By Ademola Adegbamigbe
Oba Daniel Aladesanmi 11, Ewi of Ado Ekiti who ruled from 1937 to 1983 was a great man. When we were growing up, he was so legendary a figure that myths were, among us children, woven around him. I remember his big, flat car (a Lincoln with registration number WP 1). We children believed that as he sat at the owner’s corner, he would not rest his back. “He would do it only in case of an emergency. If he rested his back, our Oba would just disappear to land in the safety of his palace. He was invincible,” so we kids believed.
And any time a meteor shot across the sky, we believed “Oba Aladesanmi was inside it, going for a meeting.”
I like one of his orikis ( praise chants), “Ijo k’ewi ba ti yotu laoro otu ila, tugbo tuju a ke riri loo akun.” (Whenever the Ewi visits the Otu priest, the entire vicinity is set aglow with beads…)
The late Adebayo Faleti once came to our secondary school in the town after visiting the Ewi’s palace, asking us students on the assembly ground to explain the oriki. None could.
He revealed to us that he was at sea himself when he heard the palace bard, chanting Ewi’s panegyrics that way. Faleti wondered how “gbogbo igbo a ke riri lowo akun (will the forest be set ablaze?)
He thereafter explained to us what he was told at the palace that it was the extent of Ewi’s riches/ treasures which the priest of Otu benefitted from whenever he hosted the king.
The only attraction for me during Udiroko festival (apart from the war dance steps of Chiefs Akogun, Odogun, Odofin, Bafon, Ejigbo, Baisaya, Eleyinmi, Olukasomi, Onigbepa, Ologbosere and others) was to listen to Oba Aladesanmi speak English. Born in 1902, he was a product of St. Andrews Oyo and a former big shot at the Nigerian Railways. He was deputy president, Western House of Chiefs. The Oba also participated in one of the Constitutional conferences in London. At the festival, Chief Fasubaa (the Oisa) was always the MC.
However, we kids always pitied the Oba! Why? He would not come out to watch movies with the people on the lawns of his palace. I always had a sense of belonging (though I never entered the palace building) because my father used to tell us that our great grandfather, Ewi Atewogboye, once occupied the place.
Moblile cinema vans always advertised cow boy movies on the streets (cinema ofe, lagogo meje irole ni aafin oba. Free movies by 7 pm at the Oba’s palace). For us, cow boy movies were the height of enjoyment, not knowing that the mobile cinema owners wanted to advertise their products (they did during movie interludes): Glucose D, Blue Band, Omo detergent, Goody Goody, Marlboro cigarettes, Lactogen and others. We thought the Oba did not have TV like many parents!
I remember two other events. Former President Shehu Shagari visited Ado Ekiti to lay the foundation stone of the Fed Poly around 1982. Aladesanmi got that from NPN.
The same period, Chief Obafemi Awolowo also came to lay the foundation stone of the university in the city. The Oba got that from UPN.
It was a deft move for an Oba to give all political parties and politicians a level playing field to woo his people.