In this exclusive interview with Asabeafrika, scion of the famous Oredein family of Ogere land in Ogun State (South West Nigeria) Dr. Babafunmilayo Oredeinreacted to the vicious rivulet of views that his late father, Chief Samuel Taiwo Oredein was a grand master of the underworld in his life time. In the last two weeks, a history blogger, Onigegewura had gone to town with the bad story of how the late Co-Founder of Action Group and one of the influential politician of the first republic, Chief Oredein was given a life jail in 1971 after he was convicted for a robbery case which involved Backlays Bank and Bacita Sugar Company. The Ogere born Chief was railed into a life imprisonment jail after some arrested criminals who broke into the Ilorin—Kwara State branch of the bank accused him (implicated him?) of being their chief sponsor. Irony of the case was the fact that, Oredein’s boss and party leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the De-facto Vice President and Minister of Finance to Nigeria’s Head of State, General YakubuGowon at the time. He was seen to have looked the other way as Oredein faced his cruel fate alone, even as many of his fans including his children believed their father was a victim of a vicious political hate scheme. He was released ten years later courtesy President Shehu Shagari and his Vice, Chief Alex Ekweme. Eminent Nigerians like Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Chief Richard Akinjidewere said to have played a role in his release. But 31 years down the line, the ugly story came visiting the social media two weeks ago.
Your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter Blog, Asabeafrika visited the home of the scion of the Oredein dynasty, a 78 years old German trained medical doctor, Dr. Babafunmilayo Oredein. We met the septuagenarian in company of his younger siblings and he told us the full story of how his father became a victim of a high wire political vicious scheme which sole aim was to tame his rising influence and profile in the South West. Dr. Oredein who was angry and dejected at the impression created of his father as a criminal, debunked all allegations against his dad, promising to write his own version of the sad history. He answered all our questions verbatim. Enjoy the excerpts.
How did you feel with allegations that your dad, Chief Samuel Taiwo Oredein was a robbery kingpin in his life time?
Honestly, it is quite unfortunate. I find it ridiculous but we are not here to join issues with anybody. We grew to know our father as a man of integrity and hard work. I was conceived and partly raised in Epe—here in Lagos before we moved to Ibadan, my father was the Secretary to the District Officer in Epe at the time and that was how he started his life as a young man. So for someone to now say he is an armed robber, the person must have his head examined. This was a hardworking man, God loving man who wanted goodness for himself and his family. So I won’t say much today.
But you need to react because we were so shocked to read those scandalous stories about your dad
You see, I was abroad when this thing happened (in 1971). I was already a doctor in 1971, I graduated in 1967 December 7, won o ti bi gbogbo yin (None of you were born by then). I had my degree from University of Colon, Western Germany, e mi ti mo jo ko yi—me seated with you here. So when we heard about the incidence in 1971, I said how can somebody call my father an armed robber? But we all knew it was a political thing.
So you agree that your father’s problem was a political set-up?
It is not a matter of agree, we all knew it was a political thing, because what is known as Action Group today, you can see that picture (brought down a picture of Chief Obafemi Awolowo & 7 others, including his father who established Action Group). That party was established and formed in our sitting room. Before Awolowo went to England in 1944, we were living in the same house. Se e mo ile won loke B’ola—do you know Awolowo’s house in Oke B’ola?
You mean in Ibadan
Yes, it was a bungalow of six rooms; we were living in 3 rooms, Awolowo and his family in the other three rooms. He went to England in 1944 and handed over HID (Hannah Idowu Dideolu) to my father—Pe ST ma’a t’oju Mama Segun fun mi (ST, kindly take care of Segun’s mother for me) you see, these are things we are going to write. Iyen ni mo se s’ope eni ko l’ojo oro—that’s why I said today is not a day for narratives. We are now going to write our own part of the story and tell the entire world.
But how did you feel when that blogger published the story?
It was a shock to us; look I don’t want to do any interview today.
But you have to talk because perception is already running about the role your father played in the history of this country?
I just want to tell you that as far as I am concerned, as far as the family is concerned, our father cannot be an armed robber. He was never an armed robber, you get my point? All these boys they mentioned, awon Odunpade, awon Mustapha, we all know them when we were young. We know them…
(Cuts in) They also raised the issue of Aberenla Family, that your father’s men killed their son because he was working for Ladoke Akintola’s party?
Exactly, you see we are going to talk later on all these, we are going to write it out and give it to you…
(Cuts in again) They equally said your father harbored thugs in his life time?
