The litmus test for any great leader is not how long but how effective and productive his life was and how beneficial to the people he led and what mattered to him the most? If we judge the late Deji by those indices of leadership, I will submit that the young man has done pretty good and could have done more.
Jesus, the king of Kings and the Lion of Judah lived for 33 years but he accomplished his life mission in 3 years as confirmed by the Bible. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was President and leader of the free world for less than 3 years but he made an impact and left a legacy that many of his predecessors and successors could only dream of in 4 to 8 years. Murtala Mohammed was Head of State of Nigeria for only 200 days and in that short time frame, he did what Yakubu Gowon or Ibrahim Babangida and even Olusegun Obasanjo could not do with their longevity in the same office.
Kabiyesi probably had a premonition or some inkling that his work on this Earth was winding down but none of his life-changing activities and achievements as one of the 13 shortest-reigning Dejis in Akure history could be used to prove he knew he was about to die. Our grand father Afunbiowo the First woke up every morning in his 60 years on the same throne consulting Ifa oracle and seeking guidance on how his day was going to be. He was therefore able to predict his own death with some accuracy. Not so with his grand son, Afunbiowo the Second whose life like a candle in the wind was abruptly put out in his palace on December 1st without a chance to say goodbye to any of us. Death again is the unavoidable debt we all owe. The young man is gone now and all the seas of tears would never bring him back but he will live in our hearts for a long time.
Last Thursday the Kabiyesi called me to ask if I could represent him at one of the birthday ceremonies of one of our nieces in New York the next day. I had to say “yes” because nobody who treasures Akure history and tradition as much as I do would ever have the nerves to say “no” to “Kabi o ko si” the paramount ruler of Akure kingdom and the pleni-potentiary chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas. I was more than happy to say “yes” because I already had an invitation to the same party and my going there to stand in for Kabiyesi was only going to add more to my welcome in that gathering as it turned out. The man started going into a coma in his palace around the time the party was still in full swing in New York.
What I took away from his brief phone call is bound to loom larger than life as I reflect on the tragic events that followed the call 72 hours later. Kabiyesi would normally call me, if he needed me for anything. What baffles me as I look back now on that particular phone call, was how quickly the Kabiyesi veered away from the initial purpose of his call to start talking about something else. He asked if I was open to writing his biography just like I did for our grand father.
I politely told him there would be plenty of time to talk on that because he still has a long way to go on the throne. I assured him there would be plenty to write about him 10 to 20 years down the road, if he continued on the path he was going just like Afunbiowo the First.
I tried to steer him away from from that conversation because I thought he still had many more years to live. I told him that my prayer was that he should be the one to survive me and not the other way round. I wanted him to let us talk about something else, but he refused to let go insisting that it might be a good idea for me to start thinking about the project because it was one of his priorities. He had found a copy of my book on our grand father at the US Library of Congress and he wanted his legacies preserved like that for generations yet unborn after his demise. He told me he had read “the Lion King” more than 4 times in his quiet moments and he wanted to be remembered like that and he could think of no better Akure historian in Akure to handle the project.
I told him I was flattered, but I wasn’t going to let the conversation continue and I did it by quickly changing the topic. Looking back in time now, I suspect the Kabiyesi probably knew something I did not know. I could not have imagined that his tenure was drawing down and he was probably giving me some indications of the like great leaders do. I could never have imagined that Akure would be mourning and singing 3 days later a song that is only reserved for sorrowful moments like the passing of every Deji as we begin the burial protocols and formalities of their burial. The song is “Oju ro li toni, Okoro koro Oju ro” meaning sorrow and devastation have hit Akure town where it hurts the most and our eyes are heavy with tears and sorrow as we mourn the passing of our awesome traditional ruler who has raised so much hope in his 3 short years on that throne. My heart goes out to his loving wife and children, to Akure as a whole, to the Adesida Descendants Union of Akure at home and abroad. My heart goes out to the Ondo State Council of Obas that he presided over for more than one year out of his 3 years on the throne. It is fair to say that he died as Chairman, and he took that honor to his grave like none of his predecessors in Ondo State. He was a Deji with many firsts like his grand father, Afunbiowo the First even though he had reigned for only 3 years putting him among the rank and file of 13 previous Dejis who have ruled for less than 10 years as I would show in the remaining segment of this tribute.
