I shall be great, be next Alaafin, by Femi Kehinde


In 1968, the powerful Alaafin Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu passed on to join his ancestors. He succeeded Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi II, in 1955.

The 30-year-old young Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, then an Insurance executive, with the Royal Exchange Assurance Limited, gleefully pronounced himself as the succeeding Alaafin in an article in major Nigerian newspapers ably titled: “I Shall Be Great, I shall Be The Next Alaafin Of Oyo.”

Certainly, the piece was an inspirational product of defiance, faith, boldness, sagacity and audacity. In navigating the labyrinths of Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola’s intriguing, chequered, fascinating, memorable and distinguished career as Alaafin of Oyo, the title of this piece, certainly suits the narratives. Here is the chronicle.

Destiny has an uncanny hand in the conduct and affairs of men. In the Yoruba pantheon, it could be likened to “ori”, literally meaning head, that is, a person’s spiritual intuition. It is often personified as an orisha in its own rights. It foretells the human essence and consciousness. Whatever one becomes, or whatever happens in one’s life, according to Yoruba myth is as destined by his “ori.”

Man’s unalterable destiny is usually a navigated journey of an unseen hand. In the course of that journey, the navigator charts the course and directs the route. And such is the life and times of Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi, and his biological son, Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi.

As an interface between the reigns of Adeniran Adeyemi and Lamidi Adeyemi was a reigning monarch- Alaafin Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu, who succeeded Adeniran Adeyemi in 1955 and whom Lamidi Adeyemi also succeeded, on the 19th of November 1970.

Destiny certainly leads to the human destination.

Among Oba Adeniran’s children, Lamidi Adeyemi was his favourite. He had seen at Lamidi’s birth on the 15th of October 1938, the lacerations on his left breast and the spots on his legs, at the same spots on Olayiwola, as tell-tale signs of future royalty. This royal observation, endeared Lamidi’s mother, Olori Ibironke of Epo Gingin, Compound, Oke Afin, Oyo, to Adeniran Adeyemi. Unfortunately, Olori Ibironke died at an early age, when Lamidi was still an infant.

Alaafin Siyanbola Ladigbolu I, was Alaafin of Oyo between 1911 to 1945 and was succeeded in 1945 by Adeniran Adeyemi. Siyanbola Ladigbolu, was a very powerful monarch and he was a strong ally of the British Resident, Captain W.A Ross. In 1945, Adeniran Adeyemi succeeded him as Alaafin of Oyo and was on the throne till 1955, when he was sent on exile by the Western Region Government.

In preparation for royalty, the young Lamidi had a brief training in Quranic knowledge in Iseyin and also lived under the tutelage of Pa Olatoregun, an Anglican school teacher and headmaster of St. Andrews Primary School, Oyo, and disciplinarian, all in an effort for young Lamidi, to learn the rope of traditional kingship, statesmanship and dignifying royalty. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, in the quest of this preparation for royalty, was at an early age, sent to Abeokuta to live with Oba Adedapo Ademola and had some part of his early education in Ake Palace Elementary School and he was until his death, fluent in the Egba dialect.

Interestingly, Peter Olayiwola Adeyemi and Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, were peers in the palace of their father-Adeniran and were of the same age grade. He saw a great future in these his two children. At the time he sent Lamidi to the palace of the Alake of Egbaland to live, he also sent Peter Olayiwola to the palace of the Orimolusi of Ijebu Igbo to live. Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, at a later date in his adolescence also lived with a Lagos Aristocrat, his father’s friend- Sir (Dr) Kofo Abayomi.

In Ijebu Igbo, Peter embraced Christianity and became a devout catholic. He was absorbed into the Ijebu culture, had his primary and secondary education in Ijebu land, from where he joined the Catholic seminary and was eventually ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Lagos on the 13th of November, 1975.

He was for 46 years, devotedly in the vineyard of God. He was described as an awesome and dedicated priest. He died on the 3rd of May, 2021 at Sacred heart hospital, Lantoro, Abeokuta.

The Very Rev. Peter Olayiwola Adeyemi, was buried at the Ikoyi Cemetry, Lagos.

