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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities




Toyin Falola

 Ikú Bàbá Yèyé

 Royal positions in Africa, especially in the pre-colonial time, were not necessarily because the beneficiaries of such exalted hierarchy inherited it by birth. Of course, being born into a royal family places one within the circumference of the possibility of becoming a king, but more important are the virtues and the strength of the individual’s character.  Africans understood what bad leadership could mean for the survival of a people, a household, identity, or even a family. Because of the natural aversion to leadership unvirility or inefficiency, the ascension of an unprogressive individual into the Yoruba kingship stands an odd of zero to ten. This was inevitably so because the position of leadership is reserved not for loafers and myopic individuals who hardly see beyond the boundaries of their nose; instead, it was meant for people who had vision and clarity of purpose, especially when it comes to what they intend to add during their reign. For this reason, the philosophical brilliance of the potential king cannot be undermined in the selection process for various reasons. His emotional intelligence is a necessary precondition too, and his sound and prescient knowledge of economics are fundamental.

While it may appear that the selection of kings in Yorubaland, particularly during the heyday of African pre-colonialism, was partly based on the people’s consultation of Ifa, it should be noted that whoever was indeed selected by the system possessed great qualities expected of progressive leaders, and their reign would have enough positive and desirable impact on the cultural traditions of the people. Ultimately, this would translate to the economic prosperity of their lives, improved financial conditions of the state, more robust moral architecture of the community, and their reign would be marked by incredible success. This tradition has existed from time immemorial among the Yoruba people and continues in places where they have not circumvented the process for some financial advantage. In Oyo, the tradition continues even up to the present postcolonial time. The ascension of Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi in 1970 marked a turning point in the leadership of the ancestral city-state of Oyo that was historically known for different exploits. Oba Adeyemi III has been very diplomatic and circumspect for different reasons. His reign deserves all the accolades it attracts because his outstanding contributions cannot be overemphasized.

To appreciate the significance of his roles and responsibilities, one must first understand what leadership meant to his forebears and what it means now. To his forefathers who single-handedly controlled the economic and political system of an empire, the concept of Western democracy where parallel governance over the subject would be alien, if not vehemently oppressed, for the period of their dominance saw strength as the ability to repel oppositions that threaten the sovereignty of their country and state. Kings felt personally incapable when their kingdom was overrun by invaders who came on the platform of friendship, although with the intention of a parasitic relationship. For this reason, they would expend their energy on challenging such colonial development in their time.

However, change is constant, and as the world evolves, it would be discovered that the sign of strength is not always the ability to crush oppositions and dissidents who express an alternative perspective. Instead, strength is the ability to contain various contradictory positions in the navigation of human physical and political existence, at least in the contemporary understanding. Oba Adeyemi has demonstrated this sense of tranquility and shown that he can live in tandem with the dictates of contemporary time. After all, change is the only constant thing, and he moves with time.

The profile of the current Alaafin of Oyo speaks to this sense of tolerance because there are hardly any instances where he mobilized his subjects to challenge the colonialist establishments that have come to challenge the importance of their suzerainty. This is applaudable, for example, because not only do traditional rulers, especially in the Yorubaland, still wield power to control the affairs of the community over which they preside, they also reserve the right to instigate atrocities that could crumble the social architecture of their sovereignty if they feel threatened. The Alaafin’s position is respectably different for reasons that are not unconnected to the fact of history, which his genealogical power confers on him. For the record, anyone in the Alaafin’s position sits on the throne of numerous authorities who have consolidated their political power and left great legacies in terms of what they accomplished during their reign. We would recall that the historical empire of Oyo attributed to the Yoruba people was created and sustained under the leadership of departed Alaafins, who made aggressive changes that improved the condition of the people.

Photo: Alaafin Palace, Oyo
Source: Pinterest


As it stands, sitting on that stool of power in a time when colonialism has changed the reality of the people can erupt different internal reactions of the king for different reasons. At some point, they may be overtaken by a sudden desire to wrestle the establishment that has forcefully taken away their political power from them, while at some other time, they would be sandwiched between despair and fear. This is the other reason that complicates traditional leadership among nearly all ex-colonies. For this king, however, he has impressively managed the situation greatly and incredibly well. Instead of basking in the euphoria of past glory or withdrawing himself from the world of the present time, Oba Adeyemi has been exceptionally outstanding in his efforts towards the unification of the Yoruba people both at home and in the diaspora to solidify the ancestral relationship that bonded the Yoruba people together. He has demonstrated that even though the political dimensions of the contemporary postcolonial time have changed the structure to favor individuals who, in most cases, have no business with administration or leadership, they still have the mandate to unify their race.

