His Royal Highness (HRH) Oba Olatunde Falabi Lambeloye III (The Akire of Ikire) is many positive personalities rolled into one. He is a foremost pharmacist, a traditional ruler, a farmer, an ordained pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and a Fellow of Pharmaceutial Society of Nigeria (FPSN). In this exciting interview, Oba Falabi relates his life experiences – beginning with his early childhood, education and graduation, to his active work life, retirement and ascendancy to the throne as the Akire of Ikire Kingdom in Osun State. He also offers useful advice, especially to young pharmacists in politics. Excerpts:
It’s a great pleasure to feature you as our “Senior Citizen” of the month. Kindly tell us about your early life and education.
I was born into the royal family of the Lambeloye ruling house of Akire of Ikire dynasty. I was born on 20 January, 1935 in a village called Oluoseke Oba, now known as Owode Oba Falabi -which is one of the satellite towns of Ikire Kingdom. Five years after I was born, my father died and in 1946 my stepfather registered me at Ikire Baptist Primary Day School, located in Popo area of Ikire, Osun State.
In 1954 I got transferred to Oke-Ado Baptist Day School, Ibadan, to make it easy for me to take entrance examinations to secondary school. In 1955, I passed entrance examination to Olu Iwa College, Ijebu-Ode (now Adeola Odutola Comprehensive High School, Ijebu-Ode) and I graduated with good grades in 1959.
In 1960, I went for training at the then Akure School of Agriculture. In 1961, I moved to Lagos where I was working during the day and was studying at the Federal Science School, Onikan, Lagos Island, in the evening. I was employed during this period at the General Hospital as laboratory assistant-in-training at the General Hospital (Pathology Department), Broad Street. I studied very hard while working, and in the end, I passed with good grades at Advanced Level in two of the three science subjects I sat for.
By September 1963, I was admitted to the University of Ife (Ibadan Branch) and graduated with the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree (B.Pharm) in 1967. I was later registered as a pharmacist in 1968, having worked with several hospitals.
How did you come about the choice of pharmacy as a profession and what factors helped to shape your values and aspirations in life?
Knowing that my stepfather was poor and my mother was a farmer, after my school certificate examinations, I knew I had to fend for myself. And, by the grace of God and through our Lord Jesus Christ, who directs the steps of the righteous, I was able to take the right steps till I graduated and even up till now, the Lord has been my light and guide
Tell us about your active years in pharmacy practice.
My active years in Pharmacy was the period between 1968 and 1987. After my hospital internship, I moved to R. T. Briscoe, in 1969. I worked there till 1970, when I left to work at Dumex as a pharmaceutical representative in Lagos.
In 1971 I joined Kingsway Chemist to represent Roche Medical Information Limited, which transformed to Roche Nigeria Limited, and I became the commercial manager in Ilupeju, Lagos. When the company was moving to Dopemu in 1980, I retired to establish Oba Falabi Nigeria Limited (pharmaceutical wholesaler and retailer) at Ojodu Village, Ikeja; and also a poultry farm for my wife after she retired as a teacher in 1982. This was what we did till 1987 when I was invited to occupy the throne of my forefathers at Ikire in Osun State
As an octogenarian, what are the lessons you have learnt in life which you would like the younger ones to pay attention to and learn from?
As a senior citizen, the lessons I would like the younger ones to learn are as follows: Firstly, they should make God first in life. It is very important for one to give his or her life to Jesus and obey God completely. He paves the way of the righteous and gives him redemption.
Again, I advise the younger ones to work hard work and never accept failure as an answer. They should think and work positively and leave the rest to Jesus. It is the divine will of God that we should prosper and be in health. The proverbs of Solomon also says it is the power of God that makes man rich without adding sorrow.
Looking back over the past years, can you please share some of your most memorable moments with us?
After all the court cases I had gone through from 1987 to 1990, the day I was installed as the Akire of Ikire on 8 May 1993 was a glorious day in my life. After a series of litigations, which lasted over a period of three years, on 8 May 1993, the coronation ceremony was held. It was colourful.
One of the very influential men in my domain came to me that I should give him a written letter of undertaking that I would install him as king. He assured me that there would be no more litigations; but I rejected the offer, and that was why I had been in court since then. It was in year 2020, that an end came to litigations against my throne.
From active practice of pharmacy, you went into community service as the traditional ruler of Ikire in Osun State. Kindly share your experience with us on how it has been as the traditional ruler of your people.
Many reforms have taken place during my reign, by the grace of God. After six years on the throne, I was attacked during my sleep and I shouted “Jesus!” Thereafter, any time breeze blew around me, I felt cold all over my body, as if I was in an air-conditioned closet. I was taken to the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG)’s Redemption Camp and Pastor E.A. Adeboye prayed for me. After 21 days, I became whole again after giving my life to Jesus.
I went to RCCG pastors’ school and obtained a postgraduate certificate in leadership and pastoral training. I also did discipleship training and was ordained a deacon. I was later ordained an assistant pastor. In 2015, I was ordained a full pastor of the RCCG.
My God has brought light into the community. Although only few of the people are yet to see and accept the light of God that is now shining in the domain, testimonies of God’s goodness abound in the community. We are still praying that many more will come to the light of Jesus and realise that the whole essence of life is futility without the light of Christ.
The traditional worshippers are not happy with us because we refuse to serve God and mammon together. They tried to raise another king for themselves but God has not allowed it.
As a healthcare professional who has related very closely with people at the grassroots over the years, what would you say is the biggest healthcare challenge at the grassroots and what measures would you recommend to lighten this burden?
The greatest healthcare challenges are lack of doctors in our hospitals and where there are a few doctors, you will find no drugs for patients. Our doctors and other medical personnel should be encouraged to stay in Nigeria. Many of them are doing fine outside Nigeria.
If you were not a pharmacist, what other career would you have loved to pursue? What other engagements do you have a passion for?
If I were not a pharmacist, I would have loved to be a farmer because there is a Yoruba adage which says once there is availability of food, poverty is almost totally solved (“Bi ebi ba ti kuro ninu ise, ise buse”).
Tell us about your family
I am married to Olori Anthonia Aduke Falabi a retired Primary School head-teacher. Together, we have three women and two men as our children, with several grandchildren.
As an octogenarian, how do you spend your time? What pastime activities or lifestyle changes have you adopted to keep fit?
There is more than enough work to keep us occupied in the palace. We hold meetings with our chiefs and baales for the smooth running of the domain. We classify our chiefs and allocate jobs to them in different departments to bring back weekly reports – for example, security report, works and maintenance of the palace, political events and marketing reports from our markets in our villages and towns.
We also set up arbitration panels to deal with conflict resolutions, particularly those that are not criminal in nature – civil cases, land and marital cases. I also engage in little farming, having labourers to work on the farm. I trek occasionally around my farm and around the palace to keep fit.
What is your advice to the younger generation of pharmacists on how to take the profession of pharmacy to greater heights in Nigeria?
My advice for young pharmacists to take the profession to greater heights is to cooperate with senior members of the profession by coming up with new ideas that will bring the profession to greater limelight. I also advise them to join politics to formulate policies for the country’s progress in the areas of infrastructure and electricity to make the country proud.
Let our young pharmacists who are in politics strive to be different from the present corrupt politicians to be able to make a difference.