The 80th birthday celebration of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Olayiwola Adeyemi was a rallying point for an appreciable number of Yoruba traditional rulers. TUNDE BUSARI reports the grand finale of the event held in Oyo on Saturday.
From the expansive International Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan penultimate Saturday to the palace of Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Olayiwola Adeyemi four days ago, the list of traditional rulers in attendance was not only long, it was also intimidating with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi leading the roll call.
The Alaafin again saw for himself the reason he had been described at different fora as a quintessential monarch in Yorubaland and beyond.
Significantly, the Ooni could not but express his joy for witnessing Oba Adeyemi’s birthday, specifically praying to God to also grant him longevity on the throne like the Alaafin who was installed 47 years ago at the age of 33.
The high-profile occasion also had in attendance the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, who was accompanied by the duo of the Governors of Oyo and Kano States, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and Umar Danguje, all of whom generously rained shower of encomium on Oba Adeyemi.
The success of Ibadan gathering would extend to the grand finale held in Alaafin’s palace one week after where dignitaries who could not make it to the Oyo State capital made it up and showed respect as well as love to Oba Adeyemi.
No fewer than 15 traditional rulers from Nigeria, Benin Republic and Ghana, witnessed the occasion. The Onjo of Okeho, Oba Rafiu Mustafa spoke on behalf of his fellow monarch and also eulogized the Alaafin in superlatives that arrested the attention of the audience.
Oba Mustafa went down memory lane on the major roles attributed to Oba Adeyemi on the liberation and development of Yoruba nation.
“It is on record that baba Alaafin championed the crowning of the Olubadan of Ibadan and Sohun of Ogbomoso and other obas in 1976. He was also the one who muted the idea of splitting the former Western State to three separate states of Oyo, Ondo and Ogun.
“There are other achievements he recorded which time would not permit me to list because of other programmes for today. We pray you celebrate more than 100 years on the throne of your forefathers,” he stated amidst deafening A-m-e-n by the audience.
In his usual protocol, the Alaafin, who put on a white lace, was surrounded by the harem of his wives, all of whom adorned wine uniform lace material while town’s men and women including children appeared in uniform Ankara fabrics in pink colour.
It was not a long speech-making occasion as entertainers one after the others mounted the stage and entertained the audience.
A 100-year-old, Alhaja Sidikau Ejide Olona, the Yeyeluwa of Iseyin, also a sister to Oba Alaafin, had a field day when she was invited to recite the cognomen of Oba Adeyemi. The centenarian marveled the audience with her retentive memory described as awesome by the retired Archbishop of Methodist Church, Ayo Ladigbolu.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune soon after her performance, the centenarian said she would never lose a line from the panegyrics having committed it to memory over 80 years ago. She emphasized that royal blood is thicker than water and urged every prince and princess to learn and understand history and tradition of their lineage as done by Oba Adeyemi.
Also capturing the interest of the crowd were pupils of Lawson Groups of Schools, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital who dazzled even the Alaafin with what they called Zulu Dance. The performance was not different from a cultural festival in South Africa, in terms of costumes adorned by the pupils drawn from different classes.
The apparently impressed Oba Adeyemi jumped out of his seat, appreciated them with Naira notes after which which he danced with the equally excited pupils majority of whom saw him for the first time. Led to Oyo by the school proprietor, who doubles as the Iyalode of Yorubaland, Chief Alaba Lawson, the students came with other troupes including orchestra, poetry and palace dance, each appearing in right costumes that brought out the best in them.
Although the performance started behind schedule due to late arrival of the students caused by traffic gridlock on their way from Abeokuta, the show was an advertisement of sorts to the school as some some enthusiastic parents were expressing interest in enrolling their children there.
The occasion was used to market the Alaafin’s book earlier launched in Ibadan. Ladigbolu effectively coordinated the presentation with his graphic synopsis on the quality and volume of the book titled. The Alaafin: Power, Courage and Conviction. A good number of the dignitaries stepped forward and bought copies.
In one of his intermittent remarks, Ladigbolu refreshed the memory of the audience with some rivers which the Alaafin passed through in his 47 years in the palace, summing it up as the triumph of the Alaafin.
“We were all witnesses to his experience caused by his faithfulness to the annulled June 12 election. We were also around when a governor threatened to strip him of his consenting authorities which an Alaafin enjoys. Alaafin has weathered the storm and remained stronger by each experience. That is why we are all gathered here to celebrate his years of triumph,” he noted.
Ladigbolu also shared from Oba Adeyemi’s glory as some guests who saw him for the first time expressed their interest in his agility that betrayed his age as an octogenarian.
A school teacher, who travelled to Oyo for the occasion but pleaded for anonymity, said she had expected to see Ladigbolu in image of a physically exhausted man, adding that it was difficult to believe that he had clocked 80 years.
“Comparing him with baba Alaafin, it means the Oyo people have special grace to maintain young look at old age. I learnt Baba Alaafin just has another set of twins. You can now understand what I mean,” she remarked.
The 80th birthday was rounded off last Sunday with a thanksgiving service held at the First Baptist Church, Isokun, Oyo.
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