Osu, the headquarters of Atakumosa West Local Government, Osun State, Nigeria and internationally known for the best bean cake ‘Akara Osu’ is blessed with imprints of notable and selfless men and women whose marks and legacies remains inspiring. One of such personalities is High Chief Joshua Oladipupo Ogunleye born 75 years ago, to God be the glory. A foremost Osu and Atakumosa Philanthropist, an entrepreneur, and a former President, Dockworkers Union of Nigeria (DUN), Chief Ogunleye was born on Monday 2nd July, 1945, few days during a period when there was a rapid growth of organised labour that brought new political forces into play. His father Gabriel Okere Ogunleye was a bricklayer and the mother, Beatrice Agbesola Ogunleye, a chief, the Segbua of Imelejo, Osu, was a notable trader. Chief Ogunleye lost his father at the young age 8 and was left at the care of his mother.

High Chief Ogunleye went through a rough weather and trying time beginning with his primary education at Methodist Primary School, Oke Omi, Osu. In 1962 with his determination and passion in dignity of labour, at the age of 17 he joined the Nigeria Dockworker as a labourer. Chief Ogunleye rose from labourer to headman, and from headman to supervisor, and was later as Stevedoring Officer, Level 10. Throughout his services, he was always at the forefront of defending and seeking for the Dockworkers welfare. Chief Ogunleye, a leader of many parts rose to fame from ordinary labourer to the peak of his career and served as Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) under Pascal Bafyau (1947 – 2012), a Nigerian trade unionist and the third president of the Nigerian Labour Congress. Bafyau ‘led the union from 1988 to 1994, succeeding Ali Ciroma.’ Chief Ogunleye attended St Lucas Memorial High School, Kirikiri Road, Lagos, for his West African Examination Council certificate. He attended different courses at home and abroad. In Moscow, he attended training and courses in Industrial Relations. In the late 90s, at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, he studied Leadership and Management for three years.

It was in January 1978 that Chief Ogunleye was elected as the pioneer President, DUN, comprising over 42 industrial Unions at that time. It was in the early year 1987 under Chief Ogunleye’s presidency and Comrade Jonas Abam as the Secretary of the DUN that the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF family) for the first time was brought into Nigeria. The ITF affiliated with the Dock Workers of Nigeria, ‘is a world confederation of transport unions with affiliates from about 157 countries spread through all continents of the world and a membership strength running into millions.’ Today, the DUN now known with other two unions, Nigeria Port Authority and Seamen as the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) under Prince Adewale Adeyanju as the President General is working together with ITF to provide Covid-19 safety palliatives to seafarers. Indeed, Chief Ogunleye’s imprints and legacies continues at the national and international levels as ‘seafarers in the nation’s ports are getting full complement of materials to keep safe from the covid-19 spread. The palliatives including hand sanitisers, hand gloves, face masks, infrared thermometers jointly provided by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).’ According to Adeyanju, “This programme was made possible through collaboration with the International Transport Workers Federation, who graciously provided counterpart grant/funding,” and the safety palliatives would be distributed to seafarers at Lagos, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri, and Bonny ports.

It was during Chief Ogunleye’s presidency of the DUN that incessant dock strike actions was curtailed. Based on the government failure to honour the labour contract settlement awarded by an industrial arbitration panel, Chief Ogunleye as the president of the DUN had numerous talks with the then Labour minister, General Ike Nwachukwu. Chief Ogunleye later directed his members back to work after ‘the 3-day-old strike … following a government assurances to resolve the unions’ grievances over pay, housing and transport allowances.’

In 1978, the same year Chief Ogunleye became the President of DUN, the then Loja of Osu, the late Loja Adeyokunnu ‘institutionalised Odun Iyo festival.’ The festival is designed to provide avenue for Osu sons and daughters to rub minds on the socio-political and economic issues affecting the community. The first Odun Iyo festival in 1978 was organised under the chairmanship of Chief Ezekiel A Adebusuyi. Chief Ogunleye has been playing prominent roles since the inception of the festival and the emergence of Osu Development Council (ODC) in 1984.

