Prince Adekunle Isiaka Apena became the Regent of Ikeja in his twenties following the demise of his father, His Royal Majesty Oba Rauf Adeniyi Matemi Amore the Oba of Ikeja in 2014. His appointment came barely one year after his call to bar in 2013. His story can be likened to the case of the gods choosing for themselves the young for the job of the grey. In this Interview with DNL L&S, the young Regent discussed his responsibility as the Regent to the Olu of Ikeja and the journey so far.
Enjoy the excerpt.
DNL L&S: Please tell us about yourself
Prince Adekunle: My name is Prince Adekunle Isiaka Apena. My father was the late Olu of Ikeja, His Royal Majesty Oba Rauf Adeniyi Matemi Amore while my mum is Olori Faidat Amore. My parents had 9 children and I am the 7th. My father was married to three wives. I was born in Agege, Lagos in the 80s the second son in my immediate family. My elder brother lives in the United Kingdom. I started my formal education, at Ideal Primary School in Agege and proceeded to Imola Comprehensive College Ifako for my secondary school. After my secondary education, I gained admission into the Lagos State University to study law. I finished my LLB in 2012 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2013. After my call to bar, I started legal practice immediately under the tutelage of Mr. Adejare Kembi the Principal Partner of Excel Chambers in Agege. My practice was cut short in 2014 when my father passed on and I became the Regent to the Olu of Ikeja.
DNL L&S: From your response above, your late father Oba Rauf Adeniyi Matemi Amore was the Olu of Ikeja during your school days. What were the special privileges you had from your fellow students and teachers and even your parents as the son of the Olu of Ikeja?
Prince Adekunle: I never enjoyed any special privileges. I was just a normal student then. I never thought for one day that I would become the Regent to the Olu of Ikeja. My father during his life time never mentioned that after his demise, I would be the one acting as the Regent. It was a normal everyday child going to school and doing all you can to ensure that you pass very well. No privileges at all.
DNL L&S: In 2014, barely one year after your call to bar, you were appointed the Regent of Ikeja. How did your appointment as the Regent happen?
Prince Adekunle: It was in July, 2014 after my father passed on. The Chiefs just came to the palace and told my mum that her son was going to be the Regent. My mum did not first accept the offer. She said to them “I just lost my husband, and you have come to take my son again, I will not take that.” So she rejected the offer. The chiefs had to persuade her. They gave her the assurance that I was going to be safe. They told her they appreciated her fear because of my age but that it is their duty to ensure that I am protected to the best of their ability. They promised to guide me to manage the responsibilities. They also told her that the stool cannot be vacant. So, with their assurance that nothing would happen to me, she reluctantly gave her consent and by the grace of God, I have been here since 2014 and nothing has happened. The Chiefs have kept their words and God has been faithful.
DNL L&S: What was the reason why your mum refused to let you take the place of the Regent?
Prince Adekunle: Well, because I was young and am still young. She was just afraid like any mother would be. She felt that the stool is too big for me. Taking up the role of a Regent places me in the position of a traditional head in Ikeja. So, if there is anything to be done traditionally I must give my consent. If I say no, that is it. I must ensure that there is peace and harmony and mediate in any issue that comes to the palace. So, her fear then was that some people would come with the aim of harming me if I say no to their wishes. How would I know the person’s intention as a young boy?
DNL L&S: You are also a practicing Muslim, has your position as the Regent affected your Islamic background?
Prince Adekunle: The stool and Prince Adekunle Isiaka Apeno are two different persons. They are like parallel lines that can never meet. Whatever that would adversely affect my religion I would definitely prefer to let it go. So it has not affected my religion in anyway. I am still a practicing Muslim?
DNL L&S: As the Regent, what are your primary responsibilities to your people?
Prince Adekunle: My role is the role that the Olu of Ikeja would play if he was on the throne. I represent the Olu and I take care of the traditional responsibilities of Ikeja indigenes. My major roles are; acting as the Oba pending when another Oba is installed. Mediating when there is dispute between indigenes or families. It is my duty to call those who are fighting or quarreling and the invite few chiefs to assist to resolve their issues and where we are not able to resolve the issues with the available mechanisms to advise that they go to court to sort out their issues. I also attend official engagements and things like that.
DNL L&S: You were just settling down to legal practice and had started going to court before your appointment, do you still go to court?
