The passing away of His Imperial Majesty, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi IIIl on 22nd April, 2022 marked the end of a 52 year reign, which has been adjudged to be the longest reign of any Alaafin in history. Prior to that sudden passing, reports had it that Kabiyesi was in and out of the hospital at Ibadan before he finally decided to go for a proper medical checkup at Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti on Sunday 17th April 2022 where he finally gave up the ghost.
This transition of Oba Adeyemi III brings to a close an epoch of a great and quintessential king who used the entire 52 years of his reign to raise the bars of the exalted stool of the Alaafin of Oyo, and many of us are still asking rhetorically if the next Alaafin will be able to match up with Oba Adeyemi’s sagacity, bravery, acuity and regality with which he ruled the Oyo kingdom.
However, I have on several occasions in my own imagination and even during discussions with people agreed that it is the throne of the Alaafin that makes the occupier of the stool and not the occupier that makes the stool.
Oba Adeyemi III did not only become king as a relatively unknown prince, but also the youngest man to have ever ascended the throne of Alaafin of Oyo. Not only this, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi was a man of many firsts. He was about the first prince (apart from his father, Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II whose own father, Adelakun was the son of Adeyemi Alowolodu but never ascended the throne) to become Alaafin in the present day Oyo without first holding the title of Aremo while his father was on the throne. After Alaafin Atiba, the progenitor of the present day Oyo known as Ago-doyo, many Alaafins before Oba Adeyemi III were once the Aremo of their king fathers; Alaafin Adelu Agunloye was Aremo to his father, Alaafin Atiba Atobatele, Alaafin Lawani Agogo-Ija was Aremo to his father, Lawani Agogo-Ija, Alaafin Mohammed Bello Gbadegesin was Aremo to his father, Ladigbolu I.
Although, Oba Ladigbolu 1 had earlier had two different Aremos before Bello Gbadegesin took up the title. First was Prince Owoade, Ladigbolu’s immediate younger brother from the same mother, and after Owoade”s mysterious sudden death that shook the entire town to its very foundations because of the affection that Oba Ladigbolu had for him. Owoade’s death so pained Oba Ladigbolu that he composed a dirge in his honour during the morning period.
“E kaso lori,
E bawa ke gbajare
A o mona t’Owoade lol o”
Sanusi, Ladigbolu’s first son and Gbadegesin’s elder brother was appointed Aremo. Already, accusing fingers were pointed to Prince Sanusi as being responsible for Owoade’s untimely death because Owode and not him (Sanusi) was made the Aremo of Oyo.
But not long after his enthronement as Aremo that prince Sanusi commited another sacrilege; he attempted to stage a coup-de-tat against his father so that he could become the next Alaafin.
The coup de tat was that he wore a charmed girdle on his waist which he meant to kill the Alaafin by prostrating to him. But early that morning as he approached the throne, Oba Ladigbodolu who had had premonition of Sanusi’s plan ordered the palace guards to prevent Aremo Sanusi from prostrating for him. This was in the presence of all the Oyomesis and they were all dumbfounded when Alaafin ordered that Sanusi’s top be removed and the charmed girdle was discovered on his waist. The Aremo was later stripped of his title and was banished to Ila Orangun. Then Bello Gbadegesin, his younger brother was made Aremo. This is one of the reasons why Bello Gbadegesin was nicknamed “a toju oloye m’oye je,” (meaning the one who takes a title while the owner of the title is still alive). He also became the Alaafin after Oba Adeniran Adeyemi Ii was deposed.
During the reign of Oba Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi II, it was Prince Adebayo, elder brother to Lamidi Olayiwola who was the Aremo of Oyo. Lamidi Olayiwola was not only too young to become Aremo at the time, but he was far behind Prince Adebayo in ranking as the Aremo is the title reserved only for the first sons of the Alaafins. The title later became extinct after the reign of Prince Adebayo and neither Oba Bello Gbadegesin nor Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III had reigning aremos while they were on the throne.
Also, most noteworthy of Oba Adeyemi III’s many firsts is that he became the first literate Alaafin and ever to reign. This was contained in his profile printed on the pamphlet of his coronation ceremony at Durbal Stadium on January 14th, 1971.
