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One town, 21 Obas: Palace politics scales up in Ibadan

Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji PHOTO: NAJEEM RAHEEM

The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji turned 89 on Saturday August 26, this year. Some of his palace Chiefs, friends and family members had planned a modest celebration to mark the day for the monarch, but that could not hold.

His palace was unusually quiet on his birthday. The drummers that normally greet every visitor to the palace were absent. Few friends and Mogajis (Heads of family) that visited the monarch were not cheerful, they spoke in hushed tones. Their mien betrayed the occasion of the day.

The monarch who is very popular with his record label, Babalaje, had none of the musicians he had promoted and sponsored to stardom on stand to play his favourite music for him to celebrate his birthday. The Oloris, wives, kept indoors.

Yet, the monarch was hale and hearty. But it was on that day that the government announced that 21 monarchs would be installed on Sunday. All attention, therefore, shifted to the residences of the new monarchs to be installed, and the palace was deserted.

August 27 would remain evergreen, not only in the memory of Oba Adetunji, but for all sons and daughters of Ibadan, who witnessed what had never happened since 1829 when Ibadan was created by Yoruba allied forces of Ijebu, Ife and Oyo, and the end of 1959 Olubadan declaration.

On that day, Ibadan Kingship system was changed to allow for more beaded crowns and reduced the number of rungs to climb to become Olubadan.

The new monarchs who were on hand to receive their insignia and instrument of office amidst jubilations include Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland Oba (Senator) Lekan Balogun; the Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakuleyin; the Ashipa Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Tajudeen Ajibola; Oba Eddy Oyewole and Ekerin Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Abiodun Kola-Daisi.

Others are Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Latifu Gbadamosi Adebimpe; the Ekarun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Amidu Ajibade and the Ekarun Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba (Dr.) Kolawole Adegbola.

The royal fathers include Onijaye of Ijaye, Oba Lasisi Akano; the Oniroko of Iroko, Oba Ismaila Opeola; the Onikereku of Ikereku, Oba Moses Akinyosoye; the Ololodo of Olodo, Oba Mudasiru Adebayo and the Elegbeda of Egbeda, Oba Victor Sunday Okunola.

Others are Onido of Ido, Oba Gbolagade Babalola; Alakufo of Akufo, Oba Olabamiji Thomas; the Oloke of Okelade-Okin, Oba Wahab Okedina; the Alawotan of Awotan, Oba Dauda Omotoso; Olofa of Offa, Oba Adeboye Salako; Onilagun of Lagun, Oba Rafiu Alawusa; Alaba of Aba-Nla, Oba Tiamiyu Ladipo and Alakanran of Akanran, Oba James Obisesan.

A former governor of the state and member, Olubadan-in-Council, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, was conspicuously absent and did not receive his staff of office.

Though the government had made it clear that the new 21 Obas are lesser to Olubadan as he would now be addressed as His Imperial Majesty, while the elevated High Chiefs will be addressed as “His Royal Majesty” and the promoted Baales will be known and addressed as “His Royal Highness,” but some of the questions many are still asking is that, will the eleven members of Olubadan-in-Council that had been installed as monarchs be prostrating to greet Olubadan with beaded crowns on their heads?

If some of the Baales elevated had defined territories where they superintend over, where would be the territories of the High Chiefs-made monarchs without encroaching on the hegemony of the Olubadan?

These might be part of the questions agitating the mind of Oba Adetunji, who had on the second day of the mass coronation went on a road show to popular areas and markets in Ibadanland to tell people that he remains the “only monarch” in the town and he was not ready to surrender his sovereignty to any other Oba in Ibadan.

The road show, the first of its kind by the monarch, took off at Popoyemoja palace, to Oja’ba, Beere, Oje, Agodi Gate, Agbeni, Ogunpa, Dugbe, Molete, Beyerunka, Gege, Foko and other ancient communities in the town.

Ever since the state government mooted the idea of setting up the panel to review the Olubadan declaration, Oba Adetunji had kicked against it. The monarch had argued that there is no reason to review a system that remains unique and rancour-free.

To him, Ibadan kingship system had remained the most peaceful in the whole of Yorubaland and devoid of succession crisis. Besides, he said he would never support a change in the custom and tradition he swore to defend and protect on his ascension to the throne.

Though the issue did not degenerate into a verbal war between the monarch and the government, but the palace was divided as members of Olubadan-in-Council openly supported the moves to change the status quo and elevate them to Obaship status.

Despite the controversy and legal impediments, the government set up a Justice Boade’s panel that sat for three months and received 118 memoranda in which 91 supported the plan to tinker with the 1959 Olubadan declaration and create more beaded crowns in the town.

