As Kabiyesi Joins The Pantheon
Adetutu Adeleye, a friend and an in-law of the Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi , Ajagungbade the third flew in a few months ago from the US to bury his father. His experience was not so pleasant and so vowed not to return to the country any time soon.
With the news that hit the headlines about the demise of Kabiyesi, Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi last Sunday, I can be too sure that Adetutu must be packing his bags and booking his flight to Nigeria earlier than he thought.
Adetutu, had broken the news by sending a picture of Kabiyesi to my whatsapp platform with a caption, 1926 – 2021. I didn’t need to dust my old notes in Stylistics to decipher what message he was sending across but even at 95 years and 48 years on the throne, I still couldn’t believe the reality that that picture and the caption that came with it represented.
Like William Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar, when beggars die there are no comets seen, the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of Princes, the news was all over the place and denying the reality was merely wallowing in self delusion.
To ba je pe aiku, awon eni igbanni da ?I remember my father’s words alluding to the mortality of man – if people don’t die, where are the ancients? Yes, at 95 years and 48 years of impactful and remarkable reign, Kabiyesi’s exit was still like a rude shock from the blues. We had thought that the countdown would only begin at a hundred.
I was a Primary 3 student in 1973 when Kabiyesi ascended the throne and I remember vividly, how my father pulled my hands and made me run after him in order to catch a glimpse of the new Soun of Ogbomoso. My father’s action didn’t make any sense to me then but events in my latter life were to make me come close to Kabiyesi beyond the mere glimpse I had in 1973 with him seated at the “owner’s corner” of his then Mercedes Benz 230s ( I hope I got that right).
In 1978, Kabiyesi was a special guest of honour at my school’s (Federal Government College, Ogbomoso) Speech and Prize-Giving Day. Yours faithfully received a Proficiency Certificate in Fine Arts on that day and had to step out to receive the Certificate from the Principal , Mr E.C.C. Uzodinma and, can’t remember exactly now, a royal handshake from Kabiyesi. Anyway, I came close to see my Kabiyesi at close range for the very first time.
My second encounter with Kabiyesi was in 1995 when, as a broadcast journalist, I was asked to do a 25-minute report on the mystery of the Ogun o jalu Ogbomoso Shrine. Who else was the custodian of the information about the Shrine if not the Kabiyesi himself? That encounter struck awe and trepidation in me and greater respect for Kabiyesi. Awe and trepidation because at a point in the course of the interview with Kabiyesi, I touched on some salient historical issues that brought out the warrior in Kabiyesi – a change in countenance and a voice that began to boom like several canons released at once. Don’t ask me for details. And respect for his knowledge of history. He was quoting dates with ease and with those dates, names and details of historical figures of particular epochs. And when he had to refer to excerpts of known authorities, it was with unmistaken accuracy. I remember him quoting profusely from The History of the Yoruba by Samuel Johnson.
That encounter was the beginning of a closer relationship with Kabiyesi. Kabiyesi told me he never missed my Press Report on radio adding that my presentations were the evident of a son of the land of the Valiants – Omo Akin. It was the Abacha era when the stories we read were sanctioned, most of the time by self sanction and not because Rogers was pointing a gun to our heads.
In January 2004, I was drafted into the 30th Coronation Ceremony. One evening Kabiyesi was sitting in front of the Palace donning a damask Danshiki and Kembe with an abetiaja to match. The atmosphere was convivial and relaxed and Kabiyesi was telling us some significant milestones of his life. My wife was pregnant and the EDD was the following day. I had to leave for Ibadan that evening though I was enjoying the narrations. I didn’t want to say good bye as that could mean a rude interruption. And leaving without a goodbye could also mean walking out on Kabiyesi. Mi o tobe! So I went close to him to ask for permission to leave for Ibadan. No was the answer as he insisted it was dangerous for me to set out at that particular time.
I now told him why I had to leave citing the EDD issues. “Ole ni e”, Kabiyesi retorted. “Ko si nkan to ma sele. A gbohun iya, a gbohun omo. To ba di lola, pada si Ibadan. Sugbon, mi o ni je ko travel lale yi.” Toba lase and it is not for nothing that he is called Kabiyesi. His words were authority.
I set out for Ibadan the following morning and got home only to find my wife in the kitchen betraying no sign of the imminence of an addition to the family, of course except for the protruding belly. Everything went well until later in the evening when it was obvious we had to set out for the hospital. The rest is history.
I broke the news to Kabiyesi on phone. As he picked the phone and I tried to introduce myself, I heard from the other end, “mo mope iwo ni, mo da voice e mo. Se’yawo re ti bimo ni?” Beeni Kabiyesi was my response. “Oluwa seun”, Kabiyesi replied. “Okunrin ni abi Obinrin?” “Okunrin ni sir…”
Kabiyesi granted the permission for my son to be given all his names including the Oriki. And when my father sent his preference, they tallied with Kabiyesi’s list with some modifications. Instead of Oyewumi, we gave the boy Adewumi because Oye is not part of our family name. He could not be Oladunni because grandpa already named his elder brother Oladunni but he took the Oriki. On the day of the naming ceremony, Kabiyesi sent my sister, one of his Chiefs, to give me a big fat envelop. Interestingly, Kabiyesi and my sister share the same birthday. Once I called Kabiyesi to congratulate him on his birthday, the next thing is “se o ti pe sister re”?
Hmmmm ! Erin wo, ajanaku sun bi oke. I wish I could recall here, all I heard from Kabiyesi. Is it his insistence on wearing the beaded crown? What about his efforts at transforming the town? Is it his bold confrontation of the Powers-that-were when the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) was to be bought by self seeking politicians? What about the long drawn legal battles over the boundary dispute between Oyo and Ogbomoso which was declared in his favour?
Kabiyesi was royalty personified. A man who would not trade his sense of self worth for a bowl of porridge, a Prince who acted like a king long before his ascension to the throne – atobatele. A wealthy man who acquired his wealth by dint of hard work.
Iru Olo’un ni o si like my late father would say. But of a truth, kato ri eni bi Kabiyesi, Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi, Ajagungbade the third, o di gbere. O tun daiye atunwa. You came, you saw and you left indellible footprints and footnotes on the sands of time.
Good night Kabiyesi.
•Adeosun writes from Ibadan.