Understanding Alaafin’s socio-political influence in Yoruba land

From left, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III; one of his queens, Queen Memunat; executive director, CBCIU, Professor Shiyan Oyeweso and chairman, Board of Trustess (BOT), CBCIU, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, during the international conference on Alaafin, at the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo. PHOTO: Tommy Adegbite.

The best of Yoruba culture and tradition were on display when the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Osun State, rolled out the drums to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi 111.

Known for stimulating intellectual discources, the CBCIU’s four-day event at the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, was an international conference, which brought together national and international scholars who deliberated on the influence of the Alaafin and the old Oyo empire.

Speaking during the opening day of the conference last Monday, the chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) of the CBCIU and a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, explained that apart from celebrating the Alaafin’s 80th birthday anniversary, the Centre had brought together scholars to analyse the influence of the Alaafin in the Yoruba traditional system.

Prince Oyinlola, while describing the Alaafin as a symbol of Yoruba culture and tradition, further explained that the Alaafin institution defined the Yoruba culture in the 19th century.

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Prince Oyinlola said the international conference would afford scholars the opportunity to dissect the socio-cultural and political influence of the Alaafin in the 19th century, and what can be learned from how the old Oyo empire sustained its authority over other Yoruba towns.

While likening the influence of the old Oyo empire to the French’s policy of assimilation in Africa, Prince Oyinlola said the Alaafin was able to extend the Oyo people’s way of life to other towns and localities across the Yorubaland, as well as beyond due to the enormous power the Alaafin wielded at that time.

He, therefore, admitted that the international conference would go a long way in making the world know much more about the Alaafin of Oyo, while the discourse would also foster national unity and integration.

In his remarks, the chairman on the occasion, Dr Lalekan Are, commended the CBCIU for the conference of the Alaafin, saying the world needed to know that the Yoruba people had a sophisticated way of life and were well organised politically before the coming of the colonialists.

Dr Are said many do not believe that there was any form of governance in Yorubaland before the European colonialists came, but the Alaafin’s systematic administration of the other Yoruba towns from the Oyo empire showed that the Yoruba were socio-politically advanced before the arrival of the colonialists.

Dr Are, however, charged Yoruba parents to pass on the culture to their children, saying it was embarrassing that many Yoruba parents don’t even want their children to speak the language.

He said that when one understands his//her mother tongue perfectly, he would be able to think logically about issues from other perspectives.

“Today, no one will teach your children how to speak Yoruba in schools, so you must start speaking the language to them right from when they are young, as they can pick up other languages like English and French in the school system.

“It is unfortunate that we don’t even know the value of our culture, especially at a time when non-Yoruba people in the West are learning more about our culture and way of life,” Dr Are said.

While also speaking, the Director of the CBCIU, Professor Shiyan Oyeweso, said the old Oyo empire reigned for 600 years and the conference would afford the world to know about the socio-political influence of the Alaafin during that period.

Professor Oyeweso said the conference was the first of its kind solely focused on the Alaafin of Oyo and his influence on Yoruba culture and tradition.

The director explained that the centre was also working on a compilation of speeches of the Alaafin, which would be presented during the 48 anniversary of Oba Adeyemi’s ascension to the stool next year.

“The project, Oyo Oral History, will document the speeches of Oba Adeyemi, and since we know that the Alaafin is an embodiment of knowledge, we want to preserve the wisdom for the next generation.”

Also in his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the Ajayi Crowther University, Professor Dapo Asaju, said the university was honoured to host the international conference, while appreciating the Alaafin for his spiritual, fatherly and royal support to the university.

Professor Asaju, while describing Oba Adeyemi as a special being, said he was the first Oba to be conferred with the CFR award, as well as the first Oba to be the chancellor of a federal university.

In the first keynote lecture on the opening day, Professor Toyin Falola from the University of Texas at Austin spoke on Alaafinology: The ideology and Epistemology of kingship.

In the lecture, Professor Falola said in academics, concepts are coined to study perspectives and how such could benefit humanity.

Professor Falola explained that in coining Alaafinology, he was only studying the socio-political influence and authority of the Alaafin in regard to the Yoruba culture, and the study could be built further to develop the African society.

Speaking further, the don explained that the concept of Alaafinology could be applied to cases like the theory of power, checks and balances, as well as to understand kingdoms and how they thrived.

“Alaafinology also focuses on state formation, ability to manage an empire, while understanding the African way of life before the arrival of the colonialists.

Professor Falola then suggested the creation of Kingship Studies in tertiary institutions of learning, which will bring together diverse humanity studies like religion, social relations, philosophy, among others.

“With the Kingship Studies, we will be able to accumulate the knowledge of our traditional rulers for the historical benefit of the people.

“We can also get our traditional rulers to create fellowships and endowments for the study, as it is important that their accumulated knowledge will not be lost,” Professor Falola said.

In the second lecture, Professor James Lorand Matory from the Duke University, USA, highlighted the worship of Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder in Nigeria, Brazil and Cuba.

Matory, a professor of Cultural Anthropology, explained that during the shipment of African slaves to the other parts of the world, Sango faithful from Yorubaland took with them their faith to their new lands of Brazil and Cuba, and as such, the similarities in the practise of the faith.

“While there may be slight changes in the pronunciation, the truth is that the traditional Yoruba religion has survived the dark period of slave trade and continues to thrive in distant lands like Cuba, Brazil and even beyond.