By Suyi Ayodele
On Friday, April 22, 2022, a big Iroko fell in Yorubaland. That fateful Friday, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, joined his forebears. In the African culture, customs and traditions, Obas don’t’ die. They simply sleep. They merely exchange mortality for immortality. So it was with Iku Baba Yeye. There is no doubt that the passing of the Oyo monarch, after 52 years on the throne of his ancestors is like a library that goes ablaze. Oba Adeyemi III was more than a library. He was a walking encyclopedia of Yoruba cultures, customs, traditions, norms and the essence of the Race. From Oranmiyan, who established the throne of Oyo, to Oba Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II, his immediate predecessor, Alaafin Adeyemi III had the privilege of having the longest reign on the ancient throne of Oyo. His passing therefore, on Friday, even at a very ripe age of 83, is no doubt a big loss to the entire Yorubaland.
For a king that sat on the throne for over five decades, we should not have the illusion that having a replacement for him is going to be an easy task. This is where my concern is at this moment in the history of my race, the Yoruba race. I am concerned and worried because of the recent happenings in Yorubaland. I am worried about the negative incursion of “civilisation” into the aged traditions of my people. I am worried about the “modernisation” of every glorious past of the people. For instance, but for modernity, as represented by the age of the social media, nobody would have dared to announce the passing of Iku Alase Ekeji Orisa the way we had it in the present case. This is my fear. This is my concern.
The Yoruba palaces are becoming porous nowadays. The qualities of the personages we are enthroning as Obas are dropping faster than the drop of a hat. The traditions that made our Obas of yore who they were are fast eroding. Abominations are taking place daily in our revered palaces. We have cases of armed robbers invading our palaces. Kidnappers desecrate the sanctuaries, where the irunmoles (thousand demons) live to take our Obas to captivity. Our Obas are no longer “erujeje” (fearsome). They are no longer “apasewa” (the sovereign ones). They are no longer «amu omo rubo ki iya e wa dupe» – he who uses a child as an object of sacrifice and the mother comes around to say thank you. This trend calls for concern.
My first outing on this page on December 1, 2020, was titled: “The Killing of Olufon”. It was about the Thursday, November 26,2020 killing of a first class traditional ruler in Ondo State, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adelusi, by some bandits, who waylaid the monarch some few kilometres to his domain. In that piece, I stated thus: “Virtually every medium: traditional, social and electronic, which reported the ugly incident played up the stylistic gimmick of eyeballing, by ensuring that the verbal phrase, “shot dead”, was elaborately used. How on earth can you “shoot dead” an oba? By virtue of his position, especially in Yoruba mythology, an oba is an “Alase Ekeji Orisa” (the sovereign one who is next in rank to the deity); in some places, he is an “Igirabatalokun” (A big tree which sprouts in the middle of the ocean). Some obas, for instance in my native community, are “Amelilajetuotou (He who eats the native cow with its horns). It is not for fun that they are called “Ariragbenuokunyinbo” (The thunder which fires arsenals from the depth of the ocean). Obas are heads of principalities and powers in their domains; the terrestrial and celestial beings surrender to them. They are supposed to be powerful such that no mere mortals dare look at them, not to talk of “shooting them to death”. But it happened in the case of Olufon. And after him, many of our Obas have either been kidnapped, shot by gunmen and their royalty tampered with by felons, whose forefathers dared not look at any oba in the face.
This is where the issue of the successor to Alaafin Adeyemi III should be of paramount interest to the entire Yoruba people. The time we are is the season of the locusts. The throne of Oyo is too big, too significant and too important to the survival of our culture to allow the political class to hijack the process. This is where the Oyomesi- the kingmakers of ancient Oyo must stand firm. Oba Adeyemi III’s greatest asset was his integrity, his character, his disposition to everything that cements the Yoruba culture. He was a Moslem; a practicising one for that matter. But in that, he never ignored the noble tradition of the people. He upheld the culture that made him Alaafin. He did not become Alaafin at the age of 31 because he had money. He became the Alaafin because he had character. Yoruba say “iwa ni eniyan” – character is the man. Whoever comes after Oba Adeyemi III must not be less.