In fact, the commission had recommended 32 monarchs for the town, but government pruned them down to 21.

Explaining how the panel arrived at such high number, Justice Boade said the commission gave preference to the current 11 high chiefs that made up the Olubadan-in-Council; nine eligible ancient baales and five baales who are members of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs.

He added that two baales at the state’s borders with Ogun and Osun States were also considered for beaded crown judging by their untiring efforts in ensuring that their areas were secured for Ibadanland.

Boade further explained that while one Baale was considered because of the historical importance of his area, four others were also recommended for the beaded crown-wearing Obas on the basis of their historical antecedents.

He said: “For the avoidance of any doubt, the commission wishes to emphasise and restate the unassailable fact that the Kabiyesi, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, remains the only paramount ruler in Ibadanland.

Some of the changes in the Olubadan declaration included the scrapping of Seriki line from the ascendancy order and suspension of promotion from Mojaji (family head) to Jagun in both Otun Olubadan and Balogun lines.

The state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr. Bimbo Kolade, while clarifying issues on the reviewed Olubadan declaration said, young people will soon have the opportunity to become Olubadan with some of the recommendations of the panel that had been gazetted.

He said: “The gazette has also put a stop to Seriki. There will be no Seriki line anymore. We will allow those who are there until they fused out. Then there will be no more Seriki.

“Besides, what the panel recommended as gazetted is that there will no longer be promotion from Mogaji to Jagun both in the Otun line and Balogun line in the Olubadan Chieftaincy line until the present Jaguns in the Otun Olubadan and Balogun lines rise to become Ikolaba Balogun and Ikolaba Olubadan.

Kolade also disclosed that parts of the recommendations was the reduction of the steps in the Otun Olubadan line from 22 to 11 and reduction of the 23 steps in the Balogun line to 12.

He stated that the steps were taken in order to have young people become Olubadan.

“All the Senior Chiefs in the Olubadan Chieftaincy line have been promoted to part two Obas or Chiefs in the state. From Ekerin Olubadan and Ekerin Balogun will now be addressed as Obas.

Addressing the question of where the High Chief promoted to Obaship level will be presiding over, the commissioner said, “All the 11 High Chiefs have each local government they have been presiding over, nothing stops them from continuing to do that.”

At the coronation of the new monarchs, Ajimobi debunked the insinuations that the review of Olubadan declaration, which allows for more beaded crowns, has distorted the kingship system in Ibadan. Quoting a famous author, Henry James, who once said that, “a tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it”, the governor said: “I wish to state categorically that we are not changing history; we are not changing tradition; we are not changing the culture of Ibadanland.

“Rather, we are elevating and consolidating our traditional institution and the exalted position of the Olubadan as the imperial majesty in Ibadanland. We are also elevating the Olubadan-in-Council and the chieftaincy institution without altering or tinkering with the traditional succession and ascendancy system of the Olubadan Chieftaincy structure.”

The governor explained that the review of the 1959 Olubadan chieftaincy declaration was not a novel idea, having been carried out by successive administrations in the state in 1974, 1981, 1993 and 2000.

According to him, Ladoja, who was opposed to the current exercise, also set up the Adio Commission to review the Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration, before jettisoning the commission’s recommendations.

The governor said: “Our administration is not reinventing the wheel. We have simply, like others before us, embarked on a review of the Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration in response to the yearnings of well-meaning stakeholders.

“These include the Ibadan Elders Council, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) and eminent sons and daughters of Ibadanland, such as Chief Theophilus Akinyele; the late Otun Olubadan, Chief Omowale Kuye and all, but one member of the Olubadan-in-Council.

“They all desired to elevate the traditional chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland and position it comparably and competitively amongst other ancient Yoruba cities who have embraced new and modern systems. They have been truly inspired by the words of Lidia Bastianich when she said, ‘Today’s innovations are tomorrow’s tradition’.”

The governor explained that the event was also borne out of his administration’s burning desire to redress the lopsidedness in the number of beaded-crown obas in Ibadanland vis-à-vis other zones in the state.

While Oke Ogun, Ogbomoso, Oyo and Ibarapa zones have several beaded-crown obas, he declared that Ibadanland, touted as the political and traditional headquarters of Yorubaland, had only one beaded crown Oba.

With the installation of 21 new obas, the governor said that the clamour for the creation of Ibadan State had become justifiable, adding that the individual domains of the new obas were poised to witness tremendous growth and development.

