By Nnamdi Ojiego
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, popularly known as Iku Baba Yeye, who died on Friday, April 22, 2022, was not just a first-class monarch.
The late Alaafin was so many things to so many people. He was like a gigantic elephant being seen or described differently by people depending on the perspective or angle they were viewing it from. He was one of the most influential monarchs in Yorubaland, the longest-reigning and first to marry an Igbo. He was also a boxer.
While he exuded royalty and commanded respect from far and wide, his life was not free of controversies especially his superiority battle with Ooni of Ife as well as his love for women.
However, whichever angle one looks at it from, Oba Adeyemi was a custodian of culture and a reservoir of knowledge and can be said to have lived an accomplished and fulfilled life.
Alaafin joined his ancestors at the ripe age of 83. He died at the Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti in Ekiti State, after a brief illness, ending his 52 years of reign. His remains were brought to Oyo town, the Oyo State capital, in the early hours of yesterday where traditional rites were performed before he was buried.
Alaafin’s death is coming a few months after the two other senior Oyo State monarchs – the Olubadan of Ibadan, Saliu Adetunji, and the Soun of Ogbomoso, Jimoh Oyewumi died
Alaafin Adeyemi III was born Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi on October 15, 1938 into the Alowolodu Royal House. His great-grandfather, Atiba was Oba Atiba Atobatele, who founded the new Oyo while his great-great-grandfather was Alaafin Abiodun, the direct descendant of Oranmiyan, the founder of the Oyo Empire.
Not many knew that the late Alaafin was a boxer. He was a boxer but had to retire early due to his coronation. He retired from boxing after he emerged as a monarch. He, however, continued to be a passionate follower of the game even after he ascended the throne of his fathers.
Oba Adeyemi was chosen by the kingmakers on November 18, 1970, and then moved into the palace after completing the necessary rites under the tutelage of the Oyomesi, during the governorship of Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, after the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
Oba Adeyemi during his life on earth was known for his good taste for pretty and young women. He left behind beautiful wives and children to mourn him. He was married to Ayaba Abibat Adeyemi, his most senior wife, who he attended most events with. His other wives were Rahmat Adedayo, Mujidat, Rukayat, Folashade, Badirat Ajoke, Memunat Omowunmi, Omobolanle, Moji, Anuoluwapo, and Damilola Adeyemi. He married an Igbo woman named Olori Chioma Adeyemi in 2020 as his 13th wife.
The exact number of Alaafin’s children is unknown at this time but the closest reports cite all his children as numbering over 20. Most of his wives had at least one child with some having more than one and a few others who did not conceive at all. According to the Yoruba tradition, all of Alaafin’s children are princes or princesses. Some of his more prominent children include Babatunde Israel, Princess Folashade and Prince Akeem Adeyemi.
During his reign, Oba Adeyemi permanently chaired the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs. In 1975, the Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, included Oba Adeyemi in his entourage to the hajj. He was the Chancellor of Uthman dan Fodiyo University in Sokoto from 1980 to 1992. In 1990, President Ibrahim Babangida appointed him Amir-ul-Hajj in recognition of his commitment to the consolidation of Islam in Nigeria
The superiority contest between the Alaafin of Oyo and Ooni of Ife concerned who, between a political leader of Yorubaland or Oyo Empire (which spread up to Togo) and a spiritual leader, was superior. While the Alaafin saw himself as the political leader, the Ooni, regarded himself as the spiritual head. It was a war between the terrestrial and the celestial.