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Posted by By YINKA FABOWALE, Ibadan on 2008/05/16 | Views: 773 |


Like a plague, the crisis in the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs has resurfaced, with last week’s elevation and inclusion of 15 lesser chiefs into the traditional body by Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala.

* Oyo’s inauguration of new Obas council precipitates another crisis

Like a plague, the crisis in the Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs has resurfaced, with last week’s elevation and inclusion of 15 lesser chiefs into the traditional body by Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala.

Various interest groups and other prominent stakeholders, especially from Ibadanland whose paramount ruler, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade I is at war with government over the decision to retain the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III as the permanent chairman of the august body, are up in arms, accusing the government of indiscretion and attempt to further undermine the royal father’s authority over some of his chiefs.

Although the administration has explained that its action, which saw the number of members increase from 19 to 34, was to engender adequate representation of all the local governments in the state and enhance the quality of advice given to government, many see it as the continuation of an apparent political hostility towards the monarch and Ibadanland.

The immediate root cause, they alleged was Ibadan ’s opposition to the candidature and eventual emergence of Akala, who ran against a "son of the soil" Senator Abiola Ajimobi, in last year’s controversial governorship election.
Yet some source the atavism of the crisis to the protracted contestation for rotational chairmanship of the council among the paramount rulers which dated back to the 1980s when Osun State was still part of the old Oyo State . Then, the Alaafin had led other rulers namely the Olubadan and Soun in a seniority battle against the Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, who was then the Chairman of the council having inherited the office gratis from the more elderly Oba Adesoji Aderemi.

It was instructive that none of the traditional rulers opposed the chairmanship of Oba Aderemi, perhaps because of his clout and age, whilst he ruled. There was also the general acceptance that as spiritual head of Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, the Ooni was the father of all
The rivalry emerged when the relatively youger Sijuwade ascended the throne. This led to revisionist historical claims, with Alaafin asserting supremacy over other Obas, not simply as a direct descendant of Odua, the progenitor of the Yoruba people, but also on account of his pre-eminence as emperor of the old Oyo Empire whose jurisdiction covered the entire Yorubaland and beyond.
The Soun on his own claimed that he was never subject to any Yoruba overlord, having ancestral links with the Ibariba people of the north.

The Olubadan hinged his claim to superiority on the military might of his kingdom, noting that even Oyo caught cold whenever Ibadan sneezed shortly before the colonial era in the 19th century.
However, the creation of Osun State , in 1991, which saw Ife being carved out of Oyo, resolved the dispute. But a fiercer one was to be born as Alaafin as new chairman was reluctant to share powers with his colleagues.

When in the early 90s, a military administration, based on the Oloko chieftaincy panel report, reviewed the arrangement and made the council’s chairmanship to be rotated among him, Soun and Olubadan, he quit membership of the traditional body. He was to return, however, when a favourable arrangement making him permanent chairman came between 1996 and 1997.

By then, however, the Soun and Olubadan would not agree to having their rights withdrawn. Soun, went to court. The litigation which lasted years was, however, finally decided February this year in favour of the Alaafin and the government. In the 1996 edict which was amended and passed into law by the State Hose of Assmebly in year 2000 under Lam Adesina’s administration, Alaafin was made the permanent chairman, whilst the deputy chairmanship of the council was made rotational every two years amongst the Olubadan, Soun, Eleruwa of Eruwa, Olugbon of Orile Igbon, Okere of Saki and Aseyin of Iseyin.

But Adesina’s successor, Rashidi Ladoja, for some unknown reasons, failed to inaugurate the council. Instead he took some steps in which he proposed to set up mini councils of traditional rulers at the local government level which, it was suspected, was targeted at undermining the authority of the Alaafin.
Observers suggest that Ladoja, who is in the succession line of the Olubadan, probably took those measures due to enlightened self or primordial interest.

Akala’s measure at restoring the status quo is perceived as a deliberate act of hostility against the Olubadan and the Ibadans because they did not support him for "usurping" Ladoja’s seat for 11 months after the latter’s illegal impeachment, and the subsequent anti-Akala sentiments during the 2007 electioneering.

