Reforming the Ibadan Obaship and Chieftaincy Institution Without Altering Its Structure, By Abiola Ajimobi

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, the exalted position of the Olubadan of Ibadan as the Imperial Majesty in Ibadanland…without altering or tinkering with the traditional succession and ascendancy system…

Good people of Ibadanland; good people of Oyo State, Good people of Nigeria, I stand before you today overwhelmed by a deep sense of history, a deep sense of culture, a deep sense of tradition. August 27, 2017 indeed marks a turning point in the history and cultural heritage of Ibadanland.

It is a day that great sons and daughters of Ibadanland have come together with a strong sense of patriotism, assembled in the historical, cultural and symbolic Mapo Hall to elevate, to uplift, to transform, to reposition the chieftaincy institution of Ibadanland. Our resolve to reposition the Ibadan chieftaincy institution is substantiated by the words of the famous author, Henry James when he said, “A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it”.

I am therefore highly delighted to be here at this momentous occasion where history is being made in Ibadanland. We are all gathered to witness the crowning ceremony, presentation of certificates and staff of office to the high chiefs who are members of the Olubadan–in-Council and thirteen (13) baales in Ibadanland who have been elevated to the position of Obas. This is an epoch making event in the annals of the history of Ibadanland and a practical demonstration of our administration’s commitment to the enhancement of the 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, the exalted position of the Olubadan of Ibadan as the Imperial Majesty in Ibadanland, the Olubadan-in-Council and the chieftaincy institution without altering or tinkering with the traditional succession and ascendancy system of the Olubadan chieftaincy structure.

It will interest you to know that our administration is not the first to walk down this road. Successive governments in Oyo State have engaged in reviewing the 1959 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration made pursuant to the 1957 Chiefs Laws and other related Chieftaincies in Ibadanland.

We have it on record that in 1974, the military government of Western States instituted a Commission of Enquiry, the recommendations of which were adopted, with changes effected. In 1981, there was the Justice Adenekan Ademola Commission by the then military government. The recommendations of the Adenekan Commision were accepted, with changes it proposed effected. In 1993, Governor Kolapo Ishola set up the Oloko Commission of Enquiry to review Chieftaincy Declarations across the State. The recommendations were received by former Governor Lam Adesina. In coming to office, Governor Rasheed Ladoja suspended the White Paper and abrogated the recommendations of the Oloko Commission. Governor Ladoja later set up the Adio Commission whose recommendations did not see the light of day.

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, such as the Ibadan Elders Council, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) and eminent sons and daughters of Ibadanland, such as Chief T. A. Akinyele, Late Chief Omowale Kuye, the former Otun Olubadan, all except one member of the Olubadan–in Council, who desire to elevate the traditional chieftaincy institution in Ibadanland and position it comparably and competitively amongst other ancient Yoruba cultures who have embraced new and modern systems. They have been truly inspired by the words of Lidia Bastianich when she said, “Today’s Innovation are Tomorrow’s Tradition”.

The logical question at this point is what do we stand to gain with this review? This review enhances the status and title of the Olubadan as the supreme ruler of Ibadanland, who shall be addressed as His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadanland. Indeed, of what significance is a Field Marshal without Generals behind him?

The event we are witnessing today is also borne out of our 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. While some zones have several beaded crown Obas, Ibadanland, which is renowned as the political and traditional headquarters of Yorubaland, has only one beaded crown Oba.

On the strength of these, I inaugurated a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on May 19, 2017, with a mandate to review the existing 1957/59 Chieftaincy Declaration of Olubadan of Ibadanland and other related Chieftaincies in Ibadanland. The commission was given four weeks within which to conclude the assignment and submit its report. But as a result of the wide acceptance and popularity of the initiative, demonstrated by the attendance, presentation of memoranda and participation at the public hearing of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, I graciously approved an extension of time for the completion of the assignment, as requested by the Commission.

