Royal class distinctly marks the ambience, regalia and palace of the His Royal Majesty, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. True to its heritage, the palace combines raw and old structures, parading clay and wood bearings around the exterior of its premises. I waited with my contact for a few minutes as the Alaafin was busy.
But when the tuneful sounds of talking drums pierced the labyrinths of the entrancing palace, followed by a mix of voices bellowing, ‘Kabiyesi o’, I knew that it was almost time to have a one-on-one encounter with the revered monarch.
Apart from his gait exuding grace, he was jovial and relaxed with those around him. No soothsayer was needed to know that the interview would be fun.
I went past the garage housing his luxury cars and was finally ushered into the king’s meeting chamber where the interview took place. In the serene milieu, the king unfolds his sharpest wits and words as the questions came. He shares the story of his childhood, wives, life as a monarch among other issues with KORE OGIDAN
Tell us about your background.
I was a fast learner and I had a very sharp memory as a child. I ascribe my sharp memory to my parents and environment. At the age of five, I was given an oriki (lineage praise) which belonged to my ancestors and I memorised it just from listening to my mother chanting it. I became dexterous and fluent in chanting the oriki at a very young age and because of this, I was bought a sekere and a drum, which I used in praising my father.
At the same age of five, I was taken away to a town called Iseyin, which is about 35 kilometres from Oyo to learn the Quran and I became very proficient in the Quran classes which I attended for a period at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School. I came back home to Oyo after the completion of my Quranic education. My father never wanted me to stay in the palace because he did not want me to be indulged by the treatment that princes and princesses were given in the palace. They weren’t allowed to be beaten or disciplined strictly and my father didn’t want me to get influenced by that. He wanted me to learn about life the proper way. So, he took me to Central Youth Practising School for my primary education where I stayed for a while. After this, I was taken to the palace of Oba Idowu Ademola II, the then Alake of Egbaland. Since he had no western education, my father wanted me to be trained in the palace. So, he took me to the Alake’s palace to get educated the western way. He wanted me to be trained in palace etiquette and have a strong educational background.
However, at this period, there was a commotion in the town and my ‘father’ was exiled from Abeokuta. He went to Osogbo, the capital of Osun State. When I was 10 years old, the Alake pressured my father to take me back home because he saw me as a promising young boy. He told my father that I shouldn’t be made to suffer unduly for the actions that I knew nothing about. My father then responded that God would make me excel in the end if it was written in my destiny. I came back home and instead of continuing my education, I was taken to stay with Sir Kofoworola Abayomi, my father’s friend, who was a medical doctor. When I stayed with him, I used to prepare his medical kit before he went to treat people. I had to memorise all the apparatus for the job and dared not forget any one of them. This helped me to tax my brain and I became very efficient at remembering things that even he might have forgotten. When I came to Lagos, I attended St. Gregory’s College, Ikoyi, for my secondary education. I enjoyed my secondary education because it was very thorough and interesting and I was extremely verbose. I was a member of the school’s debate team and that helped me in interacting with people from all parts of the world.
Did you enjoy the fact that you were constantly moving about as a kid?
I did because of the experiences I gained and the people I met who influenced me. If I were in other places and had missed out on the opportunity to experience what I did, I might not have been able to cope with the rigours and responsibilities I had to take up as the Alaafin. I was like a moving train, carrying people all over the place.
How did your father’s exile affect you as a young boy?
My father’s exile affected me both negatively and positively. I was in Lagos when he was exiled, as I didn’t stay very long in the palace because he moved me about quite frequently. My mother died when I was very young and because of the emotional attachment I had to my father, it hit me that I was in a way orphaned. When my mother died, he sent me away from home to feel the impact less and help me take my mind off the pain I must have been feeling. After his exile, I could have been a delinquent due to the circumstances but I realised that I had a purpose in life and decided to live right and uphold my family’s name. Before he was exiled, he always wanted me very close to him and it wasn’t until I had grown up that I realised that he was trying to pass a message to me. He taught me never to get upset or be malicious. He said many things to me that seemed like life lessons but I didn’t realise until I was older.
How would you describe yourself as a husband to many wives?
I did not propose to any of my wives. They desired to be with me because I sent them to school. After their university education, I told them to leave but they refused and insisted on staying with me here in the palace as my wives. The least educated of them has a Higher National Diploma and is now in the university. I don’t begrudge or offend women. Marriage is an institution that must be defended. Each partner has their role to play in the marriage. My wives have their individual quarters. God has given me some type of ability and grace to keep a woman, especially beautiful women. I don’t disclose my conversations or activities with one wife to another. I maintain a strict code of confidentiality. I have learnt that I must positively make an impact on people and make a great first impression. Of course, they (wives) sometimes have disagreements and conflicts of opinion but I have been ‘graced’ by God to know how to ensure that the conflicts don’t escalate.