The Significance Of January 14: The Alaafin And Oyo History | Eric Teniola
The drums will roll out on Thursday January 14 on the golden anniversary of the coronation of the Alaafin of Oyo, Iku Baba Yeye, Igba Keji Orisa, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III (82). I am sure the Iya Ilu, the traditional drum, and the Shekere will be sounded on that day. If his empire has not disintegrated, there will be celebrations on January 14 in Awe, Moniya, Igboho, Iponri, Fiditi, Ayete, Ado Awoye…
The drums will roll out on Thursday January 14 on the golden anniversary of the coronation of the Alaafin of Oyo, Iku Baba Yeye, Igba Keji Orisa, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III (82). I am sure the Iya Ilu, the traditional drum, and the Shekere will be sounded on that day. If his empire has not disintegrated, there will be celebrations on January 14 in Awe, Moniya, Igboho, Iponri, Fiditi, Ayete, Ado Awoye, Jabele, Shaki, Shapetin, Ikoyi, Ede, Ejigbo, Abugaga, Ipapo, Ajuwa, Igbeti, Igbo Ora, Ajegunle, Lanlate, Offa Meta, Kosobo, Ogbomoso, Iwo and other surrounding towns in Oyo. Expected at the event is the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who will represent President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR). The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, will be there too. Also expected is the man who made the coronation possible fifty years ago, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo (85), who was the commissioner for Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs in the old Western State. My friend, Chief Lekan Alabi, who was 70 recently, told me on phone that the Alaafin is planning big for the golden anniversary. Aji se bi Oyo la ri, Oyo o se bi eni ko kan, which translates as, “You can only be like Oyo, Oyo cannot be like you.” The Oyo Empire grew to become the largest Yoruba state. It rose through the outstanding organisational and administrative skills of the Yoruba people, wealth gained from trade and its powerful cavalry. The Oyo Empire was one of the most politically important states in the entirety of Western Africa from the mid-7th to the late 18th century, holding sway not only over most of the other kingdoms in Yorubaland but beyond. The collapse of the Oyo Empire is still the worst tragedy that has befallen the Yoruba people till date. If the Empire had not disintegrated, there would have been no need for the amalgamation of 1914. The British would have met an Empire and negotiated with the people of that Empire of the same national identity, the same national consciousness, the same culture and the same lifestyle. There would not have been the clamour for restructuring. It is argued today that the amalgamation is now like a curse; a union that has become damnable; a nuptial facing possible divorce. No Alaafin in modern times has celebrated 50 years on the throne. The nearest was Alaafin Siyanbola Onikepe Oladigbolu, who reigned from 1911 to 1944, while Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi II only ruled from 1945 to 1955. Alaafin Atobatele Atugba reigned between 1837 and 1859. Alaafin Aloworodu Adeyemi ruled from 1876 to 1905. In modern times, the shortest reign was that of Alaafin Amodo, who was on the throne only between 1833 and 1835. Alaafin Adeyemi III has been very fortunate. Oyo has witnessed a lot of growth during his reign. The Alaafin was given his staff of office on the sunny Thursday of January 14, 1971 in Oyo by the then military governor of Western State, Brigadier Robert Adeyinka Adebayo (March 8, 1928 to March 9, 2017). ￼ Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi has seen the entrance and exit of 21 governors, namely: Major General Adeyinka Adebayo (August 1966 – April 1971), Brigadier General Christopher Oluwole Rotimi (April 1, 1971 – July 1975), Admiral Akintunde Akinyooye Aduwo (July 1975 – August 1975), Colonel David Medayese Jemibewon (March 1976 – July 1978), Colonel Paul Tarfa (July 1978 -October 1979), Chief Bola Ige (October 1, 1979 – October 1, 1983), and Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo (October 1, 1983 – December 31, 1983). Also, Lt. Col. Oladayo Popoola (January 4, 1984 – September 1985), Col. Adetunji Idowu Olurin (September 1985 – July 1988), Col. Sasaenia Oresanya (July 27, 1988 – August 1990), Col. Abdulkareem Adisa (September 1990 – January 1992), Chief Kolapo Olawuyi Ishola (January 2, 1992 – November 17, 1993), Navy Capt. Adetoye Oyetola Sode (December 9, 1993 – September 14, 1994), and Col. Chinyere Ike Nwosu (September 14, 1994 – August 22, 1996). Other governors of the State comprise Col. Ahmed Usman (August 22, 1996 – August 1998), Comm. Pol. Amen Edore Oyakhire (August 16, 1998 – May 28, 1999), Dr. Lam Adesina (May 29, 1999 – May 28, 2003), Alhaji Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja (May 29, 2003 – May 28, 2007; he was impeached in January 2006 