It is interesting to note that out of the one hundred and eighteen (118) memoranda received by the Commission, ninety-one (91) memoranda requested for additional beaded crowns, while the remaining twenty seven (27) hinged on the review of ascendancy into the Olubadan Stool. In the end, based on merit, the Commission recommended the elevation of eleven (11) high chiefs in the Olubadan-in-Council and twenty one (21) ancient baales to the position of Obas. The Oyo State Government, represented by its Technical Committee which reviewed the recommendations, added one more baale for promotion based on historical antecedents. This is the Baale of Ejioku, a place where the Commission’s report itself highlighted its historical antecedents. Consequently, government approved the promotion of a total of 33 new Obas.

To avoid any form of confusion, misnomer or wrong appellations, the Olubadan of Ibadanland will be addressed as HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY, other members of the Olubadan–in-Council will be addressed as THEIR ROYAL MAJESTIES (and will wear beaded crowns), while the promoted baales will be addressed as THEIR ROYAL HIGHNESSES (and will put on coronets). It is worthy of note at this point that presently, the stools of nine chieftaincies, who have been promoted to Obaship, are yet to be filled.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that the Oyo State Government ensured that due process was followed and all extant laws complied with in achieving this landmark development in the trajectory of the traditional chieftaincy institution in Oyo State. We are also not encumbered by any judicial impediments.

The logical question at this point is what do we stand to gain with this review? This review enhances the status and title of the Olubadan as the supreme ruler of Ibadanland, who shall be addressed as His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadanland. Indeed, of what significance is a Field Marshal without Generals behind him? It reiterates the supremacy of the Olubadan of Ibadanland and conforms to the cultural realities and traditional settings within Oyo State and beyond, as we have multiple Obas in Egbaland, Igbajo, Ijebu, Lagos, and in all the Yoruba States of the Federation.

With thirty three new Obas, today’s event provides further justification for the upgrade of Ibadanland to the status of a State. Our new Royal Majesties and Royal Highnesses will, from today, be accorded due local, national and international recognition with prestige deserving and worthy of their status as royalties. The attendant socio–economic benefits of this review cannot be overemphasised, as individual domains of our new Obas, Ibadanland and Oyo State in general are bound to witness tremendous growth and development, particularly at the grassroots.

I close in the famous words of President Barack Obama that, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the change that we seek.”

At this juncture, permit me to use this opportunity to charge the new Obas to use their elevated royal positions to promote peace and unity of the citizenry. To whom much is given, much is expected. As traditional rulers, I implore you Obas to distance yourselves from anything capable of tarnishing your esteemed positions. We also congratulate the Olubadan of Ibadanland and advice that Kaabiyesi should remain the father of all Ibadan citizens and not allow himself to be used by disgruntled elements, as observed in his recent utterances which tend towards the political. It should be noted that Obas are not expected to play politics.

Our administration believes that the chieftaincy institution is a sacred one and we hold it in high esteem. I therefore congratulate all Ibadan indigenes at home and abroad, especially those being conferred with Obaship status today for this historic achievement.

Let me assure all the Kabiyesis that this Government will not relent in its efforts in transforming and repositioning Oyo State. I also want to solicit your continued support for our administration to be able to provide more dividends of democracy to the generality of the good people of Oyo State.

I thank members of the judicial commission for their patriotism and for their painstaking efforts that have culminated in today’s occasion. My gratitude also goes to eminent Ibadan elders and leaders who supported this exercise from the outset. I am confident that history will be kind to all of us. Generations yet unborn will appreciate us for being part of this process that has rewritten the history of our dear Ibadanland.

On this note, in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by Section 28(i) Cap. 28 Vol. 1 of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, I have promoted 33 Chiefs to Obas in Ibadanland today August 27, 2017. This is in line with the provisions of the recently amended 1959 Declaration of Olubadan and other related Chieftaincies in Ibadanland, and the Government White Paper as 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. Also, by the virtue of recommendation 12 of the panel report, all senior chiefs on the Olubadan line will now be part two recognised chiefs under the Chiefs Law of Oyo State 2000.

I close in the famous words of President Barack Obama that, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the change that we seek.”

Oyo Ti n Dara, E maje ko baje, Ajumose gbogbo Wa ni o.

Abiola Ajimobi is governor of Oyo State.

This is the text of the speech delivered at the crowning ceremony, presentation of certificates and staff of office of Obaship to High Chiefs and thirteen baales in Ibadanland at Mapo Hall, Ibadan, on Sunday, AUgust 27, 2017.

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