Chief Ramon Adegoke Adedoyin, the Maye of Ile-Ife, in his sixties, is an educationist.
Adedoyin started as a student of mathematics at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, decades ago, when one of his lecturers, because of his outstanding performance in the subject, assigned him to teach his children at home.
From there, other lecturers asked their children to join. After graduation, he started a coaching class in the family house which later metamorphosed into Universal Tutorial College, Ile-Ife and this has since become The Polytechnic, Ile-Ife.
Adedoyin later founded Oduduwa University, Ile-Ife, Oduduwa University International Secondary School, Ile-Ife, Our Saviors University, Delaware USA, Unique Citizens University College, Accra, Ghana, Raypower Guards Ltd, Lagos, Nigeria among several other investments in banking, medicine, tourism and hospitality.
Adedoyin, a prince of Ile-Ife, took a shot at the stool of the Ooni of Ife, before Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi ultimately emerged.
Adedoyin, in this interview, speaks on his ties with the late Ooni Okunade Sijuwade Olubushe II and the Ogunwusi.
Relationship with Oba Okunade Sijuwade
One thing I am going to miss about the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade was the role he used to play each time I wanted to assist somebody. There was a Chairman of the National Museum and Monuments, Dr Omotosho Eluyemi, who died and a professor, also from Ile-Ife, came to me because he knew I was very close to the late Ooni, and so wanted me to help him deliver a letter to the monarch to help him secure the appointment to replace Eluyemi. In my usual manner, I collected the letter and went to the Ooni. Anytime he wanted to do something for me, it would just be burning in his mind. But whenever he didn’t want to do anything, when I ask, he would just say ‘sorry, how is that your school?’, as if that was what I came to discuss. When the idea of Oduduwa University came up and I discussed with him, it was like he owned it. He gave Oduduwa University 25 hectares of land and that is what is still there today.
Then there was a problem with a land in Parakin. I gave N2m to somebody for the land and then the land became controversial. I insisted I would not allow them to take over the land. They knew the person they could go and talk to that could talk to me was the late Ooni and they went to him.
When they got to him, you know what he said? He said, ‘Give them the land’, that he had so many lands and one in Parakin and asked me to come and take the papers. But I told myself, that ‘Somebody just gave me his personal land measuring 25 hectares, and says I should go and take another land’, if I’m not a foolish person, I should use common sense not to go and take that land’. So, I left that land.
The late Ooni loved me more than his children. I have a letter, from him, duly signed by the Council of Chiefs that stated that he ‘created a town in new Ife in the name of Dr R.A Adedoyin to be called Maye Town’. The man was like god-sent to all the successes I have and I believe his contributions made me what I am today. Again, before he died, each time he was travelling, he would send me a text message, “Adedoyin, take good care of our people, as you continue to do this, the Almighty God will continue to bless you”.
There was a time I was chatting with the new Ooni, he said this load is big for him and I told him not to worry, that all of us would be carrying the load. And he is carrying it with dignity. All the 401 deities in Ile-Ife, he has started remodelling them to make the town a tourist centre. People from all over the world would be coming to visit, just like it happens in Jerusalem. So, what we have been doing is to make sure that we assist him so that he can succeed.
The contest for Ooni
I believe what happened was the way God wanted it. This is because, when you say you want something and God knows that what you want will affect you and what he has designed for your life, God may not allow you to get it. So, as far as I am concerned, I am happy, I am friendly with the present Ooni, we are from the same ruling house. He has visited me, he is peace loving, because the way some people wanted it was that there should be a very serious crisis during the contest for the Ooni stool, but I did not listen to them. At the peak of the contest, the Area Commander here visited me and said he learnt from Abuja that Ile-Ife was going to boil and that so many people will be killed, and many houses burnt. He claimed that the information from Abuja showed that there was a rich man in Ile-Ife who had universities, a security company, guns, and that the person wanted to cause problems in Ile-Ife. I assured him that there will be no problem. One of the king-makers also sent a message to me, asking me to be careful and refrain from causing trouble because I am among people with the largest properties in Ile-Ife. So, I will be the last person to cause trouble. Some people invited me, they said we should go to court, and I said, no, we are from the same ruling house. And even if I fight and remove him, I still can’t become the Ooni because the stool will then go to another ruling house, so what would I be fighting for? Reasonably, I should not fight because if you look at the largest investor in Ile-Ife, it is me, so why must I fight? I will never fight him. The day after the new Ooni was announced, I just called my wife and the children and travelled out. You want to fight for somebody that is not around?. And when everything settled, I came back and congratulated the new Ooni. Today, we are very close, always chatting.
