The decision by the Oyo State government to review the 1959 Ibadan chieftaincy declaration got a major boost over the weekend when Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, CCII, said it was not against the process.
Speaking on behalf of CCII, the highest socio-cultural assemblage of Ibadan people, about the Commission of Enquiry set up by Governor Abiola Ajimobi to review the Olubadan stool, which is generating controversy among the indigenes, its President General, Chief Wole Akinwande, said CCII would support whatever can improve the status of Olubadan and give him effective lieutenants, so that he will be able to perform wider whatever his age might be.
According to Akinwande, who spoke with Sunday Guardian, “What I can say is that, if there is a proposal, we want to wait for the exact details. You don’t anticipate the outcome of a proposal. You don’t set your mind that a proposal is against you or have certain motives. If you look at everything on the surface, you might jump to the wrong conclusion. I believe by the time the Commission finishes its work; we will know the direction it is going. But what is clear from what we read in the papers is that the aim is to solidify or enhance the Olubadan position and make other arrangements that will make the position felt in all parts of Ibadan land.
“The Ibadan of yesterday is not the Ibadan today. The third Ibadan started around Mapo Hall with the radius of one or two miles at most. If the Oba said anything at that time, within one hour, the news would have gone round. But now, the radius is more than 20 kilometres— Omi, Egbeda, Lagelu, they are so far away. We want a system, whereby the Oba’s presence will be felt in all the nooks and crannies of what we call Ibadan land. Therefore, if there is any provision that will make that possible, we have to look at it and not reduce the status of Olubadan. But if there is a proposal to reduce it, we can shout. So far, however, we have not seen that.
“The CCII is not against any modernisation. As I said earlier, it is modernisation that informed a central palace, instead of moving from quarter to quarter. If there is modernity in the building, what is wrong in the modernity about the people that will occupy the building, the functions that will take place, or the number of the lieutenants that will be reporting to Olubadan? In the olden days, we had what we called Ajeles, who were governing places like Ilesha, Ekiti and so on after the war that stopped the Fulanis from coming to Ibadan in 1840 at Odo Otin.
“That time, Ibadan Warriors were controlling the whole of Yoruba land. Between 1840 and 1853 before the British came, Ibadan was governing many places. And Olubadan had representatives in all those towns, but now that there is no more war, at least in Ibadan land, so Olubadan must have effective representatives that you see and respect, as Olubadan representatives. So, when the governor talks of Baales being elevated, we did not see anything wrong in that. They are not competing with any of the High Chiefs; they are not competing with Olubadan in council. Rather, they will be responsible to Olubadan in council and they know they are subordinate to Olubadan. All this will be well defined.
“But the law of 50 years ago could not have catered for that because maybe, those locations had not been in existence. They were bushes, but now, human beings occupy them and they must be governed. So, CCII supports the review. CCII supports whatever can improve the status of Olubadan and give him effective lieutenants, so that he will be able to perform wider whatever his age might be.
“I think we should give room for modernity to take place. It does not call for changing everything from the root, it is not overhauling the system, like throwing away whatever we are doing now, that is not possible. There are already people in certain positions, and you cannot distabilise them. So, what you can do is to make their position better, make them function better. Whenever Olubadan is going somewhere, let people know this is an Oba ruling over a population of over 2.5 million. That is the CCII’s position,” he added.
On the reason why some indigenes kicked against it, he explained that, ”What you should understand is that CCII is non-political. We do not read motives into whatever is before us. Some people may be reading motives because in town, people are in one political party or the other, so they may be reading motives that this is my enemy, he is after me. But if we are all looking at it on the surface, everybody will support it. People in town seem not to get enough briefing about the work of the Commission.
“For instance, when government first mooted the idea of education reform, many were not in support of it, but when they got enough briefing, they later supported it. Oyo State as pacesetters was not having good results to show for it in our schools, but things are now improving with the reform. You don’t read motives, but let all of us be involved by getting the best out of the commission. It will be wrong to think we should continue the way we were 100 years ago. We should allow for modernity and still preserve some areas that define us as a people, nobody can touch that. Olubadan is the paramount head and he must remain so. The tradition of how to get to the Olubadan Stool cannot be changed, those things make us unique. We have the Olubadan line and Balogun line, you move in succession. We have not been told that will be changed.
“They can look into it. There is a way you can look into the age pattern without changing the way we install our Oba, which is unique. If it has perfectly worked for us for 100 years, we don’t need to change it. If you retain that and you refine certain aspects, that should take care of the problem you are talking about, and we shall all be happy. Yes, we are known for gerontology, but that is changing. In the olden days, you couldn’t become Baale until you were above 40 years. But now we have people in their 30s becoming Baale. Therefore, they can become Olubadan at early age.
“Akala behaved like a military man and his approach to it was very wrong, not civil at all. In fact, he encroached into the functions of Olubadan in Council. You don’t do that. Take Omi for example, that community is bigger than many towns that their heads wear beaded crowns. Ido, Apete, Egbeda, they are all satellite towns and are big enough to have their heads authorised by Olubadan and who will be reporting to Olubadan. By that, you will reduce a lot of problems coming to Olubadan, and will ensure sanity.
“Akala’s method was wrong. It is not Akala’s duty to do what Olubadan in council should do. We always want to run away from politics and religion in this matter. Let the system allow for the integration of existing structure. What Akala did was out of structure; it would have just promoted strife. But now, what the government wants to do is that there will be a structure, whether the governor is from Ibadan or not will not matter, but Ibadan people will make recommendation to him through the House of Chiefs, but not the governor looking at his political associate and making him a traditional ruler. The power of choosing chiefs or Baales resides in Olubadan, not in the governor. It is when Olubadan might have chosen a candidate that it will go to the House of Chiefs before it goes to the governor, but Akala jumped all those steps,” said.
He, however, urged the people of the town to embrace peace and prepare to make submissions to the committee. “If you have a good submission and sound argument, you cannot be ignored.
“We can only suggest to them to withdraw the suit or suspend it. Let us see the proceedings and outcome of the panel. Our position is that at this stage, make your point to the commission and if you are not satisfied with their recommendations, you can now take legal option. A retired Justice is the head of this commission, and out of 11 members, four are lawyers. What are you going to argue in court that those lawyers cannot attend to? What is happening now is a product of mindset, that this man does not like me, so he will never do anything in my favour. Let us let go of that mindset. Politics does not matter, when it comes to Ibadan matter, just like religion. We are one and we shall remain so.