As a historian, I cannot help but compare the selection of the new Deji with the selection of one or two other first class traditional rulers in Yoruba Land. Kabiyesi Alaiyeluwa Ogbagba, the Second Oba, and Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the current Awujale of Ijebu Land, was picked by the kingmakers as a substitute for his father, who had a right to the throne but was not considered educated enough to meet the expectations of Ijebu elites in the early 1960s.
A similar thing happened at Ado Ekiti following the transition of the first educated Ewi of Ado, the one and only Daniel Anirare Aladesanmi the Second. Pa Adewunmi, a legitimate Ado Ekiti Prince, was considered the next in line to succeed Kabiyesi Aladesanmi, but the kingmakers, in their wisdom, would not permit an illiterate to step into the giant shoes of Oba Aladesanmi, an old boy of St. Andrew’s College Oyo.
Ado Ekiti wanted to do what the Ijebu kingmakers had done with their selection of Oba Sikiru Adetona. They asked if Pa Adewunmi would nominate his son, a practicing banker, to take his place. Pa Adewunmi, out of greed or ignorance (or both), did not agree. The Ado kingmakers unanimously settled that an attorney at the Ado Ekiti Textile Mills in Ado, Oba Alaiyeluwa Adelabu, be crowned the Ewi. He died after a few years on the throne, and the stool was then passed on to the current Ewi Ado, Oba Rufus Adejugbe Aladesanmi the Third: “O tori ileke d’Oluku Oyo, Olori Alade ajiwa jiwa Ileke, Omo Olota l’Ule Ado, Orobo jeki l’Otun, Iku Baba Yeye, Igba keji Orisa. Wo fomode joye, wa dagba oye, ewe oye re a ro”
A similar thing would have happened in Akure if Pa Ogunlade Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, the pioneer Bale of village, and the father of the new Deji had been alive when it was again time to pick a candidate from the newly created Osupa/Odundun unit of the Asodeboyede Ruling House in Akure. From 1973 to 1975, when I served as Secretary to the Asodeboyede Ruling House, I vividly remember Pa Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo attending all the meetings of the Ruling House and being accompanied by Dr. Adebimpe Ige Ogunleye-Aladejana, who was later installed as the Obajimo of Akure Omowas by late Kabiyesi Otutubiosun Oba Adelegan Adesida, who himself became the 43rd Deji of Akure after 1975.
I recall the old man telling the meeting at one point that he was a bona fide member of the royal family of Akure and that he knew he did not have the education to be crowned a Deji, but he was sure that sooner or later, one of his children might be educated and qualified enough to be crowned. I did not read much into his statement at the time but now I know better.
The old man was proved right roughly a month ago when one of his sons, an architect and an alumnus of Morgan State University in Baltimore, was picked and finally crowned the Deji of Akure as Odundun Asode Dero the Second on July 9th. An Aladetoyinbo is today the Deji of Akure by the special grace of God and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The lesson I take away from the development is that we all must never stop to dream and hope for better days ahead as long as we are alive and well. Americans were right when they said that “If it can be dreamed it can be achieved” if you dream long enough and you passionately believe and act on your dream, you can be anything you want to be in life, youou can replace hopelessness with hope, and worthlessness with worth and helplessness with help, just like the late Pa Ogunlade has clearly done, even though he did not live long enough to witness the fulfillment of his dream. His son has now done what he could not do for himself.
Patrick Aladetoyinbo, the new Deji, took that precept from his father at 62, not giving up after he had contested the throne two times without success in a space of 8 years. Who could have thought that his time was still going to come when in 2005 the deposed Deji came from nowhere to rob him of his chance to be crowned the Deji of Akure at 54? Who could have believed that his time was still going to come when another Deji was crowned in 2010?
God is truly awesome and unpredictable and that was why the Muslims never stopped chanting “Allahu Aqbar” and the Buddhists never stopped chanting “Nam Yoho Renge Kyo.” Man truly proposes but God disposes. Never count yourself out because your better days might still be ahead of you, for all you know. If God says yes who can say no?
Who could have believed that Patrick Aladetoyinbo would be crowned the Deji on July 9 at the Ooye’s Court in Akure at a time he did not have a very vocal and powerful Elemo to champion his cause as a candidate? Akure people, by reputation, are not known to rally round and stay with that person come rain or shine. “Akure ki i yin ni Ogun,” meaning that Akure people would rather desert you than stand by you in your hour of need, if the going gets tougher and more hostile. Against all predictions, something happened that I must not gloss over with this write-up.
