Requiem for Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi


Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi has spent his last three months relaxing dramatically. He took a few steps and held a few meetings which, in retrospect, showed that there was a certain urgency in his steps. On February 8, 2022, he was at the University of Ibadan as my book launch chair. His speech at the event was short and to the point: Federalism for Nigeria or we forget it. He returned to Oyo Palace that evening and began work on a document which expanded the views he had espoused in Ibadan. The document was ready and he signed it the next day, February 9, 2022. On March 30, 2022, he signed letters to leading Yoruba intellectuals and professionals drawing their attention to his document and demanding that they return to him “in due time.” desired “. One of them is Siyan Oyeweso, a history teacher. On Friday, April 22, 2022, he sent his personal assistant to an Oba in Osun State to hand-deliver these documents. evening of that day, it was this emissary who called Oba Adedokun Abolarin, the Orangun of Oke Ila (who got the documents a few hours earlier) that the ceiling had collapsed in Oyo, Baba had left .

The Alaafin that just left was pretty inside and out. He had brains and beauty in superlative measures. The king of Oyo was not “Alaafin” at the very beginning. He was first Oranyan, a fearless prince who followed fate, fought his way and became Oloyo (owner of Oyo). A chain of unusually progressive occupants of this stool followed Oranyan. They built an empire so vast that no one had ever built. They created for this kingdom a capital in the savannah and a golden palace in the city and the description of the king changed. The king not only remained the owner of Oyo, but from then on he became the ‘Alaafin’, the only king who had what could be called an Ààfin – or if you prefer, say it in the language of the white man – a palace. Two English pioneers in 1828 entered Oyo Island and marveled at the magnificence of the town, its palace and its market square. Read Captain Hugh Clapperton and Richard Lander and feel how highly they raved about what they saw on this exploratory visit. The Ààfin was the physical representation of the greatness of Oyo’s success as a nation-state. This is the burden of legacy that 31-year-old Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi placed on his shoulders on November 18, 1970. He successfully discharged (or discharged) the burden on Friday, April 22, 2022. He was 83 years old. .

Two years ago, Oba Adeyemi summoned me to his presence. And I wrote then that it was not the first time that I entered this palace; but it was the first time I was Alaafin’s guest. “Baba said I should take you tomorrow,” Festus Adedayo, the messenger, told me. I kept the date wondering why my lord had summoned me. I arrived there and the king told me that it was to congratulate me on what I wrote every week. The palace is ancient and vast with courtyards as numerous as the stars in the sky. Was it the Ààfin that gave Alaafin its title? No and yes. I wrote two years ago that I arrived at the palace and looked around. I saw in the man and in the architecture a beautiful mixture of modern and old. I saw the resilience of the culture; I saw the timelessness of an aged heritage, the palace. I have seen the present hold the future at the forefront of values. I remembered history and the ups and downs that defined the fortunes of this kingdom and its checkered existence. About 190 years before that date, there was no Oyo where I was, so there was no palace. What was here was an Àgó (a hamlet) called Ago Oja. Ancestral Oyo was 130 kilometers north of here, but because where the Alaafin chose Oyo as their home, that Àgó became the town we all fill today. This change happened around 1838 when treason and the enemy prevailed and the city of grandeur was abandoned forever. The Golden City has become Old Oyo, a relic of past glory.

The first king of Oyo was Oranyan; the one who left the stool for Oba Adeyemi III was Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II. Between the first and the last there were about six hundred and seventy years of 50 kings of various moral textures and temperaments. The Alaafin who answered the call of his ancestors on Friday was a reincarnation of the best of all his ancestors. He was adventurous like Oranyan who gave birth to the kingdom. He was soft and not soft like Ajaka and Sango, the one who meted out justice with lightning and thunder. He was a progressive in the mold of Abiodun when the townspeople wore the best dresses. He was a city builder like Atiba, the Alaafin who transformed Ago into Oyo. If you found Olayiwola Adeyemi with a hundred wives, know that he had a father called Alaafin Oluaso (1457-1500). With women in every room, Oluaso filled the palace of Oyo Ile with 1,460 children. Read the history and history of his fathers and their kingdom. They tell why Adeyemi III was the stellar king he was.