but got reinstated in December 2006), Chief Christopher Alao-Akala (January 12, 2006 – December 2006; and May 29, 2007 – May 29, 2011), Chief Abiola Ajimobi (May 29, 2011 – May 29, 2019), Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde (May 29, 2019 till present – he is the incumbent governor). In fact, Governor Oluseyi Makinde was four years old when Oba Lamidi Adeyemi ascended the throne on January 14, 1971. There are other Yoruba Obas who are warming up to celebrate their golden anniversaries on the throne too. The Elejigbo of Ejigbo, Oba Omowonuola Oyeyode Oyesosin (84) will celebrate his golden year on January 19, 2024. I remember some of the friends of the Elejigbo, a number of who are now late, who were members of the installation committee when he ascended the throne on January 25, 1974, such as Lateef Abbas, Chief Akanni Aluko, Alhaji Arisekola Alao, Mr. Tayo Kehinde, Olu Makinde, Biodun Famojuro, Egbon Tunde Akingbade, and Chief Adeseun Ogundoyin. That was a colourful day in Ejigbo. I was present at the installation event, where King Sunny Ade entertained guests. He later recorded an album in honour of the Elejigbo. The paramount ruler of Idanre, Oba Federick Adegunle Aroloye Arubuefin IV, will celebrate his forty-fifth year on the throne on September 8, 2021. On September 8, 2026, it will be his fiftieth anniversary on the throne. Idanre has more than 150 villages within it. The paramount ruler of Ijesha land, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II, Owa Obokun Adimula, was crowned on February 20, 1980. He celebrated his forty years on the throne last February. The Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewunmi Ajadungbade III, born on May 27, 1926, will celebrate his fifty years on the throne on December 14, 2023. His best friend was Justice Samuel Obakayode Eso (1925-2012) of the Supreme Court, who was from Ilesa. My friend, Dotun Oyelade has written so much about Oba Oyewunmi. Ogbomoso is the second biggest town in Oyo State. The paramount ruler of Badagry, Oba Babatunde Akran, the Whenu Aholu Menu Toyi, has just celebrated his forty-second year on the throne. By 2027, he will celebrate his golden anniversary. The Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe Aladesanmi III, recently celebrated his thirtieth anniversary on the throne. How time flies. I signed the press release, which conveyed the approval of the governor of Ondo State then, Sunday Abiodun Olukoya, which made him the Ewi of Ado Ekiti. I also signed the press releases, which also conveyed the approval of the governor of Ondo State, Rear Admiral Sunday Abiodun Olukoya, for the appointments of the following as Obas: The Ajero of Ijero, Oba Adebayo Joseph Adewole Arojojojoye, who was crowned on December 16, 1991. The Deji of Akure, Oba Atayese Adebobajo Adesida, who reigned in Akure between 1999 and 2005. Oba Festus Ibidapo Adesanoye, who was on throne in Ondo Kingdom as Osemawe between 1991 till he died in 2006. It was about the same time that Governor Bode George of Ondo State approved the nomination of Oba Yesufu Adebori Adeleye as the Olubaka of Oka, and he ascended the throne on April 16, 1988. The nominations of princes to become traditional rulers were presented to the Ondo State Executive Council by the then commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Professor Gabriel Ishola Olomola from Ado Ekiti.
Mention must be made of Oba Adedokun Omoniyi Abolarin, the Orangun of Oke Ila, who personally built a college for his community in Oke Ila, in Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun State. He was born on September 4, 1958 and was crowned in October 2006. I cannot forget Oba Femi Ogunleye, the Towulade of Akinale, near Abeokuta, a journalist/legal practitioner, who personally built a school in his community too. The Alaafin has now joined the league of traditional rulers who have reigned for more than fifty years or for nearly fifty years. Notable among them is Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Awuyale of Ijebuland, who was born on May 10, 1934. He was crowned on Saturday, April 2, 1960. He became a member of the Western Region House of Chiefs on April 5, 1960. A friend of mine, Dr. Fasi Yusuf, has written so much about the Awujale. He is a living legend. I saw his son, Prince Adedire at FESTAC in Lagos recently, when my friend, Otunba Gbenga Tiamiyu from Iperu, turned seventy. Oba Rufus Adekolurejo Aderele was the Osemawe of Ondo from 1942 to 1974. He was Osemawe for 32 years. Oba Daniel Akomolafe Anirare Aladesanmi ruled from 1937 to 1983 as the Ewi of Ado Ekiti. His reign was the longest in the town in modern times. Till today, he is still loved in Ado ekiti. The Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Moses Sowemimo Awolesi, Erinwole II, reigned from 1952 to 1988. The late Attah of Igala in Kogi State, His Royal Majesty Aliyu Ocheju Obaje (1920-2012) ruled for 56 years.