Chief Ogunleye is a Kingdom treasurer, a giver, caring, humble, kindhearted, and lover of the poor. He teaches others how to fish and not just to give you fish. He channels everything God gave him to serve God and humanity. In 1981 in fulfilling his promise to God, he established El Bethel C&S Asimowu, Olokodana Street, Okokomaiko, Lagos. At home in Osu and as a Most General Apostle, he was made the ‘Baba Ijo’ C&S Oke-Igbala, Osu.

In 1990, Chief Ogunleye from Omonije Idaomi family became the fourth Sajuku of Umelejo, Osu. According to Prince Dire Goke-Arimoro in one of his books, Osu from the Cradle, ‘the title for Umelejo chieftaincy is Sajuku which is the fourth’ to the Olosu of Osu in ‘the Osu chieftaincy hierarchical order.’ Imelejo quarters (Ogbon Umelejo) with history linked to “Ogbon Udo” in Ile Ife, had accredited aborigines namely, Babapaa family, Omonije Idaomi, Deye family, and Faluyi Ogigijegi family. Prince Arimoro explained that, based on preliminary efforts on the coinage of Ogbon Umelejo, there used to be ‘Olojo shrine where all the homestead worshipped. The orisa Olojo (god of Olojo) provided his worshippers with all their demands.’ The conception was that with the orisa, Ogbon Umelejo was where ‘culprits in any case could be identified … Uta Umu elejo.’ In essence, the orisa will not allow foul play or death of the innocent, Orisajuku, which is shortened to Sajuku.

In 1993, Chief Ogunleye resigned from his presidency of the DUN and in response to the call by Osu community, he returned to Osu and joined the grassroots politics. Before he joined politics, Chief Ogunleye founded Jolag Hotel and Brick making Industry both at Okokomaiko, Lagos. At home, he was elected as chairman, Atakumosa West Local Government for two terms: in 1997-98 under the banner of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), an amalgamation of three political parties and in 1999-2002 under the banner of All People’s Party (APP) formed in the late 1998 during a transition from the military to the civilian. Chief Ogunleye served two terms as a member representing Atakumosa East and West constituency 2003-2007 and 2007-2011, Osun State House of Assembly, Osogbo. He was Deputy Chief-whip and Chief-whip under the People Democratic Party (PDP). Among Chief Ogunleye’s numerous achievements was the constructions of Olosu’s palace, Onibodi’s palace, boreholes across the local government, 80 classrooms across Atakumosa West and East, hospitals, maternity and shops.

One thing is very unique with Chief Ogunleye. His politics is not about party but for the unity and development of Osu. There was a particular day in the late 90s when I was coming from Lagos, and driving through his house in Osu, I noticed that he was at home, I went to greet him and in the midst of numerous people, I saw him eating at the dinning table. We greeted and I started to eat with him, behold, one of his party members in the room called him aside for a conversation. In the middle of their conversation, Chief Ogunleye said openly to the person, “Oloun laa muo, Ayo omo buoda mi, buoda teacher, Lalemi. Ungbo, Ayo, han wii o hi somo egbe ria ati baba re” (God will catch you, Ayo, son of my senior brother, a teacher, Lalemi. Listen, Ayo, she is saying to me that neither you nor your father belong to my party). That is Chief Ogunleye, loving and open to a fault. With Chief Ogunleye, there is no dull moment. With him, I have to learn every time how to dodge his boxing skills and displays. Chief Ogunleye loves to dance.

Despite the Supreme Court of Nigeria judgement on Friday the 27th day of April, 1990, between Chief Ogunleye and Chief Babatayo Oni on a parcel of land at Osu where Chief Ogunleye was building a modern hotel, at 75, Chief Ogunleye’s yearning for unity in Osu and passion for Osu development is unrelenting. According to him, “Osu is number One in my mind. Enough of Osu Oke, Osu Odo. Let us stop every act of jealousy and hatred among ourselves in order to promote and rally round to develop Osu. Aside politics, let the young people come out in unity and develop Osu. We need our representations at all levels of the government.” Blessed with wonderful children and grandchildren, Chief Ogunleye, the Grand Patron of the Great Reformers Club, Osu with one of his wives, Mrs Falilat Ogunleye, the Grand Matron of the Great Reformers, Osu and a retired Commissioner of Police are not tired of giving counsel, support and direction to the poor and young people in the community.