From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
On Friday August 18, 2017, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi received a report that will, when implemented, reshape the well-arranged traditional structure of ascension to the throne of Olubadan of Ibadan land, arguably adjudged the best in the South West.
The report was submitted by Justice Akintunde Boade-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the review of the existing 1957 (1959) Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland and other related chieftaincies in Ibadanland. The two ruling lines are the Egbe Agba (civil) and Balogun (military) from where Olubadan is appointed on rotational basis.
The two high chiefs next in rank to the Olubadan from the two lines are the Otun Olubadan and Balogun of Ibadanland. The duo are recognised as second-class traditional rulers under the Western Nigeria Law. The chieftaincy system makes the royal succession tradition largely free from rancour, litigation and usurpation. Any male child title-holder of the metropolitan centre of Ibadan is a potential king.
Every chief on the civil line has to climb 22 steps and every chief on the military line has to climb 23 steps to become Olubadan. It usually takes decades to groom an Olubadan for the stool through the stages of chieftaincy promotion, which is an average of 35 to 40 years.
It took the present Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji Aje Ogungunniso I, 40 years to occupy the stool, having been installed as Mogaji in 1976 and Jagun in 1978. He was installed as the 41st Olubadan on March 4, 2016. Jagun is the first step on the Olubadan line. The immediate past Olubadan, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade I, waited for 35 years to become Olubadan. Odulana was promoted to Jagun in 1976 and was crowned on August 17, 2007 at the age of 93. His reign lasted nine years.
His predecessor, Oba Yinusa Ogundipe Arapasowu I, who was born in 1912, was crowed the 39th Olubadan at the age of 79 on May 7, 1999. He had waited for 39 years to occupy the stool, and he reigned for eight years before he joined his ancestors in 2007 at the age of 87. He was appointed Mogaji of his compound at Oranyan in 1960 and was promoted to Jagun Balogun in 1964.
Oba Emmanuel Adeyemo Operinde I, his predecessor, spent 41 years between the time he was appointed the Mogaji of his family at Isale Ijebu in 1953 and January 14, 1994, when he was crowned as the 38th Olubadan. He reigned for five years. The 37th Olubadan, Oba Yesufu Oloyede Asanike I, was also in his 80s when he became king in 1983 and his reign lasted 10 years.
Recommendations of Judicial Commission of Inquiry
The commission was inaugurated on May 19, 2017, by Ajimobi with seven members. The membership of the commission was increased to 11 on June 5, hence the first sitting of the commission was held on June 7. Though the commission was given four weeks to submit its report, it asked for extension of time due to the number of memoranda submitted and the number of witnesses that testified before the commission.
Its chairman, Justice Akintunde Boade, said 120 memoranda were received, “out which only three were struck out on the basis that they were not relevant to the terms of reference, while nine of the people who submitted the memoranda refused, failed or neglected to give oral evidence in support of their memoranda.
“The representatives of two of the people who submitted memoranda appeared before the commission and asked for adjournment but did not come back until the end of the public hearing. Following a careful assessment of all the memoranda submitted, 106 out of the 120 memoranda were given due consideration.
“With reference to the third term of reference on the wearing of beaded crown, the commission received a total of 91 memoranda. Two of the memoranda were struck out for being irrelevant to the term of reference, while five of the memoranda were not supported by oral evidence. The commission considered 84 memoranda on their merit.
“In considering the various applications for the wearing of beaded crowns, the commission gave preference to the 11 ‘High Chiefs’ in the Olubadan-in-Council and the carefully identified nine ancient Baales, which are found eligible and five Baales who are members of the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs.
“In addition, we considered the commendable untiring efforts of two Baales at the borders with Ogun and Osun states respectively in ensuring that their areas are secured for Ibadan land, despite serious dangers and threats posed by the unjustified official incursions of Ogun and Osun state governments in their respective domains and one Baale because of historical importance of his area.
We also considered four other Baales on the basis of their historical antecedents.
“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.
“The commission did not, as a matter of policy, consider a Baale who has compound in the city of Ibadan and Mogaji for elevation to the status of a beaded-crown wearing Oba in order to prevent the possibility of the family of such Baale having two beaded-crown wearing Obas in the family at the same time in future, in case the Mogaji of the family becomes a ‘High Chief’ in future, while the Baale is still alive. However, where such Baale is already a member of Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs, he was considered on that ground.”
In attendance at the formal presentation of the report were members of the Olubadan-in-Council, led by the Otun Olubadan, Chief Lekan Balogun and Balogun of Ibadanland, Chief Owolabi Olakulehin. Also on the roll call were members of Ibadan Council of Elders, representatives of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), all the local government chairmen from Ibadan land and other eminent personalities of Ibadan extraction. Justice Boade later disclosed: that the commission recommended that Ibadan should have 32 kings.
