Erring on the law to fill Ooni stool (3)

ooni-512x330-512x330Continued from yesterday
THESE include (a) whether the provision of section 15 was complied with in the appointment; (b) whether the candidate so appointed was qualified or disqualified under section 14; (c) whether the customary law relating to the appointment was complied with; (d) whether the Kingmakers took into consideration the ability, character or popular support of any candidate in making the appointment (e) whether the appointment was obtained corruptly or through the undue influence of any person.  Where the Governor sets aside an appointment, he shall require that a ruling house in respect of the chieftaincy to submit the name of some other person as candidate and then the ruling house and the Kingmakers shall then proceed in accordance with section 15 as if the name of the ruling house had been announced by the secretary.

Section 21(1) of the Chiefs Law is instructive. It provides that any person who installs or purports to install a person as a recognized chief other than the person approved by the Governor in accordance with this part [emphasis] or any person who permits himself to be so installed shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to two years imprisonment [without an option of fine].

A combine reading of the provisions of the Chief Law and 1980 Declaration will reveal that the following persons and institutions have been vested with power and functions in the following order: (i) the Secretary of Ife East Local Government Council; (ii) the ruling house whose turn is to fill the vacancy, (ii) the kingmakers, that is the Obalufe in consultation with the chiefs of the Right (the outer chiefs) and the Lowa in consultation with the chief’s of the left (the inner chiefs) and (iv) the Commissioner in charge of Chieftaincy affairs, (v) the Governor of Osun State. The real task of selecting the king falls squarely within the remit of the Kingmakers while the Governor will give the final nod or disapproval.

In reality however, the Governor may hold the four aces depending on the strength of character and the resoluteness of the Kingmakers. Where the kingmakers and the Governor are in agreement as was the case in 1980 when Oba Sijuwade was appointed, the process may be smooth and it may be easy to pacify the loser(s) to accept their fates. But where they are working at cross purposes, litigation may be inevitable.

The essence of the rule of law is to constrain those who have responsibilities under the extant law to do things right. With due respect to the advocates of open contest, the extant law does not support their thesis. The kingmakers cannot lawfully act outside the provisions of the law. For example, they cannot nominate three candidates for the Governor to select one as it is being rumoured. To do so will be to unwittingly surrender their power to the Governor. Where a ruling house whose turn it is to fill the vacancy nominates more than one qualified candidates, the kingmakers are at liberty to chose one of them by voting. This seems to be the only element of democracy embedded in the process.

Although time is prescribed for the appointment procedure to be set in motion, no specific time is prescribed for its conclusion. Section 17(2) further provides that where any function to be performed by any person under section 15 is done out of the time stipulated by the Law for such function or duty to be performed, same would not be invalid by the mere fact that the function or duty was performed out of time. It suffices to say that if things have progressed smoothly, the kingmakers would have announced their choice and submitted his name through the Commissioner for Chieftaincy matters to the Governor who has responsibility to act after 21 days. It is however not clear if the Secretary of Ife East Local Government Council who is required under the law to fire the first shot is aware of his onerous and important duty. It is also doubtful if the Secretary could exercise his function without proper legal guidance of the Attorney General of the State and Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affair whose offices are presently vacant. The job of the Secretary would have been very simple where all Princes are forthright and able reach a consensus based on the provisions of the law.

Unfortunately however, we have a situation where some are forcefully challenging the existence of four ruling houses and asserting that there are only two. There is allegation that some of the ruling houses are from the female line or a splinster of one of the original two ruling houses.

Some of the candidates are from Ogboru which produced the late Oba Sijuwade. Some are from the female line and currently hold chieftaincy title of the town. It appears that from the above scenario, most of the contestants are not mindful of the existing legal framework. Most of the issues in contention are matters of facts.

Accordingly, there are bound to be many accounts of history some of which may be distorted to advance the cause(s) of different contestants. Rather than opening a Pandora box, it may be safe to go by the letters and spirit of the 1980 Declaration unless it is shown to be fraudulent or illegal. If indeed the Giesi family was denied the chance of producing an Oni in 1980 and the 1980 Declaration was deliberately made to re-establish the order of succession, the Kingmakers and the Governor should be forthright to uphold the rule of law.

The tension in Ile-Ife is perhaps as thick as that which foreshadowed the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria when pundits objectively predicted widespread violence irrespective of who won or lost. Eminent elder statesmen and women had to proactively intervene by putting together a Peace Committee, which secured the commitment of the two leading presidential candidates to certain core values during and after election.

While the efficacy of that intervention may be doubtful, it will be worthwhile for elders of Ile-Ife to borrow a leaf from the national development and decisively intervene based on the proverbial statement that agba kii wa ni oja ki ori omo tuntun wo (the elders of in a community cannot siddon look and watch while things go awry).

The point is that everyone including the elders should stand up and be counted on the right side of history. If God could intervene and save Nigeria from catastrophe, i am optimistic that the finger of God will henceforth guide and direct all the contestants and those who have responsibilities under the law to do the right thing so that the new Oni may be appointed without further delay and settle down to the arduous task of rebuilding and rebranding of modern Ile-Ife.

• Dr.  Sanni teaches law in University of Lagos.

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1 Comment
  • Vincent Bamigboye

    Brilliant one Dr Sanni. The Ile-Ife Ruling Houses, Ife Princes, Ife Elders and all Yorubas should prevail on the Ile-Ife Kingmakers and Osun Government to do the right thing. This will save the Obaship of recognised Cradle of the Yoirubas from being dragged through the Courts of Law. If this happens, the waning importance of the Yoruba Traditional Institutions may be irrevocably damaged. Thanks