Presently, the Alaafin of Oyo has revolutionized the Yoruba world by standing up to challenge political machinations that seek to impede the progress of the race. He has also refined their political system in such a way that distributive democracy becomes a political order. There are more royal heads in the contemporary time than it was in history, a development that cannot be detached from the manipulations of Western political structures available in modern history, and this has not precluded the Alaafin’s responsibility to ensure that they maintain some decorum in an attempt to promote a common agenda of progress that would catapult the Yoruba people to an enviable position of greatness. Achieving such incredible success has come with a series of challenges and castigations from individuals who are either uncomfortable with the existing political structure of the people or those who are jealous of his expansion. This notwithstanding, the king has fulfilled his destiny as he has continued to glow irrespective of the political party in power. He has served important purposes for the people because he accommodates opinions considered necessary for the advancement of the Yoruba, even when people disagree over historical matters.

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Oba Adeyemi was born into the Alowolodu Royal House to Oba Raji Adeniran Adeyemi, his father, who ascended the throne in 1945. His great-grandfather, Oba Atiba Atobatele, was the originator of the new Oyo who redefined its political system and set in motion various ideas that transformed the place exponentially. Under the guidance of extended family members, Oba Adeyemi was raised to the satisfaction of the existing cultural traditions because he was educated about several things that have to do with the people’s history. At the time, the western education system was already in place, and it was necessary for potential leaders to be educated so that they could incorporate the ideas and systems that align with the world imperialized by the Western powers into their knowledge. Beyond western education, however, the prospective king was treated to the historical knowledge of the traditional educators who baptized his mind with the memory of events carried out by his forebears from the beginning to the present.

In what would not be understood by non-members of such cultural identity, the education system was aimed at building members of the society in every aspect. So, when one realizes that Alaafin Adeyemi has been exceptionally functional in the political organization of his people and his ancestral suzerainty, such motivation was genetic as much as history has taught us.

As laid bare to people in the pre-colonial African time, the knowledge of history served a different but exciting purpose. For one, it gives the individual the clarity of achievement made by his predecessors and allows them to resolve what would be their contributions to what has already been achieved. This was the system by which the people continued to transform themselves to enhance their success and collective progress. When individuals are aware of the immeasurable contributions of their predecessors, they become conscious of what they should do and not do in an attempt to move that record a bit forward for the succeeding generations over whom they would hand the legacy. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Oba Adeyemi’s various efforts to bring about unity and oneness to the Yoruba are an indication that he desires to leave behind a shining and immortal legacy.


Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

Photo: Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III
Source: City People Online

But then, the responsibility placed on him because of the colonial and postcolonial politics has been compelling, as he needed to make remarkable contributions. He has seized the opportunity to expand his leadership significance and establish numerous links for himself as a king in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For example, upon his coronation in 1970, he was involved in several national politics that inevitably demanded his social significance and the need to rise to issues of communal significance. For example, Oba Adeyemi was very active in 1975 when the head of state, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, included him in his entourage to Hajj. The Alaafin was considered a selfless king who did not allow his flair for cultural traditions to overshadow the need for diplomacy, which allowed other religions to thrive under him without unnecessary struggles. He was raised a Muslim, and his love for the religion did not diminish because he ascended his ancestral throne. This attribute promoted his social and political significance in the nation’s politics. The moment he was seen as de-tribalized, he was elected to function in different areas in the country’s politics.

Regardless of his unavoidable involvement in the country’s political engagements imposed on him because of his cultural and identity significance, Oba Adeyemi III remains committed to the course of his ancestral politics that concerns the well-being of the Yoruba people before any other thing. Whenever the welfare of his people is threatened, the king stands firm to defend them and speaks  fearlessly to the concerned authority with whom lies the political responsibility of Nigerians. In recent times, when different groups are challenging the country’s security apparatus, the king has continued to charge the federal government for the need to come alive to their statutory responsibilities, lending his voice to issues of national impact. He has written to the Nigerian president several times to register his displeasure about how things are done. This is not because he is interested in scoring cheap political points in the country but because he understands that the importance of his leadership in the race is to ensure that disorderliness does not replace orderliness.