Dr. Lasisi Olagunju in his column in the Nigerian Tribune of Monday, March 2, 2020, titled, “The trial of Yoruba kings”, wrote: “In character and comportment, a king is not allowed to roam freely; he must not struggle with the leash imposed by his culture. Where a king breaks loose, the land bleeds in shock, angst and revulsion. A king is no more than the principal trustee to his people’s past and present — and a bridge to the future. A man has no private, personal journeys once he becomes an Oba. The decision to lead from the traditional realm is a voluntary immolation of personal courses and causes. An oba must move shoulder-to-shoulder with his people in destination and destiny. The elaborate seen and unseen rituals and rites of installation, including the wearable apparels, particularly the crowns, cement the fusion of destinies…”. These are immortal words that the Oyomesi should use as their Bible in the selection process for the new Alaafin. The tradition of our people must take precedence over any other consideration. The Oyo throne is the Yoruba throne. We cannot afford to get it wrong.
Truth be told, Oba Adeyemi III left a shoe so big that finding a fit-in successor becomes herculean. That however, should not be an excuse for the delay in selecting a new Alaafin. When a man stays too long on the chamber pot, different kinds of fly begin to perch on his scrotum. This is why the chief mourner, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State’s admonition to the Oyomesi: “I want to appeal to Oyo Mesi, who are in charge of installation of Alaafin. We don’t want to see any vacuum for a long time. When you are done with the rites you are supposed to perform, we are here to ensure the wishes of Baba come to pass», becomes apt at this period. The Oyomesi should not delay in filling the post. Governor Makinde himself should live by the letters of his words, to wit: «ensure the wishes of Baba come to pass». The governor knows the wishes of the departed monarch. Oba Adeyemi III would have loved to have a man of impeccable character to succeed him. He would have wished for honesty and transparency to permeate his succession processes. He would have asked that all traditional rites be carried out, without exception. This is the only honour the Oyomesi and Governor Makinde can bestow on the loving Oba Adeyemi III.
The Oyomesi will do Yorubaland proud if they resolve to give us an Alaafin that we can all follow to the battlefield. They should strive to give us an oba that will be royal in all ramifications of life. They will record their names in gold if, in considering the next Alaafin, the Oyomesi put character before wealth; integrity before popularity and our supreme culture before “civilisation”. This is not the time for Yoruba to have an Alaafin that would be going to night clubs. It is not a time for a Yahoo Yahoo in the House of Oranyan. If the Oyomesi cannot give us an angel as Alaafin, they should at least give us someone as good as Oba Adeyemi III. The new Alaafin must not be considered because he can speak impeccable English. Oyo, nay Yorubaland, cannot afford to have an Alaafin that will abandon agbada for a foreign robe; fila abeti aja for a bowler hat and Oyo amala, ewedu and gbegiri for spaghetti and macaroni. The new Alaafin must be a traditionalist, a cultural icon and a promoter of the essence of the Yoruba beings. All eyes are on the Oyomesi. How they handle this assignment will definitely define their future and the future of Oyo town and Yorubaland. All Yoruba man everywhere in the world should not sleep. They should stay awake and monitor how the next Alaafin will emerge and who the person is and where he is coming from. We don’t want to enthrone an agent of the enemy as king. Where that was done, the land lost its rains and sunshine. Birds refused to chirp like birds, rats stopped crying like rats. The world ended where a wrong king was enthroned. May that not be the portion of Oyo in 2022 and forever. May the alales help the Oyomesi as they embark on this. May the owners of the day and the “arugbo eye abiye tiele” (the old bird with fluffy feathers) of the night grant them wisdom. May the throne of Alaafin remain sacrosanct; undefiled. May Yoruba Race and the entire Black world prosper!
(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, April 26, 2022)