Alaafin Olayiwola Adeyemi III was born at Epo Gingin Compound, Oke Afin, Oyo in the present-day Oyo State on October 15, 1938.
He was the son of Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, the Alaafin of Oyo, who reigned between 1945 and 1955 as the 41st Alaafin. His mother, Madam Ibironke gave birth to two children, Lamidi Olayiwola who was the first born, and a girl, named Sikiratu Adeyemi. He lost his mother, Olori Ibironke Adeyemi, during the early stages of his life.
This was said to have contributed immensely to the rough beginning of his life. This unfortunate episode not only made him to lose motherly care, but also forced him to live with different families where he garnered different experiences.
He had his life packed full of events that no one, especially in Yoruba land would believe could happen to a prince. He faced the tribulations of life cautiously until he developed intelligence with humility. He affirmed: “I enjoyed no red-carpet treatment in life even as a prince and there was never a time I was fed with the proverbial golden spoon”.
His father, Oba Adeyemi II because of his well-developed mind wanted him to have the best education possible at the time, especially because of his contact with educated people during the British colonial period. He was then sent to school. He began his education at the kindergarten school, then known as Olonini (literally meaning, a penny, which was paid for the school fees) in Oyo.
From there, he moved to St Andrew’s Demonstration School, now known as St Andrew’s Special Primary School, now situated in the compound of St Andrew’s College of Education, Oyo.
He had hardly settled down at St Andrew’s Demonstration Primary School when his father, Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi II, decided to move him from Oyo. His reason was that in those days, Princes were very much indulged, and he decided that young Lamidi should face the rigours of life like any ordinary boy of his age, so Lamidi Adeyemi was taken to Iseyin to study the Quran, under the tutelage of the then Alfa Olowo Okere of Ijemba Quarters in Iseyin.
This was done to groom Lamidi in the ways of Allah and His Precepts. But as he attended his Quranic lectures, he also registered at the Ansar Udeen (A.U.D.) Primary School, Iseyin. When he finished his Quranic Education, he was moved back to Oyo in 1945, when his father, Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi became the Alaafin of Oyo.
Lamidi Adeyemi hardly stayed at the Oyo palace, though there were indications that the palace housed several palace functionaries such as the Ilari, Olori Eru, Iwefa and a host of others.
In 1947, Lamidi Adeyemi was again sent to Abeokuta to be groomed inside the palace of the Alake of Egbaland.
He was under the tutelage of Sir Ladapo Ademola, the Alake of Egbaland. He then attended Ake Primary School located inside the Ake palace compound. He was with the Alake when trouble began. The Colonial Government had introduced indirect rule in the Southern part of the country and the impact of this indirect rule was the introduction of tax which was successfully practiced in the Northern part of the country but was met with stern opposition in the Western and Eastern parts of the country because of its exploitative tendencies.
Prince Lamidi Adeyemi who was then in his formative years, had to partake in the imbroglio. He remembered vividly the events of that period. In 1948 when the women tax agitators were led by the indomitable Mrs Funmilayo Kuti, they forced the Alake to abdicate his throne. He then went on exile to Osogbo in the present-day Osun State.
The young Lamidi also moved with him to Osogbo. During the period, he used his time in acquiring Quranic education in Ilesa.
Towards the end of 1948, the Alake then in exile decided that, he would not want his own travail to affect the education and future of young Lamidi. So, he decided to send him back to Oyo.
Within a few weeks of his arrival at Oyo in 1948, his father, the late Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II had concluded an arrangement to move him to Lagos to be under the care and tutelage of Sir Chief (Dr) Kofoworola Abayomi whose house was one of the first gigantic three-storey building located at Number 12 Keffi Street, Obalende, Lagos. Dr Kofoworola Abayomi was a medical doctor and the first specialist in eyesight problems.
As faith would have it, young Lamidi had to start his primary education all over again at Obalende Boys Modern School, Lagos. He was admitted into Primary Three. Here the future potentials of young Lamidi began to manifest as he displayed excellence in his academics.
At different times in school, the young Lamidi emerged overall best in his class carting away numerous prizes and gifts. He came first in a class of 30 pupils in the final year class.
