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Rumble in Ibadan: As Ajimobi set to review Olubadan status

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Abiola Ajimobi

• More Beaded Crowns Unsettling Palace Royalty
The bold step taken by the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi to review the Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration and other related chieftaincies in Ibadanland has brought to the fore, divergent views from those who want the system of ascendancy to the throne to be changed and those who prefer the status quo to remain.

Though many prominent indigenes and high Chiefs of the ancient town have argued in defence of the unique ascendancy order, which is devoid of rancour and acrimony, they have also expressed dissatisfaction at the same system that has denied the capital town of having a monarch of the 21 century that will be the face of Ibadan.

Indeed, gerontocracy seems to have become permanent feature of Ibadan kingship system and capital city of Oyo State, which is believed to be the largest town in West Africa, but is being deprived of meaningful socio-economic contribution from its palace.

Ibadan has crowned many nonagenarians than any town in this century and each aged monarch ascended the throne with his own style. Most times, the best that comes from the palace is witticism, which dwarfs the best of comedy scene from a Nollywood script.

While the reform will not consider criteria for having a young and educated Olubadan, some other Baales in the town will be elevated to wear beaded crowns, but the paramouncy of Olubadan will remain sacrosanct.

A prominent Ibadan indigene and former Managing Director of Daily Times, Areoye Oyebola, told The Guardian that the reform should ensure that educated and influential younger candidates could become Olubadan of Ibadanland.

He said: “I think with this reform, whoever that must become Olubadan must have a basic educational requirement, which should not be lower than OND or NCE. Ibadan deserves a monarch that can travel around and bring some socio-economic fortunes to the land.”

Oyebola explained that having established close relationship with at least four Ibadan monarchs, he was convinced that the succession plan, as peaceful as it was, gave little chance to an Olubadan to reign for long.
This, he noted, was because before a high chief could ascend the throne, he must have waited for at least 35 years in one of the two lines that produce a king, starting as a Mogaji.

The reform panel, which is headed by a retired High Court judge, Justice Akintunde Boade, has four weeks to submit its report.

Other members of the commission are a retired permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Chief Onaolapo Ajibola, and the state’s Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Wasiu Gbadegesin.

Also on the list are Messrs Joseph Oladele, Paul Ayoola, Ogunniyi Ogunjinmi, and Abiodun Adegbaye, while the Director of Chieftaincy Matters in the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Olanrewaju Jaiyeola, will serve as the secretary.

Part of the responsibilities of the panel is to “review the existing requirements and qualification for ascendancy to the throne of Olubadan, as well as to review the selection process of Olubadan from Otun and Balogun lines.

The body will also look into “the possibilities of having more beaded crown Obas in Ibadanland, taking into consideration the present size and population of the city.

The panel is also expected “to review the existing 1957 Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland in line with the proposed change in chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland.”

In an address at the occasion, Ajimobi said the review was long overdue, considering the fact that the existing declaration made in 1957 is no longer in tune with the current reality and modern trend in Yorubaland.

He said: “I want to emphasise that this judicial commission of inquiry is not being set up to witch-hunt anybody, nor to raise prejudice against anyone, but to ensure effective traditional institution in Ibadanland.

This is to pave way for socio-economic development for Ibadanland and Oyo State in general, which is one of the cardinal objectives of the present administration.”

The governor had, on December 8, 2015, constituted a three-man Administrative Technical Committee to look into the chieftaincy declaration of the Olubadan of Ibadanland.

The committee had, among other things, recommended a review of the extant document to reflect the high population of Ibadanland, which, it said, called for the installation of more traditional rulers with beaded crowns.

It also noted that there was some minus in the process of choosing from the two lines of Otun Olubadan and Balogun, which currently produce the Olubadan in rotational order after the candidate might have scaled 22 and 23 prongs respectively, after several years of waiting.

The report noted that the long years of waiting to occupy the Olubadan stool have always left the eventual monarch constrained to cope with the rigours of the stool.

The committee had reported that the Olubadan is the only traditional ruler wearing crown in Ibadanland, which it said was incongruent with the vast population of Ibadanland spread over eleven local governments.

While many did not contest the idea of elevating the criteria for selecting Olubadan, the issue of having more traditional rulers wearing crown in Ibadan is unsettling the palace and Olubadan-in-council. Indeed, some prominent indigenes of the state had vowed to resist it.

This is not the first time government will moot the idea of getting more beaded crowns in Ibadan. At the tail end of Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala’s regime, he elevated some Baales, but Ibadan people vehemently resisted the move. Ajimobi had reversed it immediately he assumed office.

Many have argued that Alao-Akala’s gesture was politically motivated. Besides, many prominent Ibadan indigenes saw it as an affront for an Ogbomosho-born governor to tamper with the traditional settings of Ibadan. But that argument cannot hold now, as Ajimobi is a true “son of the soil.”

First to criticise the government’s plan to review the ascendancy order was the former governor of the state and an Ibadan high chief, Senator Rasidi Ladoja, who warned Ajimobi to steer clear of Ibadan chieftaincy matters. He noted that any attempt to dabble into it might have “grave consequences.”

Ladoja advised Ajimobi to face governance squarely by addressing issues of state importance, which include the lingering crisis at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Ogbomoso, dwindling fortunes of education, health, delay in the payment of workers salaries and pensioners and failure to conduct local council election, among others.

He said: “The people in the Chieftaincy lines have the Olubadan-in Council, and they are in the position to handle their matters without government’s interference. Nothing concerns government with Ibadan Chieftaincy affairs. The problem that will come out of this interference will be too much for government to bear.”

The Otun Olubadan, Senator Lekan Balogun, who said the information in the public domain on the review was still sketchy, explained that such attempt to review the chieftaincy system was not alien to the Olubadan-in-Council. He alleged that the governor had never hidden his disdain for the current process of selecting Olubadan. The council, according to him, would adopt a “wait and see approach” till details of the reforms are made public.

