By Ola Ajayi
The saying ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ might not be all that meaningful to the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji when he was being installed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State about two years ago.
If he knew that with his installation, he was saddled with a very heavy responsibility, certainly, he did not have the premonition that the once cordial relationship between him and the governor would ever go sour to the extent that some of his own kitchen cabinet, and the high chiefs would turn their back on him.
All was rosy for the king until some controversial removals and installations of community leaders, Baales and the new Iyaloja were made by the monarch. Complaints of those controversially removed by the monarch reached the high heavens with the aggrieved parties instituting several litigations against the king. They are still in court.
The romance between the governor and the king got messier with the announcement by the state government that it would review the 1957 Olubadan chieftaincy declaration.
Sensing that the proposed move could whittle down his influence on the kingship in the sprawling city, the Olubadan stood firmly against it.
Despite the monarch’s disapproval of the review, Governor Ajimobi remained unperturbed as he went ahead to inaugurate a commission that would set the review in motion.
After scrutinising the 120 page memoranda submitted, the 11-page man judicial commission headed by Justice Akintunde Boade submitted its report.
Part of the recommendations of the commission included recognition of 32 beaded crown-wearing Obas, while the Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, will maintain his status as the paramount ruler of the city.
Also, the commission recommended that to reduce the number of years it takes a potential Olubadan to get to the pinnacle of the two chieftaincy lines producing the Olubadan on rotational basis, it has reduced the rungs from the existing 22 to 11 on the Otun line, while the Balogun line was reduced to 12 from 23.
The implication being that the Ikolaba chieftaincy will now become the entry point for a potential high chief, instead of Jagun chieftaincy as it currently stands, if the recommendations succeed.
All these do not receive the blessing of Olubadan who insists that the governor was trying to usurp his own traditional obligations.
Olubadan absent during report presentation
While some members of the Olubadan-in-Council including the Otun Olubadan, High Chief Lekan Balogun who is next in hierarchy to the Olubadan and Balogun of Ibadanland, High Chief Owolabi Olakulehin attended the presentation ceremony, the Olubadan himself was conspicuously absent. He later said he was never invited to the ceremony.
Others who were at the ceremony include members of Ibadan Council of Elders, representatives of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), all the local government chairmen from Ibadanland and other eminent personalities of Ibadan extraction.
Receiving the report, the governor restated his initial stance that no effort would be spared in ensuring that the recommendations were implemented as early as next month.
Ajimobi said that his administration’s resolve to carry out a comprehensive review of the Olubadan chieftaincy was in response to the requests by the Olubadan-in-Council, Ibadan elders, members of CCII and others.
Insisting that the exercise was not new, the governor recalled that previous administrations had reviewed the chieftaincy declaration, but could not muster the political will to implement their respective reports.
He said that a review was necessary in order to enhance the status of the Olubadan, to be in line with what obtains in other states in Yorubaland as well as to conform to the modern trend with respect to culture and tradition.
The governor said that he was not unmindful of the pockets of opposition to the move, noting that he was not bothered as long as those in support were overwhelmingly in the majority.
Ajimobi said, “It is not everybody that will agree with us but once we have the majority who are in support, we are not bothered. As is customary, some people will disagree with any policy the government wants to implement, only for them to commend such policy in the future.
“So, we really don’t mind those who are abusing us for taking this action. It only makes us happy and realize that we are doing the right thing.
“I salute the doggedness and patriotism of members of the commission for doing a thorough job. I also want to thank the CCII, Ibadan Council of Elders for their support.
“I particularly want to immensely appreciate the Olubadan-in-council for their overwhelming and intellectual support for the review without minding whether the recommendations would affect them positively or negatively.
“By the grace of God, we can implement the recommendations as early as next month. The review will only enhance the status of Olubadan as the imperial majesty. It will not diminish his influence in any way.”
The Chairman of the commission said, “For the avoidance of any doubt, the commission wishes to emphasize and restate the unassailable fact that the Kabiyesi, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, remains the only paramount ruler in Ibadanland.
“We received a total of 120 memoranda, out of which three were struck out on the basis that they were not relevant to our terms of reference, while nine of the people who submitted memoranda refused, failed or neglected to give oral evidence in support of their memoranda.”
No review, Olubadan insists
Speaking through his Director of Media, Mr Adeola Oloko, Olubadan described the steps taken so far on the review as a huge joke taken too far.
Though, Olubadan said at a meeting with the governor that he would support all the moves made by the governor, he made a u-turn saying, “for the avoidance of doubt, there was never a time that the Olubadan supported the review embarked upon by the Oyo State Government. This was why the first class monarch did not submit any memorandum nor make any representation to the panel.
“When last week the panel submitted its report to the State Governor, the public would vividly remember that Olubadan was not in the picture at all, because he was not invited.Both the young and old in Ibadan know that the Ibadan chieftaincy system is not a creation of the government. It is a creation of Ibadan people. No king, no Governor, no elite, no High Chief has the right to tamper with the system without recourse to our people. How many town hall meetings has the State Government convened before arriving at the conclusion that Ibadan deserves 32 crowns?
“To show ignorance of our tradition, the panel lumped our highly respected High Chiefs with baales who are always nominated by the family Mogajis. Secondly, if the traditional institution wants a review, it is not the duty of government to spearhead the review. It is the duty of the Olubadan sitting in council to sit down and look at what they want to review and register same to the State Government for approval. In Ile-Ife, where the Commissioner mentioned in the interview, this is the tradition. The Osun State Government did not spearhead the review. In Lagos and Ogun States, the case is similar.
“Besides, there are two cases in court in respect of this same issue, which the Oyo State Government is not unaware of. Thirdly, you do not have to be a member of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs to know that creation of royalties and crowns is a matter for discussion and deliberation.”
So, the question is how long ago has the council met? Therefore, it is an exercise in futility to embark on creation of new crowns and royalties without first of all resolving these issues.
‘Besides, how many Emirs are in Kano City, if you are talking of size and population? How many Sultans are in Sokoto? And, how many Queens are in England? Kabiyesi will not be able to attend the meeting called by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters to discuss the issue slated for Wednesday, 23 because of a subsisting court order as Olubadan is a law abiding citizen of Nigeria,” he said.
Ladoja in court over recommendations
A former governor of the state, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, who is also one of the members of Olubadan in council has asked the state High Court to set aside the report.
Earlier, Ladoja had filed a suit against the constitution of the commission, but the motion could not be moved as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Oluwaseun Abimbola, who appeared for Governor Ajimobi, said the governor was yet to be served with the processes.