AKURE OBASHIP: OBA AGUNSOYEBIOYINBO ADEMUAGUN ADESIDA 11 BROUGHT CLASS AND DIGNITY TO THE THRONE
By Sunday Ajibola
There are men and there are men. Man gets to positions of power and authority and bring to bear their inner qualities. Position, as we have it here, is used to do all sorts of things; good and bad. But mostly and vexatiously, position blinds us as we use it to cheat and deny others their rights. Certain men understand that position is an opportunity to etch their names in gold and put such in the same of time.
It is exactly fifty years today that the 42nd Deji of Akure, late Oba Agunsoyebioyinbo Ademuagun Adesida 11 joined his ancestors. That fateful day was Sunday and in the evening; darkness was just enveloping the city. It was the strange shouts of "opo ye o, opo ye o, opo ye o", that prompted me to rush out of our house at Oke aro. I saw people running helter, skelter. I did not bother about them. I was looking for the "electric pole" that had just fallen. Unable to see any, i asked the elderly ones, "why are people raising dust unnecessarily? I cannot see any pole that has fallen." "Haa, erin wo, Kabiyesi ti waja," was their response. I pressed further asking "kee je baa?" Whsts that? They just took a cursory look at me and hissed.
A few days after, the import of their axioms made sense as I experienced my first dose of what sobbing and sadness meant. I wept profusely and could not finish the plantain I was eating. I cried so much that my eyes became red. The cause was the sight of people: young and old, male and female striking stones in their hands together, singing songs about the demise of Oba Ademuagun. They were going round the city of Akure. I was inconsolable. What caused my uncontrollable tears, for the king, whom I knew but who did not recognise me I cannot fathom. But i know i had a deep seated love, respect and affection for him.
I had been following late baba Chief Asaolu Aromowa to the palace on numerous of ocassions. Aromowa was his title. It means Aro (the 4th in rank) of kings children. Baba was from the royal family. I cannot remember what he used to go there to do. But he and I were regularly particularly during the three Ikunle festivals that were held on a yearly basis.
The first striking feature I noticed about Oba Ademuagun was his stature. He was not towering in height, neither was he massive in frame. You would hardly notice him in a crowd if he was not a king. His height should be between 5.4 and 5.6. He was dark in complexion. Ademuagun happened to have big eyeballs in a round face. Oba Ademuagun was a very fine and handsome man.
However, I had this strange feeling everytime I saw him. Fear always gripped me. I always felt my heart missed a bit in fear as if I had seen a ghost or experienced a near death event. When I told my mum, she smiled and said, in Akure dialect, "omode reru Keru mo baa." (A kid cannot sight a dreadful object and fail to experience fear.) She explained that the king had been moulded to evoke fear in anyone that sighted him. It was meant to instil dread in him so that anyone with intent to insult him will swallow his bile on getting to him. He stammered a little when talking.
Oba Agunsoyebioyinbo Ademuagun Adesida 11 happened to be a London-trained lawyer. That was his academic qualification. But he brought class and dignity which were borne out of character to the throne and by extension Akure. We are familiar with the manner he confronted the late sage and Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Oba Ademuagun asked Chief Awolowo maybe the Queen of England, where they both schooled, ever stood up for the British Prime Minister. The confrontation was caused by the Obas refusal to stand up as others when Chief Awolowo came to the Hall of an event. Oba Adesida 11 said, "I am on my fathers throne. You are just a political office holder. Your office has expiration period. Mine has none until I die." He was a few years on the throne then. Oba Ademuagun left the scene having challenged Awolowo to take his (Ademuagun's) bearded crown and put it on his head.
During the Civil war of late 1960s, it is on record that Akure did not join in killing the Igbos. All the Igbos (people of eastern extraction in Akure) were housed at the Kings palace. The palace occupied much more expanse of land than what we have at present. When soldiers came from Lagos to search the palace to ascertain maybe he truly kept Igbos there, the tiger in Oba Ademuagun rose. He thundered, "you want to go into my palace and search without my permission? If you dare, you will not come out alive." That put paid to their ambition. He went personally to the house of an overzealous man who killed an igbo in Isolo. Said he: what is your concern if Igbo and Hausa are fighting? You have the effŕontery of killing someone, shed blood in my town? Ademuagun place a cursed on the man. In case you are wondering how I got to know this, I will tell you.
After his death, the Igbos brought out their masquerade. They took off from the Catholic Church Cathedral premises, Isinkan. They moved round the city in celebration of a loving king. I was among them. Omode feran Iran io. (Young people love watching events).
After the jamboree, I went home and asked my mother, kokan igbo ati Oba Akure koku ko jian gbe eigun rian jade? (What is the interest of Igbos in the death of Akure monarch that they brought out their masquerade in celebration? That question led to the story above.
His love for Akure had no limit. We heard in those days that the battle for location of capital city of this state was fierce between Ondo and Akure. The duel took place among intellectuals and men of timber and calibre from both sides. That's on the physical side. It was extended to the spiritual realm. We heard that Oba Ademuagun and the then Osemawe of Ondo had to slug it out to determine the winner. Oba Ademuagun floored his opponent in a gruelling, energy-saving encounter. That was how Akure triumphed over Ondo. The demise of the two monarchs took place within weeks apart.
Somehow and somewhat, the grooming of Oba Agunsoyebioyinbo Ademuagun evoked love. The entire city was one behind a leader, father figure king. An elderly person told me a story of how mysterious the king was. According to him, Oba Ademuagun would just appear on his seat during events in the palace. You would not see him coming in. One day, he now made up his mind, determined to catch his glimpse while entering. He gazed his eyes on the king's seat, without distraction. In a matter of seconds, he felt sleepy and closed his eyes. The next shout he heard was heralding arrival of Oba Ademuagun, who was seated already.
In all, my love for him knew no bounds. He was a class act, a refined and cultured king who knew how to wield the power of his position justly. Baba Aromowa used to call him Olomimi, Agbojogbojo whenever he came round in the night. He used to visit our house around 12, 1 am.
Akure people generally felt the demise of Oba Ademuagun painful and untimely. Igi toba to, kiipe nigbo. His entire life was not up to what his father, Oba Afunbiowo Adesida 1 spent on the throne. Ademuagun pegged out at 48, having spent 16 years on the throne. His dad was on the throne for 60 years. But then, it is not how long but how well.
Ironically, the victory attained by Oba Ademuagun turned out to become the albatross of the city's traditional institution. After his demise, the government began poke nosing and dabbling into who becomes the Deji of Akure. And that put paid to the power and awe inspired dignity of the king. It also caused an hitherto non-existent division among the king makers and the people to this day. The throne has never been same since.
The late Akure-born juju musician, Olu Olatubosun waxed a record on the exit of Oba Agunsoyebioyinbo Ademuagun. Adesida. It was a masterpiece. Olatubosun was a bundle of raw talent. He was good on the drums, guitar and a gifted singer. Unfortunately, his potentials were not fully tapped.
For the late Oba Agunsoyebioyinbo Ademuagun Adesida 11, I personally miss him and the exemplary and reliable leadership he gave Akure. He made us to know that the head determines what a people do. He was the most educated and most exposed king we have ever had.
Perhaps, this influenced his boldness and capacity to confront anyone, yet loving and guiding the city in the right direction. Truly, Oba Ademuagun exemplified Obateru in all ramifications. He was not Obadipe.
Adieu, Oba Agunloyebioyinbo Ademuagun Adesida 11, omo ekun keerin torowa, torowa. Akure ra gbagbe re lailai. Sun re o.