When it was time for Lamidi to proceed to College, Dr Abayomi chose St Gregory’s College for him out of the three important colleges in Lagos.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III described Dr. Abayomi, his late guardian and mentor as a good disciplinarian and a good Christian, who maintained strict orders in his home and likened everything done to schedule. Young Lamidi started in Form One at St Gregory College in 1955 at the end of the year examination, Young Lamidi came first again, the gap between him and the person that came second was so wide that the School authority decided to give him double promotion from Form one to Form three. In Form three, he came second but captured the first price as the best student in English and Essay writing competition.
After a laudable educational career, it is instructive to state that Lamidi Adeyemi’s love for accounting saw him venturing into the business world as an insurance broker. However, his stay in the corporate world before mounting the saddle of his forefathers was brief but impactful.
Having completed his secondary education in 1959 by passing the Cambridge Examination in Grade One, Lamidi Adeyemi began his public career in January 1960 when he was employed by Ramsons and Sons Company, a Syrian importing and exporting firm at Apapa in Lagos Mainland. In April 1960, he moved to the Royal Exchange Assurance Company at Marina in Lagos Island as a Clerical Officer.
At the Royal Exchange Assurance Company, his drafting ability was soon noted and in 1963, he was moved to the Control Office of the Royal Exchange on the 14th floor of the Royal Exchange Building. He was posted to an area of tough insurance policy drafting in which his prowess and courage was also demonstrated. It is on record that he also handled their administrative and obligatory ledger-keeping and auditing in the area of re-insurance.
Later, his desire to establish a private insurance firm saw him acquiring extra knowledge and training through correspondence. At all times, he continued to learn and update himself in line with global best practice. While getting set to establish his own firm, destiny came calling and Lamidi Adeyemi was called upon to answer the call to service by his people. Thus, the dream of establishing a private insurance firm was suspended.
A Royal in the Sporting Arena
It is imperative to state that it was not only in his academic pursuits that Oba Adeyemi III had thrived. His potentials had also manifested in sporting activities. In the area of sport, Lamidi Adeyemi equally made his mark. He played soccer for the Tinubu Methodist School in several football competitions both in Lagos Mainland and Island. He was nick-named Stanley Marth because of his superb dribbling ability and with the way and manner he normally played, which always resulted in scoring many goals in any tournament.
Stanley Marth was one of the greatest footballers of England at that period. One would have imagined what this great personality of would have been if he had not answered the clarion call to serve his people. The virile, agile and promising young chap did not stop as an athlete and a footballer, he was also a good boxer.
He began his boxing career in Mike Fadipe’s Boxing gymnasium in Lafiaji area of Lagos Island. He fought in the Bantamweight Class where he excelled very well. He had over fifty (50) bouts, losing only two (2), one to (the Late) Renner Cole and a hotly disputed one to Orizu Obilazu. Only ten (10) of his boxing bouts were won on points while the rest were knockouts. Because of his prowess in the ring, he was nick-named by the Evening Times of Lagos as ‘Ade One, the Slumber boy. The nick name the Slumber boy referred to his ability to knock out his opponents. Within the College community, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lafiaji and Igbosere areas of Lagos, most sport enthusiasts also called him “Prince of all”.
When asked why he chose to be a boxer, he answered that boxing as a sporting profession gave him a lot of discipline as he was expected not to smoke, drink, or womanize. In fact, it controlled his lifestyle and has become a guiding principle for him.
It is on record that, even after he was made King by the people of Oyo and crowned by the Oyomesi, his love for sporting activities remained visible. As a traditional ruler, he continued to assemble all his children together with sport loving chiefs and young ones alike, in joining the jogging exercise, every weekend.
His Majesty dressed in blue track suit with white canvas was usually out training around six o’clock in the early hours of the day with a lot of sport lovers. During this period Kabiyesi usually demonstrated the highest level of humility by relating directly with the people on the sporting ground. In an effort to promote sport generally and boxing in particular, training camps were opened within the palace environs. To promote soccer, the Adeyemi Football Club was established by the King to catch young ones and discourage vices.
For his continued support for the development of sport in Nigeria, Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi was made the grand patron of various sporting clubs within and outside his domain.
