It all happened within three days —from the rumour of his selection to the investiture. Under 72 hours, the then Prince Omogbolahan Abdulwasiu Lawal transformed from Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture and Co-operatives to a monarch who will spend the rest of his life in the palace as the new Oniru of Iruland —the upper crust community comprising of Iru and Victoria Island —a prime real estate domain in Lagos State. On Thursday, June 4, Lawal suddenly resigned his appointment as a member of Lagos Executive Council. The following day, his selection as the next Oniru was announced in the afternoon during the Lagos State Executive Council meeting where final ratification was made on his nomination. And without leaving room for any funny play, all the necessary rites were perfected within those three days and Lawal who will be 50 next month —born July 24, 1970— was presented with his staff of office on Sunday at a colourful ceremony in Lagos as a successor to the late Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru who passed on last year at the age of 82.
For so many in Lagos, it was a record breaking event and already controversies and insinuations are trailing his enthronement. Lawal’s emergence came as a rude shock to many considering that he was not even in the frame for the revered stool. Thus, the whirlwind move to prevent any legal blockade from installing the former commissioner as the new Oniru.
The real contenders to the throne were two famous Princes in Oniru —Hakeem Ajasa and Aremo Adesegun Oniru. Ajasa, a serving top police officer and Chief Security Officer to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, is from the Abisogun Ruling House believed to be the rightful and next line to produce the successor. His rival, Adesegun, a wealthy former Commissioner for Waterfront and Infrastructure in Lagos State, is the first son of the late immediate past monarch. But the odds favoured Ajasa whose Abisogun Ruling House had never occupied the throne, unlike the Onirus who are an integral part of the families that comprise the Akiogun Ruling House that had been on the throne for about 72 years. Expectedly, one of the two leading contenders had been narrowed down to mount the throne.
Spotlight gathered that Lawal’s name had cropped up in the early days of the scramble for the new king but he was thought to stand no chance because it is his mother —Olori M. A. Lawal-Akapo— that is a royal Princess in Oniru while his late dad —Chief T. A. Lawal-Akapo—was the Ojora of Lagos between 1977 and 1993 when he died. Having accepted that he stood no chance, Lawal was said to have rooted and campaigned for the emergence of his cousin, Ajasa, who is also from the same Abisogun Ruling House where Lawal’s mum comes from. But no one reckoned that fate had other plans beyond the two main gladiators.
Rather than allow the situation to be in a flux, compromise was reached as such is not strange to traditional institutions. Lawal was said to be the compromise choice since selection of either Aremo or Ajasa as the next Oniru would have led to chaos, a source told Spotlight. Besides, the kingmakers were said to have considered the three factors of administrative acumen, capacity and influence to settle for the next Oniru and those factors were said to favour Aremo ahead of Ajasa. So, the Abisogun family were said to have decided to put their best hands forward for the throne and Lawal fitted that. More so, on the growing opposition against the new Oniru based on the strength of allegation that he has a very weak claim to the throne, the palace source said that has been perished as it’s believed within the Lagos Royal Circle that the son of a Princess even has a bigger claim to the throne because his royal blood cannot be questioned. Meanwhile, Ajasa has accepted the choice of his older cousin, Oba Lawal as the new Oniru. The unassuming Prince was at the coronation ceremony on Sunday and even came to the public to pay homage to the new Oniru in the full glare of everyone. His action was said to have attracted praises and commendation from both Oba of Lagos, His Royal Majesty Oba Rilwan Akiolu and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
By every standard, the new Oniru is a descendant of royalty. He is a Lagos Prince from the Ojora, Aromire, Shokun and Abisogun branch of Oniru Royal families of Lagos State. He is a seasoned administrator with over 25 years of postgraduate experience with an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the public sector. Though a 1992 Botany graduate of the University of Port Harcourt, Oba Lawal joined the Nigerian Police and was commissioned as a cadet assistant superintendent. As a police officer, he served as ADC (Aide-De-Camp) to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu during his reign as governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007. Lawal retired voluntarily in 2008 as a superintendent of police and went on to obtain his post-graduate degree in violence, conflict and development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Oba Lawal also holds an Executive MSc in CITIES (LSE, Cities) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is happily married with children, a sports, music and arts enthusiast.