Two Dejis in Akure reigned for only one year. They were Deji “A mo roro bi Ojo” who reigned from 1850 to 1851 and Omoremiosun from 1851 to 1852. Deji Osuon reigned for 2 years from 1832 to 1834. Deji Agboyere like the latest Deji reigned for 3 years from 1846 to 1849. Deji Ogunlegboju reigned for 4 years from 1819 to 1823. while Deji Ajalaga led Akure from 1828 to 1832. Two among the Dejis reigned for 5 years each. The first was Deji Ausi who reigned from 1823 to 1828. The second was the deposed Deji Osupa Adepoju who reigned from 2005 to 2010. Deji Olarako reigned for 6 years from 1299 to 1305. Deji Arosoye reigned for 7 years from 1890 to 1897 while Deji Odundun Asodedero reigned for 8 years from 1882 to 1890 just like Deji Ataiyese who also reigned for 8 years from 1991 to 1999.
So in the normal scheme of things Deji Afunbiowo the Second who reigned for 3 years from 2010 to 2013 was not the shortest-reigning Deji but the young man has recorded many a first in those 3 years.
He was the second grand child and a non-omo ori ite candidate to be crowned a Deji in Akure because his own father Atobatele Prince Josiah Stanley Adegboye Adesida was never crowned a Deji even though he would have been one, had he survived his own father, as documented in my book which is fast becoming the only reference book on Akure history as we speak.
Late Kabiyesi was the first Deji to come to the throne married to the highest educated Olori with a Ph.D. Olori the first wife of Kabiyesi, the Akala of Ikaram, a professor, was the first Ph.D Olori in Nigeria. Olori Mojisola Adesida nee Abitogun was the second. Mojisola who was my student at Queens College, Ede, was a full time Director in a Federal Parastatal in Kwara State before her husband’s coronation. She made a huge sacrifice quitting her very lucrative job to go look after her husband while at the same time serving our people. Afunbiowo the Second was the first Deji in Akure who never took a second wife even though he was rumored to have had a chain of girl friends. It was only a rumor that nobody has been able to confirm. He joined the short rank of one or two Dejis who did not produce a child on the throne after their coronation. Deji Ataiyese was one and the Deji Afunbiowo the Second would be another, if no woman shows up after his death to claim she had a child for him.
Kabiyesi’s 3 years on the throne were among the most peaceful and the most eventful in Akure History. He became the first Deji of Akure to be named the Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas on his own merit. The highest position any other Deji has ever risen to, was Deputy Chairman and that was Deji Otutubiosun Adelegan Adesida III who reigned from 1975 to 1991. Afunbiowo the Second was the first Deji ever to possess all of the powerful combinations of factors that made that possible. Governor Mimiko who gave him his staff of office, was his junior boy at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Ondo town and the same Governor and his younger brother, Prince Adelana Adesida were both classmates in the same school.
The late Deji was the first Deji ever to develop a special relationship with a Nigerian Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo who became his adopted father and personal confidant. He was a Deji with a powerful connection to several powerful Emirs in the North and to two of the most powerful Yoruba traditional rulers namely the great Ooni of Ife and Iku Baba Yeye, the great Alaafin of Oyo. Two weeks ago the Kabiyesi performed the wedding ceremony of his Aremo in Lagos in a gathering that would go down in history as one of his greatest outings as a Deji of substance and gravitas similar to that of Deji Ataiyese Adebobajo Adesida who as a retired Commissioner of Police was also a very influential Deji. Kabiesi’s son’s wedding was a carnival attended by many Governors and powerful traditional rulers from all over Nigeria and celebrities and socialites like Otumba Kunle Ojora, Michael Adenuga, Alhaji Dangote and Chief Okoya Thomas and a few Emirs from the North and many members of the great Island Club of Lagos where his immediate junior brother, Prince Adelana was Social Secretary for many years.