Look, look, I am a medical doctor, I am not a politician and Biola (Mrs. Olatunji) can tell you, our father told us ‘don’t go into politics’ abi beeko? (He asked his younger siblings which they answered in the affirmative). Our father told us, don’t go into politics.
You mean your father warned you about going into politics?
He said ‘e ma lo si politics’ (Don’t go into politics); let me tell you something, he said to us ‘if you go into politics, if you start at point A, and you grow, grow and grow, you will come back to point A’.
You mean if one plays politics?
Yes, for example, he said where did Awolowo go back to? Ikene!. Where did AlhajiJakande go back to? Ilupeju! Is that not so? Where did Zik go back to? Onitsha! And so many of them, nobody in politics—t’oo ba bere ni A, waa p’ada si A. (If you start from A, you end up at A—it is such a vicious circle). In Nigeria if you are not messed up along the way, you are lucky and that is why Dad said ‘e ma lo si politics’. We are not going into politics, I am just telling you a bit of the story. We know our father is not an armed robber and we are ready to say it to the whole world. You see the person who wrote that story should have called some of us and say ‘what is your own side of the story?’ because I have a brother who is a journalist—Femi Oredein. You would have heard his name before…
Yeah, yeah, sounds famous
He was Editor of Sunday Sketch. Why didn’t they call some of us and say ‘Bawo Loro se ri?’ (What is the true story?) ‘Iyen ni nkan to bi awa ninu’ (That is the only thing that got us angry). You write things because you want to make money, fine, but don’t malign people you don’t know anything about. You don’t know anything about ST Oredein.
So, who was the man, ST Oredein?. Can we know much of him for the sake of people of this generation?
But look at that picture I showed you (He showed this blogger some old family pictures before the commencement of the interview); that time, my father was working with BATC (British-American Tobacco Company) but he used to hawk tiles, hats, shoes all over Ibadan—after ton ba kuro n’ibise, won a gbe bicycle, won a ma’a hawk kiri (After he leaves the office, he will pick his bicycle and start to hawk around town). Then, this picture was taken at (couldn’t recall the name of the place again) there is a photographer there, we went to take this picture that day, you can see he had a shirt, knickers, shoes, he was even sweating that day. This is my brother, we were taking the picture together (Dr. Oredein stand at the right hand of his father) and because my brother was crying, my dad had to pacify him by putting him on his lap. The man was sweating, coming from selling things all over Ibadan. And the photographer was (late) Justice Abimbola
You mean the same Justice Abimbola from Ijebu-Ode?
Yes, I bought his first car for him, an Opel in Germany. Justice Abimbola, he is late now, he was the photographer who took this picture on that day.
You mean the Justice was a photographer at the time?
Yes, he took the picture. You get my point?
Yeah, the picture is indeed historic
So this is the man they are calling armed robber, he was sweating, he sat down, took my brother on his lap and took the picture. Then he went on with his bicycle, still hawking his things all over the place before he went home—hardworking, children loving and even a fellowship loving man. I mean he became a very popular person all over the world—look, let me tell you something, that is my wife there (pointed in her direction), we went to Honk Kong (sometimes in the 80s) because she was working with British Airways at the time. So, I and she went to Honk Kong. Normally, whenever we travel, we register at the Embassy that ‘we are in town o, in case something happens’. Then, the Ambassador, Alhaji Lapai, he is late now. You know Lapai in Niger State?
Yes, Lapai is a town in Niger State
He was from that place, he called his secretary Zakari, he said ‘go and bring thedoctor’. That was me and my wife. The man was reading a newspaper and put his legs on the table. When I entered his office, he said ‘Oredein’. I said ‘yes, sir’. He said ‘Are you the boy in Germany?’, ma gbo o (listen o) I said ‘which boy sir?’. He said ‘Are you not the one?’ I said ‘yes’. He said ‘your father said he has a son studying in Germany’. I said ‘yes, that’s me’, he just stood up with his Agbada and hugged me.
You mean the same Lapai?
Yes, the same Lapai. He said ‘where are you staying?’ You know Hong-Kong is an island, there is the mainland, and there is the island. So, we said we are staying in Karoon that is the Island; he said ‘No, no, no, go and bring their loads from thehotel and bring it to the embassy’. So they went and brought our luggage to the embassy. He said ‘you are going to stay with me’.
Why, because of your dad?
