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Don makes case for female kings in Yorubaland

By Sam Olwalana
28 January 2018   |   4:06 am
A professor of Social Studies, Fatai Olasupo of the Department of Social Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, has claimed that there was a large number...

Obabinrin (female king) Alaba Lawson, the head of female kings in Yorubaland and protem chairperson of Female Traditional Rulers in Nigeria in her palace

A professor of Social Studies, Fatai Olasupo of the Department of Social Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, has claimed that there was a large number of women oba (kings) in the past and that the practice should be allowed to continue.

He said that the present practice whereby women are not allowed to aspire to traditional stools is discriminatory, anti-social and self-serving.

Olasupo has, on many occasions, claimed that many women kings were crowned in the past and that they ruled their domains as kings. He also claimed that in past Yoruba history, about three female Owa of Ijeshaland had ruled over the land, while the Oonirisa of Ile Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye, has corroborated his claims that there were many women rulers among the Yorubas, including in Ile Ife, regarded as the cradle of Yoruba land.

He readily mentioned a woman who was the Oluwo of Iwo in the past. The university teacher also mentioned some traditional rulers in the North were allowed the idea of having female rulers in their domain.

In an interview with The Guardian, Olasupo rendered a historical perception to the case of women kings in Yorubaland and even in some other parts of the country, noting, “To date, not less than nine male traditional rulers across the country have approved of female traditional rulers. First is late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, then Iku Baba Yeye, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.

‘’These also include the Oonirisa, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, Osile Oke-Ona of Egba, Oba (Dr.) Adedapo Tejuosho, and Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Ogbagba Agbotewole II for Yorubaland.”

Others he mentioned are Emir of Minna, Niger State, Alhaji Farouk Bahago, Alhaji (Dr.) Sabi Abdullahi Idris, Kotokotogi II, Emir of Gwanara, Alhaji Idris Abubakar Shero Betete, Emir of Okuta and Bio Usman Abubakar, Derekureku III, Emir of Ilesha Ibaruba.

“However, the development in Ogun State toward this end is spectacular and worthy of emulation,” he continued. “First, at the installation of former Lagos State Governor, Chief Ahmed Tinubu as Field Marshall of Egbaland on November 12, 2012, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, speaking through Chief Alani Bankole, who equally doubled as kingmaker, said of Madam Tinubu, first Iyalode of Egbaland: ‘She was the first Iyalode (king of women) of Egbaland.

“Madam Tinubu supported the Egba soldiers, buying arms for them and supplying them food as they engaged in the series of wars to defend Egbaland from the external invaders and other inter-tribal wars of that era.”

For Oba (Dr.) Adedapo Adewale Tesjuoso, while eulogising his mother, the former Iyalode of Egbaland, Madam Tejuosho, said, “As Iyalode, she is regarded as ‘Oba Obinrin’, that is, the number one lady in Egba.

“It should be noted that this is the first time Iyalode in Egbaland would be referred to as king, which is an admission of the fact that female kings had existed in the past but have been suppressed by their male counterparts. It is a welcome development if the status of Iyalode in big cities is elevated to that of female kings, as a kind of promotion and recognition even if it is just as third class oba promotable to second-class and possibly first class with time.

“In Ijebu Ode, everything got upended. For the Ijebu, not only is their matriarch, Queen Sheba or Bilikisu Sungbo a monarch of Quranic, Biblical and Judaic significance, but there had also been three past female Awujale: Oreyeye, first female Awujale of Ijebuland (pre-colonial period); Oregeje, second female Awujale of Ijebuland (pre-colonial period); Rubakoye, third female Awujale of Ijebuland (pre-colonial period).”

With these backdrops, Olasupo said women groups in Ijebuland have begun to find their voices. Of spectacular example are the cases of Erelu Ode-Remo, who kicked against molesting the corpse of dead obas, especially those of Alake of Egbaland, Oyebade Lipede, after his demise, just like those of Makun of Shagamu, Oba Efunwape Adetayo Ogunsowo and Olufunsho Adeolu.

In the case of Ijebu women, they accompanied their monarch, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Ogbagba Agbotewole II, Awujale of Ijebuland to the House of Representatives’ public hearing of the review of the 1999 Constitution at Ijebu Ode, and demanded, in the presence of their monarch “for constitutional amendment that will allow the emergence of female traditional rulers. They called for removal of prejudices and discriminations against women to enable them become monarchs. Their spokesperson, Otunba (Mrs.) Antonia Balogun, said that since women are already entitled to regency and other chieftaincy titles in Yorubaland, there should also be constitutional provision for them to become traditional rulers.

“The radicalization of Awujale of Ijebuland in tolerating women revolt, not only in his domain but also in his presence, is understandable: the Spirit of the matriarch of the Ijebu, Queen Sheba or Bilikisu Sungbo, lurks and looms large over him.”