Alaafin: A restructuring icon’s 50 years on the throne

THE Alaafin of Oyo, His Royal Majesty, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, celebrated 50 years on the throne of his forefathers yesterday, January 14. With this anniversary on the throne, Oba Adeyemi has gone into the annals in Oyo Alaafin as the first Alaafin to breast the golden tape. Cerebral, methodical and full of cultural panache, Oba Adeyemi is truly an institution: seldom is there a king with his acute sense of history and constant quest for knowledge.

Oba Adeyemi will go down in history as a king with a most trenchant voice in support of his people and their aspirations. He has consistently widened the space of Yoruba culture and language in his appearance, advocacies and engagements. At a time when Yoruba values and culture are being bastardised right, left and center, the Alaafin often stands out as a lone voice in the wilderness, calling global attention to the elegance of Yoruba customs and the impregnable essence of their ancient and ancestral values. This, he complements with a stubborn pursuit of equity and justice: his tireless evangelism for the Yoruba nation to enjoy prosperity together with other ethnic groups in a systematically federal Nigeria has earned him plaudits from far and near.

Perhaps the most fitting acclamation to Oba Adeyemi on his golden celebration is his unimpeachable call for the restructuring of Nigeria. The Alaafin began this call long before the corrosive unitarism tagged federalism, which successive military governments imposed on Nigeria, reached its present degenerate state. His warning that the country could meet its waterloo if it did not heed the federalism call has become eerily prophetic. For instance, in a correspondence to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo titled Restructuring: A national call to duty, he warned that the “state of national unease can only be averted through a revisit of the present lopsided federal structure.”

To be sure, the Alaafin speaks truth to power in a very unsparing manner, and at a time when filthy lucre has ’sellotaped’ the mouths of many in the face of the government’s apparently feeble grip on socio-political affairs. The Alaafin has called out runners of government at the state and national levels whenever he has perceived them to be veering off  their covenant path with the people: the pen is his forte and mental acuity his weapon. He places his case in the public domain and is ever ready to listen to alternate perspectives.

Having witnessed the powers of the federal system to make reformatory interventions in society, Oba Adeyemi often makes nostalgic comparisons between First Republic Nigeria and the subsequent floundering republics. On one occasion, while addressing the morass of Nigeria’s education and agricultural system, he said: “Agriculture should be removed from the concurrent to the residual (list) under any constitutional reform. For any reform to be made, the First Republic Constitution should be the most credible working paper for guidance. Another aspect that needs a revisit is education. A situation in which education policy is centralised is an antithesis to true federalism. If education was centralised in the First Republic, the Western regional government headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo would have been hampered from formulating the free education policy at that time. Yet, it was that policy that made the Western region a model for other regions and made Chief Awolowo hero of all times.”

In private and in public, the Alaafin has demonstrated an almost obsessive love and reverence for the Obafemi Awolowo institution. His belief in a total redirection and transcendental uplift of Nigeria if the paddlers of Nigeria’s boat imbibe Awolowo’s philosophy and walk his path is infectious. Fittingly, the Alaafin frowns at the new trend of traditional rulers abandoning the sacredness of the institution to pursue vain and temporary gains. For him, the stool is too revered and sacred for any ruler to use it as a jamboree or a junket from one politician or political group to the other. His submission is that a traditional ruler, being very close to the people at the grass roots, must communicate their needs to the government. The ultimate is for the government to make life better for the people.

Summing up the Alaafin’s half a century on the throne, it’s been in many ways a raging battle against the principalities and powers afflicting Nigeria’s soul. For instance, he has repeatedly come against the attempt to nationalise the traditional institution. He submits that it is a gross abnormality to have a convocation of “national” traditional rulers and that the idea of ‘traditional’ means a restricted geographical space and not “national” as in the whole of the country. This, the Alaafin says, is at the core of the aberration that is called national traditional rulers council.

On this occasion of Oba Adeyemi’s 50th coronation anniversary, we celebrate a man of culture and a firebrand defender of his people. We urge him not to rest on his oars. In passing, let it be noted that the Oyo/Ibadan federal road whose construction he has canvassed time and again has not been completed yet. It should.  More fundamentally, as a tribute to his genius, the federal and state governments must ensure that the Nigerian people  have a reprieve from the unitarist delinquencies of the Nigerian state.

We wish Kabiyesi many more prosperous years on the throne of his forefathers.


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