Here’s excerpt what the Ogoga of Ikere Ekiti said in a recent interview:
There are fears that agitation for constitutional role for traditional rulers may make them political. What are your thoughts on this?
In everything, I think we have to go back to history. From the beginning, before the colonialists came, every kingdom or community was governed and administered by the king. When the colonialists came, they realised that to get to the people and pass a message, they had to go through the traditional rulers. That was when they had the indirect rule through the obas. Following that, in the western region, there was the House of Chiefs; notable obas were part of that House. It was like another legislative arm where they put heads together to advise the government. When you look at that period where there was peace, progress with good suggestions, input from the obas, things were going well. I believe it is not right to say that if a platform is created for the obas, wherein suggestions can be made into the policies of government, that the obas will become political. They did not become political in those days; I don’t think any oba will want to become a politician.
Were monarchs really involved in the running of local governments?
Monarchs were the heads of local governments before. These days, the calibre of people becoming monarchs is intimidating. You have lawyers, judges, PhD holders, medical doctors, engineers, architects, accountants, diplomats and other quality people from all fields who are now traditional rulers. The reservoir of knowledge that these people have should be utilised. I think it will benefit the government at the state and federal levels to get these people involved. These are resources for governments to use. I think the local government, honestly, should be under the monarch of that local government.
The idea of palace courts is assuming a new status in Ekiti State. Do you think they can end rape, land disputes and other communal issues?
In Ikere Ekiti, our structure is such that there is a palace court which is held thrice a week within the palace. Most of the issues that are resolved are civil. For instance, issues between husband and wife, marriage, land dispute, disputes between families and chieftaincy issue. Anything that is criminal like burglary is referred to the police for investigation and possible prosecution. We are able to sensitise our people to the evil of rape and violence against the woman. Once these issues come to the palace courts, we are able to resolve them. Our arrangement is that at the palace court, we have a registrar and all our cases are documented. If any person is not satisfied, they bring it to the king, who will hear what the court has done and he will adjudicate on it. We have had huge success in this regard. Ninety-nine per cent of such cases were resolved. It is even cost-effective.
The scramble for obaship is becoming tougher in Ekiti State, like your journey to the throne. What do you think is responsible for this and what should the towns do?
It is a fact that it is getting fierce. It was only recently that judgement was passed confirming the appointment and coronation of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who came to the throne 16 years ago as the Oba of Lagos. I believe it is a taint on our tradition and customs. In the past, two or three people would contest to become the king. It is okay for people to aspire to want to be king, but the throne is for only one person at a time. The new law says a prince, who is identified and confirmed by the head of the family that he is a bona fide son of a royal family, is entitled. Of course, there will be many people. But if we follow the path that our fathers followed, all this acrimony will reduce. Just as in politics these days, when somebody emerges, even when a candidate is not willing to contest the election, there are some people who think they can benefit by exploiting the person, urging him to go to court. This is the norm in Yorubaland and it is a shame. I think the laid down rules must be followed.
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