Oba Adeyemi is fully aware that on the shoulders of every Yoruba ruler is a burden that they can hardly bear, especially when things go wrong in society. The reason for this is very understandable. In the existing political structures of the people, there is a power hierarchy that puts kings at the zenith of social responsibilities. They are whom people go to immediately anything goes wrong within the community. This is predicated upon a belief that social development and progress have something to do with the leadership in office, and this has nothing to do with the Western political system imposed in colonial and postcolonial times. It is about the spiritual complementarity, or not, of the person in power. It is generally assumed among the Yoruba that once a leader is spiritually unsuitable for the people, there will be a chaos of unknown magnitude and disorderliness of unprecedented exponent. Therefore, to become a representative king is to actively engage the various networks associated with the assurance of stability needed to crystallize projected development as envisaged by the people. Also, the individuals who occupy the seat of power in Oyo and some other primordial city-states like Ile-Ife, Ila, Ede, among others, are considered as the pillars of the Yoruba, and would always stand to oppose predatory pressure from the outside, even if it means sticking their necks out.

The life of Oba Adeyemi III is not one without corresponding ups and downs. In fact, for people of his political and cultural position, as far as nationalist politics is concerned, it is more of the norm than coincidence that they find themselves surrounded by issues that can potentially expose them to controversy. This is necessary because their positions come with a commitment, which, in most cases, require that they take decisions or make choices that would not go well with everyone in the society. Of course, that is the beauty of the plurality of ideas and perspectives. One such occasion happened in the post-election period of 2011, where Oba Adeyemi III was relieved from serving as the Permanent Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs in Oyo State by the then governor of the State, Adebayo Alao-Akala, who alleged that the king had involved himself in partisan politics, as against the moral duty of his leadership role. A king must be neutral in matters of politics, the governor lamented, and in situations where they refuse to live up to this moral standard, they would most likely bear the consequences of their actions. For reasons best known to the Oba, he had engaged in the political process and, therefore, faced the challenges that came with it.

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Meanwhile, the king, outside of his political engagement and impact, is lively, lovely and warm. He indulges in things that give happiness and fulfillment to him while he allows himself that opportunity to revitalize his dreams. Like a child graduating to adolescence, he picked interest in boxing as a sport, and he did not allow the myriad of responsibilities that his royal office comes with to overshadow that interest. In equal measure, he pays great attention to issues around his recreational activities while simultaneously attending to political affairs that concern his people. Undoubtedly, the king has a beautiful heart that accommodates plural identities and opinions because he has learned from experience that a society full of diverse people cannot be prevented in a world where migration, transnational exchange of goods and services, cross-border movements, among others, have become inevitable. For this reason, Oba Adeyemi III remains very functional to his traditional roles and the political duties that modern society has brought. This explains why he continues to remain relevant in the political transactions of the country.

Despite all his engagements, the king is a loving father and a great husband to his wives. He inherited a tradition that allowed him to marry as many wives as he wants. He is yet to equal his father’s record! Someone who cannot manage diverse opinions and is emotionally unstable to cater to the numerous challenges of polygamy cannot dare such a marital adventure. Someone who succeeds in managing the affairs of a polygamous family structure is usually respected because he has undergone a series of events that could capsize his financial, social, emotional, and even spiritual journey in life. This is why individuals like Oba Adeyemi III are socially respected for the strides they have made with their lives.

Oba Adeyemi III is a mixture of excellence and competence, an epitome of brilliance and intelligence, a combination of visionary leadership and purposeful technocrat. He has committed himself to the cause of the Yoruba people while simultaneously contributing to the country’s affairs within his capacity. He is brave, and he continues to demonstrate his capacity for instigating revolutionary ideas, which explains why his popularity spans beyond the boundaries of Nigeria. He is respected both at home and away, and the number of diaspora Yoruba hold him in high esteem for the wondrous things he is doing to change the course of the Yoruba people globally for good. There are many kings in Africa, but the truth remains that not many of them have reached the exalted position associated with their traditional positions. And though political power has shifted to Western political representation, this does not negate the significance of traditional rulers. Kings have more power than the country’s political elite because they have easier access to the people.

Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

Photo: Interior view of Alaafin Palace
Source: North of Lagos

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, the reigning Alaafin of Oyo, belongs to a select group of notable Obas who have transformed their societies through ideas and philosophies while also creating an environment conducive to the advancement the people seek.

Please join us for a conversation with the Iku Baba Yeye, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

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Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Interview With Beautiful Nubia



Beautiful Nubia

Please join us for a conversation with the renowned Nigerian Songwriter, Music Composer, and Band Leader, Olusegun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia).

