In 1938, just a year to Adolf Hitler’s masterminded world war, the young prince, Lamidi Atanda Olayiwola was born into the royal family of Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi and Mrs. Ibironke Adeyemi at the ancient town of Oyo. During this period, the legendary Alaafin Siyanbola Onikepe Ladigbolu whose thirty three years reign coincided with the controversial tenure of Resident William A. Ross held sway on the exalted stool of his fathers.
By 1944, Alaafin Ladigbolu, after three decades on the throne joined his ancestors and a year later, another Alaafin was to be installed. This time, from the Alowolodu royal house. Thus paving the way for Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi as the sixth Alaafin at the present day Oyo and 41st since Oranyan, the throne’s progenitor in about 1300.
That same 1945, Chief Obafemi Awolowo founded Egbe Omo Oduduwa in London, a socio political group which later morphed into a political party: Action Group. In 1948 for instance, Alaafin Adeniran became the patron of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa and in 1950, he gave sir Kofo Abayomi, the prominent Yoruba nationalist elite leader of the Egbe, the important chieftaincy title of Ona-Isokun of Oyo. Oba Adeyemi went further by hosting the Egbe’s second annual general assembly and donated £150 to its endowment fund.
At this time, young Prince Lamidi Atanda Olayiwola, Alaafin Adeniran’s first son became the crown prince and the ensuing internecine war between his father and the AG was to become the single most guiding principle for the Prince who will by dint of destiny ascend the throne of his forefathers seventeen years after his father was dethroned in what was considered politically motivated move to give the stool of Ooni an upper hand in the region.
Writing about the cold war between the AG and Alaafin Adeniran Adeyemi in 1954, Olufemi Vaughan quoting Richard D. Lloyd, a senior crown counsel in Yoruba Identity and Power Politics edited by Professor Toyin Falola declared “the new men of power who dominated the council’s should have shown more tolerance” saying further that “the conflict was less cultural or generational than political, involving opposing fractions and interest groups”.
While researching for this topic, I consulted elders who witnessed the events of 1954, when Alaafin Adeniran and his crown prince were exiled and 1968 when the stool became vacant again to 1971 when the new Alaafin was inaugurated. I will also share from the personal interaction with my father.
“After the demise of Alaafin Muhammed Bello Orimadegun Gbadegesin Ladigbolu in 1968” my father told me in one of our interactions “the race for the new Alaafin became widely open for contestation”. By 1970, the civil war had ended and the race continued, this time, Prince Lamidi was the most qualified. “We held a solidarity rally for the Prince” he told me ” our solidarity song use to go this way: Lamidi lanfe oooo, lalaafin, (2×), Omo Adeyemi lanfe oooo, lalaafin, (2×). Interpretation: it’s Lamidi we want, as Alaafin, it’s the son of Adeyemi we want, as Alaafin.
He furthered that, radio O.Y.O would later broadcast the conclusion of Oyo Mesi on the new Alaafin. By 1971, he was installed and Staff of Office presented to him by General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, the Military Governor of Western Region. “By all accounts” my father gleefully enthused “this Alaafin is first among equals: the first educated Alaafin, the first Alaafin to install two Aare Ona kakanfo, Yoruba field Marshall (MKO Abiola,1988 and Iba Gani Adams, 2017), first Alaafin in the modern day Oyo to rule for half a century and many more first laurels this Alaafin has won for the throne.
“There are three criteria considered in choosing an Alaafin” another elder who was also born during the reign of Alaafin Siyanbola told me ” the first is the eligibility, the second is the popularity while the third is the strength to withstand the rigors of the Office of the Alaafin”. Crown Prince Lamidi Atanda met these three and many more, so the need to stand by him and a reward for his father’s pro masses stand during Awolowo era which eventually cost him the throne. We were all at Durbar stadium to witness the epoch making event and when I look back to those moments and today, I can see how the dot of the past connect to those of today and of course tomorrow.
“It’s fifty years on throne” my father told me “Alaafin Lamidi Atanda Olayiwola Adeyemi 111 has fortified the throne to such an enviable position, he has turned the stool to the cynosure of all eyes and people all over the world now look up to Alaafin of Oyo, the custodian of Yoruba culture, identity and power politics for guidance and counsel”.