Deji Afunbiowo the Second was a Deji who could claim his full right in the committee of traditional rulers in Nigeria from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and from Gwagwalada to Oweri. He has accomplished in 3 years what many of his predecessors on that throne could not do in 20 years. His record on the throne was comparable to the achievements of the Lion King himself, Erinlakatabu Afunbiowo the First, the greatest Deji of all times during whose tenure Akure rose from a mere hamlet to become the doyen of all towns in Ondo State.
Akure is today the the State capital and one of the 8 Millennium Centers for Development in Africa in large part because of the vision and tremendous power and influence of Adesida One who reigned for 60 years becoming the longest reigning Deji in the 900 years of Akure history.
Above all, Deji Afunbiowo the Second did one thing his tenure would long be remembered for 50 to 100 years from now. His predecessor in Akure, Deji Osupa, the first Deji to be crowned under the obnoxious 2 ruling House formula imposed on Akure by Sunday Olukoya had brought horrendous shame, humiliation and disgrace to the Deji’s Institution like no other Deji before him. He was exiled from the throne as a perpetrator of domestic violence who could easily have ended up in jail for physically beating up his wife in the market place and pouring acid on her. The wife never recovered from her injuries and emotional stress until she died miserably in Nigeria less than one year later.
It was the lowest point for any Deji in living memory. Many of us from the royal family in Akure were so devastated and embarrassed. The best we could do was to beg Government to save the institution from further disgrace by just sending the individual into exile rather than putting him in jail.
Deji Afunbiowo the Second therefore came to the throne with a promise to sanitize the throne and to restore it to its past glory and to fight for the restoration of the old Asodeboyede Ruling Line which has always widen the scope for selection of subsequent Dejis in Akure rather than narrowing the selection down to some hoodlums with no traceable linkage to royalty in Akure. The last time an Osupa ever reigned in Akure was in 1845, so it was easy for fake princes with plenty of money to throw around to start bribing their way to coronation as the Deji. The last Deji Osupa issued a post-dated check for 20 million Naira to the king makers before they agreed to pick him. Guess what happened to the check. It bounced. That would tell you how desperate and how far some fake princes would go to snatch the throne from the rightful owners in a very corrupt country like Nigeria.
The late Deji has already started working on the project to restore the Asodeboyede Ruling Line which would mean a worthy candidate like attorney Ademola Adegoroye from the Faturoti unit of the Asodeboyede Line could again contest now and be considered along with candidates from other units including another Adesida. It is doubtful if that would be allowed to happen now because the Osupa/Odundun line which was an imposition, to begin with, might now want to come in again despite their abysmal record on that throne, the only time the 2 Ruling House formula was ever tried in 2005.
Reverting back to the Asodeboyede line after the Omo ori-ite-clause in the Deji’s Declaration has been expunged by consensus would have made more sense and made it easier for the king makers to find a most qualified candidate from any the surviving units of Asodeboyede Ruling Line like was done in Akure from the dawn of our history. Any Akure man or woman who is interested in this history can buy himself or herself a copy of “the Lion King and the Cubs” which is not just a biography of Deji Afunbiowo the First, but the history of Akure in a nutshell. The bane of our society is that not much of our history is documented. That is why I have devoted the rest of my life to doing that for whatever it may be worth. Somebody has to speak up.
The Late Deji again has done one thing that has set him apart as one of the most authentic Dejis of all times that Akure King makers, if they are wise, thoughtful and patriotic would seriously think about before picking the next Deji.
Reverting back to the Asodeboyede Ruling Line is totally conceivable, given the sudden death of the late Deji and his unique track record which has now been cut short by the tragic hands of Death. But the charismatic young man has died with his dignity intact and while the ovation is loudest. It doesn’t get any better than that for a throne that has been so bastardized by politicians and military rulers with little regard for history and due process.