Wait! In 1959 before independence, when they went to campaign in the north—ti e ba ranti n’igba ton ni Awolowo yo ninu Osupa’ (When the myth broke that Awolowo appeared in the moon). My father recruited them as field secretaries (including Lapai) and gave them cars, gave them drivers and even learnt Hausabecause of them and was paying their salaries regularly. So, Lapai said ‘Oh, your father, he was a good man o’ we stayed with Lapai for ten days. That was the first day I slept on a water bed in the Nigerian embassy (in Honk Kong). I mean to see somebody my father did good for in 1959 to wa n ranti mi in the 80s, pe so iwol’omo man yi? (For a person my dad blessed in 1959 to now be returning the favor to me in the 80s shows the kind of person my father was)
So your dad had such a reputation?
Even up to Honk Kong; my siblings and the grand children can tell you stories, once they hear ‘Oredein’ doors open. When I came back from Europe and I set up my own hospital, you know what we call ‘retainer doctor’—retainer-ship; once I get someone, they will say ‘eh, omo tani e? omo ST, Baba e o j’ebe’. What do you want? I got ten retainer-ships trough my father in companies like Vaswani, Kenkel, name it; and that is the person you are calling an armed robber? I hope you are getting what I am saying?
I am getting it of course
So we are not interested in defending anything, we are just telling you what has happened. You see, it is just politics.
You see, we need to get your side of the story so that we can have a balanced perception?
The person who wrote that story should have gotten to the sources to say ‘ki lo tee s’ele?’ (What really happened?) Did he come to us? Did he get the court papers? I have a daughter who is a lawyer; my own daughter is a lawyer. So, if you are doing that, then go to the court, ask the court, ‘what happened?’ Give me the court account, you know anybody can apply for it; you pay some money and get it. We got it when we were trying to fight for my father to come out. We went to the court and we got the court proceedings—we paid for it and it solved the problem. Why can’t the journalists go there, let me see the court proceedings o—investigative journalism. I have a brother who is a journalist; I have a son who is a journalist in Germany. I myself, I think you heard about Deuche-velle before?
Yes, Deuche-velle—German waves, it is a German Radio Station, when I was a student, I used to write for them; my father was a journalist too, in those days with Daily Service (Newspaper)
You mean this same ST Oredein?
Yes, with Bisi Onabanjo. So you people (journalists) have to sit down and listen to what has happened actually. You journalists don’t know anything.
I can see your pain, sir
Bisi Onabanjo was the Editor of Daily Service in those days
You mean the same Bisi Onabanjo, the former Governor of Ogun State?
He was my father’s assisstant; Bisi Onabanjo, Bola Ige, Ambrose Ali, Jakande, they used to sit down in the sitting room in my father’s house, being lectured in politics. People like J.S. Olawoyin
Yeah, that is another historically famous name in the Yoruba South West?
Yes, but you people don’t know them but we know them and they were all there at my father’s funeral. Even Awolowo came. ‘So, iyen lo sen bi wa ninu pe kilode ti won o te se wa ba wa?’ (Why didn’t they come to seek our opinion on the issues raised). You are just writing something in the social media…look, as of today, my father has 150 grand children.
You mean 150 grand kids? That’s great
Yes, 36 children and over 150 grand children that we know
And to show Godliness in his life, I believe all you 36 are alive?
I think like 3 of us are dead, but it was after his demise. He did not burry any single child in his life time.
Your dad was a Christian?
Ah, ah, my grad father was the Baba Ijo of Anglican Church (Ogere)
What’s his name?
Chief Daniel Adekomaya Oredein, that’s my father’s father. You see, these are things people should know before going to write rubbish.
Do you mind telling us more about the Oredein lineage?
We are too small to be discussed….
(Cuts in) I think that will help to tell more of who your father is and what guided his philosophy
My grandfather, Chief Daniel, you see, you can’t bear Daniel unless you are a christian, abi? Adekomaya Oredein, Baba Ijo ni church wa l’ogere (He is the Baba Ijo of our church in Ogere). My own grandmother, she used to go and wash the church on Sundays—won a ma’a fi imi malu, won a ma fii ma clean church onSundays. So we are christians, God loving family and hardworking (Calls the attention of his younger sibling, Mrs. Biola Olatunji) Biola, ee ranti, 6am, the man will ring the bell, I have the bell, that is the bell there—b’ami gbe ago yen.
You mean your father’s prayer bell?
Emi ni mo inherit e—I inherited the bell. (This blogger rang the bell severally) he will ring the bell at 6am.
So, when you people are still sleeping, enjoying the sleep, he will ring it?
Yes, ha, o ma gba e n’ipa ni—(he will kick you to wake up for prayers). My dad will give you one month to learn a particular Psalm off head—he made us to learn Psalm 91 by force. We had to learn it off head.