Oba Adetula Oyinyo Adeleye (1928-2012; CFR), the Elekole of Egbe Oba, was crowned on June 2, 1953 and he died on the throne on October 2, 2010. He was father in-law to Senators Ayo Arise and Dayo Adeyeye, the minister of state for Works under President Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR). The Akarigbo of Remo, Oba William Christopher Adedoyin, reigned in Shagamu between 1916 and 1952. Alhaji Ado Bayero was the Emir of Kano from 1963 to 2014. He was born on July 25, 1930 into the royal family of the Fulani Sullubawa clan that has ruled over the Emirate of Kano since 1819. His father was Abdullahi Bayero and mother, Hajiya Hasiya. He was the eleventh child of his father and the second of his mother. At the age of seven, Alhaji Ado Bayero was sent to live with Maikano Zagi. His father reigned for 27 years. Muhammadu Sanusi I, who was Ado Bayero’s half brother, ruled after their father from 1953 to 1963. Following his dethronement in 1963, Muhammadu Inuwa ascended the throne for three months.
Oba Sir Titus Martins Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi, Atobatele I, (November 15, 1889 – July 3, 1980) was the Ooni of Ife from 1930 until 1980. He served as the governor of Western Region, Nigeria, between 1960 and 1962. Sir Adesoji Aderemi was known as a wealthy man, who had a large family comprising many wives and children.
If we are to combine his years in exile and his two periods on the throne, the late of Olowo of Owo, Sir Olateru Olagbegi II (August 1910-1998), would have ruled for fifty-seven years in all. He was appointed the Olowo in 1941 and ruled for twenty five years before he was deposed in 1966. In 1993, his throne was restored to him, and he reigned till he died in 1998. Some of his children, Wale, Gbenle and Suyi, are my personal friends. In the 1960s, he was the most powerful ruler in the Owo division of the Ondo Province, which now constitutes six local governments in Ondo State – four Akoko local governments, Owo local government and Ose local government. The Olukare of Ikare, Oba Akadiri Saliu Momoh has been on the throne since 1984. Similarly, the Owa Ale, also of Ikare, Samuel Lolapo Adedoyin, who died recently, was on the throne for 48 years. The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Samuel Mofolounsho Lipede, reigned from 1972 to 2005. The late Olu of Warri, D. Eyeolusan Joao Akengbuwa ruled from 1795 to 1848. He was the longest reigning monarch in Itsekiri land, followed by Erejuwa II, Wilson Ayoronmitsi Gbesimi Emiko, who ruled from 1951 to 1986, and also followed by Olu Atuwatse II, Godwin Toritseju Emiko, who ruled from May 2, 1987 to September 5, 2015. Oba Sir Titus Martins Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi, Atobatele I, (November 15, 1889 – July 3, 1980) was the Ooni of Ife from 1930 until 1980. He served as the governor of Western Region, Nigeria, between 1960 and 1962. Sir Adesoji Aderemi was known as a wealthy man, who had a large family comprising many wives and children. The first Otaru of Auchi in Edo State, Ikelebe the first, ruled from 1819 to 1861. Auchi is the second largest city in Edo State, after Benin. It is the headquarters of Etsako West Local Government. During the British colonial rule, it was the headquarters of the Kukuruku Division, the administrative headquarters of five districts. Auchi is also the roots of the Momoh family. It is the home of Auchi Polytechnic.
