Repackaged Oyo state chieftaincy law: In whose interest? 

It’s not clear the exact interest the new chieftaincy law of Oyo state government intends to satisfy as the law comes into effect amidst condemnations. BAYO AGBOOLA reports. 

Barely seven years after the storm over the botched planned elevation of Ibadan High Chiefs and others to beaded crown-wearing Obas by late Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo state government under Governor Seyi Makinde is on the way of repackaging fresh planned elevation of the High Chiefs to beaded crown wearing Obas. Kick starting the processes for reforms of the Oyo State Chiefs Law, Gov Seyi Makinde forwarded a letter to the Oyo State House of Assembly to make the long-awaited reform a reality. The letter said, “As part of the ongoing efforts of the present administration to specify the chieftaincy holders entitled to wear beaded crowns in Oyo state, the Executive Council has considered the need to amend the Chiefs Law of Oyo state. This is as a result of agitation of many High Chiefs on the issue of beaded crowns and the volume of litigations and resentment within communities in the state. “In view of this, I wish to forward the Executive Extract on Chiefs (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to the House of Assembly.”

Previous attempts

It could be recalled that Late Ajimobi in August, 2017 presented certificates and staff of office to 21 chiefs who were among the 33 recently elevated to the status of kings (Obas) in Ibadan as a result of adoption of recommendations of a judicial commission of inquiry earlier inaugurated by the governor to review the Ibadan Chieftaincy Laws.  The late  governor said the state government followed due process in conducting the exercise, and that all extant laws were complied with, while saying that the exercise was not encumbered by any legal impediment. He stressed further that the promotion was not targeted at whitling down the influence and authority of Olubadan as the supreme monarch in Ibadan land but the initiative, he said, was borne out of a strong sense of patriotism and a resolve to reposition the chieftaincy institution of Ibadan land.

“This epoch making event in the annals of the history of Ibadan land is a practical demonstration of our administration’s commitment to the enhancement of dignity and honour of the chieftaincy institution in Ibadan land and Oyo state in general. I wish to state categorically that we are not changing history; we are not changing tradition; we are not changing the culture of Ibadan land; rather, we are elevating and consolidating our traditional institution and the exalted position of the Olubadan as the imperial majesty in Ibadan land.

“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.

“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 Ibadan land, 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 Ibadan land and position it comparably and competitively amongst other ancient Yoruba cities who have embraced new and modern systems.”

Latest move

However, going by feelers in the state presently,  the repackaged elevation of 11 Ibadan High Chiefs may have been sealed with Governor Makinde officially installing them as traditional rulers any moment from now having approved the promotion of the 11 High Chiefs namely, Balogun of Ibadanland, Owolabi Olakulehin; Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Rasheed Ladoja; Otun Balogun, Tajudeen Ajibola; Osi Olubadan, Eddy Oyewole; Osi Balogun, Lateef Adebimpe; Ashipa Olubadan, Biodun Kola-Daisi; Ashipa Balogun, Kola Adegbola; Ekerin Olubadan, Hamidu Ajibade; Ekerin Balogun, Olubunmi Isioye; Ekarun Olubadan; Bayo Akande and Ekarun Balogun, Abiodun Azeez as contained in the recently signed  chieftaincy bill into law. 

However, unlike in the days of late Ajimobi when the late Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji was vehemently opposed to the elevation of the High Chiefs,  this time around, it was learnt that the approval for the elevation was as a result of the recommendation of Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba Lekan Balogun, Alli Okunmade II, who is the prescribed and consenting authority.


The former Chief of Staff to late former Governor Abiola Ajimobi

Professor Gbade Ojo while speaking on the elevation recently said the planned review of the chieftaincy law would serve the interest of the people. “Yes, I can tell you that it is in the best interest of the people of Ibadan. In fact, the late Chief Theophilus Akinyele was one of the people in the vanguard of the reform when he was alive. Equally, Professor Bolanle Awe and the CCII saw reasons why Ibadan should not remain static and it has been done now, which is good. Over time, the innovation will become tradition and culture of Ibadan that High Chiefs will be wearing coronets and Olubadan wearing crown as Imperial Majesty to the extent that they feel fulfilled that they die as Obas. In a case of misdemeanour, the Olubadan can discipline any of them.” 

A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state,  Mr Adebayo Ojo (SAN) while speaking on the matter also said the move by Governor Makinde is a bold and courageous one.  

“Sincerely, I must commend him for that courage and boldness. I pray he is able to see it through. Believe me, it is a right step in the right direction.” He said what Governor Makinde is trying to do is different from what former Governor Ajimobi did in 2017 when he elevated the High Chiefs and Baales to crown and coronet-wearing obas. He said the ongoing process started from the Olubadan-in-Council.

“What the governor has done is quite different from what happened in the past. The difference is that the consenting authority, which is the Olubadan, had already held a meeting with the Olubadan-in-Council. And it has been agreed upon by them and they just informed the governor to seek his approval. It is home-goal and like a bottom-top approach unlike then, which came from the top to the bottom. Ibadan is very unique in the sense that the mogajis in Ibadan are superior to the baales in the village. Meanwhile, the Baales have their palaces and traditional councils. It is only people who understand the unique nature of the Ibadan traditional system that will understand what the late Ajimobi and other government did then, which is now what Governor Makinde is validating. I believe this move is in the best interest of the city,” he said.

Also, the Oyo state Chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) in a statement by its publicity secretary, Comrade Olawale Sadare accused Governor Makinde of double standard adding that the governor together with others stood against the elevation of the Ibadan High Chiefs to beaded Crown wearing Obas five years ago only to now defy decorum to implement the same blueprint five years after although with obnoxious insertions.

“As a political party made up of patriots and urbane people, we are of the opinion that no leader should seek absolute power over his subjects including the custodians of the traditional institution. What late Senator Abiola Ajimobi did in 2018 was purely to advance the cause of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital but the table was turned against him by some selfish political players.”

“In a transparent manner, Ajimobi administration legally elevated all members of Olubadan-in-council and some Baale to Coronet-wearing Oba (junior to the Olubadan) but the unscrupulous elements claimed he acted wrongly. Interestingly, the same Engr Makinde (a PDP gubernatorial aspirant at that time) who led the rebellion against the process is not only trying to implement it now but has also taken the full advantage at his disposal to strip the Council of Obas and Chiefs of their statutory rights to ratify the eligibility of a validly nominated heir to be coronated as an Oba where a vacuum exists.” 

The statement stressed further, “As it stands now, only the governor can determine who becomes a new Oba in any part of the state and this implies that Eruwa, Igangan, Oyo, Ogbomoso, Iseyin and other ancient towns must literally worship Gov Makinde to have new Obas. It is a height of double standard and insincerity for Engr Makinde to nail Sen. Ajimobi on the cross over a developmental stride only to defy decorum to implement the same blueprint five years after although with obnoxious insertions.”

Amidst the rising debate for and against the new move to restore wearing of beaded crown for the 11 Ibadan High Chiefs, the fear now is that Oyo state government is yet to come up on its official position concerning the development.