Installation as a Paramount Traditional Ruler
Oba Adeyemi III, was installed as the 43rd Alaafin of Oyo. He is not only the longest Alaafin to have reigned since Nigeria got her independence in 1960, but also the longest to have ruled since the evolution of monarchy in Oyo.
Oba Adeyemi III emerged as the Second Alaafin of Oyo since Nigeria’s independence. He succeeded Alaafin Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II, the 42nd Alaafin of Oyo, who ruled between 1956 and 1968. The eventual emergence of Oba Adeyemi III as the new Alaafin of Oyo in 1970 was not without contest among other princes in Oyo. Numerous Princes made their interests known and even contested for the throne. These included Prince Lasisi Akee, Prince Ayo Adeyemi, Prince Agbonyi Faruku, Prince Afonja Apeerin, Prince Oladepo Sanda Oranlola, Prince Kadewolu, and Prince Lamidi Olayiwola.
Existing studies revealed that the process towards the enthronement of a new Alaafin of Oyo, after the death of Oba Gbadegesin began in 1968. In that year, the Oyo Mesi, (the Kingmakers), who were responsible for the enthronement and dethronement of Alaafin, headed by the Bashorun, invited ten princes (including young Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi) from the Alowolodu ruling house to contest for the vacant stool of Oyo.
According to records, a total of ten candidates from Alowolodu house, the ruling house whose turn it was to present candidates for the stool contested for the throne of Alaafin. However, after due consideration, Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III was selected. Narrating the process during an interview he granted, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi recollected that:
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. 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. For your information, the Babayaji submitted only one name for reasons best known to him. As a result, there was an uproar, and that arrangement was cancelled. The process was done again, this time, he submitted the names of all the candidates to the Oyomesi out of which they picked me as the Alaafin-elect but 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. Eventually they did and they voted.
When the Oyomesi met again, six of the seven kingmakers voted in support of Oba Adeyemi III. Thus, the stage was set for Adeyemi Alowolodu ruling house to produce another Alaafin from their ruling house. The six kingmakers via a resolution sent to the then Divisional Adviser of the Area, Mr. J.A Adeogunsanya confirmed the selection of Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi as the new Alaafin of Oyo.
The signatories to the endorsement of Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III as Alaafin of Oyo were Chief Tijani Eesuola Akano, the Bashorun; Chief Amadu Asamu, the Agbakin; Chief Laguna; Chief Salami Ladeji, the Samu; and Chief Salawu Adeniyi, the Akinniku. Chief Bello Oyekola, the Asipa of Oyo was absent at the meeting where the decision was reached. Having completed the selection process of Lamidi Adeyemi as the new Alaafin, there was a challenge of initial endorsement by the then government of Western State of Nigeria, under the leadership of the Colonel (later Brigadier) Robert Adeyinka Adebayo. His candidature was initially rejected on the ground that it did not follow due process and that the procedure adopted by the Oyo Mesi was not right. As a result, the Kingmakers were forced to begin a new process. So, the process started over again with the same result, the second and the third time.
Despite the intense pressure on the then Oyo Mesi to nullify the candidature of Lamidi Adeyemi as the newly selected Alaafin of Oyo by the government, the Oyo Mesi stood its ground. The crisis put the process in abeyance until after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, (1967-1970), when the whole process started again. At the end of the day, Prince Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi was again proclaimed the Alaafin-elect by the Bashorun on 18 November 1970.
His selection by the Oyo Mesi as the new Alaafin of Oyo received the approval of the Western State Executive Council at a 5-hour meeting presided over by His Excellency, the Military Governor of the State, Brigadier R. Adeyinka Adebayo. This was Gazetteed on 5 December 1970. Thus, in a press statement by the then Western State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Dr. Victor O Olunloyo, the approval of the appointment of Prince Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi as the Alaafin of Oyo was made public. Following this development, a coronation ceremony was organised for Oba Adeyemi III at the Durbar Stadium, Oyo town, where he was officially presented with the staff of office by Brigadier R Adeyinka Adebayo, as the new Alaafin of Oyo. This marked the genesis of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi as a paramount traditional ruler in Yorubaland and Nigeria in general.
