Biography of Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju
Here comes the genius septuagenarian who never saw the inside of any form of classroom for the purpose of learning or acquiring any form of knowledge, but whose rich works of art have become reference materials to researchers and academia all over the world; a self-tutored man who is known for his boldness and courage to comment on controversial issues at any time.
A tour of his library and office would make you almost want to believe you are in the presence of a thorough-bred academic. You also cannot miss the plaques of awards and certificates, hung all over his walls, relics of his exploits as Nigeria’s foremost Ewi (Yoruba poetic) exponent of the 70s, 80s and 90s.
For the older folks who have known him through his prime days when he was a torn in the flesh of the erring military governments and institutions, there is also the temptation not to recognise him anymore, as his once shinny dark hair has all gone grey.
The man, who never had any formal education, was born about 8 decades ago in a village called Oke pupa located in Akufo area of Iddo Local Government, Ibadan. Born into a purely an agrarian family, he grew up learning the names of various creation of God like plants, trees, animals, rivers, mountains and so on.
Yoruba language was the sole mode of communication. He did not even attend any kindergarten. But if you are endowed with a particular knowledge, nobody can take it away from you. His cousins used to visit the village to spend their holidays, and his inability to communicate in English Language whenever they suddenly switched to English language seemed to have motivated him to know how to read and write. He started saving money realised from firewood and cola-nut sales, basket weaving and so on. He was able to save up to 1 penny and 6 pens, which he used to buy his first book ever, ‘A B D OLOPE’ (book of Yoruba alphabets). One of his junior cousins, Mr. Muyideen Oyedele (of the blessed memory), started teaching him; so you can imagine how old he was when he started learning. It took him about one week or two to finish the entire contents and started learning to read and write effectively in Yoruba Language. Then he moved to Ibadan where he started learning English.
With neither formal education nor certificate from any institution, he became a proof-reader in a newspaper organization called ‘People’s Star Press Limited’, founded by the late Ladoke Akintola. He also played other parts in that newspaper organisation which shaped him until he became a broadcaster in the late 60s, 70s. In his broadcasting days, he introduced a programme called ‘Ijinji Akewi,’ which was always broadcast at 6:15am. There, he used to comment on happenings in the country, which did not go down well with his bosses at WNTV and WNBS (now NTA); but because of his poetic effusions, he became the darling of every Yoruba listener and his talent began to show.
It got to a stage when the corporation itself (i.e. WNTV and WNBS) wanted to be publishing his works with the copyright. It was this copyright issue that led to his sudden disappearance from the television. At a point, he was producing ‘Gbele Gbo’ and ‘Tiwa nti wa,’ Yoruba programmes, and was also manning the continuity as announcer; which got to a stage when he had to complain that he was singularly overloaded. The problem spiralled and it got to a stage he was given an ultimatum to submit the scripts of his past Ewi broadcast on radio and television or face the consequence. As things got to a climax, he handed in his resignation. At that point, he had to pay one month salary in lieu of notice. Every effort to make him change his decision met a brick wall. Before that time, he had formed the Akewi Theatre Company and extended entertainment to all parts of the country.
As the social critic he has always been, even as a powerless citizen in his days in broadcasting, he never tolerated any bad leadership. During the military era, especially during the Babangida era, he waxed some records, which did not go down well with the Babangida regime. In fact, it got to a stage when he was arrested and prosecuted over an album he released. He was in detention for a while before being arraigned before High Court in Ibadan, where a lot of unfounded allegations were levelled against him, but fortunately, he was discharged and acquitted on the basis that the junta could not prove their allegations. He was also at some point invited to Lagos by the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammadu Gambo, and he told Gambo what he meant in the album.
On another occasion, he released another Ewi hit and the then Commissioner of Police invited him for questioning. He told the CP that the album had nothing to do with the government and they eventually let him go. He has had so many nasty experiences like that in the course of performing his profession as an Ewi poet.
Often, imagination sends the mind to different places. Poetry is not a business of or for fools. It is for the wise, the brainy and the intelligent. Baba spends a lot of time searching for deep but beautiful words and proverbs to describe situations. The output of his deep imagination and poetic licence is what we get from his rich Ewi metaphysical poetry. Welcome to the world of the veteran poetry merchant, Chief Olanrewaju Adepoju, The Alasa of Ibadanland. February 6, 2016 was indeed a remarkable day when The International Chartered World Learned Society U.S.A inducted baba as Fellow of the reputable Society and also honoured him with the International Diploma of Authority and an honourary Professorship title from the Society.