Oba Asanike I: King with unusual humour, wit and sarcasm


By Femi Kehinde

In the midst of the current Olubadan chieftaincy brouhaha, it is necessary to go down memory lane and celebrate, with fondest memory, an Olubadan of Ibadan who reigned for ten years, with abundant wit, humour, native intelligence and sarcasm.

Olubadan Yesufu Oloyede Asanike, ascended the throne on the 4th of February, 1983 and died on the 24th of December, 1993. His immediate predecessor was Oba Daniel Tayo Akinbiyi, who also reigned between 1977 and 1982. D.T Akinbiyi, as he was fondly called, was highly educated, having trained as a teacher in the famous Wesley College, Elekuro, Ibadan, between 1916 and 1918. He was also involved in Ibadan local politics in 1925 and was a founding member of the Ibadan Progressive Union (IPU) which was formally inaugurated in 1930.

Akinbiyi was a Customary Court judge. He was the judge who almost jailed Adegoke Adelabu of the Penkelemes fame. Adelabu was arrested for contempt of comtempt of court, specifically for drumming right in front of the court room, whilst the court was in session.

Akinbiyi was an Action Group apologist, while Adelabu was a strong NCNC Party Chieftain. D.T. was a successful business man and had a flourishing factory that produced Aerated waters named “Akinbiyi Exelsoir” otherwise known as “Oti Akinbiyi” and also a soap factory that he started in 1958.

Mr. D.T Akinbiyi, later Oba D.T Akinbiyi (Olubadan), in an article in the Nigerian Tribune of December 22 1951, whilst tolerating Adelabu’s “garrulity and insolence”, admonished that an “old horse knows more than a young colt”, which however, according to him, did not diminish the fact that Adegoke was highly intelligent and dynamic.

Akinbiyi started his chieftaincy career in 1946 as Mogaji of the Akinbiyi family and later took the title of Aare Onibon in 1953. He continued to climb the 23 chieftaincy steps by series of promotions, until he got the highest title of Otun Olubadan and became the traditional ruler of Ibadan in 1977. He composed the famous- “Ibadan ilu mi,” with music produced by the Late Mr. F.J Adeyinka. This was the intimidating credential of the Olubadan whom Asanike succeeded in 1983.

Oba Oloyede Asanike was the 37th Olubadan and descended from the great Asanike dynasty of Idi-aro, Ibadan. Oba Asanike was a prominent cocoa produce merchant at Akanran, Ibadan, and was first made Mogaji of the Asanike dynasty in 1947. In 1957, Oloyede Asanike was installed a chief at Alafara Ibadan, by the late Oba I.B Akinyele and rose steadily through the ranks to become the Olubadan of Ibadanland. He was a member of the popular Egbe that had Sanusi Adebisi Idikan as its Giwa, i.e. head of the society, before Adebisi’s demise in 1938.

In this Egbe, (society) he was in the good company of successful merchants like Otiti, Ekolo, Afunleyin, Ladimeji from Isale Ijebu and Adeyemo Owonbuwo from Oopo-yeosa. On the throne as Olubadan, Asanike’s deputy, Emmanuel Adegboyega Adeyemo, was another highly educated Ibadan Chieftain who succeded Oloyede Asanike in 1994 and was on the throne till 1999.

Adeyemo was in the military in 1940 as a volunteer, to train the newly recruited army clerks at Kaduna, during the Second World War and was appointed a liaison officer for communications, as a result of his ability to speak and understand Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and English Languages. He had served in Burma, India, Somalia and Malta and rose to the position of Staff Sergeant before his demobilisation in 1946, having rejected the offer to proceed to Sandhurst Military Academy in London.

After his demobilisation, he was seconded to then Ibadan Native Authority as Treasurer in 1947. As the chancellor of the ex-chequer of the largest city in Africa’s south of the Sahara, he was Chief Adviser to the Native Authority and Olubadan in council. He was also, in 1956, the Sole President of the Ibadan Customary Court at Oke-Are. He was also appointed the Minister for Local Government affairs in 1962, under late Chief (Dr.) Moses Adekoyejo Majekodumi, then the Administrator of the Western Region.

Adeyemo, started the first chieftaincy steps in 1953 and rose steadily through the ranks, by scaling 23 rungs of promotion ladder in the Olubadan line of chieftaincy hierarchy, that saw him to the covetous throne of the Olubadan of Ibadanland on the 14th of January, 1994.

Adeyemo, as Asanike’s deputy, was his formidable deputy and close ally. When Asanike became Olubadan in February, 1983 at an advanced age, nobody ever thought that he would reign for ten years. He was frail, fragile and walked with extreme difficulty. But despite his advanced age, he was an Oba filled with wisdom, wit, humour, sarcasm and native intelligence. He had a deliberate melancholic and askance look. He also had an unsmiling face that was laced with dignified candour.

In the ten years of his reign as Olubadan, there were so many beer parlour tales and stories, some unverifiable, of Late Oba Asanike. There was a popular story of a cocktail party, organised by the then military governor of Oyo State, that Olubadan Asanike attended, in the company of his formidable deputy and close allay, Emmanuel Adeyemo, the Otun Olubadan. At the party, scotch eggs were served. As his deputy, Adeyemo, picked some scotch eggs, the late Asanike was said to have turned to Adeyemo remarking “Deyemo, oo mon fi akara yi je tan, won ma ngbe eko bo?”meaning,  Adeyemo, do not finish the akara beans, they will soon bring the accompanying corn pap (eko).

