Ayaba Ashiat Folashade Adeyemi is one of the wives of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. She drew widespread attention in 2008 when she was delivered of a set of triplets to become arguably the first wife of a Yoruba monarch to be so endowed. Speaking with GBENGA ADERANTI at the expansive palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Ayaba Folashade spoke about her love life with the monarch, the rumoured affair between popular fuji musician Wasiu Ayinde a.k.a. KWAM 1 and one of Alaafin’s wives, the part of the Alaafin that is not known to many and how she has managed to stay away from scandal, among other issues.
What was life like before you met the Alaafin?
I grew up in Sabo area of Oyo. Many things have changed now because of exposure and development. It was quite interesting growing up in that environment. I attended Stephen Alayande College of Education.
How did you meet him?
I met him for the first time when I was on an excursion to the palace. During the excursion, I asked him so many questions. Probably that was where he took interest in me. I requested to have an interview with him to know more and develop the project I was working on. I was just 25 years old then. We became familiar and he later proposed marriage.
What was the reaction of your parents to that?
When I told my mum about it, she was a bit apprehensive. I quite understand why she was. I am from Isale Oyo, and the relationship between the Alaafin and the people of Isale Oyo was not very cordial then.
On the other hand, my dad, an Isale Oyo man, was unperturbed. He said, ‘If your marriage with Alaafin will bring peace to Oyo, so be it.’ True to what my father said, my marriage to the Alaafin brought peace between him and the people of Isale Oyo. Although some people are still aggrieved, majority of my people are in peace with and in support of the Alaafin now, unlike before.
How romantic is he?
Kabiyesi is very romantic. If you are not close to him, you won’t know that he is loving and kind. At times when I’m in the kitchen, he would come and offer to assist. While at the college, he would dish food for me and instruct the driver to bring it to school.
The difference in our age gap has not stopped him from showing affection. He shows affection more than some of these young men you see outside there. What a young man can do out there, Kabiyesi does better.
Were you afraid when you were coming into his home?
Yes, I was afraid. You know I was coming from a different background to join others. I didn’t know what I was going to meet or how others would react, and so many other questions were raging in my mind. But when I got into the palace, I discovered that my fears were unnecessary. The ayabas (queens) were very good to me. I got a warm reception. They taught me palace ethics, how to dress, how to combine colours, the rules and regulations of the palace and tradition. The ayabas were wonderful and friendly.
There was this widespread rumour recently of one of Alaafin’s wives’ alleged affair with popular Fuji musician, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde (KWAM 1). How did the palace react to it?
The incident was quite unfortunate. All those things that you heard were mere fabrications. Such a thing never happened. They were all lies.
The story really made all of us sad when it broke, because we knew that such a thing never happened. Unknown to many, KWAM 1 is well known in the palace. He takes us as his mothers. He treats us with respect. I can swear that such a thing never happened.
The birth of your triplets was highly celebrated in the palace. Why was it so significant?
Before giving birth to the triplets, I faced a lot of challenges. I waited for three years before they came. Their birth was significant for many reasons.
First, while looking up to God for children to come, I went to hajj in 2008 and prayed to God to give me twins, but in answering my prayer, He gave me triplets. Kabiyesi prefers that his wives give birth early. So, the three years I had waited, Allah compensated me with three children. Even if there was no delay, I couldn’t have had more than three children in those three years.
Secondly, I’m also the first queen in Yoruba land to give birth to triplets. Go and check history. I don’t know if any other wife of a Yoruba king will give birth to four tomorrow, but I’ve set a record. I know several wives of Yoruba monarchs with twins, but not triplets.
You were still in school when you got married to the Alaafin. How did your colleagues react to it?
I enjoyed special treatment because many of them recognised me as the wife of the Alaafin while I was doing my part time studies at the University of Ado-Ekiti. You know, you can’t rule it out, some people will still try to be funny. Any time any lecturer tried to disrespect me, some of the students would tell the provost and he would intervene.
There are bound to be disagreements and quarrels between the queens in the palace. How do you cope with that?
There are bound to be disagreements since we all came from different backgrounds. But that has not been an issue. As soon as you are married into the palace, you are given rules and regulations. Any time there is a disagreement, it is settled. It does not go beyond that day. The Alaafin does not know about it, and because of that, he does not intervene. Even if he knew, the palace is so structured that the senior ayabas settle whatever disagreement the younger queens might have. The younger ayaba, irrespective of the nature of the disagreement, has to apologise to the senior one. The senior one too will apologise and things will return to normal. That has been the rule here, and it is working.
To say we don’t disagree will be a big lie. But while we may disagree sometimes, there is this bond among the ayabas. For example, when you are delivered of a baby, the palace mothers (senior ayabas) take care of them. You only go to see them when you want to breastfeed them. And when you are done with breastfeeding, you retire to your apartment. The senior ayabas are the ones taking care of the children. This has brought about unity in the palace. There is no place I don’t go to in the palace. There are no restrictions for me.
As a wife of the Alaafin, what has been your greatest fear?
Scandal. I hate to talk in the public because I don’t want to be misquoted. I mind my conduct. I don’t want bad image for myself. I don’t want for the family. I hate to do something that would bring disrepute to the monarch. I’m always very careful with the way I do my things.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Coping with people from different homes and backgrounds. One is bound to have challenges because you have different views of life and situations, which often times brings disagreement. But I am coping.
You are married to a polygamous husband. Would you allow your children to do same?
While I won’t encourage my children to engage in polygamy, only God knows the future from the present. After all, I never planned to be married into a polygamous home, yet I found myself there. God knows the best and I pray that God will direct them and order their steps. I don’t want them to be polygamists. But if that is what God wants for them, so be it.
Your appointment as the Yeye Isese was widely celebrated. Why would they confer a traditional on a queen?
I think it was because the elders saw something in me that many others did not see. They are the custodians of knowledge and wisdom. They probably knew something about me, which others did not know. They know where I come from, my family and so many other things before they conferred the title on me. I’m from the family of Ifa (diviner). I’m from the family of Ifafimihan, Isale Oyo.
What are the things you have missed since you became Alaafin’s wife?
I’m not missing anything. Being Alaafin’s wife has not robbed me of my freedom. It has not stopped me from doing anything. I do business. I went to school. I hope to do my master’s abroad or in Nigeria, God willing.
What attracted you to the Alaafin?
He is wise and intelligent. Most times when he is not in the office or attending to visitors, he is in the library reading. He reads a lot and encourages us to read too. At times he would tell you to look for the meaning of a word; you will be surprised that he would tell you the meaning of that word as it is written in the dictionary or on Google. He is such a wonderful man. His depth of knowledge is unrivaled.
He is also a unique Yoruba monarch. He is popular and brilliant, and there is no place he cannot go as a Yoruba oba. Alaafin is the first among the Yoruba obas. The way he does his things are different.