Sunday, March 19, 2023

5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 11:00 AM Austin CST

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Toyin Falola Interviews Holds Conversation With Kunle Afolayan



A  renowned Nigerian Actor, Producer, and Director, Kunle Afolayan will on Sunday, March 5, 2023 have an interview with the Toyin Falola Interviews at 5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 10:00 AM Austin CST.


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Touching Base With Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi’s Perspectives On Nigeria’s 2023 Elections



Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi is a well-versed law professor, international relations activist, and commentator. It was delightful to have her join us, alongside Miriam Oke, Chido Onumah, and Jibrin Hussaini, at the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews, where we discussed Nigeria’s 2023 elections.

If anything, the primaries being organised in the nation’s two most influential parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress, are pointers to what should be expected of the 2023 Nigerian elections. As is customary, the primaries have been rife with electoral malpractices, vote-buying, and unscrupulous voting figures, and there is a shocking video posted on Twitter by Bashir Ahmad, former Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, who lost his bid to secure the ticket of the APC to contest for a seat in the House of Representatives primaries in his home state of Kano. The video shows how supposed delegates are handed pre-ticked ballot boxes and are asked to put them in the ballot box without even batting an eyelid at the malpractice.

The ball is being set in motion. Atiku Abubakar is the People’s Democratic Party flag bearer for the presidential seat. The All Progressives Congress has recently screened its presidential hopefuls and will soon appoint its flagbearer. Peter Obi, who defected from the People’s Democratic Party to the Labour Party and has since been elected as the party’s flagbearer for the presidential seat, is a seeming third wheel in the routine two-dominant-party multi-party system practised in the country. The stage is set. Or is it?

This piece is not much of a sequel to the one on Chido Onumah’s perspectives on the 2023 elections because Dr Akiyode-Afolabi had her unique views on the questions asked. Nonetheless, it will follow a similar pattern, where we will examine points touched on by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi during the interview.

Electoral Violence and Nigeria’s 2023 Elections

Sad as it may seem, electoral violence is an immemorial issue rocking the Nigerian state. Throughout all its republics, Nigeria has witnessed killings and maiming during election periods — whether at the polling booths on election day or among political rivals setting targets on each other’s backs. Nigeria’s electoral process is peculiar, involving the recruitment of violent electoral mercenaries, often branded as party thugs. These thugs sign off their loyalty to a political party and wreak havoc on the party’s behalf — from ballot snatching to intimidating voters to bow to their party’s will.

In the Nigerian political scene, these party thugs sit with political kings. They are deemed crucial to the electoral process and candidates’ success. The recruitment and payment of these party thugs consume huge financial resources. However, political leaders and public officeholders fail to consider the expected uselessness of the party thugs within the governance period of three to four years that separate pre-election and election years. Having tasted ill-gotten wealth that far surpasses what they could have earned honestly, and without any honest and paying job, these party thugs resort to all sorts of vice to pay their bills and keep themselves in shape. Thus, it is not uncommon to find that party thugs become robbers, kidnappers, bandits, and street-terrorising thugs who incessantly cut holes through the state’s peace, security, and quiet.

In most cases, we would rather relate the incessant kidnappings and unrest to unknown gunmen or herdsmen-bandits rather than the true perpetrators of the evil — anarchical party thugs with weapons they were equipped with during the election period. Thus, the rivalry for power and politicians’ insatiable desire for control, regardless of the extent they go to get it, could be strongly linked to the violent crises that have rocked the country for a while now.

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For Dr Akiyode-Afolabi, violent political mercenaries in Nigeria and the political aspirants and parties who are their enablers act out of an abundant enjoyment of sheer impunity — the knowledge that they can do and undo, wreak whatever havoc they want to, without bearing the consequences. Although several of the perpetrators of this electoral violence are known, nothing is done to bring them to justice, further reinforcing the need to carry out their vice during the next election. Over the years, electoral violence has become a norm in Nigeria, and nothing is being done to curb the menace, especially in punishing the perpetrators. Thus, the electorate have joined the camp of political aspirants and political thugs who see electoral violence as part of the electioneering process in Nigeria. For members of the electorate who have difficulty processing electoral violence as a part of the electioneering process, the option of apathy kicks to the surface — especially among women and the youth who earnestly believe politics in Nigeria is a dirty game, and electoral violence is inevitable. Thus, it is not surprising that Nigeria has had a low voter turnout over the years.

