Ibadan Oba tussle: No judicial pronouncement prevents me from wearing my crown –Oba Lekan Balogun
*** says, “I remain an Oba and will remain so till God knows when”
His Royal Highness Oba Moshood Leken Balogun. The Otun Olubadan of Ibadan Land
By RAZAQ BAMIDELE
London, Feb. 4, 2018 (AltAfrika)-Former High Chief of Ibadan Land and now a beaded crown monarch, His Royal Highness, Moshood Lekan Balogun, is a formidable technocrat, astute politician and a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1999 and 2003.
Recently, Balogun, who is the Otun Olubadan, was elevated, along with other High Chiefs of Ibadan Land to the position of a beaded crown wearing Oba courtesy of the reforms carried out on the chieftancy system of the city by His Excellency, Governor Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.
The reform, which did not go down well with the paramount ruler of the town, the Olubadan of Ibadan Land, Oba Saliu Adetunji, who was also elevated from the position of His Royal Majesty to His Imperial Majesty. The controversy that trailed the reform later became a matter of litigation that led to a court pronouncing the process a nullity.
But in an exclusive chat with alternativeafrika.com in his palace in Alarere area of the city, the distinguished Senator Lekan Balogun insists that, in spite of the court ruling, he still remains a beaded crown wearing monarch and will remain so till God knows when.
According to him, with the appeal filed against the judgement, the Status Quo Ante remains till the outcome of the appeal enthusing that the appeal will be in favour of the reform that made him and others Obas.
Excerpts from the interview:
Congratulations on your elevation to the position of an Oba from the level of a High Chief. How did you feel when the elevation came?
Thank you very much. Usually and expectedly, I was very happy. Not me alone was happy but the entire people of Ibadan land. Every part of Yoruba land has been practising what we are about to start in Ibadan now.
How do you mean sir?
There are several Obas in Lagos. There are several Obas in Ekiti, likewise in Ondo, Ijesha, even in Ife. In Sagamu, Remo too, there are several Obas that are wearing beaded crowns. In various domains, there are Obas as their heads. Whereas, in Ibadan land, only the Olubadan is the Oba that wears the crown. The rest of us the heads of our various domains are mere Chiefs. And when there is a meeting, some small Baales who wear crowns will sit with other Obas like Olubadan. And all Ibadan High Chiefs will be separated from them and hid somewhere. We would not be recognized along with the Obas some of who are very inferior to us. So, the insult is that while the Olubadan would represent the whole of Ibadan land which is the largest settlement in Yoruba land and even beyond, several Obas from smaller settlements will sit with the Olubadan as equals. It is very insulting.
So, the governor, being an illustrious son of Ibadan must have seen that in office and decided to address the insulting issue. Take for instance now that we are agitating for Ibadan State, if we succeed in having Ibadan State, is the Olubadan going to be the only Oba in the Council of Chiefs? There is no other state in Nigeria that has only an Oba. So, if Ibadan State materialises, it would then be the only state with just one Oba.
It is the patriotic zeal of the Governor that gingered him to effect that reform. Initially, we were all upset because we were not consulted. We felt insulted because we did not know the reason behind it. So, all the 10 of us, one of us is now the late. We met in this office and decided to go to court to stop the governor from going ahead with the reform because we did not know the motive behind it. The governor was misinterpreted severally over the matter.
Does that mean you did not lobby for it?
Lobby for it? What for? God forbid. It was out of his patriotic zeal that he did it. He then invited all of to his office. He said the reform was long overdue. The media carried it. The electronic media carried it. But we had hardly left the meeting before we heard information from the palace that the Oloris (Olubadan’s wives) were not happy about the proposed reform.
Oh! You will be surprised to hear what they allegedly said. They were quoted to have asked: “Does that mean some other women would be answering Oloris in this town?!” That was their concern. And as parochial as that sounded the Kabiyesi fell for it.
So, a few days after, the Kabiyesi renounced the proposed reform. We were very surprised! This was the person that spoke brilliantly about the reform at the meeting with the governor. So, that was how the whole thing started. As I had said earlier, the governor is a patriotic person who must have also suffered the insult for a very long time whenever Obas from smaller domains came for consultation with the Olubadan. These Obas from smaller domains would be hosted alone by the Olubadan while we the High Chiefs would be pushed aside. This is what fired the patriotic zeal in our governor to carry out that long overdue reform. It was after the governor invited us that we realised he meant well.
Was it true that you, the beneficiaries initially went to court to stop the governor?
