With his passage to join his ancestors on Friday, April 22, at 83, having spent 52 years on the throne as the 45th Alaafin of Oyo, the race has begun in earnest for who will step into the big shoes left behind by the Permanent Chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III. Adeyemi, the famous ‘Iku Baba Yeye’, who hailed from the Alowolodu family of the Adeyemi Ruling House, was the son of Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, who was deposed and sent into exile in 1954 for having sympathy for the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) then. Alaafin Lamidi succeeded Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II, who hailed from the Agunloye Ruling House.
He was chosen in 1970, and was crowned on January 14, 1971. The boxing lover was chosen when he was 32 years of age, following his eventual satisfaction of the official chieftaincy declaration under Section 4(2) of the Chiefs Law, Cap 19 of the Customary Law, which regulated the selection of the Alaafin of Oyo Chieftaincy.
The declaration provided that: “There are two Ruling Houses and the identity of each Ruling House is: 1. Agunloye, and 2. Alowolodu. Against the expectation that the ascendancy to the stool will be seamless as the next family is believed to be known, the process has begun to face some disputes as a contestant to the throne has challenged the status quo, saying that the above quoted declaration was a ruse as it did not capture the true lines of the families entitled to the throne. The Olori Omooba (Head of Princes) of Oyo, High Chief Mukaila Afonja, in a statement recently made before the 8th Day Prayer for the past Alaafin, had claimed that there were two ruling houses in the kingdom: Alowolodu and Agunloye, but that they had many family branches. Going by history and if the age-long arrangement were to be strictly adhered to, the next Alaafin would come from the Agunloye Ruling House.
The Agunloye Ruling Family comprises the Gbadegesin and Oladigbolu families. However, rejecting the position of High Chief Afonja, the Mogaji (Head) of the Olawoyin Royal Family, Oyo, Prince Tijani Adebayo Olawoyin Atiba, had recently said that the two ruling houses of Alowolodu and Agunloye had been merged in 1976 by the then military government to accommodate all eleven children of Atiba, their Ancestor. Barring any change in the present operating arrangement therefore, aspirants from the Agunloye Ruling House are already warming up for the vacant stool of the Alaafin.
The Kingmakers, otherwise called the Oyomesi, are already warming up to receive list of aspirants from the Baba Iyaji, who constitutionally is empowered to receive their dossiers from the recommending families, and forward same, un-tampered, to the Basorun of Oyo, who is the Head of the Kingmakers. From Saturday Telegraph’s discreet investigation, the eldest in the Agunloye Ruling House presently is the retired Arch-Bishop of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Ayo Ladigbolu.
He is currently 83 years old as he will be 84 by June this year. He was a retired Methodist Arch-Bishop of Ilesa and Ibadan and as somebody with journalism training; he was the Chairman of the Editorial Board, Literature Department, Methodist Church Nigeria. A versed traditionalist and intellectual in the class akin to that of late Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, Pa Ladigbolu, was a very close ally of the Alaafin, though older by about three months. Arch-Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu had recently said that he is eminently qualified to be the next Alaafin as he is from the male line of the Agunloye Ruling House. The Prince has children, among them Remi Ladigbolu, formerly of the Punch Newspaper. From the same Ruling House is the youngest that has also indicated interest to be the next Alaafin. Like the late Alaafin, he is just 31 years old.
He is Ismail Bukola Oladigbolu, born on January 20, 1991 to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Sherifat Bashiru Oladigbolu. An indigene of Oyo East in Oyo Town, Prince Ismail is single and graduated with a BSc Chemistry from the University of Abuja in 2016. Having served out his mandatory one year NYSC exercise, and worked in some reputable private companies, he started working with the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) in 2017 and he is currently its employee. Prince Ismaila Oladigbolu is the Managing Director of Perfect Choice Digital Investment Ltd., a major contractor of the World Bank Agricultural Projects, UN Empowerment and Skills Acquisition Projects and some Federal Ministries. In-between the duo already x-rayed is another Prince from the same Ruling House, who has strongly shown interest in the exalted vacant stool.
He is Prince Lukuman Gbadegesin, who is also Abuja-based, and is reported to be working with former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku. In age, Prince Lukuman is in his late 50s. He attended Ladigbolu Grammar School, Oyo but completed his secondary education in Federal Government College (FGC), Sokoto. Thereafter, he continued his studies at The Ibadan Polytechnic, where he studied Accounting Education and bagged National Certification of Education. Also identified as interested and worthy of the race is Wale Gbadegesin, younger brother to Lukuman Gbadegesin. Both are of the same mother.
Wale started his secondary education at the Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo and completed it at Oranmiyan Grammar School, Oyo. He also attended Adeyemi College of Education where he had his NCE. He is based in Abuja also like his elder brother. To his fond memory, late Prince Adetunji Wasiu Gbadegesin, who died last year, would have also been in the race as he was also eminently qualified to become the next Alaafin. Prince Wasiu was 59 when he suddenly took ill and passed away at a private hospital in Ibadan.
Until his death, he was the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice. He was formerly the Solicitor- General of the State and was among candidates already penciled down by Seyi Makinde’s administration to be appointed to the Bench as a Judge. His untimely death came four months after the same Oyo State Justice Ministry lost its Registrar, Mrs. Fatimat Badru, who also hailed from Oyo Town. Prince Wasiu attended Ladigbolu Grammar School, Oyo and passed out in 1980 before proceeding to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he bagged his L.LB degree.
The above identified aspirants, including some others not yet known, whose families will soon put forward to the Baba Iyaji, will have their fate determined by the seven-member Oyomesi-in-Council comprising the Basorun (Head), who is presently the Administrative Head in the Alaafin’s palace till a new Alaafin will be installed; the Ashipa (which stool had been vacant since the dastardly murder of its last occupant, Chief Amuda Olorunkosebi, on November 26, 1992 (30 years ago) by some unknown assassins who waylaid him on a lonely path to his farm. 3. The Agbaakin, 4. The Alapinni, 5. The Lagunna, 6. The Samu, and 7.
The Akinniku of Oyo”. With the absence of Ashipa among the kingmakers, however, the choice of the next Alaafin (not through sale of forms as is practised in some communities) will be made by the existing six members of the Oyomesi. The candidate acceptable to the majority of the kingmakers is thereafter proclaimed the Alaafin of Oyo. How long the process will last before a new Alaafin is enthroned is now dependent on whether there will be litigation or opposition, or not, from the Olawoyin family as discussed above. Power of the government may not also be discountenanced in the process as Governor Seyi Makinde had on Sunday, April 24, (three days after the demise of the Alaafin) visited the palace and appealed to the Kingmakers to ensure smooth process that will quickly lead to choice of the successor to Oba Lamidi.