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Ibadan: Olubadan, new Obas crisis worsens


Oba Saliu Adetunji,

The republican nature of the age-long Ibadan kingship system is on trial. And the elders of the ancient town are sharply divided on how to resolve the face-off between the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji and members of the Olubadan-in-council, who gave the monarch a 21-day ultimatum to either support the Chieftaincy declaration review, as gazzetted by Oyo State government or face deposition.

Many indigenes were not only shocked by this threat, but also argued that such affront, which has created tension in the town, is unprecedented in the town’s history.

To the Olubadan and some indigenes, Olubadan-in-council is a mere advisory body with no executive powers known to the tradition and culture of Ibadan people. However, to some supporters of the newly installed monarchs, the review of Olubadan declaration has not only changed the name of the royal body to Oba-in-council, but has vested some executive powers on them to recommend dethronement.

Hitherto, the personal residence of whoever becomes a monarch in Ibadan automatically turns into a palace, but the new order has changed that, as it recognises Mapo Palace as the meeting place for the monarchs, pending the time the new one under construction will be completed.

However, the question that has been agitating the mind of many palace watchers is: Could a vote of no confidence passed on the Olubadan by the Oba-in-council lead to his deposition by the governor? Many are quick to reply, “ko seleri,” which literally translates “it has never happened.”

Ironically, that is the political nickname of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, whose supporters believe has been a trailblazer and achiever of what many thought was impossible.

But unknown to many, the cat and mouse relationship between Oba Adetunji, who was crowned as the 41st Olubadan of Ibadan land on March 4, 2016 and members of the council didn’t start with the review of Olubadan declaration. The frosty relationship began a year after his coronation, because of his administrative style, which members of the council repudiated.

The Balogun of Ibadan land, Oba Owolabi Olakulehin told The Guardian that shortly after his coronation, some behaviour they had never known with him surfaced to undermine the traditional roles of members of the council. He accused the monarch of giving preferences to the opinion of his immediate family members over decisions taken at the council.

He specifically accused the monarch’s wives of undue interference in their formal meetings, which prompted their insistence to stop holding council meeting at the monarch’s Popooyemoja palace.

But the crack between Oba Adetunji and members of his council became public in March this year, when the monarch removed Iyaloja of Ibadan land, Chief Labake Lawal and replaced her with Alhaja Iswat Abiola Ameringun. The council members, led by Oba Lekan Balogun, had addressed the press and dissociated themselves from the monarch’s action.

Oba Balogun explained that though the monarch brought the matter for discussion and council members did not agree with him, but he vetoed it. Before they knew what was happening, another Iyaloja had been installed. The monarch was also accused of installing some Mogajis and baales without considering council members’ opinion before taking such actions.

It was at the height of the “Cold War” between the monarch and council members that the state government in May this year; set up a Justice Akintunde Boade panel to review the 1957 Olubadan declaration.

While the monarch kicked against this decision, members of Olubadan-in-council, apart from Chief Rasheed Ladoja supported it and made recommendations to the panel. Ladoja went further and instituted a legal action against the government, challenging its propriety.

By August, when the government came out with a White Paper on the Declaration, which empowered it to crown 21 monarchs on August 27, this year, things had fallen apart between Oba Adetunji the council members.

While the monarch insisted that he would never recognise his high chiefs’ elevation, the crowned chiefs said the monarch has no choice but to accept the new order and recognise them as Obas.

While the council members hold their meetings at Mapo Palace, Oba Adetunji continues to hold court at his Popooyemoja palace, where he holds meetings with various groups that are said to be allegedly usurping council members’ functions. As the crisis rages on, Oba Adetunji has installed many Mogajis and baales in deference to the opinion of his council members.

The conferment of a chieftaincy title on Governor Ajimobi’s political archrival and Minister of Communication, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu as Agbaakin Afiwagboye of Ibadan land, was seen as a political deftness to embarrass the governor. The Oba-in-council dissociated itself and didn’t attend the ceremony.

Despite various legal actions that are pending in court, some prominent Yoruba traditional rulers have tried unsuccessfully to resolve the matter, as the warring factions refused to shift ground.

Indeed, Oba Adetunji specifically asked for reversal of the review, which the government ignored.

However, there was a new twist to the crisis during the week, when the new monarchs issued a 21-day ultimatum to Olubadan to either retrace his step or face dethronement.

