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Ibadan: Glimmer of hope as Olubadan, new kings close ranks

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Seyi Makinde received a boost as the Olubadan high chiefs paid the 91-year-old monarch homage at his Popoyemoja, Ibadan palace


• Olubadan Is Imperial Majesty, We Remain Royal Highnesses — Balogun
The resolve of members of Olubadan-in-Council and Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji to sheath their swords and allow the court decide the legality or otherwise of the review of the 1959 Olubadan Chieftaincy laws that allowed High Chiefs to wear beaded crowns has calmed down some frayed nerves, yet the issue is still far from being resolved.

The rapprochement was good news to many indigenes of the ancient town, especially when they saw the 91-year-old monarch holding meeting with his erstwhile estranged chiefs, who had abandoned the palace for over 16 months. The Olubadan’s 91st birthday celebration was an opportunity to suspend their cat-and-mouse relationship and come together under the same roof. The High Chiefs laughed and prostrated in reverence to the Olubadan. The people that witnessed the occasion clapped and sang victory songs for the Olubadan, just as the talking drums echoed the triumph proverbs. But behind all the cosmetic banters were unresolved acrimonies.

The Guardian interview with some of the high chiefs indicated that achieving peace might still be difficult, as they insisted that they remained monarchs and nothing has changed.Most of the chiefs were physically present at Olubadan’s birthday ceremony and paid homage to him without wearing their crowns, which the uninitiated interpreted to be the end of the crisis. But Oba Owolabi Olakulehin told The Guardian that celebrating with the Olubadan on his birthday did not mean they are no longer kings in their own rights.

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Olakulehin, a member of Olubadan-in-Council and Balogun of Ibadan land said: “Yes, we did not wear our crowns to the palace of Olubadan as a mark of respect to him, but celebrating with him does not mean the crisis has been finally resolved.

“We are in court and we have to wait for the judgment. But for the sake of peace, we have agreed to be holding meetings. However, the fact still remains that we are monarchs. The Olubadan is the Imperial Majesty, while we remain royal highnesses.

The Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba (Senator) Lekan Balogun warned the public not to arrive at a hasty conclusion, but should wait for the court’s final decision on the matter.He said: “There is nothing contentious about it. We were made obas by law. There is a gazette to that effect. Olubadan didn’t agree with that transformation. But it is not for him to make laws. Government is supposed to make laws. The immediate former administration, led by Senator Abiola Ajimobi made the law. So, lawfully, we are obas. There is nothing anybody can do about it, except perhaps through the court of law.

“The current government is headed by a lawful and law-abiding man. He may or may not like it, but he will not disrespect the law. He recognises us.
“We decided to reconcile with ourselves in the interest of peace and unity in Ibadan land. We have had a meeting and we will have another one, so the process is continuing. Olubadan won’t decide we are not obas. He is not lawless. He doesn’t have to like it, but that is the law as at this date. If we are not to be obas, that will be left to government and law court to say. The matter is in law court already. Whatever the court comes out with, we will abide by it, once it is written and there is precedent. What is more important is to emphasise peace and unity in Ibadan land. What is the big deal in becoming an Oba? We have to learn to forgive one another and move on progressively in Ibadan, and we have resolved to do that now.”Ibadan has a peculiar kingship system, which makes the ascension order rancour-free. Trouble, however, started when former Governor Abiola Ajimobi set up Justice Akintunde Boade (rtd) panel to review the 1959 Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration.

The panel recommended an upgrade of members of the Olubadan-in-Council to crown-wearing monarchs and some coronets. Feeling that the move was to reduce the Olubadan’s influence, former governor of the state, Senator Rasheed Ladoja and Olubadan filed different suits to challenge the composition of the panel, and prayed the court to stop the panel from tampering with the town’s traditional institution.

Indeed, Ladoja, who was supposed to be one of the beneficiaries of the new law did not accept the crown from Ajimobi and steered clear of the mass coronation that saw 21 Chiefs wearing crowns on the same day.

Oba Adetunji did not take the issue lightly, as he drew a battle line between him and his Chiefs and Ajimobi. There was tension in the land and people were polarised. Ajimobi threatened to depose the monarch, but Ibadan people stood behind the monarch who fought Ajimobi to a standstill. Ajimobi’s moves to tamper with Ibadan traditional institution was believed to be one of the reasons his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost elections in the state, as Ibadan constituted about 52 percent of voting population in the state.

Deciding on the case instituted by Ladoja, last year January, Justice O. I Aiki granted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the state governor, his agents or servants from accepting, implementing or gazetting any recommendation by the judicial commission of inquiry over the 1957 Chieftaincy Declaration of the Olubadan and other related matters.

But the Ajimobi administration appealed the judgment and granted the new monarchs all the rights and privileges they deserved in deference to Olubadan’s stance. However, the new government is introducing another dimension to the matter, as Governor Seyi Makinde seems not interested in adopting legal means to resolve the impasse. Instead of fortifying the appeal instituted by his predecessor, he appealed to the Upper Court to allow the matter be resolved out of court.

The state Attorney-General, Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo, informed the appellate court of the progress made on the matter and subsequently filed an application to settle out of court.But rather than granting his request, the appellate court ordered that the case be returned for trial before another judge of the state High Court. The appellate court, in its ruling delivered by Justice Abubakar Talba, said the matter had been fixed for judgment, adding that the court allowed the appellants’ interlocutory appeal.

Talba said the case of the first respondent ought to have been commenced by a way of writ of summons, as opposed to an originating summons. He, therefore, ordered that the case be returned to the lower court for trial before another judge of the state High Court.

Meanwhile, the family heads of Ibadan ruling dynasty, otherwise known as Mogajis, have described the attempt to withdraw the suit on the Ibadan 21 kings at the Court of Appeal and the request for out-of-court settlement by Governor Seyi Makinde as the best option to ensure peace and progress of Ibadan land.

The Mogajis, who praised the Governor’s wisdom and courageous step, also warned against misinterpreting the action of the judges of the appellate court.They told the people to understand the decision of the judges of the Court of Appeal to return the case to a Lower Court for settlement, rather than twisting the judgment that returning it to lower court was rejection of settlement out of court.

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Their spokesman, Mogaji Wale Oladoja, urged the people to consider the peace of Ibadan land as paramount than fueling crisis that was supposed to be a family affair.The statement further said Ibadan people were resolute on ensuring that the chieftaincy crisis was resolved and peace returned to the family of Olubadan-in-Council without delay.

On the importance of understanding the judgment, they said: “We know that some enemies of progress are misinterpreting the judgment. But it is noteworthy to emphasise that the judgment was to return the case to the lower court for settlement-out-of-court because the Appeal Court was set for judgment before the state government approached it for withdrawal of the case. We need to understand that when the court was set for judgment, it can only return judgment to a lower court.

“We, therefore, appreciate the effort of Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Osi Olubadan, High Chief Rasheed Ladoja, for their role in ensuring that peace returned to the family of Olubadan-in Council and the personal conviction of Otun Olubadan, High Chief Lekan Balogun to see the course as a family affair and he, being an advocate for peace.”

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