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Nigerian kingdom will become sister city to Spring Hill

Royal connection expected to result in development partnership

By Suzanne Normand Blackwood • THE TENNESSEAN • October 7, 2009

When King Emmanuel Adebowale Adebayo was planning to visit Colorado for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, his cousin talked him into visiting her home in Spring Hill.

Adebayo, a former chief of police, is king of Emure, a kingdom in Ekiti, Nigeria. The Christian leader is the cousin of Prince Theophilus Ademola Ogunleye, father of Spring Hill resident Princess Fumi Ogunleye Hancock.

"It's just a plane ride away from Colorado. Why not come here?" Ogunleye Hancock said she asked her cousin.

This would give him a chance to meet the people of Spring Hill and to help spread awareness of all the work the Adassa-Adumori Foundation is doing, she said.

As it turns out, the trip will also result in a new sister city for Spring Hill.

Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie will announce the new partnership Oct. 14 during the king's visit to Spring Hill.

Princess noted poverty during visit

Ogunleye Hancock established the Adassa-Adumori Foundation with foundation vice president Yolanda Shields last year after visiting Emure for her cousin's coronation. It was the first time Ogunleye Hancock had been back in 23 years, and she was overcome by the plight she saw among the people in her mother's township about 500 miles away.

Although Ogunleye Hancock's mother, Remi, grew up an orphan, Ogunleye Hancock grew up a princess, sheltered from much of the country's poverty. Now, Adassa Brand, which is Ogunleye Hancock's couture line, raises money to help build schools and alleviate poverty and hunger among women and children in Africa.

Ogunleye Hancock said she and her cousin, who also is involved in the foundation, reached out to Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie, expressing to him "all the needs that are there and how we can partner with Tennesseans."

Dinwiddie, who was moved by their request, said he sees the partnership as an opportunity for Spring Hill to make a difference in an area of the world that is desperately in need.

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"A secondary benefit for Spring Hill will be the international publicity that we will receive by taking an active role in helping other nations progress," he said.

Sharing information, resources

During the visit, which Ogunleye Hancock described as a "humanitarian" trip for the king, the partnership's leaders will get a chance to talk about ways they can share information and resources.

"We can share information about our culture. We can share technology," said Ogunleye Hancock.

The visit will begin with a Rotary Club breakfast, during which the Rotary clubs of Spring Hill and Nigeria will exchange banners. The king and his chiefs will tour the UT Agricultural Center, the Spring Hill Library and an area middle school. Other activities will include attending a UAW banquet, visiting with local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and touring Spring Hill to learn about its rich history and development progress.

Ogunleye Hancock said the reason for visiting the agricultural center is to learn about effective agricultural practices.

The school visit, she added, will give them a chance to observe a model that can be used to improve the school system there.

"A lot of the schools there are in shambles," she said, adding they have leaky rooftops, among other problems. "Ninety-five percent are not modern school buildings."

Some buildings have no bathrooms, and many have broken computers or no computers at all.

Dinwiddie said Nigeria is "in an area of the world that most people in Spring Hill cannot truly comprehend.

"A good school for them is one that has a roof," he said. "Their most advanced computer is an Apple II. The kids walk miles to school without shoes. They till the soil with pieces of metal and glass attached to sticks."

Plans include enrichment center

Ogunleye Hancock said the foundation's goal is to build a youth enrichment center that would have science labs, storytelling, writing and art workshops, computer literacy classes and leadership and vocational training.

She said area schools would share the resources at the center.

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Ogunleye Hancock said she expects the school visit to be one of the king's "best moments."

"He loves youth," she said.

Another purpose of the visit is to learn how a library operates.

Ogunleye Hancock and volunteers are in the process of establishing a community library in the Emure Ekiti region. Although there are 42 schools in the region, there previously was no library there to serve them.

The library will be housed in a 1,000-square-foot building previously used to conduct court cases. It also will serve as a meeting place for the community, with classes such as computer literacy being offered.

The goal is to fill it with books, computers, etc., Ogunleye Hancock said, adding Tennesseans have already donated about 4,000 books that are waiting to be delivered.

A 'mutual friendship'

Other items on the king's itinerary include visiting the Spring Hill Chief of Police, Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and possibly a hospital.

Ogunleye Hancock said the foundation hopes to recruit local physicians, teachers and farmers to visit the region and share their expertise. "We're open to any kind of assistance," she said.

Through the partnership with Spring Hill, Dinwiddie said he envisions "an opportunity to help this region of the world develop.

"It could be something as simple as donating used books, computers or farming equipment that we would otherwise throw away," he said. "Or, it could be creating a learning program through our Technical Training Center, currently in preparation, where their residents could come . . . and learn agricultural technologies to be used in their villages."

Dinwiddie said the city is not obligated to do anything financially, nor is it asking for donations.

"This partnership is simply a humanitarian gesture to seek mutual friendship and a desire to help others in need."




Mayor Michael Dinwiddie and Princess Fumi Ogunleye stand in front of City Hall. Spring Hill officially announces Emure Kingdom as a sister city. (Jeanne Reasonover / The Tennessean)
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