So dad was so religious to this extent?
He even has an organ (Piano), and he equally bought an organ for the AnglicanChurch. If we want to pray in the morning, Baba will play organ. You see, these are things people should know before they start to write rubbish.
So,how did his relationship with Awolowo started actually?
That was what I told you initially, we were living together in Oke Gbola in Awolowo’shouse when we came from Epe to Ibadan. We rented a house a house—six rooms. Awolowo and his family were living in 3 rooms; we were living in the other 3 rooms.Segun, Tola, Wole, have you heard those names before?
Year, I think Mrs. Tola Oyediran is the mother of the wife of the Acting President of Nigeria?
Myself, Biodun and Segun—three of us, when Chief (Awolowo) was going to Englandin 1944, he handed over HID tom my father and said ‘ST, ma’a toju Mama Segun fun mi’.
So that was how confident he was with your dad?
That was how we knew Awolowo; it is not a one day affair. We used to go to Railway Shed n’ibadan—tomatoe, alubosa, awo ti Mama Segun import lati north (Tomatoe, onion and guinea fowl egg imported from the north by Awolowo’s wife—Mama Segun) we used to carry it on our head, Mama used to sell it and send the money to Awolowo abroad. My uncle Baba Kola was a railway fire man, he used to help Mama Segun (Awolowo’s wife) to bring the goods from Kano, Kaduna for Mama Segun to sell and she will send the money to Awolowo. But when Awolowo came back and wanted to use his house as a chamber, then, we had to move out. Egbe Omo Oduduwa was already on in London tie ba ranti? (If you recall)
Yeah, it actually started in shool between Awo and few others
Now, you know Zik (Nnamdi Azikwe) was very popular in the south west with his NCNC. The Yorubas said ‘how can an Ibo man come and be rulling us in our land?’ that’s another story. That was how they came together to form ‘Action Group’—Egbe Afenifere in our sitting room in 1951.
You mean Oredein’s sitting room in Ibadan?
Yes, in fact on Oredein Street and inside Oredein’s house in Oke-Ado—ibe lon bigbogbo won si—that is where they were born (referring to his younger siblings).
So, you mean the soul of Afenifere which is Action Group started inside your father’s house?
In the sitting room, it was a secret thing. You see, the story is so simple. Let me tell you the story.
Kindly tell me, please
In those days in the colonial office, to form a party you needed £200. I think you understand me. Then, Awolowo said ‘Ok, how do we get £200?’ He now told my father ‘look, let us get 8 people to donate £25 each’ that the first 8 will become the founders of Action Group and this is the picture there, today (gave the picture to this blogger)
So, these are the Great 8 who paid to establish Action Group?
Awon to san £25 Pounds niyen to di £200 Pounds—those are the ones who paid the initial £25 Pounds that eventually became £200. And they became the founders of Action Group. The date is there now, you can see the date (showed us the date of the establishment of Action Group written below the picture)
That is 26 of March 1950
Yes, so the first 8 became the founders of Action Group.
How do you feel being the first son of your father?
How do I feel?
I am proudly Oredein. I won’t say more than that. I am proudly Oredein, you know the meaning of that?
It is not even Ore-deyin, it is Oore-deyin (dragged the pronounciation of the O-r-e!)
So what is the meaning of Oore-deyin?
We didn’t know, our father didn’t tell us the meaning of that.
What have been the advantages of having the name Oredein as your surname?
That was what I initially told you now, I went to Honk Kong with my wife, we met the ambassador and he said ‘your father employed me in 1959’ and he told us to go and move from my hotel suite and to come and stay in his embassy. Se Baba wa j’ale, ambassador a de ni ki awa gbe ile oun?—will my father be an armed robber and an ambassador will ask me to leave my hotel and come and stay with him in the embassy? (His wife interjected and added another experience in New York with late Alhaji Maitama Sule) That’s my wife, that’s my wife; I think she has something to say
So you think your father was a victim of a ferocious political scheme?
Look, look, if you are in politics, there is no way you won’t make enemies. And in those days, the politics of Nigeria was not like this season, you know now, there is a lot of money. That time, there wasn’t a lot of money. You see, our father was so popular, ask her, she can tell you more. He was so popular in this country. When I was going to marry her (pointed to his wife), the uncle in Okiti-Pupa (Ondo State), when he heard my name, he said ‘heen, Oredein! Baba e ko le’ST?’ ‘Mo ni bee ni’. He told me to take her away that I should not pay dowry.
