April 22 marked the end of the reign of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, who ascended the throne on November 1970 and reigned for 52 years. His subjects and workers as well as other Obas tell OLUFEMI OLANIYI what they would miss about him.
Despite his stoic look which did not betray his emotions on his face, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi, was described as a very compassionate, ready to help and very generous king by his people.
The news of his death, which started as a rumour late Friday night of April 22, later dawned on his subjects as a reality. Many of them said they had prayed the news was debunked and when another news started flying around that the palace had denied the earlier news, many of them said they were happy. But with persistent calls and messages to conform especially from residents of Oyo and those who are close to the palace, it was obvious that what they wished was a ‘wicked lie’ was becoming a reality.
Alaafin and his subjects
Not ready to wait for news from social media or traditional media, anxious residents trooped in large numbers to the palace located at the heart of Oyo town to see things for themselves and the news they had prayed would turn out to be falsehood was not fake news. They found out that it was true that the Iku Baba Yeye had joined his ancestors. “Omo Iku ti Iku o gbodo pa” ( a son of death who is forbidden to be killed by Death) has gone the way of all mortals.
The death of Alaafin will be felt by so many people he helped in diverse ways but some will be more hit than others. From those who run various errands at the palace to the chiefs and his subjects, it is evident that they will sorely miss the Alaafin Adeyemi.
The oldest man at the palace Pa Morenikeji Lasisi, said he would miss Oba Adeyemi, whom he described as the best of the three Alaafin he had the privileged of serving as a domestic worker.
The aged man says he cuts the grass at the palace and he has witnessed the reign of three different Alaafin, a record which no one else in the palace possesses.
Apart from the centenarian, Saheed Kudefu, a 37- year-old man who fans the Alaafin with a big hand fan during events in the palace or outside of it said the death of the octogenarian monarch was a huge loss to him personally.
Kudefu said, “ I am a grandson of Kudefu, one of the aides of Alaafin. Whoever is installed as Kudefu, would no longer go home from the palace. He would start living in the palace from the day of his installation. I have lived in the palace for 27 years, I was barely 10 years when I came and Kaabiyesi loved me so much. He loved others as well.
“I have travelled all over Nigeria with him. We travelled by road and air to far places and he was my father and I will never forget him. He was good to me personally. I went to school and he was the one that sponsored me. I learnt a trade. He was behind it. When it was time for me to get married, he sponsored it. He was nice to everybody including those not close to him.
“People who felt cheated and oppressed would come to the palace to tell him, he would investigate and give a judgment. He was very fair and just and that is why the people loved him so much.”
He also explained the relationship between the Alaafin and the late Aare Musumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Azeez Arisekola when the late businessman was alive.
“He was very close to Alhaji Azeez Arisekola. He was very pained by the death of Arisekola. It was only in Arisekola’s house that Alaafin used to eat. He would not eat in other people’s houses but in Arisekola’s house. The death of Arisekola robbed me of the opportunity to travel overseas. There was a trip he had scheduled for that time but when Arisekola died, he did not go outside Oyo town for three months.”
Recalling some of the memories he shared with the Alaafin, Kudefu said anytime they travelled outside Oyo, he used to buy the food Alaafin would eat. He said the late monarch would buy a meal twice what he could eat and he would eat half and give him the remaining half after he had given him money to buy his own meal.
“As you see this palace, many non-indigenes live here, non-Yoruba also live in the palace and Alaafin was responsible for the feeding of almost everybody. He sent many to Mecca and sent many people to Hajj, he was very kind to everybody,” he added.
Alaafin in traditional dance
A resident of Oyo, Mrs Silifat Gbadamosi, also told Punch that the late Alaafin helped her to get justice when he bought two plots of land and was swindled by the family which sold the land to her.
She said, “ I bought two plots of land from a family and before I got there to start work, they had sold it to another person. I could not take them to court because I did not have the money to hire a lawyer. A man in our area advised me to go to the palace and I just went.
“I was afraid to go inside and I saw one of the palace guards and told him, he asked me to go inside and I waited for so many hours because many people came to see him, the rich and the poor. When it was my turn, I explained my problem to him and he called the chief in charge of my area and another person to investigate my claim and they did and found out that I was not telling a lie. Alaafin ensured that I got the two plots back. I will miss him, Oyo people will miss him because his death is still a shock to me despite that he was old and we knew he would depart one day.”
A civil servant, who resides around the palace, who spoke on the condition of anonymity also has fond memories of the late Oba Adeyemi. She said Alaafin would give her and her colleagues money anytime they just went to the place to greet him.
She said, “Baba was a very nice man. He wanted the people around him to be happy at all times. Anytime we were broke, the four of us would just go to the palace to pay homage and while leaving, we were sure that we would smile back. You know we human beings love those who give and that was why we went there frequently to greet our Baba. That has ended now,”
An indigene of Oyo town, Abiodun Oluwole, who is resident in Ibadan also has good things to say about Oba Adeyemi. He, like others, also said the monarch assisted him with his NYSC posting and he served where he wanted.
He said, “ I was working in a private firm before I decided to go for my degree programme and my boss was very helpful. When it was time for me to go for service, I knew they would not post me to Oyo State because that is my state of origin and I needed to continue working because I could lose the opportunity if they posted me far from Ibadan.
“Somebody connected me to the Alaafin- very good man. He asked why I wanted him to influence my posting and I explained to him. He reasoned with me and made a call and connected me with the person. I was posted to Oyo State and to Ibadan so I continued working as a corps member at the same firm. That has really helped my career growth. I appreciate him for this and I have heard a lot of stories of how he helped some to pay their school fees.”
Alaafin’s generosity was not limited to his subjects and the downtrodden alone, some monarchs also have good things to say about him. The Onimini of Imini, a community in the Afijio Local Government Area, Oba Ismaila Olaniran, told our correspondent at the palace that Alaafin would always give him and other Obas money anytime they visited him in the palace.
He said, “ There was no problem I took to Alaafin that he did not solve. His doors were always open and anybody could come in no matter their race, religious belief or social status.
“As an Oba, each time I came to visit him, he would give me money. He would say I bought fuel to come to see him and he must refill my tank. The death of Baba is a great loss to us and to many people. We are pained by his death. Although he was not a young man, I thought he would live to be a hundred at least. But that is not the way God wanted it, we can’t query God.
“My prayer is that Oyo should get another Oba who will be better than Oba Adeyemi because that is the only time we would not miss him too much. He was very good to everybody. He did not discriminate and he was always willing to help. The palace is always crowded because different people would come to see him for various things and he would attend to them provided you could wait.
“Baba made sure that children of the palace workers were sent to school and he was responsible for many of them. There are some that work in the palace and Baba would say they must go to school in the morning and they would come back in the afternoon to start whatever job they do in the palace. He placed so much importance on education.”
The Agunpopo of Oyo, Chief Tijani Adebayo, also described Oba Adeyemi as a man with a heart of gold.
He said, “ I don’t know how to describe my father, the reality of his death has yet to dawn on me. It still appears to me like a dream.
“I have seen many of his acts of kindness and I wonder if there is any Oba anywhere who can match his record. The people will sorely miss him. The only thing that can assuage the pains of the people is to get another good Alaafin and very quickly too.”