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Lingering controversy over choice of new Soun of Ogbomoso

The late 95-year-old Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewumi Ajagungbade 111, joined his ancestors on December 12, 2021. He was a Muslim and so was buried the same day according to Islamic rites. The 93-year-old Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunoso 1, joined his ancestors on January 2, 2022, 22 days after Soun. As a Muslim, he was also buried the same day.

The Controversy

Oba Adetunji was on March 11, succeeded by Oba Dr. (Senator) Mohood Lekan Balogun, who was coronated and given the staff of office by Governor Seyi Makinde at the ancient Mapo Hall, Ibadan. Though the Olubadan passed on laterthantheSoun, thesuccession process was faster than that of Ogbomoso because of the peculiar traditional system of Ibadanland compared to other cities, towns and states in the South-West part of Nigeria. In the Ibadan chieftaincy tradition, there is no contest as the next Olubadan knows himself from the position he holds in the Olubadan- in-Council hierarchy of Otun Line (Civil) or the Balogun Line (Warrior). Only premature death or sometimes deformity could disqualify any of the 12 existing High Chiefs if he had not climbed the mandatory 21 rungs of the ladder from the Jagun Olubadan position. Age is not a factor, but because of the number of years each traditional title holder in the Olubadan line would have put into the exercise, old age has remained a constant feature of any installed Olubadan. Most of them have been septuagenarians, octogenarians or nonagenarians beforetheyascendedthethroneof the 202- year-old kingdom.

Clash of interest

Unfortunately, to date, a qualified successor has not been installed to fill the vacant stool left behind by Oba Oyewumi, the Soun of Ogbomosoland. Reason has been the contest for the position among the sons of the next Ruling Olaoye Family. About 24 aspirants had signified interest and were interviewed by the Kingmakers, leading to the announcement of a United States of America-based pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Jesus House, Washington DC, Prince Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye as the most qualified. In spite of the announcement, and the acceptance by Ghandi, it has however not yet been Uhuru. There have been discordant tunes being sung from various quarters against the choice of Ghandi. While some said that he is even not a son of the Olaoye Ruling Family, some accused the kingmakers of bias and corruption. They alleged the Aare Ago, High Chief Sobaloju Otolorin-led kingmakers of having collected bribes from Ghandi before disqualifying other contestants to favour him. Though they claimed they followed the democratic process before arriving at the choice of Ghandi, another family within the Ruling House said that the process employed did not follow due process of law. Having explored the synopsis of the traditional systems of Ibadan and Ogbomoso, juxtaposing their differences, it is apposite to dwell on the controversy surrounding the Soun of Ogbomoso stool and the dramatic personae involved, leading to the current imbroglio.

The 5 Royal Houses

The five royal houses of Ogbomoso are from the five sons of Soun Ikomeyede, the third Soun of Ogbomoso (and son of Jogioro): Toyeje, Oluwusi, Baiyewu, Bolanta Adigun, and Ogunlabi Odunaro. The title of Soun was originally a Baale (minor chief) as Ogbomoso was a small village within the realm of the Oyo Empire. The immediate past Soun hailed from Oluwusi Ruling House. It is now the turn of Olaoye family from another Ruling House. From the family, 23 other aspirants aside Afolabi Ghandi, had purchased forms and contested. They include: Lt. Col. Sirajdeen Olaoye (who was beaten by 1 vote by Ghandi), Gbolahan Oyegoke, Tirimisiyu Bello, Abayomi Oyewusi, Gbadamosi Olaoye, Mohammed Oyetunde, Isiaka Lasisi, Ismail Olaoye, Olabode Olaoye, Musibau Alimi, Amusa Bello, Peter Olaoye, and Abubakar Akano. Others are Johnson Olaoye, Taofeek Olaoye, Olalekan Olaoye, Badmus Olaoye, Abdulrahman AdebayoandMuhammedOlaoye. After the interview process, the kingmakers announced Ghandi as the next Soun and submitted his name to the Ogbomoso North Local Government for official ratification.