Prince Adekunle: No. I don’t go to court anymore. But I have not abandoned legal practice. I established my own law firm; Kunle Apeno and Co. With that, I get the opportunity to prepare my processes while colleagues go to court for me. This is because I am aware that this position of a Regent is temporary and I still hope to continue with my legal practice as well as appear in court once I am through with the service which I was called to render for my people. If I did not take the step to start my practice, nobody was going to give me the leverage to work in his office with my schedule and I may not have the liberty of time to do things my way. So, having my law firm gives me the time to keep abreast of practice.
DNL L&S: You talked about the title of Regent being temporary, what if you are then made the Olu?
Prince Adekunle: For now, I am the Regent and I would carry out the duty to the best of my ability and when I am called upon to handover, I would return to my legal practice.
DNL L&S: How long is your tenure as the Regent going to last?
Prince Adekunle: My tenure as the regent stops when another Olu is installed.
DNL L&S: Is there anyone opposed to you being the Regent?
Prince Adekunle: No.
DNL L&S: You mentioned that your Elder Brother is not in the country, is he comfortable with your appointment as the Regent
Prince Adekunle: He is very comfortable.
DNL L&S: You mentioned that part of your role as the Regent is majorly dispute resolution among disputing parties. Would you consider that your knowledge as a legal practitioner has helped in that regards?
Prince Adekunle: My study and knowledge of law has helped in a lot of ways. I am able to appreciate issues and also proffer solution. As a lawyer, I am trained to ensure disputes are resolved either amicably or by going to court. I understand the process of mediation and how to apply it in resolving dispute among persons. Even when a lawyer is involved, I understand better the angle the lawyer is coming from and know when to call the lawyer to order. I give you an instance; there was a case that was brought to the palace where a tenant attempted to sell the land of his landlord. When they came we realized that what really happened was that the land was originally sold to the landlord by the tenant’s father and the tenant still sees himself as the owner of the land. The tenant went ahead to sell the land claiming from his father’s record, the portion he is presently occupying was not part of the portion sold to the landlord. When we invited all the parties, the new buyer sent his lawyer and his lawyer was not aware that I was also a lawyer. So he began to speak English. I only asked him one question. “Can you give what you don’t have?” He said no. I asked again, “can a tenant ever deny the proprietary right or interest of the landlord? He said no. I said to him, “Oga, go and advice your client properly”. At that point he had to ask if I am a lawyer and I responded to him that I never introduced myself as a lawyer to you. I am the Regent and I am only here to settle the matter. He was not comfortable at all. After about three weeks, they all came back. Even the new buyer was then around. So I told him “look, the person you bought from never had title to the piece of land he sold to you.” I advised that he settle with the landlord. The new buyer an Igbo man eventually negotiated with the landlord and the matter was then settled even in his lawyer’s absence. And there are several cases like that.
If I was not a lawyer, it would have been difficult for me to appreciate his position and to give the advice I gave. So the profession has helped a lot.
DNL L&S: Let us talk about your firm, Kunle Apena and Co, would you say the practice has had the kind of attention you would have given to it if you were not the Regent? Has it been profitable?
Prince Adekunle: In life, it is said that if you want anything to be done well, do it yourself. Of course not being in the office would affect your practice but for me, I have a principle. “Whatever happens to you that you cannot control, adjust to the situation” that has kept me going. I do the much I can and let others follow the natural course. There are times that you obviously have to sacrifice somethings for greater assignment. Being the Regent and serving my people should take priority over my legal practice. I would always return to the practice and work hard. However, my colleagues who are helping have done well in ensuring that my practice is kept. So I am not complaining and I know that I would one day return to the practice. It is a thing of joy to serve my people too. So I would say both aspects are good for me as a person.
DNL L&S: Would you say being the Regent has influenced your client base?
Prince Adekunle: Yes it has in a lot of ways. It is not bringing so much but there is prospect. You know I am still a young lawyer but because of the stool, I am accorded some respect which make people bring things for me to do. No client would entrust a huge sum or a big brief to a young lawyer, but because they know where you are and because they know I cannot run away, they are comfortable entrusting these briefs to you. Again don’t forget my father was the Olu, so most of my clients were his friends when he was alive. So they knew my dad.
DNL L&S: So you don’t consider your appointment a distraction to your practice?
Prince Adekunle: No, although one would have loved to be going to court but for the appointment.
DNL L&S: What is the reason why you don’t go to court?
Prince Adekunle: The tradition of the people of Ikeja land forbids me to bow to anybody now except God. It is the respect to the stool and nothing more.
DNL L&S: From 2014 to 2018 as the Regent, what has been your greatest achievement as the Regent?
