Fear is mounting in Ibadan, the capital of the old Western Region as the royal rumble between the state governor, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi and the Olubadan-In Council is escalating political tension in the state. This is sequel to a 48-hour ultimatum given by the governor to the Olubadan and nine other High Chiefs in Ibadan to revert their installation to higher posts following vacancies in the council with the deaths last year of two most senior chiefs next to the Olubadan, Balogun and Otun Olubadan. As the ultimatum expires midnight today Wednesday, there are fears that the Olubadan, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade and his chiefs might be on a collision course with Governor Ajimobi who is said to be furious that the Chiefs performed the installation contrary to his order that they should not go ahead with the ceremony.
However, there appears to be a ray of hope on the horizon for truce to prevail as stakeholders in the city are making moves to halt the looming impasse. Since the death the two high chiefs in November last yearChiefs Omowale Kuye, Otun Olubadan and Sulaiman Omiyale Balogun, who passed on within two weeks of each other in November last year, the OlubadanIn-Council had expected the governor to give approval for the vacancy to be filled even though the Olubadan has prescribed authority over the promotion. But the governor was said to have declined approval which was said to have prompted the chiefs to give the government 21 days ultimatum to approve or they would go ahead with the installation with or without the government approval. But instead of giving the approval, the government rolled out a set of guidelines to be met by the chiefs before they could be promoted to their next position on the Olubadan Hierarchy.
The nine chief involved are to be automatic members of the state council of chiefs. Consequently, the state government directed the high chiefs jostling to occupy the vacant stools of Balogun and Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland and seven others to submit a medical report certifying them fit for the positions in line with extant chieftaincy laws. The government position was conveyed in a letter by the Director of Chieftaincy Matters in the Ministry of Local Gov ernment and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr. Z. O Jayeola, which was addressed to the Head of the Ibadan South East Local Government administration, on Thursday. In strict compliance with the Chiefs Law of the state, the ministry said it had set machinery in motion to obtain the approval of the governor for the filling of the vacant tools following a November 30 letter by the Ibadan South East LG on the subject matter. The statement reads, “In line with Section 14 (2) Cap 28 Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, our ministry has commenced necessary steps towards the executive governor’s approval of the filling of the vacant stools of Balogun and Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land and seven others.
“In compliance with the dictates of the aforementioned law, the office of the Department of State Services had been requested to carry out security checks on the prospective occupants of the stools. “In the same vein you are requested to advise the affected chiefs to submit their medical reports issued by a state-owned secondary health institution to the ministry of local government and chieftaincy matters as part of requirements for being considered for the vacant stools”, the government said. But in what the High Chiefs saw as a sort of insult, the guideline was jettisoned as the installation was performed by the Olubadan last Friday, January 1 amidst fanfare. It was the first time such a stringent guideline would be rolled out before the promotion which many saw as pure routine once someone attains the position of Mogaji of his family and would proceed step-bystep once there is a vacancy by death. During the administration of former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, he attempted to do something like when he had disagreements with the Olubadan and some chiefs but had to halt the move when it appeared provocative to the people of Ibadan, thus threatening his political future.
However, this time around, just like during the Akala era, political insinuations is being read into the government action. This is because two of the High Chiefs who are being promoted are the governor’s arch political enemies. They areSenator Lekan Balogun, newly promoted Otun Olubadan and Senator Rashidi Ladoja, the new Osi Olubadan. While Balogun is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ladoja, a former governor of the state, was the governorship candidate of the Accord Party in the last general election who lost to Ajimobi. Not satisfied with the outcome of the polls, he challenged the result at the Tribunal, where he lost and also appealed to the Appeal Court where he also recently lost out. And despite appeals from individuals not to go further, he has also filed an appeal at the Supreme Court. This, many believed may have infuriated the governor to insist that due process must be followed in the appointment of the new high chiefs. Even though, it has always been in the books, no government has gotten the political will to go ahead with it. The idea is that with the long years of climbing the chieftaincy ladder, most of them would have gotten very old, hence, there was the need to ensure that they were fit and proper for the high level chieftaincy position. But the unique Ibadan system is in itself regulating and self-cleansing as over the years hardly had there been anybody of questionable character getting to the topmost level in the ladder. This is why this latest attempt by Ajimobi is causing concerns in the largest city south of the Sahara.
