•Adeniran’s 200 wives, his emergence and fall
•How the wives took turns to be with him while in exile
•Lamidi foretold his future and at 80 he’s still living it
By Femi Kehinde
Destiny has an uncanning hand in the conduct and affairs of men. In Yoruba pantheon, it could be likened to “ori”, literally meaning- head, that is, a person’s spiritual intuition. It is often personified as an orisha in its own rights.
It foretells the human essence and consciousness. Whatever one becomes or whatever happens in one’s life, according to Yoruba myth, is as destined by his “ori.”
Man’s unalterable destiny, is usually a navigated journey of an unseen hand. In the course of that journey, the navigator charts the course and directs the route and such is the life and times of Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi and his biological son- Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi.
As an interface, between the reigns of Adeniran Adeyemi, and Lamidi Adeyemi was a reigning mornach- Alaafin Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu, who succeeded Adeniran Adeyemi in 1955 and whom Lamidi Adeyemi also succeeded, on the 19th of November, 1970.
Destiny certainly leads to human destination
Among Oba Adeniran’s children, Lamidi Adeyemi was his favourite. He had seen at Lamidi’s birth, on the 15thof October, 1938, the lacerations on his left breast and the spots on his legs, at the same spots on Lamidi Olayiwola, as tell tale signs of future royalty. This royal observation, endeared Lamidi’s mother- Olori Ibironke of Epo Gingin, Compound, Oke Afin, Oyo, to Adeniran Adeyemi. Unfortunately, Olori Ibironke died at an early age, when Lamidi was still an infant.
In parentheses, Oba Titus Martins Adesoji Tadenianwo Aderemi, was born on the 15th of November, 1889, every inch a king, to the family of Osundeyi Gbadebo and Adekunmbi Itiola, his 19th and last wife and a native of Ipetumodu. On the day of Adesoji’s birth, his father, Prince Gbadegbo Osundeyi had just arrived from a war expedition and as a gifted seer, Prince Osundeyi carried the baby into his laps, gazed intently into his face and was happy at what he saw.
He instructed Adekunbi, to search for red beads, which they presented to this special baby-, pronouncing him an Ooni, a future Ooni, who is however an ancestor Ooni, who had come back through their family. Prince Osundeyi named this unusual baby, Tadeniawo Ayinla Aderemi, who took his first footsteps at seven months (7) and started walking. As a restless spirit, everything about Aderemi, was quick and fast.
Alaafin Siyanbola Ladigbolu I, was Alaafin of Oyo between 1911 to 1945 and was succeeded in 1945 by Adeniran Adeyemi. Shinyanbola Ladigbolu, was a very powerful monarch and he was a strong ally of the British Resident- Captain W.A Ross. In 1945, Adeniran Adeyemi succeeded him as Alaafin of Oyo and was on the throne till 1955, when he was sent on exile by the Western Region Government.
The way to royalty
In preparation for royalty, the young Lamidi had a brief training in Quranic knowledge in Iseyin and also lived under the tutelage of Pa Olatoregun- An Anglican school teacher and headmaster of St. Andrews Primary School, Oyo, and disciplinarian, all in an effort for young Lamidi, to learn the rope of traditional kingship, statesmanship and dignifying royalty. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, in the quest of this preparation for royalty, was at an early age, sent to Abeokuta to live with Oba Adedapo Ademola and had some part of his early education in Ake Palace Elementary School and he is today still fluent in Egba dialect.
Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, at a later date in his adolescence, also lived with a Lagos Aristocrat, his father’s friend- Sir (Dr)Kofo Abayomi and his wife, Lady Oyinkan Abayomi. He also attended St. Gregory’s College, Lagos- a Catholic School.
The young Lamidi Adeyemi, was living with Oba Samuel Oladapo Ademola II, the Alake of Egba Land in the Ake palace, between 1947 and 1948, when the Egba Women’s Union, led by Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, protested against payment of taxes without representation.
Mrs. Ransome Kuti, who had earlier in 1943, organised the Abeokuta “great weep” was becoming a big thorn in the flesh of Oba Oladapo II. It was regarded as a “hell of a time”. In the streets, the market places, before the Alake’s palace, thousands of Abeokuta women, went about shedding tears. The Alake and the authorities could do nothing to stop it, and gave way to the women’s demands.
Fela’s mother leads protest , King abdicates throne
Mrs Ransome Kuti picked up the gauntlet again in 1948, when the Alake sanctioned, the taxing of Abeokuta women.
The Egba women’s union, was a well organized and disciplined organization. The Egba women’s refusal to pay abnormal tax, combined with enormous protests, organised under the guise of picnics and festivals, was a guise to beat the security of the British colonizers, who teamed up with the local lackeys, to subdue the women.
At one protest, the “Oro” stick, was brought out- a symbolic artefact of the secretive male cult of the Ogbonis, supposedly imbibed with great powers and the women were instructed to go home, before evil spirits overcame them.