Public Life as a Royal Father
Historically, the traditional royal institution represents the indigenous instrument by which the various Nigerian peoples organised themselves and managed their affairs long before the imposition of formal British colonial rule in 1900. Generally, traditional rulers are regarded as deputies to the gods. They were chosen by their respective domains in accordance with their customs and traditions.
Traditional monarchical institution is well noted for its dynamism, resilience, and unending relevance. Thus, right from the pre-colonial period, traditional institution has undergone some major transformations. Evidence from the existing studies revealed that the evolution and development of some major towns and cities in Nigeria were facilitated by the diligence, astuteness, and resourcefulness of their respective traditional rulers. This was said to have been one of the major reasons responsible for the use of traditional rulers as instruments of colonial administration by the British.
The emergence of traditional rulers in public life, occasioned by modernity, was facilitated by policies of the colonial administration. Prior to this time, the lives of the traditional rulers represented more of sacred existence, devoted to upholding customs and traditions.
However, with the imposition of the Indirect Rule system over the whole of the country, new leadership roles and obligations were bestowed on traditional rulers, thus, forcing them to engage more in public life, serving as native authorities than sacred life. This was facilitated by Lugard’s Native Authority Proclamation of 1910.
The Native Authority Proclamation empowered the High Commissioner to appoint a Chief to be the Native Authority. The Native Authority was subject to the Resident’s control and supervision but undertook actual governance of the people.
It was through him that administrative orders and other instructions from the Protectorate government were communicated to his people. The law empowered him to maintain law and order, prevent crimes, arrest vagabonds, make and enforce orders relating to the public health and good sanitation of his district and recruit staff necessary to carry out his statutory functions. While he was empowered to uphold local customs, he could also modify them. This marked the genesis of traditional rulers’ involvement in the modern art of governance and entrance into public life.
This was further consolidated during the birth of regional governments in the 1950s. The emergence of the involvement of traditional rulers in partisan politics and political development started with Sir Arthur Richards Constitution of 1946/1947.
The constitution led to the creation of two houses at the regional level, namely House of Assembly and House of Chiefs, most especially in the Western and Northern Regions. This provision was later upheld by the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, which originally gave birth to the emergence of regional government, leading to the re-organisation of Native Administration, the local government legislation based on the English model was passed in all the three regions (East, West and North). In the Western Region, the local government laws gave limited political opportunity to traditional rulers to form one-third of the elected council members (Two houses created: House of Assembly and House of Chiefs: included the First Class Chief traditional rulers in the region such as the Ooni of Ife and the Alake of Egbaland).
Their roles were ceremonial but could also influence some decisions. There was also the creation of Oba-in-Council. On September 3, 1959, the Council of Obas and Chiefs came into existence by the Council of Obas and Chiefs laws enacted by the legislature of the Western Region of Nigeria as No.38 of 1959, under the Premiership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. All these contributed to the recognition of the traditional institution in nation-building.
Since then up till date, the modernisation and sophistication of government especially since Nigeria got her independence in 1960 have not been able to displace the role of traditional institutions in the society. Rather there have been sort of cooperation and coexistence between every form of modern government and traditional institution. This is in tandem with the philosophy behind Alaafin institution, which emphasised a duty for service and service to humanity. In other words, as soon as one becomes the Alaafin, the totality of his life is to serve the people and humanity in general. This explains why Oba Adeyemi III, devoted his life since 1970 up till date to the service of humanity at local, national, and international levels.
At the local level, the role of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III in public life as a traditional ruler during this period could be examined within the present-day Southwestern Nigeria. This comprised the Western State of Nigeria, the old Oyo state, the present Oyo State, and the present Southwest geo-political zone of Nigeria. His public life as a traditional ruler centred around the protection of the traditional institution, promotion of peace and security and societal welfare.
At this level, Oba Adeyemi III worked with both military and civilian governors and other traditional rulers and chiefs towards the preservation of traditional institution. Between 1970 and 2015, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III served in various capacities as the intermediary between the government and traditional institution in the old and present Oyo State. Within the circle of traditional institution, Oba Adeyemi had advocated for the elevation of some traditional rulers in different fora.