You mean your wife?
Yes, that was how famous my father was. He was a man of unlimited goodwill.
What late Maitama Sule told us about Chief Oredein—Mrs. Modupe Oredein (Nee Lebi interjected)
He said anytime Baba came to Ondo State, he will lodge in his house. Baba was even instrumental to his becoming a parliamentarian. His name is Dr. Nathaniel Lebi
My grand father
You mean he was instrumental to…
(Cuts in) No, Baba Oredein was instrumental to his being a parliamentarian
That’s your own grandfather?
From which state
Ondo state; and anytime Baba went to Ondo state that time, Baba will lodge in our house, I mean Chief Oredein, he will lodge in our house, he was so close to my family, very kind to them; they said anytime he came to Ondo state, they were always happy because he was a good man. He will give them whatever they wanted. Around that time, we went to New York, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative in New Yorkwelcomed us into his house because he heard the name Oredein. He said Oredeinhelped him while he was growing up. I mean the man that died recently—Maitama Sule.
You mean the Dan Samanin Kano?
So, what happened in Honk Kong automatically re-enacted in New York
Exactly; so Baba’s problem was born out of envy and jealousy because he was so famous and influential in the entire country and he was respected. My father told me that anytime Awolowo was going to appear in a town or a state, Baba (Chief ST Oredein) will be the first to go ahead to prepare the ground in expectation of Awolowo. He will go before him and on the D-day, he will officially present him. That was him for you.
Her husband, Dr. Oredein interjected….
Let me demonstrate it to you (held the hand of this blogger and raised it) my father will say ‘Awolowo ti mo so fun yin nipa e naa re oo’ (This is the Awolowo I told you about) and that was how he served Awowolo and worked for the progress of the party. Do you know there was a party called Ibadan People’s Party (IPP)
That was Akinjide, Akinloye, Adelabu, Adedibu…do you know how that name Afenifere came about?
It was Akinloye who called it ‘Afenifere’. He was the one who mentioned the name ‘Afenifere’. Because then, the Yoruba politicians didn’t want to put their eggs in one basket, so they said ‘let us create another party’ and that was how Akinjide & Akinloye came to this side; and they said what name in Yoruba should we give Action Group? then Akinloye said ‘e je a pe ni Egbe Afenifere’-Let us call it Afenifere group’ because the logo was ‘Freedom for all, Life more abundant’. Then Akinloye said ‘E je a pe ni Egbe Afenifere’.
His wife interjected again with more testimonies….
There was a time, sir; I went to Abuja when Abuja became the Federal Capital. I wanted to see the Acountant General of the Federation in Abuja. He was holding a meeting with all the chief accountants from all the states; then, he said ‘look at my sister she is the first born of my paramount king’—that is my father who is the paramount king of my town now—Okitipupa and he said ‘she is a wife to Oredein’ all of them said ‘ah, Action Group, Oredein—Awolowo, Oredein!. That is how popular this man was. Even in Hausa land, they recognize the name. I don’t know why people should go out and just write anything without finding out.
My father’s goodwill aided my Medical practice—Dr. Oredein
Tell us how you became a Medical Doctor?
When Mandillas came to Nigeria, I am sure you know Mandillas
When Mandillas came to Nigeria, they brought Volkswagen car—this Ijapa. It was the Action Group that was buying those cars from them. So at Oke Ado, they had a clinic where they treat the German Engineers who came with Mandillas. Mandillaswas a Greek, Mandillas and Caraberries, go and ask. So they had a doctor who had a clinic; you know where Odion Cinema is now in Ibadan, Mandillas was near there. So they had a clinic up and the German doctor used to put on white coat, white shirt, white trouser white shoes and I used to admire it. So I told the German doctor ‘can I come and study in your country?’ he said ‘Yes, no problem. Once you finish your HSC let me know’. That was how I got to Germany in 1961.
Is there where you found your wife?
Not she, my first wife was a German. That is another story.
At what point did you meet your present wife?
When I came back—1975
So the white man in Ibadan made you to study medicine?
Yes, because of his neatness, he was so neat—white coat, white shirt, white trouser, white socks and white shoes. And I was so impressed, ‘ah, can I come to your country to study?’ he said ‘yes’. So, he helped me to get into the language school. From the language school into the university, because I did HSC, we were exempted from first MB. We went straight into the second MB class in Germany because first MB subjects are the same thing like HSC, it was equivalent.
You talk about neatness that shows that your family even cherished neatness?
Ask them; ask them, those are the small girls. Ask them