Mention must be made of Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Isaac Akinyele (1880-1965), who was the first Christian to be Olubadan. He reigned for only ten years but laid a formidable reputation when he died in May 1965. Sir Siddiq Abubakar III (1903-1988) was the traditional ruler (Sultan) of Sokoto. He was born in Dange, some 60 kilometres from Sokoto, on March 15, 1903, the same day the British finally subdued the Sokoto Caliphate. Siddiq Abubakar III was the son of Usman Shehu, an eminent personality whose father, Mu’azu, was the Sultan of Sokoto (1877-1881) and a direct descendant of Usman Dan Fodio who founded the Caliphate in 1809. Siddiq Abubakar III had an Islamic education; he attended the local Koranic schools and held several administrative posts before succeeding his uncle, Hassan Ibn Mu’azu, as the Sultan of Sokoto at the age of 35. He first came to Sultan Hassan’s attention when he was a district scribe, and in 1931 he was appointed a local authority councilor of the Sokoto Native Administration. Later, as head of Talata Mafara, a most important district which included the commercial town of Gusau, he distinguished himself by his administrative competence and the able way he dealt with appeals from traditional courts and supervised districts and village heads. In recognition of his ability and usefulness to the emirates, he was the Sultan of Sokoto between 1938 and November 1988. He was succeeded by Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, who reigned from 1988 till 1996. The present Sultan Saadu Mohammed Abubakar is the son of Sir Siddiq Abubakar. His Highness Alhaji Umaru Sanda Ndayanko (1937-2002), the late Etsu Nupe, was a permanent secretary in Kaduna in 1964. He ascended the throne in 1975 and was nominated as a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1976. When he died in 2003, his people mourned his passage, for the development he brought to his kingdom. The late Jaja Amanyanbo of Opobo, Chief Douglas Jaja (1915-1980), son of Chief Arthur Mac Pepple Jaja (1872-1936), ruled for 60 years, although he renounced his chieftaincy temporarily between 1943 and 1951, to get involved in politics. At the time of his death in 1980, he was much loved by his people. The late of Oba of Benin, Oba Uku Akpolokpolo Akenzua II (1899-1978), son of Oba Eweka II, and born as Edokparhogbuyunmun, ruled for 44 years following the death of his father in 1934. In 1925, he served under the supervision of the late Alake of Egbaland, Oba Ademola, in his palace in Abeokuta. Sir Oladipo Samuel Ademola (1872-1962) was crowned the Alake of Egbaland on September 27, 1920, to succeed Oba Gbadebo, who died on May 28, 1920. At the crowning ceremony, over 70,000 people were present, including a representative of the Queen of England. He ruled for 22 years. One of his sons, Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, eventually became the first Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The Oyo Empire is still very important to the Yorubas till today. It reminds them of when they were masters of their destiny under one rulership. The Empire stretched from the present Kwara State to Western Nigeria, up to Dahomey, which we now refer to as the Republic of Benin. By the middle of the 19th Century, that empire had disintegrated and from its ruins rose the successor states of Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijaye, Ogbomoso…
In 1948, Prince Adeyinka Oyekan challenged Prince Adeniji Adele (1893-1964) to the throne of Lagos. The Oracle told the two of them that they would both be King. Eventually Oba Adele ruled Lagos from 1949-1964, while Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II (June 30, 1911-March 1, 2003) ruled Lagos for 38 years, making him the second longest ruling monarch in Lagos. The first ws Oba Akinsemoyin, who ruled for 45 years, from 1704 to 1749. Oba Suleiman Durotoye Abegunde (1907-1993) ruled Omuaran in Kwara State from 1945 to 1993, while the late Olofa of Offa, also in Kwara State, Oba Mustapha Olawore Olaonipekun, who died in 2010, ruled for over 40 years. The late Ataoja of Oshogbo, Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi, who was crowned on July 7, 1976 and died in August 2010, ruled for 34 years. It was during his reign that Osogbo was made the capital of Osun State. Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko (1885-1904) was the ninth Emir of Katsina between 1906 and 1944. He ruled for 38 years. He was succeeded by his son, Alhaji Usman Nagogo (1905-1981), who also ruled for 37 years. He was the father of late Major-General Hassan Usman Katsina, the first military Governor of Northern Nigeria. The Sarkin of Gobir, Alhaji Muhammadu Bara, reigned from 1975 to 2004, and ruled for 29 years. The late Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Bankindo Mustapha was on the throne for 59 years before he died on March 13, 2010. His son Muhammadu Aliyu Bankindo Mustapha succeeded him on March 18, 2010. The late Owa of Idanre in Ondo State, Oba Adegbule Aroloye Arubefin III, reigned for 50 years, from 1919 to 1969, and died at the age of 120 years, making him one of the oldest monarchs in Nigeria. Oba Afunbiowo Ojijiogungara Adesida ruled Oyemekun kingdom of Akure between 1897 and 1957 for 60 years. His beloved Olori (wife) is believed to have come from Idanre. He was the father of my friend, Oba Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida, husband of Oloori Moji Adesida, who reigned as Deji of Akure between August 2010 and November 