Ibadan chieftaincy moving from ancient to modern

Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State Governor


Sunday, August 27, 2017 has become indelible in the history books of Ibadan. It will remain fresh in the minds for long that on that day, the builder of modern Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, the Governor of Oyo State laid one of the foundation stones of modern Ibadan, by crowning new Obas for the ancient town.

Courage is one of the essential attributes that distinguish the great from the small. It is common knowledge that change is often resisted by man, irrespective of how much good might be coming with it. This is curious as it negates empirical evidence that society is only able to progress better on the basis of change, particularly well thought-out change.

While some are kicking against the crowning of 33 Obas at Ibadan to support the Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, who himself has been elevated to His Imperial Majesty, it is imperative to note that those moving in this direction are in the minority. The vast majority of Ibadan people applaud Governor Ajimobi for this action. This is indeed an answer to the prayers of the people for which formal petitions have been tabled before several previous governors of Oyo State, who for some not so obvious reasons failed to harken.

But as many know, everything happens at its own time. The clamour for the reform of the Ibadan Chieftaincy Law spanned almost three decades and has witnessed intellectual activism in form of books (Chief T. A. Akinyele penned a book on it over 20 years ago), judicial representations, with the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) and the Ibadan Elders Forum among notable bodies that have made formal petitions to the Oyo State government on this all important matter.

For the records, the Ibadan Chieftaincy Law recently reviewed originally came into force in 1959 as Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration made pursuant to the 1957 chiefs laws and other related chieftaincies in Ibadanland. It has also witnessed several reviews in the past.

So with the clamour refusing to die down and the inglorious treatment meted out to Ibadan High Chiefs at the coronation of the Ooni of Ife (where the High Chiefs were not allowed to sit among other Obas, despite their having the staff of office of the Olubadan and being duly accredited to represent him and the Ibadan kingdom); the governor was left with no choice but to yield to democratic principles and set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to review the Ibadan Chieftaincy Law.

Remarkably, the Olubadan participated in some of the consultations, which he had initially acceded to before mischief-makers started sowing seeds of doubt in him, in relation to the work of the Commission which “sat for three months and reviewed about 118 memoranda from several stakeholders,” according to Bimbo Kolade, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Oyo State.

The crowning of these Obas was a mere implementation of the recommendations of the commission, which the governor was constitutionally bound to. This has seen some notable politicians joining issues with the governor.

Without innovation, the human race would actually be retrogressing. That is why the governor’s position on the reform that “today’s innovations are tomorrow’s traditions,” is apt winning an argument against innovation with the governor becomes more difficult because it is a guiding light to his daring moves that have helped to lay the beacons for modern Oyo State.

On the transparency of the process of the reforms, Ajimobi pointed out, “I inaugurated a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on May 19, 2017, with a mandate to review the existing 1957/59 Chieftaincy Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland and other related Chieftaincies in Ibadanland. The Commission was given four weeks within which to conclude the assignment and submit its report. But as a result of the wide acceptance and popularity of the initiative, demonstrated by the attendance, presentation of memoranda and participation at the public hearings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, I graciously approved an extension of time for the completion of the assignment, as requested by the Commission.

It is interesting to note that out of the 118 memoranda received by the commission, 91 requested for additional beaded crowns, while the remaining 27 hinged on the review of ascendancy into the Olubadan stool. In the end, based on merit, the commission recommended the elevation of 11 high chiefs in the Olubadan-in-Council and 21 ancient Baales to the position of Obas. The Oyo State government, represented by its Technical Committee which reviewed the recommendations, added one more Baale for promotion based on historical antecedents.This is the Baale of Ejioku, a place where the commission’s report itself highlighted its historical antecedents. Consequently, government approved the promotion of a total of 33 new Obas.”

It is apparent that not everybody would support anything, no matter how noble, but it is of concern that while the voiceless majority rejoice and applaud that the courageous and innovative governor has granted the long yearning of the people to reform the Ibadan Chieftaincy Law, some political jobbers have chosen to trade with it for political profit.

As is often the case, this minority has somehow resorted to media rants and brickbats, while trying to ruin the cordial relationship between His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan and the Governor. Given the massive numbers that turned out and attended the Commission’s hearings and the quantum of memoranda submitted by stakeholders to the Commission, it is evident that the reforms are people oriented. This is also buttressed by the fact that “from 1993 to the present, Ibadan indigenes namely Kolapo Ishola, Lam Adesina, Rasheed Ladoja and Abiola Ajimobi (still serving) had been governors of Oyo State. All of them were confronted with issues of review of Chieftaincy Declarations across the State during their tenures. Ajimobi is only different because he is courageous enough to take sides with the people in an attempt to resolve the subject.

It is important to note that what this reform has done is to elevate top class royal fathers in Oyo State in line with what obtains in other parts of Yorubaland, a situation that has seen the Olubadan promoted to His Imperial Majesty, while the 11 High Chiefs (Olubadan-in-Council) are promoted to Obas. The notable difference in status quo being that they can begin wearing beaded crowns.
Odulana wrote from Ibadan, Oyo State.

Even with this development, their major roles remains to assist the Olubadan in looking after the 11 local government areas under his domain, while he retains supervisory and fatherly roles over the entire Ibadanland and kingdom.

Governor Ajimobi captures the gains of the reforms in these words:“The logical question at this point is ‘what do we stand to gain with this review?’ This review enhances the status and title of the Olubadan as the supreme ruler of Ibadanland, who shall be addressed as His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadanland. Indeed, of what significance is a Field Marshal without Generals behind him? It reiterates the supremacy of the Olubadan of Ibadanland, conforms to the cultural realities and traditional settings within Oyo State and beyond, as we have multiple Obas in Egbaland, Igbajo, Ijebu, Lagos, and in all the Yoruba states of the federation.”

Ibadan history might have hit a turning point on Sunday August 27, 2017 but it is evident that something refreshing has been added to the culture to reinvigorate it as depicted in the words of Henry James: “A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it”. These reforms aside being answer to the prayers of the massive majority of Ibadan people, also represent something good being added to the chieftaincy institution and culture of Ibadan.
Odulana wrote from Ibadan, Oyo State.

In this article:
Abiola Ajimobi


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