His Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, J.P, CFR, LL.D
The Alaafin of Oyo Empire, his imperial Majesty Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, is undoubtedly a monarch not with only wit but also with class. To say he is an enigma by every standard is an understatement, as many who had an interaction with him testify that “a moment with him is like an exploratory adventure through the school of history”.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi III, no doubt, one of Africa’s most powerful and most influential kings, has lived two decades and over half a century into decades of heeding the natural call of the gods and his people.
Here is an X-ray into the life of the great Traditional Icon, who has held the Oyo Empire together in response to the covenant he made with his people and the gods.
Like the saying goes, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
The Alaafin of Oyo Empire, His imperial Majesty, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, would not agree any less to this saying. As an insurance officer who became the Alaafin of
Oyo. The contest to his emergence began in 1968, when he was invited along with ten others from his ruling house to contest for the vacant stool of the Oyo Empire. As it was the custom of the land, there were three parameters with which the contestants were judged.
· First was eligibility,
· second was popularity and
· third, the stamina for the huge responsibilities of the office of the Alaafin of Oyo.
Oba Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi emerged the first; defeating ten others after a vigorous screening exercise.
However, due to what observer attested to be a political interference, the then government “refused to endorse my appointment, saying the procedure was not right” were the words of this great monarch during one of the numerous interviews he granted. So the process started over again with the same result the second and the third time. Interestingly, despite the immense pressure upon the Oyomesi ‘against his candidature by the government, the Oyomesi stood it ground. Thus the process was put in abeyance until after the civil war, when the whole process started all over again. To the relief of many and chagrin of the opposition, Oba Adeyemi III was elected the winner and was finally chosen by the kingmakers on November 18, 1970 and then moved into the palace after completing the necessary rites under the tulelage of the Oyomesi. In the process, he was inducted into the mysteries of various gods like the Ifa mysteries, and the Sango mysteries. He was also made to undergo these inductions in order to be the direct representative of these deities on earth. He was taken through these processes so as to know all the chants, the proverbs, oriki of all the past Obas.
More so, it was during the various purification and cleansing processes, at the hallowed grounds of Yoruba ancient shrine that Oba Adeyemi III made a covenant with the illustrious Yoruba ancestors that he would defend, protect and add glamour to the Yoruba norms and tradition; vowing to be the icon, the embodiment of Yoruba culture, And, he had since then taken his covenant seriously and had delivered the dividends of his covenant.
At an impressive ceremony at the Durbar Stadium, Oyo town, Oba Adeyemi III was presented with the staff of office as the Alaafin of Oyo in the presence of thousand of witnesses from all works of life by the then military Governor of the Western State, Colonel (now retired General) Adeyinka Adebayo.
Then began the journey laden with a huge responsibility to protect, defend, project the cherished values of Yoruba customs and traditions with the zeal and if need be to lay down his life defending those values. Fortunately, and much to the relief of the Oyo Empire and the world, the need to lay down his life to defend Yoruba values never arose, hence h is 70th birthday celebration, with 38 out of those years spent on the throne of his forefathers.
The philosophy behind the Alaafinate as an institution “is duty for service and service to humanity”. This translates that: once someone becomes the Alaafin, the totality of his life is service to the people and humanity in general. The Alaafin has no life of his own; day and night he is for the service of the Yoruba race, nay humanity. In the cause of these many years, Oba Adeyemi III had striven to work strictly in accordance with the oath he took in the presence of the Oyomesi, on behalf of his people.
Being a self conscientious perfectionist, we make bold to say that he has worked assiduously and tirelessly with many governments both at the state and federal levels.
Beginning with General Adeyinka Adebayo (1971); Colonel Christopher Oluwole Rotimi, (1971-75); Navy Captain Akintunde Akinyoye, Aduwo, (August – September, 1975-83); Colonel David Mediaysese Jemibewon (1975-78); Colonel Paul Tarfa (1978-79); Chief Bola Ige the first elected governor, (1979-83); Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo second elected governor (October- December 1983); Colonel Oladayo Popoola, military governor (1984-85); Colonel Adetunji Idowu Olurin, military governor (1985-88); the late Colonel Sasaeniyan Oresanya, military governor (1988-90); late Colonel Abdulkareem Adisa, military governor (1990-92); Chief Kolapo Ishola, third elected governor (1992-93); Naval Capitan Adetoye Sode, military administrator (1993-94); Colonolen Chinyere Ike Nwosu, military administrator (1994-96); Colonel Ahmed Usman, military administrator, (1996-98); Compol Amen Edore Oyakhire, military administrator (1998-99); Alhaji Lam Adeshina fourth elected governor (1999-2003); Senator Adewolu Ladoja (2003-2007); Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala (the incumbent governor).