Yes. The matter was already filed in court to stop the governor from going ahead with the reform. And unknown to me, the other eight had withdrawn because they had discovered that the governor meant well even before we met him. Only two of us remained there. Senator Rashidi Ladoja and I. We are great friends and brothers. We are like twins actually. We understand ourselves very well. So, I called Ladoja who was in liaison with our lawyer and I said, what happened? That the newspapers carried it this morning that, you and I alone are going to court! He said, ah, egbon (Elder brother), the others withdrew and I said, you didn’t tell me! And I said it was either all of us were in court against the government or nobody would be in court. You and I alone cannot be in court. You and I are also the most prominent ex-politicians in the matter and political meaning would be read into it. I said we should not carry on any more. He said he would not withdraw and I said I will withdraw. That was how I withdrew after the media carried it that he and I were in court. That was how I came to withdraw.
And when the others withdrew earlier, the lawyer told him (Ladoja) that others had withdrawn. And he (Ladoja) told the lawyer that, if it was my brother (Balogun) and I that remain, please go ahead. He was referring to me. That was why the lawyer did not consult with me again. I so reacted based on my conviction that, we all rather be in court or nobody should be in court, else meanings would be read into it. So, that was how it all started. Then, a day was picked for installation and we were installed. And we were happy. And the insult of crowned Obas should come this way and High Chiefs move this way thereby stopped. That would cease and the insult would stop.
How did the reform affect the Olubadan’s status and why was he angry?
The Governor elevated our own Kabiyesi too to become His Imperial Majesty from His Royal Majesty. The Alafin of Oyo, the Ooni of Ife and others are addressed as Imperial Majesty. That means Oba t’on f’oba je (The King that can install other kings). He was not installing any Oba before now. Now that he can install Obas at lower levels, he should also be an Imperial Majesty. That was the due respect accorded him by the governor. When we became Royal Majesty, he also became Imperial Majesty. The only one in Ibadan land still. And the reform has not tampered with our hierarchy system in Ibadan so, what are we quarrelling about?! I remain Otun Olubadan though an Oba now. Oba Owolabi Olakulehin still remains Balogun, though an Oba now. We are all subordinates to His Imperial Majesty, the only one in Ibadan land. So, what are we quarrelling about?! I don’t understand the problem. I don’t still understand it!
But don’t you see that Olubadan has eventually had his way going by the court judgement that voided your installation as Obas?
That makes the matter worst and funny. I mean the recent pronouncement of a Judicial Officer saying, the process was improper and that the Obaship should be nullified citing 1970s’ law that has since been replaced by 2017 law. I don’t know what she was talking about. However, it was just a waste of time. We remain Obas and we remain Obas as long as God wants it.
Do you still wear your crown despite the ruling?
Oh, sure! There has been an appeal. And the appeal was pronounced in court immediately after the judge’s pronouncement. And that implies that Status Quo Ante still continues. It was as if no pronouncement was ever made. With that that appeal, we still remain Obas. Certainly there is nothing like contempt of court with us wearing our deserved beaded crowns. That is the judicial procedure and interpretation.
Oba Lekan Balogun: I love this Olubadan and I guess he loves me too. So, I am not out to fight him.
In spite of the crisis, are there attempt at reconciling with the aggrieved paramount ruler?
I love this Olubadan and I guess he loves me too. So, I am not out to fight him. Ladoja that is seen as the main antagonist to the reform is still my friend and brother. I would not stop loving him on the bases of our differences on the reform. We just hold different opinions about it. He is entitled to his opinion, I am entitled to mine. We spoke yesterday and we continue our relationship as usual. I would not attack him. And the governor as I said meant well. He is my younger brother and my friend. If I can’t settle the problem between them, I will not add to it. I am their responsible egbon (elder brother), the two of them.
I am optimistic we will remain Obas and Ibadan will remain one. We are members of one big family. In fact, we had planned to see the Olubadan today following the 41st fidau of his wife’s demise. But we heard it very late. But one of these days, very soon, we will visit him. Many may not care but I care because of my relationship with the Kabiyesi. And I believe the Kabiyesi also feels concerned about the matter.
Even the Kabiyesi has said that the court judgement or not court judgement, there is no victor, no vanquished. He expresses the kind of man he really is. He is making overtures to the governor. They are talking. And the governor keeps on saying that Kabiyesi is his father just as the Kabiyesi also keeps on saying that the governor is his son. He is really our father. As I always say, I love the Kabiyesi personally. I love him a great deal.