The commission proposed that 11 members of Olubadan-in-Council should be beaded-crown wearing monarchs, and 21 Baales to be kings. All other beaded-crown wearing Obas would be subject to Olubadan of Ibadanland.
He stated that the commission also recommended reduction of the 22 steps on the line of Otun Olubadan to 11, and 23 steps on the Balogun line to 12, with a view to fast-tracking ascendancy to the stool of Olubadan:
“We will now have 32 beaded crowns. But the Olubadan remains the paramount ruler for the whole Ibadan. No power of Olubadan will be whittled down. It remains as it is. He is the overall.”
He explained that the recommendations would still be subjected to other processes that must be complied with, noting that the recommendations would not affect the chiefs currently on the two lines of Olubadan: “The bottomless title now is Jagun on both sides. So, people who are Jagun now, or as at the time the new structure will be implemented, will be entitled to promotion until they become Olubadan.
“Presently, they will not be able to appoint new chiefs because the cut-off point now is Ikolaba title. Until the present Jagun is able to be elevated above Ikolaba title, thereby Ikolaba title would be vacant. It is then that new chiefs can be appointed; that may be in 10 or 20 years.
“The Magaji in Ibadan is the first step to become Olubadan. Without becoming Mogaji, you can never become Jagun. It is the Mogaji age that has been reduced. There is now age limit. The age limit is now between 25 and 35 years to be made a Mogaji.
“But there is no age limit to become Olubadan on the higher rung, that will be left to the nature to decide; you can get there young or old.”
Receiving the report, Ajimobi stated: “We will study it and we will pass it through the process. By God’s grace, we do hope that effective from next month, we will implement the recommendations.”
He said the review was necessary to enhance the status of the Olubadan, to be in line with what obtains in other states in Yoruba land as well as to conform to the modern trend in culture and tradition.
“This review is necessary; one, to enhance the status of the current Olubadan of Ibadan land. It is not diminishing, it is to enhance. Two, it is to be in line with Yoruba states, that have done similar reviews and implemented the reviews.”
He insisted that the exercise was not new. He said his administration’s resolve to carry out a comprehensive review of the Olubadan chieftaincy was in response to the requests by the Olubadan-in-Council, Ibadan elders, members of CCII and others. He recalled that previous administrations had reviewed the chieftaincy declaration, but could not muster the political will to implement their respective reports.
The governor said that he was not unmindful of the “pockets of opposition” to the move, noting that he was not bothered as long as those in support were overwhelmingly in the majority: “It is not everybody that will agree with us but once we have the majority who are in support, we are not bothered. As is customary, some people will disagree with any policy the government wants to implement, only for them to commend such policy in future.
“We really don’t mind those who are abusing us for taking this action. It only makes us happy and realise that we are doing the right thing.
“I salute the doggedness and patriotism of members of the commission for doing a thorough job. I also want to thank the CCII, Ibadan Council of Elders for their support.
“I particularly want to immensely appreciate members of the Olubadan-in-Council for their overwhelming and intellectual support for the review without minding whether the recommendations would affect them positively or negatively.
“By the grace of God, we can implement the recommendations as early as next month. The review will only enhance the status of Olubadan as the imperial majesty. It will not diminish his influence in any way.”
Olubadan, Otun Olubadan, Ekaarun Olubadan speak
The Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, told Daily Sun through his Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Adeola Oloko, that he has no comment on the ongoing review of Olubadan chieftaincy declaration.
The Otun Olubadan, Chief Lekan Balogun, when contacted, stated:
“It has not become law. Has it? Commissions don’t make laws. It has to go to the House of Assembly. They have to get approval of the Assembly; whether or not it will get there nobody knows, whether or not the entire recommendations will get approved, nobody knows.
“I insist that the tradition of the people is a function of their history. If this represents the function of our history, then why not? But if it is an aberration of our history, something will go on well somewhere along the line. The only thing is that I know that the governor meant well. He is thinking as a patriotic Ibadan man. But logic demands that I express reservations.”
The Ekaarun Olubadan, Hamidu Ajibade, said he would always support every programme that would culminate into growth and development of Ibadan, adding that as a matter of principle, “I don’t criticise the government and I won’t go against the government.”
Ladoja’s Accord Party kicks
Former governor Rashidi Ladoja is the Osi of Olubadan and member of the Oluban-In-Council. His party, Accord, of which he is the National Leader, also reacted to the recommendations of the commission. Its publicity secretary, Akeem Olatunji, said the move to have more Obas in Ibadan land was “a diversionary tactics by the Ajimobi APC administration from the myriads of problems confronting his administration. Rather, we would want the government to strengthen the existing positions for community leaders through the Olubadan-in-Council.
