We are not against review of Olubadan stool Ibadan indigenes
The President General of Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Chief Wole Akinwande, has disclosed position of the council, the highest socio-cultural assemblage of Ibadan people to the Commission of Enquiry set up by Governor Abiola Ajimobi to review the Olubadan stool, which is generating controversy among the indigenes. He was interviewed by Muyiwa Adeyemi (Head South West Bureau Ibadan).
How do you feel that as big as Ibadan is, it doesn’t have a befitting palace and the one being built is taking decades to complete?
It has to take long to complete because we have to generate fund here and there to complete it. Ordinarily, the local councils should do it, but because they are incapacitated, they are not capable of doing it, which is why we are raising funds to do it.
And to raise fund, you must convince people of the need to have a befitting palace in Ibadan. If you are familiar with Ibadan, every Olubadan stays in his personal house, but we are now trying to bring them out to stay in a central place. Majority of the people feels if they have been ruling from their homes and there is no problem, why are you bothering yourself? But we want to move with times. Part of their reasons for staying in their personal homes was to ensure Olubadan’s security in the war days, but now, there are no more wars.
Everybody is responsible for the king’s safety, so he can stay in the palace and that is the pattern in Yorubaland. In other parts, they are running monarchical system, but here we are different in our own way. However, we want a central place and God has provided location. If you go there now, you will see that work is still going on, though very slowly.
You said in other Yoruba towns, they run monarchical system. How would you describe that of Ibadan?
We run Republican system here in Ibadan. In other places, people from specific families can become a monarch, but in Ibadan, it is not so. Any indigenous person can aspire to become Olubadan.
What makes one an indigene of Ibadan?
Your great grandparents must have been born here and you grew up in Ibadan. But if you are just coming to work here for 30 or 40 years, that does not make you an indigene. Your progenitors must have been here to the extent of losing contact with your original base.
You talked of moving with time, which informed Ibadan’s plan of building a palace. Don’t you see the setting up of the Panel to review Olubadan status as something to be embraced?
I do not understand your question, and I don’t want to preempt the court.
What is the CCII opinion to the panel? Is it a welcome development?
What I can say is that, if there is a proposal, we want to wait for the exact details. You don’t anticipate the outcome of a proposal. You don’t set your mind that a proposal is against you or have certain motives. If you look at everything on the surface, you might jump to the wrong conclusion. I believe by the time the Commission finishes its work; we will know the direction it is going. But what is clear from what we read in the papers is that the aim is to solidify or enhance the Olubadan position and make other arrangements that will make the position felt in all parts of Ibadan land.
The Ibadan of yesterday is not the Ibadan today. The third Ibadan started around Mapo Hall with the radius of one or two miles at most. If the Oba said anything at that time, within one hour, the news would have gone round. But now, the radius is more than 20 kilometres— Omi, Egbeda, Lagelu, they are so far away. We want a system, whereby the Oba’s presence will be felt in all the nooks and crannies of what we call Ibadan land. Therefore, if there is any provision that will make that possible, we have to look at it and not reduce the status of Olubadan. But if there is a proposal to reduce it, we can shout. So far, however, we have not seen that.
Governor Ajimobi has appealed to all stakeholders to present their position to the Commission, saying that will inform the recommendation. What will be the CCII’s proposal to the Commission?
The CCII is not against any modernisation. As I said earlier, it is mordernisation that informed a central palace, instead of moving from quarter to quarter. If there is modernity in the building, what is wrong in the modernity about the people that will occupy the building, the functions that will take place, or the number of the lieutenants that will be reporting to Olubadan? In the olden days, we had what we called Ajeles, who were governing places like Ilesha, Ekiti and so on after the war that stopped the Fulanis from coming to Ibadan in 1840 at Odo Otin.
That time, Ibadan Warriors were controlling the whole of Yoruba land. Between 1840 and 1853 before the British came, Ibadan was governing many places. And Olubadan had representatives in all those towns, but now that there is no more war, at least in Ibadan land, so Olubadan must have effective representatives that you see and respect, as Olubadan representatives. So, when the governor talks of Baales being elevated, we did not see anything wrong in that. They are not competing with any of the High Chiefs; they are not competing with Olubadan in council. Rather, they will be responsible to Olubadan in council and they know they are subordinate to Olubadan. All this will be well defined.
