‘Olubadan initially supported our elevation, only to oppose it later’
His Royal Majesty, Oba Owolabi Olakulehin is the Balogun of Ibadanland and one of the High Chiefs recently elevated to becoming an Oba by Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. The 82-year old monarch, in this interview gave an insight into when the agitation for the elevation began, why Olubadan of Ibadanland Oba Saliu Adetunji kicked against it and how the matter can be resolved
When did agitation for High Chiefs to become Oba begin in Ibadan?
It is an age-long agitation. I am 82 years old now and I have climbed 32 rungs of ladder, the last stage to become Olubadan. I grew up to see our fathers discussing it and making moves to make High Chiefs wear beaded crowns. If you know Ibadan culture and traditions, High Chiefs are lesser Obas by rights and setting of our kingship system, but we had been deprived of wearing crowns. So the agitation did not start today.
What stopped it before and what brought about its implemented now?
The agitation never stopped. It has been part of discussion in the palace ever since. But we thank God that the time to do the right thing has come and Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who is also a prominent indigene and Chief of Ibadan, did the right thing. How could Ibadan, as big as it is, has only one crown beaded monarch? That is not good for this town.
At the meeting of Olubadan-in-Council, was there any disagreement among you that informed the decision of Olubadan to kick against it?
This matter was excessively discussed during the reign of the immediate past monarch, Oba Odulana. He agreed with us, but you know the man was very old and that limited his powers to move and get some things done. The late monarch really proposed a lot of things for the development of Ibadan land. But it depends on how the government of the day sees it. But when this government came, it took much interest in looking at the age-long agitation by the High Chiefs and Baales.
But the good thing about Oba Odulana is that he was lettered and vast, but the present Olubadan has been hoodwinked by the members of his household. They think for him and take decisions on his behalf. That’s is why he did not see what millions of Ibadan indigenes saw. That is why he refused to be carried along with the developmental agenda of the government of the day.
As High Chiefs, there are lots of issues we have discussed which he will agree with us, but when he gets to his closet, he will discuss everything with his wives and decisions will change. His wives always took different decisions from what we might have agreed to do and that is why we have not noticed much progress during his tenure.
Did you discuss this particular elevation of High Chiefs and Baales with him?
We discussed it.
Where and when?
We discussed with him at the Executive Chamber of the governor. He was there and agreed with us.
What development will crowning of High Chiefs and Baales bring to Ibadan?
It will bring a lot of development. There are a lot of educated elite in Ibadan around here, sample their opinion, talk to them.
The review of Olubadan Declaration was not done by the governor unilaterally, some of us were called to bring inputs, he went round to a larger section of the population to discuss with them, he discussed with Ibadan elders, women folks were even carried along.
What will you say was responsible for Olubadan’s uncompromising decision about the elevation?
He has not given us any convincing reason. He just didn’t want it. He said he was the one Ibadan people gave the crown and there can’t be two crowns in Ibadan. We went to the extent of telling him that in the whole of the Southwest zone, there are six states, it is only we in Ibadan that have not improved on our chieftaincy matters. All others have improved their own, even in Lagos where they say they have an Oba and white cap chiefs, they now have many Obas. Oniru is there and others operating under Oba of Lagos. Go to Ife, there are many Obas under Ooni, go to Ekiti, there are many monarchs. It is only in Ibadan that we have a monarch that resists change and development.
As I said the agitation for elevation of High Chiefs and Baales was high during the time of Arapasowu, because that was when the agitation for the creation of Ibadan State began and this involves many things. So if we have Ibadan State, which must have the House of Chiefs, is it only Olubadan that will be talking to himself? We explained all this to him, but he refused to reason with us.
Until your elevation, members of Olubadan-in-Council prostrate to greet Olubadan which is the custom of the land, will you still prostrate for him?
Are you not prostrating before?
As High Chiefs, we do prostrate, but now as a King, no.
It is an abomination to prostrate with our beaded crowns. We will give him the respect his stool deserves, like a junior respecting his senior, not to prostrate. That is gone. It has become an old idea in a civilised community. You don’t see old people like us prostrating, but that does not mean we would disrespect him or his stool, which we all cherish so much.
As Balogun of Ibadan and an Oba, do you have the capacity to give chieftaincy titles to people?
Let’s wait for what will happen. But the truth is that nothing has changed but we shall continue to move. As Balogun, the next position for me is to become Olubadan. And I will still get there. But now people should address me as Oba Owolabi Olakulehin, Balogun of Ibadanland.
How would this matter be resolved between you, I mean members of Olubadan-in-Council and Oba Adetunji?
The whole thing is in the hands of Olubadan. When the governor was talking, he was still pleading with him to soft-pedal. The governor is all-in-all, you cannot fight a governor. The governor said, you can insult Ajimobi without any problem, but you cannot insult the governor. He is the governor of the whole Oyo State and he has all the executive powers. No single man or Oba can take the governor for a ride without facing its consequence. I hope Olubadan will not allow the matter to degenerate to that extent.
At this stage, what advice do you have for Olubadan?
We have been advising him but he would not listen to us. He didn’t want to see us. I would have loved to go and talk to him not to continuing flexing muscle with the government, but he and his household did not want to see us.
Because the government has promoted all of us to monarchs with beaded crowns which his wives thought only their husband should wear.
What kind of development should be expected now?
The truth is that things are just unfolding because it is a new dawn for us in Ibadan. The governor is on top of the matter and he holds several meetings with us and we are being guided by what has been gazetted by the government.
We know that the governor has sent emissaries to Olubadan, we pray that he reasons with everybody for the crisis to end now and start thinking of how to adjust to the reality the change has brought. But if he remains adamant, which we did not pray for, then the government will have no choice but to use its powers. We are all under government, right from colonial days up till now.
Don’t you think that a lot of things have been distorted in Ibadan kingship system?
At our historic coronation on Sunday, Governor Ajimobi quoted the governor of America that if you are in charge of something and you are in control of a situation and you think of an improvement and it is within your powers to do it, if you didn’t do it until your time expires, the next man will come and will not only think of improvement but actualise it. Ajimobi has become a man of history because our elevation is for the development of Ibadan.