Prince Adekunle: Fostering cordial and harmonious relationship between all indigenous Ikeja Royal and non-Royal families. Championing the need for youth education and self development with a view to curbing unemployment, drug abuse just to mention few. We have also held the Aje festival which has never been celebrated in Ikeja. Prior to my becoming the Regent, they only had the orisa Aje.
DNL L&S: What is the Significance of Aje Festival?
Prince Adekunle: Aje means the ability to sell your goods. Our forefathers believed that no matter what you bring to Ikeja, you must sell it and it is as a result of the Aje deity. They believe that once you have a small shop you would make lots of sales. The traditionalists believe Aje is responsible for this. So in Ikeja here, we appease the deity to ensure that things move well. So in 2016 we had a big festival to celebrate the deity.
DNL L&S: How is the celebration done?
Prince Adekunle: Several atonements were made to appease the Aje Deity and then a big party held in the community and nothing more.
DNL L&S: As a young man occupying this very important position, how has it been with your social life?
Prince Adekunle: The stool has really restricted me. As I am now, I cannot even say I want to take a walk. I hardly go to party now, unless I have official function. But I said something earlier, whatever is beyond you, complaining doesn’t change anything. So I adjust to suit the situation.
DNL L&S: Was it possible for you to have rejected the appointment?
Prince Adekunle: This is a family responsibility. The Regent must come from my family and I was the only one available. How could I have said no? It was not a matter of choice but a matter of duty. A duty you owe to you self, your family and your community. So it would have been extremely difficult for me to have said no to my people because of my social life and restrictions. The sacrifice is worth it and I don’t regret accepting to be the Regent. Yes I miss my youth but the duty to my people places a greater responsibility on me and I would not have been able to enjoy my social life knowing that I disappointed my people or refused to do what is placed on me as a matter of must.
The day that my dad passed on. I had a matter before Honourable Justice Abang. I recall that, one of my sisters called me and demanded that I abandon everything I was doing and come home immediately that my attention was needed at home. I tried to find out what happened and she just sounded very serious and urgent. That was my last day in court and that was the last day I wore my wig and gown. That day also marked the end of my normal social life like every other normal young man. My appointment was 17 days after my father passed on. So, we were still mourning but our people believed my dad had done his part and the stool should not be left vacant.
DNL L&S: How has your relationship been with your friends and colleagues having become the Regent and with the responsibility?
Prince Adekunle: We are still friends. We still play. I usually tell them the respect is for the palace and the stool, so when they come and I am in the palace with the chiefs, of course they respect me because of the position I occupy. But when I am not with the Chiefs and in the palace it is back to me and my friends. We play as friends would do.
DNL L&S: What about your relationship with the other Obas in Lagos when you attend some of the official functions and meet some of the older ones that may even be as old as your dad, how do they relate with you?
Prince Adekunle: The Obas are very wise men. They do not relegate me at all because they know that it is not me but the stool that is being respected. So there is nothing like relegating me. In fact there was a day I met one of the very old Obas in Lagos. I bowed to greet him and he said to me, “look, do not bow to me” It is not you I see but the stool you occupy. So, you don’t need to bow to greet me” and I thanked the Oba and appreciated him a lot. I am talking about an Oba that is even older than my dad.
DNL L&S: Are you married?
Prince Adekunle: Yes.
DNL L&S: Was your marriage a condition precedent to your becoming a Regent?
Prince Adekunle: No. I got married in 2015 one year after I became the Regent. It was time for me to get married and I did. My wife is also a lawyer. She graduated from University of Ibadan and is in active practice. She works with AfeBabalola’s chambers. Our marriage is blessed with a child.
DNL L&S: Why is your wife not working in your firm?
Prince Adekunle: Well, we are not considering that for now. She is comfortable where she is working. May be later.
DNL L&S: How is your typical day like?
Prince Adekunle: The first thing I do in the morning is to perform my salat. I do some exercise. I have my breakfast and after which I proceed to my chambers if I do not have any official function. Return home around 4pm. I expect visitors from 5pm till 7pm. I watch Television from 8pm till 10pm and I retire.
DNL L&S: How do you relax?
Prince Adekunle: I relax by Reading books and watching soccer
DNL L&S: Any regrets as Regent yet?
Prince Adekunle: No. I do not have any regret
DNL L&S: What would you like to be remembered for after your reign?
Prince Adekunle: Someone that during his time Ikeja indigenes were brought under one umbrella
DNL L&S: Any parting shot?
Prince Adekunle: Whatever decision or judgement you pass on to others, put yourself in the Shoes of those you passed the decision or judgment on. The purpose of this is to know if the decision you passed was in bad faith or otherwise.
DNL L&S: Thank you so much! May your reign remain Peaceful!