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Understanding Olubadan Succession Row
In the last one week, the world has witnessed a surprise turn of events in the selection of a new Olubadan of Ibadan, following Oba Saliu Adetunji’s demise on January 2, 2022. Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE analyzes twists and turns in the succession drama, which has gripped interested watchers like theatre suspense
Never in the history of succession to the Olubadan throne has a heated controversy been generated among kingmakers like the current crisis which makes the succession of the late Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogunguniso 1, look confusing.
The controversy casts a shadow on who will ascend the Olubadan throne, which is perhaps the most predictable in Yoruba land. Oba Adetunji joined his ancestors on January 2 at the age of 93 years.
The current controversy takes its roots in the 2017 review of the 1959 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration. The review, which was undertaken by the administration of the late governor Abiola Ajimobi, elevated high chiefs to obas with the title ‘His Royal Majesties.’
The governor crowned eight high chiefs as obas and 13 baales as coronet-wearing obas at the historic Mapo Hall on August 27, 2017. While explaining the review, Ajimobi said his administration was not tinkering with the smooth succession tradition to the Olubadan throne but to elevate the high chiefs to reflect the current realities of the growth, expansion and the influence of Ibadan in Yoruba land.
Ajimobi said: “This epoch making event in the annals of the history of Ibadanland is a practical demonstration of our administration’s commitment to the enhancement of dignity and honour of the chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland 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 Ibadanland.
“Rather, we are elevating and consolidating our traditional institution and the exalted position of the Olubadan as the imperial majesty in Ibadanland.
“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.”
The governor told the audience that the review of the 1959 Olubadan chieftaincy declaration was not a novel idea, having been carried out by successive administrations in the state in 1974, 1981, 1993 and 2000.
According to him, Ladoja, who was opposed to the current exercise, also set up the Adio Commission to review the Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration, before jettisoning the commission’s recommendations.
He added: “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 Ibadanland, 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 Ibadanland and position it comparably and competitively amongst other ancient Yoruba cities who have embraced new and modern systems. They have been truly inspired by the words of Lidia Bastianich when she said ‘Today’s innovations are tomorrow’s tradition.’
The governor further explained that the event was also borne out of his administration’s burning desire to redress the lopsidedness in the number of beaded crown obas in Ibadanland vis-à-vis other zones in the state.
According to him, while Oke Ogun, Ogbomoso, Oyo and Ibarapa zones have several beaded crown obas, he declared that Ibadanland, touted as the political and traditional headquarters of Yorubaland, had only one beaded crown oba.
In his response, the Otun Olubadan, Oba Lekan Balogun, who commended the governor on behalf of other obas, thanked Ajimobi for acceding to what he called the clamour by respected Ibadan elders to review the Olubadan chieftaincy to be in zinc with other Yoruba cities.
He reaffirmed the supremacy of Olubadan, whom he said, remained the imperial majesty and father of all the citizens and obas in the land.
His words: “I’m happy to be part of history today. This is an epoch-making event. We are proud of the governor. We are grateful to him. On behalf of all of us, I want assure the governor that we will use our position to enhance the socio-economic development of Ibadanland and the entire state.
“This promotion will put Ibadan in strong footing in the traditional institution of Yoruba land. With 33 obas, Ibadan can now renew its clamour for the creation of Ibadan state. This envisages the emergence of Ibadan State.
“I want to make it clear that the Olubadan, his imperial majesty, remains our father. It will be more heartwarming and prestigious when we follow him to events henceforth with our crowns.”
The Osi Olubadan, High Chief Rashidi Ladoja, was the only member of the Olubadan-in-Council who rejected the elevation.
Within one month, Ladoja and the late Oba Adetunji dragged Ajimobi and 23 others to court over the review.
Joined in the suit are the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters in the state, the eight high chiefs that were elevated to kings as well as the Baales that were conferred with kingship status. Apart from the suit filed by Olubadan, there are others filed by Abdul Jelil Karimu and others.
In the suit with file number I/1077/2017, which was filed at High Court of Justice, Oyo State on September 19, 2017, the Olubadan argued that the governor violated the Chiefs Laws CAP 28 of the state, saying that Ajimobi does not possess the power and authority to confer anybody the right to wear a beaded crown and coronet.
The late monarch added that crowning of the kings was illegal and void since the governor did not consult with the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs. The Olubadan is seeking an order setting aside the Gazette number 14 and 15 of Volume 42 of August 23 and 24, 2017 made by the governor and which conferred the right to wear crown and coronet on the elevated high chiefs and Baales. He said the governor’s action violated provisions of the CAP 28 of the Chiefs Laws of the state. The monarch therefore prays the court to set aside the installation of the new kings.
The cases were resolved in favour of the plaintiffs but the state government appealed. Then the appellate court ordered a retrial of the case at the high court on technical grounds.
