‘I am the umbilical cord between Yoruba of Nigeria and the diaspora

Prof. Toyin Falola (left), Chief Lekan Are and Chairman, BoT, CBCIU, Osogbo, Oragun of Ila, Oba Dokun Abolarin

As soon as he stepped out of the Modupe and Folorunso Alakija Auditorium at the Faculty of Law of Ajayi Crowther University in Oyo town that Monday late afternoon, the Alaafin, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III beckoned at the coterie of palace entertainers mainly drummers and Sekere players.

The group, four hours earlier, had ushered the Alaafin into the opening ceremony of the three-day international conference to kick-start His Imperial Majesty’s 80th birthday ceremony which is due on October 15. Organised by the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, the conference had a strong scholarly bent interrogating the place and significance of the Alaafin in Yoruba History, Culture and Political Power Relations.

No one among the guests who had customarily intended to accompany the monarch to his car already stationed at the end of the walk-way leading to the auditorium had the inkling of the “great” performance that was about to commence with the Alaafin as the main act, the role he combined perfectly with “stage craftsmanship.” He would dictate the tunes and as soon as the drummers produce the music, the monarch would respond with deft choreograph to the delight of multiple of participants that had now been attracted to the scene.

But interestingly, Kabiyesi’s vitality is not peculiar to dancing alone. His manly endowment has become the unique aspect of his nature. Early this year, he had two sets of twins from two of his young Oloris within nine days. The astounding news came on February 28, 2018, a day after Ayaba Memumat’s twins were named in an elaborate ceremony, that Alaafin’s youngest Olori, Ayaba Olaitan Ajoke, had just delivered another set of twins (boys).

The agile and vivacious monarch, therefore, had four children in nine days from two beauties who are in their 20s. Nine years ago when he clocked 71, the Imperial Majesty had surprised the world when he announced arrival of triplets from one of his Oloris, Ayaba Folasade Aisat Adeyemi.

The ‘Etaoko’ are: Adeola (female); Adeniran, (male); and Adebunmi (female). The birth was elaborately celebrated in the ancient town of Oyo, and globally on the social media.

This fecund prowess even at the threshold of joining the octogenarian club provokes series of questions beginning from his feeling at 80, major achievements for Oyo people since his ascension of the throne in January 1971, the relevance of traditional institution in the present socio-political configuration and whether palace shouldn’t be insulated from politics in view of the experience of Oba Adeyemi Adeniran II (dethroned and banished from Oyo Kingdom in July 1955) as well as the altercation the Alaafin Adeyemi III had in 2011 with the Oyo State government during the administration of Alao Akala among other issues.

Significantly, however, his closing remarks on Wednesday, speaking extempore for over one hour, provided answers to some of these agitations.

He described traditional rulers as truly the leaders of the people. Traditional rulers, Alaafin insisted, “have the capacity to mobilise people and resources for national development. You can’t talk about inclusive governance without the active participation of the monarchs.

They are the closest to the grassroots and since they live among their people, they know them inside out including their aspirations, needs and wants.

Traditional rulers are the real owners of their towns and rulers of their people for they are the custodians of history, culture and heritage of their people.”

He justified his submission making reference to the key roles played in Nigeria by the Alaafin and other traditional rulers, especially in the pre-colonial, colonial and early post-colonial politics in the country.

He reiterated the remarkable role traditional rulers played in the government of the First Republic as Members of the House of Chiefs and as Federal Ministers, “our participation in governance is more relevant now than before.”

Alaafin Adeyemi declared support for the calls for constitutional roles for traditional rulers in the current democratic experiment.

According to him, the country has not been able to make appreciable impact in terms of national development because of the relegation of traditional rulers.

“This does not augur well for grassroots development in Nigeria as there can be no national integration, peaceful coexistence and development without acknowledging the prime place and role of traditional rulers as agents of positive changes.

Indeed, the traditional rulers need to be strengthened for overall interest of all Nigerians.”

He identified maintenance of public peace and order, protection of lives and property, promotion of communal bonding among subjects as well as promotion of understanding, fair-play, peace and justice as some of the roles the traditional rulers play in their domains.

He emphasized the profile of monarchs as the cornerstones for building a great Nigeria and until traditional rulers are returned to their rightful positions in governance, peace, progress, unity, integration and development of Nigeria may continue to be elusive.

