I knew the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, at a most personal level. We had such a cordial relationship that I had his private cellphone number. Professor Akin Alao of Obafemi Awolowo University was our go-between, and he was at the palace with me many times. Oba Lamidi honored me with his presence at conferences and showed me some of his draft papers. He accepted the idea of creating a museum at Oyo. He revealed his knowledge on the depth of his understanding of Yoruba history.
When he turned 80 in 2018, Professor Siyan Oyeweso of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding invited several professors, including my humble self, to a conference in his honor at the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo. At the opening ceremony of this conference on October 8, 2018, I called for the creation of Alafinology as a sub-field in the broader context of kingship and argued that we could have created degree courses around divination and kingship to strengthen our indigenous knowledge system. I knew him, and he knew me. We were united in advancing the project of the enhancement of African civilization.
That was a memorable conference for reasons additional to the main objective of celebrating the Alaafin at 80. Ibadan was in an uproar over the decision by the governor, the late Senator Isiaka Abiola Adeyemi Ajimobi, to fragment the Olubadanship into dozens of other titled Obas. I was tasked with being part of the delegation to talk him out of it. It was an unsuccessful mission, with the governor telling us privately that he could use his authority to remove the Olubadan if he did not cooperate with him. We were supposed to do the talking, but the governor was then suffering from acute verbal diarrhea. Still unsuccessful was the mission endorsed by the Alaafin to speak to the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Adewale Akanbi, over the style and substance of His Majesty’s administration. The breakout of Oluwo’s irregular psychotic episodes turned a correctional mission into expressions of condolence. October 18 was the last time I would see Chief Lekan Are. Chief Are revealed a secret: he opened his cellphone to show me the devastating data on his health conditions. He did not recover. May his soul continue to rest in peace. There remain the living, many who attended the conference, including Professors Akin Ogundiran, J. Lorand Matory, and Tunji Olaopa, who gave the major addresses. Ogundiran has become the greatest Alaafinologist in African history with his well-received book, The Yoruba: A New History, which covers a long span of two thousand years.
Ikú Bàbá Yèyé – Aláàfin
Whenever I come across a key part of his cognomen stated above—the most prominent words to address one of Africa’s most historically powerful kings—I marvel at the etymological ingenuity that went into coining such cognomen to aptly portray the power and influence of the largest empire in Yoruba history.
Yes, Alaafin remains renowned as Ikú Bàbá Yèyé, but ironically, however, death is the ultimate leveler and regulator. Only in death does the poor church-mouse measure up to the extremely wealthy; of course, that is after the fanfare and glee of the rich’s burial ceremony, not in terms of the amount spent on coffins and all the glitz. Undoubtedly, everyone gets to die, so living to witness another person’s burial is never a sign of advantage or supremacy over them. As a result, death is considered a natural phenomenon most feared, which no one, no matter how powerful, can evade.
If death is the ultimate leveler and everyone gets to die, why then are the ascendants to the throne of Oyo, the historically rich town in Nigeria, referred to as children birthed in the loins of death? Omo Iku t’iku k’ole pa, Omo Arun t’arun k’ole se. The Ikú Bàbá Yèyé appellation has its etymological roots in the words: “Ikú Ni Bàbá, Ikú Ni Yèyé,” literally translated as “Death is both the father and the mother,” the ultimate reality of human mortality and the gender-neutral anti-climax of life. It is the conquest of death in its spiritual essence. Thus, the Alaafin is not dead; rather, he only relocated his dwelling, first to the attic and then to the cloud. The cognomen signifies the depth of the Alaafin’s power and authority. Therefore, drawing such parallels between the Alaafin and death serves as a means of relating the unquantifiable nature of his power and significance.
Then, there is the “Aláàfin” appellation. Aláàfin, made soothing on the lips by transforming the two words Oní and Àaàfin — loosely translated as the “Owner of the Palace.” Now, it must take a deep sense of awe and reverence for His Imperial Majesty, the King of Oyo, to be referred to as the Aláàfin within the Yoruba nation in the context of power and authority in Africa and the world at large. So, for a people to refer to their king as “the owner of the palace,” not “the owner of a palace,” the respect and sovereignty accorded that king must be enormous. And such is the authority and power that all ascendants to the throne of the Aláàfin have enjoyed, from the first Aláàfin in an undated historical moment to Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, whose life and impact we are reminiscing on today.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, now alive in the company of his ancestors in the Oranmiyan compound in abode beyond the skies, ascended the throne of Oyo at a time the whole of Nigeria was undergoing a crisis. The Nigerian Civil War had just ended ten months before his ascension to the throne, and if anything, the country was not in a celebratory mood. Close to a million lives had been lost. It was also a politically tense period, with people hurt physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Any misstep from anyone, especially those in positions of power, could relapse into another war. Additionally, it was during the height of the military government that overthrew the First Republic. Coupled with the bitter taste of the dregs of the Civil War, the Aláàfin’s ascension to the throne was in a period in which any monarch could easily get confused about where their loyalties should lie and how they should form alliances.