Rashidi Ladoja

Why Ladoja Rejected Beaded Crown
Former Governor Rasheed Ladoja did not hide his feelings against plans by the government to review the Olubadan Declaration, which he believed was targeted at him.

Immediately the government inaugurated the panel to review the declaration, Ladoja went to court to stop their proceedings, but his efforts did not produce the desired result. His public utterances thereafter did not show much positive result in getting public opinion against the government to have more beaded crowns in Ibadan.

But Ladoja’s fear for Ajimobi’s intention was political. And he was right in predicting the outcome of the review, which retires him from active politics if he still wants to continue with the traditional line.

As Osi Olubadan, Ladoja is on number four to Olubadan throne. A source said: “The whole game is not clear to many people. The truth is that Ladoja is a major threat to Ajimobi on who controls Ibadan politics. Go and see the result of the last election, you will know that Ladoja still have a good control of Ibadan people and he still nurtures governorship ambition. With the new Olubadan declaration, if Ladoja should accept to be crowned and becomes an Oba, that means he cannot go further in his political career.

“However, if he refuses to be crowned, he may not become an Olubadan. So what Ajimobi is telling Ladoja is that you cannot eat your cake and have it. And this is a tough decision for Ladoja and his associates to take.

“And if anybody was in doubt of the political undertone of the declaration, the state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr Bimbo Kolade in a live radio interview advised Ladoja to accept the crown if he still desires to become Olubadan because all the members of Olubadan-in-Council now wear crowns.”

Speaking on Ladoja’s absence at the mass coronation, the Commissioner who debunked the insinuations that the former governor rejected the crown, said what he told them was that he was not available for the event. He said the state government is still waiting for the former governor to pick his own crown.

“We are still expecting and waiting for his availability, the Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland to take up his crown.”

But Ladoja who spoke through his media aide, Alhaji Lanre Latinwo, said he was not unaware of the political schemings of the governor. He thundered,  “thousands of Ajimobi cannot stop him from becoming Olubadan if it is the Will of God.”

He advised the governor to stop playing God, saying only God chooses the Olubadan as clearly demonstrated in the Divine enthronement of the current Olubadan, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Saliu Adetunji, who was three steps to the throne.

His words: “May God lengthen the years and reign of Oba Adetunji in sound health. We will like to make it abundantly clear that thousands of Ajimobi can’t stop Ladoja from becoming the Olubadan if it is the will of God.

“People continue to ask the question why the mockery of Obaship in Ibadanland, is it the most important thing to Ajimobi of all the challenges facing his government. It is now clear that Ajimobi has found in this futile exercise, a distraction from his six years of mis-governance in the state.

“Ajimobi is using temporary executive power for ego trip and feels that he is humiliating perceived enemies and also playing God. Why should the governor turn himself into a kingmaker, ignoring the long-established peaceful, self-reforming chieftaincy system of Ibadanland that has become the envy of many cities because it is rancour-free?

“Today, August 29, 2017 makes it exactly 21 months to the expiry of Ajimobi’s governorship. The state will surely be freed from the stranglehold of the emperor and the office will outlive the officer. Very soon, Ajimobi’s portrait will join those of ex-governors hung on the wall of the Executive Council Chambers. Whatever has a beginning must surely have an end.”

The Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, however, appealed to the people of Ibadanland to remain calm and peaceful, even in the face of provocation, saying peaceful and legal means will be used to reclaim the glory of the traditional institution of the ancient town.

“High Chief Ladoja is already in court over the matter and we await a judicial pronouncement on it soon. Ajimobi that set up a panel disregarding Ibadan traditional system, received its report and interpreted its recommendations to suit his selfish agenda against the popular wish of the people of Ibadan and the Olubadan. This is laughable.

“Without recourse to the state House of Assembly which has the constitutional duty to make or amend laws, he has appropriated legislative function and added such to his executive role. This charade can’t obviously pass a judicial challenge.

“We ask him to enjoy the remaining months of his governorship while it lasts,” the statement added, “we wish to remind him that he has booked an unenviable chapter for himself in the annals of the history of Ibadan and posterity will be there to judge him.”

It is believed in government circles that Ladoja was inciting Olubadan against the policy that reviewed the declaration and crowning of 21 monarchs.

QUOTE: With the installation of 21 new obas, the governor said that the clamour for the creation of Ibadan State had become justifiable, adding that the individual domains of the new obas were poised to witness tremendous growth and development

QUOTE: Why should the governor turn himself into a kingmaker, ignoring the long-established peaceful, self-reforming chieftaincy system of Ibadanland that has become the envy of many cities because it is rancour-free?



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