RUNSEWE: THE ORIGINAL DEJI IS NOW ON THE THRONE
Mo so fun e o, ota mi deyin lehin mi
Osho ile o, dehin leyin mi
Aje ile o, deyin lehin mi etc.
Abat'enije, Abinu eni dehin lehin mi etc.
- Ebenezer Obey in the 70s.
WHEN the new Deji of Akure land, Kabiyesi Oba Adebiyi Adesida, called in the last week of October to invite me to the Thanksgiving Service and reception programmes to be held on Saturday November 13, 2010, I felt very elated and flattered. For one, he is a humble and complete gentleman and a friend to all. We met during our student days at the University of Ibadan, where he was in Tedder Hall while I was in the great Mellamby Hall.
Although he came in 1971 when I was in my final year, there was no way Biyi Adesida would move about incognito. Apart from his good looking and handsome personality, and despite his princely background, he would go out of his way to greet you first and be ready to crack some healthy campus jokes with you whenever he could afford the time.
Despite my feelings of elation, I still had to compile a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis of traveling all the way from Lagos to Akure by road. There were four major costs I had to pay, and I listed them one by one, and all of them very dangerous and risky. The first was the great danger and unpredictability of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Have you ever seen an Expressway so bastardized and overused and yet so neglected? I often wonder why those who compile the Guinness Book of World Records have not made it their business to travel on that road and expose that symbol and symptom of our national shame.
The second and heavy cost I listed was that shame and embarrassment that successive Oyo State Governments have elegantly but indifferently carried and displayed on their heads since 1999. It is that 10-kilometre portion between the Ibadan end of the toll-gate and the very narrow exit and right turn into the new Ife Road. I passed through that portion of the road only two weeks earlier and was stranded for a whole four hours, and in the midst of a thousand other motionless vehicles! If you are looking for the real life meaning of the words Confusion, inconsiderate, Anarchy and Nihilism, don't waste your time looking for Webster's English Dictionary; just make a pilgrimage to two road expressway and you will get the full meaning of each of those words, without any adulteration!
What the Oyo State Government should have done but has decidedly opted not to do is to fill those large potholes that came about through those oversized Trailers and Tankers. The stark reality of our roads is this: The 2nd National Development Plan, which produced the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, among such like roads, did not and could not have envisaged a complete collapse of the extensive, nationwide and fairly reliable network of the Railway System. A large portion of the goods and petroleum products being carried on the roads today should have been better carried by the Railway transportation mode.
The third and heavy cost I listed, on a journey to Akure, was the Ibadan-Ife Road, if you want to experiment with the word and concept, called Danger, just travel on that road. That is the road that Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and his Osun State officials pass through almost on a daily basis.
The fourth and last danger I listed was the Ilesha-Akure road. If you want to know the meaning of reckless driving by motorists, you are advised to go and ply that single lane road, where drivers of luxury buses, 30-ton Trailers, Petroleum Tankers, uncountable brands of Mass Transit Buses from 36 Capitals and 774 Local Government Areas are often engaged in a senseless competition of speed and emptiness of the mind.
The Osun State portion is even worse, while the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has attempted some cosmetic changes by clearing the edges of the invading bush and trees, thus widening the roads, such that once you get to Owena town, you are assured of a reasonable and pleasurable ride into Akure.
Having carefully weighed all these costs of traveling to Akure, I refused to be deterred from honouring that royal invitation and concluded that having to be with our own Deji, Oba Adesida on his day of joy and thanksgiving was worth the risk and the heavy costs. With my 'Americana' friend and Director of Projects at Singafrique Engineering Ltd., Architect Benson Omisore, we prayerfully embarked on the journey to Akure, spending five hours of very careful driving. We arrived Akure at 8.00 o'clock. But trust the Kabiyesi, despite the large crowd of visitors he had to contend with, he was monitoring my movement and journey through his mobile phone, and had asked me to come straight to the palace for a predictable dosage of pounded yam. Thank God we arrived Akure safely and were eventually heralded into His Royal presence.
