The last may not have been heard of the Ibadan chieftaincy review exercise, writes Ademola Babalola
Rather than thaw, the frosty relationship between the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Isiaka Ajimobi, and the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, is widening by the day. For having the effrontery to challenge the status quo and enthroning 21 more kings in one single day, the governor had since entered the bad book of the Olubadan and not a few indigenes of the ancient city.
Curiously, the development had also entrenched in the polity, divergent views from those, who want the Olubadan to remain the only crown-wearing monarch and are therefore averse to the new reform which grants permission for High Chiefs and some Baales (Village heads) to wear crowns or coronets as the latest development suggests.
Ibadan, from the beginning and for ages, had chequered history and tradition of a seamless ascension to the throne of Olubadan. Every Ibadan born male child, is a King in the making, a potential monarch of the city reputed for its unique ascension process. The child once installed as family head otherwise known as Mogaji becomes cynosure of all eyes and symbol of the family for the coveted seat of the Olubadan.
Soon after, by posterity and other considerations, such Mogaji will then join either of the two lines to the throne of Olubadan. The two lines are that of Egbe Agba (Civil) and Balogun (Warriors). Ab initio, the ladder to be climbed before reaching the status of Olubadan are 23 on Balogun and 22 on Otun or Egbe Agba lines respectively.
The founding fathers of the city are largely warriors, and history says they converged from different parts of the Yoruba nation in its formation to settle in Ibadan, which soon became a war camp where external aggression and intrusion into any part of Yorubaland are subdued by the supreme fire power of Ibadan warriors. Ibadan monarch relishes this feat a lot and prides self as one of the leading first class monarchs in Yorubaland.
And for the privilege of having climbed the ladders, which in most cases take nearly four decades or more to mount the throne of Olubadan, the reigning monarch enjoys the privileges and perks of such office, albeit at a rather old age. Such was the situation till about the middle of the outgoing year, when the state government constituted a panel to review the Olubadan chieftaincy declaration and other related chieftaincies in Ibadanland.
Prior to the August 27 crowning ceremony of the new kings, the pro-establishment, especially many prominent indigenes and high Chiefs of the city had put up stiff resistance and argued in defence of the unique ascendancy order. To them, the status quo was devoid of rancour and acrimony, and thus for long become the envy of many similar cities across Yorubaland for its uniqueness.
But there also exists some highly placed influential individuals, who are desirous of change in a way that the Ibadan monarch can be more educated, youthful, cerebral and possess the energy to attract greater goodwill to the city unlike the previous experience, where the reigning monarchs were no longer in their primes to give needed vigour and sense of directions to their subjects as being witnessed in neighboring towns.
Put succinctly, the latter category and proponents of change wanted a monarch of the 21st century that would be the face of Ibadan to attract meaningful socio-economic contributions from its palace.
Thus, on completion by the panel saddled with the task “to review the existing 1957 Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland in line with the proposed change in chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland”, under a reform panel, headed by a retired High Court judge, Justice Akintunde Boade, the governor wasted no time in the implementation of the parts of the recommendations and in many more instances, made additional contributions through his own ‘post-review committee’ headed by the Governor’s Senior Special Executive Assistant, Otunba Moronkola Thomas, a lawyer and seasoned politician in the state.
For the record, part of the responsibilities of the panel was 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. Other areas included “the possibilities of having more beaded crown Obas in Ibadanland, taking into consideration the present size and population of the city.
Ajimobi, consequently said the review was long overdue, considering the fact that the existing declaration made in 1957 was no longer in tune with the current reality and modern trend in Yorubaland.
“I want to emphasise that this judicial commission of inquiry is not being set up to witch-hunt anybody or raise prejudice against anyone, but to ensure effective traditional institution in Ibadanland. This is to pave the way for socio-economic development of Ibadanland and Oyo State in general, which is one of the cardinal objectives of the present administration.”
Expectedly, the outcome did not only catch the Olubadan napping, many others including one of his high chiefs, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, cried blue murder and headed to the court. He was soon joined in another separate litigation by Ibadan Council of Authentic Mogajis and other interested indigenes of the city.
