Why Alaafin’s palace as store house of Yoruba culture and traditions deserves prompt national recognition

By Bode Durojaiye, the Director of Media and Publicity to the Alaafin of Oyo.

Ààfin Ọ̀yọ́

Museums or monuments preserve man’s history, creativity and his world. They give people opportunities to rediscover themselves (including their natural resources) and to identify their place in the past, and the role they can play in the contemporary world. In this report, BODE DUROJAIYE writes on the need to make the Alaafin of Oyo’s palace a national monument because of its rich cultural heritage.

In 1979, a comprehensive review of the legislation on cultural resources in Nigeria was undertaken with the promulgation of Decree no. 77. The decree dissolved the National Antiquities Commissions and the Department of Antiquities established by earlier decrees.

It created the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, which was designated with powers to generate funds and enter into contracts, in its place. It also made fresh provisions for the designation of national monuments and ensured stiffer penalties for the destruction, unauthorised alteration and removal of monuments in Nigeria.

As of date, there are over 50 Federal Museums, including museums in the making (i.e centres) in Nigeria, and at least one in each state.

Other relatively important museums are located in major historic towns with galleries and render comprehensive services in addition to reflecting the history of the locality.

Thus, for instance, the museum in Benin has a collection centred in Benin and related antiquities, while the one in Ile-Ife, which was opened to the public in 1956 is centred on the antiquities of Ife and environs.

But, rather than bequeathing its deserved status of National Monument on the ancient palace of the Alaafin in Oyo town, the Federal Government merely constructed a “mini-museum” adjacent to the palace.

The “mini-museum’’, which could better be described as an empty shell, with nothing in it to really justify its construction, except few workers posted there to dust up the office during working days.

Despite that the palace of the paramount ruler, the Alaafin indisputably remains the White House, Vatican, and culture Mecca of the Yoruba race, it is being neglected and uncared for.

A visit to the ancient palace will no doubt convince one that it is indeed a store-house of Yoruba culture and tradition and deserves to be accorded a National Monuments status by the Federal Government.

The palace is adorned with works of arts, various forms of sculptures that include the carved wooden house posts, and door panels, which are the traditional status symbol of wealth and royalty.

Modern figures of lions and hunter made from mortal, while walls are decorated with mosaic and painted murals depicting scenes from life, as the decorated calabash and imaginary beings.

The traditional architectural designs are superb and second to none among ancient palaces in the country, according to expert from Brazil, Spain and Canada who visited the palace.

Investigation further revealed that the Alaafin’s palace is the largest as it has in it over 200 buildings.The palace surroundings also consist of residences of Alaafin’s functionaries, and the ancient Akesan market, thus making it impossible for any external invasion.

There are over 400 staffers, including Mogajis ( Monarch’s slaves) Iwefa and Aides working in the palace, while drummers and an official praise chanter are always in attendance daily to perform for his Royal Majesty and visitors.

The Mogajis ( Monarch’s slaves) is headed by the Kudefu, Mr. Wasiu Bolaji , while the Iwefas is headed by the Ona Efa, Mr. Tajudeen Batiks.

Other members of the Iwefa are the Osi Efa, Mr. Adeniran Tajudeen Adekunle, as Mr. Yakubu is the Otun Efa.

The Iwefas perform specific functions in the Palace , as their duties are strategically defined.

While the Ona Efa is charge of the Monarch’s masquerade ( Moruru) and the Ogboni , Otun Efa oversees the Sango deity, as the Osi Efa covers the Monarch’s Ifa divination, Baba Esu Oja, Oosa Olufon , as well as takes charge of the Royal Father’s wellbeing.

There are also fountains in the court yard and garden.Also in his book titled Topics in West African History written by Dr. Adu Boahen, an Associate Professor of History, University of Ghana said ‘in many ways, Oyo is perhaps the most interesting of the states and empires that emerged in the forest and coastal regions of West Africa.

For one thing, not only was it the earliest or, at least among the earliest to emerge, but at the peak of its power, it was the largest in area and culturally the most advanced’.Eminent personalities across the country, who paid sympathy visit to the Alaafin when a portion of the palace was gutted by fire some years ago, not only acknowledge its magnificence, but called on the Federal Government to declare it a National Monument.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with his Media Aide in his lifetime, the Alaafin of Oyo Oba ( Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, said the old traditional architecture of the oyo palace and its art treasures need preservation.

He added that the palace should be declared a national monument with funds made available for its preservations.‘Palaces are living museums and places for cultural education and entertainment which must not be allowed to decay or ruin.

” They are part of our national heritage and pride. Indeed many countries across the globe have the National Heritage Trust like Britain where stately homes and palaces are given yearly allocation to ensure their maintenance. The Trust is different and independent of the Commission for Museums and National Galleries.’

Oba Adeyemi also called on the State Government and the 33 local governments and other stakeholders to support the palace project.

These, according him include, the construction of a research library and archive to properly house Alaafin’s collection of Yoruba bibliography and other materials, reputed to be quite vast, and to be a centre that will promote knowledge of the Yoruba civilisation.

To the Monarch, “the antiquities of any nation constitute a major repository of the peoples’ cultural heritage.”

The Paramount Ruler asserted that in African traditional society these cultural artefacts particularly the work of arts served various functions. Sculptures also constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s resources in antiquities and they, no doubt, represent important landmarks in the artistic creations of the Nigerian peoples.

“These works of art though precious and priceless to the cultures that created them, have witnessed series of theft, misconceptions brutalisation and abuse true time in the hands of foreigners to Nigeria”.

While stressing urgent need to redirect museum activities in order to serve the real interests of general public rather than a select few, the Titan of Yorubaland observed that presently many museums in the country are not better than veritable graveyards of the ethnological objects.

Said he, ‘they could however be made use of for tapping, appropriately, natural and socio-cultural resources needed for achieving nationhood and real development.

“Museums should also be well-placed to present a comprehensive and integrated view of the past of the peoples who make up the national entity, and not through the presentation of isolated and spectacular aspects of arts history.

“They should also be engaging in the reconstitution of the sum of the ethnohistorical and artistic characteristics within each state of the federation.

“This would entail being alive to and recalling all major aspects of the peoples histories; presenting the story of the natural environment as it is now and how it evolved to this point”.

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