“If we truly want peace, unity and progress of Nigeria, then the traditional institutions and traditional rulers have to be acknowledged as agents of positive change and important partners in national progress and development.”

The Imperial Majesty stressed that the age-long rivalry based on supremacy and superiority among monarchs has become obsolete in view of the paradigm shift from aristocracy of power to aristocracy of intelligence.

Alaafin Adeyemi cherished the legacy of cabinet system of governance that old Oyo empire bequeathed to the world, which is well documented and preserved.

The Oyo Yoruba people built the Oyo Empire of great territorial and political magnitudes long before empires were created by most other African peoples.

The empire lasted for over 600 years setting up an unprecedented and unsurpassed political and economic system based on its well-executed unwritten constitution/conventions and protected Yorubaland from external invasions.

At the height of Oyo’s Imperial Power, it controlled more than half of the whole of Yorubaland and beyond.

In fact, at the height of its power, the Oyo Empire was bounded to the North by the River Niger, to the east by Benin Kingdom, to the West by the frontiers of Modern Togo, and to the South by the mangrove swamps and lagoons.

In fact, such kingdoms as Nupe, Borgu and Dahomey were under Oyo’s political suzerainty.

The great Oyo Empire reached the zenith of its power during the reign of Alaafin Abiodun in the 18th century.

The greatest legacy Oyo Empire bequeathed to the entire world as one of the oldest systems of checks and balances and separation of power long before A.V. Dicey and Baron Montesquieu propound the theories of rule of law and separation of powers.

In fact, the Old Western Regional Government built upon the legacies of Old Oyo’s system to record its enviable achievements that we all know till today.

Attention of participants was drawn to significant lessons to be learnt from the Oyo’s economic, social and political systems, which are rooted in its history, culture and traditions.

This is in addition to the factors of the rise, decline and collapse of Old Oyo and the dexterity of Alaafin Atiba in the establishment and continuous growth of New Oyo.

But how did he emerge as Alaafin Adeyemi III? In his previous encounter with journalists, the monarch had narrated his emergence thus:

“The stool became vacant in 1968, following the exit of Oba Bello Gbadegesin who joined his ancestors after a 12-year reign.

The late ruler hailed from Agunloye ruling house, thus, it was the turn of Adeyemi Alowolodu ruling house to produce the next occupant of the throne.

That is the ruling house where I come from. It was not a smooth ride at all. Ten of us submitted applications to fill the vacant stool.

There was a lot of political involvement then. All the applicants were expected to pass their applications through the head of the two ruling houses, Babayaji, who, in turn, was to submit them to the kingmakers (Oyomesi) without reservation.

He has no right to add or deduct from the list. But Babayaji submitted only one name for reasons best known to him.

So, there was uproar and that arrangement was cancelled. Thereafter, he submitted names of all the aspirants to the Oyomesi out of which they picked me as the Alaafin-elect.

“Meanwhile, the government at that time refused to give consent. They claimed that they suspected foul play, so the Oyomesi was asked to redo the selection process.

At this point, they had to vote. When the Oyomesi met again, five of the kingmakers voted in support of me, one voted for another candidate while the other kingmaker abstained.

Thus, the stage was set for Adeyemi Alowolodu ruling house to produce another Alaafin from their ruling house.

“Before the voting, there was a screening exercise similar to manifesto night during which all the aspirants were screened and asked questions. It was not an easy task.

The Oyomesi asked us different questions. Specifically, they asked for my age, my nearness to the throne and whether my father had been an Alaafin before.

I said my father, Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, had been an Alaafin before and that it was the aspiration of any prince to ascend the throne when it is vacant.

I told them in graphic details the list of Alaafins that had reigned before in Oyo.

“I told them that right from school days I had always had the quest to improve myself knowledge-wise as I believe that education is the best legacy one can acquire.

I am of the opinion that if I have education, I will possess the skill to communicate effectively and will be reckoned with among my peers. I think I was able to convince them as I emerged the Alaafin–elect.

I was made to go through the rituals and sacrifices. I was made to go to the sacred shrine of my ancestors where I took oath that I will work day and night to develop, nurture and enhance the tradition and history of Oyo and Yoruba people.”

At 80, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi exhibits strength physically, mentally and spiritually.

