Princess Ebunoluwa Oladunni is the CEO of Starcrest Investment Company, a consultancy firm training individuals, government personnel and corporate bodies on finance, etiquette, protocols, house keeping, carriage and comportment.
The daughter and Yeye Oba of Iloba, in Ekiti state is always impacting on people within her environment, resulting into winning over one hundred awards from various communities, bodies and organisations. She Spoke with Ishola Balogun and Ebun Sessou about how she became self reliant at a younger age including her role as Yeye Oba which modifies her style of dressing. She is our Role Model this week
Why are you addressed as Yeye and Princess?
We have three ruling houses in my family and according to the Yoruba tradition, such position is rotated. But, in 1993, the three ruling houses decided that I should be their mother and that means, I’m mother to my father, the king, all the princes and princesses. There is a mode of dressing and since I became the queen mother, I don’t have any choice other than to dress in such a way depicting the position given to me.
When I was working in the bank, I was dressing in a manner that it deformed the tradition. Even when I was going for IMF meetings, my dressing still befitted my outing. My responsibility is to make sure that there is peace within the ruling houses.
There are Atiba, Iloda and Ijisin, all in Ekiti. The names were taken all the way from Ife but according to history, there was tussle for chieftaincy title. The younger was given while the elderly lost out. And the elderly said, “wherever I am, I will be reporting to people” and that is where the name came from. They were moving until they got to their destination.
Which ruling house is yours?
And your title is not rotated?
The three ruling houses decide who their queen mother would be and they call her “Yeye Omo Owa”. Owa is king while Omo is princes and princesses. My position to is appear as the mother of the king, princes and princesses and support their tradition. My father was the Eleebi, “leader of the three ruling houses” and whenever we want to meet as a group, he will preside over the meeting of the three ruling houses.
How did your start out in life in terms of chasing your careers?
I had a nice time growing up. I was surrounded with the people that loved me. I lost my mother at the age of six. But I had a wonderful step-mother who raised us like her own. There was no difference amongst the children.
I started my primary school at an early age. In those days, your hands must touch your ear before you will be allowed to go but I came from a family of teachers. And we were always lingering to go to school on a daily basis, we were using our fingers to write on the ground until we were old enough to start school.
I also had an Uncle who was the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Communication, Charles Olatunde Lawson. He became the head of service and secretary to the government of the federation during Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s regime.
I grew under my Uncle after leaving Ekiti for Lagos. I was greatly influenced by his philosophy. He denied me some rights as a child saying that he was using that to build my confidence. Even when I wanted to go to the university, he advised me against being a teacher. He refused my scholarship award to study at the university. He said scholarship is meant for the children of the poor. So, I should work while I go to school. I cried and went to Miami, USA. I started my junior college there and I was working and going to school at the same time. I graduated and I thank God for what he did. I learnt self-reliance and that helped greatly in life. I wouldn’t have achieved what I have achieved without those values. He taught me how to save money and I live within my means.
I was raised to stand on my feet even when it was difficult. My father had never discriminated against any child. Every child is a child, whether male or female. He made sure everybody had school certificate and in those day, it was a lot.
How did you get into CBN?
I graduated from the Iowa State University in 1977. I came back home and I didn’t want to live in the America. Although, I was married. I came back home with my children and husband. So, I did my NYSC at the Central Bank of Nigeria. As a Youth Corper, I worked Saturday through Sunday depending on the demand of the job. I could communicate and write in different languages including French, Italy, Spanish.
I was working with them serving as an attendant and secretary. By the time, I finished my service year, the company threw a party for me with lots of gifts. During the party, I was given an envelope which contained my appointment letter. I had thought it was money. I was employed in the Human Resources capacity of the Central Bank of Nigeria. I was also transferred to the research Department.
Because of my ability to speak several languages, I was posted to Research department and from there I was redeployed to IMF World Bank and other International Financial Institution Department. I took the job in 1977 and retired in 2005 as deputy Director and by the time, I was leaving, I had covered about 76 countries in the world, without counting one country twice. My schedule included the IMF World Bank, Common Wealth, African Union, AU, Ecowas and so on. I was moving around. It was a fulfilling period.
You have been honoured with some awards, what were those wonderful things that earned you the awards?
I wouldn’t say I did it alone but I believe people are appreciative and I have more than one hundred awards from different people. I engage in some community projects in improving the cause of the poor in the society.
There is a community called Kuchigoro on the way to the airport in Abuja, we got a permission from the education board to start a primary school there. We built three classrooms with mats, one for the teacher and two rooms for the children. Right now, the school has been built to a befitting level. It belongs to the community now. I was also installed as the Yeye Abuja by the Gbayi residents. I have a farm where I used to harvest two thousand five hundred tubers of yam, and whenever I want to harvest I call friends and people around to be part of it.
How do feel doing this without so much money?
I believe in the little that is blessed by God. I believe in collective contribution. Most times, the ‘big monies’ are not spent rightly. It goes to other people’s pocket. What is important is to know the needs of the people before commencing any project. Money is important but not the most important. It is your interest to cause a change and develope the people that matters.
How would you see fulfillment amidst all that you have achieved?
God has been good to me. He raised my children for me since my husband divorced me. Now, I have an Architect, Medical Doctor and the last child has just made a 2:1 in Cambridge University.
When you know how to plan, everything will fall in place. People should know that too much is a product of confusion just as contentment in life is another condition for success.
Your hairstyle seems to be part of your identity, why do you wear this hairstyle?
During my coronation, the hairstylists spent three days making my hair in Ekiti. It was a special hair. It was the Olori’s that were doing it and they were using it to collect money from everybody. I have to keep the look. I am an Ambassador of Odualand.