The reign of Alaafin Adeyemi III was one of the most interesting and tortuous in the history of Oyo Empire. Just like the reign of his forebears Sango, who was busy warding off attacks from Eleduwe and Fulanis, and his great-grandfather, Adeyemi Alowolodu 1 whose reign was engulfed with Kiriji or Ekitiparapo war, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III fought and won many battles. Oba Adeyemi III was in charge of his kingdom and would stop at nothing to protect his territory. The other side of him was always on display whenever attempts were made to undermine his position as the political head of all the Yorubas. He was very equipped in the defense of this fact and sited the roles played by Oba Adeyemi 1 during Kiriji war when the peace treaty was signed at his instance and the British colonialist referred to him in all their letters as “the king of the Yorubas”.
In this regard, Alaafin Adeyemi III had an unending squabble with Oba Okunade Sijuawade Olubuse II as well as some state governors who made attempt to undermine his exalted throne. Notable among these state governors who had squabbles with Oba Adeyemi III were Governors Lam Adesina, Rasheed Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala. All these governors after having issues with the Alaafin never won a second term in office. Akala in particular had vowed that should he win a second term as governor, he would deploy all the state machineries to depose the Alaafin, But yet, Akala never won a second term in office and Alaafin remained unruffled.
As a regular caller in the palace, Alaafin’s oratory skills were second to none. He could mention off hand all the Alaafins before him as well as historical occurrences with facts. He was an encyclopedia of Yoruba history and artifacts. Alaafin Adeyemi lll wherever he appeared radiated culture, glamour and grandeur. He was royalty personified. His was a royal inheritance.
His glamorous reign aptly justified the Oyomesis’ long search for a new Alaafin after the transition of Oba Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu Ii in 1968. It was a three years tussle before Oba Adeyem III’s nomination, selection and approval by the Alowilodu ruling house, Oyomesis’ and the Western Military government respectively. This is the same process that will play out before a new Alaafin can emerge. Prince Lamidi Olayiwola had predicted his own reign in 1968 in a newspaper article when the race to elect the new Alaafin just began:
“I shall become the new Alaafin”
“I shall be great”.
With my personal experiences with him, every opportunity to meet with Oba Adeyemi III will surely add to your books of knowledge. I am yet to see a king as highly resourceful as him in recent time. Even when he requested to spend a little time with you, he usually ended up spending hours on many occasions.
Another attribute of Alaafin Adeyemi III was his usual disposition to offer assistance. Even if your request looked very impossible, he would never turn you down.
On many occasions, I was the intermediary between kabiyesi and some people in the entertainment industry who got an inkling of my closeness to the palace and requested that I lead them to him. Most notable of such scenarios was when the organizers of ASA DAY Worldwide, Niyi Oyatoye (who later became an Alaafin’s adopted son too) requested to make kabiyesi the Royal Father at the 2019 edition of ASA DAY in Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada, Alaafin threw all his weight behind that programme despite his old age, busy schedule and distance. I would call at the palace as many times as possible in preparation for the trip and he was always ready to oblige any request I brought.
Along the line as the processes continued, we got an information that another programme was being organized in Canada to canter our own programme and Alaafin was also invited as the Royal Father. In a jiffy, I rushed down to Oyo with my friend with documentary evidences to find out from kabiyesi if truly some people had contacted him with respect to a Canada programme other than ASA DAY.
On meeting him, we told him that some people who are rivaling us had come up with a similar programme in Canada and this will be tantamount to jeopardizing our own programme. We ended by giving him evidences of how the fellow had submitted a longer list of attendees (other than the short one presented to the Alaafin) to the Canadian Embassy.
“They are your rivals” Alaafin queried.
“Yes sir” We answered promptly.
“Ah, emi o mo nkankan. O lohun fe ki n ran ohun lowo ni, mo si fe kinu re o fun”
“I didn’t know anything. He requested for my help and I wanted him to be happy”.
Kabiyesi ended by informing us that “as the Alaafin, he always wanted to assist anybody who sought for his assistance”.
He eventually frowned at the long list which he was never privy to before and stepped down the programme in favour of our own.
That was the kind kind of a father Alaafin Adeyemi was to me and many others. I had had a course on many occasions to get recommendation letters from him and he never hesitated for once to oblige. Sometimes, he would ask that the letter be typed and would stay behind to proveread it until the final copy was made.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi’s demise is like an institution closed down. It is the end of a long and glorious era.
May the mighty grant him eternal rest.
Gbemisola Adetunji Faleti writes from Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.