Iku Baba Yeye … Ex-boxer, monarch, critic, lover of women
Perhaps the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, knew that the end was nigh for him. This premonition of death, he externalised, a little above two weeks ago when he reportedly said that his forefathers were calling him.
And with a harem of at least a dozen wives, the late monarch established his love for women, even though he claimed that he never approached a lady for a relationship.
To further establish his love for the opposite sex, he promised to establish a museum for women. Sadly, with his demise, that would now remain a pipe dream
An aide of the departed monarch, while speaking to reporters, yesterday said: “My father has gone to meet his forefathers. Atanda (Alaafin) went to play with his forefathers. He is not dead. Two weeks ago, he called and told us that his late father was calling him to come. We were afraid and asked if truly he saw his father.
“He ascended the throne at a young age and was wealthy and blessed with long life; preserved the stool; promoted the Yoruba culture, and was an epitome of royalty. We are happy to have him as the Alaafin,” the aide said.
For 52 years, Iku Baba Yeye (loosely translated as one who controls death) bestrode his kingdom like a colossus. He was a very respected and colourful ruler.
As a monarch, he never shied away from criticising the powers that be whenever the occasion demanded. In the same vein, he also got into politically related controversies.
In July 2019, when the nation was still cementing its infamous reputation as a killing field, the late monarch expressed his disgust in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He criticised Buhari’s handling of the farmer/herder conflicts, stressing that south westerners were deeply distressed by the unabating criminality, especially killings brought to bear by marauding herdsmen.
“I am worried about the security situation in the country, especially in the South-west geo-political zone, nay the entire Yoruba-speaking area of the country, including Kwara, Kogi, and Edo states,” he wrote in the letter titled “Yoruba Question in Nigeria Conundrum,” adding: “This has to do with the incessant and increasing menace of Fulani herdsmen that have laid siege in almost all the highways of Yoruba land.
“In Yoruba land, we are scared and worried about the outrageous audacity and effrontery of these criminal elements in carrying out their activities and without any challenge by security operatives.
“Apart from the massive destruction of farms and crops planted on them, the new wave of Fulani, pretending and disguising as herders have unleashed a reign of terror on Yoruba land. They destroy crops, they kidnap men and women, violate and rape our women, right in the presence of their husbands,” the Alaafin stated.
Earlier on, the monarch had a spat with a former governor of Oyo State, the late Christopher Alao-Akala, after the later Alao-Akala installed Ganiyu Abiboye, as the Baale of Ago-Oja in Oyo town, without his consent.
Abiboye’s installation led to a situation where the deceased governor kept a distance from the palace even when he visited the neighbourhood, neither did he pay homage to the monarch.
Matters got to a head in May 2011 when the late governor, in a move to whittle the Alaafin’s powers, introduced a new law, which rotated the office of chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs between the Alaafin and two other monarchs. Before the law was introduced, the monarch was the permanent chairman of the council.
Crowned on January 14, 1971, Oba Adeyemi III spent more than five decades on the throne and development that made him politically savvy. He never baulked when it came to presenting his subjects’ travails and challenges to the powers that be.
For instance, the monarch in one of his interviews stressed that the country risks breaking up if not restructured.
“I made my position clear in the paper I presented in Ibadan during the zonal summit on the subject. I said if we did not restructure Nigeria, what happened in USSR may happen,” the monarch had said.
“USSR was divided with force. Romania also was divided through force. Their leaders were doing exactly what our leaders are doing now.”
Many still wonder how the monarch, who is a 2018 interview said that he never approached any lady for a relationship, ended up with such a large collection of beautiful women.
According to the late Alaafin, his late younger sister was the one who introduced him to his first wife, adding that women do not like his “stoic” personality.
“I have never approached a lady; they come to me. My first wife was a friend to my younger sister of blessed memory…My sister introduced her to me and though she wasn’t educated, she gave me the first lawyer in our family, my son, Tunde. I truly do not know the art of chasing women. I don’t go out to chase women.
“I am very stoic; I seldom laugh. Most times, it is impossible to know what is going on in my mind because you cannot read my emotions on my face and women don’t like that,” he was quoted as saying.
Beyond being reportedly married to about 13 women, with many children to show for, including three sets of twins in 2018, the monarch furthered his love for women by disclosing his plans to build a museum for women in Oyo state.
He said that the museum would have an exhibition of the things that women use and wear now, to contrast what women used to wear in the olden days and now.
He disclosed that the essence of this was to re-emphasise the fact that African women were the finest in the world, in their natural state, as well as draw the attention of the society to the dangers of emulating western culture in terms of dressing.
“I want to have a museum for women, the first in Africa, all the things women use in dressing up will be on display, I have been collecting these things for over 50 years now. Women are seen going naked now, which is not part of our culture, even in different parts of the world, they uphold their culture. In India, China, Saudi Arabia and all, they keep their culture, regardless of civilisation,” he said.
Despite being royalty, Oba Adeyemi also excelled in sports. In The Royal Institution In Yoruba Tradition and Popular Culture, Essays In Honour of Iku Baba Yeye, the traditional ruler is said to have played soccer for the Tinubu Methodist School in several football competitions, both in Lagos Mainland and Island. He was nick-named Stanley Marth because of his superb dribbling abilities and with the way and manner he normally played, which always resulted in scoring many goals in any tournament.”
“Stanley Marth was one of the greatest footballers of England at that period. One would have imagined what this great personality would have been if he had not answered the clarion call to serve his people. The virile, agile, and promising young chap did not stop as an athlete and a footballer; he was also a good boxer. He began his boxing career in Mike Fadipe’s Boxing gymnasium in Lafiaji area of Lagos Island. He fought in the Bantamweight Class where he excelled very well,” the material edited by Siyan Oyeweso and Olutayo C. Adesina, stated.
The monarch is reported to have fought 56 bouts, lost only two, and won 44 with knockouts.
In another past interview, the Alaafin stated: “I am also a good boxer. I have had over 56 bouts and lost two. In my bouts, only 10 (people) who contested with me lasted the distance. I won the others by knockouts, but I have never been knocked out. Let me tell you a little secret. Inwardly, I am not a very happy person; so, boxing is an interesting outlet for me. When you have a grudge, you don’t feel pain.”
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.