He has also distinguished himself as a monarch that possesses class, intelligence and wit in large quantities. He can also be described as an historian that is at home with the history and culture of the Yoruba race. These attributes became handy during the three-day conference.

In another conversation with the media, he had attributed his healthy living to the grace of God, nutrition that is balanced together with regular exercise.

“I am a sportsman, a boxer and I exercise regularly. In my youthful days, I was an amateur boxer and till date, I engage in shadow boxing in the palace. I played football, too.

In fact, when I was playing boys club in the 50s, I was nick-named “Ade One” and when I took to boxing, my nickname changed to Ade Slumber Boy – just because I used to send my opponents to slumber land.

My father, Oba Adeyemi Adeniran II did not want me to stay in the palace then, so the affluence in the palace would not corrupt me, I was, therefore, sent to live outside which exposed me to the wild world.

I started boxing with Broadway Boxing Club at Lafiaji area of Lagos Island as an amateur boxer.

Some of my memorable bouts were against Ben Mendogo at Oyingbo Boxing Club, the one against Double Adaptor Alabi, Rena Cole, Oris Obilaso, Ben Agu who later represented Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games, Surprise Akins, amongst others.

I started from fly-weight to Bantam weight and retired as Bantam-Feather weight.

“Regular exercise is good for your physical and spiritual comportment. Besides, I maintain a balance, too, between the spiritual life and physical life.

I have highly supportive wives and family. I enjoy robust support from my chiefs and town’s people. I keep no malice. I habour no grudge.

As an Alaafin, I preach peace, love and amity. All Yoruba people in Nigeria and in the Diaspora are one. I am the umbilical cord between Yoruba of Nigeria and African Diaspora.”

He has words of gratitude for the CBCIU, organizers of the international conference as captured in his intervention he made on Tuesday.

“I am extremely indebted to the organizers of the conference. I have been enriched intellectually by the various papers presented.

The discussions and conversations of the eminent men of letters from within and outside that followed have also brought enlightenment and elucidation on various sub-themes of the conference.

But when we are discussing the past, there is always the tendency for us to use the parameters we have in the present to discuss the past.

That is why historians must be very careful. One of the conceptual formulations of policy in the old Oyo kingdom was based on the philosophy of life at that time.

“In political science, humanities and other sciences, we must have the philosophy of life, yourself as a person and others.

Without a philosophy of life, we would not have policy formulation and implementation, which will bring about enunciation of the principles and programmes of actions that will translate those policies into reality.

“As a result, it is important for the academic and non-academic historians, archaeologists, sociologists, anthropologists, linguists and other scholars for further research and investigations into the institution of the Alaafin for deeper understanding and appreciation of the important role of the Alaafin Institution in Yoruba history, culture and political power relations.”

The reign of Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III has witnessed unprecedented growth and development of tertiary institutions in Oyo town and its environs.

It is on record that since Alaafin Adeyemi III ascended the throne of his fathers, Oyo town has witnessed the establishment of two world class private universities, two Colleges of Education, and several Primary and post-primary schools with both private and public ownership.

One the two universities is Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, established by the Supra Diocesan Board (West) of the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), as an offshoot of the CMS training institution, Abeokuta and the defunct St. Andrews College, Oyo.

Since its establishment in 2005, the University has produced experts across many fields and disciplines and has contributed remarkably to the socio-economic growth and development of its host community and its environs while also putting the ancient town of Oyo on global educational map.

Also, the efforts of Alaafin Adeyemi III in the establishment of Atiba University, Oyo, which took off in 2017, cannot be overemphasized.

His commitment towards the success of the latter is borne out of his desire to provide opportunities for the teeming youths in Oyo and its environs to acquire cutting edge education, not excluding the multiplier socio-economic growth and development that are attracted by the presence of a tertiary institution.

In a similar vein, of the numerous achievement of Oyo town during the reign of Alaafin Adeyemi III is the establishment of Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, established on October 5, 1977 as Federal Advanced Teacher’s College (Special).

The College is the only one of its kind in Nigeria and West Africa.

It has the largest conglomeration of handicapped students that could be found in any higher institution in Nigeria and the largest concentration of specialized facilities for teaching and training of teachers of the handicapped in Nigeria.