Oba Lekan Balogun, who led other Obas at a press conference to issue a final note of caution to the monarch, alleged that the Olubadan has committed several offences that ought to compel them to immediately pass a vote of no confidence on the monarch, and if that happens, his removal from office will commence immediately.

Some of the monarchs and members of Oba-in-council that attended the conference, included Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Owolabi Olakulehin; Osi Balogun of Ibadanland; Ashipa Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Abimbola Tajudeen Ajibola; Oba Eddy Oyewole and Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland; Oba Lateef Gbadamosi Adebimpe,

Others include, Ekarun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Amidu Ajibade and Ekarun Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Kola Adegbola, while many Mogajis were also in attendance.

The Obas were particularly angry that all the issues pending between them and the Olubadan, which almost led to taking legal action against him in the past, are still not addressed by him.

Oba Lekan Balogun said: “Olubadan-in-Council meetings were not conducted the way they are supposed to be. Oloris were still attending meetings with us, contributing, dictating and attacking, which resulted in abuses and curses on the high chiefs. The appointment of Baales and Mogajis were not in compliance with proper set up rules and standards.

“Apart from the monetary scandals of which kabiyesi is yet to refrain, a new Olubadan-in-Council is inside Popoyemoja palace consisting of Olubadan, the Oloris and PA to Olubadan. They decide from time to time who is to be Baale or Mogaji and will only send Hearing Notice of meeting and agenda to the real members of Olubadan-in-Council on Saturday preceding the installation date on Monday.”

Oba Lekan Balogun said other “sins” that may force them to depose him include, “engaging in acts to cause civil disorder, by parading himself around with some unscrupulous Mogajis in Ibadan land, and inciting people to rise up against the legitimate government of our amiable governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

“This is a serious offence, with which the Ibadan Council of Obas can pass a vote of No Confidence on him, after which we as kingmakers that nominated and appointed him for confirmation and approval by the Executive Governor will also call for his removal.

“We are by this conference giving His Imperial Majesty a 21-day-ultimatum to change his stand now and work for the improvement of Ibadan rather than disorderliness,” the Obas further said.

But Oba Adetunji, who appeared unperturbed by the threat, described the ultimatum as an insult to Ibadan people and tagged his accusers as “end-of-the-year entertainers.”

The monarch, who insisted that the role of Olubadan-in-council is “advisory,” said they have no powers to either remove him from office or recommend his deposition.

Oba Adetunji, who was resolute on his decision against review of the Chieftaincy declaration, warned the “High Chiefs” not to force him to wield a big stick against them, disclosing that he has received letters from four families calling for their replacement.

He told “the high chiefs not to exercise fears yet, as their seats would not be declared vacant in the absence of a court verdict”.

The embattled monarch, in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Adeola Oloko, stated that the so-called Oba-in-Council was unknown to Oyo State Chieftaincy Laws. He wondered “how a group of educated individuals such as the high chiefs could resort to illegality by commenting on a matter before the court”.

Oba Adetunji, who pleaded with the court to take judicial notice of the alleged persistent contempt of court on the matter before it by the defendants in recent times, said, “if a scape goat is not made of at least one or two culprits, there may be no end to court contempt.”

Reacting to some of the issues raised by the Oba-in-Council, the Olubadan contended that, “the council in question, which comprises high chiefs and Olubadan only, is basically an advisory council with no force of law, customs and traditions backing it. In the same vein, the baales whom the embattled high chiefs have added to themselves to become 21 are not members of Olubadan-in-Council and should, therefore, not be dressed in borrowed robe, as they have no power whatsoever over their lord.”

Oba Adetunji said at no time were the embattled high chiefs barred from attending palace activities, adding they “were the ones who spurned palace invitation in their desperate rush for multiple crowns and cheap royalties”.

He expressed delight that despite their absence from official palace activities, the Olubadan has been exercising his duties without let or hindrance.

To Oba Adetunji, the Yoruba proverb that says the okra can never outgrow its reaper applies, as a high chief can’t outgrow the king by threatening to recommend him for removal.

He said: “By custom and tradition, no Olubadan has ever been recommended for removal from office by any high chief or group of high chiefs, and my own reign will not be an exception.

“At least, we have received applications from families of about four of the high chiefs asking for their immediate replacement. But, like the prodigal son, we hope they would sooner than later renounce the unrecognised crowns and return to the warm embrace of their father, as the palace door is perpetually open.”

Both the monarch and his council members are still blowing hot with no solution in sight.

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