For the Balogun of Ibadanland, Owolabi Olakuleyin, the Olubadan-in-Council would keep an eagle eye, as events unfold and respond appropriately.

“The governor has consistently been drumming it into our hearing. We don’t know what he is set to achieve with that,” he said. “We can’t stop the committee from doing its job.

“If we consider it not to be good for us, we’ll have to protest. And if it is good, all the same. We know they’re just starting. Let us see what they have in store for us, then we’ll react accordingly.”

Last Thursday, over 300 members of Integrity Youth of Ibadanland vowed to resist the governor’s attempt to tamper with the kingship setting in the town. The group insisted that any attempt to create more traditional rulers in the town would create chaos and be counter-productive.

President of the group, Ojekunle Wasiu and Secretary, Kamaldeen Ganiyu, said reviewing the declaration would fan ember of discord, disunity and violence in the city.

While appreciating the governor for taking a bold step “of a rational man, who has perceived the size and population of the great city, Ibadan, to have more Obas,” they, however, noted that more kings with beaded crowns in Ibadanland would not be needed, considering its tradition.

They argued that, “many people will be jostling for the kingship position like political offices, which would always breed chaos and generational hatred.

They alluded to cases of appointing some Baales, Mogajis and honorary chieftaincy titles, which sometimes lead to conflicts among parties involved.

So, to them, the review of the laid down declaration would erode respect and regard for the monarch and the traditional chiefs in the Olubadan-in-Council.

The group said: “We reiterate that our history had not been written for fun, as it contained processes and procedures to be followed in our ways of life. Our traditions and culture cannot in any way be equated with modernity or globalisation.”

It recommended that the state government should organise a town hall meeting, as regards the review of the Chieftaincy law.

“Our royal fathers and high chiefs should put a stop to rancours and grudges that could be used by the third party to destroy our valued traditional institution in Ibadanland.

“We vehemently kick against the move to have more Obas in Ibadanland. Rather, we would want the government to strengthen the existing positions for community leaders through the Olubadan in council,” they said.

But allaying fears that the review process will undermine the status of Olubadan, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Olalekan Alli assured critical stakeholders in Ibadan Chieftaincy system that government will not in any way do anything to diminish the status of Olubadan, but will rather enhance it.

“I believe every Nigerian and citizen of Oyo State will support the government in moving forward.  There will be opportunities for other people to wear beaded crowns in the state. The Olubadan will remain as the Olubadan of Ibadanland, not Olubadan of Moniya, or Sango or Bodija. All others that will be wearing beaded crowns, definitely when this policy comes to fruition, will actually be reporting to the Olubadan,” he said.

Alli also disclosed that critical stakeholders in the Olubadan chieftaincy system would have opportunity to present their views on the move being made by government to review the system that has been in existence in the past 60 years.

“It was government that did the declaration in 1957. It is the same government that has to do it now,” he explained.

Alli noted that such a review had been done in Lagos, Ogun and Osun States, saying: “We welcome constructive criticism. We have Judicial Commission of Enquiry in place, where the public has the opportunity to present their views.”

Since the ancient city started the monarchical system in 1820 with Baale Maye Okunade as the first king, the well-arranged traditional structure that is adjudged the best in the Southwest has been followed. This orderly arranged ascendancy to the throne of the Olubadan makes Ibadan unique in Yorubaland.

Unlike other cities in the zone, where crowning of kings is preceded by fierce battles among contenders, Ibadan is not known for such.

There are two lines to the throne of the Olubadan: Civil and Military, which is translated to Egbe Agba and Balogun. Titleholders are appointed on rotational basis to occupy the stool immediately a king passes on. The next to the Olubadan and most senior on both lines are the Otun Olubadan and Balogun, who under the Western Nigeria Law, are recognised as second-class traditional rulers and who are included on the Nigerian equivalent of a civil list as a result. The remaining Chiefs in the Olubadan-in-Council are the Osi Olubadan, Asipa Olubadan, Ekerin and Ekarun, as well as Otun Balogun, Osi Balogun, Asipa Balogun, Ekerin and Ekarun Balogun,  Seriki and Iyalode.

The ancient city was founded in the 16th century, but the present Yoruba people only took control around 1820. By1850, they had established their unusual succession principle, which is quite different, compared with other traditional Yoruba rulers in that it alternates between two lines. It usually takes decades to groom an Olubadan for the stool through stages of chieftaincy promotion, meaning that just about any male born title-holder of the metropolitan centre is a potential king.

There are fears in Olubadan Palace that this established ascendancy order might have to give way to a new one to be determined by the government. The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji declined comment on the matter, but his spokesperson, Mr. Adeola Oloko said the “Kabiyesi will have to hold a meeting with the Olubadan-in-council to study the terms of reference of the review panel and take a position, if necessary.”

But Olubadan-in-council and the monarch seem not to be in good terms presently over the deposition of Iyaloja, Chief Labake Lawal, which the council kicked against. In fact, the Olubadan-in-council in a public statement signed by high Chiefs Lekan Balogun and Owolabi Olakulehin said the issue of removing Iyaloja was never discussed and approved by the council. Though Olubadan has appointed another Iyaloja, but Labake is already in court to challenge her removal.

Will the monarch and his council sheathe their swords to take a decision on the deceleration that gave legal backing to the existence of their titles or allow the government to have its way? This is part of issues agitating Ibadan indigenes now.

Areoye Oyebola said: “This is the reason why some of us disagree with the timing of the setting up of this committee. The governor, being an Ibadan person ought to use his position to settle the crisis between Olubadan and the council before setting up a committee to review Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration.”



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