Allegation of corruption

Trying to exculpate themselves, the Head of the kingmak-ers had recently said that they were transparent and unbiased in their decision to choose Ghandi after interviewing all the aspirants presented by the Olaoye family. He said that they never demanded bribes as claimed by some of the Laoye family members, but had only acted in the best interest of Ogbomosoland. He emphasized that neither religion nor bribery in favour of the kingmakers played any role in the selection and that it was not within the purview of any ruling house to screen out any candidate but present to the kingmakers all who show interest as was done. To him, what the family could do was to encourage the aspirants to step down for each other before it got to the kingmakers as the family had no legal right to screen out any candidate except on a valid reason that he is either not a true born of the family or he has a deformity. Defending the kingmakers, Otolorin said: “The problem began when all members of their so-called screening committee put the names of their children and nephews forward because they couldn’t resolve it. For an instance, their Mogaji had three nominees; the family Secretary had his child; another family head called Cashman had his nominee. One Alhaji Wahab (Chairman of their screening committee) had his own. That is why they couldn’t resolve it. “They had 23 names which they brought to us and we asked them if all of them were eligible and they said yes, and that it was for that reason that they sold forms to all of them. Meanwhile, it is illegal to have sold the form to them in the first place, but they said they had a court case and that they needed money to prosecute the case. “They forwarded the names to the local government in accordance with the law and the council sent the list to us which we consequently considered with local government officers as observers. That is where the assignment of the family ends. We invited them one by one to interview them and we found useful information furnished by the family on each of them,” he said.

Clarification

Speaking on how Ghandi was eventually chosen as the next Soun, the Head of kingmakers added: “There are four kingmakers in Ogbomoso who had to vote to choose between the two Olaoyes (Afolabi Ghandi and Sirajudeen) because they did not agree on who to choose between the two candidates who were considered best out of the 24 that joined the race. Two kingmakers had voted for Sirajdeen and two voted for Pastor Ghandi. To clear the tie, the head of the kingmakers had to exercise his right for an extra vote which was cast for Pastor Ghandi, thus giving him the edge over Sirajdeen.” On the issue of religious consideration, Otolorin said the kingmakers asked the family aspirants if they recognized that Christianity, Islam and Traditional religions are being practised in the town and that each of them acknowledged the fact. “We also told them it was not a matter of saying l has N10m in my account and I want to become Soun. In the first place, the palace is now empty and whoever is chosen will have to replace everything from furniture to the last thing. In addition, we informed them there were many court cases pending, the burden of which would be shouldered for years. And that whoever would rise to the throne would have to be adequately prepared for the financial burden. “Furthermore, there are staff in the palace, most of whom are not being paid by the government but by the late Oba. So, we told them this was an additional responsibility and they all agreed. Aside from this, we told them individually that on Fridays, members of the royal families and others did come to the palace to be feted by the late Oba and that there won’t be government assistance on this. All these were documented by the local government officers who sat as observers. “We now went through their CVs and seriously considered, who had the wherewithal to step into the gigantic shoes. We considered their profiles meticulously, and the fact that this is not a matter of saying ‘l am a pensioner,” he said. Puncturing the allegation of bribery, Otolorin pointedly said that: “before this time, their screening committee members and other clans’ heads were trying to approach us to seek undue advantage for their preferred candidate. I was ready to swear with the Bible that Ghandi never came here; l never knew him. I spoke to him for the first time on the day of the interview and he even used a nose mask. Though on the day we held the eighth-day Fidau of late Baba Soun, he also came and some people pointed to him that he was another eligible prince, but he also used a nose mask. And then he came with former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he came to pay a condolence visit on the demise of the late Oba, and again he used a face mask. So, I never knew him. “I am saying categorically that what we did was not based on religion. If a Babalawo had the best profile, we would have chosen him. We need someone who is capable financially and who has impressive clout; someone who will not be taken for granted in the comity of Obas. Ogbomoso is beyond that, we need someone who can hold his own among other obas. We had chosen in the best interest of Ogbomosoland,” he asserted. Against the claim by some members of the family that Ghandi is not their son, Otolorin added that: “Now they are saying Ghandi is not their child. You put together 23 names and his name was number 13; you sold the form to him and you interviewed him at the Town Hall. And you are now saying you don’t know him. Yet, his father contested the throne in the past, though you didn’t support him.

Every thing is in the hand of God

“I told them if you choose someone not financially capable, l won’t contribute a kobo if asked to. How will an Oba ask me to make contributions? What we need is a worthy Oba and it is what we did. The other capable person is Lawyer Oyetunde, but his Yoruba is not fluent. You will think that it is a Ghanaian that is talking, but based on his profile, he is capable too. “Among the 23, there are those who just passed out of secondary school. One said he had a cashew plantation; someone bought forms for about four of them. Imagine, someone who desired to be the Oba of Ogbomoso couldn’t raise money to buy the form. “What makes me bitter is that they would see the truth but they will not say it. This issue is about who is capable. I remember one time we followed Baba to Abuja to meet with Chief Obasanjo and there the former president held Baba’s hand affectionately and led him to his bedroom, saying that is where they would talk. If Baba was not worthy, would Chief Obasanjo have done that! This is an Oba that will be sitting with the Alaafin and others. We don’t want an Oba they will tell to go and sit at the back,” the head of kingmakers stressed.

 

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