But before I had my own pounded yam, there was a small drama I must let the Nigerian public into. As I was heralded into the presence of Kabiyesi with his wife, Olori Dr. Mojisola Adesida, now the most educated Olori and the Director-General, Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute at Ilorin, sitting comfortably and confidently beside her husband, I completely forgot that I was no longer in the presence of our own Biyi Adesida, but in the real presence of Kabiyesi Oba Adebiyi Adesida, the Oba and symbol of Akureland. With the fondness and familiarity with which Baba Sala would greet and address his best friend on stage in the 60s and 70s, Adisa, and yell 'Adis Ababa!' I stretched out my hand to him with the usual 'Biyi, my Prince.' His hand was not forthcoming and stretched out! A voice from the high table shouted 'prostrate or kneel down' Yeparipa! 'That is true.' I quickly knelt down in automatic obedience.
The Saturday Thanksgiving Service at the St. David's Cathedral Church, Ijomu, was even more spectacular. Kabiyesi's magnetic personality, coupled with extensive connections in high and low places all over Nigeria, were vividly on display with everybody who was somebody in Nigeria gathered inside the church, and many others had to stand outside of the church.
The grace and elegance that have become the trade mark of Kabiyesi, Olubuse, the Oni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade was as conspicuous as ever. You could count on your finger tips the number of First Class Yoruba Obas that were not in attendance. Have you ever seen a State Governor dance so heartily to church music? You should have been inside that church to see his Excellency Olusegun Mimiko in action. Joy and satisfaction were all over his face, as if he was an Adesida.
He is not, but I was told that both the Governor and the Kabiyesi were colleagues in that famous Catholic School, St. Joseph's College in Ondo. I am personally excited each time I meet people from that school. Apart from having attended another famous Catholic School myself, Loyola College, Ibadan, two of my very close and very loyal friends, Bimbola Oladapo and Femi Fowode graduated from St. Joseph's College too.
The high utility value of that selfless and resilient statesman and rare politician, the Gbobaniyi of Akure and the Olu of Ilu Abo, Chief Oluyemisi Falae, was felt by everybody in attendance throughout the weekend events and even more especially at the church. The lavish reception at the Gani Fawehinmi Centre would be a talk of the town for years to come. Ebenezer Obey was on the Band stand, and I have to thank him for re-awakening in me and everybody who was a that reception, about the good old days of entertaining, educative and morally instructive music.
Golden tunes like 'E sa ma Miliki' 'Igba Meta N'igba Eda laiye' 'Edumare Soro Mi Dayo' and lots more, were on display. But the one that touched me the most was 'Mo so fun e o, Ota mi dehin leyin mi' as highlighted at the beginning of this article. The song, in a nutshell, means 'I am warning you, all my enemies, back off me, or better still, leave me alone. Household wickedness, malevolent people, witches and wizards, back off and leave me alone.'
As Ebenezer Obey continued to sing and repeat that song, interchanging with several notable names and dignitaries like the Kabiyesi, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Senator Iyiola Omisore and others dancing in front of him, I suddenly went into a mental pilgrimage, asking myself what could have prompted the previous Deji to go and beat up his wife in the public, which eventually led to his dethronement and banishment.
I thought every Oba had to go through some spiritual processes and cleansing before ascending to their thrones, which should make them completely immuned from all those spiritual attacks and 'Jagbajantis' to which most other folks are vulnerable? As Ebenezer Obey played on, and I reflected even deeper into that topic, I jumped into the conclusion that may be, just may be, the previous Deji did not sing that song or make use of the prayer points at all. No matter how many questions and answers we want to ask and offer answers to, on those unusual circumstances, the reality on the ground is that a new, and real and original Deji, Oba Adebiyi Adesida, is now on the throne of his famous forefathers.
Congratulations, Kabiyesi. May your reign be long, peaceful and prosperous. May Akure continue to give testimonies of better and more fulfilling lives. Above all I pray that all the enemies and witches and wizards that might want to attack or stress your reign and administration, may they, as the favourite prayer in the MFM Church goes, 'Fall down and die.' Amen.
• Engr. Runsewe lives in Lagos.