Baba Allah-Dey in 1930 lost to Oba Adesoji Aderemi (wearing black, seated in the middle of the picture) in a strong tussle between the two of them for the throne of Ile Ife.
Allah-Dey’s real name was Baba Coker Olawoyin or Baba Coker Adewoyin.
I really should be caned for forgetting Baba Allah-Dey’s real name because he was, really, a father to me.
Baba Allah-Dey informally adopted me, though I lived with my actual parents.
He said I was a replica of his favorite son who died young, and he felt drawn toward me.
He would call me to his big mansion and I would spend hours with him and would silently listen as he talked with a fast, slightly stammering voice, about his life, his work and his family.
He had several wives, but his clear favorite was Iya Pupa, the very first one.
All his children were grown up, successful traders resident outside of Ife.
Occasionally, one of them would visit, and Allah-Dey would throw a party.
When Baba Allah-Dey went out, he took me with him, and I rode in front with the driver as he sat at the back of the huge Pontiac. I guess that made me his Emese (page)?
(But I didn’t know I was playing any role at that time. I just went for the ride).
Baba Allah-Dey built his mansion after Oba Adesoji Aderemi defeated him.
He wanted to build a palace to rival if not better the official Aafin Adimula at the center of Ile Ife.
Baba Allah-Dey actually did.
His rival palace stretched all the way from Iremo (at the front) to Aderemi Road at the back.
He walled his palace, constructed about twenty houses in it and built his mansion right at the front entrance in Agboole Ajigbayin.
My mother rented one of the shop units in front where she sold textiles.
Baba Allah-Dey’s mansion was the most lavish and peerlessly eye-catching architecture in the whole of Ile Ife at that time—in the sixties.
He built the stylish western Nigerian version of Brazilian architecture: a two-storey building, with a wooden staircase running up to a cement brick building, also with a cute wooden balcony in front and back at the top.
As I looked at the photograph, I now see what Allah Dey was imitating: look at the back of the dignitaries in this picture, and you will find a replica of Allah Dey’s Brazilian architecture, with the wooden staircase.
It would have been wonderful to have the entire building in the picture but we only have the bottom.
Also, look at the ornate chair on which Oba Aderemi is sitting.
Baba Allah-Dey filled his sitting room with chairs exactly like this.
Baba Allah-Dey died in the early seventies, and almost certainly in his 80s.
His palace remains in Iremo at Agboole Ajigbayin, facing the Catholic primary school.
His mansion has been locked up since he died.
It must contain rare documents on the history of Ile Ife.
Had Baba Alla Dey waited some twenty more years he would have been a mega king.
Many of his personal large farmlands all around Ife have become towns now with their own kings.
They were just his personal properties then, and we would drive the Pontiac into them, with all the farmhands quickly dropping whatever they were doing and running toward the car to welcome us, throwing themselves flat on the ground in prostration.
One of his personal farms was Aye Coker, a town between Ife and Ondo.
Remember one of Baba Allay-Dey’s names is Coker?
That’s how that town got its name.
Baba Allah-Dey took me there regularly to see his humongous cocoa farm.
If Baba Allah-Dey had waited twenty years later, he could at least have become the king of one of his own personal farms-now-turned-towns, complete with full obaships.