My intervention today is in a foreign land and what lessons we can learn from the recent coronation of the new King of England, Charles III. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the tail end of last year, the whole world had been expectant of witnessing the emergence of her successor. The English monarch is one of the most respected, if not the most respected, monarchical institutions remaining. With the emergence of western democracy, the world has replaced monarchy with democratic leadership, with elections holding at intervals. There is a form of democracy in monarchy, too, as the person to ascend the throne after the demise of the previous one must emerge through a process by which kingmakers would consult among themselves.

Statutory intervention has been made into the relics of monarchism remaining in some parts of the world and, today, in Nigeria, for instance, we have statutes regulating the emergence of kings and chiefs in Nigeria and their positions today are under the control of the local government chairman. In England, the monarchy is still the Head of State, while the day-to-day administration of the country is under the Prime Minister. The institution of monarchy in England can be traced to the 1066 Norman conquest and till date it has waxed so strong that it is a cornerstone of the British system. The system has survived and become a permanent part of British administration. It is an institution that has been praised by its lovers and beneficiaries but vilified by its victims of both local and international politics. Today, the English monarchy reigns distinct and lofty and it is a display of glamour and royalty in all its ramifications.

The wealth of the English monarchy is derived from several years of international dominance, slavery and plundering of foreign lands and its hegemony has just recently waned as many countries forming part of the Commonwealth have been embracing republicanism. It remains countries like Canada, Australia and a host of other countries where the English monarch is still the Head of Government. The English system and its politicians have refused to devalue the monarchy but have held it in high esteem. They have not split its territory or appointed smaller monarchs in a bid to subjugate it to any political interest. The recent coronation of the king and his emergence last September following the death of his mother are a classical example of succession without rancour. For a long time, the world had known the next in line of succession. It was a process by which the successor came in without any unnecessary announcement or agitation. The coronation ceremony, well planned, well executed and full of glamour and prestige, went without loss of rituals. It featured long-preserved tradition, panache and elan.

The flamboyant ceremony, with multitudes of thousands of people in attendance, went without display of thuggery or violence. A sprinkle of anti-monarchy protests gave it an expression of freedom of speech as the protesters were allowed to do their business without intimidation, harassment, arrest or detention. The whole world stood still to watch a monarchy whose territorial dominance covered more than half of the world at the apogee of its glory.

This brings me to the sad reality in our own clime in which, once a king dies, the process of succession is a veritable source of scandal, rancour, violence, litigation and killings. Many communities in Yorubaland have remained without kings for decades while the original contestants are dead with the battle inherited by their heirs. Many stools are unoccupied. The stools have been desecrated to a standard of a joke. Intervention by politicians has worsened the case as, despite the availability of the laws on selection of kings and chiefs, which have created the succession line among royal families, political leaders would want to plant their stooges on the throne in order to retain the loyalty of the palace to their party interest.

In the process, they shortchange the system and abandon the arrangement already contained in the Chieftaincy Declaration governing selection of successors to the royal throne. Competing interests do not want to follow any laid down rules. Governors show undue interest in who becomes the king or chief in a community to the extent of ignoring the consequences of such. In many cases, wrong candidates have been planted on the throne only for the court, after decades of litigation, to order the removal of the impostor. The rightful occupant of the seat would probably have died or would have become so old that he would not enjoy the throne for a reasonable length of time. The situation has become largely chaotic as strangers to a community are imposed as oba and the succession line  badly distorted. In fact, so many bastards have suddenly emerged as the kings of the people.

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Gradually and comically, succession to obaship is now assuming the status of  a political appointment and posting. The palaces have been made a laughing stock of what they used to be. Except for a few that still retain the glamourous semblance of their old glory, most monarchs of today derive their survival from political patronage. Some have even turned the stool to a source of self-enrichment that they grab lands in their communities, sell same community lands to so many buyers with conflicting claims, and go about with retinue of thugs to intimidate opponents or victims of their tyranny. With all the misbehaviour, they have lost respect and veneration in which people used to hold them. While the northern monarchs still enjoy their old respect that the political class used to accord them, the case is not so in the South except for a few like the Alaafin of Oyo, the Ooni of Ife, Awujale of Ijebu Ode, Oba of Lagos, Olu of Warri and Oba of Benin and some a few others. The majority of the southern stools have been broken into smithereens by unnecessary and political elevation of warrant chiefs and small chieftains into First or Second Class Oba.