When the women shrank back in fear, Funmilayo Rasome Kuti grabbed the stick, waved it around, that the women now had the power, before taking it with her, displaying it prominently in her home. This action gave her, a reputation of fearlessness and courage, which led 20, 000 women to follow her to the home of Alake of Egba Land (Alake Ademola). As the women protested outside the King’s Palace, they sang in Yoruba-
“Alake, for a long time, you have used your penis as mark of authority, that you are our husband, today we shall reverse the order and use our vagina, to play the role of husband.”
With this unified action and song, they chased him out of the Palace, condemning him to exile on the threat of castration and this resulted in the king’s abdication and his exile to Osogbo.
Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was a teacher, a political campaigner, women’s rights activists and traditional aristocrat, who was described by the West African Pilot Newspaper, as the “Lioness of Lisabi.” She was the first woman to ride a car. She was also the mother of Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Her amiable consort in this crusade was Eniola Soyinka, Her sister in law and mother of the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka.
It is interesting to note, that Oba Oladapo Ademola II, was accompanied to exile by Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, who was then living with him and who saw this interesting drama. He still speaks impeccable Egba dialect.
As a result of the Macpherson constitution of 1952, which now gave immense powers to political elites, as against traditional institutions, the powers of the traditional monarchs, as regards the political control of their domains ceased. Chief Bode Thomas, now became the first chairman of the Oyo Divisional council in 1953, while the Alaafin of Oyo became a mere member.
Bode Thomas barks to death
On his first appearance in council, after being appointed as chairman, all the council members stood up for him in deference, to welcome him, except Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, who for cultural reasons, could not show deference to anyone in public. Bode Thomas rudely shouted at the king, for having the temerity and audacity to disrespect him.
“why were you sitting when I walked in, you don’t know how to show respect”
At that time, Bode Thomas was 35 years old and Oba Adeniran Adeyemi, was in his 80s. The Alaafin felt very insulted and nonplussed; he said- “se emi lon gbomo baun” (is it me you are barking at like that?). Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, for emphasis, was father of the incumbent Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.
The confrontation happened on November 22nd, 1953. Bode got home and started barking! He barked and barked like a dog all night until he died in the early morning of November 23rd 1953. He cut short his promising career.
Before Alaafin’s deposition, about the middle of 1955, the Western Regional Government, set up the Floyd Commission of enquiry, to look into the causes of persistent unrest in Oyo Land. A few months after the Floyd commission, had concluded its enquiries and submitted its findings, then the bomb shell fell.
At the tottering age of 84, Adeniran Adeyemi was told by the regional government, to pack his kit and take a walk from the palace and that was a journey into the unknown, that ended with his demise on the 14th of February, 1960.
From Iwo-Oke, to Ilesha and then to Egerton lane in Lagos, the ex Alaafin- Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi, certainly saw the other side of life after palace. Alhaji N.B Soule, a rich Dahomian, now known as (Republic of Benin), who came to Lagos in 1929, offered Adeniran the needed succour and encouragement at this trying period.
He offered him and his entourage bed and lodgings in the name of Allah and in allegiance to the NCNC. The NCNC as a party whom the Alaafin loved, fought for his reinstatement, with various petitions to the colonial secretary and parliamentary warfare on the floor of the Western House of Assembly.
Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi once rhapsodised- “I was sent away by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group government, because of my unflinching support for the cause of the NCNC … I am not angry with Chief Awolowo, in fact I am not angry with any one person or group of persons or organisations, I am only angry with destiny, in that it has chosen to push me out of my palace and stool, to face the uncertainities of life at my old age. The £210 from the regional government was cut off.”
How 200 wives took their turns with the ex Alaafin
In exile in Lagos, at the No. 31 Egerton Lane, thousands of men and women flocked the residence, to pay their respect and obeisance, to the 88 year old ex monarch, and in retrospect and appreciation, he once said-
“these people are very kind and their daily respect to me reminds me of my palace at Oyo. And there were many people in that palace during my time. I had over 200 wives and many children and of course, I was receiving a stipend of £210 every month from the regional government. This, together with the gifts many of my subjects were making me, was enough to support my household. What you see here, though the best of the worst, is not like home- home is still the best.”
The ex Alaafin, always had about 30 odd wives at a time in Lagos. These 30 from the pool of 200 wives, would come at one time and spend all the time they could afford with their ex-royal husband and go back to Oyo- making place for another 30, who would come and take over from them, until the number was rounded up and began to rotate again”.
But to Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi, it was not all merry. He lost his crowned prince, Aremo Adeyemi, in a ghastly motor accident, on his way to Ilesha to visit him. Certainly, the mishmash of the life of Egerton lane, could not be compared with the royal revelry, elegance and candour of the Oyo Royal Palace.