In the 1983 election, shortly after he ascended the throne, there was a fierce political battle between the incumbent governor of Oyo State, Bola Ige of the UPN and the cerebral Dr. Victor Olunloyo of the NPN. The election was fiercely contested. Olunloyo won amidst controversies and disputes.

During these disputes and judicial intervention, through the Election Petition Tribunal, Asanike went out to drum supports for the Ibadan man saying- “Omo wa ni, e je o se”; meaning- “He is our son, let him be governor”, not minding the fact that Bola Ige too, even though not a native, had lived in Ibadan all his life. He had his law practice in Ibadan and married an Ibadan woman, Atinuke Oloko, from the Oloko family of Agodi Ibadan and was the Alasa of Ibadan, (the holder of the shield to protect Ibadan city.)

While critics took some of his remarks for senility or ignorance, Oloyede knew what he was doing. He was mentally agile, with a fecund mind. Oloyede Asanike, during his reign, received many eminent visitors to Ibadan, one of whom was the late General Sani Abacha, who had once served in Ibadan as the GOC of the Second Mechanized Division of the Nigerian army. Sani visited the palace and Asanike was expecting a big, tall, plump, rotund and fierce-looking Abacha. Asanike could not hide his surprise at the stature of Abacha before him and he remarked, “Abacha, a so o ju bayi lo!” meaning, “So here you are General Abacha, you are not more than this?” Abacha himself could not but laugh.

Asanike was never afraid of anybody, including military men. A particular Military Governor had subtly accused him of doling out chieftaincy titles rampantly and randomly. Asanike was annoyed and he said in anger, “tell him to shut up! he (the governor) is king in his domain and I am also king in my domain. The governor then had Chief M.K.O Abiola, who had recently been conferred with the chieftaincy title of Bashorun of Ibadanland by Asanike, in mind. M.K.O was then not in the good books of the military. Asanike quickly remarked- “A i da  lola ni”, translated to mean, “we honoured him with the title.” To further brighten the mood, in demonstration of his native intelligence, Asanike also traced M.K.O Abiola’s ancestry to Ojoo Ibadan.

Still on chieftaincy titles, a group of distraught Ibadan chiefs, perhaps in sync with the military governor’s admonition, had gone to the palace to tell Asanike that there were no more chieftaincy titles on the list to give to anybody again. Asanike had quickly retorted- “Oye tan, Oye na ni”meaning, “how could you say that, even Oye tan also could be a chieftaincy title!”

Most times, he deliberately looked vacant, as if he would not see the next day. He would tell his Otun Olubadan,  “Deyemo, emi o ti se tan a ti ku, emi nin je akara re” meaning “Deyemo, you will certainly die before me, because I am not ready to die now.” It was a hard, mild, humour.

The Otun Olubadan was once embroiled in a hearty discussion with a visiting governor and Asanike quickly looked at him and said “Deyemo, oo so fun Gomina pe emi ni Olubadan ni?”meaning, “Deyemo, did you not tell the governor that I am the Olubadan?”

A funny incident also happened in the palace. Some thieves had entered the palace and removed tyres and spare parts from the Olubadan’s parked fleet of cars. They were quickly apprehended by watchful palace guards. The palace guards, in demonstration of bravery and gallantry, took the arrested thieves to the Olubadan. The guards expected accolades from the Olubadan Asanike. The guards were surprised when Asanike set the thieves free and instead, subtly advised the guards, that next time  “emi o ran yin pe kee so moto, iyawo mi ni mo ni e so” meaning, “I did not send you to guard my vehicles, you should be guarding my wives.” One couldn’t help but laugh. To Asanike, cars were material possessions but his wives and children were his noble inheritance. He extolled to high heavens the dignity of women.

As an interesting corollary of Olubadan’s romantic nature, a group of African Americans had visited the Palace. As usual, the Late Olubadan made a pass at one of the beautiful ladies, by saying, “Oo  le lo” meaning, you won’t go. The exasperated lady thought it was a detention order and raised an alarm. The joke had gone too far and Asanike realised it. He apologized, saying- “mo fi bao sie ni” (I was only teasing you!)

The executives of the Taekwondo Games Association had also once visited the palace on a courtesy call. After the introduction, the Olubadan asked them,  “Ewo tun wa ni Takwando o?” meaning, “which one is Taekwondo!?”  The visiting team burst into immediate laughter.

As a last recap, the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida had encouraged a general discourse on the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). From the palace, Asanike said- “Eyi ti o ba je ti Ibadan ni nu SAP, e je kio te Ibadan lowo.” meaning- “Ibadan should not be denied of its shares of the Structural Adjustment Program.” Aside from Asanike’s funny mien, wit, humour and sarcasm, he had a glorious moment on the throne.

Asanike was the first Oba to live in a modern palace, situated at Oja Oba, Ibadan. Oba Asanike used his position to wield a lot of influence in favour of Ibadanland and its indigenes. He assisted Ibadan indigenes who sought admissions into institutions of higher learning and also assisted in sourcing for employment opportunities for Ibadan indigenes.

During his reign, he had as governors and administrators, both civilian and military, Chief Bola Ige, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, Lieutenant Colonel Oladayo Poopola, Col. Sasaeniyan Oresanya, Navy Captain Adetoye Oyetola Sode, Col Chinyere Ike Nwosu, who all had a good tastes of Asanike’s humour and native intelligence.

May the gentle soul of Oba Olubadan Yesufu Oloyede Asanike continue to find peaceful repose with his Creator.

Kehinde, historian and former member, house of representatives, representing Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa federal constituency of Osun state (1999-2003), is also the Principal Partner, Femi Kehinde & Co (Solicitors), Ibadan, Oyo state.

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