At a condolence visit, led by catholic pontiffs, to the Oyo Palace, to commiserate with the Iku baba Yeye on the death of his brother, prince, peer and soul mate, he went philosophical in his response-

“We all try to live a fulfilling life, but there is a great fear of death that tends to hold many people back from living the life they want to. It tends to be the unknown world that makes us be fearful of death, but when you start to look at death from a different perspective, it can clear away some of the fears”

“These quotes about life and death will remind you to live each day to the fullest and not to fear death so much. Life is such a wonderful gift, it makes me humble each time I stop to think about it. Think about going to sleep and never waking up again”

From Peter Olayiwola Adeyemi’s death, Iku Baba Yeye, like a seer, knew his own exit was imminent. In their early days in the palace, the two Olayiwolas were inseparable duos. Lamidi Olayiwola  Adeyemi at a later date in his adolescence also lived with a Lagos Aristocrat, his father’s friend, Sir. (Dr.) Kofo Abayomi and his wife, Lady Oyinkan Abayomi. He also attended St Gregory’s College, Lagos- a Catholic School. The young Lamidi Adeyemi lived with Oba Samuel Oladapo Ademola II, the Alake of Egba Land in the Ake palace between 1947 and 1948, when the Egba Women’s Union, led by Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, protested against the payment of taxes without representation.

Mrs Ransome Kuti, who had earlier in 1943, organised the Abeokuta “Great Weep” was becoming a big thorn in the flesh of Oba Oladapo II. It was regarded as a “hell of a time”. In the streets, the market places, before the Alake’s palace, thousands of Abeokuta women, went about shedding tears. The Alake and the authorities could do nothing to stop it and gave way to the women’s demands.

Mrs Ransome Kuti picked up the gauntlet again in 1948 when the Alake sanctioned the taxing of Abeokuta women. The Egba women’s union was a well-organized and disciplined organization. The Egba women’s refusal to pay abnormal tax, combined with enormous protests, organised under the guise of picnics and festivals, was a guise to beat the security of the British colonizers, who teamed up with the local lackeys, to subdue the women. At one protest, the “Oro” stick, was brought out a symbolic artefact of the secretive male cult of the Ogbonis, supposedly imbibed with great powers and the women were instructed to go home before evil spirits overcame them.

When the women shrank back in fear, Funmilayo Rasome Kuti grabbed the stick, waved it around that the women now had the power before taking it with her displaying it prominently in her home. This action gave her, a reputation of fearlessness and courage, which led 20,000 women to follow her to the home of Alake of Egba Land (Alake Ademola).

As the women protested outside the King’s Palace, they sang in Yoruba, “Alake, for a long time, you have used your penis as a mark of authority, that you are our husband, today we shall reverse the order and use our vagina, to play the role of husband.” With this unified action and song, they chased him out of the Palace, condemning him to exile on the threat of castration and this resulted in the king’s abdication and his exile to Osogbo.

Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was a teacher, a political campaigner, women’s rights activist and a traditional aristocrat, who was described by the West African Pilot Newspaper, as the “Lioness of Lisabi.” She was the first woman to ride a car. She was also the mother of Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Her amiable consort in this crusade was Eniola Soyinka, her sister-in-law and mother of the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka.

It is interesting to note that Oba Oladapo Ademola II, was accompanied to exile by Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, who was then living with him and who saw this interesting drama.

As a result of the Macpherson constitution of 1952, which now gave immense powers to political elites as against traditional institutions, the powers of the traditional monarchs as regards to the political control of their domains ceased. Chief Bode Thomas now became the first chairman of the Oyo Divisional council in 1953, while the Alaafin of Oyo became a mere member.

On Chief Bode Thomas’ first appearance in council, after being appointed as chairman, all the council members stood up for him in deference to welcome him except Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, who for cultural reasons could not show deference to anyone in public. Bode Thomas rudely shouted at the king, for having the temerity and audacity to disrespect him, “why were you sitting when I walked in, you don’t know how to show respect.”

At that time, Bode Thomas was 35 years old and Oba Adeniran Adeyemi was in his 80s. The Alaafin felt very insulted and said, “se emi lon gbomo baun (is it me you are barking at like that?) Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, for emphasis, was father of the late Alaafin- Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.

The confrontation happened on the 22nd of November, 1953. Bode got home and started barking! He barked and barked like a dog all night until he died in the early morning of November 23rd, 1953, He cut short his promising career.

Before Alaafin’s deposition, around the middle of 1955, the Western Regional Government, set up the Floyd Commission of enquiry to look into the causes of persistent unrest in Oyo Land. A few months after the Floyd commission had concluded its enquiries and submitted its findings, the bombshell fell.

At the tottering age of 84 years, Adeniran Adeyemi was told by the Regional Government to quit the palace and that was a journey into the unknown that ended with his demise on the 14th of February 1960.

From Iwo-Oke to Ilesha and then to Egerton Lane in Lagos, the ex Alaafin- Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi, certainly saw the other side of life after the palace. Alhaji N.B Soule, a rich Dahomean, (Republic of Benin), who came to Lagos in 1929, offered Adeniran the needed succour and encouragement during this trying period. He offered him and his entourage bed and lodgings in the name of Allah and in allegiance to the NCNC.

The NCNC as a party which the Alaafin loved, fought for his reinstatement with various petitions to the Colonial Secretary and parliamentary warfare on the floor of the Western House of Assembly. The Oyos were predominantly NCNC members and were led by Pa Afolabi.