Curiously, the Otun Olubadan, Senator Lekan Balogun, who had joined Ladoja in instituting the matter before the court withdrew, having ‘studied the panel’s recommendations, which also favoured the high chiefs as crown-wearing Obas”. At the moment, no less than five different cases are pending in different high courts and observers are still watching what their outcomes would be.
But since the inauguration of the new kings, the state government has been giving recognitions to the new monarchs as they now put on all the paraphernalia of their offices as monarchs to government functions on daily basis. Olubadan, who by right and position, should always attend is either not invited to such state functions or boycotting them for reasons adduced above.
The governor has not done enough too to assuage the feeling of Oba Adetunji as he continuously taunt the monarch in a rather unpleasant manner through uncouth public remarks that the new kings cannot be removed in defiance to the ongoing litigation. And at other occasions emphatically sending signals to those who care to listen that more kings would be enthroned in not too distant future. The exigencies of time left for his administration may however not make such volte face become a reality in the life of this government.
The latest of such remarks by the governor that the reform and crowning of new kings were not reversible at the recent Id-el Maolud celebration at the Remembrance Arcade, Agodi, Ibadan made Olubadan to say in return that “the review is reversible’’.
Receiving hundreds of Bale (Family Compound Leaders) from Idi Arere, Popoyemoja, Isale Osi, Igbonna, Akuro, Gbodu, Bode and adjoining areas in his palace last weekend, Oba Adetunji noted that he had lived long enough to know that God Almighty has the capacity to reverse the irreversible and return Ibadan chieftaincy system to the path of peace and harmony that had become the envy of people at home and abroad.
The monarch stated further that the legal tussle over the controversial matter between the Oyo State Government and diverse stakeholders in Ibadan land is alive, adding that all parties to the dispute are advised to respect the rule of law by giving the court the chance to play its constitutional role of adjudicating in disputes without let or hindrance.
The first class monarch contended that it was in order to give peace a chance that he had allowed different stakeholders to meet with him for what they called ‘out-of-court settlement’, adding that no peaceful resolution of the conflict could be achieved without repudiating the gazzette that has further deepened the lingering crisis.
A spokesperson of the family leaders, Mogaji Aperin, Isale Bode, Ibadan, Chief Musiliu Ola Adekunle had commended Kabiyesi for his comportment in spite of provocations, praying that his reign would be peaceful throughout. He pledged the support and solidarity of all the family compound leaders, who came to visit Kabiyesi.
Barely three days after, the new Obas issued a 21-day deposition notice to the Olubadan over alleged abuse of office. The Obas under the banner of Ibadan Council of Obas accused him of acts unbecoming of his office as the paramount ruler of the ancient town.
The new traditional rulers, led by Oba Lekan Balogun, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, addressed a press conference at the Mapo Hall, Ibadan where they detailed all the ‘sins’ of Olubadan and gave him 21 days to retrace his steps or be removed from office.
Among the many allegations leveled against the monarch was taking actions on behalf of the council without input from members. They also accused him of inciting people against the state government, which, according to them, was not representative of the relationship between the council and the government.
The Obas were particularly angry that all the issues pending between them and the Olubadan which almost led to taking legal action against the monarch in the past are still not addressed by him.
“Olubadan-in-Council meetings are not conducted the way they are supposed to be. Oloris were still attending meetings with us and contributing, dictating, attacking that resulted to abuses and curses on the High Chiefs. The appointment of Baales and Mogajis are 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 (Tairu) who 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,” the address read by Oba Balogun stated in part.
It took the intervention of the Ibadan Elders Council for the then Olubadan-in-Council members to stet legal action proposed against the Olubadan. Still at the conference, Ibadan Traditional Council members accused the Olubadan of allowing interests within and outside the palace to manipulate him to their own advantage. They said this was the reason the palace has barely witnessed peace since his ascension.
