Soun Ajagungbade at 90
I wrote the first book on Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III, Soun of Ogbomosoland in 1995, 21 years ago and in spite of the age difference of 27 years and the staggering difference in our social status, Kabiyesi treated me like an equal when it came to giving me my dues.
When I was planning to write his biography I never told my father because I was aware that he was not a big fan of Oba Jimoh Oyewumi Ajagungbade III and he did not make a secret of it. However, it was to Kabiyesi’s credit that till this day, he never raised the issue with me. Rather, I benefited from his immense wealth of experience and counseling. He insisted for instance that I must procure my broadcast equipment from abroad and wondered why people cannot go for the best in life.
He loves to surround himself with quality; from his wardrobe to the ambience of his environment and the type of friends he kept particularly when he was the out-going socialite. Save the mellowing of age, he is an Aristocrat to boot!
The manner of his ascendancy to the throne and the events that surrounded his enthronement suggested clearly that as fair minded as he tried to be, Kabiyesi never shied away from a fight for whatever he believes in. Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi who was the Military Governor in 1973 when Ajagungbade ascended the throne told me, ‘’It was obvious at the time, that even if you do not love him, you learn to respect him.’’ Rotimi was making allusion to the bruising battle he had with the Soun when against all entreaties and corporate threats, he insisted on wearing the beaded crown of his forefathers.
The battle to stop him from wearing the beaded crown came from two formidable groups: the state military Administration and some eminent Yoruba Obas led by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. Though the Soun was livid at the stance of the traditional rulers, he was willing to behave like a statesman and tried to convince them to see reason. He chose to visit two of them – Aderemi and Oba William Ayeni Ariwajoye,the Orangun of Ila. He told them the parable of the antelope that took ill and the lion and elephant wouldn’t care less if he dies. The antelope appealed to them to save his life and warned that if they do not, the hunter will use his skin to prop the arrow that will kill them both. The parable by the 47-year-old prince impacted more on the revered Oba Adesoji Aderemi because in 1930 when there was tussle for the Ife stool, Oba Afolabi Bello, the father of the present Soun, sent emissary to Ife in support of Oba Adesoji Aderemi who was vying for the stool with his brother Adewuyi and being a prominent member of Ogboni, the support was weighty.
Dr. Laogun Adeoye, a childhood friend of Oba Oyewumi who was also a commissioner under Brigadier Rotimi, was approached by the Ooni to pacify his boss not to take any draconian measure against the Soun. The only trouble was that Dr. Adeoye himself was not favourably disposed to the candidature of Soun but he did as he was told. Adeoye, the first medical doctor from Ogbomosoland and staunch Action Group member, confessed to me in 1995, ‘’Ironically I did not support his candidature in 1973 but with hindsight I can now say that his installation is a blessing for Ogbomosoland.’’
The machinery to stop the wearing of the crown went on unabated on the side of government who deployed the state Commissioner for Local Government, Rev. Canon Akinyemi and Justice Kayode Eso who was then a Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, Chief LAD Oyewo and Chief S.T. Ojo, both prominent Ogbomoso citizens to visit and convince the Soun not to wear the beaded crown.
They met Kabiyesi late on December 13, 1973, the eve of the installation. The discussion virtually came to a halt when the delegation said that government feared that there will be bloodshed if the Soun wears the crown on installation day. The Soun calmly stood up, went to the window, beckoned his visitors to come, pointed at the over one dozen cows under the tree and said: ‘’The only blood to be spilled tomorrow are these cows and my people will devour them.’’
The contingent went back to Ibadan empty-handed but with a fait accompli which is that the Soun had gone for broke and ready for a face-off with the military Administration barely three years after the end of the famed Nigerian civil war. After they left, Oba Oyewumi walked down the garden with a swagger to inspect the glittering black Mercedes Benz 280s which Leventis Motors just shipped from Germany for the installation. He paid N17,000 then for it. This monarch loves limousines!
With a wry smile, he went back to his bedroom and slept soundly.
The delegation got to Ibadan before dawn and as they moved towards Moniya, Justice Kayode Eso went into a reverie. In January 1955, a young smartly dressed man walked into his chambers in Jos for a legal matter for which he was charged five pounds, five shillings (five guineas). He paid instantly and was about to walk out when Eso asked for his name. ‘’I am Prince Oladunni Oyewumi’’. They became friends instantly and the toast of the privileged Jos inner social circle.
Justice Eso felt uncomfortable about the prospect of the installation and was jerked back to life by a question from someone in the car about whether the Soun will dare government. He answered resignedly, ‘’I know him so well, he will wear the beaded crown this morning.’’ And that was what happened. Oba Oyewumi Ajagungbade III CON, CFR donned his ancestor’s beaded crown on December 14,1973 to the admiration of the largest crowd that ever gathered for a single event in the annals of the community.
Soun Ajagungbade III is the longest reigning traditional ruler in Ogbomosoland having spent 43 years on the throne so far.
Kabiyesi, we are proud of you.
Prince Oyelade, a media practitioner, sent the article vide firstname.lastname@example.org
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