Alaafin’s 50 Years of Staying the Course

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Celebrating 50 years on the throne after surviving many battles, has shown that Oba Lamidi Adeyemi is a cat with nine lives, writes Kemi Olaitan

This past week, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111, celebrated his 50 years on the throne thus becoming the longest reigning Alaafin in the history of the ancient town. He was given his staff of office on Thursday, January 14, 1971, by the then Military Governor of Western State, Brigadier Robert Adeyinka Adebayo.

No Alaafin has celebrated 50 years on the throne as the nearest was Alaafin Siyanbola Onikepe Oladigbolu, who reigned from 1911 to 1944, while Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi II, the father of the present Alaafin only ruled from 1945 to 1955. Alaafin Atobatele Atugba reigned between 1837 and 1859, Alaafin Alowolodu Adeyemi ruled from 1876 to 1905 while the shortest reign was that of Alaafin Amodo, who was on the throne only between 1833 and 1835.

For the five decades Oba Adeyemi has been on the throne of his forefathers, his image has continued to loom large while making tangible and intangible impacts, which the ancient town, Yorubaland and indeed Nigeria as a whole will find difficult to forget. It certainly could not have been different as he was born into royalty. His father while preparing him for the future ensured that he did not live with him but rather sent him out to live with prominent Nigerians within the Yorubaland.

Oba Adeyemi has seen the entrance and exit of 21 governors, namely, Major General Adeyinka Adebayo (August 1966 – April 1971), Brigadier General Christopher Oluwole Rotimi (April 1, 1971 – July 1975), Admiral Akintunde Akinyooye Aduwo (July 1975 – August 1975), Colonel David Medayese Jemibewon (March 1976 – July 1978), Colonel Paul Tarfa (July 1978 -October 1979), Chief Bola Ige (October 1, 1979 – October 1, 1983), and Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo (October 1, 1983 – December 31, 1983). Also, Lt. Col. Oladayo Popoola (January 4, 1984 – September 1985), Col. Adetunji Idowu Olurin (September 1985 – July 1988), Col. Sasaenia Oresanya (July 27, 1988 – August 1990), Col. Abdulkareem Adisa (September 1990 – January 1992), Chief Kolapo Olawuyi Ishola (January 2, 1992 – November 17, 1993), Navy Capt. Adetoye Oyetola Sode (December 9, 1993 – September 14, 1994), and Col. Chinyere Ike Nwosu (September 14, 1994 – August 22, 1996).

Other governors of the State comprised Col. Ahmed Usman (August 22, 1996 – August 1998), Comm. Pol. Amen Edore Oyakhire (August 16, 1998 – May 28, 1999), Alhaji Lam Adesina (May 29, 1999 – May 28, 2003), Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja (May 29, 2003 – May 28, 2007; he was impeached in January 2006 but got reinstated in December 2006), Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala (January 12, 2006 – December 2006; and May 29, 2007 – May 29, 2011), Senator Abiola Ajimobi (May 29, 2011 – May 29, 2019) and Mr. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde, who was four years old when he ascended the throne (May 29, 2019 till present – he is the incumbent governor).

A no-nonsense traditional ruler loved and hated, whatever the case may be, Oba Adeyemi can only be described from the angle one looks at him. One writer once described him thus, “To beat him on debate floor, you must be tough intellectually. To defeat him in the boxing ring, the opponent must be prepared to absorb many of his double fists jabs. There is much to say about Ikubabayeye.”

Not shy to fight for what he believes is his right, the first class royal father has engaged in many battles leaving many wondering where he derives his strength. One of such is his often insistence that the Alaafin must be the Permanent Chairman of the state Council of Obas and Chiefs. From Western State, old Oyo State to the present Oyo State, Oba Adeyemi would not care to fight any government that would not accede to this.

During the present political dispensation, the monarch had it rough under the administration of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala despite the fact that they started on a good note. At the beginning, the relationship between them was so cordial. Indeed, the governor did not hide his favouritism for the Alaafin as the Permanent Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs, probably knowing the political influence the monarch wields in the state, he handled the issue with utmost caution.