For instance, in 1976, at the meeting of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, under the chairmanship of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyemi III moved a motion for the elevation of the then Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Gbadamosi Adebimpe and the then Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oladunni Ajagungbade III as well as their successors-in-title to wear breaded crowns. Although the motion generated several arguments, it eventually sailed through.
With the creation of new states in 1991, the old Oyo State was split into Oyo and Osun States. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III emerged as the Permanent Chairman of the newly created Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs. Since his installation, he had fought for the elevation of several Third-Class traditional rulers, thus leading to the changing of their status to second and first class Obas. With that, they became eligible to wear beaded crown.
Notable among them were the Onitede of Tede, Aseyin of Iseyin, Timi of Ede, Iba of Kisi and Okere of Saki. Also, under his leadership as the Permanent chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, he facilitated the elevation of some Baales to the status of Third Class Obas, which also enabled them to wear beaded crowns. Notable among them were the Baale of Ile-Ogbo in 1995, the Baale of Igboora in 2001 and the Baale of Igangan in 2002.
In the area of the preservation of traditional institution in Oyo state and Southwestern Nigeria, the contribution of Oba Adeyemi during this period was seminal. There were times when there existed crisis between the Oyo state government and traditional rulers especially with respect to the traditional institution. The active role of Oba Adeyemi III, which was hinged on his cultural erudition and historical knowledge of traditional institution fought seriously for the defence of the institution. This has made some people to describe him as a controversial traditional ruler. The then governor of Oyo State, Otunba Alao Akala described Oba Adeyemi III as the custodian of cultural heritage. He affirmed:
He is the custodian of the cultural heritage of Yorubaland of Nigeria…the Alaafin of Oyo remains the pivotal leader and the chief historian of what the Yoruba history is all about. Well, if the history of Yorubaland is being twisted to suit certain orchestrated interests, if you say Alafin is controversial in that regard, I will say, yes and I am very sure, he has no apology to offer. Alaafin is positively controversial.
Oba Adeyemi III was always at the forefront on behalf of and in defence of the traditional rulers. For instance, in 2003, the Council of Obas and Chiefs, constituted by the defunct Western Nigeria House of Assembly in 1959 was dissolved by the administration of the then governor of Oyo state, Chief Rasheed Ladoja.
The incidence, which resulted in a court case at the Ibadan High Court, eventually favoured the traditional institution through the April 18, 2007 judgment delivered by Honourable Justice Mashood Abass. Despite the favourable court ruling, the then governor refused to reinstate the council. However, with the emergence of the new administration in 2007, under the leadership of Governor Alao Akala and its compliance with the April ruling, the council, which was put into limbo for about 51 months later reconvened on 8 November 2007 under the chairmanship of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. At the reconvened meeting, which was chaired by Oba Adeyemi III, he reiterated his commitment to the struggle for the defence and preservation of traditional institution in the modern government. He argued that the place of Obas in the development of modern government in Nigeria in general cannot be over-emphasised.
He further explained that both the traditional institution and modern government were partners in nation-building. It was this development that informed the then Western House of Assembly to enact a law that established the Council of Obas and Chiefs in 1959.
Significantly, Oba Adeyemi used his position during this period of study to attract several socio-economic developments to his hometown (Oyo) and Oyo State in general for the betterment of the people. However, this became possible because of his healthy relationship with successive administrations both at federal and state levels. Between 1970 and 2015 successive presidents in the country and governors in the old Oyo and new Oyo State often paid courtesy visits to the palace of Oba Adeyemi III. He used these opportunities to solicit for the support of the government towards the development of Oyo town and Oyo state in general. For example, in 1981, the then governor of old Oyo State launched the Oyo Low Cost housing scheme at Offa Meta in Oyo. Notable socio-economic changes in Oyo town, which were facilitated by Oba Adeyemi III, included the setting up of health and educational institutions, construction of good road networks and so on. Existing studies revealed that prior to the emergence of Oba Adeyemi as the Alaafin of Oyo in 1970 there was no modern physical planning and housing layout in Oyo town. As a result, buildings and structures were erected without due regard to any regulation. Following his ascension, lands were reserved and designated as layout scheme and industrial layout. This led to the emergence of several layouts and estates such as Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III layout, Araromi layout, Alaka Estate, Ajibike Estate, Alaka Estate and so on. His liberality towards granting of land to people for socio-economic development also attracted large number of Oyo indigenes (both home and abroad) to contribute meaningfully to the development of their homeland.
