Explains how he will unite Yoruba monarchs
After being announced as the Odole of Oodua, a special office that works closely with the Ooni to rally descendants of Oduduwa all over the world, Chief Kessington Adebutu, a gaming magnate, in an interview with journalists spoke on variety of issues including his business, family life, and venturing into culture and politics.
The Odole of Oodua, which was once occupied by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief G.O.K Ajayi, is a highly revered chieftaincy title in Yoruba land pioneered by the great Oranmiyan while he was a Prince of Ife. Oranmiyan served as a rallying and stabilizing force among the powerful empires within the expansive Oduduwa territory before becoming the Ooni in Ife.
By Shina Abubakar
On his background and upbringing
I was born at Iperu-Remo, Ikenne Local Government, Ogun State in 1935. By the grace of God, I will be 84 years old on October 16.
I began my primary education at Wesley School at Iperu in 1942. In 1948, I came to Lagos to continue my education at Ijero Baptist School, Apapa road, Ebute-Metta. It was there that I had my primary 5 and 6. I later attended Baptist Academy in Lagos for my secondary school education in 1950. After a while my parents took me to Remo Secondary School in Sagamu, where I finished my secondary school education in 1955.
Immediately I finished my secondary school education in 1955, I started working in a company called Cable and Wireless at Marina, which was later known as NITEL.
I was the Secretary of Telephone for Overseas services. With my position, I was privileged to meet great people. Then, if you want to communicate with people in other countries you have to do it through Cable and Wireless.
Then, people that communicated with other people in overseas were very influential. They were majorly white men and big companies. So, I was privileged to meet prominent people.
After a while, I left Cable and Wireless to work at Clafen chemical Limited as a salesman. The company produced Andrews liver salt, Philips, Milk of Magnesia, and Cafenol. Because then, Phensic was the reigning pain killer when Cafenol was produced, it was not long that it became a household name. It was for that reason I was promoted from salesman to sales manager of Lagos and the whole of Mid-western states.
Later, I left to establish my own business. I thank God for the privileged given to me to own my business right from Face-to-Face and so on and so forth.
How did you start your pools business?
When I left my former job, I had no money to set up my business. I had not made up my mind to own one until I read a book. From that book I learned that any work one does whether he/she likes it or not, one will have to leave it one day. It maybe as a result of old age or the company will ask one to leave. The author further explained that when you establish your own, even when you are too old and can’t be in charge, the business will still be in operation with the support of your children.
Like I said, there was no business solely owned by individuals then. I thought of the work that I could do that would require little or no cost and it came to my mind to be a pools agent. And in the 1960s, all you need as a pool agent was a table and pen. So, I started as a pool agent. With my little education I was taking stock of my earnings, the amount I made from winnings I saw it as a lucrative job. That was what made me and my friend, late Chief Solomon Adebayo Ayoku to establish Face to Face million dollar pool.
What do you think is responsible for many companies going out of business today?
Many business owners today employ their children, give them house, car and even place them on salary. In my case, I didn’t do that. What I did was to call my children; I told them I have a good job but please don’t come and work for me, you can partner with me. My children working with me were not placed on salary, they all have their percentage. With the way they took the job, I was forced to stay back to allow them control things. They sometimes would sleep on the chair in the office. This happened because they were not working for me but they are shareholders. That has been the secret of the success of my business.
What is your message to the youth with the get rich syndrome?
I have on several occasions said it that the youth of this age are impatient. I work very hard to get to where I am today. I traveled the whole country to site my business there. Today I had branches in 26 states of the federation. There were times I was an itinerant. At one of my travels I could recall how I lived on water.
There was a day I was at Uromi. After I was served a meal tears dropped from my eyes because the food I was served, I was not used to it. I thank God for my life because there were some who were more hardworking than me but were not as blessed as I am. But sincerely speaking I worked very hard. Youths of nowadays are lazy. I have had cause to close some of my branches because some youths I employed siphoned my money. It was one of the major reasons I asked my children to partner with me and we were able to operate in the areas we could manage. Thank God today we are back and we have our branches running effectively; thanks to technology. Youths of this day don’t want to crawl before they walk. We can only appeal to God to help change them. Just as the elders have said: To fight poverty, one must be very hardworking.