But the law of 50 years ago could not have catered for that because maybe, those locations had not been in existence. They were bushes, but now, human beings occupy them and they must be governed. So, CCII supports the review. CCII supports whatever can improve the status of Olubadan and give him effective lieutenants, so that he will be able to perform wider whatever his age might be.
I think we should give room for modernity to take place. It does not call for changing everything from the root, it is not overhauling the system, like throwing away whatever we are doing now, that is not possible. There are already people in certain positions, and you cannot distabilise them. So, what you can do is to make their position better, make them function better. Whenever Olubadan is going somewhere, let people know this is an Oba ruling over a population of over 2.5 million. That is the CCII’s position.
Why did many Ibadan indigenes kick against it and seem not to share your position?
What you should understand is that CCII is non-political. We do not read motives into whatever is before us. Some people may be reading motives because in town, people are in one political party or the other, so they may be reading motives that this is my enemy, he is after me. But if we are all looking at it on the surface, everybody will support it. People in town seem not to get enough briefing about the work of the Commission.
For instance, when government first mooted the idea of education reform, many were not in support of it, but when they got enough briefing, they later supported it. Oyo State as pacesetters was not having good results to show for it in our schools, but things are now improving with the reform. You don’t read motives, but let all of us be involved by getting the best out of the commission. It will be wrong to think we should continue the way we were 100 years ago. We should allow for modernity and still preserve some areas that define us as a people, nobody can touch that. Olubadan is the paramount head and he must remain so. The tradition of how to get to the Olubadan Stool cannot be changed, those things make us unique. We have the Olubadan line and Balogun line, you move in succession. We have not been told that will be changed.
But don’t you think there should be a review of a system that only enthrones aged people as Olubadan?
They can look into it. There is a way you can look into the age pattern without changing the way we install our Oba, which is unique. If it has perfectly worked for us for 100 years, we don’t need to change it. If you retain that and you refine certain aspects, that should take care of the problem you are talking about, and we shall all be happy. Yes, we are known for gerontology, but that is changing. In the olden days, you couldn’t become Baale until you were above 40 years. But now we have people in their 30s becoming Baale. Therefore, they can become Olubadan at early age.
Former Governor Christopher Alao-Akala elevated some Baales in Ibadan before he left office, which was reversed by Ajimobi because Ibadan people kicked against it. Are we not going through the cycle again?
Akala behaved like a military man and his approach to it was very wrong, not civil at all. In fact, he encroached into the functions of Olubadan in Council. You don’t do that. Take Omi for example, that community is bigger than many towns that their heads wear beaded crowns. Ido, Apete, Egbeda, they are all satellite towns and are big enough to have their heads authorised by Olubadan and who will be reporting to Olubadan. By that, you will reduce a lot of problems coming to Olubadan, and will ensure sanity.
Wasn’t that what Akala did?
Akala’s method was wrong. It is not Akala’s duty to do what Olubadan in council should do. We always want to run away from politics and religion in this matter. Let the system allow for the integration of existing structure. What Akala did was out of structure; it would have just promoted strife. But now, what the government wants to do is that there will be a structure, whether the governor is from Ibadan or not will not matter, but Ibadan people will make recommendation to him through the House of Chiefs, but not the governor looking at his political associate and making him a traditional ruler. The power of choosing chiefs or Baales resides in Olubadan, not in the governor. It is when Olubadan might have chosen a candidate that it will go to the House of Chiefs before it goes to the governor, but Akala jumped all those steps.
How would you advise Ibadan people about the setting up of the Commission of Enquiry on Olubadan stool?
They should embrace peace and prepare to make submissions to the committee. If you have a good submission and sound argument, you cannot be ignored.
Would you advise those who have gone to court to withdraw their suit?
We can only suggest to them to withdraw the suit or suspend it. Let us see the proceedings and outcome of the panel. Our position is that at this stage, make your point to the commission and if you are not satisfied with their recommendations, you can now take legal option. A retired Justice is the head of this commission, and out of 11 members, four are lawyers. What are you going to argue in court that those lawyers cannot attend to? What is happening now is a product of mindset, that this man does not like me, so he will never do anything in my favour. Let us let go of that mindset. Politics does not matter, when it comes to Ibadan matter, just like religion. We are one and we shall remain so.
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