The late Deji’s decision to build his new home and residence in the Deji’s compound makes him a “sui generis” among his peers in Yoruba land and his predecessors in Akure Kingdom. It has now become part of Akure history that what is now known today as the old Palace was the brain child of Deji Afunbiowo the First who led the community to build the old Palace where the late Deji died in the early hours of December 1st. The next Palace which was first occupied by the deposed Deji was built during the reign of Deji Adelegan and Deji Ataiyese Adebobajo Adesida who would have been the first to live there had he survived for a few more years.
The newest ultra modern palace befitting the Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas could easily have been built in any of the private lands of the late Deji in the Government Reservation area of Alagbaka or Ijapo Estates in Akure, if the young man was thinking of himself and his nuclear family alone. He refused to build the ultra modern house outside the Palace because he told his people he had devoted the rest of his life to serving them and he was not interested in building a mansion that his own children and family could easily take over when he is no longer around. Nigeria would be a different country if most traditional rulers and most of our political leaders could think like that. Every one is thinking about their own needs and wallet and would hardly think big like the late Deji who has forever earned the respect and adulation of many Akure elites for his selfless spirit.
I give part of the credit for that to his Olori, Dr. Mojisola Adesida who I understand is being tortured and punished right now by Akure people and traditional chiefs even though she had played her role very well as a big partner in progress for the realization of her husband’s dreams for Akure. If she had prevailed on her husband to not build that new Palace within the four walls of the old Palace, she would have succeeded. I give kudos to the woman for not dissuading her husband from going ahead to build the property.
I seize this opportunity to appeal to the present Olisa Oteru Oba Ode as head of the Iare group of Chiefs and Baralaiye and GOC, the Sao of Akure as the Ikomo head to protect the woman from further embarrassment and humiliation in the hands of Akure people who want to return Akure to the stone age.
Olori Mojisola is another Awe woman from old Oyo who made a decision to devote her entire life to serving Akure people just like the late Eyesorun the first daughter of Pa Ajao of Lagos did for Deji Agunsoye Adesida. Olori Mojisola may not have the charisma and the flawless appeal of the Eyesorun of blessed memory, but she is definitely a very good and responsible woman who has done Akure proud as a pillar of support for her husband. She should be respected and honored for her role not humiliated.
The Taj Mahal the late Deji has built for Akure is now in the last stage of completion. The finishing has started and the furnitures and other accessories ordered for millions of Naira by the Kabiyesi in 8 containers and shipped from the United States, are already in Akure as we speak. In more civilized and thoughtful towns, the city’s King makers and Akure leaders of thought and Council of Chiefs would have factored that development in assessing the contributions of the late Deji just like the Owo king makers never forgot the contributions of late Olowo Olateru Olagbegi to making Owo the shinning city she has become in Ondo State.
A Deji with the same kind of mind set as the late Deji would be hard to find in many parts of Nigeria. Akures must never forget that as they remember the young man. Kabiyesi Atobatele Adesoji Aderemi, the great Ooni Risa of Ife was that kind of traditional ruler. Same thing can be said of Ooni Risa Sijuwade Olubuse the Second and the current Olugbo of Ugbo Nla in Ilaje Ese Odo or the late Aloko of Iloko- Ilesha the former Nigerian Minister of Finance,Oba Olasore.
Those are great and selfless traditional rulers who want to leave behind a legacy too big and too fundamental for any of their king makers in their towns to ignore or dismiss with the wave of the hand. Their public spiritedness and patriotism are unique in Nigeria. We all must recognize that attribute and treasure it.
Deji Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida, Afunbiowo the Second has followed the foot steps of his grand father, Afunbiowo the First in being one of the greatest builders of Akure in his own time. True he was a very sociable Oba who loves life to the fullest but those of us who know him the best know that he was an authentic Deji who wanted the best not just for himself but for Akure, and has gone the extra mile to place Akure on the world map. He was the first Deji to ever go on a cruise with his wife to the Bahamas and the Caribbean on the sponsorship of his children.
