Segun Dipe

“Erelú kì í ṣ’ẹni àbùkù, Erelú kì í ṣ’ẹni à ńrí fín.” -King Sunny Ade, Juju music maestro

Forget about those who answer it as mere sobriquet, after all, we also have musicians who garb themselves in academic title shawls like Dr., Prof., Barrister, etc., even when they didn’t go to any school to acquire them. We also have Doctors of wristwatches, car engines, etc. So also we have those adorned with Erelu or any other chieftaincy title or even Prince so they can just ‘Buga’ with it.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

William Shakespeare uses this line in his play Romeo and Juliet to convey that the naming of things is not as relevant as acting it. In the case of Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, she is not just an Erelu by name; she is, in fact, Erelu by conduct. She has taken the title to a dizzying height. She understands the intricacies and wears the title with honour and pride. It’s her stilt everywhere she goes, home or abroad, beyond the shores.

And, you know what? Erelu Bisi Fayemi has equally been bestowed with so many other titles, both in the traditional and academic communities, that people like me would be tempted to think they are somehow more prestigious than that of Erelu. Yet she would always correct one that she is the most comfortable being addressed as Erelu. And I cannot agree any more.

She has used the Erelu title to sew tattered dreams together and to show that change is possible by helping to set our women’s minds to it.

As Erelu, she has not only given the Ekiti womenfolk hope, she has made them live the hope.

As Erelu, Bisi Fayemi has put in place policy frameworks that enhanced the status of women, ensured justice for the violation of their rights, led advocacy on the awareness of their rights and also sponsored legislations to protect the girl child, women and ensured punishment for the violation of such rights.

She is also at the forefront of women emancipation policies at the national level in her capacity as the Chairperson of the Nigeria Governors Wives’ Forum.

In recognition of her efforts at supporting the vulnerable in the society, the Erelu title has attracted to her awards and honours too numerous to mention.

With the Erelu title and the way she has conducted herself, Bisi Fayemi scooped Woman Leader of the Year in commemoration of 2022 International Women’s Day which was jointly hosted by the United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP), UN Women, European Union, British High Commission and the Embassies of the United States, Germany and France.

Erelu Fayemi was a recipient of the prestigious Zik Prize in Leadership (Humanitarian Leadership Category) and was also honoured with the Fellowship of the College of Education, Ilesa, Osun State. An addition to these is a honorary doctorate degree bestowed on her at the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ogun State.

Traditionally, apart from the Erelu title, with was given her in her husband’s hometown, Isanland, Bisi Fayemi is the Mother General of all women in Ekiti whose lives she has positively touched, she is the Oluomo of Ilaramokin, Eye Ajiseye of Ado-Ekiti, Iyalode of Ilafon Ekiti, Nne Gburugburu of the Igbo people living in Ekiti, Ochiorah 1 of Imezi Owa in Enugu State, Akorewolu of Ilawe, Fiwajoye of Otun in Mobaland, among others.

The most recent one is the Yeye Oba of Erinmope bestowed on her by the Obaleo of Erinmope, HRH, Oba (Dr) Sunday Aniyikaiye Aikuirawo.

But why should Bisi Fayemi be accumulating so many titles? Is she the only wife of a governor in the state or anywhere? Is it that she is the most traditionally inclined among the wives of governors or she has been craving for them to enhance her social status? Well, people must talk, and the fact that she is attracting such attention shows that her strategy for doing so is really working.

Erelu Bisi Fayemi does not need to be validated by any title. She is neither an illiterate nor anyone’s local breed. She is cosmopolitan, suavely trained and has international clout. To her, however, the traditional titles, which are mainly honorary, are a form of social capital.

Any community that has considered her good enough for a chieftaincy title has simply established a lasting relationship with her husband’s government and she can go in there to have conversations with the king and co-chiefs at will. There is no other peace move anyone can make than to come into a palace where one is regarded as one of the respected chiefs.

Imagine, how does one expect the Ewi of Ado Ekiti not to reckon with his Yeye Ajiseye? Can the Alafon afford to take side against his Iyalode? How do you expect the Oore of Otun in Mobaland not to listen to his Fiwajoye? Will the Alawe of Ilawe turn a deaf hear to his Akorewolu? Will the Obaleo of Erinmope ignore the call of his Yeye Oba. See?

Yet, despite all these laurels and titles, Bisi Fayemi has no airs. She would rather prefer to be addressed simply as “Erelu.” Even when you fail to add the statutory title of “Her Excellency,” you would still have earned yourself good regard from her.

Among the Yorubas, Erelu is the highest title you can bestow on a woman. It ranks parallel to Yeyeoba or Iyalode.

This is not to say that everyone addressed as Erelu is living the title though, but it is not a position to be taken for granted, just like you will not undermine a Yeye Oba or an Iyalode.

Now you know why Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is an Erelu indeed, and why she prefers to be so addressed, plus why she is touching the lives of our womenfolk the way she is doing.

Long live Erelu BAF, our Mother-General. History of Ekiti will surely favour you.