There was a group of Akure sons and daughters who were old boys and old girls of the great Oyemekun Grammar School, the old school of the new Deji. The group lived in faraway Baltimore. They were the unsung heroes of the Aladetoyinbo success if you see what I saw. They never lost faith in God and in their candidate for the Deji’s throne.
I seize this opportunity to pay special tribute to the Oyemekun Grammar School old boys and girls and some Akure citizens in Baltimore and other parts of America who remained the most loyal supporters of Patrick Aladetoyinbo. They called him “Kabiyesi” years before it finally became official, even when the fulfillment of their dreams looked so distant and unattainable.
I cannot now remember how many times they raised money for him. It was $30,000 the last time, according to rumors. Even if that effort was exaggerated, which is possible, the rumor does not invalidate their big role in the final success of the new Deji. I am documenting the observation in a society where documentation takes a back seat, because we all live for today and could care less about what happens tomorrow.
The lessons I take away from the perseverance of those Akure men and women in Baltimore is that Akure has come a long way from our reputation as “Omo a muda sile m’ogun erun pa ni.” They have shown that Akure could really unite around a worthy course and do so with the persistence of a demon. I take off my hat for those Akure sons and daughters in Baltimore for their relentless support for the Kabiyesi and I hope the Kabiyesi will never forget them.
I also take this opportunity to pay special tribute to the kingmakers led by Oteru Oba Ode, O mori j’Oloja mo dade, Olisa James “Apoti” Olusoga, who for once in Akure’s recent history have not allowed the powerful lucre of money to becloud their judgment in picking a candidate that has the most authentic and verifiable linkage to royalty in Akure this time around.
I had earlier warned in all of my previous articles there is a chance that an Igbo man or an Hausa or Ebira or Urhobo, Idoma or Ijaw man who has lived for too long in Akure and has enough money to throw around could, one day, be crowned a Deji in Akure, because corruption and dishonesty have eaten far too deep into the very fabric of our nature in Nigeria.
The Akure kingmakers have given their approval to Patrick Aladetoyinbo as the new Deji of Akure, even though the young man was arguably the least politically connected and the least filthy rich of all the 12 candidates that ran against him. There were quite a few of them who could not intelligently and persuasively explain their royal lineage and credentials if asked. They only saw an opportunity and they grabbed it because there was no one to challenge their claim. How could they just suddenly wake up from their slumber to start claiming they have the royal blood flowing in their veins when many of them have never identified themselves as princes like the late Pa Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo? It is a legitimate question to ask and I would never stop challenging such fake princes.
The Akure kingmakers took their traditional kola, a euphemism for bribes and kickbacks but they still went ahead to do justice by giving the nod to the rightful candidate. I appreciate that and so should the rest of us.
Another lesson I took away is the naive presumption of the Ojijigogun ruling house in their contemptuous and totally false claim that Governor Mimiko had assured one of their members that his government was going to skip the Osupa/Odundun ruling house, because the ruling house did not have capable and competent candidates to be crowned as a Deji.
I had the courage to tell them at one of their meetings that it was the most stupid statement I have ever heard. I let them know without mincing words that it is the title itself that confers credibility and empowerment on whoever is picked and not the other way round. If a goat is picked as the Deji of Akure, he automatically becomes an instant celebrity. I have been proved right, and those who made those false claims in the name of Governor Mimiko have done the Ojijigogun family a great disservice.
No self-respecting governor would have offered such an advice. The family should have challenged the break-up of the Asodeboyede ruling house in a court of law. Instead of doing that, they started their cock-and-bull story misleading the whole family. They missed a big opportunity because of their stupidity. It may be too late now to start challenging a Law that has been used two or three times to select a new Deji. I told them so, but they did not listen.
Another lesson I hope the new Deji would take away is to emulate what is good in Odundun the First and not what is bad and reprehensible. Gone are those days when Odundun ordered his wife beheaded for sharing a joke with him in the bathroom. I am confident the new Deji knows better not to get so intoxicated with power that he would start using hoodlums to start committing crimes in his name, like the deposed Deji used to do when he collected illegal fees in his name from Hausa traders and market women and from innocent and law-abiding people developing their plots of land at Akure.
