By Sunmola Olowookere
“Who is old and does not believe it, will trip into his grave without seeing it” – African Proverb. When Morenikeji Lasisi, the longest-serving palace aide of the late Alaafin of Oyo, popularly called “Baba Kekere” was mourning the passing of Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, little did he know that the ageless canoe was also soon coming back to paddle him across the river.
On Monday, the news of his death filtered onto the social media as the palace announced his passing months after the celebration of his long years of servitude.
Baba kekere who had served in the palace for 77 years, died on Monday at the Alaafin’s palace, Oyo at the ripe age of 120.
His demise occurred ten months after the demise of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, who he served for 51 years, before he joined his ancestors.
Baba Kekere was described as a loyal steward and unrepentantly dedicated to his primary duties in the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo.
He was known to be a companion in the Alaafin’s palace, who possesses authentic facts about a lot of histories as far as the kingship and palace are concerned.
He was four years old when he was brought to the palace and had served three successive Alaafins.
During his last media interview, he recalled how he was brought to the palace.
“I was held by my left hand and instructed to sit down at a particular place. The palace then was not as big as it is now. It was Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III that renovated the palace. He built new structures and modernised the palace.”
Baba kekere who hailed from the Lagbondoko family wàs married with three children but his children do not stay with hím in the palace. They live in one of the northern states.
He served three Alaafins, namely, Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, the father of the immediate past Alaafin; Oba Gbadegesin Ladigbolu and Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III.
He said that although his relationship with all the monarchs had been cordial but none could be compared with Oba Adeyemi III.
“There can never be another Lamidi again in Oyo. He treated me like a son. He was responsible for the wellbeing of my children. He took care of me whenever I was sick.”
Recall that Oba Lamidi Adeyemi was the son of Oba Adeniran Adeyemi Alowolodu. He became king after the demise of his father’s successor, Ladigbolu II.
Late Baba kekere described Oba Adeyemi as a strong and dedicated traditional ruler who was compassionate towards his subjects and hated seeing people being cheated.
He said that he was an encyclopedia of Yoruba culture and tradition. He was an educated king. A philanthropist, he was globally recognised unlike his predecessor. He used his influence to attract development to Oyoland.
When the Alaafin passed on, Baba kekere became afraid as he saw the future as bleak since his benefactor was gone.
He could not hide his dejection then as he wondered about his continued stay in the palace as the king that knew him had gone to be with his ancestors.
During his life time, his duties were to run errands for Kabiyesi. “At times, I am called to tend to Kabiyesi regarding his meal. Also, I carry out the responsibility of a native security guard, as a hunter. I am a fisherman. These are some of the functions that I carry out in the palace,” he was quoted as saying.
Baba Kekere has the uncommon privilege of witnessing the reigns of three successive Alaafin.
– He served Oba Adeniran Alabi Afolabi Adeyemi II (the father of the late Alaafin) between 1945 and 1955.
– He served Oba Bello Gbadegesin Oladigbolu II between 1956 and 1968.
– He served Oba Lamidi Atanda Olayiwola Moroundiya Adeyemi III from his ascension in 1971 till April 22, 2022 when he died.
He was a walking Library about the culture and custom of his people. Although he died when he was ripe and full of age yet he would be sorely missed especially if his vast knowledge is not properly documented.
Despite his age, those who knew him said he was still healthy and very agile. He saw and heard well. He walked as well and recollected past events vividly. Ask him anything about past historical events; he would regaled you with the details with accuracy.
Despite his age, he walked briskly unaided in and around the Alaafin of Oyo palace. He was very popular not only because of his diminutive figure but because of his humility. He hardly got angry. Some called him a man with repository of knowledge of the Palace for he had the history off-hand and some called him the Palace’s mobile library or an archive.
His life and times were lessons to the upcoming generation on patience and servitude.
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