Sometime in early 1960, Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, secured admission to study law in the United Kingdom. He got a loan through Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, his father’s friend, from the African Continental Bank, (ACB) Yaba Lagos and was to proceed to the United Kingdom, when unfortunately, his father, Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi, died, 48 hours to the London trip on the 14th of February, 1960, at the age of 88 years.
This death, truncated his career training in Law in the United Kingdom. He later became an insurance executive with the Royal Exchange Assurance Limited, Marina Lagos, where he rose steadily.
In the course of his career in the insurance industry, an incident happened, at the Iga Idunganran Palace of Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II. Oyekan was installed the Oba of Lagos in 1965.
Meeting Oba of Lagos
Some bulglars invaded the Iga Idunganran palace and carted away, various items,like air conditioners and all sorts. Luckily, these items were assured by the royal exchange assurance. Lamidi Adeyemi was asked by his employer, as a loss adjuster, to visit the palace and recommend appropriate payments, to cater for the loss.
As a prince of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi introduced himself to the Lagos Monarch, and that as a future Alaafin, he was only in the Palace to extend traditional courtesies and not to ask questions about the incident. He nevertheless recommended handsome payments to the monarch; and that was quickly settled by the Royal Exchange Assurance. In an attempt to repair the leaked roof of a rented apartment in Lagos, he discovered some iron metals needed by the Railway Corporation, at the roof top of the apartment.
The Railway Corporation, bought from him all the iron metals and was even asking for more. At an impressionable age, he was able to buy his first house in Lagos, with the proceeds from this “manna” from heaven, that eventually prepared him for the throne, after the death of Alaafin Ladigbolu, who succeeded his father and whom he also succeeded as Alaafin.
Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu also made SLA Akintola, the Aare Ona Kankanfo of Yoruba Land. He has also, on the throne installed two Aare Ona Kakanfos- M.K.O. Abiola and Ganiyu Adams.
The stool of the Alaafin became vacant in 1968, following the exit of Oba Bello Gbadegesin Ladigbolu, who joined his ancestors, after 12 years on the throne. He hailed from the Agunloye ruling house and thus, it was the turn of Adeyemi Alowolodo Ruling house, to produce the next Alaafin. As an aftermath of Adeniran’s exile, Lamidi’s ascension to the throne was almost a near miss.
Lamidi Adeyemi contested with 10 other princes for the coveted throne of the Alaafin, in a keen competition, that started in 1968 and did not end until November 18, 1970, when he was officially pronounced the Alaafin of Oyo by the Western Region Government of Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, at the age of about 32 years. He was crowned on the 14th January, 1971, when he started the epochal journey of an Alaafin, to greatness and stardom.
Before his ascension to the throne, he had married two wives- Alhaja Olori Habibat Adeyemi (Iya Dodo) and Alhaja Olori Rahamat Adeyemi (Iya Ile Koto)
He is now blessed with other wives and children. He was Alaafin at 32, and still Alaafin at 80, and has beaten the records of his fore bears- Alaafin Adeyemi Alowodu I, who reigned between 1876 and 1905 and his father, Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi II, who reigned between 1945 and 1955 and as Alaafin Adeyemi III, he has now reigned for 47 years and still reigning as His Imperial Majesty- a quintessential monarch, not only with wit, but with candour, panache and deep sense of wisdom.
Oyo Empire had once existed for an uninterrupted period of 600 years and at the apogee of its powers, the empire’s suzerainty, extended to Togo, Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) and Ghana. Parakoyi was its ambassador along the coastal region of Dohomey, whilst Timi Agbele was its inland commander in Ede. Alimi manned the northern military post in Ilorin.
Alaafin at 80, remains a boxing enthusiast and pugilist, who trains regularly at the Liberty stadium Ibadan- a 25,000 sitter capacity stadium and first in Africa, which was patterned after Wembley Stadium in London. The stadium hosted the first world boxing title fight in Africa, when Nigeria’s Dick Tiger, defeated Gene Fulmer, to win the World Middle Weight title in 1962.
Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, has in about 50 years bestrode the Yoruba Nation and the traditional institution of the Alaafin as a Colossus. He had gleefully predicted in 1968 in a newspaper article-
“I shall be great” and furthermore-
“I shall be the next alaafin”.
He was elected a week thereafter, by the Oyo Mesi, who did the selection exercise three times and he still emerged on the three occasions as Alaafin elect.
During this period, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, was the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the government of the Western Region. He assisted immensely in ensuring fair play, justice and equity, that eventually led to the coronation of Lamidi Adeyemi, as the Alaafin of Oyo on the 14th of January, 1971. Victor Olunloyo was encouraged by the support and endorsement of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. That epochal journey that started in November 1970, still continues, and thus, to the improvement and well being of the Yoruba nation and mankind.
Kaabiyesi Iku Baba Yeye!
- Hon (Barr) Femi Kehinde, Former Member, House of Representatives, National Assembly Abuja, representing Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State, (1999-2003) & Principal Partner Femi Kehinde & Co (Solicitors) 84, Iwo Road, Ibadan