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The Alaafin of Oyo

By Prof. Anthony I. Asiwaju (MFR)
18 November 2018   |   4:05 am
The grande finale of the two-week-long celebration of the 80th birthday of the Alaiyeluwa, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo, was marked by a book launch...

Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III

The grande finale of the two-week-long celebration of the 80th birthday of the Alaiyeluwa, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo, was marked by a book launch, amidst pomp and pageantry at the International Conference Centre of University of Ibadan, Ibadan, on Saturday, October 20 2018.

Though the birthday itself fell on Monday, October 15, the celebration was academically kicked off with a high-profile International Conference on the theme: ‘The Alaafin in Yoruba History, Culture and Political Power Relation’ from Monday, October 8 to Thursday, October 11, at the Ajayi Crowther University campus in Oyo, under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding in Osogbo, Osun State.

This has been as it should be, considering the celebration is about Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Commander of the Federal Republic, Justice of Peace, Doctor of Law/Doctor of Public Administration (Honoris Causa), former Chancellor of both the Federal Universities of Sokoto and Maiduguri, Nigeria’s cerebral traditional ruler, Iku Baba Yeye, the Oranmiyan and Sango of our time, the 44th Alaafin of Oyo.

While he has always been known in his antecedents and later reputation since our days as a student at the University of Ibadan, so close to Oyo, in the 1960s, direct encounter with the legendary Alaafin dated only relatively recently to mid-1995.

As author of the specially commissioned publication that formed the scientific basis for the historic change of identity from ‘Egbado’ to Yewa later that year, we were part of the delegation of the Yewa Think Tank, formely Egbado Think Tank, an elite group that spearheaded the strategic change of the toponym and of the specifically mis-named constituent Yoruba sub-group within the region, the structurally marginalised Nigerian border area in Ogun state.

The YTT delegation was with the Alaafin as part of its methodically organised consultations with key Yoruba traditional rulers with known historic stakes in the area, including, notably the Alaketu of Ketu across Nigeria’s western border in the Republic of Benin.

It was when the Alaafin responded that all of us on the YTT delegation (professors, retired and serving high-ranking civil servants) were treated to the other side of the Alaafin as an erudite scholar in his own right. Having praised the Think Tank for its scientific approach to the subject of their visit, the monarch then beamed his powerful intellectual search light on the scholarly works of the author of the guiding publication, titled: The Birth of Yewaland: Studies and Documents Relating to the Change of Name of a Yoruba Sub-Ethnic Group From Egbado to Yewa in Ogun State of Nigeria (Ibadan: Staco, 1995), a copy of which had just been formally presented to him.

Together with all the others in the delegation, we were stunned not only by the eloquence, but also the demonstration of a suprising knowledge of virtually all the works we have authored on the colonial and post-colonial comparative history of the Yoruba, especially the highly volatile western sub-groups across the Nigeria-Benin border, and this in an era before the Internet.

A particularly telling illustration of Oba Adeyemi’s elephantine memory was the reference he made to an innocuous, though evidently illuminating article on the ever topical subject of the history and politics of the Yoruba beaded crown, published in an academic journal in London twenty years before, in 1975.The reference here is to A.I Asiwaju, ‘Political Motivation and Oral Traditions in Africa: The Case of the Yoruba Beaded Crowns, 1900-1960’ in Africa, Quarterly Journal of the International Africa Institute-IAI, London, vol 46, no. 2, 1975,133-127.

Not only is the Alaafin widely read and published, he is also filled with Solomonic capacity for applying knowledge to wisdom. The book under this review, The Alaafin of Oyo: Power of Courage and Conviction – Memos, Letters and Speeches of Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, JP, Cfr, LL.d, launched on October 20, 2018, is replete with historic texts that provide ample evidence of the Alaafin’s pliability to knowledge, a unique character trait that has stood him head and shoulder above most of his peers in Nigeria and wider area of Africa.

He was, for example, intellectually honest to acknowledge to us in 1995, that it was after a diligent reading of our 1975 journal article that he converted from being in traditional opposition to becoming an ardent supporter for elevating deserving Baales to status of Obas in his expansive area of prescribed authority as Alaafin of what the late Professor J.A. Atanda in his famous 1973 published study of British Indirect Rule in colonial Oyo Province has aptly called ‘The “New” Oyo Empire’.

Take, for example, chapters 15 and 72 of the commemorative book: in the one is the text of the ‘motion’ he tabled on the floor of the Oyo State House of Chiefs in 1976, barely one year after publication of our 1975 article, asking for the elevation of both ‘Baale of Ibadan, Oba Gbadamosi Adebimpe and the Shoun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Ladunni, Ajagungbade III to status and position as Obas, each with ‘successors in title with perpetual right to wear beaded crowns’; and the other is a more recent ‘letter’ to Governor Ajimobi, requesting for similar elevation of six baales in different local government areas of Oyo State, including Saki East, Kajola, Iwayowa and Ibarapa.

The book in review is truly fascinating in content and physical presentation. It stretches over 278 pages of 77 items of primary historical documentations, captioned as ‘chapters’. It is printed in imperial gloss paper and bedecked with delightful selections from palace albums of elegant photographs that cover events of Oba Adeyemi’s eventful life in the past 80 years, fourty-seven as the Alaafin of Oyo. The contents provide evidence of the monarch as a prodigious writer, and they portray the enormity of his knowledge of issues, ranging from the strictly local to the national, international and global levels, often in defence and projection of Yoruba history, culture, traditional values and institutions.

The Alaafin of Oyo is a must-have and must-read for all with interest in the Yoruba, arguably Africa’s best known and most intensively researched single nationality and culture group.

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III deserves our profound appreciation for the thoughtfulness in bequeathing to us and posterity this invaluable permanent record of his weighty voices in writing as foremost custodian of Yoruba history and culture on local, national, international and global issues and concerns.

Secondly, we charge the entire Nigerian academia across all disciplinary boundaries in the humanities, the social and earth sciences and, especially, those of us in history, to take urgent measures for a more comprehensive debriefing or downloading of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, including ensuring his detailed autobiography or biography latest by his imminent 85th birthday, insha ALLAH, on the model of The Merchant Prince and Monarch: Oba Oladunni Oyewunmi, The Soun of Ogbomoso (2012), co-authored with Dr. Tunde Oduwobi by Emeritus Professor Jide Oduntikun, who incidentally is the Baapitan of Oyo.

Finally, we ask the monarch’s numerous friends and admirers, Nigerians and Non-Nigerians in the public and private sectors to mobilise resources in support of the long overdue Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III Chair of Yoruba Studies, most appropriately, at the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, sufficiently funded to do in the 21st century and beyond what the defunct multidisciplinary Yoruba Historical Research Scheme was able to do in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

This would be the most befitting way of immortalising and institutionalising Alaafin Adeyemi III, much like the Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona Chair of Governance at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, has been instituted to do for the Alaafin’s bosom friend and similarly cerebral Nigerian traditional ruler, the Awujale of Ijebuland.