The case of electoral violence and the state’s reaction to it is like several other policies in Nigeria. While the Electoral Act was proactively drafted to cover electoral violence and how to punish offenders and culprits, there has not been any action to make that part of the Act functional. It is akin to the numerous nation-improving policies whose existence has never gone beyond the paper. If we were to dig to the roots of why the aspect of the Nigerian Electoral Act that punishes electoral violence has not been enforced, we would be quick to find out that the average Nigerian politician is either directly or indirectly complicit. Thus, those at the helm and those willing to take over from them are all involved, making them reluctant to enforce the punishment for electoral violence, that is, if they consider punishing the crime at all.

Nigeria’s Three-faced Need and the Importance of a Long-term Agenda

The need for a long-term agenda should not be misconstrued as supporting the cabalistic unending Northern presidency agenda or any other agenda that does not mean well for Nigeria as a nation. Rather, it represents Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s thoughts on what is truly needed to get Nigeria out of its current quagmire. The international relations activist considers the 2023 elections in Nigeria a big issue for the country, particularly because there are more people interested in the presidential position than we have had in quite a while. Nonetheless, most of these aspirants are people who have either held a political position or currently hold one. They are people we know so well. Given their deeds while in office, it will be difficult to convince any right-thinking Nigerian that there is hope for the country if any of the candidates being paraded were elected as president.

The double tragedy that is Buhari’s eight years in office has seen the country go from bad to worse. The country’s debts keep piling up, with no way of repaying them year after year. The people are impoverished, and the currency continually suffers a blow of worthlessness and devaluation, inflation, and the unemployment rate keeps rising. To make matters worse are the rife killings, banditry, and the near state of anarchy that the country has been thrown into. Has any of the numerous candidates aspiring for the presidential seat shown they are the visionary yet pragmatic leaders that can help Nigeria realise a remarkable positive change?

Careful consideration of the likeliest players at the 2023 polls, vis-à-vis the criterion above, would show that Nigeria is not prepared for an election. Dr Akiyode-Afolabi proposed a three-aspect strategy to help us discover a new Nigeria. These are aspects that cannot be fully realised within a four-year term. Thus, there is the need for Nigerian politicians, regardless of their differences—although there are no marked differences in Nigerian politics—to consider government as a continuum and treat it as such. This will help ensure that even if power falls to the opposition camp, the remarkable and change-focused plans that have been kicked into action by the previous government will continue to be nurtured by the new government. This is the only way we can fully realise the three-dimensional solution proposed by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi.

Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s first proposed dimension is the need for an empowered political class. The Nigerian political field is riddled with whimsical people who are of the anything-goes breed as long as they get elected to office. That is why serial defection is nothing to them, and they can shamelessly befriend a foe today and betray a friend tomorrow. They are overly selfish lot who constantly put personal needs and gains before national needs and expected gains. The Nigerian political class needs to be empowered enough to engage the electorate in an ideological and issue-based manner. A look at the pre-campaign clamouring in the camps of the presidential aspirants will show that they think so little of Nigerians that they believe not much is needed in the way of plans and strategies to convince the people. It is also why Nyensom Wike, who lost his party’s presidential ticket, deemed it fit to incessantly chant, “give me power… power!” To him, that was enough to get him the ticket to become Nigeria’s next president.

The coming months will show us lamentable political campaigns with no depth, so shallow that every reasonable Nigerian would be too ashamed to identify with a country where such gimmicks pass as enough campaign to convince the people to vote for someone. There is a need to empower citizens and help kick structures in place to organise Nigerians and help them truly understand what they want. Nigeria has so much suffered from poor governance that asking the average electorate what they expect from the aspirants — what they look forward to hearing that could convince them to vote for an aspirant — would most likely render them stammering.

In Nigeria, constitutional reformation is of great necessity. The Nigerian Constitution has outlived its essence. What use is a constitution if it does not amply meet the state’s needs nor adequately answer its citizens’ burning questions? The systems of the constitution no longer effectively serve us as a nation, which is why there have been agitations and clamouring for secession, restructuring, regionalisation, and central policing, among other issues raised. In the end, until Nigeria intentionally kicks these three dimensions into action, and until there are successive tenures that consider the government as a continuum and reach a knowing agreement to nurture and not impede the realisation of the three-dimensional issue, a new and positive Nigeria will be anything but reality.

  1. *** This is the third and final report on the interview held on May 22, 2022, on the 2023 elections in Nigeria. The views of our distinguished panelists have traveled wide and have been reported in several newspapers.

For the transcript, see:




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