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Selecting a new Alaafin: Oyo Mesi and the Burden of Tradition and Truth

By Hammed Isiaka Eyinade Adelabu Through recent decades, and particularly over the past couple of years, one has been confronted by the notion of how…

By Hammed Isiaka Eyinade Adelabu

Through recent decades, and particularly over the past couple of years, one has been confronted by the notion of how everything in Nigeria has descended into the realm of politics, with so many now interpreting reality, not in terms of the truth or the natural order of things, but on the level of what benefits can accrue to them from unfolding situations. It is most unfortunate that truth has become the victim in this state-of-affairs.

A very typical example can be found in recent happenings in the great Kingdom of Oyo, from the time our father, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, left this realm to join the pantheon of our ancestors. Even before his passing had been properly mourned, the rat race and jostle had begun towards circumventing order in the effort to enthrone a successor in his place.

From this, we have seen all sorts of stakeholders – from those who consider the throne as their natural rights, to the exclusion of others, to traditional custodians of the selection process, and public officials who should midwife a sacred process properly – all of whom are producing their versions of how things should be.

We have heard the conflicting numbers of princes, who are claimants to the throne, being given by the Oyo Mesi. At some point it was said to be 119, and then 46, and now we are hearing that the field has been narrowed down to 10 candidates. Yet, the process by which these numbers have been arrived at cannot be said to be clear to all. And if clear to some, could the process be said to be inclusive, right or has it followed the law? Then, there is the question of which Chieftaincy law is being appealed to in choosing the new Alaafin? Is it the 1961 Declaration? But wouldn’t that be an illegality as this has been set aside by the 1995 Oloko Commission of Inquiry’s White Paper that was gazetted in 2001?

But very importantly, on what bases have the princes who are presently being considered for the throne been chosen? Are they the only princes from the entitled ruling families in Oyo? Do they have exclusive rights that others do not have? Certainly, a storm has been brewing that is set to upset the applecart of convention, and people are now being forced to pay attention. This is a convention that has sought to distort what should be the real TRADITION of Oyo, which ought to recognise and enable the rights of all the legitimate heirs to the throne of their ancestor.

For now, a bit of history: It is a well-known fact that Alaafin Adewimbi Oge Latubosun Atobatele Atiba who reigned between 1837-1859 was the progenitor of the Atiba dynasty. And, as such there is only one ruling house in Oyo. From this, it is worth emphasising that Alaafin Atiba had 11 heirs, which included Adelu Agunloye (the first) Agboin Adelabu (the second), Adesiyan (the third), Adeyemi Alowolodu (the fourth), Adediran, Tella Agbojulogun, Adesetan, Tella Okitipapa, Adesokan, and others.

Quite interestingly, of his eleven heirs, only two, Adelu Agunloye (first son) and Adeyemi Alowolodu (fourth son) have produced kings in Oyo so far. The lineage of Agunloye has produced four Alaafins and that of Adeyemi Alowolodu has produced three. And, both lineages have alternately monopolised the throne for over one hundred years! As such, even if the truth takes leave for over a hundred years, due to all sorts of manipulations, it will certainly return to assert itself one day. That day has come upon us now, and the families of the other nine sons of the progenitor have come to say: ENOUGH! We are as legitimate heirs to the throne as are the other two families who have managed to impose their will and laid exclusive claims to the throne so far. We also deserve to be Alaafin, and it is our rightful turn.

The noble throne of the Alaafin of Oyo is the common birth right of the remaining nine sons of Alaafin Atiba. Therefore, it is time for these other nine sons to legitimately ascend the throne of their ancestor.

Alaafin Atiba allocated expanses of land to each of his eleven sons, in addition to the inalienable and hereditary rights to the throne. The lineage of his second son, the Agboin Adelabu royal house of the Atiba Dynasty, of which I belong, is yet to rule Oyo kingdom. After being unfairly jumped over, after the initial reign of Adelu Agunloye, this is the time to correct the historical wrong done to the family by reverting to the natural sequence of succession. The Adelabu family should be in prime consideration for the throne at this point. This can only be right in the spirit of fairness, equality, and justice.

In truth, the Oyo Mesi have their duties cut out for them, as the “privy council” of Oyo. Their existence dates to the medieval period when they served as the administrative and judicial arm of the old pre-colonial Oyo Empire, while their fundamental functions in these days include, but are not limited to: (a.) The unbiased selection and installation of a new Alaafin to replace the one that died or abdicated the throne; (b.) initiation of laws that would foster unity in Oyo kingdom; (c.) implementation of policies without fear or favour; (d.) monitoring of any excessive or despotic use of power by the Alaafin; and (e.) providing advice to the Alaafin on good governance.

From what we know from Oyo’s authentic history, the Oyo Mesi is a forthright body of noble personalities – from the Bashorun to Samu, Agbaakin, Akiniku, Alapini, and Lagunna – who have traditionally discharged their sacred duties with as much straightforwardness and candour as possible, and I am inclined to believe that as repositories of history, they will do what is right.

I am of the conviction that they will stand for truth and justice in the final run, and rise above whatever might be the pressures being brought to bear on them from different quarters by recognising all the other legitimate heirs of Atiba and afford us all the opportunity to claim our natural rights.

The Oyo Mesi need to always remember that they are an independent body, and are not under the control of any government, be it local, state, or federal. They inform the government of their decision regarding the selection of the Alaafin, as necessary. The Oyo Mesi are not politicians. And, I trust that the government will always support the Oyo Mesi to do what is right, to enhance peace in Oyo and forestall a rancour-free community.

Proverbially speaking, “Itose lo l’Oyo”, meaning Oyo land is known for doing things the right way.

I therefore implore you all, the decision makers, to use wisdom and to respect the trust that the Oyo people have in you, to execute the process of selecting the new Alaafin of Oyo along the lines of fairness and justice.

Hammed Isiaka Eyinade Adelabu is a Prince of the Adelabu Ruling House of the Atiba Dynasty. Email: [email protected]

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