Investing in the education sector is a very risky business because when you have invested so much, government keeps on telling you that it remains this and that. The process of accreditation is not a joke. Before you get a licence to operate a university, you have about eleven steps to take. If you look at the steps critically, you may say”I don’t want to continue this business”. But if you are sure that this is what you want to do, you are determined, I think success will come.
There was a time at the polytechnic level, when I had not got accreditation and some students rioted, destroyed buildings and cars. One welder who did a lot of works in the polytechnic came to me and said he didn’t think the project will not die and advised me to try another business. I looked at it properly. It was a sober kind of reflection. I said the guy made sense but later something came into my mind, urging me to pursue and I pursued and eventually got the polytechnic programs accredited. As that happened, I used to have a hostel, about ten rooms. I thought about what the guy said, that if the polytechnic project failed, let me try hotel business. That was how Hilton Hotels came into existence. I turned a hostel of the school into a hotel. Today, look at Hilton Hotels. It is one of the biggest hotels you can think of in Ile-Ife. I am always optimistic about whatever I do, success will come. I thank God success has come.
Secret of locating businesses in Ile-Ife
My wife, a Christian, once took me to Jerusalem. We slept in one hotel and at 5 in the morning, I heard Allahu Akbar. I said this can’t be in Jerusalem. And when we now started going round, the way we talk about Jesus here is deeper than the way they talk about Jesus in Israel.
So, I think that when you establish a business in your own town, if care is not taken, people who know how you started will always want to pull you down. People know me very well in Ife, they know when I started as a young boy. I think that is one of the reasons when people establish businesses in their own town, the business hardly succeeds. Apart from this, I believe there is a force which I don’t possibly understand. I have houses in Ghana, Lagos, US and so on, but whenever I travel out of Ile-Ife to spend three days, before you know it, the second day, I am back home, to Ile-Ife.
I know there are forces urging me to stay in Ile-Ife and be doing this and I’m doing it and successfully. In Ife, they say we have 401 deities and that there is no day in the year that we don’t worship one deity or the other. Some people also believe there are so many witches in Ile-Ife and that if you do anything in Ile-Ife, some things will happen. But we thank God that we are here, instead of them attacking us,they are encouraging us. The people of Ife should come home and invest, I will help them to talk to the witches and 401 deities…(laughter)
Efforts to encourage others
I started with a number of people who are natives of Ife in the U.S. One of them has now settled down inside my university. He said he wanted to start doing something in Ife, he is a pilot in the U.S, married to a white woman. His name is Prince Ademiluyi, who has set up Institute of Aviation, Oduduwa University. If I wanted to frustrate this my brother, I would have asked him to go and bring 25,000 US dollars, to have my affiliation. In Ghana, I own the Unique University. We went to Cape Coast and all manners of universities to affiliate with. Come and see what they are talking about in US dollars. That is how to kill a school that is coming up.
State of education in Nigeria
People say standard of education is coming down. I don’t believe this, especially with the advent of the social media. Although our children are learning it the wrong way, like sending porno films to one another and so on, before you know it, if anything happens in America, you will know. It was not like that in those days. I think, if we are able to check the problems associated with the use of the social media, education will continue to increase in standard. As far as I’m concerned, the standard of education is increasing. But the Federal Government should ensure that government schools are well funded. It should look at government schools like private schools.
On FG assisting private universities
People have said severally that the Federal Government should give money to private universities. Currently they give money to state universities and federal universities, but with what happened many years ago when state governments took over schools from their owners, if you have invested all your life and government gives you money, it is possible for them to take it over sooner or later even though I know it is also possible for them to take it over when they didn’t give you money. But that would be different from when they say they invested their money. So each time we talk about government that they should give money to private universities,I have a very different concept on that. I feel that so many people have seen the importance of private universities and I believe that very soon people will not attend government universities anymore, going by the problems there, including strikes by the staff.
And government can sponsor children of indegent parents in private universities. They don’t even need to give that money to the school, they can contact the school and ask what the authorities want to do with the money. People are talking about bailout, that can be some kind of bailout for private universities too.