By Eric Teniola
On October 15, IKU BABAYEYE IGBAKEJI ORISA, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo was 80. He is the Emperor of a lost Empire that in 18th century occupied the whole of south west, part of north central and stretched to parts of the Republic of Benin and Togo. Many people including President Muhammadu Buhari have sent birthday greetings to the monarch. Hopefully on November 18, 2020, he will mark his 50years on the throne like the late Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Sidiq Abubakar III (1903-1988), the late Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi II (1889-1980), the late Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Barkindo Mustapha, the late Elekole of Egbeoba, Oba Adetula Adeleye, the late Owa of Idanre, Oba Adegbule Aroloye Arugbuefin III, the late Deji of Oyemekun, Oba Afunbiowo Adesida, the late Attah of Igala, Dr. Aliyu Obaje, the late Obi Of Onitsha, Alphonsus Okechukwu Okagbue, the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the late Jaja Amanyanbo of Opobo, Chief Douglas Jaja (1915-1980) and the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II (84).
During Oba Adeyemi’s reign, twenty governors served. They are Brigadier Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, Brigadier Christopher Oluwole Rotimi, Rear Admiral Olatunde Akinyoye Aduwo, Colonel David Medayeise Jemibewon, Colonel Paul Tarfa, Chief Bola Ige, Dr Victor Omololu Olunloyo, Lt. Col. Oladayo Popoola, Col. Adetunji Idowu Olurin, Col. Sasaenia Oresanya, Col. Abdulkareem Adisa, Chief Kolapo Olawuyi Ishola, Navy Capt. Adetoye Oyetola Sode, Col. Chinyere Ike Nwosu, Col. Ahmed Usman, Comm. Pol. Amen Adore Oyakhire, Dr. Lam Adesina, Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, Christopher Alao-Akala and Abiola Ajimobi.
The Oyo Empire was one of the great empires in Africa. By the second half of the 18th century, the empire started to decline. By the middle of the 19th century, the empire has disintegrated and on its ruins rose Ibadan, Osun, Egba, Ijaiye, Owo, Igbomina, Ondo, Ijesha, Osogbo, Kabba, Akoko, Offa, Ilaje, Ikale, Idanre, Oyemekun, Ijebu, Yewa, Awori, Omu-Aran, Remo, Ekiti, Eko, Ilorin Afonja, Ife,Ogbomoso and other towns.
The collapse of the Oyo Empire in the 19th century was brought about by several factors—some internal and others external. One of the internal factors was an inherent weakness arising from the size and nature of the empire. Like the Sudanese empires of Mali, Songhai and Kanem-Bornu, the Oyo Empire was quite extensive and this made central control of the provinces difficult. One of the reason for this was that Oyo the capital was situated on the northern fringes of the empire and this made it difficult for her to control effectively the provinces most of which lay to the south of the empire. Again the system of administering the provinces through the Ilaris or resident provincial governors began to prove ineffective from the late 18th and early19th centuries. These governors were not strictly supervised from the centre and consequently they became oppressive, corrupt and arrogant, and by their actions drove the subject peoples of the provinces to rebel against them and the Alaafin whom they represented. But the major factor for the decline and eventual collapse of the Oyo Empire was the weakness and resultant breakdown of the central government.
Though the Oyo Empire finally collapsed in the first half of the 19th century, we should not fail to recognize the significant achievements of the great Empire.
In the first place, Oyo rose from a small and insignificant Yoruba town on the northern borders of Yoruba land to a great empire. By the middle of the 18th century, this empire stretched from Benin in the east to the western frontiers of Togo in the west and from Nupe in the north to the mangrove swamps to the south. It was the largest of the forest states of West Africa. The empire achieved a high degree of efficient imperial administration based upon well-fashioned political institutions. With the collapse of the empire, these institutions were inherited as a legacy by the Yoruba successor states.
Secondly, the Oyo Empire achieved a high standard of military efficiency. She owed her rise to a great empire, no doubt, to her well-organised army which was her effective instrument for expansion and suppression of internal revolts. Thirdly, the Oyo Empire achieved a sound economy based on very productive agriculture, trade with the Sudan, lucrative industries and wealth from taxes and tribute. This sound economy enabled the Alaafins to maintain the elaborate imperial administration and also to maintain and equip its large army. Fourthly, the Oyo Empire achieved social and cultural unity for Yorubaland by promoting a feeling of kinship based on common language (Yoruba) and common religion. The Oyo Empire encouraged the Yoruba values which is commonly referred to as omoluwabi values. It is very difficult to explain the omoluwabi values unless you are a Yoruba. They are a set of unwritten commandments and once you disregard those values, you are immediately found guilty no matter your power, influence, position or your wealth. The Yoruba’s for example do not hold regular meetings before those values are enforced and it is the omoluwabi values that have sustained the Yoruba civilization. It is those values that have brought about relative peace in Yorubaland today. Though the Oyo empire is no more, the idea of the Yoruba unity which it engendered is as strong today as in the days of the empire—in spite of today’s headlines. To its credit the Oyo Empire achieved remarkable longevity from 15th to 19th century.
The major problem facing Oba Adeyemi today is the same problem facing his three other colleagues —coping with a disintegrated empire in the modern day world.
His three other colleagues are, Alhaji Muhammadu Saa’d Abubakar III (62), Sultan of the old Sokoto Empire, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garuba (61), the Shehu of the Old El-Kanemi Empire—an Empire never conquered by the Fulanis and Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolo Kpolo, Ewuare II, (65), the Oba of the Old Benin Empire.
Oba Adeyemi was brought up in the palace of the late Alake of Egbaland, Sir Oladipo Samuel Ademola (1827-1962) when his father, late Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II was deposed and exiled in 1954 for sympathizing with the opposition party, NCNC in the western region and his conflict with deputy leader of the action group, late Bode Thomas. He also had a sojourn in the Ikoyi residence of Sir Kofoworola Adekunle Abayomi (1896-1979) and his wife, Lady Oyinkan Abayomi (1897-1990). He is a product of St. Gregory College, Lagos and it is from that school he was taught the tenets of Christianity, although he is a Muslim. Since he succeeded Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II, Kabiyesi Adeyemi III has faced a number of crises, the beautiful thing is that he has survived.