My heart again goes out to his wife and life partner, Olori Mojisola Adesida and their adorable children. My heart goes out to his younger brother, Prince Adelana Adesida who would have taken a bullet, so to speak, to save the life of his senior brother. My heart goes out to his late senior sister, Princess Adekunbi Faloye nee Adesida who is no longer with us but whose children and husband have been a pillar of support to the late Kabiyesi without any question. My heart goes out to the Adesida Royal Dynasty of Akure which has taken a big hit on the Deji’s death.
My condolences go to our hardworking and progressive Governor, Olusegun Mimiko who has had the stressful role of burying no less than 4 of his predecessors in that office in under one year of his second term.
I am talking of Olusegun Agagu, Okhai Mike Akhigbe and Lucky Mike Torey and his last Commissioner for Trade and Tourism, Deji Falae talk less of Governor Adekunle Ajasin and his wife, Mama Funke Ajasin, Governor and Commodore Bamidele Otiko, Governor Adebayo Adefarati and Governor and Captain Onyearugbulem and the wife of the first military Governor of Ondo State Air Force Captain Ita David Ikpeme.
All of these individuals have died and only God knows who is going to be next in Ondo State.
The death of the late Deji could not have come at a more difficult time for the Governor because he has lost one of his ardent supporters among traditional rulers in Ondo State.
Akure people at home and abroad must learn some useful lessons from this unfortunate death. I hear some ignorant traditional chiefs are objecting to carrying out an autopsy on the body to determine the cause of death as a precaution for the future. There is nothing in Akure tradition which bars a Deji from seeking medical treatment at home and abroad or doing an autopsy to determine the cause of death in this modern era. Any tradition that forbids that has outlived its usefulness and should be thrown overboard. We have to know what killed the Kabiyesi without a chance to even say good bye to the people he loved. Did he die of stress or sleep deprivation or food poison. Akure has a right to know. How come he was not rushed for Xray and more intense treatment once he complained of stomach upset and fatigue. Akure deserve to have answers to all of those questions.
If it is a natural death, we would know. If he was poisoned, we would also know. Gone are the days for those barbaric traditions.
An educated man like the current Olisa and Baralaye, the Sao of Akure and the General Officer Commanding Akure traditional Forces and the Head of Ikomo group must join hands to ensure that some of those barbaric rites like burying different body parts of the Kabiyesi at different places must cease, from now on. I love the good side of our tradtions but never the negative side of it in a country where every store front is a Church.
The late Deji has given his life to God and his wishes ought to be respected even in death. It would be nice if the Kabiyesi becomes the first to be given a decent and transparent burial. Gone are those days when the Oluasorun has to come to town to perform his own rites on the corps of the Deji. Those rites have been abandoned for decades without any reprisal or repercussions. Why go back to them now?
The few in our town who are criticizing the late Deji for building a Mosque and a Church along with the new Palace are living in the past. The late Deji has set a new standard in modern monarchy that should be praised and not condemned in a multi religious society that Nigeria has become.
I take off my hat for the great Oba and so should many of us.
“Agbogbo Moja, O gbo moniburuku ori. Olori Alade, Ajiwajiwa Ileke. O mu gege ja bi arira o m’ogbon inu ja bi ase. O tumupon jayan Ola. Iwerepe gba rare gba igi oko. Orisa jimila kimiri bi oluleyi, ku o ri bi Oluleyi, sugbon kue ladin ba sikan? Omo Eleyinkule a to wire. O pakoko, pa koko, o pakoko torotoro .O pa Alani O mu aremo re se ji.. Aga a mori re, O toye gboro. Gberinla fodi. O moyinbo go ke. O beri omo sagongon toke Eda rodo. Odudu gbemu gbemu, o lomi sira bi aboyun. Omi nini eiye mu. Okun Araba ribi. O jo yere abi o jobare. Ha ha ha, Oba li jebe. Oodio, Saki Ekun. O darinnako O doju Ala”.
Stay tuned for the part 2.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters