By FEMI ADEOTI & OLUSEYE OJO
The ascension to the throne of Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oyo State, is generally admired. It is well-structured and adjudged almost the best in the South West.
It does not have ruling houses but two ruling lines of “Egbe Agba” (Civil) and “Balogun” (Military). These are the rows from where an Olubadan is appointed on rotational basis.
The two high chiefs next in (equal) rank to the Olubadan from the two lines are, Otun Olubadan (Civil) and Balogun of Ibadanland (Military). The duo are recognised as second-class traditional rulers under the Western Nigeria Law. The chieftaincy system makes the succession to the throne largely free from rancour, litigation and usurpation. Any male child title-holder of the metropolitan centre of Ibadan is a potential king.
Every chief on the civil line has to 22 steps to climb, while every chief on the military line has 23 steps. It usually takes decades to groom an Olubadan through the stages of chieftaincy promotion, which is an average of 35 to 40 years.
It took the present monarch, Oba Saliu Adetunji Aje Ogungunniso I, 40 years to occupy the stool. He became Mogaji in 1976 and Jagun in 1978. He was installed as the 41st Olubadan on March 4, 2016. Jagun is the first step on the Olubadan line. The immediate past Olubadan, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade I, waited for 35 years to become Olubadan. Odulana was promoted to Jagun in 1976 and was crowned as monarch on August 17, 2007, at 93. His reign lasted nine years.
The predecessor of the Oba Odulana, Oba Yinusa Ogundipe Arapasowu I, who was born in 1912, was crowned the 39th Olubadan at 79 on May 7, 1999. He had waited for 39 years to occupy the stool. He reigned eight years before joining his ancestors in 2007 at 87. He was appointed Mogaji of his compound at Oranyan in 1960 and was promoted to Jagun Balogun in 1964. The predecessor to Oba Ogundipe, Oba Emmanuel Adeyemo Operinde I, spent 41 years between the time he was appointed the Mogaji of his family at Isale Ijebu in 1953 and January 14, 1994, when he was crowned as the 38th Olubadan. He reigned for five years. The 37th Olubadan, Oba Yesufu Oloyede Asanike I, was also in his 80s when he became king in 1983 and his reign lasted 10 years.
But how did Ibadan evolve the unique chieftaincy system? What then can be done to ensure that relatively young people occupy the stool of paramount ruler of Ibadan land?
The issues became well pronounced in the first quarter of 2016 before the coronation of Oba Adetunji. Scholars such as a frontline historian, Prof. Bolanle Awe, former Commissioner for Education in the old Western State; Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, former governor of old Oyo State; Chief Areoye Oyebola, former Managing Director of Daily Times and Governor Abiola Ajimobi, presented their position papers. They all supported restructuring of the chieftaincy system. But some chiefs in the Olubadan Line objected to the restructuring and preferred that status quo be maintained.
More than seven months after, the Otun Ibadanland, Chief Lekan Balogun, who is the heir apparent to the throne, described the proposed chieftaincy reform as very crucial. He agreed that after practicing the system for about 80 years, there is the need for an improvement. He said at the level of high chiefs, they should be apolitical. They should not engage in partisan politics.
He told Daily Sun: “We believe this is an ideal situation. At that level, they are fathers of Ibadanland, all politicians on Ibadan soil should be their children. So, they should not be found in one political party or the other against their own people.”
He explained Ibadan’s unique chieftaincy system this way: “Ibadan was founded by warriors with diverse origins and interests. So, there has to be a measure of give-and-take from the word go, which accounts for the rancour-free nature of the system.
“Ibadan was established by warriors from different parts of Yoruba land, who used to assemble at Eba Odan, which later became Ibadan. They would assemble there and take off to the war front, throughout Yoruba land. When they returned from the war, they would assemble at Eba Odan to share the spoils of war.”
Balogun said the rancour free nature of Olubadan chieftaincy system was evolved by the warriors who founded Ibadan so that they would not engage one another in battles over who should be the leader. Some of the great warriors included Bashorun Ogunmola, and Ali-Iwo:
“Based on the fact that the settlers of Ibadan were powerful warriors, it was imperative for them from the word go, to say who would be the leader and how the leader would emerge. That was how the rancour free nature of the system emerged. They were powerful people and did not want to confront one another in fight. They evolved Mogaji and other titles.
Elimination by death
“There are 23 steps on the Balogun Line and 22 steps in the Olubadan line. If you add 22 to 23, you will have 45. By the time a person spends up to 35 to 40 years in the Olubadan line, you can’t say he can’t be Olubadan. That is why it is rancour free. Before you can move to the next title, the people in front of you will have to die.”
There is this third force, the Seriki Line, though it has never produced an Oba. Balogun noted: “Seriki was like a young man who has done well in life. It was like honorary award to young man who has done well. The title of Seriki was a recognition for a young man who has done well.”
He preferred maintaining the two lines that have been producing Olubadan on rotational basis: “I think it is better to reduce the lines to two. If you make it three, you will have dormant Olubadan who will be there; he would have been very old.”
Balogun, however, disclosed that the Ibadan traditional chieftaincy system is self-reforming. He believed the self-reforming nature would correct any weakness found in the system:
“When I became Mogaji of Ali Iwo’s Compound, there were a lot of much older people, whose kids were even older than me. My compound used to produce the oldest person as Mogaji before my time. Yet, these people insisted I should be made Mogaji in the late 1970s. The Olubadan that we have produced so far, Ali Iwo I, reigned for three months as Olubadan. If I make it to the throne of Olubadan, I will be Ali Iwo II.
“After I became Mogaji, many young and educated men have been made Mogajis, which is the self reforming nature of the system that I am talking about.”
Ban from politics
On the agitation for the ban of Olubadan high chiefs from partisan politics, Balogun retorted: “They are wasting their time because the system itself is self reforming. You cannot be a Mogaji of a family and still be partisan in politics. You will have members of your family belonging to different political parties.”
But when reminded that he was elected a senator when he was already a member of Olubandan In Council, he shot back: “That was why I did not go for second term.”
Does he subscribe to the reduction of the steps on the Olubadan lines so that younger men can have opportunities to become Olubadan? His answer was in the affirmative. He stated that the installation of young and educated men as mogajis, has boosted the tendencies that young people can become Olubadan.
Position of the law
But what is the position of the law on the Olubadan chieftaincy matters? Daily Sun got an extract from the Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000 Cap 28, which spells out the power of the governor in relation to the appointment of recognised chieftaincies in the state.
The laws state that it is the statutory duty of the governor to give approval or set aside any appointment made into any Recognised Part II Chieftaincies.
But, the governor would not do this until the expiration of 21 days after he must have been notified of such appointment by the secretary of the competent council, that is, the local government concerned in accordance with Section 19 of the Chiefs Law. The period of 21 days is meant to allow an aggrieved candidate or aggrieved ruling house to make representations, that is, protest over the way and manner the appointment was done.
The laws say any person to be appointed as recognised chief, must not have been disqualified under any of the following grounds as contained in Section 14 (2) of the Chief Laws, that is, he must not be suffering from any serious physical infirmity; he must not be a lunatic and he must not be an ex-convict.
Section 14 (1) and (2) talk about qualifications and disqualifications of any person to be appointed into recognised chieftaincy. It states that any person to be appointed into recognised chieftaincy shall be qualified, if he is unanimously selected by his ruling house, though two or three candidates may be selected by his ruling house, while the kingmakers have the power to appoint one. But the governor must approve the appointment.
The law further states that where a person is installed without prior approval of the governor, Section 21 of the Chief Law may be activated, which says:
“Where a vacancy has occurred in a recognised chieftaincy and no person has been approved as successor thereto by the governor in accordance with this part, any person who installs or purports to install a person as such chief or any person who permits himself to be installed as such chief shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years.
“Any person who installs or purports to install a person as a recognised chief other than the person approved by the governor in accordance with this part, or who not being the person approved by the governor in accordance with this part, permits himself to be installed as a chief shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years.
“Where a person has been approved as a recognised chief in accordance with this part, any other person who holds himself out as such chief or wears any of the regalia of such chief…shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years.”