On assumption of office in 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde urged the parties to settle out of court. The settlement, which was in favour of the plaintiffs, became a consent judgment. But the obas challenged it in court on the grounds that they did not participate in the consent judgment. The appeal is still pending.
The political dimension
Since Ladoja and the late Oba Adetunji challenged the enthronement of Oba Lekan Balogun and others, their relationship has become frosty.
Operating under the reviewed law, the elevated high chiefs shunned the monarch’s palace and began to meet at Mapo Hall under the auspices of the Obas-in-Council as opposed to the Olubadan-in-Council. Both parties stuck to their position on the review and elevation as at the time of Oba Adetunji’s demise.
Ladoja is next in rank to Lekan Balogun on the Olubadan line. As the Osi Olubadan, he will be considered for the privilege of ascending the throne of the Olubadan should Balogun be disqualified. According to the law, a high chief can only be disqualified from ascending the throne if he is found incapable of performing the functions of the oba or has integrity problem.
It is, therefore, generally believed that a former Attorney General of the state Mr Michael Lana has been criticizing Lekan Balogun’s possible enthronement in order to pave the way for Ladoja. He is counsel to Ladoja in the suit.
Lana’s first letter surfaced only 24 hours after Oba Adetunji’s demise. In the letter, the erudite lawyer called the attention of the Oyo State Governor to the legal encumbrances before Balogun on his way to the throne. He urged Governor Makinde to withhold consent to nomination of any of the elevated high chiefs based on existing suits.
His letter read in part: “ “These high chiefs and baales, were dissatisfied with this Consent Judgment and therefore Instituted two separate suits to set aside the Consent judgment while at the same time clinging to the title of Obas which actually is in contempt of court). One of these cases is Suit No: Suit No.1/22/2020-HRM Oba (Senator) Lekan Balogun & ors vs Governor of Oyo State & ORS. Now, may I draw your Excellency’s attention to the fact that in committing this aberration which changed the Ibadan Chieftaincy customary law, the Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration of 1957 was not amended and therefore remians extant. Under that Declaration and all relevant laws, no Oba can ascend to the throne of Olubadan. In other words, as long as the High Chiefs still cling to the title of Oba, they cannot ascend to that throne and any installation of any of them during the pendency of that suit, is illegal, null and void.
“In the entire history of Ibadanland, we have never had such a situation where the legality or otherwise of the installation of the Olubadan would be an issue and this was what your predecessor did not take into consideration before
“Venturing into an illegal journey ibadan Chieftaincy elevation had always been smooth and without any rancour to the envy of all other towns. It is in line with this legal situation that advice, most humbly, that you should withhold any approval of any high chief to become the Olubadan so that you will not also join in the desecration of Ibadan Chieftaincy Customary law.
“There are only two ways to deal with this situation: one is for the High Chiefs to withdraw the aforementioned cases and the other is to wait for the Court to pronounce on it before any step is taken to install an Olubadan. If the court holds that they have the right to be Obas and entitled to wear beaded crowns, then they are perpetually barred from becoming another Oba. Nowhere in the customary law of any Yoruba town is an Oba elevated to become another Oba.
“If on the other hand, the court holds that the Terms of Settlement stands, and their obaship title is illegal then they are free to be elevated to the post of Olubadan. The ball, your Excellency, is in their court.
“I wish you well as you consider, as an Ibadan man and as governor, your place in history.”
The kingmakers (high chiefs) have since urged the public to ignore Lana. They have also announced Lekan Balogun as the Olubadan-elect. An official Olubadan-in-Council meeting called by the Ibadan South East Local Government will hold on Tuesday where the kingmakers are expected to make their decision official or otherwise.
Analysts also believe that Ladoja can not be wished away in the scheme of enthronement of a new Olubadan because he should be the one to possibly preside over the meeting to choose Balogun being the one next to him in rank.
Besides, he is regarded as Governor Makinde’s political leader given the huge role he played in his electoral success in 2019. This means that he still wields a strong influence in the current administration.
Political analysts also believe that the decision of the elevated high chiefs to challenge the consent judgment facilitated by Governor Makinde in court could stand against them as he may have interpreted it as a slap on his face. The analysts believe that Makinde may choose to use the legal tussle as an excuse to reject nomination of the elevated obas and install his leader Ladoja.
But a member of the council who spoke to The Nation in confidence brushed aside the suggestions, saying Ladoja is a minority voice among them, adding that only the kingmakers will choose the next Olubadan.
He said: “Forget about those ideas. We have already chosen Lekan Balogun as the next Olubadan. Anyone who does not like that Dravidian can do whatever they like. The lawyer writing letters is just doing what he is paid for. We are moving on, and nothing will change the tradition for which Ibadan is well known.”