Alafin Adeniran Adeyemi once said, “I was sent away by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group government, because of my unflinching support for the cause of the NCNC… I am not angry with Chief Awolowo, in fact, I am not angry with any one person or group of persons or organisations, I am only angry with destiny,  that in at it has chosen to push me out of my palace and stool to face the uncertainties of life at my old age. The £210 subsidy from the regional government was cut off.”

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In exile in Lagos, at the No. 31 Egerton Lane, thousands of men and women flocked the residence, to pay their respect and obeisance to the 88-year-old ex-monarch and in retrospect and appreciation, he once said, “these people are very kind and their daily respect to me remind me of my palace at Oyo.

And there were many people in that palace during my time. I had over 200 wives and many children and of course, I was receiving a stipend of £210 every month from the regional government. This, together with the gifts many of my subjects were making me, was enough to support my household. What you see here, though the best of the worst, is not like home is still the best.”

The ex-Alaafin always had about 30 odd wives at a time in Lagos.

These 30 from the pool of 200 wives will come at one time and spend all the time they can afford with their royal husband and go back to Oyo-making place for another 30, who will come and take over from them, until the number is rounded up and begins to rotate again. But to Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi, it was not all merry.

He lost his crowned prince, Aremo Adeyemi, in a ghastly motor accident on his way to llesha to visit him. Certainly, the mishmash of the life of Egerton lane, could not be compared with the royal revelry, elegance and candour of the Oyo Royal Palace.

Sometime in early 1960, Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, secured admission to study law in the United Kingdom. He got a loan from the African Continental Bank, (ACB) Yaba Lagos, through the influence of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, his father’s friend and was to proceed to the United Kingdom, when unfortunately, his father, Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi died 48 hours to the London trip on the 14th of February 1960, at the age of 88 years.

This death truncated his career training in Law in the United Kingdom. He later became an insurance executive with the Royal Exchange Assurance Limited, Marina Lagos, where he rose steadily. In the course of his career in the insurance industry, an incidence happened at the Iga Idunganran Palace of Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II.

Oyekan was installed the Oba of Lagos in 1965. Some burglars invaded the Iga Idunganran palace and carted away, various items like air-conditioners and all sorts. Luckily, these items were assured by the Royal Exchange Assurance. Lamidi Adeyemi was asked by his employer, as a loss adjuster, to visit the palace and recommend appropriate payments, to cater for the loss.

As a prince of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi introduced himself to the Lagos Monarch, and that as a future Alaafin, he was only in the Palace to extend traditional courtesies and not to ask questions about the incidence. He nevertheless recommended handsome payments to the monarch; and that was quickly settled by the Royal Exchange Assurance.

In an attempt to repair the leaked roof of a rented apartment in Lagos, he discovered some iron metals needed by the Railway Corporation, on the rooftop of the apartment.

The Railway Corporation bought from him all the iron metals and was even asking for more. At an impressionable age, he was able to buy his first house in Lagos, with the proceeds from this “manna” from heaven, which eventually prepared him for the throne after the death of Alaafin Ladigbolu.

Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu installed SLA Akintola, the Aare Ona Kankanfo of Yoruba Land. Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi also, on the throne installed two Aare Ona Kakanfos- M.K.O.Abiola andn Ganiyu Adams.

The stool of the Alaafin became vacant, following the death of Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu, who joined his ancestors after 12 years on the throne. He hailed from the Agunloye Ruling House and it was the turn of Adeyemi Alowolodo Ruling house, to produce the next Alaafin.

As an aftermath of Adeniran’s exile, Lamidi’s ascension to the throne was almost a near miss.

Lamidi Adeyemi contested with ten other princes for the coveted throne of the Alaafin, in a keen competition that started in 1968 and ended in November 18, 1970, when he was officially pronounced the Alaafin of Oyo, by the Western Region Government of Colonel Rebert Adeyinka Adebayo, at the age of 32 years. He was crowned on the 14th of January, 1971.

The road to the throne before his endorsement was certainly a very difficult terrain.  Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, then Commissioner, for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the Adebayo’s Government, was certainly God sent.

He took full charge of the process and made very wide consultations. In one of such robust consultations, his mind went to the Ooni of Ife- Sir Oba Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi, for spiritual and traditional guidance.

According to Dr Victor Omololu Olunloyo, “the late Ooni was very much into Yoruba religion, folk-lore and spiritual matters. He sent back to me that I should meet him at his Onireke Guest House in Ibadan. Though some people often accused him of being pro-Awo, I found things rather very different. In matters spiritual, the Ooni probably has no equal in Yoruba land. At the appointed time, on the appointed day, I took our entire pile of sixteen files on Alaafin of Oyo along.