I believe the new Deji is going to do just fine by bringing some of the good ideas he has learnt in America to Akure. If he is looking for a mentor and a role model to emulate, I would recommend that he follows the Awujale stereotype and dynamic leadership.
The Awujale respects himself and the institution he is presiding over. He has managed to make himself the preeminent ruler in Ijebu Land. The Awujale goes to all official public functions accompanied by most of the important traditional rulers in his kingdom and all of his high chiefs. He has managed to leave all of Ijebu Bales and traditional rulers in no doubt about his role as the first among equals.
The Awujale comports himself with honor and dignity befitting his high office. He does not engage in partisan politics, unlike most of his colleagues in Yoruba Land. The new Deji can learn a lot from the Awujale who assumed the title before he turned 30 and has now reigned for more than 50 years as the center of gravity in Ijebu Kingdom. He has remained the central glue that binds the whole kingdom together. That is what the new Deji must do.
The challenges the new Deji is going to face are enormous, and so are his opportunities, if he can quickly identify them. Akure today has the largest palace in Nigeria. It includes the old palace built with the encouragement and leadership of my grandfather, the greatest Deji of all time, Deji Afunbiowo Adesida the First (1897-1957). The second modern palace at Uworokogbasa was built during the reign of Deji Otutubiosun Adelegan Adesida the Third (1975-1991) and Deji Ataiyese Adebobajo Adesida the Fourth (1991-1999). That palace is located near the Akure Youth Center which was built by Her Royal Highness Olori Eyesorun Adebola Adesida, the wife of Kabiyesi Agunsoye Ademuagun Adesida the Second (1957-1973). The third ultra-modern palace and “Taj Mahal” was singlehandedly built by Deji Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida Afunbiowo the Second (2010-2013). The third and final palace gives the current Deji more prestige.
The old palace is now a historical monument supposed to be maintained by the federal government.
The second palace was used as a guest chalet by the last Deji. I believe the new Deji can safely move to the new ultra-modern palace when it is completed, dedicated and opened by the new Deji. The new palace equipped with a mosque and a chapel is certainly among the best palaces in Nigeria today. The new Deji is therefore a lucky man who is blessed to have his crown at this particular moment in Akure history.
The land dispute between Akure and Idanre still remains a factor the new Deji must regard as an urgent problem. The land use decree introduced to the South by the Obasanjo Administration to secure his claim to his Otta Farm is not working to the best interest of many Yoruba communities. The obnoxious land use decree is what Idanre People have been using to justify their trespass of most of Akure Lands up to Familugba, Ala Ajagbusi, and Igbo Ofosu. That dispute must be revisited and settled amicably between the two towns.
The creation of Akure North Local Government Area (LGA) from the Akure LGA should be treated the same as so the local governments been created in Sokoto, Kano, Ibadan, Oyo, Benin Kingdom and other places without robbing the Sultan, the Emir of Kano, the Olubadan, the Alaafin, and the Oba of Benin of their traditional authority over their former kingdoms.
What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. It should be made clear that the Deji remains the prescribed authority and owner of Aiyede Ogbese and Alayere from where the new Deji has commenced his traditional rites before going to Asamo Court. The Emir of Kano is today the highest-paid traditional ruler in Nigeria because he is supported and paid by all of the LGAs under his old Kingdom. The Deji reserves the right to be treated the same way. Akure North and Akure South Local Governments must support the Deji as the original owner of the kingdom from the beginning of history.
Last and not least task before the Deji is how to ensure that the Akure people do not continue to sell of their choicest lands and family buildings to foreigners like the Hausas, the Urhobos, the Idomas, the Ebiras, and the Igbos who live in Akure. Those visitors are all welcome to live in peace, prosperity and security in Akure. Akure is very hospitable to the non-citizens among us. We must continue that tradition without mortgaging the future of our children.
It is a move that requires the wise leadership of the new Deji and his Council of Chiefs and all Akure leaders. It is a recommendation I make with a high sense of responsibility even though I know that some people are going to read tribalism as my motive. I plead guilty as charged, because somebody has to speak up.
This observation is not peculiar or restricted to Akure alone, but we must not wait until others are willing to act before we take necessary action. It is our town and the future of our children that we are talking about and nobody should fault us on our efforts to salvage our city and to protect her best interest. The new Deji has his job cut out for him. Becoming a Deji is not all about praise singing and glamor. It is all about hard work and making the best of a bad situation.
I welcome the New Deji and pray for his success and long life.
I rest my case.