“The APC government in Oyo State is on the verge of destroying the valued traditional institution in Ibadan land. It further confirmed the popular notion that an idle hand is devil workshop due to cluelessness and lack of commitment to people’s welfare by the APC government in Oyo State.
“Review of the 1957 declaration on Olubadan stool will erode respect for Olubadan and members of Olubadan Traditional Council. Such a decision to create additional Obas should be left to Olubadan and his Council of Chiefs to decide since he is the custodian of the Ibadan customs and traditions.
“We have heard from various sources that Oyo and Ogbomoso traditional councils are the next targets of the state government. The aim of the unpopular moves to jettison the fantastic Ibadan ascendancy structure is to create avenue for the unpopular APC administration in the state to cause confusion ahead of 2019 polls.
“Since the ancient city started the monarchial system in 1820 with Baale Maye Okunade as the first king, the well-arranged traditional structure that is adjudged the best in the Southwest has been followed. This orderly arranged ascendancy to the throne of the Olubadan makes Ibadan unique in Yoruba land.”
Niyi Akintola justifies the review
In justifying the Olubadan chieftaincy review, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), said the review was long overdue: “It was something that ought to have been done long time ago. I think the governor has done the right thing in that circumstance.
“In 1999, Alhaji Lam Adesina set up Oloko Judicial Commission of Inquiry. I was a counsel before that commission. My colleague, now Chief Babalola (SAN) based in Port Harcourt represented the Olubadan-In-Council. Recommendations were made by the commission, but there was no political will to implement the recommendations.
“Then, came former Governor Rashidi Ladoja, who put up Adio Commission of Inquiry. Also, former governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, did the same thing. But there were no political powers to implement the recommendations of the commissions. Virtually, every governor has tried his hand on that, but could not.
“In the olden days, we used to say a Mogaji (head of family) in Ibadan land was more than a king in other climes. There was a Mogaji in Ibadan that had under him Iwo, Ede, Osogbo, and Ikirun. That was why the titular heads of those towns would abandon their positions to come and contest to become Mogaji in Ibadan because they were practically under the control of the Mogajis.
“That was what was in place then. But times are changing. What was obtainable then is no longer tenable now. Look at how big Moniya is, it is bigger than some state capitals in this country. Look at Omi-Adio, it is a cosmopolitan big town. By 2006 population census, it was 186,000. Yet, you expect the Olomi of Omi to be under a Mogaji in Ibadan town. That was what those governors have been trying to correct. Unfortunately, they did not have the political will to do so.
“Now, if you look at what is happening around us, Olubadan of Ibadan land, when he is going out, there are no Obas to follow him, yet he is the paramount ruler of the entire Ibadan.
“From Moniya to High Court at Ring Road is 47 kilometres. By the time you pass through Ring Road to Ago Tailor, and through Aleshinloye and you box out at Ojoo, you would have covered 92 kilometres in the same town; and you have not even reached Apata.
“That is why the Land Use Act Implementation Law could not be applied fully in Oyo State because of the distance. The implementation law says 15 kilometres radius, but within Ibadan, you have 92 kilometres. So, every other area is now rural under the Land Use Act. People don’t appreciate the position of the law on this. All these are interwoven.
“There have been agitation for this for long, even under Chief Bola Ige, there was. He fell short of setting up judicial commission of inquiries. At every point in time, except the present one, I had appeared as a counsel in all the past three judicial commission of inquiries.”
Meanwhile, Ladoja filed two cases against the review of Olubadan chieftaincy declaration at the state High Court, Ibadan. He jointly filed the first suit with Chief Balogun, Otun Olubadan and most senior on the Otun line. He filed the second case on behalf of himself alone.
In the first case, the duo sued government over the constitution of the commission. They listed Ajimobi and members of the commission as defendants. The claimants prayed the court to restrain the commission from sitting, accepting any memorandum or in any way taking any step in furtherance of its assignment, pending the determination of motion on notice in respect of the subject.
In the second suit, Ladoja asked the court to set aside the report of the commission. Counsel to Ladoja, Michael Lana, in a motion filed before Justice M.I Sule, on Monday, August 21, 2017, prayed the court to nullify the proceedings of the panel and its report. He asked the court to compel Justice Boade and members of the panel to appear before it so that they could explain why they should not be held for contempt of court in respect of the first suit he filed on the review of the Olubadan chieftaincy declaration.
The case was adjourned to September 5, 2017.