Knowledgeable sources tend to confirm this. They told Daily Sun that during the 11-month interregnum, the Alaafin had dragged both Akala and Adedibu before former President Olusegun Obasanjo to prevail on them to implement the law which had been in abeyance all the while.
Adedibu, according to one of the sources, had foreclosed the issue by reminding the former president that the interest of Ibadan and Ogbomoso, where he and Akala hailed from were at stake.
"Baba Adedibu, I can tell you, asked the president, that ‘if we agree what do we tell our respective obas,’ and so, the matter was laid to rest," the source said.

But to Chief Lekan Balogun, a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain in the state, Akala’s volte face was a big blunder. Said he: "The government was grossly irresponsible to have done what it did. Akala sometimes behaves like a kindergarten governor, getting himself into unnecessary controversies and sometimes creating them. This one is his creation. It did not have to happen.
"It’s an old problem and I’d once been involved in the resolution. Governor Akala would have benefited from my experience at that time, if he cared to consult wider counsel, from me for instance, as a party man and a brother."

He said government was encouraging insubordination and rebellion against the Olubadan in particular with the swearing-in of chiefs from Ibadan lesser cities without consulting the monarch, who is the prescribing and consenting authority over the chieftaincies.
The Onido of Ido, Chief B.A. Ishola; Onilalupon of Lalupon, Alhaji Rabiu Olabanloye; Onijaye of Ijaiye, Chief Oladejo Eegunjobi and the Baale of Latunde, Chief Ladosu Latunde, had defied a directive by the Olubadan not to participate in the Oba council affairs.
When Daily Sun took up the Onido of Ido on the issue at the venue of the inauguration, he denied knowledge of the directive, despite the fact that it was widely published in the newspapers, prior to the event.

To Balogun, the inclusion of the chiefs was more absurd and unimaginable as it puts subordinates to rank higher than their superiors.
His word: "Take Ibadan’s case, the Mogajis are considered senior to Baales. But in Akala’s new structure, four Baales are members of the so-called House of Chiefs and not a single Mogaji is a member.

"Secondly, he handpicked six members of the Olubadan-in-Council, without consultation with the Olubadan. Both of these actions are wrong. He should simply have asked the Olubadan for nomination."
But the government denied any wrong doing. Talking to Daily Sun on the matter, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Ayoola Agboola, said government had merely been courageous to implement a law which had been gathering dust on the shelf.

"We did not make the law. It’s been there since 1997 and 2000 when Lam’s government passed it.What we did last week was in line with the provisions of the law which stated that Alaafin should be permanent chairman and listed all the chiefs that were sworn-in, in the schedule 1 and 2 of the law. So, in what way are we inciting people?" the commissioner queried.

Special Adviser to the governor on Public Communication, Prince Dotun Oyelade told Daily Sun. "Government feels no sense of panic. It is pleased with itself that it has carried out the stipulations of the law. It is the legislature that determines membership of the council. No one should arrogate to himself a role that does not belong to him. As part II traditional rulers, all of them take instructions from the executive.It will be unfair to play politics with the issue at hand.

Oyelade, while noting that it is sacrilegious to engage in verbal exchange with "our revered royal fathers", said it was not true that government did not carry the relevant traditional authorities along in the exercise."All necessary steps were taken. Everybody that should be notified was notified. It is another matter entirely the perception of the notice. We can’t help that," he said.

On suggestion that the government could have at least studied precedence and consulted widely to ensure peace among the traditional rulers, Oyelade retorted: "A law is a law, inasmuch as it has not been changed, asking government to bend over backwards in carrying out its duty would have amounted to going against its own laws. Even so, I assure you that the consultations made were appropriate and adequate."

Be that as it may, government’s action would appear to have generated fresh crisis within the domain of the Olubadan and the Obas council. Sources close to the palace said the city’s traditional high command would not tolerate affront which the attendance of the council’s inauguration by the chiefs constituted.
They hinted that the process of stripping them of their titles may have commenced. Said one: "There are rules for handling that. If they are derobed as Baales, we will see what they are able to do." They may be capitalizing on Section 3(4a) of the Oyo State Chiefs Law which says "a member shall vacate his seat in the council if he ceases to be a recognized chief."

But an Onido partisan said cogent and lawful reasons would have to be advanced to sanction the chiefs thus, adding that the courts are there to redress any perceived miscarriage of justice.
With the latest face-off, the question on everybody’s lip is, "will the cycle of the crisis afflicting the traditional rulers council ever end?"

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