Princess Sade Adeyemi is the eldest daughter of the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. Known in different circles as Arewa Omooba, she is also the CEO of Arewa House of Culture, and an ambassador of Oyo Kingdom. The widely travelled cultural ambassador, who has had to represent the late Alaafin of Oyo on different occasions, has bagged many awards at home and abroad. In this interview with GBENGA ADERANTI, she shares her childhood experience with her recently deceased father andlife in the palace, among other issues. Excerpts:
What was it like growing up in the palace?
I was born before he became a king, so we had a lot of him. When we moved to the palace, it was a city in itself, full of culture and tradition, discipline, moral values and a loving environment. It is a place where one is taught native wisdom.
What are your fond memories of the late kabiyesi?
There are many things to remember him for. I so much enjoyed his fatherly love and encouragement. He gave his children a whole lot of attention till he took his last breath. He would wake up his children for morning exercise around Oyo town.
He taught me how to perfect writing, proper use of an English dictionary without knowing the words, just from the sound of pronunciation. He would cook for us anytime he took us abroad for holidays. He taught us his children how to survive by ourselves because he was conscious that one day he would no longer be around and we would need to survive alone.
How often does his name open doors for you?
His name often opens doors if you know how to use it.
Did you enjoy special privileges being her daughter?
Every one of his children enjoyed special privileges. I’m very sure that every one of us kept that as a secret to ourselves. One of the special privileges that I really deeply appreciated him for was sending me to Los Angeles, California in America to study.
Were you allowed to mix freely with other children while growing up?
Yes, we were allowed to mix freely with other children without discrimination. As kids, we were not allowed to go out anyhow, not to talk of going to parties. Instead, we held parties a lot in the palace. We could not eat or drink in public. We were guarded by so many rules and regulations.
To what extent did growing up in a polygamist setting affect your world outlook?
Growing up in a polygamist setting has grown me into who I am today with courageous, bold and fearless attitude.
Some people believe that you were very close to your father. What was the bond?
Yes I was very close to him because we are alike in many aspects. The bond got stronger because of my passion for promoting culture and tradition.
What does it mean to be Alaafin’s daughter?
Like I once said, being the daughter of the Alaafin is no walk in the park, especially being a cultural ambassador of the Yoruba race.
You sometimes represented your father at functions. How did your siblings react to this?
My siblings did not have any problem with me representing him at functions. I’m sure they were all proud of my representations. If I was not good at it, they would have complained.
Would you describe yourself as daddy’s most favourite child?
It is difficult to know daddy’s favourite among his children. But I know for sure he appreciated me and loved me. That’s all that matters.
Would you have preferred being a male child?
It was after his demise that I wished I was a male child.
Has being a female child robbed you of certain things?
I can’t take over his throne. I can’t be the next Alaafin of Oyo. That’s the only thing I can’t achieve as a female.
What responsibilities do being the eldest daughter place on you?
I felt nothing having spent so many years in America, until I moved back to Nigeria and it was a big thing. Being the first daughter comes with a great responsibility and demands.
You have an NGO called Arewa Adeyemi Foundtion. What is it all about?
Arewa Adeyemi Foundation is a registered NGO in which my daddy was the chairman. The NGO promotes and preserves tangible and intangible culture. It also deals in humanitarian services in the areas of empowerment through culture and giving education scholarships.
What is that part of Alaafin people do not know?
He was a good poetry writer.
What is your relationship like with the late Alaafin’s wives, considering the fact that you are older than some of them?
Once you set standards, boundaries and give yourself respect, you will be respected. We get along very well with great understanding.
You are still looking like a 16-year-old. What is the secret?
I don’t do anything except watch what I eat and drink.
What is that thing you have in common with Baba?
Bold, courageous, fearless, witty, generous and loving. Those are the attributes we have in common.
You are still retaining his name as surname. What could have been responsible for this?
Retaining Baba’s name was a personal choice.
How romantic was he?
Baba was very romantic.
Why did you decide to return to Nigeria after your studies in the United States?
I decided to relocate to Nigeria because I was missing home. I felt I was needed in my town, Oyo Alaafin. I also came back because he wanted to integrate and expose me to the Yoruba culture, language and educational system.
Would you still be able to continue with your cultural advocacy?
Yes, I still continue with cultural advocacy. The pressure is more now to do so.
How were you able to cope with the crowd that was always around him?
Through his mentoring, I was able cope very well with the crowd. What I do deals with crowd.
How easy was it for you to access him?
He was very accessible except if I didn’t want to see him. He had listening ears. I knew how and what to say to get his attention.
How was it like having to exercise with him every morning? Was there a time any of the children resisted this?
We did not exercise with him during the school days. But on weekends and long holidays, we would go jogging from the palace to Dubar Stadium. We could not resist because we had no choice and we also liked to be seen with him.
It is public knowledge that your late father has books and documents. What is the family going to do with these materials?
For now, I can’t disclose the plans for his books and documents. Trust me, they are going to be well preserved and would be useful for research purposes.What are the qualities you think the next Alaafin should possess?
Alaafin should be a man of courage; a man of reason; a man who understands what my father, the late Alaafin Adeyemi III meant when he said the society was moving from the aristocracy of power to aristocracy of intelligence.
The next Alaafin should be able to uphold the culture and tradition regardless of his religion, and defend his people and the Yoruba interest at large.
Baba’s wives would tell you that he was romantic while a lot of people thought he was too strict to be romantic. Why these divergent opinions about him?
Some people thought he was too strict only because he was a very principled man.
Tell me about one good experience you are not likely to forget in a hurry as a princess
The incident that I will never forget as a princess was my visit to Brazil. It was touchy, powerful, glamorous and royal. I was honoured with Ernesto Pedro Gold Medal and National Honor as Commander of Rio de Janeiro Brazil in 2016 in recognition of works in promoting culture.
How was life in the United States? What kind of treatment did you get while studying there?
In the United States, you free your mind from mental slavery. You can’t hide under your rich parent and government. It is a country where if you believe, you can achieve anything. The experience in United States groomed me to do what I’m doing right now in Nigeria.