The crisis between the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji and the governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi is far from over. In this interview, Mr Adeola Oloko, the spokesperson for the Olubadan took his time to explain the many sins committed by the Governor. He also spoke on his relationship with Senator Rashidi Ladoja, a former governor of the state. Enjoy:
Why is the Olubadan not shifting position on the installation of 21 kings by the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi?
It is not as if the Olubadan does not want to shift ground. If you take a look at the reasons given by the monarch, we have a system that works and rancour free. It is credited to be one of the best ascendancy systems in the world. Nobody goes to court to challenge who becomes the next Olubadan or competes to become king.
It is clearly stated that whoever wants to become Olubadan must not be disabled and he must not be an ex-convict. It is a system that works, so why do you want to reform it?
The other reason is that the monarch was not consulted in any way. He only heard it through the media reports. Then on June 14, the governor met the Olubadan in his office to brief him on the proposal. He later visited the palace on Sunday, June 18. This was after the panel set up to review the chieftaincy declaration had almost finished its mandate.
The high chiefs had met the panel, memoranda had been submitted and the work was almost done before the Olubadan was informed. Yoruba adage says, ‘akii fa ori leyin olori (you cannot shave someone’s head without his permission).
Is the Olubadan rejecting the proposal because he is wary of sharing crowns with other monarchs in Ibadan or because it will dilute his paramount power?
How would he have known the mandate and recommendations of the review commission? He did not know if it will enhance or reduce his powers. Shakespeare says it is hard to find the construction of the mind in the face. It is not about being wary of sharing a city with other kings. Is there anything that God has not done for him? After being Olubadan, does he want to become Olodumare (God)?
He has nothing to fear. God has granted him long life and the domain he rules is large enough to command respect. The Bible says all powers belong to God. It does not emanate from government.
Does it mean that the Olubadan is comfortable with the non-review of the chieftaincy declaration which had been in use since 1959?
We believe in due process. If you want to tamper with customs and tradition that concern Olubadan, you don’t shut him out of the process. When the commission was set up, they talked about Olubadan chieftaincy review and allied matters. How did you leave the Olubadan out of a move that would concern him while others were invited for discussion on it?
When the Olubadan transited from wearing cap to crown during the time of former governor David Jemibewon in 1976, there was no crisis whatsoever. Due process was followed. We all want to see development in the society. What we are saying is that the review should have come from the Olubadan.
They talk about the crowning of Ife kings by the late Ooni of Ife. It was the idea of the Ooni to do so and he registered the idea with the Osun State government. The records are there. In Lagos, white cap chiefs are higher than lower chiefs in other smaller cities. The hood does not make the monk. Crown does not confer power on Baale and Chiefs.
When Ibadan was using Baale for its king, he had the power to install kings in other towns. At least, three kings were installed in the towns that I would not want to mention. The Yoruba elders would call on the then Baale of Ibadan that any king that was not installed by him (Ibadan Baale) would be removed.
With its huge size and several adjoining towns, is Ibadan not too big to be ruled by a king?
I disagree completely with that notion. Is England too big for the Queen to rule? Don’t we have one Emir in the whole of Kano? Is Sokoto too big for the Sultan to manage? Is Ilorin too big for the Emir?
Why don’t we have smaller governors in the three senatorial districts of Oyo State and place them under a paramount governor ruling from the secretariat in Ibadan? Will that satisfy the argument?
Ibadan has a system that works. Each of the 11 local government traditional councils is manned by a high chief who is the representative of the Olubadan. Ibadan South-East is under High Chief Lekan Balogun, Ibadan South-West is under High Chief Rashidi Ladoja and so on. They all report to the Olubadan. We are talking of the Olubadan-in-Council but the high chiefs are talking of Ibadan-Obas-in-council.
During meetings of the council, the chiefs prostrate for the Olubadan but if you are wearing crowns, can you do that? It is like inciting the high chiefs against the king.
One of the arguments is that perhaps if Ibadan were to be granted state status, it would not be proper to have only one king.