This is particularly when viewed along the lines that during the first term, it was the Olubadan-In-Council that supported his emergence and even mediated between Ajimobi and Ladoja which culminated in the two forming a sort of coalition government and which was why Ladoja did not go to court. In spite of this, it was Governor Ajimobi who stopped the Olubadan from continuing as the chairman of the state council of Obas and chiefs, which Akala had made rotational, prior to his exit in what was seen as a kick-in-theteeth for the Alaafin who had always been chairman. In one of his last actions after his defeat at the poll, he introduced rotational chairmanship making the Olubadan and the Soun of Ogbomoso co-chairmen with the Alaafin. During the installation ceremony, one of the new High Chiefs, Olufemi Lanlehin, Asipa Balogun said the government’s order was alien to the culture and tradition of Ibadan and an insult to the exalted position of the Olubadan. However, sensing the grave implications of the growing tension in Ibadan over the feud between the Olubadan-incouncil and the governor, some elders in Ibadan on Tuesday invited the warring parties with a view of finding a lasting solution to the debacle. Both Senator Ajimobi and some high chiefs representing the Olubadan honored invitation for the meeting which was held at Ojetunji Aboyade Development Policy Centre in Ibadan.
Also present at the meeting were Chief Bayo Oyero, Chief Gboyega Arulogun, President of CCII, Chief Wole Akinwande, Chief Bode Amoo and Prince Femi Lana. Governor Ajimobi arrived at the meeting with former SSG, Alhaji Olalekan Alli and Yomi Layinka, at 1pm and the meeting ended at 2:20pm. Also, the Olubadan-In-Council held a separate meeting at the palace and the outcome of the meting is yet to be disclosed to the public as a palace source disclosed that a communique will be issued later. Another meeting was scheduled to hold at 5 pm Tuesday but as at the time of filing this report, few of the concerned stakeholders have arrived while others including Senator Ajimobi, Senator Ladoja, Senator Balogun and others who are directly concerned were yet to arrive.
The monarch elevated nine high chiefs to their next rank on January 1, 2016 following the death of Chief Sulaimon Omiyale, who was the Balogun of Ibadan and Chief Omowale Kuye, who was the Otun Olubadan in November, 2015 Governor Ajimobi had frowned at their promotion, saying it was in defiance to state government’s order to allow the chiefs go through security and medical examinations as stipulated by the Chieftaincy Law in the stat and therefore, issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the monarch on Monday to reverse the elevation or face sanction. In a statement from the government titled “The Illegal Elevation of Nine High Chiefs in Ibadanland: The Position of the Oyo State Government”, released on Monday, the government said the promotion violated the relevant chieftaincy laws guiding such promotions. The statement signed by the Director, Chieftaincy Matters, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Zaccheaus Jayeola, read in part: “Government has observed with dismay and utter disappointment the recent ‘elevation’ of nine Ibadan High Chiefs by the Olubadan-in-Council without the mandatory approval of the Government of Oyo State. Government, as required under the Law, stated its position on the procedures for the elevation in its Public Service Announcement of 31st December 2015 and its letter to the OLUBADANIN-COUNCIL.
The letter was duly acknowledged by the Olubadan’s Private Secretary”. “It is to be noted for the avoidance of doubt that since the inception of the present administration, Government has resisted, as a matter of policy, any attempt to be lured into religious, chieftaincy and labour union leadership and other contentious issues. “This is in order to maintain its neutrality, ensure fairness, justice and respect for the rule of law. Government will always uphold the sanctity of the rule of law and would neither encourage nor condone any tradition or peculiar culture of illegality, impunity, disregard and/or disrespect to constituted authority. Instead, it has concentrated on its avowed mission on the peace, safety of lives and property security, welfare and empowerment of the people, infrastructural development, employment generation and urban renewal, among others, to make life more abundant for the teeming populace of the State”.
The newly promoted Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, High Chief Ladoja described the statement as a rumour which he could not react to because he only received a letter from the Olubadan to attend the installation which he duly attended and was installed. Ladoja said such directive by the state government was never part of Ibadan traditional system, adding, “I think we should just allow the sleeping dog to lie. Olubadan has the prerogative of who to appoint as a chief ”. Similarly, the new Otun-Olubadan, High Chief Balogun described the said order by the government as strange which had never been in existence before now and could not be effective. Balogun, who disclosed that he was aware of the state government’s proposed reformation of the ascension to the Olubadan throne said “the system is self-reforming and doesn’t need any committee or fiat from any quarter”. Describing the Olubadan throne ascension as a function of the history of the people, the new Otun Olubadan said the system “is peculiar to the ancient city and there’s no way it can be compared to any other place in terms of the peaceful transition and the experience garnered over the years be.