A recent split of the throne of Emir of Kano into four or five chieftains has not brought any development to the people but mere creation of jobs for the boys at the expense of the welfare of the people. The decision of the former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi (may his soul rest in peace), to split the Olubadan stool into 11 chieftaincies has not survived the realities of the times. The tiny kings created out of the Olubadan stool have all relinquished their appointments, which make the stool of Olubadan to be more respectable and big enough to command foreign tourists and academic research interests. The origin of the devaluation of our traditional institutions can be traced to the colonial days. Many of our kings who resisted foreign rule were banished by the colonial powers. Lagos was burnt down in 1861 with the English monarch taking over lands in Lagos and making the most prosperous part of Nigeria a colony.

The divide-and-rule policy of the colonialists devalued our chieftains and kingdoms. Many of our kings were humiliated under superior firepower. With the departure of the colonialists, one would expect that a serious people would do everything to redeem their image, status and reputation. Unfortunately, we have embraced the entire evils imported into our lands while rejecting the benefits. We are the ones who embraced foreign religions and demonise our own modes of worship. We inculcate the beautiful stories that colonialist told us about their monsters who violated our lands, raped our women, plundered our resources while we believe that our own ancestors were demons that have en-shackled us in poverty and ancestral curse. We pray to break free from unknown ancestral curse and believe that the only way to approach God is by the foreign methods. We equalize the Biblical and Qur’anic Satan to our own Esu, two different entities with no affiliation whatsoever. The best way to enslave a people is to take their language and culture and give them another that they do not understand. While the Indians and Chinese were equally colonized by the English, they embraced English technology but retained their languages and cultures.

They do not demonize their ancestors in the name of seeking heavenly salvation or earthly prosperity. They do not desecrate their institutions. On the other hand, we are the only people who have forsaken our languages and would rather teach our children how to speak English fluently while they know nothing about our languages. We are the ones losing our heritage to foreign slavery of the mind which is worse than the slavery of the body. While other lands’ means of educating their children and communicating both science and art knowledge is in their native tongues, we have made English the lingua franca and our own languages are now vernaculars. The craze to speak English like the Queen has made us to stupidly forbid even our judges from speaking in our native tongue while performing their constitutional and statutory duty of adjudication. Like slaves that have lost their memories, we rejoice in the saying that the language of our courts, our own courts, is English. These are not courts sitting in London or Washington but Lagos or Osogbo. The parties are Yoruba.

The witnesses are Yoruba. Yet, they must either speak in English or we get an interpreter to interpret testimonies made in Yoruba to English to a Yoruba judge who must pretend that she does not understand Yoruba. Is that not madness? And when a judge even breaks free from the shell of mental captivity and speaks Yoruba in open court, some lawyers would start complaining that the judge has committed an abomination. Our problem is insurmountable. Back to the glamour of the weekend when the new King of England was coronated, we saw a glorious event where politicians revered their own roots rather than destroyed it. We saw the promotion of a people’s heritage and glorification of their history. The icing on the cake was when the sparkling beauty in a nightingale’s voice mounted the stage and was announced as Tiwa Savage. She took the audience spellbound with her rendition of warning in Yoruba language to the new King and his heir. That was after a number of Nigerians have been shown to be the cynosure of the coronation events.

Our great Professor Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu, dressed in African traditional attires with a dazzling gele to match, was at the centre of the King’s coronation as she carried the Sovereign’s Orb which represents the monarch’s power. That is a country where their past means a lot to the present and commands their way into the future. The coronation chair was said to have been built in March, 1300. Aside from the losses of our own ancient and beautiful artefacts to foreign pillagery, our people today would have stolen the chair to be sold cheaply to foreign tourists or destroy it in mindless protests by misguided youths. One cannot count how many ancient palaces have been burnt by rival aspirants to our thrones. What we do is to desecrate our institutions and it is certain that we definitely have a long way to go. Despite the atrocities that history recorded the English monarch to have partaken in, all they still hail is “Long Live The King!”. My people, the black man needs to wake up.