***As Ooni hosts Aare Ona Kakanfo, over 100 kings
*Summit demands fourth-tier of govt, reintroduction of palace court, security vote for monarchs
By Chris Onuoha
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, played host to over 100 of Yoruba traditional rulers during a three-day summit tagged: ‘Regaining the lost glory of traditional rulers of Yoruba land.’
The summit, the first of its kind in decades under the aegis of His Royal Majesty (HRM) Heritage Forum, had in attendance monarchs and regents across Yorubaland, making it the largest gathering of royal fathers in recent time.
Held at Ife Grand Resort and Leisure, Ile-Ife, the purpose of the conference is to reposition the Yoruba monarchy.
Analysts say the event is an indication that the Ooni’s dream of a united Yoruba race and kings is achievable.
The event featured a lecture session handled by seasoned speakers, technocrats and traditionalists that include Prof Akinola Ibidapo-Obe from University of Lagos and Ogun State Commissioner for Tourism, Art and Culture, Rt. Hon. Bashorun Oladipo.
Other issues discussed at the occasion centred on progress, unity and preservation of the Oodua cultural heritage, the clamour for the fourth-tier of government constituted by traditional rulers, local government autonomy, proliferation of fake Obas in foreign land, ‘code of conduct’ for Obas, expansion of customary court, security vote for traditional rulers and welfare.
The Obas resolved that communication should be established with relevant authorities and government for the implementation of the recommendations.
In an address by the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams, he spoke against the proliferation of unrecognised Obas in diaspora.
“This is to bring to your notice a ‘clear and present danger’ ravaging the land of Oduduwa. Pitiably, this desecration of our customs and tradition is not perpetrated by strangers but some Yorubas who I will refer to as ‘shady characters’, living outside the shores of this land,” Adams said.
“Through this statement, I am also bringing to your notice the activities of an illegal group known as the ‘Council of Yoruba Obas in the Diaspora’. This group is not known to our law. The modus operandi is alien to our customs and, tradition and if nothing is done urgently to caution and sanction its promoters, our highly-revered traditional institution, may God forbid, become extinct soon.”
The Aare Ona Kakanfo disclosed that members of this group, who reside mostly in Europe, North and South America, are standing logic on the head due to their inordinate ambition. He said, “Now they install themselves as Obas without government recognition, wear crowns similar to what our royal fathers wear in Yorubaland and parade themselves as Obas, with a complete paraphernalia of office, even when they return home.”
He lamented that some of these characters engage in shady deals, pointing out that if any of them is arrested at any airport abroad, there will be screaming headlines in newspapers like, ‘Yoruba Oba arrested in possession of …’
“The British monarch has existed for centuries. Can a replica of Queen of England be seen in any part of the world?”
“This is an ugly trend that is gradually creeping into our traditional institution, an aberration which must not be allowed to continue. The coronation of a Yoruba Oba in the Diaspora is alien to our culture and tradition. An individual can be the leader/coordinator of a Yoruba group in a foreign land, but not to be crowned as an Oba.”
Adams used the platform to urge the Obas to intervene and call the erring persons to order. However, he emphasized that the issue of Yoruba Oba in the Diaspora does not affect all the royal fathers in Republic of Benin. “They were being delineated by the Berlin Conference of 1884/85. They all have their roots in Yoruba land, including that of Oyotunji in North Carolina in America,” he added.
Fourth-tier of govt
On the clamour for the fourth-tier of government for traditional rulers, the monarchs said it will effectively handle grassroots issues. According to them, it is an institution that remains permanent in every regime and knows their domain better than any government.
The conference also proposed proper devolution of power to allow local governments to have autonomy. “We believe the lack of autonomy makes it difficult for traditional rulers to have control and contribute more effectively than they are doing now. Each traditional ruler is the chief security of his domain. They should be empowered to carry out security functions in partnership with the existing police force,”the monarchs said.
“Recall that Boko Haram insurgency was reduced with the help of local vigilantes in the communities.”
