As was tradition, King Charles 111 began his journey adorned in the coronation regalia that the British royal family has preserved and fulfilled for more than 1000 years. Part of the regalia according to Times Magazine comprises the “Sovereign’s Scepter with a cross” a three-foot gold rod, encrusted with gems, topped with a cross, and set with Cullinan I – the largest stone cut from the largest diamond ever discovered, whisked to Britain from South Africa in 1907.
Anyone who watched the procession of King Charles’s coronation last week Saturday would marvel at how age-long traditions have been neatly and alchemically preserved. From the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby’s powerful speech to the crowning of the King and the Queen to the breathtaking coronation concert; watchers and audiences from within and outside the shore of Great Britain had royalty, pomp, pageantry, and splendor displayed in full throttle. Such a perfect exhibition of British rich and enduring tradition sharply contrasts Nigeria’s counterintuitive take on established cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions.
Reflectively, when the news of Governor Seyi Makinde’s attempt at reforming section 28 sub-section 1 of the state Chiefs Laws of Oyo state broke out, it was received with mixed reactions. For the potential beneficiaries of that dangerous move, like the fictitious convener of Oyo Renaissance Forum, Adeola Areago, that news came as a soothing balm to their battered self-serving aspirations. But for those who knew the bad precedence such an ill-conceived notion would set in the state, the news came as quite unfortunate. That the Governor could propose a law that would give him the power as the “sole appointing authority for Obas and Chiefs without any recourse to the council of Obas – thereby removing all checks and balances” speaks volumes. In this era of power-drunk politicians, Makinde’s bill appears to be a reversal of our cherished and established tradition. For example, all you need to do to wear a beaded crown is to simply and confidently conjure a story, manipulate history and leverage your contacts and connections with ignorant and arrogant powerful brut within the government to do your bidding.
In fact, you don’t need to stress yourself trying to explain why you needed a beaded crown as a chief, just dig a little about the dirty dealings of those in power and use it against them – viola, the crown is yours. Whereas in other saner climes, traditions are being respected and revered against the existential threat of modernity and cultural merchants, here in the pace-setter state, it is being dragged by those who think they can lord themselves over the people.
In a way, isn’t it ridiculous how Makinde’s government had to create a fictitious personality to lend credence to their shenanigans? Such a brazen display of desperation and aberration should be condemned by all relevant stakeholders in the state. In effect, elements hiding behind this villainous veil just want to eat their cakes and still have them. Quite unfortunate that dark forces behind this unholy ploy are hell-bent on making sense of their nonsense. For instance, a simple Google search of the name Adeola Areago, a man who was described in the news story as an Ibadan indigene, historian, and scholar based in the United Kingdom will shock you: no such character exists even on Google. When the convener of the socio-cultural group that speaks in support of that ruse is a creation of some hungry writers, how much more the group he created? But that is not the issue at stake here. Once the law is passed by the rubber-stamped state assembly, the governor’s emperor leadership style would swing into full operation. For the first time, people will have the opportunity to see the governor for who he is: a silent power monger who will use his power to crush anything and anyone that stand in his way including our revered Obas and the tradition they stand to protect.
For the record, governor Makinde’s proposed law is extremely dangerous for the enduring legacy of our forebears because it could lead to the erosion of traditional authority and the weakening of the rule of law. With this law, traditional authority, known by the people as natural rulers are further pushed to the dungeon of irrelevance. What purpose is the council of Obas when the governor can act in brazen disregard for their existence? With this law, the governor becomes unquestionable, unstoppable, and unchallengeable – the de facto ‘KABIYESI’. Ultimately, while the legality of this law will be put to the test at the law court, the damage it will cause may be permanently irreversible. We are all witnesses to the sustained attacks on the Olubaban throne by the late governor Abiola Ajimobi. What Ajimobi did with reckless abandon by crowning Ibadan high chiefs is what Makinde is doing without the usual noise and condemnation from the public. What a hypocrisy! Recall Governor Makinde latched onto the discontent between the government of the late Senator Ajimobi and the late Olubadan Saliu Adetunji in the build-up to the 2019 poll. Many considered late Ajimobi’s action on the Ibadan chieftaincy declaration as excessively overbearing. Indeed, the promise of returning and restoring Olubadan’s lost glory by Governor Makinde endeared him to many. Quickly and swiftly, the state government under his watch peremptorily conform with the ruling of an Ibadan court that compelled Ibadan high chiefs to drop their respective ‘crowns’ – one of them is now sitting on the throne of the Olubadan. Consequently, this explains why the incumbent Olubadan has not issued any statement condemning Governor Makinde’s flagrant disrespect for the established tradition.
Like most opportunists, preserving the legacy of the Ibadan people became one of Governor Makinde’s campaign rallying points in the 2019 election. Interestingly, people responded positively to his message. But now, he is heading toward the same calamitous tailspin – one that has earned his predecessor’s bad reputation. Undoubtedly, traditional rulers are an important part of Nigerian society and play a vital role in maintaining peace and order. But that is about to be wounded courtesy of Governor Makinde’s proposed bill. Speaking, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Oyelowo Oyewo noted that many of the requests to the state governor by traditional leaders known as Baales to wear beaded crowns at different domains across the state have remained pending for so long because of the inability of the council of chiefs to meet. You might as well read that again. Baales applied to wear beaded crowns when they are still within the jurisdiction of some kings.
Wait. How would you explain to a five-year-old kid that a beaded crown is no longer exclusive to Obas and that bales can equally wear a crown just as their superiors and seniors? Heartbreakingly, we are up against some cultural merchants disguising themselves as government officials. Our tangible and intangible cultural assets are about to go to the dogs. Clearly, governor Makinde is preparing the groundwork for the emergence of all sorts of crown wearers and court jesters. The picture of Park Management service, Mukaila Lamidi in a fake white beaded crown is still in the public. Perhaps that is the kind of character that the government seeks to approve their requests. Otherwise, how would you explain the decision of an all-powerful governor wanting to accumulate more power? Why is the governor trying to undermine the rule of law and due process? Why is he trying to pocket the traditional rulers? If the council of Obas couldn’t sit for a long time, what has the government done to change that status quo? In whose interest is this proposed bill going to serve? Why is the government taking advantage of the vacant stools of Alaafin of Oyo, Soun of Ogbomoso, Aseyin of Iseyin, and other notable Obas in the state?
To the unsuspecting member of the public, traditional leaders in the state are divided into three categories: the part two Obas, part two chiefs, and finally, the part three chiefs. In case that is not clear. Think of it in the delineation of power in Nigeria where we have the exclusive, concurrent, and residual list. Part two Obas comprises the prominent traditional rulers who are permanent members of the state council. The Alaafins, Olubadans, Souns, Okeres, Onjos, Eleruwas, and others belong to this category. The part two chiefs are the prominent chiefs in the state, think of the Bashorun of Oyo, Ekeerin Olubadan, and Baagi of Saki among others. The last category is the part three chiefs – think of the chiefs in the domain of these part two Obas. In essence, there is no contention and controversy as to where each category belongs. What this bill seeks to do is to destroy and disrupt existing arrangements by creating chaos and crisis where there is none. Already, the council of Obas and Chiefs is fraught with avoidable infractions, and lopsidedness that needed urgent intervention, instead, the state government is busy throwing frivolous bills that will further weaken our traditional institutions.
The way out? Withdraw this self-serving bill. Ask kingmakers in Oyo, Ogbomoso, Iseyin, and other places to expedite actions in their selection processes. Separate the council of Obas from Chiefs. It appears mere sitting in the same chamber with Obas for meetings is getting into the head of most Chiefs. Resolve disputes in places where they exist. Set up a reconciliations committee to calm fraying nerves, close communal gaps, and mend broken fences. Strengthen the traditional institutions by making them more active in the schemes of things, otherwise, this bill is a call to dictatorship.
“To us”, as American investor Li Lu famously remarked “anyone who opposes dictatorship is our friend. Those who support it, our enemy.”
OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via @TheGMAKing on Twitter, firstname.lastname@example.org and 09065176850