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Erring on the law to fill Ooni stool (2)

By Abiola Sanni
23 September 2015   |   4:40 am
SUCH a declaration necessarily dispenses with the need for proof by oral evidence of such a custom and/or tradition. A validly registered Declaration in respect of a recognised chieftaincy is the admissible and subsisting declaration and should prevail until amended.
The palace gate in Ile-Ife

The palace gate in Ile-Ife

Continued from yesterday
SUCH a declaration necessarily dispenses with the need for proof by oral evidence of such a custom and/or tradition. A validly registered Declaration in respect of a recognised chieftaincy is the admissible and subsisting declaration and should prevail until amended.

The court cannot promulgate or make a declaration, it can however, set aside a Declaration for non-conformity with the prevailing customary law and thereby declare same invalid.  See also Military Administrator of Ekiti State v Aladeyelu [2007] 14NWLR (Pt 1055), the Supreme Court declared.

Two declarations had been made so far with regards to Oni stool. The first was made by the Ife Divisional Council, dated 7th day of June 1957 and registered on 4th day of July 1957 made pursuant to Section 4(2) of the Appointment and Recognition of Chief Law, 1954 (1957 Declaration). The 1957 Declaration recognised four ruling houses and established the following order of rotation thus:
(i) The Oshinkola House, Iremo (present)
(ii) The Giesi House, More
(iii) The Ogboru House, Ilare
(iv) The Lafogido House, Okerewe

The Office of the Military Governor of Oyo State issued a letter in 1977 signed by one Adeleke Adedeji on behalf of the Secretary to the Military Government and Head of Service at the time to “amend” the 1957 Declaration by deleting the names of the quarter/area which appeared before the name of each ruling house.

The letter reads: “I am directed to inform you that the Oyo State Executive Council has declared the Oni of Ife Chieftaincy Declaration which was approved and registered in 1957 faulty (sic!) and has directed that the Chieftaincy Committee of the Oranmiyan Local Government should make the following amendments to the declaration, “That the quarter/area names like Iremo, More etc. after each ruling house should be deleted.” It should be noted that the 1977 letter was an amendment rather than a new declaration.

The Second Declaration was made in 1980 by the Chieftaincy Committee of Oranmiyan Local Government which was designated as the competent council under Edict No. 5 1976 (1980 Declaration). The Declaration was dated 14th day of September, 1979, approved on 20th day of January, 1980 and registered on 28th day of January, 1980. Paragraph 6 of the 1980 Declaration expressly “cancelled” the 1957 Declaration by providing that: “The Registered Declaration in respect of Method of Selection of the Oni of Ife made on 7th day of July, 1957 (sic!) is hereby cancelled.”

Accordingly, the provisions of the 1980 Declaration will have to be read in conjunction with the provisions of the extant Chiefs Law, Laws of Osun State 2002. The relevant portion of the 1980 Declaration is hereby reproduced verbatim for ease of reference.
1. There are four ruling houses, which have the right to provide candidates for the Oni chieftaincy, and the identity of each of such ruling houses is as follows:
(i) The Oshinkola House (present Ruling House)
(ii) Ogboru House
(iii) Giesi House
(iv) Lafogido House
2. The order of rotation to be henceforth observed shall be as specified above, namely:
(1) The Oshinkola House (present Ruling House)
(2) The Ogboru House
(3) The Giesi House
(4) The Lafogido House

It was in accordance with this Declaration that the Late Oni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, ascended the throne in December of 1980. The Late Oba was from the Ogboru ruling house.

Paragraph 3 of the Declaration reinforced the patrilineal hegemony of a typical African society by giving primacy to male line of the ruling house which is called “the normal successor”. Succession can devolve on the female line only if none of the candidates presented through the male line of the ruling house concerned is suitable and if the candidate presented through the female line possesses the necessary qualifications and is acceptable to the kingmakers, otherwise, selection is made from the family of the next ruling house.

The persons entitled to select the holder of the Oni title are two: namely the Obalufe in consultation with the chiefs of the right (the outer chiefs) and the Lowa in consultation with the chief’s of the left (the inner chiefs). The family whose turn it is to provide a candidate shall be invited in writing to present their candidate or candidates from whom the kingmakers shall select the most suitable person.

Section 15 of the Chiefs Law provides that within 14 days after the declaration of a vacancy, the Secretary of the competent council [the competent council in this case is the Ife East at Local Council], shall announce the name of the ruling house entitled to provide a candidate or candidates to fill the vacancy.

The ruling house announced by the Secretary shall within 14 days submit the name or names of persons they have nominated to fill the vacancy. Where they fail to present a candidate within the stipulated time as stated, the secretary shall make an announcement to that effect and the next ruling house entitled to fill the vacancy pursuant to a subsisting and valid declaration shall produce a candidate or candidates.

The names of the persons so selected by the entitled ruling house shall be forwarded to the kingmakers who shall fill the vacancy within seven days. Where the names of more than one candidate is submitted to the kingmakers, the candidates would be submitted to vote by the kingmakers and the candidate who obtains the majority of vote shall be declared and appointed to fill the vacancy.

The kingmakers are required to notify the Commissioner in charge of Chieftaincy matters who will formally communicate the choice of the kingmakers to the Governor. The Governor has the power to either approve or set aside the appointment made by the kingmakers. He cannot however do so until after 21days from when he received notification of the appointment made by the kingmakers from the Commissioner responsible for Chieftaincy matters.

During this period of 21 days, an unsuccessful candidate or a ruling house claiming that the proper rotation was not observed may make representations to the Governor that the appointment so made by the kingmakers be set aside. Section 20(3) provides for the things the Governor should take into consideration in deciding whether or not to approve or set aside an appointment.
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Dr. Sanni teaches law at the University of Lagos.