They requested for the reintroduction of old palace court that will relieve the judiciary of some cases and expand its scope at various levels to deal with, for instance, land, domestic and minor community disagreements.
The Obas called on govt to come into agreement with labour to resolve minimum wage in Nigeria, noting that inflation had eroded the disposable income of workers.
No to partisan politics
On the issue of fake Obas, the monarchs resolved that
security agencies will be empowered to arrest any erring person both local and in diaspora. They argued that no Oba should be recognised in a foreign land, saying an Oba must have a domain within the Oodua enclave with staff of office from government. The summit said anyone could be a leader of the Yoruba community in a foreign land but could not be installed Oba.
The Obas said monarchs should desist from partisan politics; must be father of all, blessing any aspiring candidate to work for the interest of the people.
The conference pointed that monarchs welfare should be looked into with urgency, saying the package should be up to level 15 – 17 in government salary scale to accommodate the huge responsibilities they carry in their domains.
According to the summit, chiefaincy law should be reversed and be called ‘Obas law’ because the law relegates traditional rulers in the land.
It also demanded that Obas should be properly addressed as ‘His Imperial Majesty’ and not ‘His Highness’, saying anyone from a royal family who is not a king can be called ‘His Highness’ and not an Oba.
‘Code of conduct’
On the ‘code of conduct’ for Yoruba Obas, the conference resolved that no Oba should eat or drink in parties or public places. According to them, the institution is sacred and should not be desecrated. “It is a taboo and was not practised by forebearers,”they said.
“Obas should put on appropriate royal costume and beads for public places including their beaded staff and not casuals.
“Obas should not dance in parties and especially in the crowd. His is to respectfully position himself at a vantage position to be respected by all.
“The idea of an Oba removing crown in religious place is seriously frowned at by the conference. Obas are advised to always wear the little white cap in religious gatherings if they do not want to wear the crown but the head must be covered even if they are to receive honorary awards. Also, Oloris and concubines are advised to always dress to add value to the stool and the images of the Obas and refrain from trending indecent fashion with exposed cleavages.
“There is a resolve that traditional culture is seen and believed to be above all. Therefore the use of titles like Oba (Evangelist or Alhaji) should be discouraged.
“Traditional rulers are seen as father of all and should not stand or bow to governors on their arrival or to any spiritual father or mentor.
“In promoting the culture and value of the yoruba race, it is observed that for culture to be static, passed from generation to generation, Obas should not be complacent in teaching their children to communicate in their mother tongue (Yoruba). The issue of difference between idol worship and rituals should be explained vividly to a discerning ear that idol worshipping is different from Yoruba customs and traditions”.
The summit thanked the Ooni “not just for his moral and financial support but also for the success of the conference of Obas and also for his work, consciously, to achieve lasting peace and unity among all Yoruba Obas and the Yoruba race as a whole”.
The Chairman of the Conference of Yoruba Traditional Rulers, the Elerinmo of Erinmo Kingdom, Oba Michael Ajayi, disclosed that it is the first convention of Obas ever held in decades.
“We have traditional rulers from all the Yoruba states in attendance. The purpose is moving forward. We knew that in the past, Yorùbá Obas were very powerful. In fact, we believe we are in charge of leadership as well. This then is to discuss how to regain this lost glory and improve on the welfare of the Obas, achieve unity, improve discipline and resolve the issue of fake Obas, in diaspora”, Ajayi said.
Also speaking, His Royal Majesty, Odidiomo Afolabi, the Olu of Igbokoda Oba, Ondo State, said the issue of ‘conduct of conduct’ for Obas had become necessary because people were finding it difficult to remain in the past. “This is not because that we are saying there should be no change or development but because there are some conduct that are not befitting for a king. The institution of kings became popular with Oduduwa and also, let the Yorubas know the way Obas should dress, behave and others, but with civilisation or modernity, so to say, they are trying to deviate from it. These, among other things, desecrate the stool.”
Meanwhile, Ogun State Commissioner for Tourism, Art and Culture, Oladipo, who is also the Co-founder, Heritage Forum, said the summit was conceived during the Ogun Drum Festival.