Ibadan Chieftaincy Tussle: Governor Ajimobi Deserves Commendation for Doing the Right Thing –Oba Owolabi Olakulehin
Oba Olakulehin receiving his Staff of Office from Governor Ajimobi
By RAZAQ BAMIDELE
London, Feb. 11, 2018 (AltAfrika)-Former High Chief, Akinloye Owolabi Olakulehin, the Balogun of Ibadanland from Ita Baale Olugbode clan, is one of the High Chiefs recently elevated to the position of beaded crown wearing monarchs in the city.
With the reform of the chieftaincy system of the town by the State Governor, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, the 82-year old former High Chief has now become His Royal Majesty, Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakulehin.
In an exclusive chat with Alternativeafrika.com in his palace, the newly crowned monarch bares it all about the controversy surrounding the tussle
With your new status as an Oba, how do we address you now?
You address me as His Royal Majesty, Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakulehin. At the same time, I am still the Balogun of Ibadanland. The hierarchy has not changed. I am the second in command to the Olubadan of Ibadanland. When you have become Balogun, you are running at the top of other chiefs. There are two lines to become Olubadan. It is either throughthe Balogun line or through the Otun Olubadan line.
In the Balogun line, there are 23 steps. In the Otun line, there are 22 steps. In the past, only the Balogun line used to produce Olubadan. The Otun line used to sit at home like a community leader who is given a whip to discipline recalcitrant subjects. That used to be the role of the Otun line. Only Balogun line used to produce the Oba.
Along the line, the Otun line made a case that the line should also be considered to occupy the Olubadan stool. They were also considered for the throne eventually. And that is why we have two lines now that can produce candidates for the Olubadan stool. In the Balogun line, the moment you become Balogun, automatically when the ruling Oba dies, Balogun will step in. And the system has not changed even now with the reform.
How and when did the governor realise the need for High Chiefs to wear beaded crown?
It is not the governor alone that saw the need for us the High Chiefs to wear beaded crowns. It is an age-long agitation. I am 82 years old now and I have climbed 32 rungs of the ladder, the last stage to become Olubadan. I grew up to meet our fathers discussing it and making moves to make High Chiefs wear beaded crowns. So, the agitation did not start today and there was no time that the agitation stopped.
How did the High Chiefs, who are now the beneficiaries, press for the actualization of the agitations for the crown?
We the beneficiaries and present kingmakers are aware of the goings on around us all over the place. And we realise that it is necessary to embark on the reform that led to our wearing crowns. Ibadan is a very large city. In our school days, our Geography teacher would tell us that Ibadan was the largest town in all of the Western region that consisted of several present states now like Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and even Lagos. Even in the whole of Africa, Ibadan was said to be one of the largest cities.
But we thank God that Governor Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, a prominent and industrious son and Chief of Ibadanland, did the right thing. He deserves commendation for this development. We wonder how could Ibadan, as big as it is, have only one Oba wearing the beaded crown?!
If the case still remains now that Ibadanland is the largest city around, how come that when other small towns in the south-west states now have several Obas, Ibadan, which is larger than some of these small states is having just one Oba?! And Ibadan has not stopped expanding every day. For instance, whenever a meeting of Yoruba Obas was convened in Oyo State, you will see several junior Obas in the company of their paramount rulers to assist them. Whereas, the whole of Ibadan land would be represented by just only Olubadan with no junior Obas in attendance to assist him. This is not fair. It is even an insult.
Take Ijebu for instance, if Awujale was coming for the meeting, he would come with a lot of other Obas under his domain. If the Alake of Egbaland was coming to the meeting, he would be accompanied by several other Obas under his control. If Akarigbo of Remoland also from the same Ijebu axis was coming, he would come with a retinue of other Obas within his catchment areas. Ditto to Owa Oboku of Ijesaland, Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo.
And no matter how, no High Chief rank is equivalent to an Oba. So, all of us the High Chiefs would be relegated to the background. And since laws are made by the governments, it is their prerogative to review the laws as they deem necessary.
Oba Olakulehin adorning his beaded crown
What practical step did you take to achieve results?
We held several discussions over it. We presented papers over it and the governor took steps over it. The first step he took was his invitation to us the 13 kingmakers including the Olubadan himself to a meeting. He threw the matter open. He asked from all of us individually whether the issue emanated from us and we said yes. We aired our views that, we cannot make ourselves Obas, so, he should take the necessary steps to address the issue to crown us Obas. We advised him to consult widely with the stakeholders. He then took steps.
The first step was the setting up of a Board to review the existing chieftaincy system in the state. They called for memoranda from the stakeholders. It was advertised, it was thrown open to all interested individuals.
