Oba Olajide Olayode: A misunderstood martyr, by Olayode Inaolaji

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Oba Olajide Olayode

On 1st July, 1969, Ogbomoso in Oyo State erupted in turmoil; breathing became burdensome to the residents; the dogs of war were let loose. A cultured King was gruesomely assassinated; grim faced soldiers took over the town, menacingly visible in all nooks and crannies of the town. In their short-sightedness, some callous elements giggled in mockery of the murdered monarch; the sensitive ones overtaken in anguish, expressing sympathy. The whole thing was reprehensible, infamous and a bad precedence. The blood of the deceased Oba is still crying in vengeance.

He was a martyr because he chose to die to make a sacrifice; he found himself between two powerful forces – government and his people. He thought he could prudently negotiate a middle course, striking a balance but his tilt was misinterpreted as leaning ominously towards the side of the government, which also put a sword to his neck, and he was hacked down the situation having been hijacked by fifth columnists. What did he do or how did he act in the tax furore that was exploited to take his that his brother Obas elsewhere did not do? He fell victim of circumstances. Perhaps that was his destiny. But he remains martyr to his family and to his community! He could have escaped the mutiny the fury of those baying for blood but he chose to pay the supreme price to prove his innocence in the melee. Thus, he died like a hero in the tradition of his forebears.

The revolt, ostensibly engineered by peasant farmers and the masses generally (Agbekoya), in 1969 to display their dissatisfaction against the increment of tax rate made by the western region government, from three pounds (€3) to five pounds (€5), was a ruthless orchestration that snuffed life out of an enlightened Oba. Oba Olayode didn’t impose the tax; it was done by the government of the (defunct) western region. He was only saddled with the task of coordinating its collection, like other monarchs, which he would transmit to the government. People found the amount exorbitant, and rose in fierce opposition, they refused to pay the tax, which the military government deemed a defiant attitude. Consequently, government ordered a crackdown by the police on defaulters, slated for July 1, 1969. The raid was to be carried out simultaneously in other towns like Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ede, Ibadan, and so on. However, the fifth columnists seized the opportunity.

Before the arrival of the police into the town, the monarch had invited the elite and some farmers’ leaders to the palace in order to illuminate their minds that the King had little or no power in the affair of tax imposition and collection, that he could only admonish the authority.

The king, then, in his bid to further demonstrate his innocence did not mind giving stack of money to enable them undertake an investigation on the tax rate in other towns. However, before they could embark on the exercise, the police had invaded the town, on the order of government, and before you say Jack Robinson, darkness had enveloped the town, pandemonium had broken out.

Ultimately, the farmers furiously marched to the palace, ransacked the whole place, ferreted out the gentle Oba from the palace, and they hardheartedly extinguished his life, albeit for a matter he knew nothing about. Whatever, he fulfilled the purpose for which he was born.

Going down memory lane, Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode ll, who reigned between 1966 and 1969, was born in 1921 to the Odunaro Ruling House. His father, Oba Adegoke Atanda Olayode, also a former Oba, was also a prey of conspiracy, and was sent on exile to Saki. His mother’s name was Olori Oderonke Apinke Olayode, from Ogunjenle compound, Isale-Afon, Ogbomoso.

His predecessor, HRH Oba Olatunji Elepo ll, joined his ancestors in 1966; it was the turn of Odunaro Ruling House to present an eligible prince to fill the vacuum. Among those that strove to mount the mantle were Prince Oladiran Olayode, Prince Afolabi Olayode, Prince Yusuf Olayode and Prince Nkanlola Olayode. Fortunately, he became the megahit in the race due to his level of western education. After his official proclamation on 13th April, 1966 by the defunct Western Region government under General Adeyinka Adebayo, his admirers, friends, co-workers thronged his palatial house at Layode Memorial Lodge, Oja Ajagun to congratulate him of the success.

The emergence of the first educated monarch as Soun of Ogbomosoland in 1966, kindled tons of unprecedented developments in the town. Immediately he ascended the throne, he renovated the palace by re-painting the buildings to make it a befitting one. Education, they say, is light; absence of it is a total darkness. In 1968, the introduction of Higher School Certificate to Ogbomoso Grammar was also through his instrumentality. In addition, a secondary school named Ogbomoso High School was established, making Ogbomoso to secure three secondary schools as at that time.

As a prudent and fearless monarch, the case of land dispute between Oyo and Ogbomoso was rekindled and charged to court during his reign. In the pre-colonial era, who dared challenge the power of Alaafin of Oyo, the companion of god? No one! The Yorùbá apothegm that states “No one, even a priest, can placate a deity called Orisaala with palm wine” is felicitous to describe the immensity of Alaafin’s power.

Moreover, a Bata Shoe factory was established in 1967. The establishment of this factory played a pivotal role in the alleviation of the plight of the masses as a number of Ogbomoso indigenes was employed. This improved the socio-economic development of the town.

The brave, shrewd, humble, sensitive monarch who had great mission for the development of the town cum affectionate passion for his people was callously hacked to death by the aggrieved peasant farmers on the July 1, 1969 at an unripe age of 48.

Rest on, Kabiyesi.

Olayode Inaolaji writes from Oja-Ajagun area, Ogbomoso, Oyo State and can be reached at inaolajiolayode@gmail.com or 08105471761.