Ibadan new monarchs: More worries over increased expenditure
• No Extra Burden On Govt— Kolade
The first official outing of some of the Baales elevated to become Obas in Ibadan, by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, did not betray public expectations that they would need a lot of financial support for their new-found status.
Governor Ajimobi had invited them to grace the commissioning of the 5.5km Mobil-Apata Road on Thursday August 31, four days after the historic mass coronation that held at Mapo Hall, Ibadan.
Driven in rickety cars and chartered taxis, some of them arrived the venue as early as 11 am for a programme that the governor did not show up until 2pm.
But that could not be said of the 10 High Chiefs and members of the Olubadan-in-council also elevated to monarchs. Their appearances were not less than royal. They had been on government pay roll since their elevation as members of Olubadan in council, as against the erstwhile Baales that never tapped from government resources.
Indeed, Ibadan High Chiefs receive salary and emoluments as gazetted in the part 11 of Oyo State Chieftaincy laws from government and each of them superintend over the 11 local councils in Ibadan.
Aside befitting cars, His Royal Highnesses, as the Baales turned monarchs are currently addressed, would now be included on government pay roll, provided with official vehicles and possibly wardrobe allowances. They also need modern-day palaces, as some of them operate from private residences before their promotion.
With the review of Olubadan Declaration, Ibadan appears set to move away from recognising private residences as palaces, as the White Paper had recommended that all meetings of Olubadan-in-council should be held at Mapo, pending completion of the new palace being constructed at Oke Aremo. The Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) is coordinating the project.
To complete the first phase, CCII said it needed over N300m. Already, over N150m had been expended on the project, out of which the state government said it has committed about N100m.
Though communities are expected to build palaces, but since government has been the largest donor so far, its contributions to building palaces for the Baales turned monarchs is being taken for granted by the communities.
Tongues are already wagging on how much the state government would spend on the upgrade of Chieftaincy matters in Ibadan. For a state that is still indebted to workers and pensioners, with a debt burden of over N200b, incurring more expenditure on traditional institution at a period government is asking residents to tighten their belts, is considered inappropriate by many.
An officer of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, who pleaded anonymity, said the state workers were disappointed with government for not getting its priorities right.
He said: “Workers in the state just received bank alert for June salary on Tuesday September 6, with an outstanding of two months. Pensioners are being owed several months. I don’t know when they will be paid, while the issue of workers and students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) seems not to bother the government. Governor Ajimobi has money to upgrade traditional institutions, but not to fund LAUTECH).”
One of the Mogajis, loyal to Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, said Ibadan people would have appreciated the governor more, if he had used the money expended on installing new monarchs on completion of Olubadan’s palace and other developmental projects in the state.
He said: “If you are considering money spent on coronation and others that can be accounted for, you may not get the true picture of actual amount spent. Ask yourself, what made all the High Chiefs and prominent Ibadan indigenes that initially kicked against it and even went to court, to suddenly change their minds and withdrew the case and became the mouthpiece of government in this matter? Governor Ajimobi wanted it for his selfish reasons and went all out to achieve it without minding the cost. I won’t say more than this.”
But Oba Owolabi Olakulehin, who is the Balogun of Ibadanland, disagreed that the elevation of High Chiefs and Baales would increase government expenditure. He told The Guardian that all the High Chiefs had been receiving salaries from the government, and their elevation did not come with an increased salary.
He said: “My other brother Obas and I have been receiving salaries since we became High Chiefs, so there is nothing new apart from the crown. I know that government will have to pay some Baales that were not enjoying that benefit, as they are now Obas.
Fielding question on possible further expenses on building palaces for the new monarchs, Oba Olakulehin said: “for us members of Olubadan-in- Council, we don’t need a separate palace. Our offices will be inside Olubadan’s palace under construction. We shall be operating from our private residences. Though my house is now regarded as a palace, but I know that my office is at Olubadan palace.
“For the Baales, I think they will need palaces to operate but, it is not government’s duty to build palaces for them. It is the community that should do that.”
Speaking in the same vein, the state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr. Bimbo Kolade, denied extra expenditure from government to elevate Olubadan Chieftaincy laws. He said: “Oyo State government is not building any palace for the monarchs. Look at Olubadan palace under construction, it is being built by Ibadan people and is being coordinated by the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII). They have started the project since and they are still sourcing money to complete it. So, it is not government’s responsibility to build palaces.”
On the amount spent on the coronation, he said: “I would just say whatever government spent on the coronation is the usual normal government’s duty. Ab initio, if any Baale or Oba is to be installed, it is not a new thing that government does the installation. This is not the first that government is spending on. There should be no raised eyebrow on this.
“I don’t know how much was spent on the installation ceremony. A committee handled it.”
On the possibility of increasing overhead, he said: “I can tell you that there is none of these Baales that was not formerly on the local government’s wage bill. All the 22 Baales belonged to either the state council of chiefs and Obas, even when they were Baales. And this is one of the reasons they were considered qualified to wear beaded coronet in the first instance. Those that are not part of state council of Chiefs and Obas belong to their respective local government council of Chiefs and Obas. There is none of them that had not been earning salary from government. So, the coronation is not going to increase government expenses in any way.
“Be reminded that traditional institutions have their constitutional provision in the local government. So, there is no extra burden to government in terms of finances.”
What about cars and building of palaces?
“It is local councils’ responsibility to provide cars for traditional rulers. They have been doing that before. Today, Baale of Fiditi has an official car, Akinbiyi of Ilora also has one, just like Onijaye has his official car before elevation, and Onilalipon also had an official car before.
“If you check Oyo State Chieftaincy laws, all these people were formerly listed, either as part of state traditional council or local government traditional council.”