Ola Ajayi, Ibadan
Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State is definitely going through trying period as a result of changes made by Governor Abiola Ajimobi to the traditional institution of the cosmopolitan city.
Since the review and coronation of 21 newly promoted kings from high chiefs and community leaders, Baales, there have been numerous commendations from beneficiaries, their families, associations, groups and other residents. Also, there are some people claiming the coronation was sheer desecration of the peaceful, most cherished succession plan to Olubadan stool. Since the coronation was done on Sunday, the ripples it generated are yet to settle.
Genesis of the crisis
Before things finally fell apart within the former Olubadan-in-council which is now Obas-in-Council, there had been skirmishes over some controversial decisions of Olubadan of Ibadanland, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Saliu Adetunji which about nine members of the council took exception to. There were so many allegations on removal and selection of new baales, family leaders and even some chiefs who joined the ascendancy lines of Olubadan. Some senior chiefs were also not happy about what they described as “undue interference of king’s queens” in the affairs of the city. It got to a climax that the nine high chiefs had to boycott meetings in the palace of the monarch. It took the intervention of Governor Abiola Ajimobi who pleaded with the aggrieved chiefs to sheathe their swords. While the cold war lasted, the cordiality, oneness and cord of unity that bound them together had snapped while trust and confidence which formed the basis of the traditional institution had disappeared and things have not been at ease since then.
Then, suddenly, the review of 1959 Olubadan chieftaincy declaration which had been set aside by previous governments of Kolapo Ishola, Rashidi Ladoja, Lamidi Adesina and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala resuscitated. Though, the then Olubadan-in-council vehemently opposed it right from the onset, majority of them with the exception of Ladoja and Olubadan later succumbed to Governor Ajimobi’s persuasive power. Governor Ajimobi said he hosted the Olubadan of Ibadan twice in his office and he went to his palace on three occasions to discuss why the monarch should accept it. But Oba Adetunji faulted this saying that it was after the governor had set up a judicial commission of Inquiry that he came to his palace.
What Ibadan high chiefs stand to gain
Before the review, the governor, the new obas and the others had argued that the Olubadan used to go to occasions without lesser kings accompanying him and this did not reflect the popularity of the sprawling city. According to them, it was demeaning for other villages, hamlets and small towns which were not up to one tenth of Ibadan to flaunt their kings while Ibadan could only boast of one king and numerous high chiefs.
As for the new Obas, it is a consolation for them for the years they have served the city. Also, if they don’t eventually become Olubadan, the prefix ‘His Royal Majesty and royal highnesses’ attached to their names is enough compensation for their sweat. The new obas are also elated that the review has saved them from the ‘hostile environment’ of Popoyemoja palace of the Olubadan as the official meeting place has now been moved from the palace to the ancient Mapo Hall.
Why Olubadan rejected
Olubadan’s rejection of the review is quite understandable. The monarch, in his objections argued that if the review was not carried out during the reigns of the previous kings, it was unfair to do it in his own time. He dismissed the political coloration that the governor insinuated saying that he was a father to everyone and that his door was open to all the people irrespective of their political affiliations. It is however human to detest an action that will whittle down his influence or power which was the outcome of the review.
At the coronation, Governor Ajimobi said that the supremacy of Olubadan of Ibadanland was still intact but it seems the new obas may still have issue to sort out with the monarch who before now enjoyed monopoly of the eleven local governments.
Other shades of opinions
Meanwhile, the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, CCII has given kudos to the governor for successfully carrying out the review describing him as a duck which skillfully swam in the river that other birds (ex-governors) carefully avoided. However, some youths under the aegis of Integrity Youths of Ibadan led by Eni Iyi Ojekunle Wasiu and Eni Iyi Kamaldeen Ganiyu, President and Secretary respectively saw the review as unjust and inappropriate which would resort to violence among communities as time goes on. The youths believed that very soon, royal highnesses (bales) would soon start claiming lands that belong to other people.
They said, “more importantly, the Olubadan chieftaincy system has been politicized by this new law under the miscalculated notion of modernity and successors to Ajimobi may, for political reasons, amend this new law and elevate each of these new kings and appoint more bales as royal majesties”. According to them, this could create loss of identity to Ibadan indigenes whose ancestors came from different parts of Yorubaland. They therefore threatened to seek redress in court.
To many people, Ladoja was not fighting for the generality of the people of Ibadan but for his own political survival. They claim that the former governor in who has been given the responsibility of reviving the Peoples’ Democratic Party wanted to oversee two big empires, politics and chieftaincy. Ladoja, who rejected the gift of obaship, said he preferred to be addressed as high Chief Ladoja, the Osi Olubadan. The ex-governor felt strongly that he was the target of the whole process from the beginning till the end.
With the condition that the state government has attached that if he refused the promotion to a new king, he may not become the Olubadan of Ibadanland, many people are waiting to see how Ladoja will use the legal weapons to free himself from the noose.