Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III @ 80: Sustaining A People’s Culture - Islanders Magazine


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Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III @ 80: Sustaining A People’s Culture

Alayeluwa, Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo will clock 80 years on October 16, 2018. The celebration of the milestone is significant in the life of the monarch because it coincides with the 47th Anniversary of his enthronement as Oyo monarch, this makes him the longest reigning monarch in the annals of the new Oyo since its evolution in 1837.

Oba Adeyemi III is an embodiment of, and a relic of one of the most powerful ruling dynasties in African history. Alaafin dynasty began as a scion of the legendary Oduduwa dynasty from Ile Ife. However, his military prowess catapulted him into an empire builder who at the peak of his glory in 18th Century ruled over a large territories covered most of the today Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Kwara, Ekiti as far as Kogi, Niger, Lagos and as far as Republic of Benin, Togo land and modern day Ghana.

 Several factors were adduced for the prosperity of Oyo Empire. First and foremost, is the location of the empire in the Savannah grassland which made land cultivation easy. Consequently, through agriculture, there was abundant supply of food and agricultural product for domestic consumption and for export. Two, the empire was located along the Trans Saharan Trade route from North Africa through Hausa land to Oyo. Through the route and trade Oyo was able to transact business with North Africans and most especially people of Northern Nigeria through which oriental goods, horses, fire arm, etc were exported to Oyo. Also, Oyo was able to export her agricultural products, works of arts, etc through which she earned foreign exchange. More importantly large territories of Oyo afforded her to be buoyant economically because of the tributes accruing to the empire. Among other factors are able leaders, military organization of the empire which was based on call up system.

However, the empire like her predecessors in West Africa like Ghana, Mali, Songhai, etc began to witness vicissitudes as from the turn of 18th Century. One of the major factors was the weakness in the constitution of the empire which some over ambitious functionaries of government or revolutionaries among functionaries of government employed to their own advantage by enthroning weakling Alaafins on the throne of Oyo. Secondly, is the rise of over ambitious functionaries of government who challenged the authority of Alaafin and even declared their independence from the empire. Beside, vassal states declared their independence from the empire. Furthermore, many Alaafin misused their consenting authority over satellite towns by appointing unpopular monarchs in some towns which led to fall of those towns and erosion of supporting base of the empire. Last but not the least is the rise of Ilorin to challenge the authority of the empire. The Fulani monarch of Ilorin with active support of the majority Yoruba/Oyo who cherished their independent status combined to defend their independence and later succeeded in sacking Oyo Ile, the capital of the empire around 1835. This episode led to the decline of the power of Alaafin and the movement of the throne and capital of the empire to the present day Oyo by Atiba who became Alaafin in 1836.

However, like other empires that remained only in name, Old Oyo heritage has been preserved through various means. This includes Oyo State of Nigeria which is culturally and linguistically Oyo Yoruba speaking group and with Alaafin as the symbol of authority, Oyo town, the citadel of culture and Yoruba civilization authority. Others are Oyo Yoruba language the medium of communication in South West Nigeria and beyond, Alaafin’s palace in Oyo, various traditional festivals, religious practices, costumes and dress, facialography, Oriki/Orile, etc. Remarkably, any reigning Alaafin is the custodian of the aforementioned. How far he is able to preserve them makes his reign remarkable or otherwise. This function Alaafin Adeyemi III has performed creditably well in words and action, posterity will be generous with him for this.

By Adewuyi Adegbite

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