As the panel set up by Oyo State Government to review the Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration of 1957 rounded up its four-week public hearing on the matter, a fresh row broke out between the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I and his 13-member Olubadan-in-council over the need for government to change the status quo.
The disagreement between the monarch and his high Chiefs has not only caused disquiet in the palace, but has also led to exchange of “hot words,” which many feared may snowball into an avoidable crisis, if the government white paper does not protect the supremacy of Olubadan in the ancient city, as well as the ascendancy tradition, which is peculiar to Ibadan kingship system.
The eleven-member reform panel, headed by a retired High Court judge, Justice Akintunde Boade, was saddled with the responsibility of “reviewing the existing requirements and qualification for ascendancy to the throne of Olubadan, as well as the selection process of Olubadan from Otun and Balogun lines.”
The panel also looked into “the possibilities of having more beaded crown Obas in Ibadan land, taking into consideration the present size of the city and its population, as well as the existing 1957 Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadan land in line with the proposed change in chieftaincy institution in Ibadan land.”
During the week, the state government declared that massive attendance and response by various stakeholders has justified and vindicated its action. It said 91 out of the 118 memoranda received during the open sessions requested for additional beaded crowns, while the remaining 27 hinged on the review of ascendancy into the Olubadan stool.
The government reiterated its position that the proposed review is not targeted at any individual or group of people, as the exercise is for the development, modernisation and growth of the traditional council of Ibadan, Ibadan land and the state in general.
It noted that change is the only constant thing in life, stressing that all parties will eventually be convinced of the sincerity of government's proposition.The Otun Olubadan, High Chief Lekan Balogun, who is the next successor to Oba Adetunji, had, during the recent Egungun festival, sparked off another row of controversy, when he was reported to have said Oba Adetunji and Olubadan-in-council supported the panel to review the declaration after meeting with Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
He was reportedly quoted to have said both the monarch and his council members were not coerced into supporting the move.“Initially, we, in the Olubadan-in-Council thought the governor had an ulterior motive. But we later understood that he meant well. He didn't force anybody to accept the review,” he said.
Present at the festival, where he made the comment were the representative of Olubadan and other chiefs, among other dignitaries. Besides, there was a video clip in circulation that purportedly showed the monarch agreeing with the governor to review the declaration, which will allow for more beaded traditional rulers in Ibadan.
Irked by the video clip and Chief Balogun's statement, considered as misrepresentation of his position, Oba Adetunji replied that the High Chief was being mischievous. He declared that he has not and will never support the declaration's review.
The monarch said: “For the avoidance of doubt, I, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, the 41st Olubadan of Ibadan land, do not back the city's Chieftaincy review. And I want the present generation and posterity to record me as having nothing to do with it. “First, I can never support the review of a system that works. Secondly, I cannot support the review of the system that has produced me as Olubadan without rancour, as doing so would amount to an act of ingratitude to God Almighty and the people of Ibadan land.
“Besides, what right does Otun (Chief Balogun) have to speak for the Olubadan-in-council, when the chairman of the said council has not directed him to do so?“All chiefs in Ibadan land subscribed to an oath to uphold our customs and tradition before they are conferred with chieftaincy titles. Yielding to pressure to have changes effected is like going against your oath and circumventing the route to the exalted throne.”
The monarch noted that there are several neighbouring towns and communities, whose traditional rulers have joined their ancestors several years back, but which are yet to fill vacant thrones due to succession disputes and dynastic strategies.
As such, he said he couldn't envisage Ibadan falling into such a trap, if the Olubadan succession plan, which is highly respected globally, is reversed. The monarch also stated that the tape in circulation, where he was reported as saying he backed the reform, was doctored. He maintained he never supported the move.
But while the controversy rages in the palace, government is forging ahead on its plan to tamper with some areas in the Olubadan declaration.The government said its action is within ambit of the law of Olubadan Declaration of 1957, assuring it will be just and fair in examining recommendations of the Justice Boade's panel and align with the wishes of Ibadan people.
The State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun, stated that government's action has precedent and is in tandem with the people's aspirations. “It is high time we reiterated our earlier position and put issues in proper perspective. Government's action is backed by law. The governor has power to review the declaration and most importantly, the government is fulfilling the yearnings of the people.
“We are not being political with this issue or targeting any individual. The purpose is to elevate the status of Olubadan title and pave way for the development and modernisation of Ibadan chieftaincy and Ibadan towns and city. We are running an all-inclusive government. Our administration believes in collective responsibility in the Ajumose spirit.
Our decision to review the Olubadan Declaration of 1957 was a response to several calls by stakeholders and we will follow the principles of openness, fairness and justice,” he explained.
The government spokesman disclosed that members of the Olubadan-in-Council, many Ibadan high chiefs, stakeholders, including Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, Ibadan Elders Forum, Ibadan Progressive Union, Association of Recognised Mogajis, All the War Lords' families in Ibadan, as well as eminent individuals attended the panel sitting.
He said: “the support for, and participation in the Justice Boade's panel shows that government is on course with its action. We are not doing this unilaterally, all stakeholders are involved and they have showed their support.” Although many indigenes are skeptical of the essence of the review and are in support of the Olubadan's position, but the elites and the educated have bought into government's proposal.
A source that is well versed in Ibadan tradition said the matter has gone beyond the monarch, because it is not a traditional matter, where he can exercise a veto power to override the Olubadan-in-council's decision, as he did in the case of the Iyaloja's removal.
The source said the White Paper would give the final verdict as to government's intention, and that it is certain there will be more beaded crowns in Ibadan, because all the Mogajis and Baales are in support of it.All eyes are on Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who was conferred with the title of Atunluse of Ibadan by Oba Adetunji, to see whether what he has up his sleeves will reunite the monarch and his council or will be the beginning of another chapter in the history of Ibadan kingship system, which is not only peculiar, but famous for being rancour free.