Is it true that you must have spent fortunes to get elevated?
It is not true. It is a fight of principle and not a fight of costs. It is not a fight with money. It is not true
How did your subjects feel about your new status?
They are all happy. As I said, smaller towns have crowned kings. There is no state in Yoruba land where they have only one Oba like Ibadan land. If we have Ibadan state, can we have Council of Chiefs with only Olubadan without other Obas because of our circumstance and peculiarity?
The reform did not touch any other thing in the hierarchy beside the nomenclatures of Royal majesty and Imperial Majesty. And of course the fashion of wearing the beaded crowns. The reform did not touch anything else. We are still subjects to His Imperial Majesty. We are still his children. We still prostrate to greet him. Can you say you are a beaded crown Oba and you would not prostrate to greet your father? No, that is not the rule.
As a Senator and now an Oba, how would the former influence the latter?
My background and experience as a Senator would come to play a lot. My subjects are still my subjects. They want to speak with me, I want to speak with them. They will have problems that require my attention and intervention. Somebody wants to gain admission, somebody is sick and needs assistance, somebody is getting married and someone is arrested by the Police and so on and so forth. It has been like that for the past 20 years. It is worse now because they have traditional routes to reach me now in addition to the political routes.
Wouldn’t that drain your purse?
Well, God has blessed us to be able to fulfil people’s aspirations.
Is it true that with you status, you must be apolitical?
Yes. That was why I did not go back to the Senate. You have to be apolitical because your subjects would belong to different political parties. And it is easier to mediate in event of crises if you are not partisan. All of them are my children. There is hardly an exemption. Even those who are aspiring to be governor now are either my aburos (younger brothers/sisters) or my children.
How do you relax when less busy?
I used to be a Table Tennis player. But I cannot play it well now. I tried it once and I discovered I have lost touch with the game. I was just playing like a novice. I didn’t like what I experience. But I want to encourage that life style on myself. I might even erect a table tennis in these premises so I can play at will. I read a lot when I am not resting. I used to read a lot before I became an Oba. I am still interested in reading.
Hope the Oloris (Queens) are not complaining?
Ummm! Everybody is busy. They are busy too. We all understand ourselves.
You said “they,” like how many sir? Four?
(Laughter) Do you want to give me two more? (general laughter). There is one in Abuja and one in Ibadan. And the children are grown up, though I have some smaller ones now. I should be thankful to God when it comes to the issue of children. I have got a number of them and a lot of them are graduates.
Has been apolitical prevented you from comments on the state of nation? If not, are you comfortable with the situation in the country presently?
I am not very comfortable. I am a bit disturbed. The herdsmen issue bothers me a lot. And I hope it doesn’t lead to total breakdown of law and order in this country. Insecurity is a serious problem! Somebody sent a picture into my phone recently and when I opened it, what did I see?! Slaughtering of human beings! I had to call the person back to ask; is this supposed to be a joke?! He said it was real! I thought the government would storm the whole area in a minute. I thought the government would come up with intervention! It bothers me a lot. It is very worrisome.
The government should intervene quickly and do it effectively and convincingly to discourage other people from doing what those ones are doing. And they should assure the rest of the nation that we are in a safe country.
With various developments in the country toward 2019 general elections don’t you foresee ‘do or die’ scenario?
That, to me, is worrisome as well. That is one of the things that worry me. We are approaching a period when political parties would not be relevant but individual candidates. And unfortunately that is not how democracy works here. And the way to sustain democracy is yet to be seen. I hope we survive it. I hope we will subscribe to the ethos of democracy.
If God gives you an opportunity to pick the age you would love to die, what….?
(Cut in)No, I don’t want to dictate to God. There is a song I love and sing a lot. Asiko ti kaluku bayan ni yoo f’abo f’Olorun lorun, ni yoo fabo f’Eledumare ni yoo fabo f’Olorun l’orun.
“It is everybody’s appointed time that he will go back to God for his account of stewardship.” That was from my late cousin, Dauda Epo Akara, the Awurebe King.
Would you like to come back to this world as a Yoruba man?
If there is incarnation, I will like to come back as a Yoruba man and even from Ali Iwo Clan of Ibadan. But I would not like to come back as your younger brother so that you would not pay me back what I am doing to you now. You are older than me and you are prostrating to greet me because I am an Oba. I would want to come back as your egbon (elder brother) so I could be at liberty to bully you. (general laughter).