I have been to Oba Adeyemi several times over the years of our proximity. Our last two sessions have been very informative in terms of the depth and breadth of the discussions. I was at the palace in December 2021 to invite him to my book launch scheduled for February 8, 2022. He received the letter and said “A á wá (we will come)”. Then he saw my knees on the ground and let out a torrent of deep prayers for me. I wondered what informed the prayers as I said Àmín at each of the prayer points. Then he spoke about issues, regional and national. With Festus Adedayo by my side, we discussed issues, not people. We analyzed Nigeria and asked why its twisted walls had to be torn down and rebuilt if they didn’t fall on all of us. We discussed rights and freedom, Abuja and the impunity of its arbitrariness. No one should be too big to be reprimanded, I said, and looked into the oba’s eyes. A hundred or two hundred years ago, if I had uttered this declaration in the palace and, even far from the palace, whisperers would have designated the king as the object of my shot. But I said that in the very presence of Oba Adeyemi and nothing happened. No. Something happened. He offered to tell the story of a certain ancient drummer who was reported to the king as using his drum to incite the people against the palace. He was brought before the oba. “What did I do wrong that informed your negative drumbeats?” asked the king of the drummer. The man chose to respond to the king with his drum releasing the same offensive notes. The king listened intently to each beat of the drummer. What was he saying? “Kòtò kan ñbe ní›ta oba, Olórun yío mu kò ì yáni (There is a pit in front of the king’s house. God will catch it, but it is not yet time).” Only the king and his agents knew the meaning of the drummer’s words. Oba Adeyemi explained to us that in front of the house of this king there was indeed a pit where he regularly secretly deposited the heads of his detractors. The oba got the message and promptly fired the drummer – much to the shock of hardliners who believed he should be executed for treason. “Nothing must happen to him or we’ll all be in trouble,” the king told his audience as he quietly closed the pit of death forever. This drummer, it was you who write every day, Oba Adeyemi told me and my friend. He asked us never to stop.

It’s great to have the Alaafin as a cheerleader. I had Oba Adeyemi as a fan and he spoke very loudly about it. “I have a file on you…” he told me the day we first met. He had a sartorial taste; he loved beauty and excellence and let their pursuit dictate how he chose his friends. The king who was buried on Saturday was at the launch of my book, Cowries of Blood: Essays on Herdsmen, Banditry and Nigeria’s Endgame Politics, on February 8 this year. Without telling him in advance, he was named chairman of the event and he took charge. He attended the event and gave me a hefty six figure check. He gave a speech that was an urgent call to duty. He said his father, Ladigbolu I, warned the British in 1914 that the merger document they made him sign marked the creation of a union of prey and predators that would not bring peace. “No one listened,” Oba Adeyemi said and added what he always cried: Federalism is the only way forward if the disparate peoples of Nigeria would ever live in peace and harmony. We heard the Alaafin but I’m not sure we listened to it.

Oba Adeyemi was valued as the Lion of Akesan Hill (Kìnnìún òkè Akèsán). He was also the Òrìsà Òyó, the fearsome one who rumbles in the sanctuary. He was a modern king who operated within his culture and tradition. He never strayed from his covenant with the beginning. He flaunted the richness of his heritage and danced spiritedly to the applause of his ancestors. His brain was his greatest asset. Oba Adeyemi was loud without being mean about his royalty. As I wrote once, his royalty proclaimed his excellence. The cola nut is a popular snack for seniors. They break it for peace, friendship and worship. This is why it is always well preserved from the ravages of weevils. The nut sometimes wanders around in dirges as a metaphor for the best of men. And because all creation must return to dust, the kola nut finds its own death, its sworn enemy, in the parasites that assail its valuable lobes. When this happens, the Yoruba say that the kòkòrò (weevil) has denied them the sweetness of the obì t’ógbó (good kola nut). They utter this lament and quickly add that death has denied them the warmth of their personal selves. This was the case for the hundreds of people who lamented Saturday at the Ààfin in Oyo. It was the same with millions of us Oba Adeyemi people outside of Oyo. He was an oba who clothed all of us, his people, in the velvet of respect. He was a father and an inspiration to many in many ways. I listened to the ladies of the palace on Saturday after the funeral. They sat sad and elegiac, ending each of their verses with the tearful refrain: “Awo si/ Awo lo/ Atanda re’le re / O tan nuu (Awo moved away/ Awo left/ Atanda went home/ C’ is finished). “Oba Adeyemi Atanda worked very hard but the workman’s task will always last a day. It was over for him on Friday. The traveler has finally landed on the other side. These lines paraphrased the solemn words of John Ellerton. The bones of Oba Adeyemi now rest with his ancestors in the Bara Vaults, a mile and a half south-southwest of the immense Ààfin, whence they came. The labors of a very successful Kabiyesi were over four days ago; we’re waiting to see who comes next.

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