It’s abominable for Obas to settle disputes in court
You are the secretary of the Yoruba Obas Conflict Resolution Committee, what are the major achievements of this committee?
We have achieved a lot. Indeed, the committee can be best described as a silent achiever. Prior to the inauguration of the committee, there were conflicts between many traditional rulers in Yoruba land, especially between the past Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. There was a serious press war between them, which bordered on supremacy. This unwholesome scenario prompted our chairman, a visionary leader, His Imperial Majesty, the Olugbo of Ugbo kingdom, Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, to pioneer the setting up of the committee. Akinruntan loves the Yoruba nation very well and he has done so much with his resources to promote peace between and among obas. He saw the battle between the past Ooni and Alaafin as a clog in the wheel of progress in Yoruba land. That’s when the committee was inaugurated, and we began work immediately.
We (obas) are the representatives of God on earth, we are arbitrators; we are the ones that settle disputes for our subjects. Will God come down to settle rift between the obas? No. It is an indictment on the obas to have open confrontation, or use strong words against ourselves in public, or on the pages of newspapers. The committee did well by visiting the traditional rulers and made them to understand that for the Yoruba race to move forward, they have to sheathe their swords. In fact, it is improper to wash our dirty linen in the public. God sent us to this world to be a role model and ensure peace and tranquility among our people, not to engage in supremacy battle. All the major traditional rulers approved of the committee and since then we have been mediating and resolving issues in royal ways. Our roles have significantly reduced press war between Yoruba monarchs.
How do you react to the issue of the Oluwo and Oluwo Oke?
That is rather unfortunate. I was not happy with that development. The traditional institution has its own ethics, rules and regulations. A situation where two brother obas will be fighting on the pages of newspapers is not the best, more painful to note is that they even dragged themselves to the court. It is unbecoming and abominable for obas to take themselves to court. Our committee is already planning to intervene in this matter.
One of the reasons for the problem we are witnessing is because some of us do not know why God put us on the throne. We are not politicians, we are natural rulers, we have to be God-like in our behaviour and administration. But we must all know that whatever we do here on earth, we will be held accountable for when we get to the supreme being that put us on the throne. It is unfortunate that obas will choose the courts to settle their disputes when we are arbitrators; we are courts ourselves. Before the advent of democracy, we were the legislature, the judiciary and the executive, we delegated all these functions to our sons and daughters while we remain there as custodians. We are not expected to go to them for justice or to kowtow for them. Though, we have not really studied the cause of the rift between them but all what we read is that it is a dispute between two brothers, which I think they should be able to settle amicably. But our committee will intervene. In fact, a committee was set up in our last meeting in Akure, Ondo State to give us a preliminary report on the cause of the dispute.
Ironically, your chairman, Oba Akinruntan and the current Ooni, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, recently exchanged tirades over the indigenous people of Ile Ife and the statue of Moremi?
That is another dimension to the whole issue. Crises are like plants; they have roots. So if you want to solve a problem or crisis, you need to look at the immediate and remote causes of that crisis. But let me say this for the general public to note, there is no crisis between Olugbo and Ooni of Ife. It is just a question of putting the records straight. In the course of our research into some of the crisis in Yoruba land, we discovered that the seed of this discord was planted by the First Republic politicians for some reasons best known to them. The truth is that the authentic Yoruba history has been tampered with and mutilated.
That is why we charge all the history professors to put the records straight. If we are able to have an authentic history of a race, it resolves the crisis on its own. That is what Olugbo is trying to do. As traditional rulers, we are custodians of history.
How can you juxtapose the account of Oduduwa migrating to Ife from Mecca, with the popular belief in Ife that he descended from heaven?
That is a myth. It is not a fact. How could somebody descended from heaven? That is why we are charging academic historians in our universities, especially in the South West to do this as a real project. They have a great role to play in resolving the crisis of history in Yoruba land. This has made us a subject of ridicule by other races. We deserve a sacrosanct history. We cannot be using myth to cause crisis, we need history that will be based on fact and that would be acceptable to everybody. If you hold on to your history and it clashes with mine, how do we resolve it, and that is why everybody is claiming supremacy. What Olugbo has published in his book should be read and let there be a reconciliation of fact if anybody has any reason to dispute any account, and let there be a research to clarify issues.
Again, when Ooni granted an interview to a national newspaper recently, he was quoted to have mentioned Igbo people, not Ugbo, as earlier settlers in Ife that Moremi revealed their secret, what is your view on this?
That is an error, he would not have said that Igbo have such ancient link with the Yoruba. The error must come from somewhere. If you are saying the Igbo inhabited Ife at that point of our history, he is simply saying that Igbo own Yoruba land, and you know the implications in the future. So, it is an error of omission or commission. It is not true.
Which way forward for the Yoruba obas now?
As obas, we must understand our assignment here on earth; it is a divine call, we are natural rulers. Our assignment is to make peace, so that progress will come forth for the humanity. God is in the heavens making peace among the angels, that is why God appointed us as natural rulers to make peace amongst our people. We should not desecrate the stool and turn our office to that of a political post for ego ride. We also urge the press to stop sensationalising issues concerning monarchs.
And to bridge the communication gap among us, there is a WhatsApp group, His Royal Majesty Heritage Forum, I just joined the group and we have over 500 obas as members. It is one of the platforms being used to chat to relate our history, culture and development in our respective towns and villages. Though, it is an elitist approach, but we are exploring it to bridge the communication gaps. The truth is that once you are an oba, no matter the size of your domain, you have a divine calling, and that call is service to humanity, to bring peace and progress to your community. We should relate to ourselves as brothers.
Will you say the current political dispensation accord traditional rulers their rightful place in administration?
Certainly not, but it did not start with this dispensation. As I said earlier, the major problem we have among Yoruba obas was created by the politicians of the First Republic. It should not be so. Democracy in Nigeria has not treated traditional rulers well. We were colonised by the Britons, and in Britain, the Queen of England is part and parcel of their democracy. No Queen, no democracy in Britain. When the colonial masters were around, traditional rulers were accorded right values and honour. But immediately they left, the politicians see us as threats. It is so prominent in the South West.
That is not the case in the North. One fact I always tell people is that the traditional institution is the nucleus of human existence. What I mean is that through us everything revolves. That is why all politicians will visit us during election in our various palaces for mobilization, because we are the grassroots mobilizers. They cannot remove us from this democracy and our democracy is not yet at its best because they do not place us where we ought to be, I mean the right honour we deserve. Why can’t they emulate the Britons that give right honour to the Queen and everything is working perfectly well there. That should be a lesson to our politicians.