2013. The late Obi of Onisha, Ofala Okecukwu Okagbue, reigned between 1970 and 2001, while Samuel Okosi reigned between 1901 and 1931. As the Alaafin Adeyemi celebrates his golden anniversary it is necessary to attempt to analyse why the great Oyo empire collapsed. The Oyo Empire is still very important to the Yorubas till today. It reminds them of when they were masters of their destiny under one rulership. The Empire stretched from the present Kwara State to Western Nigeria, up to Dahomey, which we now refer to as the Republic of Benin. By the middle of the 19th Century, that empire had disintegrated and from its ruins rose the successor states of Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijaye, Ogbomoso, Egba, Ijebu, Egbado, Ekiti, and the New Oyo. Ilorin, though made up of Yoruba people, had become a Fulani kingdom or emirate. The first three mentioned – Ibadan, Abeokuta and Ijaye – were later the leading Yoruba states and their rivalry for supremacy formed one of the main issues of Yoruba history in the 19th century, according to K.B.C Onwubiko. The collapse of the Oyo Empire in the 19th century was brought about by several factors, some internal and others external. One of the internal factors was an inherent weakness arising from the size and nature of the Empire. Like the Sudanese empires of Mali, Songhai and El Kanem-Bornu, the Oyo Empire was quite extensive and this made central control of the provinces difficult. One reason for this was that Oyo, the capital, was situated on the northern fringes of the empire and this made it difficult for the empire to effectively control the provinces, most of which lay to the south. Again the system of administering the provinces through the Ilaris or resident provincial governors began to prove ineffective from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These governors were not strictly supervised from the centre. Consequently, they became oppressive, corrupt and arrogant and, by their actions, drove the subject peoples of the provinces to rebel against them and the Alaafin, whom they represented. But the main factor for the decline and eventual collapse of the Oyo Empire was the weakness and resultant breakdown of the central government. This was the result of a constitutional crisis, which rose from the struggle for power between the Alaafin and the bashoruns in the second half of the 18th century. This crisis reached its climax during the 1754-1774 period, when the notorious Bashorun Gaha was in power in old Oyo. An unscrupulous power-monger, he craftily seized power, raised five Alaafins (four of whom he destroyed) to the throne and ruled despotically, thereby upsetting the delicate balance of the Oyo constitution. It was Alafin Abiodun (1774-89) who arrested the situation temporarily by destroying Gaha and his family. But after his death in 1789, chaos again overtook the empire. Aole, the successor of Abiodun, committed a constitutional outrage by ordering his army against Apomu, an Ife town. The army refused this order because Ife was sacred to the Yoruba and the Oni of Ife refused to consecrate new Alaafins. The Obas alienated by this sacrilege withdrew their allegiance to the Alaafins, began to defy them and to assert their independence. And because of the political instability and unrest resulting from the constitutional breakdown, the central government could no longer regain effective control of the provinces. The situation was made worse by the fact that at this time, there was no strong central army to crush the rebellions as was the case in the past. The Oyo army, which was the chief instrument for the expansion of the empire and the suppression of internal revolts “was now a ghost of its former self.” This is evident from the fact that Oyo could not reconquer the Egba, and its army was soundly defeated by the Borgu in 1783 and the Nupe in 1791. The Oyo Empire therefore entered the 19th century with a serious constitutional crisis and a weak army. It is not therefore surprising that Afonja took advantage of the situation to carve out Ilorin as a kingdom for himself in 1817; and Dahomey, a vassal state of Oyo, effected its independence in 1821. From then on, Dahomey carried war into Yorubaland, and these wars aggravated the already confused political situation and contributed significantly to the collapse of the Oyo Empire. The destructive effects of these internal factors were accentuated by a certain external factor, namely the Fulani, with its concomitant effects on the Oyo Empire. The Fulani, having conquered Hausaland and Nupe in the first decade of the 19th century, were eager to expand southwards into Yorubaland. Then from Ilorin, the Fulani began military pressure on northern Yorubaland, sacking Oyo in 1837. The population of Old Oyo was forced to flee one hundred miles to Ago-Oja, where they founded New Oyo. This movement from Old Oyo to New Oyo effectively marked the end of the Oyo Empire. The Fulani pressure on the northern Yoruba states resulted in a southward population movement, which generated most of the civil wars that plagued Yorubaland throughout the 19th century and completed the disintegration of the Oyo Empire. The authority on Yoruba history, Professor Jacob Festus Adeniyi Ajayi (May 1929 – 2014) from Ikole Ekiti wrote: “The Fulani conquest of Ilorin had been the last and decisive blow that led to the dissolution of the Old Oyo Empire and the consequent Yoruba wars.” Wishing the Alaaafin happy celebrations.
Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.