The Mogaji of the Owoade Ruling Family in Oyo, Prince Adediwura Owoade, tells OLUFEMI OLANIYI that the family has been cheated for long in the selection of Alaafin and the members are ready to fight to the finish this time
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, recently joined his ancestors. How long will it take to mourn him before the process of selecting a new one will begin?
The period of mourning used to be 41 days in the olden days. By that time, the wives of the departed Alaafin would have completed the mourning rites and they would leave the palace.
If they leave the palace at the end of the 41 days of mourning, will they go to their houses or where will they go?
The choice is for them to make whether to be inherited by the new Oba or they will go to their various houses. If they want to stay, they will be taken over by the new Oba.
So, they can be allowed to go and re-marry?
They can go and re-marry elsewhere.
Do they need to undergo any spiritual cleansing if they choose to remarry outside the palace?
That is left to be decided by the traditionalists. I can’t say much about that. They know what to do.
How many ruling houses are eligible to fill the vacant stool of the Alaafin?
We have only two ruling houses and they are the Alowolodu, which is the ruling house that produced the immediate past Alaafin, Oba Adeyemi, and the Agunloye. These are the ruling houses.
But are the princes from Alowolodu Ruling House also eligible to contest this time round?
Yes, they can contest if any of them is interested. They can contest, but it’s our time now.
Despite that the last Oba came from the ruling house?
So many had ascended the Alaafin throne and you are saying there are just two ruling houses. How come they are not more than two?
Many of those you are referring to reigned before this present Oyo came into existence. This present Oyo is Oyo Atiba. Atiba reigned from 1837-1859. Alaafin Adelu from the Agunloye Ruling House from 1859 to 1875; Alaafin Adeyemi I (Alowolodu Ruling House) reigned from 1876-1905. After that, there came Lawani Agogo Ija (Agunloye). Lawani ascended the throne in 1905 and died in 1911. After Lawani, his son, Ladigbolu, came in as the next Alaafin (1911-1944). After the departure of Ladigbolu I, Adeniran Adeyemi II came in (1945-1955) and was the father of the immediate past Alaafin. After him came Bello Gbadegesin, a son of Ladigbolu from 1956-1968, and after him, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III came.
So, where does the Owoade Ruling Family come in?
Lawani had three children before he ascended the throne and they were Ladigbolu, Owoade and Rabi, the only female child. The three were given birth to by Awero. I have shown you her grave. Those were the children born by Awero to Lawani. Owoade and Rabi lived together when their brother was on the throne. Owoade built this house where we are for their mother, because they could not live with their brother, who was reigning as the Alaafin in the palace.
As you said now, Ladigbolu reigned first but when another opportunity came to the Agunloye Ruling Family to produce another Alaafin, why did Bello Gbadegesin, who was Ladigbolu’s son ascend the throne and not someone from the Owoade family?
Bello Gbadegesin’s emergence had political undertones. It was during a political era. When Ladigbolu became the king, he made his brother the Aremo, although his son was supposed to be the Aremo.
He did that because the three of them lived together as one indivisible family then. It was simply because of the love they shared. They loved each other so much. Also, Ladigbolu’s children were very young at that time and he chose his brother to be the Aremo. But unfortunately, Owoade (the Aremo) died before Ladigbolu. So, the first son of Ladigbolu became the Aremo after Owoade had died. But there was a dispute between the father and the son, but I can’t say what really happened then. But he removed the son as Aremo and his second son (Gbadegesin) was made the Aremo. He was loyal to his uncle, Owoade. When it was the turn of the Agunloye family again, Gbadegesin was already the Aremo and because of the love that existed in the Agunloye family, Gbadegesin was picked. There was politics in the air then and Gbadegesin’s emergence could be said to also have political undertones.
Are you saying Owoade would have reigned instead of Gbadegesin if not for the politics of that time?
But is there any effort now by the Agunloye Ruling House to separate the Ladigbolu and Gbadegesin families?
It’s implied. Gbadegesin’s children want to separate for their selfish interest. But Ladigbolu and Gbadegesin are one. They can’t be two. How can you say you want to separate yourself from your father? It’s not possible. What we are fighting for now is that naturally and for peace to reign, Owoade should produce the next Alaafin, because Ladigbolu had produced Alaafin twice, and it should be Owoade family now to succeed Oba Adeyemi III, who was produced by the Alowoludu Ruling House.
You said earlier that there was love among the three children of Lawani – Ladigbolu, Owoade and Rabi. Does that love no longer exist among the children?
The love is still there, but the children of nowadays are trying to change things and that is what is happening.
Has anybody said that Owoade was not the son of Lawani and because of this, his children cannot ascend the throne of Alaafin?
Nobody has ever said that. Even whenever they want to hold meetings of Agunloye Ruling House, this house is the venue of such meetings.
To what extent have you made your case with the Oyo Mesi?
We are still on it.
Is the Owoade family going to present just one candidate to the Oyo Mesi?
That is what we are trying to do today. What we are trying to do is that we will throw it open to everybody. We will open a register and whoever has interest in becoming the next Alaafin will put down their names and submit their curriculum vitae. We will ask a vice-chancellor of a university in the South-West to screen the applications and pick the best qualified.
It is believed that whoever wants to ascend the throne of Alaafin must be very powerful spiritually. Won’t you consider this?
After the selection, we will present our candidate to the Oyo Mesi. The Oyo Mesi will consult Ifa as part of the screening process to pick the best from among the various candidates.
