BY OLA AJAYI, IBADAN
As some communities in Ibadanland, which benefited from the promotion of high chiefs and baales to kings by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, continue to relish in the elevation of their representatives in the Olubadan-in-Council while some Mogajis and a group of youths are crying foul, unfolding events have shown that the coronation of 21 kings in the Oyo State capital is gaining acceptability.
People not privy to the need are beginning to have a rethink that since it is going to benefit the metropolitan city, they would wait and see how that will be done. Some people also are nursing the fear that some towns on the outskirts of Ibadan like Ido, Omi Adio, Akufo and others, who now have kings, may wake up one day and declare their autonomy from Ibadan.
A baale, who did not benefit from the elevation, said though he was against the review at the initial stage, the litigations against the Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, and the crises that trailed the removal and installation of some chiefs had actually justified the move made by the governor.
According to the chief, who preferred anonymity, the issue of chieftaincy in Ibadanland had changed a lot from what it used to be. He said, “I paid through my nose before I was made a baale. It got to a point that I wanted to back out. I know that in a compound, two brothers are at war just because of chieftaincy title. It was going to an extent that something just had to be done or else there would be crisis everywhere. Even though, I don’t like the governor, what he has done about it is highly commendable”.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that some baales actually went to some members of the Olubadan-in-Council to keep them abreast of problems that arose from recent installation and removal of some chiefs.
Another factor in the eventual coronation of the high chiefs is that some members of Olubadan-in -Council took exception to the ‘absolute power’ the monarch assumed whenever there were issues. The reply they always got was, ‘Wait for your own turn’. One of the then high chiefs once rushed to Vanguard office, saying, “My brother, we are tired of what is going on. See the gargantuan problem we have had on the issue of chieftaincy in the city. We are at a cross road; we don’t know what to do. Unfortunately, people out there think these decisions are made by the Olubadan- in-Council. But, as I speak with you, only two high chiefs out of 11 are with the king.”
Meanwhile, what broke the camel’s back was the alleged involvement of some family members of the king in the running of Ibadan. This, as Sunday gathered, made some high chiefs to boycott meetings at the Olubadan’s palace for about two months. But, the governor, who is also an indigene of the city, was then trying not to wash their dirty linen in the public. He would call the high chiefs and plead with them to accept the king as he was.
Attempts to devolve power that failed
In the past, kings who reigned in the city had shown stiff resistance to the review. It was revealed that the kings successfully scuttled moves by former governors to do the review because they enjoyed the support of members of the Olubadan-in-Council then. They were said to have been inseparable because the kings involved them in the running of the city. Second, the governors then lacked the political will to implement the review. Some of them, as gathered, were afraid that their second term ambition could be in jeopardy. So, they would stop at the point of implementation. Ajimobi listed former governors who had tried to do the chieftaincy review but were unsuccessful. But Senator Rashidi Ladoja, a former governor of the state and also an Ibadan high chief, denied this several times, saying he did not set up any chieftaincy commission and asked government to provide proof.
Recommendations of the Justice Akintunde Boade Commission
Before the review, the Olubadan succession plan was so long and laborious that several contenders, who were close to ascending the throne, submitted to the cruel hands of death after 30 to 40 years of expectation. During this time, death was the sole determinant of who became the Olubadan.
The list of those who saw the Olubadan stool afar but never got there is long. They include High Chief Suleiman Adegboyega Omiyale, a former Balogun of Ibadanland who died on November 7, 2015 at the age of 91; High Chief Omowale Kuye, the then Otun Olubadan who submitted to the cold hands of death at the age 87 on November 19, 2015. Also recently, death took away High Chiefs Falowo Fadare, Ekerin Balogun, and Olufemi Olaifa. This somehow justified the clamour for the review of the declaration which was said to have been initiated by the Olubadan-in-Council.
The letter of appointment of the new kings, who were elevated from high chiefs, was signed by the Permanent Secretary, Oyo State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mrs. Hannah Ogunesan.
It stated: “The governor, in exercise of his powers as conferred on him by Section 28 (i) Cap. Vol. 1 of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, and in line with the provisions of the recently amended 1959 Declaration of Olubadan and other related chieftaincies in Ibadanland, and the Government White Paper as conveyed in Government Gazette No. 14, Notice 27 Vol 42 of 24th August 2017 and Gazette No. 15 Notice 28 Vol 42 of 24 August 2017, respectively, has graciously approved the conferment of Obaship on you with effect from Friday 25 August 2017.”
“By this conferment, you shall henceforth wear a Royal Beaded Crown in line with the provisions of the amendment. Consequently, you will be addressed henceforth as His Royal Majesty…
For the baales, their letter to them read: “By this conferment, you shall henceforth wear a Royal Beaded Crown in line with the provisions of the amendment. Consequently, you will be addressed henceforth as His Royal Highness….”
The baales who have been elevated include the Onijaiye of Ijaiye, Oniroko of Iroko, Onido of Iddo, Onikereku of Ikereku, Alajia of Ajia, Alakanran of Akanran, Akakufo of Akufo and Olofa-Igbo of Ofa Igbo.
What makes the chieftaincy review so important for Ajimobi despite on-going court process?
The governor, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard through his Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, Mr Yomi Layinka, said it would be wrong for anyone to claim that his principal had circumvented the law.
Layinka said Ajimobi, being a law abiding person, would never trample upon the law. He said, “There is no single instance when the governor violated any court process”. The spokesperson added that the governor had no ulterior motive or personal interest in the matter, saying he did what would be of immense benefit to Ibadan. His words: “Community leaders, members of the Olubadan-in-Council, Ibadan Elders’ Forum and many others were involved in the chieftaincy review. The governor did not do it unilaterally. You remember he set up a commission of inquiry. During their sitting, about 120 memoranda including the ones from CCII, Ibadan Elders Forum and other stakeholders were submitted. Over 90 per cent of the memoranda supported the elevation. The governor’s interest is to meet the aspirations of the people.
“Before now, the governor had said it at different fora that the declaration needed review. So, it is not that the governor just woke up one day and said that he would review the declaration”.
The governor further said that what would be his joy is to see the new kings accompanying the Olubadan to outings like it is done in other towns. To him, it is not befitting the city with its large population and space to see the Olubadan go to outings alone while small towns and villages boast of many kings.
Why the Olubadan is adamant
The Olubadan, in his own argument, continues to wonder why the review was done in his time whereas it was put on hold by former governors. The Media Director of the monarch, Mr Adeola Oloko, restated the position of the monarch that it was the desecration of the “orderly traditional institution” in the city.
The Olubadan said, “The way the coronation was done contravened the laid down procedures whenever any king is to be installed. Did the kings go to Ipebi( a secluded room where king-to-be will go through some rituals)? Why did the previous kings not agree? What we are saying is that it is not the business of any government to meddle in the affairs of the traditional institution. It is only people who enthroned the king that have the power to say whether they want other kings or not. I am not talking about whether anybody had ulterior motive or not. But what I know is that there is no art to know mind’s construction in the face. One thing I know is that truth is constant”.
The monarch’s reason against devolution
One of the fears of the monarch was embedded in some of the pronouncements of the state government when it said the meetings of the Obas-in-Council would no longer hold at the palace of the Olubadan but at Mapo Hall pending the time the office of the council would be completed.