Through his words and actions, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi is a tough personality. And he does not wait to be told because he does acknowledge the trait and sees it as his nature. But is it his nature to be hard on issues? His answer is that everyone needs to live for something for which they must be known, hence his strict adherence to his firm stance on principle which guides him before he ascended to the throne of his forefathers in 1971 to date.
He set forth before dawn to live his dream life by willingly subjecting himself to spartan living as a young boy on the streets of Obalende in Lagos Island where only the fittest were guaranteed life the next day. Being a boy, who combined brilliance with smartness, the young Lamidi considered his austere frame a disadvantage and indeed attraction to the muscular mates and senior, hence his journey into the world of boxing where adolescent pugilists were daily trained for physical fitness and organized competitions in the state.
“The environment where I was brought up, Obadande, was a tough place. It is a place where you have different ethnic groups cohabiting peacefully. Obalende was a centre of sporting activities like Hockey, Football and others. I was a footballer, an outside right player but boxing became my favourite in order to escape being bullied and a whipping boy to others. Also, I realized early that I needed to develop a strong character to weather the storm of this life.
“So, boxing was my natural sport, and I registered with Broadway Boxing Club. The owner of the club was my first boxing coach. He was Mike Fadipe, a Boxing-loving man who was ready to spend his last penny on his boxers. He was a father figure to most of us, making the game more interesting and attractive,” he recalled.
With the encouragement received from his coach, Fadipe, who saw in him a promising pugilist in Bantamweight category, Oba Adeyemi made Boxing his faith such that he rose to become a knockout specialist in competitions inside Glover Memorial Hall and outstanding figure among his mates and seniors including Boxing fans on Lagos Island and beyond. Unlike many boxers, the Alaafin was what in Boxing parlance called a two fisted boxer. He was gifted with ability to use his two fists effectively to destabilize opponents and make them to kiss canvas in early rounds of his bouts.
“I was skillful in the art of using my two fists to punch simultaneously. I would aim the stomach of my opponent and punch several punches into it. I would start with left and use right to finish up. Few boxers are so gifted. That is what gave me knockouts which I recorded during those days. While I was in that act, spectators would be hailing me and shouting “Ade, Ade, Ade” I was also nicknamed Slumber Boy. That is the boy who sent opponents to sleep in the ring. Very few opponents completed fights with me. I had mastered the strategy to kill the match early.
However, Oba Adeyemi did not have all his fights on victory note. He lost two matches to one Renaud Cole, also reputed for knocking opponents out. Cole was also a knockout specialist. That was what made their fight a major one which attracted more spectators who were too anxious to witness the fight of two elephants. In the end, Cole carried the day but it was a close fight.
“I later challenged him for a rematch but he declined it. I was not happy that he did not accept a rematch because I had become more determined to beat him and regain my status. He later died. He died a young man. Perhaps, he would have made a career in Boxing because he was very good and very resilient in the ring,” he noted.
Physical exercise, to the Alaafin, is a faith with which he adheres, even at his advanced age of 82 years. He believes that human body requires exercise to be in healthy condition to undertake daily activities. That is why he is known in his domain for his regular road walk, which was a feature of his birthday in October. As loyal as Oba Adeyemi is to his exercise regime, a day remains evergreen in his memory for a wrong reason though. It was the day he needed to review rate of his exercise after a race which took off from his palace.
“When I was 73 years old, I had a race from the palace to Durbar and back to the palace. That race marked a turning point in my strenuous physical exercise. I did the race in my usual non-stop pace. I finished up in the palace. But as soon as I left bathroom, I crashed. My heart beat increased alarmingly. I lied down, seeing stars. The heart was beating continuously and dangerously. I was there on the floor and told my wives that my time was up because that was what was on my thought. Quickly Dr Adams came, observed the rate of the heart beat and did some treatment.
“For about five hours, I was in that emergency in the palace. There was tension in every part of the palace. I did not know I could survive it but I thank Boxing for having taught me endurance and how to handle such circumstance. After I had stabilised, I traveled to London where I saw my doctor. He told me that if I had fallen down during the race, I would have gone. He then advised me that before I embark on physical exercise, I should check my BP,” he recalled.
Oba Adeyemi is not happy with the fate of Boxing in Nigeria, in terms of developing the game in a country where talents are in sufficient supply, especially at the grass roots. His judgment reflects his general impression about the country’s development as a whole.
He queried: “What is working here in Nigeria? Is football working? See what the Super Eagles are doing. Is that where we should be? I am not encouraged with the way Boxing is being handled in the country. Boxing is a dangerous game which needs all attention, especially medical to ensure boxers are in best state of health before they practice or before they enter the ring for competitions. What we have here are some enthusiastic boxers who do things on their own to express their passion.
“There should be a serious minded boxing body to scout for these boxers and put them through on how to become boxers of their dream. A company, GOTV, was encouraging Boxing a few years ago but I don’t know why they are no longer doing it. The company was organizing periodic fights where good boxers showcased their talents to spectators. The youths who have interest in the game should not be discouraged. They should follow their passion, their passion might take them to their destination one day.”