Nationally, the role of Oba Adeyemi III in the service of the nation during this period of study could be examined at the federal level. Oba Adeyemi III, a respected paramount traditional ruler in Yorubaland and Nigeria in general, served the nation in different capacities under different administrations (military and civilian) between 1970 and 2015. It would be recalled that Oba Adeyemi III was installed as the 43rd Alaafin by the military administration. Thus, between 1970 and 1999, the Alaafin successfully worked with seven military Heads of State of Nigeria, beginning with General Yakubu Gowon to General Abdulsalam Abubakar. The main areas of interaction between Oba Adeyemi III and successive military and civilian administrations during this period centred on active participation in national issues through the conveyance of conferences/meetings and appointments by the latter. His official engagement at the federal level began in 1975, when he was invited to a meeting alongside other traditional rulers in the defunct Western State to Dodan Barracks, Lagos for routine consultation by the new Head of State of Nigeria, General Murtala Mohammed. In that year, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed included Oba Adeyemi III (the only traditional ruler from Yorubaland) as a member of his entourage to the hajj in Saudi Arabia. Other traditional rulers on that holy pilgrimage were the Emir of Gwandu and Momodu Ikelebe II, the Otaru of Auchi. His invitation was in recognition of his significant contributions to national development. Also, in 1978, Oba Adeyemi III was invited to co-chair a conference with the then Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Siddiq Abubakar III on the Land Use Decree by the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Also, with respect to his contribution to nation-building, in 1979, Oba Adeyemi III was honoured with the third highest Nigerian National Honours [ Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR)], which were instituted by the National honours Act No.5 of 1964. The honours are conferred upon Nigerians, who have rendered service (s) to the benefit of the nation.
With the return to the Second Republic on October 1, 1979, under the leadership of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the First Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III equally played important roles during the administration. One major legacy of post-independence government with respect to official recognition of traditional institution was the use of traditional rulers as Chancellors of Nigerian Universities. This development, which serves as a distinct mark of honour and respect for the traditional institution in the country started during the military regime. It was also sustained by the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Oba Adeyemi III was appointed as the pioneer Chancellor of University of Sokoto, Sokoto State (now known as Uthman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto) by the administration of President Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1980. The university was among the universities set up during the Second Republic. Oba Adeyemi initially served for a first four-year tenure that is between 1980 and 1983. His appointment was later extended to 1992, during the regimes of Major General Muhammadu Buhari and General Ibrahim Babangida. This was an unprecedented feat in the history of Chancellorship of Nigerian Universities. By this, Oba Adeyemi III served for twelve years as Chancellor of Uthman Dan Fodio University. In recognition and appreciation of his laudable contributions to the growth and development of the University, the Senate of the institution honoured him with the Degree of Doctor of Letters (LL.D.), Honorius Causa, which was conferred on him by the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Professor Shehu Galadanchi in 1980. Oba Adeyemi III was equally invited alongside other prominent Nigerian traditional rulers such as Alhaji Sulu Gambari, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ndayako, the Etsu of Nupe to a National Security Council Meeting at Dodan Barracks, Lagos by the Nigerian President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1982.
