Alaafin’s early life in brief...

•...what I could vividly remember, first about my childhood, growing up with my brothers and sisters in many royal houses but not allowed to enjoy the royal perquisites, moving in various places, but not allowed to enjoy; but being toughened for the future.

•I must say that I could face the rigours of life and I do not run away from them.  So, this is my commitment and straight attitude to life... I was subjected to hardships.  There were so many hardships I came across which I don’t tell people.

•...those who shappened my life were not those who were favourably disposed to me but those who really gave me tough time.

• and large, I want to tell you, those who thought they wanted to mar my progress had actually toughened me to be somebody in life.

(Biographers’ interview with Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III)

Parentage and Background in Brief

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III was born on 15 October, 1938 into the family of Adeyemi Alowolodu of the Alaafin of Oyo dynasty.  His father was Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi who became the Alaafin of Oyo, as Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, in 1945 after the death of Alaafin Ladigbolu I, who reigned from 1911 to 1944. His mother, Ibironke, was one of the wives of his father. Sadly, however, his mother died before the enthronement of his father. His parents had two other children - a male child, before him, and a female child, after him.  The elder brother died at an early age even before the birth of Lamidi Olayiwola but the younger sister, Alhaja Sikirat Adeyemi, is still living.

There’s no gainsaying the fact that Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi was seriously traumatized in his formative years, by the untimely death of his mother as is evident from the following extracts from the tape-recorded and transcribed interviews (henceforth, interview extract(s)), for instance:

She never came to the palace to be an Ayaba (’a Queen’).  She died before my father because the Alaafin of Oyo and incidentally, she was the only one who never made it to the palace.

...may be because I lost my mother at an early age and this made me very close and attached to my father.

...and you know what? My mother was the only one out of my father’s wives who did not follow him to the palace. She died...

...I lost my mother when I was very young... it must have been at the age of 10 years, and that was before my father became the Alaafin... Ayaba Adeoti was from Iwo.  She took very good care of me...

...I had no mother and it was beginning to affect me psychologically and also spiritually.

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi’s father was not literate, but he was very close to the early colonial administrators and African civil servants who he was always entertaining with refreshments in his house, and Lamidi Olayiwola was well-known to these notable friends of his father.  Because his father knew the value, influence and power of western education, he wanted his children to be well-educated so as to be fully prepared for future tasks.

Character Traits from Parents

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III no doubt has some character traits from his parents.  These include strict discipline, devotion to Islam, equity and justice, hard work and dogged perseverance, kindness and sincerity, high moral principles, honesty, uprightness, tolerance and diplomacy.  Some interview extracts would readily confirm the aforementioned character traits.

Strict discipline: My father was a strict thing I liked about him was that he was highly disciplined.

Devotion to Islam: He brought us up in a very strict muslim way.  He himself was very versed in Quaran.  We had to go, very early in the morning, with  him to the mosque to prepare water (for ablutions). We would carry lantern together with him; and because of this, we took a high devotion to Islam.  My father was a very serious muslim, a practising one.  He would wake up in the morning and we would follow him to the mosque.  While he was drawing water from the well, we would be carrying it from the well to the mosque inside gourds, and we were attending Quaranic school.

Equity and justice: Another thing I learnt from him, sitting down as he judged disputes, is that ‘whatever we do, we do (it) with the fear of God...’ If you did anything, like there was a dispute between you and your senior, you were reported and you were guilty, he would first ask you ‘did you do what you are reported for?’ He would ask you to tell him the truth and if you confess that ‘yes, I did it’, he would say it was wrong and he would give you your punishment.  And then, you would go and prostrate several times for your senior.

Hard work and dogged perseverance:  We were taught how to weave.  We learnt embroidery and we did it the native way. We had to use our hands.  We had to sew cloths, that native “gbariye”... We also had farms.  When I was very young, they took us to his farms.  We had oko etile, the farms that were very close to the house, that is within the city, and oko egan, the farms that were distant (from the city).  When we went to the farms that were distant, we would not come back for three or four days but (in the case of ) oko etile, when we went (there), we would come back (same day).  They would give you a portion of land where you have to till, and teach you how to plant yam... And how to water it... How to plant cassava and all sorts of things. So, you have to know (that)... tilling the ground would toughen would know that most of the things you eat do not come  easily... We worked very hard.  We worked for the sustenance of the family and ourselves.

Kindness and sincerity: One of the things I learnt from him is for me to be very good to people, to keep company and be very sincere.

High moral principles:  When he became the Alaafin, I realised, he had principles.  Whatever he believed was right, you could not buy him.

