Did Governor Ajimobi do wrong, as critics of the exercise would want the world to believe? No. Let’s not forget that Ajimobi is himself a part of royalty and has as much claim to the stool of the Olubadan as those shouting ‘murder’ for short-term, self-serving purposes. It is interesting that from 1993 to the present, Ibadan indigenes…were Governors of Oyo State. All were involved in issues that bordered on a review of Chieftaincy Declarations across the State during their tenures.
I am trying so hard to understand what part of the reformation of the Ibadan Obaship and Chieftaincy institution some people are trying so hard to misunderstand. But let us even start the story from its very beginning. On Sunday, 27 August, 2017, the Governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, acting in accordance with the powers conferred on him by Section 28(i) Cap. 28 Vol. 1 of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, promoted 33 Chiefs to Obas in Ibadanland. 21 of the beneficiaries were physically present to receive their staffs of office at a public, not secret, event that was held at the iconic Mapo Hall, Ibadan. The Government White Paper on the promotion of the senior chiefs was properly conveyed in Government Gazette No 14, Notice 27 Vol.42 of 23rd August, 2017 and Gazette No 15 Notice 28 Vol. 42 of August 24, 2017 respectively. Since that event of a fortnight ago, neither the government of Oyo State nor the traditional institution in Ibadanland has known peace. Many have even made out the historically significant event to be a huge joke.
And what is the bone of contention? Most commentators on the issue have continued to argue as though Governor Ajimobi committed a sacrilege by doing what was and still is right. They have argued as though it is unthinkable to weigh on the positive side of history and the people because a position/office appears to be larger than life and, therefore, untouchable. Worse, they have argued that the whole exercise was targeted at a single individual who is only still ‘aspiring’ someday, if it pleases God Almighty, to become the Olubadan, as if 41 people had not ascended that exalted throne. How big and potent is one man’s ambition that it should require the instrumentality of State apparatus to stop it?
Perhaps the charge of a vendetta against Sen. Rasheed Ladoja by Governor Ajimobi would have been easier to sustain if the idea of the review of the 1959 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration made pursuant to the 1957 Chiefs Laws and other related Chieftaincies in Ibadanland had originated with the incumbent. Successive administrations from the old Western State to the present Oyo State had instituted various Commissions of Enquiry to, as Governor Ajimobi has argued, “redress the lop-sidedness in the number of beaded crown Obas in Ibadanland vis-à-vis other zones in the State.” The whole of Ibadanland has only one beaded crown Oba as against several in other zones.
Does this justify what appears to have been an unwieldy number of beneficiaries that were crowned on the same day? Government did not on its own choose to elevate 11 high chiefs in the Olubadan-in-Council and 22 ancient Baales to the position of Obas. The decision was grounded in historical antecedents and requests for additional beaded crowns, as articulated in 91 out of 118 memoranda that were submitted to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Governor Ajimobi on May 19, 2017, with a mandate to review the existing 1957/59 Chieftaincy Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland. The principles of equity and natural justice make it imperative that whoever the crown fits and is found to be fit and proper should wear one.
Is Ajimobi a revisionist?…But this question is, perhaps, best answered with supporting evidence from Dr. Festus Adedayo, who, for many years, was a Special Adviser to Governor Ajimobi. Although he has now chosen to help stand history on its head in respect of the Olubadan chieftaincy controversy, Adedayo’s words, which are reconstructed from his past interview with Vanguard newspaper, provide critical points of enlightenment on Ajimobi and his vision.
Did Governor Ajimobi do wrong, as critics of the exercise would want the world to believe? No. Let’s not forget that Ajimobi is himself a part of royalty and has as much claim to the stool of the Olubadan as those shouting ‘murder’ for short-term, self-serving purposes. It is interesting that from 1993 to the present, Ibadan indigenes – from Kolapo Ishola to Lam Adesina to Rasheed Ladoja to Abiola Ajimobi – were Governors of Oyo State. All were involved in issues that bordered on a review of Chieftaincy Declarations across the State during their tenures. Ajimobi is only different to the extent that he willingly offered to tackle the subject head-on regardless of its intended or unintended consequences. He offered to align himself with non-partisan calls for a modernisation of the traditional chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland, as championed over the years by the Ibadan Elders Council; Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) and eminent sons and daughters of Ibadanland, such as Chief T. A. Akinyele; the Late Chief Omowale Kuye, the former Otun Olubadan and all but one member of the Olubadan–in Council. If the anti-Ajimobi commentators know better, perhaps, they should come clean with their facts rather than attempt to demonise Ajimobi for his uncommon courage to do right, even when Sen. Ladoja, as Governor of Oyo State and ‘Olubadan-in waiting’ lacked the moral courage to implement the recommendations of the Adio Commission of Enquiry that he set up on the same subject matter.
Is Ajimobi a revisionist? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But this question is, perhaps, best answered with supporting evidence from Dr. Festus Adedayo, who, for many years, was a Special Adviser to Governor Ajimobi. Although he has now chosen to help stand history on its head in respect of the Olubadan chieftaincy controversy, Adedayo’s words, which are reconstructed from his past interview with Vanguard newspaper, provide critical points of enlightenment on Ajimobi and his vision.
According to Adedayo: “The best way to assess the (Ajimobi) government is to cast one’s mind back to what was before May 2011. Oyo State was one big violent theatre where chaos and disorder reigned. The pedigree of the Governor as a hater of violence and one who would deal with any fomenter of brigandage has helped to stem the tide of violence. Are we saying Ibadan people are so in love with retrogression that if they see a Governor that is developing their land and serving their interest, they will elect not to continue this spiral of development? The truth of the matter is that the elite are like fundamentalists who impose their enemies on God; that their enemies must be the enemies of God. The ordinary people of the State love development but the elite always like to renew their insatiable patronage and patrimony.”
What has changed between 2014 when Adedayo made these assertions and now? Perhaps, nothing except a corrosion of values by self-interest. Like Adedayo, this writer is amazed at the “raw data of treachery and human capacity for mischief; for the quantum of treachery on a daily basis is alarming.” We need to thank Adedayo for showing that Ajimobi is no flippant executive but one who takes service to his people as a serious job for serious-minded individuals. Nothing more to add.
Femi Ajibola, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan.