Titus Martins Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi I (15 November 1889 – 3 July 1980), also known as Adesoji Aderemi, was a Nigerian political figure and Yoruba religious leader. He was the King of Ile-Ife from 1930 until 1980, preceded by Ademiluyi Ajagun. He was a member of the Oshinkola ruling house of Ife.
Oba Adesoji Aderemi was born on the 15th November 1889, every inch a king, to the family of Osundeyi Gbadebo and Adekunbi Itiola, his 19th and last wife and a native of Ipetumodu. On the day of Adesoji’s birth, his father, Prince Gbadebo Osundeyi had just arrived from a war expedition and as a gifted seer, Prince Osundeyi carried the baby into his laps, gazed intently into his face and was happy at what he saw. He instructed Adekunbi, to search for red beads, which they presented this special baby, pronouncing him an Ooni, a future Ooni, who is however an ancestor Ooni, who had come back through their family. Prince Osundeyi named this unusual baby Tadeniawo Ayinla Aderemi, who took his first footsteps at seven months (7) and started walking. As a restless spirit, everything about Aderemi was quick and fast. He started schooling in January 1900 at the St. Phillips School, Iyekere, Ile-Ife. He left school in 1906, became a pupil teacher in 1907 and immediately registered with an overseas correspondent school, for private tuition, backed up with private lessons from the late Bishop A.B Akinyele, to whom he paid visits at Ibadan.
He joined the Nigerian Railway Corporation in 1909 in the construction section and worked in various other departments as Station Manager at Port-Harcourt, Iwo, Ile-Ogbo, Offa, Ibadan and several other places in the Western Region from 1919-1921, when he resigned from the Railway Corporation, after he had saved up some money, to set up his own business. Adesoji Aderemi came into instant success when he started a Motor Transport business as well as a trade in produce-buying and general merchandise.
After a brief tutelage with John Holt of Nigeria, he became an agent for UAC and later a Factor for John Holt Ventures, Mc lever and OLGeyser. He traded in three cash crops–cocoa, cotton and palm kernel which he bought from Iwo, Ede, Ipetumodu, Ile-Ife, Gbongan, Ile-Ogbo and Ibadan. He hoarded these produce while speculating an upturn in prices. He was reported to have made so much money as a result of the upturn in prices that he threw a party for the people of Ile-Ogbo where he was living at the time to show his joy. He started his transport business with a fleet of Lorries and buses ferrying people and goods to and from many places around the country including Onitsha and Kafanchan.
He became so financially successful that, he was nicknamed “Atobatele” (already famed as King) by his contemporaries and the people of Ile-Ife and also “Ooni Ola” (Tomorrow’s king). Adesoji bought his first car in 1920 and by 1930; he had used three cars which included an open roof car. His fame and popularity was a pain in the neck of the then reigning Monarch, Ooni Ademiluyi Ajagun, that he was charged with impersonation and large flamboyant display of wealth at the Upper Palace Court of the Ooni. He was fined twenty- five (25) pounds. It is a funny coincidence and instructive that this sum of twenty-five(25) pounds which he paid as fine was returned to him by the Ife local council on his ascension to the throne in 1930.
Oba Adesoji Aderemi upon ascension to the throne in 1930, began immediately his modernist policies for the growth and development of Ife Land and the Yoruba Nation. He founded Oduduwa College in 1933 and in 1935, aided the installation of the Ife Water Works. He brought telephone services to Ile-Ife in 1938 and built a new official residence for the Ooni and in 1944 opened the Seventh Day Adventist Mission Hospital. In 1948 he inaugurated the Egbe-Omo Oduduwa and the same year he visited England and served as a delegate at the African Conference in London. In 1953, he was appointed Minister without Portfolio in the Nigerian House of Representatives and in 1954 was appointed the President of the Western Region House of Chiefs. He climaxed this, by becoming the first African Governor of the Western Region in July 1960, succeeding the former British Colonial Governor, Olola Sir John Rankine. He was the first to hold such a post in the entire British Colonial Africa.
He functioned effectively in the office as Ooni and Governor, with vigour, grace, panache, dexterity and humaneness, as a true symbol of the royal stool of Oduduwa. He was in office till December 1962. Oba Adesoji Aderemi used his position of influence to advocate that the proposed University of Western Region be sited at Ile-Ife in 1962, in recognition of the ancestral status of Ile-Ife as the religious and cultural matrix of the Yorubas. The University started from the current Ibadan North Campus of the present Ibadan Polytechnic and finally moved to Ile-Ife in 1967, which was, to Aderemi, the fulfillment of a long cherished dream.
He built a magnificent mansion; The Atobatele Lodge before he ascended the throne of Ooni in 1930. This lodge was later occupied by Barclays Bank. Adesoji being a man of deep foresight,built the popular Glass House at Iremo Road Ile-Ife, as his own family compound, which his family of several wives and over sixty children relocated to, upon his passage from the royal stool of the Ooni of Ife in July 1980.
Oba Adesoji Aderemi as a progressive and radical traditionalist was described by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as “the very embodiment of royalty and devotion.” In his funeral speech, titled; “A Rare Breed of Monarch” delivered on the 11th July 1980, at an open prayer service for Adesoji Aderemi, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said this of him -‘As an Oba, he was the epitome of a humane and liberal ruler. Wherever he was, he diffused geniality and peace. I never knew him, in our forty years together to be angry, even once or to speak harsh offensive words to any man”.