Honesty, uprightness and tolerance:  Whenever there was a problem, because she (mother) was very attached to my father, very honest... very upright... there seemed to be general opinion among the other wives that she was the one passing information to my father...  There was a time people were abusing her, calling her ara oko, adimo oko (‘a rustic/yokel’) and so on.  There was one day I told my mother... ‘can’t you reply these people who are abusing you?, You just keep quiet... looking’ (at them). My mother said “won o fo eniyan loju ni: mi o fi ki won fo mi loju ni” (lit. ‘They will make person go blind: I don’t want them to make me go blind’). I said ‘will you be sitting and allowing them to use a stick or stone to damage your eyes? Why don’t you stop them?’ She said ‘hm!, You don’t understand what I am saying.  These are people who have been here for many years.  You don’t know what you are saying’, and then she stopped.  It was later years that I learnt that what she was doing was training not to be combative, and doing it to protect me as if she knew she was going to die.

Diplomacy and confidence:  These men, when they are polygamous, they seem to know those among their wives who love them and who are sincere with them but sometimes they might not be able to say it in order to keep the woman out of danger, shield her out of danger.  My dedication from all this scenario was that my father was doing that for my mother primarily to protect her interest and protect the interest of the children, and when my mother died... I became very much attacked to my father... the relationship was so close.  I then learnt something later on when he was on exile at Ilesa... he told me, he said ‘you see now, this is one of the reasons why I want you to do well.  I want you to become a star in your own right.” He told me not to inherit any prejudice from him; that I should form my own opinion.  What I learnt from my father was what I learnt from my mother, that is, “if you love somebody, have absolute trust in him or her, trust can be broken but if you can not trust people, people can not trust you.  They can break your heart but is better for you to have confidence in people and allow people to break that confidence.  But if you see people as human beings who can not be trusted, then you end up in life by not being trusted by anybody...

Apart from the fact that Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi has some character traits from his parents, his relationship with them was also very close as is evident not only from some of the interview extracts above but also from his very fond remarks about them whenever the occasion arises during the interviews.  Indeed, his deep attachment to his father must have some connection with his nature of birth as is evident from the following interview extract:
...When I came to the world... Because of what happened at the place of my birth, I was told that my birth excited my father so seriously because I happened to be a replica of him... Because there was a laceration on his left breast and I was born with that laceration on my left breast, and the spot I saw on my leg... Was what you would see on my father’s leg but he never told anybody... Yes, same leg, same spot. I never knew this until I grew up and until when I was close to him... When he was at Egarton street, when he was in exile, after he had left Ilesa, he called me, showed me his leg and asked me to bring mine.  I thought I sustained the wound when I was young but he said no, that I was born with it.  Then, he said he had same.  I suspected that these were the combination of factors that had influenced him, not wanting me to stay with him, and to be trained in such a way that I would be on my own... I would be able to exert myself in later life.


The ancestral home where Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi was brought up was popularly known as ile epo gin-n-gin. It was called so because the head of the compound was nicknamed epo gin-gin ba oju omi je (lit) ‘a tiny drop of palm oil spoils the water’).  The house is now known  as ile tuntun (‘new house’).

Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi was brought up in strict compliance with the traditional Yoruba mode of training children, which places strong emphasis on discipline, obedience and respect.  He was brought up to face the rigours of life and living right from infancy.  Thus, as noted earlier, apart from assisting his father in farming (Oyo is basically an agrarian settlement), he was also taught how to sew and make embroideries on native  cloths by hand since, at that time, sewing or making embroideries by machine was a rarity.

He started schooling very early, around 5 years of age, at the kindergarten school known as Oloniini (lit. ‘A farthing worth’) primary school because the school fees was onini mewaa (ten farthings).  The school is now known as Idi Ope Primary School.

Sojourning at Iseyin

After his kindergarten school at Oyo, Lamidi Olayiwola was sent by his father to a renowned Islamic scholar, Alfa Olowookere, living at Ijenba quarters, Iseyin to learn the Quaran. However, while studying the Quaran, he was also attending the Ansarudeen Primary School in Iseyin.  Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi explained the reason for sending him to Iseyin by his father thus:

...people advised my father that the way I was going, I would be difficult to handle  You better take him out to your presence’... Immediately my father became the Alaafin, his friends thought my freedom and show of love might have negative effects on me...

Back to Oyo Town

After the completion of his Quaranic education, his father had to bring him back to Oyo town.  Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi gave the reason why his stay with Alhaji Olowookere at Iseyin was terminated as follows:

...people thought that a prince should not be allowed to put on rags.  So, people organised my being taken away from him (Alhaji Olowookere) and brought me to Oyo, and was given to a woman among my father’s wives... in fairness to them (the wives) all of them were very nice to me.  They showed me love.

And for fear of being indulged, his father would not like him to stay in the palace.  He, therefore, sent him to St. Andrew’s College Demonstration School during which time he stayed with the principal of the school, Mr Olatoregun, a famous and highly respected disciplinarian of his time, with an extraordinary ability to bring up youths and prepare them for direct entry into the famous St. Andrew’s College, Oyo,  established in 1896, St Andrew’s College, Oyo was the first post-primary institution in the southern part of Nigeria.