The Alaafin stool commands a lot of respect and the Owoade Ruling Family has not occupied the stool despite being qualified as you have said. Are you thinking of litigation if your family is sidelined this time?
Litigation is part of the struggle for chieftaincy titles and even apart from the Owoade family, others may also feel aggrieved and take the matter to court. So, litigation may come in not even necessarily from our family alone. We can’t rule that out. But the possibility of litigation is high and whatever happens will determine the step we will take. If the Alaafin kingship stool is taken to court, it won’t be the first and I am sure it won’t be the last. Except Ibadan, where the ascension to the throne is usually devoid of crisis because of their arrangements, other chieftaincy stools, especially in Yorubaland, usually attract litigation.
You said earlier that politics played a role in the emergence of Gbadegesin and that was the reason the Owoade family could not ascend the throne when the opportunity came to the Agunloye Ruling Family the second time. What advice do you have for politicians now that another race has begun?
Our advice to them is simple: allow fair play and justice. We are not politicians and all what we are asking for is fair play. All those who have a role to play in the selection of the Alaafin should have that at the back of their minds. You know what happens where there is injustice.
Do you mean crisis?
You are the one who said it, but we don’t want anything that can lead to a crisis and that is why we are demanding fair play. We don’t pray for a crisis.
Will there be an age limit for the princes who can apply from your family?
There is no age limit. A 90-year-old, who is interested, can come forward. That won’t be part of the criteria we will use here, but when the names are submitted to the Oyo Mesi, that may come in. The only thing I am hearing from them is that whoever will be chosen must be loving and must be of good behaviour with no criminal records.
Have the Oyo Mesi given you the guidelines to be used to select candidates?
No, but we will do our homework well. The immediate past Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, was the first literate Alaafin and we want to continue in that trend. We want a literate Oba and not an illiterate.
What if Ifa eventually picks an illiterate?
It’s not possible. You know the trend now. Gone are those days when illiterates were picked to occupy political offices, it’s no longer possible now. An illiterate won’t be able to rule well like somebody who is educated. All traditional rulers usually meet and Oyo cannot afford to have an illiterate as the Alaafin.
I am appealing to the Oyo people to assist the Owoade family to get to the throne this time. We are asking for our rights and we still need the support of everybody. The Owoade family is well known in Oyo; we are loving just like our forbearer, Owoade; he was a very good man and well spoken of. He was a giver. He gave to everybody. We have been cheated for so long and we want to fight it out now so that we will not be put under forever. When Ladigbolu was the Alaafin, whoever went to the palace must eat. They prepared food round the clock there. Whoever visits the palace must eat irrespective of their status, race and mission.
But it means that whoever wants to ascend the throne must be rich apart from being literate. Is this not so?
Not necessarily, but he must be a giver. People will give Alaafin gifts also and he must also be a giver. But what we are saying mainly is that the Owoade family has been cheated for so long and our siblings were responsible for this and we want to correct it this time round. When Oba Adeyemi III joined his ancestors, I started hearing that Ladigbolu and Gbadegesin are the only children of Agunloye, but this is wrong. That is when we began to be agitated. Gbadegesin is not a direct son of Agunloye, he is Ladigbolu’s son. So, Gbadegesin and Ladigbolu are one; Owoade is Ladigbolu’s sibling. We can’t serve the father in the morning and serve his son in the evening. It’s not possible.
I will not mind laying down my life for this struggle. The Owoade family must produce the next Alaafin. We don’t have people in high places, but we have God and that is why we are praying to God, and I believe God will answer us. So, I appeal to the Oyo Mesi and all Oyo residents to support us. There will be peace and development if we get to the throne. We don’t want crises, we want development and security in the town.
Have members of your family started showing interest in succeeding Oba Adeyemi?
Twenty princes from the Owoade Ruling Family have indicated their interest in becoming the next Alaafin. But like I told you, we will screen them and present the best.
Are you also interested in ascending the throne?
No, I am not.
Is any of your children interested in it?
All of them are my children. Everybody who is contesting from the Owoade family is my son; we are one family. We met it like that and we want it to remain like that.
But is any of your biological children interested?
I have said that all of them are my children and that is the way it is. Our fathers were united and we their children will continue in that same way. During Ramadan, all of us would gather in the family house to eat sahur and to break our fast. That was done so that we could share food and there was nobody who did not have enough to eat. That is why I said all of them are my children; I have no personal interest.
Is it true that Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu is interested in becoming the Alaafin?
Actually, I heard that also. But I can’t say if it is true. He is our father, but if he wants to contest, nobody will stop him. But it is the turn of the Owoade family to produce the next Alaafin. I am appealing to all Oyo sons and daughters in and outside the country to support the Owoade family to produce the next Alaafin, because we have been cheated so much. We have not occupied the stool since our father died in 1927, but we know God will fight for us this time.
There are reports on social media that some are contesting to be Alaafin to enable them to inherit the wives left behind by Oba Adeyemi. How do you react to this?
I have told you before that the wives are free to remain or to leave the palace. I don’t think any serious contender will have that in mind. In the Owoade Ruling Family, we are serious and our main aim is to further develop Oyo town and ensure maximum security. The tradition is that all the wives of the previous Alaafin belong to the next Alaafin.
How many wives are in the palace?
I don’t know the number of the wives of the Alaafin in the palace but they are many. I want to stress this that whoever is picked from the Owoade family will work for the development of the town and we are ready to settle any rift with anybody in Oyo. We are for peace and whatever may be the cause of such a fight, we are ready to settle it. We want unity in Oyo; we want Oyo to be one to enhance development and security.