The institution, according to a UNDP/UNESCO 1996 report (NIR/87/008) has the best-qualified staff in Special Education not only in Nigeria but in West, North, East and Central Africa, and has produced experts and teachers of special education whose services are engaged in and outside Nigeria.

Also worthy of note among several educational development projects in Oyo during the reign of Alaafin Adeyemi III is the establishment of Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo.

Beyond the foregoing, Oyo has witnessed tremendous academic development especially in the areas of primary and secondary education.

There has been a large number of public and private primary and secondary schools established in Oyo town since the beginning of his reign in 1971, many of which boast of a strong and influential network of alumni who in turn have contributed to the growth of the town and Nigeria as a whole.

With the foregoing, it is rather conspicuous that Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III has remarkably propelled educational development in Oyo town and has influenced the growth and development of the local population spread across the country today.

WITH Siyan Oyeweso, Professor of History and Executive Director of CBCIU and Olutayo Charles Adesina, Professor of History and Director of General Studies Programme at the University of Ibadan as conveners, the conference which held from October 8 to 11, 2018 drew the participation of eminent personalities such as Chief Lekan Are of Kakanfo Inn Fame who presided over the opening ceremony; former Governor of Osun State and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of CBCIU, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Oragun of Oke-Ila, Oba Dokun Abolarin including serving and former Commissioners, members of state and federal legislatures, eminent politicians, community leaders, seasoned local and international scholars, traditional practitioners, spiritual leaders and leading professionals.

Among the keynote presenters were Prof. Toyin Falola, the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin; Prof. J. Lorand Matory, Lawrence Richardson Professor of Cultural Anthroplogy at Duke University, North Carolina, USA; Prof. Akin Ogundiran of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Prof. Tunji Olaopa of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy; Emeritus Prof. Akinjide.

Osuntokun and Mr. Seye Oyeleye of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN Commission) as well as a team of archaeologists led by Prof. Akin Ogundiran.

Altogether, about 150 well-researched academic papers were presented by established scholars, young and upcoming scholars, postgraduate students, final year undergraduates, cultural practitioners and enthusiasts drawn from many foreign and Nigerian universities across the six geopolitical zones.

The panels’ discussions covered such areas as Oyo’s Martial Tradition; Palace Administration; Traditional Religion, Religious Culture, Rituals and Festivals; Islam and Christianity in Oyo; Inter-Group Relations and Diplomacy; The Sounds and Music of Oyo; the Alaafin Institution and Administration; The Art, Crafts and Architecture of Oyo; Language and Literary Perspectives; Oyo and the Colonial State; Oyo and the Post-Colonial State; Women, Politics and Leadership; Pioneers of Change in Oyo; Socio-Political Issues; Oyo’s Economy, Culture and Contemporary Society in Perspective; as well as Oyo in Contemporary and Modern Politics.

Some of the practical policy resolutions reached at the conference include the need to develop Alaafinology as a Course of study in Departments of History in Nigerian universities; creation of a Palace Museum at the Palace of the Alaafin and an Ajayi Crowther Museum at the Ajayi Crowther University.

Participants also canvassed that constitutional role and recognition must be fashioned to traditional rulers without further delay and they must move from mere advisory role to legally backed roles.

A way of re-introducing the Bi-Cameral Legislature with a House of Chiefs which was practised in the Nigeria’s First Republic between 1960 and 1966 must be developed.

A way of incorporating traditional Conflict Management Resolution into our judicial system must be developed urgently. This would help to solve the problem of delayed justice and court congestion.

The National Council for Traditional Rulers as well as State and Local Government Councils must be strengthened for improved service delivery at the various levels.
The welfare of traditional rulers must be considerably improved and in fact, it should be best paid from a Consolidated Account as against their subservience to local government chairmen.

The traditional rulers themselves should be well-informed and must have awareness of local, state, national and international issues and affairs; should redefine themselves and be father of all; should oversee the security of their jurisdictions; and should be above-board and live exemplary life.

We must aggregate and harness our cultural values as tools for Yoruba’s cultural identity and development.

The Yoruba nation today needs a workable and practicable cultural policy rooted in our indigenous cultures and history.

The Federal and State Ministries of Cultures, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU) and other relevant agencies should provide proper platforms and policies for the promotion of indigenous cultural values.

This is because our cultural values are capable of restoring our pride and providing the basis of our development.

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