• ‘The late Sijuwade often visited my brother as young as he was’
•Explains love for fashion, textile business
By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
Princess Folashade Ogunwusi Fadairo is the eldest sister of Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi. She is a woman of many parts, a businesswoman and culture ambassador among others. The Ife princess has a flair for fashion as she owns a fashion label, Wuraolaby4lar Couture, which she named after her late mother. It’s a clothing line that deals in laces, Ankara, Adire and Aso oke. In this interview, the entrepreneur goes down memory lane, recalling her early life with her siblings including the Ooni, lessons from her mum and her journey into entrepreneurship.
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Tell us about your background…
I was born in Ibadan, Oyo State. I had my primary school at Shobola Memorial Nursery and Primary School, Ibadan. I later attended Seventh Days Adventist School, Agodi Gate where I completed my primary school education before proceeding to Sabatunde Girls Grammar School.
Shortly, after I completed my Secondary School Education, I proceeded to College of Education, Ilesa from there I gained admission into the ‘Great Ife,’ Obafemi Awolowo University to study English Language and Education. I graduated with a first degree, B. A.
What does it feel like to be born into a royal family in the cradle of Yoruba race?
I didn’t grow up in the palace of Ife. We grew up in Ibadan. But I attended tertiary institutions in Ife. My siblings as well grew up in Ibadan. There was this family bond between all of us as kids.
My siblings and I ate together and played together. Now, we are all grown and are in different endeavors. None of us is under anyone. We are all independent. Unless we have something to do at home, that is when we all come together. When we were growing up, our parents sent us to live with our grandfather in Ife.
It was done so we could understand and study the culture of the ancient Ife kingdom. I remember how my grandfather would tell my uncles and aunts to take us to the palace. My grandfather’s house was not far from the palace so we would go to the palace and we had a tour guide who took us around. And we would be shown artifacts, deities and other historical figures.
We were shown Yemoja, the Oranmiyan shrine. There was this zeal to exploit so I was excited to know that I am from a royal family. Things like Yemolu shrine and so many other deities like Orisa. My father told us many stories, but we didn’t know that eventually we would be at the palace and my brother would become the king.
Why did you name your business after your late mum?
My mum of blessed memory was a fashionista. As the first daughter of the family, my flair and taste were just like hers, because of genetic traits. I had to emulate my mum. My mum’s love for the fabric was second to none. She loved to look good and also dressed elegantly. She could blink but with elegance.
My mum died early at the young age of 65. I thought of what to do to keep the memorabilia and this occurred to me. They are her good works and since out of all the children, I am the one that takes after my mum, I decided to name my business after her. It was done to honour her memory.
Why are you referred to as Yeye 1 of Ife and the significance?
That’s not a title. I am a princess. Yeye 1 is a nickname given to me by friends, and it also connotes the meaning of a mother. I am addressed like that because I am the first daughter of the family.
I don’t know if it applies to your custom as well. In our culture, since my mum is late, I play a motherly figure and role to my siblings as the first daughter. They would say you are the mum of the house. That is just where the word Yeye is coming from. I am just a princess.
On the Ooni, was there a prediction that he would be the Ooni when you were still kids and did people see any traces that he would become the Ooni when he was young?
I wouldn’t say I did not see the traces or did not take cognizance, but I didn’t really put my mind to it although there was a prediction. I could remember my father gathering us together to tell us that one of his sons will become the king and my father said everybody should go into fasting and prayers so that it will become a reality.
I remember we did the prayers after which I took my mind off it. The king, Kabiyesi, is a special being. I could remember how my grandfather usually called him Adeyeye Ooni then. I never heard my other brothers being referred to as Ooni like Adegboyega Ooni or Adetunji Ooni.
Furthermore, I remembered my mum equally called him Adeyeye Ooni, but I know that Kabiyesi , king, in Ife is referred to as Ooni. What my mum meant then I didn’t really understand as a child. The king grew up with a life just filled with God’s grace. He was very inquisitive, and intelligent, what you think a child would not know at his age he already knew.
When we got to a certain stage in life, the prediction came again and we had the prayers together as a family but I never believed it. I said what is going to take the present Ooni away from the throne? My thoughts were never there. Most of my friends I grew up with never knew I was a princess.
I knew I was from a royal family but I didn’t refer to myself as a princess from the onset. When the time came, my friends doubted. The late Kabiyesi (Oba Sijuwade, Olubushe 11) often visited my brother as young as he was before he joined his ancestors.
He had his office at Chevron Drive, so during the period of the then Ooni, my brother would call us to tell us that our king was coming to visit him in his office. Lo and behold, the king would arrive and he would introduce me as his sister. I would be discussing with my sister that my brother was so young and influential people were always coming to visit him in his office.
I often gave glory to God for that without knowing that there was a deep meaning to what I was seeing. There is an adage in Ife which says that before a king in Ife dies, he always has a relationship with the next person to succeed him. It is believed that it happens supernaturally.
You are into African print textiles, how challenging has been the business and what can you say about promoting African culture?
Doing business isn’t an easy task. When I started the business, I faced a lot of hurdles just like any start-up business. First, it was difficult to get buyers. For Nigerians to patronise homemade goods, you must give them proof that it is a good product.
Due to the belief of Nigerians in foreign brands, they don’t believe in our product. It was just recently that people overseas started using Ankara to make beautiful designs. Also, after seeing the likes of Janet Jackson wearing Ankara and the likes of Rihanna using Adire to make kaftan, I said if these people could be proud of what they are wearing, why can’t I invest in the business? That was how I got involved in it.
While I do the buying and selling of the materials, in my backyard, we have been mixing our local dye known in Yoruba as Aro to get different varieties of African designs. As I said earlier, it wasn’t easy when I started but to the glory of God it has been a wonderful privilege and a rare experience.
I have equally extended the selling of materials imported from Korea, China and other parts of Europe, just to diversify. I brand my goods and design them in such a way that we do not only focus on Adire clothing alone. I still make use of some other sources, materials from Cotonou.
Since you deal in different fabrics, what would you say about government policies as regards importation duties of the materials?
It is challenging due to the exchange rate. A few days ago, I cleared some of my goods, the exchange rates were high. This has been affecting some things we get overseas at a cheap rate. In Nigeria, the price is very high.
A lot of things have to be done in Nigeria to correct the situation. It’s tough doing business in Nigeria, especially with the current exchange rate. It is just the survival of the fittest that we do now. We have a very long way to go but I believe in God. I don’t know how God is going to do it. I don’t know how we would get there but I think with help of God, we would get there.
What are your expectations in the 2023 general elections?
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the atmosphere is high and tense. There is fear and a lot of things are happening. But I am certain as a strong believer that through prayers, God can turn things around.
God who created Nigeria knows what is best for the nation and I believe he would perfect all that concerns this country.
Things don’t just happen. Whoever God has destined to be there as Nigerian President, would achieve it as ordained by God. There is nothing anyone can do about it. All we need to do is pray and let God’s will be done in Nigeria.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.