The death of Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III marked an end of an era and the beginning of a new era. His death reveals the drastic reduction of intellectual contributions in Yorubaland. The death of someone as prominent as the late Alaafin was supposed to have ignited controversial publications from public figures, private citizens, students and lovers of Yoruba history, with each person presenting arguments based on their understandings of the person of the late Alaafin in his lifetime. But, it is understandable, almost everyone is frustrated by the situation of the country, whereas, it takes a stable mind to contribute to intellectual argument.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III was many things, he was a different person to different people. To his beautiful wives and numerous children, he was a loving husband and a caring father. He treated his In-law with great honor and sponsored the education of all his children. He was a rallying point and I am afraid his children will miss him more than I can think of.
Oba Adeyemi III was feared at home but loved outside. He was feared by almost every citizen of Oyo Kingdom. He was an absolute leader who knew everything about every compound in the entire Oyo Kingdom. He closely monitored the town so much that nothing moved without his knowledge. His 52 years on the throne were eventful, there was hardly a year that he was not involved in any meaningful, but tough engagement and like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he survived almost all the prominent dissent voices against his reign in Oyo Kingdom.
However, Oba Adeyemi was also afraid of the indigenous people of Oyo Kingdom and he metaphorically expressed this on some occasions. In one of his public statements, he said he understood the language of every town but that of Oyo and if you were familiar with his lifestyle, he hardly wore a crown, in spite of the number of crowns in his palace. I do not know what it meant to him anyway.
Under his reign, Oyo became bigger and larger than he met it. He witnessed the transformation of the historic town from traditional to a kind of compromise between traditional and modern City. It was partly to his credit that Oyo had its share of benefits, most especially in politics. Despite the “sizeable” population of Oyo, it is a force to be reckoned with in political permutation in Oyo State.
He fought many battles, most especially against the successive governors of Oyo State. There was a reported story of what transpired between him and one of the former governors of Oyo State. The governor wanted the position of permanent chairman of the Oyo State council of Oba to change from being permanent to become rotational. In his reaction, Oba Adeyemi III said it would never happen as long as he remained the Alaafin. He protected the institution of Alaafin with his all.
He was more loved, honored and respected outside of Oyo. He was leading the vanguard of the monarchs, groups and individuals, championing the cause of cultural preservation in Yorubaland. He represented the Yoruba race and he, on several occasions made his stand known to the Federal Government of Nigerian via his public statements and writings. He was a core federalist, he had no other song than true federalism till his time of his death.
However, he had his shortcomings, just like every other king. He offended some people most especially over land disputes. He was at loggerhead with the core people of Isale Oyo till the time of his death. It is not in my interest to exonerate him, but there is hardly a town which is not experiencing a similar scenario. There is always a section of the town which is at loggerhead with the king. It might be either because they feel cheated or they naturally do not like the personality of their king. But, a good king should be like a rain which falls on good and bad people alike.
People are more interested in reading negative news about prominent individuals, in fact, in the writing for Mass Media, it is believed that bad news is news. But historical writing is different. Historians assess both the positive and negative sides of an individual and write his history based on the information available to them (Historians). History is not human, it is a spiritual discipline, it is a force, a living force driving the society into an intended destination.
Owolabi Jamiu is postgraduate student of the Department of History, University of Ibadan.