Is that one of the conditions for state creation? Kingship has never been a criterion for state creation. We are talking about the ability of the state to stand alone without going to Abuja to beg for alms. It is not about kingship. Ibadan sons and daughters have never complained about the system of having kings, chiefs, Mogajis and Baales.
The government said the new arrangement will give the Olubadan more prestige, why is the Olubadan opposing it?
Olubadan status has always commanded prestige all over Yorubaland even before we were born. The desire of a high chief is to become the Olubadan. But if you wear a crown as high chief, what are you going to wear as a king? The government said coronet, not crowns. But a crown is a crown.
If the government said there were petitions which it studied before taking the step, who wrote the petitions and what was the subject matter? To whom was it sent and was the king copied?
Could this have been the result of a disagreement between the governor and the Olubadan?
I will not say that there were no disagreements. The first thing I noticed was that when the former Iyaloja, Labake Lawal, was removed, the government had interest in her but it did not disclose its interest to the king.
The traders wanted her removed but the king said they could not do it because a former Olubadan enthroned her about 13 years ago. The traders brought allegation of financial misappropriation and backed it with tellers. The government should have declared its interest at that stage. The state has taken it personal since then.
When a new Iyaloja was to be enthroned, the police laid siege on the palace and they left only when necessary contact was made by the Olubadan. For the past six months, the allowances from the government to the Kabiesi have stopped.
Are you sure of this?
I am absolutely sure. That was the immediate cause but the remote cause is dated back to January 2016 when the Balogun of Ibadan, then High Chief Sule Omiyale, and the Otun Olubadan, Omowale Kuye died. Some high chiefs were promoted to fill their spaces. The government said that the promoted chiefs should revert to their former positions because an approval was not secured from the governor.
I remember that the high chiefs said that the Olubadan did not need any government approval. He only needed to notify the governor. At that point, the governor might have felt that the Olubadan was becoming too powerful to handle.
Was there any move to reconcile them?
The Olubadan did not take it personal. He attended all functions that the governor invited him to.
Is there a political undertone to this issue?
The Olubadan is not into politics and I am not a politician but I was shocked when the government accused me of belonging to the Accord Party because I was former Chief Press Secretary to Chief Rashidi Ladoja when he was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. That was 11 years ago when I left the government and travelled abroad. I have a past like any other person. I was coming from somewhere before I joined Ladoja’s government.
You are on the same page with Ladoja in this matter. Are you still loyal to him?
I talk on behalf of Olubadan and not Ladoja.
Is it true that the Olubadan sought the governor’s support before he was installed?
Let us say that he did. Oba Saliu Adetunji had been popular since the 70s when he had big artistes under his Omo Aje Record Company. Do you know the number of houses he has in Lagos and Ibadan? He is not a pauper.
Why did the Olubadan refuse to attend the coronation of the 21 kings?
He was not invited to the function. The Secretary to the State Government was on a radio programme where he said that the Olubadan was invited. I called during the phone-in session to tell the world that there was no invitation for the Olubadan.
There was a way that invitation was sent to the Olubadan and he has always attended or sent representation. What then is Olubadan’s offence? The governor said that after the coronation, Olubadan would be visited. The palace gate was open as we expected them but no one showed up.
The governor said he who pays the piper calls the tune, why is the Olubadan adamant on his position against the governor’s idea?
Anyone in government is a public servant and the people are the ones paying them through the tax. That is where everybody, including the governor and president draw their take-home. Any money with the governor is held in trust for the people of the state. Some people have held it before and will still do it after the present person occupying the seat now.
Has there been a meeting between the Olubadan and the new kings?
The Olubadan has not called for a meeting and the high chiefs have not visited the palace.
If the situation remains the same, what will the Olubadan do?
I am aware that there are suits in court. There is the executive power and the judiciary that interprets legal matters. I am also aware that there are interest groups. How many kings did you see at the coronation of the 21 kings? There is a way to do things. In Ibadan, you don’t crown a king on Sunday. What is the essence of a crown that you cannot wear in public?
Ladoja is strongly involved in this matter and you once worked for him. Is this a way of tackling the governor on his behalf?
That was a long time ago. I am not Ladoja and I cannot speak for him.