The Alaafin of Oyo Empire, his imperial Majesty Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, is 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.
The Alaafin, fondly referred to as Alowo lodu bi iyere by his subjects, is unarguably one of Africa’s most influential traditional rulers. Born on 15th October, 1938, he was selected among other contestants to become a king in 1968 but the government of the day refused, consequently, he was not crowned until January 1971 and at the time of his coronation, he was an insurance clerk.
He contested with 10 other people for the position of the Alaafin in a keen competition that started in 1968 and did not end until 1970, around the time of the Nigerian Civil War. He was declared winner three times but the government initially rejected the ruling of the Oyomesi on all the three occasions.
The revered monarch is an accomplished boxer and still has his punching bag in the courtyard of the palace and he enjoys Amala (yam flour), Iyan (pounded yam), Abula soup and Ogi (pap).
Though he described himself as a liberal and a free mixer who was raised up in a strict Christian home and also went to a Catholic school, he is a practicing Muslim.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba (Dr) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111, in an encounter with GBENGA OPADOTUN, recalled the intrigues that characterised his emergence as the Alaafin and how God lifted him. Excerpts:
Kabiesi, how did your journey to the exalted seat of the Alafin of Oyo start?
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.
Was is it a smooth ride or you had reasons to slug it out with some other members of your ruling house?
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.
How were you picked since ten of you submitted applications?
For your information, the Babayaji submitted only one name for reasons best known to him.
What happened thereafter?
There was an uproar and that arrangement was cancelled.
Did you now have to undergo another excercise?
This time, he submitted the names of all the candidates to the Oyomesi out of which they picked me as the Alaafin-elect.
So, that was the time you were taken to the confinement (Ipebi)?
No, the government at that time refused to give consent. They claimed that they suspected foul play, so the Oyomesi was asked to meet the second time.
Did they vote or the oracle picked you?
They voted. When the Oyomesi met again, five of the kingmakers voted in support of Oba Adeyemi III, 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.
Were you subjected to any form of interrogation before the voting excercise commenced or they just went into voting session straight?
We were screened and asked questions. I must tell you that it was not an easy task. The Oyomesi asked each of the candidates in their conclave various questions. They 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.
What were some of the key things you told them that stood you out of other aspirants?
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.
Since you ascended the throne of your forefathers, how has your relationship with the people and other Obas been like?
I have tried everything within my capacity and ability to relate with the people without expecting anybody to praise me or or show appreciation for my activities night and days. Despite that I will not renege in satisfying and meeting the aspirations of the Yoruba people if appointed the Alaafin.
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.
What would you have been doing today if you had not been selected out of the 10 candidates by the Oyomesi?
Based on my skills and mental capacity, I would have been a lawyer today.I see myself as a rable-rouser, an orator and a lover of the human race. Definitely, I will be a force to be reckoned with among the great people of the human race.