Also, in recognition of Oba Adeyemi III’s commitment to the consolidation of Islam in Nigeria, President Ibrahim Babangida appointed him as the Amir-ul-Hajj in 1990. This appointment afforded him the opportunity to lead the Muslim Faithful in the then twenty-one states of the country to holy pilgrimage in Mecca. Besides, during the June 12, 1993 political crisis, General Ibrahim Babangada administration believed that for the crisis to settle, it was necessary to involve Nigerian traditional rulers, most especially those from the Southwest, because the main actor in question, Chief M.K.O Abiola was from the geo-political zone. At the meeting held on July 12, 1993, Oba Adeyemi III with other prominent traditional rulers such as the Ooni of Ife, Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba of Lagos and the Oba of Benin participated actively in the deliberation. This was in relations to the legacy laid down by the colonial government, which was later built upon by the military regime. The traditional institution was held inhigh esteem in terms of the restoration of peace in the society by the military. This was why the military created the council of chiefs, where traditional rulers could discuss and advise government of the day on some important national issues. General Ibrahim Babangida concluded that “Nigerian traditional rulers are the most valuable asset the nation had”
Changes in Government, Politics and Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III
As an institution that has survived despite its travails, the dynamism of the chieftaincy institution in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized. Beyond attesting to its dynamism, the changing role, power, and perception of the institution in different dispensations are clear manifestations of its resilience. Thus, from being at the centre of authority in the pre-colonial period, traditional rulers have been empowered and disempowered at different times, accommodated or excluded, depending on the interests at stake and incorporated, manipulated, hoodwinked or humiliated, depending on the dispensations, circumstances or even the level or extent of relationship between chieftaincy title holders and leaders of modern government. Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi III has had his own share of these challenges from the political space. From the day of his coronation and presentation of staff of office at an impressive ceremony at the Durbar Stadium, Oyo town, Oba Adeyemi III as the Alaafin of Oyo in the presence of thousands of witnesses from all works of life by the then military Governor of the Western State, Colonel (later retired General) Adeyinka Adebayo, the reign and life of Oba Adeyemi III has been characterized by a number of political challenges and intrigues. From his coronation, he began his journey as the Alaafin of Oyo 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.
The philosophy behind the Alaafin institution is duty for service and service to humanity. Thus, 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 witnessed different political dispensation with each dispensation and its own intrigues and challenges. 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); Colonel Abdulkareem Adisa, military governor (1990-92); Chief Kolapo Ishola, third elected governor (1992-93); Naval Capitan Adetoye Sode, military administrator (1993-94); Colonol Chinyere Ike Nwosu, military administrator (1994-96); Colonel Ahmed Usman, military administrator, (1996-98); Compol Amen Edore Oyakhire, military administrator (1998-99); Alhaji Lam Adesina fourth elected governor (1999-2003); Senator Adewolu Ladoja (2003-2007); Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala(2007-2011); Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi (2011-2019).
Perhaps, the most insidious intrigue against the Alaafin occurred in 1998 during the General Sani Abacha era. The Alaafin’s detention at the London Gatwick airport on March 24, 1998 after it was claimed that drugs were found in his entourage’s luggage represented an attack on the Alaafin. This episode was read as a calculated attempt to smear the image of the Alaafin who was then seen as an opponent of the attempt by General Sani Abacha to transmute from a military leader to a democratically elected president. To prove the Alaafin’s innocence, however, he and his daughter were released after questioning by British Customs officials.
With each administration comes new policy for the traditional institution in the state. Some demeaning others accommodating. For instance On May 3, 2011, the then outgoing Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala announced that the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III was no longer the Permanent Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs in Oyo State. The state government had just passed a law that introduced rotation of the office of Chairman between the Alaafin and his two rivals, the Olubadan of Ibadanland and the Soun of Ogbomoso. It was said that the measure, introduced by a State Assembly with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) majority, was in response to the Oba’s support for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) during the April 2011 elections. The ACN beat the PDP decisively in that election. However, just like every other political challenge experienced in the past, the Alaafin never reacted or took it personally. It is a norm that political problems require political solutions. Hence, the issue was politically solved
Tradition versus Modernity: Alaafin Adeyemi III’s Exploits
The traditional institutions in Nigeria have gone through thick and thin in the country’s political history from the pre-colonial, through the colonial and to the post-colonial eras. In the words of Biodun Adediran: “From the pre-colonial era, the traditional institutions have been strengthened and weakened, elevated and humiliated, empowered and disempowered by emergent political/ruling class”. Before the coming of the Europeans, the traditional rulers held sway not only as the recognized political rulers of the states and kingdoms in Nigeria but also as the custodians of the people’s history, culture, religions, and economy.