The cordial relationship between the monarch and the then governor was so much that there was hardly any event that Alao-Akala went that Alaafin was not present. Oba Adeyemi was seen many times at the Governor’s Office to give royal backing to the governor such that at the end of the day Otunba Alao-Akala inaugurated the monarch as the Permanent Chairman of the Council.

Oba Adeyemi in his speech at the occasion of the inauguration and expansion of the Council held at the House of Chiefs, Parlianment Building, Agodi, Ibadan, said, “ I must add that the two last regimes of Alhaji Lam Adesina and Rashidi Ladoja also had the privilege to do what we are witnessing today, but they opted not to act.

“In January 2008, through a letter APO13/VOL.57/32, dated January 31, 2008, I also send a letter on the enlargement of the council to the sitting governor, where I repeated my previous position and the need for the entire 33 local government areas in the state to have representation in the council.
“I also went ahead to tell the governor of the sad turn of events in Oyo Sstate as some Obas in the state have continued to fight over irrelevant seniority issue, while our brother Obas in the neighbouring Osun State had gone far in perfecting a seemingly workable and smooth system.

“I told the governor that the 19 member council hitherto in place could not serve the interest of our people. I went the whole hog to recommend those who should be in the council both on permanent basis and those who should rotate. Happily, the governor acceded to our request leading to today’s event.”

This was not to last as towards the tail end of the administration, the relationship became that of cat and mouse with the monarch raising the alarm that the governor wanted to kill him, which was eventually dismissed by the police and Otunba Alao-Akala. The climax was with less than a month to leave office, Alao-Akala, announced that the Alaafin was no longer Permanent Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs in the state.

The state government through the House of Assembly passed a law that introduced rotation of the office of Chairman between the Alaafin and his two rivals, the Olubadan of Ibadanland and the Soun of Ogbomoso. At that time, many people believed that the measure was in response to the Oba Adeyemi’s support for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) during the April 2011 elections against the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with the governor gunning for a second term.

Besides fighting for his right, the Alaafin is one monarch who is not afraid to air his views on developments in the country. While he writes letters to those in power, Oba Adeyemi also speaks out at any time for those in government to do what is right.
While speaking at the launch of a book by the Nigerian Tribune titled, “70 Years of Progressive Journalism”, at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, in December 2019, he raised the alarm that Yorubaland was in danger and decried governance collapse in the country.

He said, “Today in Zamfara and Yobe States, the governments are now subjected to banditry. And they are encouraging these bandits, giving them money. How can government give bandits money? That is a collapse of governance and government. If you are a student of constitution, you must believe Awolowo’s views. Well, I am not a politician but I understand politics. I don’t do partisan politics, because I want to be progressive.

“In the entire Nigeria, when Awolowo started his free primary education, we felt it would not work. He started it. He came out with the position that in the next 30 to 40 years, the Western Region will be 60 years ahead of other areas in education. If you pass out of primary school, you go to Teacher Training College and if you pass out, you would be given automatic admission to university. That was the reason they established the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University.)

“Now our graduates are roaming the streets. There is no index of people who are out of school. Just three days ago, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje said Kano had the largest number of out-of-school children. How can we have stability in the country, when half of the country is governed by illiterates? Banditry has taken over the governance. Surely, there cannot be peace in the country.

“You said you have technically defeated Boko Haram. What is the technicality in defeat? Either we agree we have not been able to subdue them and admit it. Now, they are quoting United Nations figures for us and our government is telling them we are not under America or United Kingdom but we are going there to take loan. Surely, something must be done to take a cue from Chief Obafemi Awolowo. If he was not an angel, then, he must be on the right side of God.”

Similarly, when the 8th National Assembly through the Senate introduced the Hate Speech Bill, code-named the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill 2019, seeking death penalty for anyone found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person, Oba Adeyemi was one of those who came out to challenge the lawmakers.
The monarch challenged lawyers and other professionals to shoot down the bill, describing the death penalty as too harsh a punishment for abuse.

According to him, “If I have not killed anyone and I give an opinion that is contrary to the government’s, will it be sufficient reason for me to be hanged? Where are the lawyers in Nigeria? Can’t they speak up? Nobody is speaking up. If you don’t want to be criticised, then, you don’t have to be in government.”

With agility of a younger fellow, one cannot but pray that long may Oba Lamidi Adeyemi reign and to continue to be relevant in all of his interventions.