At the federal level, he was worked with General Yakubu Gowon, (1971-75); General Muritala Mohammed (1977-76); General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976-1979); Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the first executive president (1979-83); General Muhammed Buhari (1984-85); General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (1985-93); General Sani Abacha (1998-99); General Abdulsalami Abubakar Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007); and president Umaru Yar’Adua.
During the agitation for the state creation in 1975, the Alaafin was first to fire the salvo, coupled with the efforts of others, the old Oyo, Ogun and Old Ondo States were created. In recognition of his priceless and modest contributions to national development, he was invited as the only Oba from Yoruba land to perform the holy pilgrimage to Mecca with General Muritala Muhammed. Other traditional rulers on the trip were the late Emir of Gwandu and the Otaru of Auchi, late Momodu Ikelebe II.
The Federal Government honoured this great achiever with the national honour of CFR at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, in 1979.
In 1980, the Federal Government appointed Kabiyesi Oba Adeyemi as the pioneering Chancellor of then newly established University of Sokoto, now Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, for a first four-year tenure. At the expiration of that first tenure, the senate and council of the University recommended him for another term. The president and visitor to the university graciously approved the request, thus he was appointed for a second term. And at the expiration of the second term, in an unprecedented manner, has was appointed for yet another term, the third term, thus giving him a total of 12 years as the Chancellor of the university, a feat yet to be matched by anybody in the annals of chancellorship of university of Nigeria. It must be noted that for the period of those years, Oba Adeyemi III presented several academic and reasoned memoranda on the university education and on contemporary issues published both nationally and internationally.
The university, in appreciation to his contributions and achievements, honoured him with the Degree of Doctor of Letters (LL.D), Honoris Causa. At the time of Oba’s Chancellor, the university recorded absolute peace as normal calendar was never disrupted for a day.
The monarch, in January 1988, installed Chief MKO Abiola as the Aare Ona Kankanfo in recognition of Abiola’s contributions to the social, economic, cultural and political development of Yoruba land and Nigeria at large. Two years later, the Federal Government under the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, appointed the Alaafin as the Amiru Hajj operation to lead the Muslim faithful in the 21 states of the federation. The report of that year’s Hajj operation remained the yardstick of measuring the success of Hajj operations in the country till date.
At his primary constituency as a Paramount foremost traditional ruler in Yoruba land, Oba Adeyemi III used his position to better the lots of many Obas, lifting many non-crown wearing Obas to the status of beaded crown wearers, not to mention his consistent fight for the improvement of their (the Obas’) welfare at all times. These Obas spread through Oyo, Osun and Ogun. Some of those who benefited from this gesture were the Olubadan of Ibadan Adebimpe and the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi Ajagungbade. “Following the powerful motion I moved at the floor of the Old Oyo State house of Chiefs, the government approved the beaded crown of the two traditional in 1976”. The monarch said.
In 1975, the Onjo of Okeho got elevated. In 1977, the Onitede of Tede, Oba Olulokun too got the beaded crown. In 1979, the Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Mashood Osuola, also got the beaded crown. Timi of Ede, the late Oba Oyelusi Tijani Agbaran II, also got elevated. In 1980 and 1981, Oba of Kisi, Oba Yusuf Ariwajoye and Okere of Saki, Oba Abimbola Oyedokun, and Sabi Iganna got promoted respectively. Others were the Baale of Ile-Ogbo, who got elevated to the status of an Oba to Olu of Ile-Ogbo in 1995, Olubu of Ilobu, Oba Asiru Olatoye Olaniyan who got his own in 1986. alayegun of Ode-Omu, Akire of Ikire-Ile, Akirun of Ikirun, Aree of Ire, Olunisa of Inisha, all in Osun State also got beaded crown, courtesy of the Alaafin. Baale of Igboora, Jacob Oyerogba got elevated as a crown wearing Oba with the title of Olu of Igboora in 2001. In Ogun State, the Oba of Ipokia got the beaded crown got elevated at the instance of the Alaafin. Last but not the least, Baale of Igangan, Lasisi-Aribiyan got elevated to the status of an Oba as Oba Lasisi Aribiyan, the Asigangan of Igangan and was awarded beaded crown in 2002. As a matter of fact, Oba Adeyemi III presented the crown to all of them at various towns with pump and pageantry.
