Curtain falls on a historic reign

Alaafin of Oyo

Emotions embraced doubts on Saturday when news broke that the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, joined his ancestors. He reportedly passed away at the Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State. He was 83.

The influential monarch, popularly called iku baba yeye (roughly means one who is parent to death) , was born in October 1938, ascended the throne in 1970 and reigned for 52 years, thus becoming the longest-reigning Alaafin. . The pugilist-turned monarch succeeded Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II and became the third to ascend the throne from the Alowolodu Ruling House.

His demise occurred after the passage of two other prominent kings in Oyo State: the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, who transited on January 2, 2022, at age 93 and the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi, Ajagungbade III, who joined his ancestors on December 12, 2021.

The deceased monarch was truly royal in stature, class and native erudition, elevating the cultural heritage synonymous with the ancient town. Little wonder his reign attracted brains from far and near who thronged the palace to drink from his fountain of wisdom.  He wore the crown with unique elegance, candour and glamour.

Eminent persons, including the then Aare Ona Kakanfo  of Yorubaland and winner of the annulled June 12 presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola, visited the deceased Alaafin when parts of his palace were razed by fire on February 1, 1990. The Yoruba saying that “Ile oba tojo ewa lobu kun’’ (roughly translated to mean a befitting palace replaces a burnt one) found ultimate fulfillment in the incident. In January 2013, another fire linked to electrical faults destroyed some materials and artefacts at the palace.

 He was also true to his faith as a Muslim. As a young monarch then, history documents how he was appointed by the then Head of State, General  Murtala Mohammed to go with him on Hajj in 1975. Also in 1990, he was appointed by the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, as Amir-ul-Hajj in recognition of his outstanding elevation of the ideals of Islam.

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The late monarch’s love for boxing was grand and this he displayed even as an octogenarian. He engaged in shadow boxing with a partner at 81 to the admiration of many who watched the viral video at the time. His promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition was largely felt within and outside Nigeria.

The late Alaafin’s eldest wife was Ayaba Abibat Adeyemi, but he had about 12 other young wives who followed him in a royal entourage to events he attended. He also had many children.

The controversies

Notwithstanding his remarkable reign, some controversies surrounded the late king.  He was believed to have disagreed with the positions often expressed on issues by the Ashipa of Oyo, the late Chief Amuda Olorunkosebi, who was among the advisers of the Alaafin.

Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria in Oyo town in 2020 protested against the role allegedly played by the deceased monarch in a land tussle between it and other parties in the town. The body alleged that Oba Adeyemi sold parts of its 96 plots of land at Ayetoro to some investors. The palace neither refuted nor confirmed the claim.  There was supremacy tussle between the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who died in 2015, and the late Alaafin.

Tributes pour in

Alaafin’s death drew tributes from many prominent people within the country and overseas. One of them is the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, who described the death as colossal and personal loss to him.  On January 13, 2018, the deceased monarch installed Adams as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland at a colourful ceremony held at the Durban Stadium, Oyo town.

Adams, in a statement on Saturday by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, noted that the foremost Yoruba monarch led a worthy life through his reign.

He added that Yoruba and the ancient town of Oyo had lost a great monarch whose life was a true reflection of a complete Yoruba monarch.

He said, “Kabiesi’s death is surely a national tragedy. It is a personal loss to me and it ended a chapter in the annals of this country. The Yoruba has loss a true and revered monarch and a repository of history and knowledge. A sudden cloud has overwhelmed the entire Yorubaland and we can hardly forget the roles of Alaafin as the top Yoruba monarch in a hurry.

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“There’s no way I can figure out this colossal loss. Alaafin has been a strong pillar in the service of our race. He was an iroko among all trees and a strong voice for the Yoruba race. Alaafin was, till date, the longest reigning monarch in Oyo history. No monarch had reigned for 35 years in Oyo, but Alaafin outlived that, spending 52 years on the throne.’’

He noted that Alaafin was the only monarch who installed two Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland in his lifetime.

Adams said, “He installed the late MKO Abiola in 1988 and 30 years after, that was precisely in 2018, he installed myself as holder of the prestigious position that began in 1530. As far as I am concerned, Kabiesi’s life was full of great memories and his death was a national tragedy and huge loss.

“The news of his death today, really reminded me of the days I lost my father and mother. Those were the saddest days in my life. Though Kabiesi died at an old age, he was the vice chancellor of four universities. Two prominent universities in Nigeria and two abroad and he influenced four different universities located in Oyo town.’’

He also commiserated with the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, monarchs in Yorubaland, the Oyo Mesi, oloris, princes and people of the state on the passage of the respected king.

Besides, Mrs Mutiat Ladoja, Mrs Florence Ajimobi and member, representing Oluyole Federal constituency at the lower legislative chamber, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, joined other Nigerians to mourn Oba Adeyemi.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Ladoja, in a statement on Saturday, described the monarch’s death as the loss of a father figure and a counsellor to Oyo State in general.

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She said, “There is no doubt that Oba Lamidi Adeyemi led a long and fulfilled life having been on the throne of his forefathers for 52 years as Alaafin of Oyo. Iku baba yeye was an astute custodian of culture and tradition that cannot be easily forgotten. This quality was evident in practically all areas of his life, most especially in the practice and sustainability of our Yoruba core cultural values and ethics.’’

The ex-governor’s wife, Agba-Akin Iyalode of Ibadanland, said that the late Alaafin was deeply rooted in Yoruba historical knowledge with a flair for research and development.

On her part, Ajimobi described the life and times of the legendary monarch as a glorious era in the history of the ancient town of Oyo, Oyo State and Nigeria.

Ajimobi, in a statement by Mr Bolaji Tunji, ex-Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy to ex-governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, said the news came as a shock considering its suddenness.

“It is with a deep sense of loss that I commiserate with the Oyomesi, the entire people of Oyo town, our state and the country over the exit of Baba, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III.

“Though the Alaafin died at a ripe old age of 83 years, having spent 52 glorious years on the throne of his forefathers, his passage still came as a shock due to its unexpectedness,’’ she said.

In her message, Akande-Sadipe said that the Yoruba race had lost an encyclopaedia of culture by the death of Oba Adeyemi.

She described the late monarch as one of the most revered royal fathers who had a vast knowledge of Yoruba culture and history.

She said that the monarch paid his dues and impacted lives, within and outside his kingdom.

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