IGI DA! ARABA wo oo ooo!
He was more than a king, he was a scholar versed.in the ancient lores, history, customs and traditions of not just Yorubaland but other people across the world.
He loved knowledge and courted intellectuals. He often visited the National Archives at the University of Ibadan to conduct research. He prodded palace bards and chiefs for detailed information and indepth explanations about cultural practices and rites in the royal court as well as of the land.
One of such investigations, he once told me, led him into discovering that one of his ancient predecessors (can’t remember who or what century the figure reigned now, but probably Sango, was actually a Muslim convert and koranic scholar long before Sheik Uthman Dan fodio showed up in northern Nigeria with his Jihad.
He got curious when one of the palace poets while chanting his panegyric one day traced his pedigree to the old Alaafin who, the praise singer called ‘Akewugba… (again, forgive my poor memory, I forgot the said cognomen. However, it’s said to mean – an ‘erudite koranic scholar’.
Kabiyesi had then beckoned the fellow to provide insights into how that could have been. The man obliged relating the story handed down to him through oral tradition which the King’s research later corroborated!
Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III made the disclosure in an interview I had with him in my reporting days at The Guardian. It was in connection with his perceived aloofness to the membership of and participation in the National Council of Traditional Rulers co-chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife; as well as his apparent non-recogntion of the Sultan as the Supreme head of Muslims in the country.
However, the monarch had bid me consider the information as off-record due to the sensitivity of the matter and other issues at the time.
Sitting with him, just like with Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, was like having a loaded and marathon seminar with a genius with versatile knowledge on virtually every subject, in his case particularly the history and traditions of the Yoruba people.
There’s hardly any Yoruba kingdom or town in Yorubaland including outside Oyo State where there was a chieftaincy tussle that Kabiyesi would not have something to say about the stool in contention, the past occupants, the royal houses, conditions for ascension, etc.
To that end, he had helped tremendously in resolving lots of such squabbles in many South West communities, as he had also been accused of attempting to use it to prop up proteges and thereby extend his sphere of influence or to stir crises!
One thing you couldn’t take away from him is his conscious recognition and pride in being heir to one of the most powerful thrones in Black Africa and the leadership of a once great empire and civilisation.
This also explains his fierce commitment and zeal to defend this legacy.
In his leisure time, Baba was great fun to watch and be with.
Besides his wit and humour, he left no one in doubt that he was one of the greatest embodiments and custodian of African arts and culture.
Come to Oyo Palace when he decides to ‘play’ with the minstrels and drummers in the courtyard!
Man, you have never seen a more entertaining monarch. With just a light dress, often Danshiki or Buba with a necklace of jewelry and studded wrist beads he invites the drummers, singers and women around to a performance with gentle, swaying movements to their music which was automatically and promptly commanded by his appearance from the inner court. Then, he suddenly charges into their midst with the deft steps of an expert Bata dancer.
It was a cue and a challenge which the men and women cheerfully take up in reciprocation of their master’s perceived appreciation of their labour.
The decibels of the songs would mount, the Bata beats surge energetically to the syncopation of Iya Ilu, Omele, gudugudu, Sekere, the gongs and other musical instruments.
All the while shouts of “Kabiyesi!” “Iku Baba Yeye”, “Alowolodu” (the one with mansion full of wealth and treasure) would rent the air amid non-stop chanting of his panegyric by his praise-singers!
Often, the king raises the charged level of excitement. He seizes the biggest Sekere from one of the players, tosses it high up and catches it mid-air with the dexterity only veterans of the art could manage, to gleeful shouts of admiration by the crowd!
Sometimes, he led the songs some of which he composed himself!
Yet, he emanates a might that repulses insult of any kind even in his quiet majestic, reserved mien and affability. The aristocratic aura around him is unmistakably perceptible in his glamorous bearing, gait, comportment and words.
He has shown that he was a king who was well-prepared for the role and the office.
With his demise, the Yoruba people may yet realise they have just lost an intrepid leader, lover and fighter of the cause of the ‘race’, an institution whose personality alone, perhaps, is a restraint on other groupings which would rather like to ride roughshod over them,
Adieu, wise king. You will certainly be missed!
IGI DA! ARABA wo oo ooo!