The Board invited us individually to defend the memoranda we submitted about why it was necessary to have more Obas in Ibadanland. We wanted the insult to stop because these Obas from smaller domains are junior to us. They were never Chiefs; they were just picked as ordinary citizens to wear crowns while we had been High Chiefs in Ibadan land for decades without crowns.
They conducted the interviews, wrote reports on them and submitted the reports to the governor. The next thing we heard was that, we the High Chiefs and Kingmakers in Ibadanland, aside from Iyalode (Woman leader), should proceed to wearing crowns.
If there was a consensus amongst you over the crown issue, why was there a dissent voice?
Well, it is true that one of us kicked against the arrangement saying the path the governor took towards the reform was illegal. He asked us to go to court to stop the governor but we said no. We queried him why he refused to submit a memo when we were asked to do so to express his view over it?! He thereafter went to Olubadan to say he was not in supports of the reform. We were wondering why Olubadan that had earlier agreed with the reform should also turn round to oppose it! The Olubadan also talked to his lawyer and took the governor to court. He took us too to court and our own case is still pending.
Are you not jittery that the outcome of the court case was in favour of the complainant?
Not at all! It is true that the judgement on the case against the government, which was favourable to the complainant was delivered on a Friday. But the government has taken the necessary steps during the weekend to get appeal ready which was filed on Monday. And we were told to continue wearing our beaded crowns pending the time the Appeal Court would deliver its own verdict over the matter. That is where we are now. But I am not jittery because I am optimistic that victory would be ours at the end of the day. Please let us leave it at that till the final court verdict.
You said earlier that discussions over the issue at hand started long time ago. Has any government made attempts at reviewing the chieftaincy system before now in the state?
Oh yes! That is the most interesting aspect of the whole matter. Senator Rashidi Ladoja that kicked against it had once attempted to carry out the reform when he was governor but lacked the courage and political will to carry it out. There was a document distributed to us during his tenure as governor. The document was signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Dele Adigun. But he could not complete the reform. Ladoja also instituted a Board of Enquiry over it. It was known as Ayinde Commission. The report was submitted but the contents of the report never saw the light of the day.
The problem is we don’t know what he wants to gain about his attempt to stop the reform. He was also invited to come for his own beaded crown. He said no, that it is Olubadan he wants to become. And you cannot become Olubadan without our consent as kingmakers.
Are you saying there was nothing in what Governor Ajimobi did regarding the reform that transformed you from an ordinary cap wearing cap into a beaded crown wearing Oba?
The governor did the right thing. Take for instance; I started being a chief since 1983. If I have been made the king over my community since then, it would have been on record that I have been an Oba for how many years now?!
How did you feel when scaled through?
I felt good and I still feel happy. It was not me alone that felt good about it. My people rolled out the drums singing and dancing for the long overdue development. Very soon, talking drummers and their bands would be a permanent feature in this palace. We have just started. We are just trying to bring the bird out of the pocket. A lot of royal things are being put together. When we are through, the scene here will take a royal shape.
Are there steps towards reconciling with the aggrieved individuals?
Yes of course. Steps are being taken by the stakeholders to resolve the matter between Olubadan and us the new Obas who also double as kingmakers in the land. But it appears an antagonist somewhere is serving as the cog in the wheel of reconciliation. I am however sure the truth would prevail at the end of the day.
What extra responsibilities has the beaded crown put on your head?
You see, this beaded crown given to me, apart from being a clarion call to do more for the people, it is an invitation to additional responsibilities. We have been taking care of our people as Chiefs. Now that we are Obas, our responsibilities to our good people have multiplied in multiple folds.
But God is in control and as the Provider, He is providing for us to meet up with the needs of our people. In addition to that, since God has made us hardworking people from the onset and has blessed our early life’s toils, there are a few structures on ground that is now serving as sources of revenue to us.
Can we have an insght into the mind of the Oloris (The Queens), over the new development?
Ah! I won’t deceive you, they are very happy. Who would not be happy with such a development that bestows on you better status! It would amount to an understatement to just say they are happy. My brother, the Queens are happy, they feel elated, they feel fulfilled and satisfied. They are full of joy and they are thankful to God.
At your age, you need a lot of rest. How do you rest and relax sir?
There is no stress much now. If there is a meeting with the governor, we will just ride to the House of Chiefs and come back home. If there is a meeting of the Olubadan-In-Council, Mapo Hall is the venue. We drive down and come back home to rest. Here is my palace. If there is a meeting with my people, they will come here for it. We will then discuss and relax with ourselves. No stress at all. We are coping by the special grace of God health wise.