Adesola Oguntade. In that Firm too, we had seasoned Advocates, Mr. Kayode Oseni and Adebowale Kamoru. Another staff was Olukayode Aribaba. That Firm was a place I would always want to refer anybody to, even though the Chamber has since been split into two. The two partners had resolved to operate independently. We have the Firm of Kemi Pinheiro & Co and we now have George Folu Oguntade & Co.

Initially, you were engaged in private practice, but why did you cross over to Lagos State Ministry of Justice as a state counsel?

Number one, I had that zeal. While in the Chambers of Pinheiro & Oguntade, I did have that close contact with the Lagos State Government offices. While doing that, as a Lagosian, I did see counsels from the state government, appearing in matters and you would like to be part of them because of the way they argue in court. They feel proud that they are Counsels from the State Government. I fell in love with the way they conducted themselves in court; people like Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN). As at the time I started my pupillage he (Pedro) was a very senior counsel in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice. So, whenever I went to court, I would always see him, appearing and defending state government’s actions or cases. So, that was one thing. But another thing, was the advice from my uncle, Pa Olatunji Odusanya, who consulted with people like Chief Babatunde Olusola Benson (SAN) and another daughter of Ikorodu, who was, then a prominent Lawyer. He consulted them and they advised that they should get that civil service form for me, to see if I could get into the service.

In your first appearance in court, did you exhibit timidity?

Well, it appears to be the natural thing. 95 percent of lawyers would tell you that about their first appearance in court. They would have one or two things to tell you about how the confidence was a bit shaky. My first appearance was before Honourable Justice Obadina (now retired). He eventually got promoted to the Court of Appeal and I believe he is retired now. I was before Justice Obadina of the Lagos High Court, and in the day of the matter, a senior colleague, who had since departed this world, in the person of Barrister Bamidele Aturu, who I was with in the same suit on that day, gave me a hint on how to handle the matter that I came for. I would ever remain grateful to him for that. Because of the hint he gave me, I was able to hold my feet that day. It was a memorable day. There was no hint to be caught that I was new in the wig.

Were you stubborn as a child?

In my primary school, I can claim from what I was told that I was a bit stubborn. And it got to a stage that I had to calm down. Getting to my secondary school, I was a bit reserved. I was known as a gentle Kasali. And that informed the reason why some of my colleagues found it difficult to believe or understand, that I went to study Law in the University. They never believed that this person that doesn’t talk because they believe, Lawyers are talkative, not knowing that it doesn’t really matter. It is not a criterion. But at the University, I still maintained my status, because I graduated as an elder statesman in my hall of residence, Mellanby Hall.

Did your friends or classmates give you any nickname in primary school?

No! I can’t remember if I had any.

Before ascending the throne as the new Adeboruwa of Igbogbo, did you ever feel that one day you would become a king?

My brother, there was no inkling. At a point, I never knew that I come from a ruling house, that I belong to any ruling house. But at a point, I queried my middle name, ‘Orimadegun’. I asked my elder sister, “why the name”? That the name is too long. Why did they resolve to give me this kind of a name that is too long? When we have names like Tunji, when we have Leke and Adewale is there, but ‘Orimadegun’, I queried. But nobody was able to give me any clear answer. I just resolved and shortened it to ‘Made’. But at a point, somebody among my friends said, he went somewhere for some other things and the next thing the person he went to see told him was that he had somebody that is close to him, and to “tell him that he is going to become a king”. That person told him that whether I like it or not, I should just take it. But when my friend returned he never told me immediately. But he eventually told me that he was ready to swear by whatever he could. As events unfolded, I now began to hear series of stories and testimonies from different quarters, testifying to what is happening now. Well, I give Glory to God that everything belongs to Him and it is God’s doing.

How many ruling houses do you have in Igbogbo town?

Presently, we have four ruling houses in Igbogbo. We have Ayanfolu; we have Rademo; we have Ijaolu ruling house, which is my ruling house; and then, we have Fadugba ruling house. But efforts are being made to see how we can amend these ruling houses to take care of certain interests within the community.

How did the lot fall on you?

My ruling house, Ijaolu, presented me as its candidate for the stool. And upon my presentation, I understood, we were more than three in the race, but some persons had to back out. But eventually, three of us made the final list, until the kingmakers eventually sanctioned the criteria for presentation, culminating into my eventual presentation and enthronement as the king. That exercise places another responsibility on the need for me to reach out to the other Princes in the family to engage them and to give them the confidence that we are all on the throne. That it is not a one-man show. With my ruling house, it is our time and it is only one person among us that would occupy that stool. I am giving them the confidence that in whatever we are doing, we will carry them along; that we are all together. And to give other ruling houses, the confidence too that, well, it is our time, and that they should rally round us to see how we can take Igbogbo town to another level.

What is your dream for Igbogbo community?

My dream for this community is to have Igbogbo live up to its name, as a land of cool beauty. I want to see Igbogbo that is peaceful. I want to see Igbogbo that is competing with other major cities in terms of infrastructural development, educational development, industrialisation and all social infrastructures, develop economic-wise, etc. Igbogbo is blessed with so many communities under it, particularly the waterfront communities. Presently, there are enormous economic potential that are yet to be fully tapped. I want to see Igbogbo that the whole world would see is exploring its endowed God-given potential within this domain. And lastly, I want to have Igbogbo full of well-educated teeming youths that are ready to take up responsibilities anywhere in the world. In a nutshell, Igbogbo is not going to be relegated further and we want to take Igbogbo to the next level, not in terms of what some people would determine as the level, but the level that is next for a community or city that we believe is fully developed already. We don’t want to limit ourselves, but want to move ourselves to the next level we would all be proud of. With God on our side, we are ready to do that. That is our prayer.