In the exercise of his power as the Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs, in 1977, he caused meeting of the Council to be moved and be held in his palace in Oyo.
Crown prince Lamidi Atanda Olayiwola Adeyemi’s father Late Oba (Alhaji) Adeniran Adeyemi II, being a staunch Muslim, mapped out his son’s journey into education, starting from the Quranic School in Iseyin. He (Prince lamidi) later went back to Oyo but not into the palace. Rather, he stayed with the head master, St. Andrews Primary School (now St. Andrews College), proceeding thereafter to live with the Alake of Egba, Oba Oladepo Ademola, in his palace. Prince Atanda’s education met a dead end following the 1947-48 demonstration of Egba women against “tax without representation” led by Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. The effect forced Oba Ademola to abdicate his throne to live in exile at Osogbo. That period was Prince Adeyemi’s introduction into the other side of life he had never imagined to have existed. Mosquitos, home chores and lots more became his duty. But as they say, hardship only makes one tougher.
His father sent for him in 1948 and later sent him to live with Sir Kofoworola Adebayo Abayomi in Keffi, Ikoyi, Lagos. While in Keffi, he attended Obalende Modern School, owned by Pa Domingo; father of the renowned musician Adeyomi Domingo. He later attended Tinubu Methodist School overlooking the famed fountain, the first General Bank.
Oba Adeyemi came second in his Entrance Examination into secondary schools in Lagos Island and was offered places at two great schools Igbobi College and St. Gregory’s College, Obalende. He chose to attend St. Gregory’s College Obalende in accordance to his guardian’s wish.
Obalende was a cross-cultural settlement and living in there required wit and will, otherwise one will be walked over. Oba Adeyemi III lived in tough areas of Lagos Island. Places like Faji, Olowogbowo and the famed Ojuolomokoto.
His Sport Life
All work and no play they say, makes Jack a dull boy. The ruler as many may have known and as many will find incredulous, is a sportsman. Before his ascension on to the throne of his forefathers, he trained and still trains as a boxer. He runs; jogs and plays football. Typically of him if time permits, he does as much as six kilometres and skips the rope.
His Growing Up
The Crown Prince Atanda Adeyemi could have grown in luxury and affluence as a royal son should, but his growing was a far cry to what could have been. His father though not read appreciated the value of education through the contact he had with the British Administrative Officers that came to the Old Oyo Empire. Consequently, he lived to fight tooth and nail to see that his son was well read.
Needless to say, Oba Adeyemi III left St. Gregory’s College with very good grade and had the choice to study Law, Economics or Public Relations. He chose to study Law because he majored in English doing both narrative and descriptive essays; coupled with a good retentive memory and a fantastic ability to remember dates and people, he felt his future in Law was secured. Little did he know that fate has other plans in stock for him. His quest for Law changed when his father was deposed on February 14th, 1946 two days to the planned travel abroad. He was offered a job at the Royal Exchange Assurance, Marina, Lagos. Despite the fact that he had landed where his dreams could not carry him, he made the best of every situation fate presented him. He wrote articles under pen names in newspapers, writing about himself and his experience.
One of his numerous articles was entitled I SHALL BE GREAT in 1968 and a year later, he wrote yet another one: I shall be the next Alaafin. He wrote critiques of how the Nigerian teachers were treated, having been inspired by the state in which he saw one of his old teachers in a tattered shirt and tie. He wrote yet another entitled. Women Liberation: A misnomer in Yoruba land. This may not be unrelated to his view that women in the Oyo Empire were, in his words, “at least very active”.
Shortly after his stay at the Royal Exchange Assurance, he was promoted into the 14th Floor into specialist area of obligatory Facultative Insurance and Internal memo drafting. He began to earn lots of money but his father gave a strict instruction that the must invest every penny that came his way.
Consequently, Oba Adeyemi III ventured into business buying wrecked cars to repair and resell.
Oba Adeyemi’s journey had not been on a smooth path, rather he rode on the high stormy sea, sun-burnt mountains and many times on rock hilly parts. Having lost his mother, Ibironke, at an early age, he had little or no motherly touch and never had to stay for a long while with his father. He was almost always a lonely man. But his dreams and determination for success drove him heeding the calls of the gods, forgetting his own personal life for the sake of others, he has become an Icon, undoubtedly an Iroko tree: where all birds from the universe find their rest.