Though the Obas said they were not keen on deposing the Olubadan, they said if he fails to mend his ways within the next 21 days, the council would recommend his removal from office to the governor. Apart from the initial ‘sins’ which they said were yet to be addressed, the Olubadan, they alleged, has added some others, necessitating the new ultimatum.
“The Olubadan Oba Adetunji has since after the inauguration of the Beaded Crown Obas in Ibadan cultivated himself to misbehave by engaging in acts to cause civil disorder by parading himself about with some unscrupulous Mogajis in Ibadanland, inciting people to rise up against the legitimate government of our amiable governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
“This is a serious offence which we the Ibadan Council of Obas can pass a vote of No Confidence on him, after which we as king makers 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 21 days ultimatum to change his stand now and work for the improvement of Ibadan rather than disorderliness,” the Obas further said.
Other members of the council, who attended the conference are Oba Owolabi Olakulehin, Balogun of Ibadaland; Oba Abimbola Tajudeen Ajibola, Osi Balogun of Ibadanland; Oba Eddy Oyewole, Ashipa Olubadan of Ibadanland; Oba Lateef Gbadamosi Adebimpe, Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland; Oba Amidu Ajibade, Ekarun Olubadan of Ibadanland; and Oba Kola Adegbola, Ekarun Balogun of Ibadanland.
Many Mogajis were said to be in attendance.
Expectedly, the Olubadan described the purported threat by the 21 new Ibadan kings to recommend him for removal as an affront to the people of Ibadan and end of the year entertainment programme. The frontline monarch, who said the so-called Oba-in-Council was unknown to the Oyo State Chieftaincy Laws, wondered how a group of educated individuals such as the embattled high chiefs could resort to illegality by commenting on a matter before the court.
Hearing continued on Wednesday, December 13 at the Oyo State High Court, Ibadan in a suit filed by the Olubadan against the Oyo State Government on the controversial chieftaincy review. Oba Adetunji, who has pleaded with the court to take judicious notice of the persistent contempt of court on the matter before it by the defendants in recent times, is of the opinion that if a scapegoat is not made of at least one or two, there may be no end to court contempt.
Talking about the issue raised by the Oba-in-Council, Olubadan contended that the council in question which comprises high chiefs and Olubadan is only basically an advisory council with no force of law, customs and traditions backing it. In the same vein, Baale whom the embattled high chiefs have added to themselves to become 21 are not members of Olubadan-in-Council and therefore should not be dressed in borrowed robe, as they have no power whatsoever over their lord.
According to Oba Adetunji, as the prescribed and appointing authority can promote and/or peg the promotion of an high chief as long as he wishes but added that he did not contemplate any such decision as he does not see himself as an absolute monarch.
Oba Adetunji contended further that there was no time that the embattled high chiefs were barred from attending palace activities, adding that 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 had been exercising his duties without let or hindrance.
He stated that even when they were being harassed and molested in the city streets and called unprintable names, he has been trying his level best to calm frayed nerves in order to guarantee their safety and security by going to court to diffuse tension. Oba Adetunji stated that as the Yoruba proverb says that okro can never outgrow its reaper, a high chief can’t outgrow the king by threatening to recommend him for removal.
“By custom and tradition, no Olubadan has been recommended for removal from office by any high chief or group of high chiefs at any time and my own reign will not be an exception. At least, we have received applications from families of about four of the embattled high chiefs asking for their immediate replacement. But, like a prodigal son, we hope that 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. The high chiefs are hereby advised to emulate high chiefs in other places, who are not wearing crowns but still earn respect of their people for peace and progress to reign supreme in the land.”
He urged the high chiefs not to exercise fears yet, as their seats would not be declared vacant in the absence of court verdict.
With the no letup in the whole crisis and coupled with the near unsuccessful interventions of prominent religious leaders across divides to amicably resolve the matter till date, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the reform and Olubadan on one hand, and the new kings put in place by Ajimobi’s administration especially now that 2019 politicking will start in earnest. The issue will no doubt form campaign materials between the ruling party and the opposition political parties in the state.