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi savoured his days with Mr Olatoregun with obvious relish thus: I learnt so much from him.  In the morning, you wake up, recite the prayer, read the Bible and we would all pray together.  In the morning, we were given moinmoin and pap but I usually cut mine into two and kept one (half) in a local oven, and when I came back in the afternoon, I would eat the half and other would be looking at me.  I would have wrapped the moinmoin with banana leave and before we were served launch. I would eat the moinmoin.  We always eat rice on Sundays alone.  So, we would want Sunday to come quickly.  So, Monday to Sunday was like a month.  We would say ‘ha! Se Sunday ko li de ni?’ (Ha! Is it not yet Sunday?’). So, Sunday we would eat rice with a slice of meat, which I would cut into two or three.  So I learnt to discipline myself... And people would envy me because when they would be hungry, I would have something to eat.

Sojourn at Abeokuta (Alake’s Palace)

The young Lamidi Olayiwola’s stay with Mr Olatoregun as well as his education at St. Andrew’s College Demonstration School, Oyo, was, however, again dramatically terminated when in 1947, his father decided to take him to Abeokuta to stay with the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Sir Oladapo Ademola, the father of the distinguished Adetokunbo Ademola, who was the first Nigerian Chief Justice. The decision of Lamidi Olayiwola’s father to send him to the Alake was based on the fact that many of the children of Alake were law graduates, and since his father wanted nothing but the best education for Lamidi Olayiwola, he wanted him to model himself on Alake’s children.  Furthermore, in the word of Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi: that time, Egba Alake was sophisticated, and my father wanted me where education would be mixed with culture and tradition of our people.

Thus, around 1947, Lamidi Olayiwola started to attend Ake Primary School inside the Alake’s palace at Abeokuta.  There, he became very famous among the pupils and was given several nicknames such as ‘general’, ‘oga’ (master) and ‘afefe’ (the wind).  He was nicknamed ‘general’ or ‘oga’ because everything he did in the palace compound was done with authority and finesse, and when taking part in athletic (track) events during the empire day celebration, he was called ‘afefe’ because of his unequalled ability to run fast.  So popular were the nicknames that the Alake, Oba Oladapo Ademola, himself got to know that he was called oga.  Lamidi Olayiwola was pleasantly surprised and had to prostrate flatly and openly shouted ‘ha! how come!’, on the day the Alake himself called him ‘Oga’.

Because princes were not allowed by tradition to be very close to the throne of their fathers, they had surrogate mothers who took charge of their training. Therefore, during Lamdidi Olayiwola’s sojourn in the palace of the Alake of Egba land, one of the wives of Alake, Olori Wuraola, was his surrogate mother, and she was very fond of him.

Lamidi Olayiwola was very fluent in the Egba dialect, and but for his facial Oyo tribal marks, native speakers of Egba dialect would have regarded him as an indigene of Egba land.

Lamidi Olayiwola had the very rare privilege of being one of the people that were directly serving the Alake's breakfast. He would also pack the remnants, which he considered a privilege to eat.  If and when the wives of the Alake packed the remnants, the Alake would say in the Egba dialect “Se e de gbe ounje fun oga? Oun ti ko de je gbogbo ounje naa o. Ke gbe ounje fun Oga” (”Give the remaining food to Oga. He is the one to eat all of it.  Give the food to him.”)

Lamidi Olayiwola’s primary school education had to be abruptly terminated again following an unfortunate incident between 1947 and 1948 when it was decided by the Colonial Authorities that Egba women should pay tax. 

This decision led to a spontaneous revolt by the Egba women.  Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a very dynamic and indefatigable women leader, led Egba women out on massive demonstrations for days and weeks in the entire Egba land.  All the efforts of the colonial Authorities to calm down the women were in vain.  At the end of the day, Oba Oladapo Ademola abdicated the throne of Egba and went into exile at Osogbo (now the capital city of Osun State).  The following excerpts from wikipedia vividly summarise the situation then:

•She (Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti) founded an organisation for women in Abeokuta, with a membership total of over 20 thousand individuals spanning both literate and illiterate women.  Ransome-Kuti launched the organisation into public consciousness when she rallied women against price controls which hurt market women.  In 1949, she led a protest against Native Authorities, especially against the Alake of Egbaland.  She presented documents alleging abuse of authority by the Alake, who had been granted right to collect taxes.

•The struggle led to the abdication of Egba King Oba Ademola II in 1949.

(See Ransome-Kuti)

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi himself also described the situation thus:

Mrs Ransome-Kuti led women out, and for days and weeks, the whole of Egba land was agog with demonstrations.  The Colonial Administration at that time tried their possible best to calm down the women but it was not possible since they could not shoot them.  Since they could not beat them, the women said, if the traditional ruler would not leave the throne, they would come out naked ...throughout the city, and that is an abberation in Yoruba Culture. So the Alake had to vacate (the throne)... and I had to accompany him to Osogbo.  He went to exile in Osogbo.

Culled from "The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III: His Life, History and His Philosophy" written by Kola Owolabi and Sayo Alagbe.


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