hen a former Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, constituted a panel of inquiry to review the 1957 Ibadan Chieftaincy Law and create room for installation of more lesser Obas to be accompanying the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogunguniso 1, little did he know that he was about to stir an hornet’s nest.
Although the decision of Justice Boade Akintunde-led review panel was not wholly implemented as recommended, Ajimobi, who many observers felt merely wanted to diminish the status of the Olubadan as the paramount Oba of Ibadanland, in order to favour some of his loyalists, who by the arrangement, would climb the Olubadan ladder faster, said he was only implementing what the past government had proposed.
Ajimobi hurriedly installed and coronated 21 High Chiefs and Baales with beaded crowns and coronets on an unusual Sunday evening, August 27th, 2017.
Many people, including the Olubadan kicked and condemned the action but the self-acclaimed “Constituted Authority” called the bluff of everybody. Elevation and coronation of Obas was traditionally done on Friday or Saturday, but Ajimobi chose the fateful Sunday to frustrate any court action that might be filed on Monday 28th to restrain him and his government from taking the action.
Since the coronation, the affairs of the Olubadan-in-Council had hung on tenterhooks as the usual meetings could not be held. The resentment was heightened when the High Chiefs led by the Otun Olubadan (next in rank to the Olubadan), Oba Lekan Balogun, alleged that the Olubadan was desecrating the system of the palace by allowing his wives to sit with them at the Council meeting, calling the shots over them.
Described as laudable as it was akin to the development in some other communities in other states where many lesser chiefs do accompany their paramount leader to ceremonial occasions, the Olubadan and the Osi Olubadan, High Chief Rasidi Ladoja (former Oyo State Governor), however saw the review and eventual coronation of 21 Obas as a move to decimate the consenting power of Olubadan and rupture the age-long peaceful tradition of Ibadanland. Ladoja and Balogun had initially kicked against the move of Ajimobi and went to court but Balogun eventually withdrew from the litigation, saying that he had seen that Ajimobi meant well with the review.
Ladoja and the Olubadan instituted court actions against the review and in 2018, Justice Olajumoke Aiki, in a landmark judgment, nullified the review and declared the coronation as “null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”
Dissatisfied with the decision, Ajimobi and his government appealed same and it was still pending as at the time he left office on May 29, 2019.
The series of reconciliation meetings convened by stakeholders did not yield positive result as many observers and analysts insisted that Ajimobi’s action was only intended to rupture the most enviable peaceful transitional system of Obaship in the whole of the Yorubaland.
As an Ibadan man, who came in on the promise to right every wrong that Ajimobi and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party might have made, the incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) injected an armistice by influencing the government’s withdrawal of the case from the Appeal Court.
The government approached the Court of Appeal with terms of settlement and the latter on August 23 this year referred parties in the controversial coronation of the kings to a lower court.
The High Chiefs and the other Obas however kicked against the settlement and withdrawal of the appeal as its result might strip them of their already won status of Oba within their various communities. Their proverbial claim was that their heads were shaved in their absence as their opinion and consent were not sought before the referral of the case to a lower court.
Led by High Chief Balogun, though, they claimed they were not averse to peace, they however insisted they were not going to drop their beaded crowns or title of Oba so long as the Olubadan also did not drop his new appellation of ‘Imperial Majesty’ . When few months ago they went to the Popoyemoja Palace of the Olubadan to pay obeisance and they did not put on their beaded crowns, Olubadan went to town, claiming that they had eventually agreed to drop their carton-made crowns (Ade Paali) and like a prodigal son, had come back home remorseful.
The Obas again kicked the following day, insisting that wearing of crown was not something that was done anyhow but periodically as the occasion demanded.
To them, not wearing it on the visit when they all prostrated for the Olubadan did not remove their status of Oba but was just a mark of reverence for the Imperial Majesty.
Fifty-three months after they were elevated and controversially coronated, a State High Court Judge, Justice A. Aderemi, on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 set aside all gazettes formalising the royal status of the 21 High Chiefs and Baales in Ibadanland.
In granting the terms of settlement jointly filed by the State Government and the Olubadan of Ibadanland, and High Chief Rashidi Ladoja, (as claimants), Justice Aderemi said since the parties had met and agreed, he was left with no option than to set aside the gazette.
The judgment of Justice Aderemi read thus; “that all the gazettes affecting the chieftaincy laws of Ibadan land particularly gazette Nos.14 Vol.42 of August 23, 2017;15 Vol 42of August 24, 2017 and 3 Vol 43 of March 29, 2018 and the subsequent elevation of High Chiefs and Baales in Ibadanland as Obas during the pendency of this suit be and are hereby set aside.
“That the right to wear beaded crowns and coronets granted by the state government during the pendency of the suit, are hereby revoked.
“That the first defendant shall take steps to reconcile all parties involved in the chieftaincy matters to foster unity and harmony in the protection of the tradition of Ibadan land as relates to the chieftaincy laws of Ibadan land,” the Judge ruled.
In court were the claimant’s counsel, Michael Lana and the State Director of Civil Litigation, Mr. Laolu Ogunniran, among others.
In the belief that the protracted face off was finally doused and that the jettisoned Ibadan Council of Obas meetings which had been truncated since would be reconvened, the affected Obas, two days later, specifically, Thursday November 21, kicked against the court judgment that stripped them of their crowns, describing the court process as shaving the head of a person in his absence.
As the direct beneficiaries of the law that promoted them from High Chiefs and Baales to Obas on August 27, 2017, they said the out-of-court settlement option which the judgment was premised on was without their inputs and there was no way they could accept such.
At the meeting of the Obas at Mapo Hall, headed by Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Sen. Lekan Balogun, it was stated that the government had no business setting aside the gazettes as such action did not show commitment to governance.
According to the Obas: “Those behind the judgment did not consult the interest of Ibadanland. We, as Obas and representatives of the people reject the judgment and we are going to fight it all the through legal and legitimate means. They want to destabilise Ibadanland and we will not allow them”.
The Obas further disclosed that the issue at hand was beyond Ibadanland and the conspiracy against the promoted Ibadan Obas which the judgment was, could not and should not be allowed against the entire state, which the gazette of 2018 and the latest one captured.
They said they had briefed their lawyer, who would give the next directive according to law, reiterating however that their rejection of the verdict would not in any way affect their relationships with the paramount ruler of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1. They described the Olubadan as father of all who commands their respect and unalloyed loyalty and support.
They also said they would be waiting for the Olubadan to convey the Olubadan-in-Council meeting, saying, “we are not quarrelling with our father, Oba Adetunji. He should let our meetings go on regularly.”
The Olubadan has since remained unmoved, insisting that the last judgment stands and that everyone affected must return to status quo.
Whether Governor Seyi Makinde’s intervention would eventually yield a lasting solution or not is still being watched by all stakeholders.