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FOR some days now, Oyo state has been in the news, although one would not be too far wrong to say the state had never been out of the limelight, at times, for the wrong reasons.
The other day, the issue was on the unresolved crisis in the Oyo-Osun states-owned university, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) where students had been locked out of the academic environment for nearly two academic sessions and the staff owed several months in unpaid salary. That’s just one of such crises that had bedeviled the state in recent time. Also, one would recall mid last year that the organized Labour and the state were at loggerheads over the plan to privatize secondary education with the return of schools to the original owners. Labour had protested this move, describing it as retrogressive, thus raising tension in the state for several weeks. As one crisis is doused, another comes to take its place. The situation is what the Yoruba would call ‘egbirin ote (unending conspiracy/controversy)
Another crisis is ongoing with installation of Chiefs as Obas in Ibadanland, leading to proliferation of the Obaship institution in the ancient city of Ibadan. The situation has sharply divided that ancient city and has made the Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration the butt of jokes on the social media. One tends to ask whether this recent controversy was necessary. What does the state hope to achieve by stoking up this flame of discord?
Governor Ajimobi is someone I hold in high esteem. Having met him on few occasions, my take away from the encounters has been that of a brilliant, astute administrator at the helms of affairs, who is desirous of making a mark in the state. Some would say his tenure has brought unprecedented development to Oyo state especially in the areas of opening up Oyo through construction of good, standard roads. He is also passionately concerned about the integration of the south western states with a view to ensuring even developments across the six states that make up the zone. I am thus at a loss as to what could have led to the present situation of having so many monarchs, some of who have no subject or ‘kingdoms’, as people have derisively been carrying on. Could the present arrangement be politically motivated as some people have said?
The imbroglio started a few months back, specifically in May when the state government inaugurated a seven-man judicial commission of inquiry to review the Olubadan chieftaincy declaration and other related chieftaincies in Ibadan. According to the state government, the committee would review the existing requirements and qualification for ascendancy to the throne of Olubadan, as well as to review the selection process of Olubadan from Otun and Balogun lines. “(It was also mandated) to look into the possibilities of having more beaded crown Obas in Ibadanland, taking into consideration the present size and population of the city,” and review the “existing 1957 declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland in line with the proposed change in chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland”.
On the issue, the governor noted that the 1957 chieftaincy declaration was no longer in tune with current realities, thus, “ the primary purpose of this commission is to facilitate the development, modernisation and effectiveness of our traditional chieftaincy system in Ibadanland in particular and across the state in general,”adding that, “similar exercises will be instituted across the state in order to create the enabling environment for active contribution of our traditional institutions to the socio-economic development” of the state. At the conclusion of the exercise, the committee recommended that 11 high chiefs and 21 Baales should be elevated and made to wear beaded crown. The proposal is a veritable recipe for disaster. The Olubadan, understandably dissociated from a move that would expectedly whittle down his power, likewise the high Chiefs. The high chiefs who are members of the Olubadan in council and from among who successors to the throne of Olubadan are chosen, have now become crown-wearing Obas. You ask yourself, how would they now relate with their principal- the Olubadan? Yoruba culture thrives on its rich culture, one of which is deep respect for the traditional institution. In Yorubaland, the Oba does not bow or prostrate for anyone. All the Baales and high chiefs who are members of the Olubadan court and who expectedly bow in greetings to the Olubadan would no longer do so. Obas, however minor do not bow before any other person. But that is the least of the present problem. Where would this lead to?
Last week, the governor conferred letters of Obaship titles to 30 of the 32 Obas recommended. On the day of coronation, only 21 Obas presented themselves for coronation. The others are aggrieved and have gone to court. The Olubadan is equally displeased with the arrangement but he has to thread a delicate balance. Not so the Family heads also called Mogajis. They have gone to court to compel the governor to reverse himself or wait for the court verdict on the matter. Their argument is that elevating the Baales, who are under them in hierarchy to the status of Obas is anomalous.
As stated earlier, the state does not need the sort of controversy that the issue is generating. There are other contending matters in the land that should attract the attention of the state instead of dabbling into a battle that would erode its popularity. The questions that should engage the mind on this matter is ; what implication does the move have for the future of the Obaship institution in Ibadan? The tenure of the Governor would be ending by 2019, but the people will continue to live with the aftermath of the present situation, in years to come. It has not been stated at any time that the ibadan are displeased with their succession plan. It is rooted in their tradition, why rock the boat? The present situation has even pitched the Mogajis against the umbrella body of Ibadan indigenes, the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) which had always spoken for and on behalf of the people. As it is now, only the court can resolve the situation and this could last for several years. Even at that, the court’s resolution would not totally resolve the mutual distrust that the entire matter has brewed, whichever way it goes.