In a polygamous home, it is very difficult to bring the children together. How were you able to achieve this to the extent that they are instrumental to the growth of your business?
I want to thank God for this, it hasn’t been by my making. The first thing a man must do in a polygamous home is to fulfill his obligations. You also don’t place your wives and children above another. Though there is nothing that you do that there won’t be complaints but using myself as an example, I have a grown-up child who is over 50 years old and I also have a child who is six years old. If I give the older one one naira, I will also give the same amount to the latter. Though they have severally complained about this but I usually hold meetings with them where I make them to understand my reasons. If you do that and you do not hold meetings with them their would be envy among them. The most important thing is to perform your duties as a polygamist to your wives and children and put them in their deserved place then you won’t have problem. It is not that I have a 100 percent perfect home but thanks to God I have a happy family.
You also manage well with friends
It is not that easy. There is always sacrifice when running a business with friends, there will be interference but you must be wise. You must ignore many things and if you don’t and act on everything you hear that friendship will never last.
As the Odole ile Oodua what steps will you take to end the rifts among traditional rulers in Yoruba land?
I don’t want to sound boisterous, but many of the traditional rulers in Yoruba land are my friends. If you observed very well, at every of my functions many of the traditional rulers are always in attendance. Even before I was given a chieftaincy title, I have been taking steps in my capacity to see that there is unity among Yoruba Kings.
For example, recently, when the issue relating to our son, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo happened, I reached out to his imperial majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Alake, Akarigbo and so many others. And various steps were taken about the issue.
Also, if you observed, in Lagos, I am the Asoju Oba of Lagos (King’s representative). I am not an indigene of Lagos State. If there wasn’t a good rapport between Oba Akinolu and I, he would not have chosen me as the Asoju Oba of Lagos.
All these are pointers to the fact that I have good relationship with our traditional rulers.
Though you have several titles, how prepared are you to cope with the challenges that come with your new title?
Without mincing words, I know the worth of this title and for your information, many kings have the belief that after my coronation I may not consider taking other titles because of how big the Odole Oodua title is.
What informed your philanthropic nature?
I was not born with a silver spoon. It is true I worked but there were people that did more than me and do not have my kind of affluence. As a person, I believe the only way I can express gratitude to God for the blessings He has given me is to help the downtrodden and yearly I spend millions on this. I built a rehabilitation centre at the UCH because I see that most aged people are left uncared for. Also we have built many schools, hospitals and worship centres. All is to appreciate God. It is my wish that I will continue to help the poor even after I am no more. The Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu Foundation (KAAF) will still be there. Presently, we are building an auditorium at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State.
How are easy was it to get to the peak of your career and maintain the status?
Becoming successful is not difficult but sustaining the success s the most difficult. If you take a deep look at it you will see that we have had many successful persons in the past and today they have nothing. At age 84, I am still where I am today because I do everything in moderation. Some people like to over do things to the extent that some over eat and drink to stupor. These will come back to hurt us.
Many still have negative views about lottery, pools and the likes, what is your take on this?
I will continue to say that pool, cassino, lottery among others is gaming. This is the stock exchange of an ordinary man and many people are benefiting from it on a daily basis. If it were to be something negative the government will not be issuing license to operators, not to talk of having a commission for it.
What challenges have sports betting posed to your lottery business?
Sports betting and lottery are not the same at all and it has no effect on our business. For your information, we also have sports betting.
As a god-father to many politicians across political divides, what do you think is the solution to Nigeria’s political under-development?
Until politics is made part-time business, I don’t see how we can have peace in Nigeria. When I say part time business, I mean a situation where politicians will only be paid on sitting basis in form of sitting allowance.
When politicians earn just their sitting allowance there will be no presence of do-or-die politics in Nigeria. Presently, politics in Nigeria is too expensive.
I’m speaking from experience and what I can see. The best thing for Nigeria is to adopt part-time politics and pay politicians allowance for sitting. With the present system, the drain on our purse is too much. I read in the newspaper that a Governor sacked 250 advisers. If a governor had that much, how many advisers do we have for the whole country? How can a governor have 250 advisers? So, you can see the present system is too expensive.