The traditional institutions in the pre-colonial Yorubaland had all elements of modern governmental systems and they perfectly suited the social, political and economic situations of the era with the overall goal of the welfare of the generality of the people. The advent of colonial rule and the imposition of Western styles of government not only reduced the powers and relevance of the traditional rulers but also made them subservient to their subjects the educated elite. Since independence in 1960, the political statuses of traditional rulers have gone from bad to worse with far reaching consequences for governance and administration in the country. However, despite this situation, Oba Adeyemi III has succeeded in marrying tradition and modernity since the beginning of his reign. He never allowed modernity to affect tradition, vice versa. There is no doubt the fact that the two are injurious to each other in the course of social change in terms of placement of priorities. However, in spite of changes and modifications introduced by modernity, Oba Adeyemi III ensured that tradition endured all vicissitudes and thus made it more relevant in the contemporary times in his public life as a traditional ruler during this period. This great exploit was not unconnected with his socio-cultural background. First, Oba Adeyemi III was well groomed as a prince both during his early life and adulthood in the palace. His royal parentage under the then Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oladapo Ademola and his father Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II gave him the opportunity to have in-depth knowledge of customs and traditions of the Yoruba in particular and Africans in general. He is versed in Yoruba/African culture and history. This often reflects in the style of his dressing and his speeches at different functions or occasions. For example, he had at different occasions spoke on the importance of preserving and promoting African culture and tradition. In one of his speeches titled “Our Dignity rests on tradition”, Oba Adeyemi III affirmed that: “A nation or tribe without customs is as good as a horde of gorillas ravaging the deep forests.” Also, in his speech in September 1984, Oba Adeyemi observed that: ‘Traditional rulers should be seen as the perfect embodiment of the culture of the place, as well as the synthesis of the aspirations and goals of the nation. This is not only in social values of veracity, egalitarianism, justice, and democracy; but in dress, utterances and comportment; even the mere necessary trivicalities [sic] that mark Nigeria and the locality as a distinctive entity.
Thus, apart from his speeches, Oba Adeyemi III equally demonstrated this in his physical appearance. For instance, during his tenure as the Chancellor of Uthman Dan Fodio University, Oba Adeyemi III performed his official duties in the university with his Sekere and traditional praise singing outfit in order to portray the richness of Yoruba culture.
His exposure to western education equally played significant role in his ability to marry tradition with modernity without any hitch. It is important to point out here that the relevance of a traditional ruler in modern times rests on his exposure to western education. This reflected in the active participation of Oba Adeyemi III in several national and international conferences, discourses and debates. He is a widely travelled traditional ruler, who had visited several countries such as the United States of America, London, Cuba, Brazil, Republic of Benin and so on. Owing to his industrial experience, Oba Adeyemi III was invited to address the Dallas Chamber of Commerce at the Dallas City Hall Conference on 1 July 1999. At the conference, he advocated for economic and political relations between Nigeria and the United States of America.
The discourse has examined how Oba Adeyemi III was able to marry tradition with modernity during his forty-five years as a paramount traditional ruler in Yorubaland in particular and Nigeria in general. The study revealed that Oba Adeyemi III during this period functioned effectively as a traditional ruler in the contemporary times. This indelible achievement was not unconnected with his background as a well-groomed prince, which enabled him to be versed in tradition, culture and history of his society as well as his exposure to western education. These two outstanding qualities helped Oba Adeyemi III to avoid aligning with the powers of the day at the expense of his traditional role as a traditional ruler. He worked successfully with both military and civilian administrations at state and federal levels during this period of his reign.
During the civilian administrations, most especially in the Second and Fourth Republics, Oba Adeyemi III engaged in non-partisan politics. He did not allow modern politics to affect the preservation of tradition and culture. This was not unconnected with the experiences of his father, who sympathised with the National Council of the Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) an opposition party in the defunct Western Region, and eventually led to his deposition in 1954. In all, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III stands out as an epitome of tradition in the age of modernity.
Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, FHSN, FNAL writes from the Department of History and International Studies, Osun State University, Osogbo AND
Prof. Olutayo Adesina, FNAL from the Department of History, University of Ibadan.
By Prof Siyan Oyeweso & Prof Olutayo Adesina