What Afonja’s rebellion did to Yoruba unity —Alaafin

The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, in this interview by TUNDE BUSARI speaks on the unity of Yoruba people, why they are always in songs, and also on the subject of death in Yoruba world view. Excerpts:


Barely one week after the immediate past Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi passed on, another illustrious son of Oyo State, indeed, from Ibadan, has also passed on. What does this trend portend?

What does it portend to you too as a journalist? Your answer should be my answer that death is terminal point of all mortals. Neither the Quran nor the Bible has taught us that a creature of God will live eternally. It never happened in the history of humanity. So, I don’t see it happening. What has happened is manifestation of reality of life which science and even arts have explained with evidence. It is a different thing that we don’t want our loved ones to depart this terrestrial space but when it happens, the best is to accept it as part of our life to come and go; go at the appropriate time. The duo came and left at their appointed time.


I have read your remark about the former governor, what can you say of the industrial giant, Chief Bode Akindele?

I think I should say that Chief Akindele lived a meaningful life. When I say meaningful life, I say it with all emphasis of what meaningful life mean. Do you think it is easy to be conferred with the Parakoyi title? Do you know what the Parakoyi means? Chief Akindele had passion for humanity through his contribution to economic growth of individuals who earned a living in his different companies. In other words, he was a good heart who always loved to impact positively in the lives of his fellow humans. He achieved that satisfactorily. If you study his profile, you will see that he did not hold political office to create jobs for hundreds of Nigerians, regardless of their background. So, when you see some claiming to be career politicians, I never take them serious. Politics is to improve public welfare with a view to having a balanced growth and development. So, when I see some individuals who don’t carry membership cards of political parties investing their hard earned resources to improve lives of others, I commend them. Such is Chief Akindele. Therefore, I am commiserating with the Oyo State Government, the Olubadan-In-Council, and the people of Ibadanland.


There is a strong tie between Oyo and Ibadan, especially the appointment of a Bashorun outside Oyo from Ibadan. How would you react to this?

The fact which no one has come forward to controvert  is Oyo’s role in the history of Yorubaland as a nation. What I am emphasisng is that Oyo’s tie is not restricted to Ibadan or another town alone. It is total. The record is there for anyone to crosscheck. Yes, you are right that Basorun Oluyole was the first Basorun to have lived outside Oyo metropolis by the permission of the Alaafin Atiba. Basorun Oluyole was stationed in Ibadan and assigned primarily to be in charge of the North and North-eastern part of Yorubaland. That geographical area comprised what is Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States today. The Alaafin assigned the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Kurunmi to be in charge of the Western part of Yorubaland including Ijana, Ijaye, Iberekodo, Meko, Aibo. The Alaafin gave him a strict directive to not interfere in administrative affairs of the Egbas. That was telling you the authority of the Alaafin. However, I must say it that morale of the Yoruba people to the Central authority of the Alaafin was affected as a result of the loss of Ilorin through the rebellious act of Afonja who was the Aare Ona Kakanfo and the subsequent betrayal of Afonja by his Fulani guests and mentors. The inference here is that the Yorubas are dynamic and very sophisticated group of people.


I was going to ask you about uniqueness of the Yorubas among other ethnic groups in Nigeria nay black continent.

We are unique in many respects as must have read in History books. We are a nation of special people who would not sleep and face one direction. They know what ethos really means. That is why they protect Omoluabi value to the letter. We appreciate the worth of our names, hence our struggle to preserve the names. Do you observe that the Yorubas are the ones who spend money for musicians to sing their praise in records? What does that mean to you? Because they are dynamic, they use the latest technology to preserve their names. If you listen to records of Haruna Isola, Yusuf Olatunji, Ayinde Barrister and other late musicians, you hear names of their fans in some tracks. That is one of Yoruba wisdom on significance of preserving good name for future generation.


We earlier discussed death and you mentioned position of Yoruba. Can you expatiate on this as regards Yoruba worldview?

Perhaps you don’t know that before Socrates and Aristotle came up with their theories of metaphysics, Yoruba was far ahead in that subject. We believe in a supreme being whom we called Eledumare. We believe in the existence of Eledumare in the sky. Yoruba believe that the world is made up of two related realms, though each operates almost independently. The first is physical realm while the second is spiritual realm. Physical realm is what we know as Aye where we all organisms live. The Spiritual realm is where deities, ancestors reside. It is called Orun in Yoruba Language. I have said it at different fora that there is nothing God has not created for the Yorubas in terms of human development. We know Quran and Bible better. The first African Bishop was a Yoruba clergyman, Samuel Ajayi Crowther. We scored first in different disciplines. We are first among equal, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. If the federalism we had before independence was allowed to develop, the whole world would have known how endowed we are. Within the short time of regionalism, evidence of what we were able to achieve is still there on the landscape of Yorubaland.


I observe you like to recite off hand the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s writings…

If you read Awolowo and read him well, you will always love to quote him because he was not an ordinary person, in terms of brilliance and intelligence combined. Even if you don’t like him, just pick any of his books, you would change your mind. He wrote analytical essays; logic for logic. He assumed an air of authority. In fact, he wrote convincingly with statistics and references. It was Awolowo who created Middle Belt.


This sounds new?

What I mean is that he declared that there is nothing like North-Central. He argued it that North-Central is political rather than grammatical. He argued with conviction that Middle Belt is the most appropriate to classify those people in Benue and Plateau. That was how Middle Belt came into being. In addition, if you look at set of disciples who followed him, you will appreciate knowledge and preparedness for governance. For instance, the late Chief Bola Ige began implementation of his administration programme right there inside the Liberty Stadium soon after he was sworn in. He declared that henceforth education was free; health service was free. Integrated rural development began. That’s pragmatic governance, a contrast to wasting months on drawing board after inauguration.


I saw a picture where you, as a little kid, were seated at the feet of your late father, concluding you were close to him. How close were you to him?

Can you believe I was not that close to him? He did not want me to stay in the palace, so he sent me to Iseyin where I learnt Quran. When I returned from Iseyin, he still sent me to Abeokuta where I lived with the then Alake, Oba Oladapo Ademola. I was with him (Alake) till he was sent on exile. I followed him but he said I should go and complete my education. My father did not still allow me to live in Oyo. He sent me to Lagos. I lived with Sir Adekunle Abayomi who was a medical practitioner.


What influence did those experiences have in your adulthood?

They had tremendous influence in my later life. For instance, I trained as a boxer and that shaped my character, in terms of endurance and discipline. There must be a particular thing for which you credit my father. That is his integrity as the Alaafin of Oyo.


I learnt of your palliatives to your subjects  to cushion the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. How did it go?

I found it expedient to reach out to the most vulnerable among my people beyond Oyo township. I asked the Oloris to lead in the distribution of those items. I realised the need to complement government efforts. I must say that the Alaafin, from time immemorial, is known for identifying with his subjects, not only during a time of crisis but all year round.



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