On the contrary was a lingering story that cut deep: the story of the politically masterminded deposition of Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, father of the recently deceased Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, in 1955. Thus, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III ascended the throne in a politicized atmosphere that required him to be cautious, both for himself and his people. The politicians who humiliated his late father were still alive. The precarious situation shaped the philosophy of the longest-reigning king of Oyo: be bold, be truthful, and be wary of poisonous snakes in human skin.
The late Aláàfin, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, who reigned for 51 years and 5 months, was one of the most progressive kings of his era, both in Yorubaland and throughout Nigeria. Deeply rooted in the Yoruba belief system, traditions, and history, His Imperial Majesty was proof that education must be combined with culture to produce knowledge. The Aláàfin was known for his diplomatic and strategic approaches to political affairs. He drew his friends close and his enemies closer. He was a deep-thinking and progressive monarch who earned the love and respect of his people and other kings alike. His influence spread beyond Oyo State to the Southwestern part of the country and even to other parts of Nigeria. He was a man who wielded power democratically and commanded respect from his strategic position in Oyo-Ile.
Until his last days, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III was an active ruler and considering that he was a king who transcended different periods in Nigeria’s existence and evolution, it is applaudable and worthy of remembrance to note that the enthusiastic Oba Adeyemi who ascended the ancestral throne of power in 1970 remained relevant and vibrant until his 83rd year when he journeyed to Baara. He was a king who witnessed the different aspects of the Nigerian state — both military and democratic — and their attendant characteristics. Despite the sour history that preceded his ascension to the throne, he remained relevant even with the transition of time and approaches due to the way he intensified the need to unify the people of Oyo. The Aláàfin extensive political acumen made him the Head of the Council of Obas in Oyo State for a very long time.
Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III was a man who knew how to rule. He was not oblivious of the need to be close to the people while ensuring that familiarity did not breed contempt. He was close enough to spend time with the Oyo people and win their respect; yet he was quick to make moves to warn those who wanted to plot against him. His Imperial Majesty showed political prowess and demonstrated that not all political power was lost. Aláàfin never shied away from promoting the Yoruba culture and people. He was a man who had his people, beliefs, and traditions at the core of his system, as evident in the way he gave precedence to Yoruba religion and Oyo traditional practices.
On October 24, 2021, we hosted Aláàfin Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III on the Toyin Falola Interview series. It was not my first encounter with him, but it was many people’s closest interaction with him–an encounter that helped them to see the Aláàfin from some newer perspectives. During the interview, the Aláàfin addressed the state of traditional rulership in Nigeria, the state of our institutions, belief systems, and cultures, and the role that he and other like-minded Obas played in ensuring that the traditional institutions were preserved. He was a king who did all he could to keep traditions and institutions alive. Remarkably, he was never wont to give his take on issues. He was diplomatic, yes, but fearlessly so. The transcripts of the interview with the Aláàfin have now become a permanent record:
Until he took his last breath, Ikú Bàbá Yèyé, the Aláàfin of Oyo, was an energetic, people-embracing, knowledgeable, and powerful monarch. His sheer knowledge of the Yoruba nation, founded on his education in history at strategic cultural institutions, including at the Alake’s Palace, where his father sent him for socialization, was remarkably profound. The demise of the Alaafin has left a void at the core of the Yoruba nation. History, power, alliances, collaboration, and politics will not be the same with the transition of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III to the realm of ancestors, where he is now ruling in the unseen world.
For a monarch of Yoruba extraction to sit on the throne of his ancestors for more than half a century, surrounded by the powerful (and much-dreaded) Oyo Mesi, the Ultimate Council of Kingmakers, this Alaafin was a regal, spiritual and political enigma whose reign will be indelibly carved in the annals of Yoruba history,
Remain alive, Ikú Bàbá Yèyé, Omo iku t’iku o le pa!
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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Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze
By Tony Afejuku
My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills? Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.
Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”
Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.
Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared.
I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy. Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.
What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.
Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.
Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.
In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.
To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.
Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
Where Did All The Money Go?
By Mike Hunder
For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric. Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year.
Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.
First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration.
Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government. She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!
What happened there after? The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.
Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office, NEMA, Ministry of Defence, Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.
The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.
When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.
Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings. Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.
On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.
Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!
In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover!
*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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