Oxford, UK — The traditional institution is cherished by the Yoruba and its custodian is expected to be a person of impeccable character.
The one that would be an oba, for instance, is observed with keen interest, his physical appearance and behaviour hardly get unnoticed. The Ifa oracle, the god of divination, could be consulted in the process of making a choice between competing princes to the throne, although many would concede that Ifa priests of today tend to be biased towards the economic elite. Gone may have been the days when a prince who had not vied to be an oba could be prevailed upon as the ultimate choice of Ifa.
Of course, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi was economic elite but also a prince of impeccable character. The title of his biography, The Merchant Prince and the Monarch (Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, the Soun of Ogbomosoland) captures the duality of his life. He was a highly successful businessman while still a prince and now one of the most respected traditional rulers, not only in Yorubaland but also in the entire federation of Nigeria. The book about an oba can hardly make sense if the history of the town or city over which he presides does not come into contention. One is not disappointed in that respect. In the words of its two well respected authors, Professor Jide Osuntokun and Dr Tunde Oduwobi:
"The Merchant Prince and the Monarch; Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, The Soun of Ogbomosoland traces the historical development of Ogbomoso (Oyo State) from its early beginnings in the second half of the seventeenth century to the modern period. It sheds new light on the town's chronology with regard to the ruling dynasty before the nineteenth century. The most remarkable and significant aspect of the history of Ogbomoso is the disparate nature of its constituent communities from the nineteenth century. An attempt is made to examine this phenomenon and its effect on contemporary developments in the town. These developments have been exemplified through a biographical consideration of the present paramount ruler of the town, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, whose reign constitutes a landmark in its modern history. As a paramount ruler, his active involvement in the socio-economic and political progress of Ogbomoso and its suburban settlements testifies to the continuing relevance of traditional rulers at the grassroots level."
One can hardly fault Professor Jide Osuntokun, in particular, in matters of documenting our history. While mine is not a book review as such , I have no hesitation in advising that this biographical book should be in our major libraries and should be of interest to students of comparative traditional institutions in Nigeria and beyond. The book should be in the homes of every son and daughter of Ogbomoso, for it presents the history of their historic town with great clarity.
I had known for quite some time that a book celebrating the life of the Soun, Oba Ajagungbade III would be forthcoming. My late friend, Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, hinted to me about an assignment in that respect. Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem sadly died in a motor accident in Nairobi on 25 May 2009. He would have done a good job but would equally have been very happy reader of what we now have.
I thank Dr Remi Oyewumi, the Soun's humble and reliable son, for making a complimentary copy of this impressive book available to me. The quality of its production by Book Builders, Ibadan, coupled with the reputation of the authors, compelled me to have a quick read. I learnt quite a lot about Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, a remarkable traditional ruler in many respects, reinforcing my belief that autobiographies and biographies are desirable components of learning. We are intellectually enriched as well as inspired when we know how those who have made positive impacts got to where they are.
Akinola wrote from Oxford, UK