I had studied them seriously, as if going for the examination, indeed ready for any question that might arise at the meeting. It turned out I did not need any files. The Ooni asked about my mission. I told him I came for some traditional guidance on the matter of choosing the next Alaafin of Oyo. He then asked who we were planning to install.

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I told him we did not fix our minds on any particular aspirant. It was not for us to impose our petty wishes. He should kindly advise us as to who or what kind of candidate was appropriate. He sighed. He congratulated me for my effort in the ministry of education and proceeded to offer me a bottle of vintage 66 Moet et Chandon Champagne. He demonstrated to me the two principal ways of decorking a bottle of champagne.

As we sipped the high quality 66 Vintage Moet, he said my first visit was unusual because government scarcely ever consult those who communicate effectively with the ancestors.

They leave matters too late until their decisions result in riots and a breakdown of law and order. He praised me for inheriting the wisdom of my fathers. He then left me alone with the champagne in the small sitting room. He said he would go to the back of the house for a while to consult an oracle handed over to him by his fathers.

There was an eerie atmosphere as he left me alone. He returned after some twenty-five minutes to announce the result of his consultations. He said the oracle spoke straight and quickly. The result was coded thus: “Olunloyo, omo eni o ba je ri ni o je o je. Yio sipe nibe,” which translates: “Olunloyo allow only someone whose father once occupied the throne to ascend it. He would actually last long.”

“The message was crystal clear. I reported the result of my research later to the Governor. I however concealed the source, I thereafter went carefully through the files and found incidentally that only one candidate, fitted the Adesoji Aderemi criterion. The rest is history.

We later embarked on all the formalities at Oyo, the Secretary of the Competent council, the family meeting, the handing of the lists to the Babaiyaji and the Bashorun and a successful candidate’s name was announced by Chief Esuola Akano, the Bashorun as the new Alaafin of Oyo.

As Ooni told me, our path had been cleared. We also obtained six extra special security reports ordered from outside our state. All backed Lamidi. We also made a vital amendment to the Chief’s Law in respect of ruling houses chieftaincies.

At a critical state, there was a perceived threat of loss or theft of high voltage live files. I removed all of them for safekeeping outside the Ministry.”

Before Lamidi’s ascension to the throne, at the age of 32 years, he had married two wives- Alhaja Olori Abibat Adeyemi (Iya Adodo) and Alhaja Olori Rahamat Adeyemi (Iya ile Koto). He was blessed with other wives and children. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi had beaten the records of his forebears-Alaafin Adeyemi Alowodu I, who reigned between 1876 and 1905 and his father- Alaafin Adeyemi II, who reigned between 1945 and 1955 and as Alaafin Adeyemi III, he reigned for 52 years, as His Imperial Majesty.

He became Alaafin at 32 and was Alaafin at 83, when he joined his ancestors on Friday, the 22nd of April, 2022.

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, had in about 52 years, bestrode the Yoruba Nation and the Traditional institution of the Alaafin as a Colossus. No wonder, he had gleefully predicated in 1968 in the newspaper article- “I shall be great” and “I shall be the next Alaafin”.

I had a nourishing and enchanting relationship of about 15 years, with the late traditional potentate and cultural icon- Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.

I was to him, a private solicitor, advisor, confidant and son. In the last 15 years, we met regularly, travelled together severally, and shared personal and memorable thoughts. On Saturday,  the 9th of April, 2022, we met for the last time in the Alaafin’s palace. On this memorable day, in the company of my uncle- Professor and Essayist- Professor Adebayo Williams, who had come to deliver a personal invitation to the Alaafin of Oyo, to his installation ceremony as the Asiwaju Otun Olufi of Gbonganland, slated for Friday, the 6th of May, 2022.

He received the invitation and prayed for Professor Adebayo Williams. The Gbongan people are descendants of Olufiade, son of Alaafin Abiodun of Oyo. He went down memory lane of his relationships with the two previous Olufis- Oba Dr. Solomon Babayemi and Olufi Adeoye.  Unusually, the Alaafin showed us the spots that were on his legs, that were also on his late father- Alaafin Adeniran’s legs. As a parting note, he told us that he now lived, with the spirits in the palace. In his words: “Awon anjonnu ni mo nbaa gbe bayi o” we could not decode the message. At each of our discussions and engagements, Alaafin’s knowledge of Yoruba folklore, history, customs, mores and philosophy, was nonpareil i.e. no equal. He was a philosopher- king.

May the soul of Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, Iku Baba Yeye, the Alaafin of Oyo, continually find peaceful repose with the Almighty Allah.

 

Hon. Kehinde, a Legal Practitioner, was a former member of the House of Representatives representing Ayedire/Olaoluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State between 1999 and 2003.

 

 

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