It has been 40 years since Oba Sir Titus Martins Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi (Atobatele I), the Oonirisa ascended into the palace’s ceiling in 1980, according to Yoruba tradition, where he now watches over and protects the race. It was just like yesterday.
Oba Aderemi was a legend in life and after. Our memory of him has continued to be sweet, melodious and good.
He was born a royalty. The oracle had predicted his ascension to the throne at his birth; but he also prepared himself for the task. This made him no doubt to transit seamlessly into the role.
He was born in 1889 into a unique milieu in history. The Yoruba nation had just emerged from a ruinous civil war and in the throes of colonialism. It was also an era of the spread of Western education.
He was the first educated person to be crowned king in Ife and perhaps the youngest among his contemporaries. Fate therefore positioned him to play a critical role in the emerging world of transition from the ancient to modernity, not just in Ife, but throughout the West.
The Greek philosopher, Plato, recognised a lacuna between political power and the knowledge community. Those with political power are the kings while the knowledgeable ones are the philosophers. It is his argument that we cannot have an ideal state in a paradoxical situation where rulers are not knowledgeable and the knowledgeable ones are alienatedfrom political rulership. To bridge this chasm, he postulated in his book, The Republic, on the need for the merger of both virtues in which only the knowledgeable ones will be king. This he termed the ‘philosopher-king’. The philosopher-king is a ruler noted for the love of wisdom, intelligence, reliability and willingness to live a simple life.
Oba Adesoji fitted this bill in all respects. He was a philosopher who became king and a king who ruled like a philosopher.
One remarkable aspect of his reign was his association with Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Their iron sharpened iron, producing an explosive era of wisdom, maturity and people centred leadership, not just in Ife but throughout the region and their sphere of influence.
He reigned for 50 years from 1930 till 1980 and left indelible legacies in three areas.
The first was in education. He knew the value of education and so personally championed education development in his domain. On account of this, he largely, if not singlehandedly, spearheaded the established of Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife. Leveraging on his relationship with Chief Awolowo, he also got the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) established in the ancient city.
Secondly, he stood for justice and approximated the general will of the people. In the political crisis that engulfed the Western Region beginning from 1962, he never wavered in staying the course of justice. He stood solidly behind the people.
Lastly, his reign was peaceful. Ife had peace all around during his reign and he was able to consolidate indisputably his spiritual headship of the Yoruba race.
Oba Adesoji inherited a great throne, but with hard work and personal influence, he made the throne even greater. He became known far and wide and his influence grew all over the world, particularly among the Diaspora.
On behalf of my wife and our other associates, I congratulate his family, the royal family and the good people of Ile-Ife and Yoruba people at home and in the Diaspora, on the 40th anniversary of the transition of this great and unforgettable philosopher-king. May his tribe remain and continue to fill the land!
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola