SOME of our monarchs, to be more elastic, the traditional rulers, do not realise that they are losing grips on their residual authorities. They do not see themselves through the same lenses as their subjects see them. Our monarchs erroneously believe that their authorities still remain intact, as they were in the days of yore. Our monarchs believe that their integrities are inviolate and undiminishing. I stand in the same position with Pa J.V. Clinton, the Editor-Publisher of the defunct weekly Nigerian Eastern Mail, Calabar, in the 1930s (also, a Sunday Times columnist in the 1960s); I do not believe in anglicising Nigerian nouns or words: “Hausa” is “Hausa” and not “Hausas, Yorubas or Igbos”, because they are Nigerian words and not English vocabularies. Therefore, please, count me out of the practice.
For centuries, our Emir, Obi, Obong and Oba have enjoyed tremendous powers in their respective domains. I can be authoritative on Yoruba monarchy (obaship) with all powers concentrated in the hands of an Oba, contrary to the modern system of legislative, executive and judicial powers in different hands. The monarchs’ words were laws to be obeyed without questionings. From their respective palaces and in the midst of their harem of queens (Olori), they could declare wars and make peace, because, for instance, the Oba had their war ministers (Balogun or Olorogun), their panpa (market police), and their judiciary (Oshugbo) et cetera. Today, all the powers, authorities and respects or integrities have ebbed away. Modern system of government is in place. And some monarchs are still living in the past.
I doubt if they realise this. Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan was confronted by some Yoruba monarchs with demand for key positions in Federal Government, if he wins the forthcoming election. According to The Punch, February 22, 2015, three other demands include, putting their agreements with Jonathan in writing with signatures; the repair of major roads in the region, especially Lagos to Abeokuta Expressway; and finally, the implementation of Constitutional Conference Report within the first few months of assuming office. The four-point demands can be criticised in many ways.
First, the Yoruba monarchs are wearing the toga of politics and of trade unionism. By making political demands, they are practising politics. The grotesque consequence is that they become footballs at the feet of the practising politicians, with their loss of integrity and respect. The Afenifere, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation is better qualified to demand for what the monarchs were demanding. Dittos to the Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the Igbo and the Arewa Consultative Forum for the Hausa and Fulani of the North.
Second, any administration must be assessed or judged for re-election by its past performance in power, but not by futurity. These demands in a document may turn out to be a will-o’ the- wisp; a kind of mirage in the desert. By the way, can such agreement have the force of law or be actionable? What is its legality? It is just a memorandum. In the recent past, similar demands were made by Yoruba elders, but to no avail; it is not the first time. At this juncture, it is pertinent to recall Hubert Ogunde’s admonition of Yoruba people in the lyrics of his song, “Yoruba ro’nu ooo”, meaning Yoruba must think hard.
Third, what is the electoral value of these monarchs? It is possible that most of them did not register to qualify for Permanent Voter Cards (PVC). Does an Oba’s single voting right cover the entire electorate in his domain? Can one vote be equivalent to hundreds of thousands of votes? Why the monarchs’ undeserved politicking that should best be reserved for discussions among the lesser chiefs in the palaces?
Fourth, do the four-point demands cover all other miscellaneous, but unmentioned demands? What happens to these? Fifth, are Yoruba elements stark illiterates who do not know a B from a bull’s foot, but to be represented by their monarchs? Yoruba people are intelligent enough to identify the Presidential candidate to vote for. Since 1922, they have been voting under the Constitution of 1922. Therefore, Yoruba do not need to be teleguided by their monarchs or led by the nose.
Sixth, I am not an admirer of President Goodluck Jonathan. He has not performed, but I trust that he cannot condescend to the level of signing undertaking with the monarchs. Such action sounds derogatory to the dignity of his office as a President. Since 1954, this writer has been listening to elections as discussed by concerned citizens, especially the teachers. But in 1959, this same writer was an observer of the (Ba Ko Daya) general elections that ushered us to Independence. Again, since the elections of 1964 (during the Action Group crisis), I have never witnessed a political party leader signing bilateral agreements with the monarchs for supports. If it occurred, it was a secret undertaking and not open. And if it was secret, it stood to be breached by either party- premiers, prime ministers or Presidents. Neither party would honour the deal. What could be the outcome if the election turns out to be a failure?
The expectation of Yoruba people is that their monarchs should maintain political neutrality, more so at elections period. If they do not remain so, it may get to the stage of appearing on the rostrums to speak in support of one party or the other.
Let me conclude this opinion piece by doffing my hat for the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode, Oba Sikiru Adetona, for boldly standing out of the crowd by not following the multitude to do the despicable that could drag his name into the mud. Since September, 1960, I have been hearing of his name through a late cousin, Gabriel Adebisi Adekoya. Both belonged to the Senior School Certificate Examination class of 1956 at the Olu-Iwa (now, Adeola Odutola) College, Ijebu-Ode. By intuition, I was aware that Oba Sikiru Adetona would not be a party to the monarchs’ demands. He is a man of his own conviction, and like Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher, would stand by his decision. While some other Yoruba elders are as unpredictable as a weather-cock or vane, Oba Adetona is as constant as a star which Jupiter cannot move. He may be slow in taking his decision, but when he does, he remains resolute. In the manner of every human-being, our Awujale of Ijebu-Ode has his imperfections. On the whole, however, he is a disciplined maverick as his old classmate, Gabriel Adebisi Adekoya. During the military regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha, Oba Adetona dared the strong man, because he refused to visit him at Aso Rock as the other monarchs did, to genuflect. The Punch reported: “However, the Awujale and the Paramount ruler of Ijebu-land, Oba Sikiru Adetona, and Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, were absent”. In short, this is saying that, courage is another desirable expectation from our monarchs – the hallmark of a worthy monarch. Respect begets respect, that is.