In Ibadan, it’s new dawn for royalty

A cross section of the new obas with their staffs of office, with Governor Ajimobi and his wife, Florence

For many, the newly restructured ascendancy platform to the Olubadan stool and the coronation of new traditional rulers in Ibadan were received with mixed feelings. But the Oyo State government’s insistence on the new structure has spread the grip of royalty in Ibadan. LAOLU AFOLABI reports the new structure of the Ibadan Chieftaincy Declaration.


The old order

IBADAN, the capital city of Oyo State, is known to be at peace with itself, with a widely- acclaimed republican system of Obaship and succession without rancour. Its people had established for themselves an unusual succession principle, quite different compared with other Yoruba towns.

Taking the statistics of age of Olubadans in history, they are usually old men, having spent years to climb the succession ladder. It is, however, unfortunate that not all aspiring Olubadan eventually emerges, as nature has a way of keeping some of them off their ambition. The death of someone on the ladder means promotion for another aspirant. So, it is apt in Yoruba Language to call aspiring Olubadan Agbotikuyo (literarily means someone who rejoices at the death of another aspirant).

It took the late Olubadan Yunusa Bankole Ogundipe 35 years from being Jagun Balogun in 1964 before emerging Olubadan in 1999. The late Oba (Dr) Samuel Odulana started the journey as Jagun Olubadan in 1972, before eventually becoming Olubadan in 2007. He spent 35 years climbing the ladder. The current Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, became Mogaji (the head of his family) in 1976. He became Jagun Balogun in 1978 and eventually, after almost 38 years on the ladder, he became Olubadan in 2016.

Except for Oba Yesufu Kobiowu, who was 55 years old when he ascended the throne in 1964, most Olubadans in history are usually about 80 when ascending the throne. The irony, however, is that Oba Kobiowu reigned for only six months!

It usually takes decades to groom an Olubadan for the stool, through stages of chieftaincy promotion. In Ibadan, any male born title-holder is a potential king. To join either of the lines, the first step for a prospective aspirant is to emerge Magaji of his family. Thereafter, he will queue, before he eventually emerges as Jagun Olubadan or Jagun Balogun as the case may be. Such aspirant will then gain promotion when there is vacancy in the line.

The promotion in the line of Otun Olubadan follows this pattern: From Jagun – Ajia – Bada – Aare Onibon – Gbonnka – Aare-Egbe Omo – Oota – Lagunna – Are-Ago – Ayingun – Asaju – Ikolaba – Aare-Alasa – Agba-Akin – Ekefa – Maye – Abese – Ekaarun Olubadan – Ekerin Olubadan – Ashipa Olubadan – Osi Olubadan – Otun Olubadan, before emerging as Olubadan.

For the Balogun line, similar steps follow this pattern: Jagun – Ajia – Bada – Aare Onibon – Gbonnka – Aare-Egbe Omo – Oota – Lagunna – Are-Ago – Ayingun – Asaju – Ikolaba – Aare-Alasa – Agba-Akin – Ekefa – Maye – Abese – Ekaarun Balogun – Ekerin Balogun – Ashipa Balogun – Osi Balogun – Otun Balogun – Balogun, before eventual emergence as Olubadan.

The republican system of Obaship in Ibadanland was believed to have been firmly established in 1851, when Oyesile Olugbode became the Baale of Ibadan and Ibikunle became the Balogun; Sunmola Laamo became the Otun Baale, while Ogunmola was installed the Otun Balogun. The innovation became a regular feature whereby there evolved two separate chieftaincy lines, namely the Baale line and the Balogun Isoriki line. The Baale title gave the holder mainly the civic responsibility, while the Balogun line comprised war chiefs who held purely military titles. The two lines produced the next Baale or Olubadan in a sequential order.

The title, Olubadan, was later adopted;  it was formerly called Olori (leader), Aare Ona Kakanfo, Baale, Basorun and Balogun. The Egbe Agba, which was Otun Olubadan line as it is now called, were originally not more than eight, while the Balogun line, which represented the line of the warlords, had seven.

In 1946, the Ibadan Native Authority made a declaration under the Native Law and Custom regarding the appointment of a new ruler of the town that Balogun eventually ceased to be the only successor to the Baale. Thus, the two lines, Otun Olubadan line and the Balogun line shall succeed in turn. There is another line of Seriki in the Ibadan system. The Seriki is the Chief Scout, with other lieutenants under him. There is also the Iyalode line, though cannot produce Olubadan since it is a female line, but at the zenith of the ladder is a prominent member of the Olubadan-in-Council, the Iyalode of Ibadanland.

According to Reverend Samuel Jackson, in his book: “The history of Yorubas,” from the earliest times to the beginning of the British Protectorate, the Traditional Council (Egbe Agba), before the advent of the colonial administration, was the supreme organ of state while, in the exercise of power, the Baale was the chief executive.  The colonial government inaugurated the Ibadan Town Council in August 1897. Between 1897 and 1901, the council comprised the Baale, Otun Baale, Osi Baale, Balogun and eight to 12 other High Chiefs traditionally regarded as the most powerful.

A number of changes were introduced in 1901 as a result of the Native Council Ordinance of 1901 initiated by Governor (Sir) William MacGregor. The Baale became the president of the Council. Rulers of Ibadan were generally referred to as Baale until 1930 when the title of Olubadan was resuscitated.

The 11 high chiefs that formed the Olubadan-in-Council, alongside the Iyalode and Seriki, are recognised as kingmakers. They are traditional heads of the 11 local government areas in Ibadanland. The Olubadan is, however, the prescribed and consenting authorities. It is worthy of note that the 11 kingmakers have been enjoying royalty from the day they are promoted to the high chief positions. They are made to oversee the affairs of 11 traditional councils in Ibadanland and though they do not wear crowns, their houses are normally turned palaces, in preparation for their becoming the Olubadan. Each of the kingmakers oversees the affairs of traditional council in the local government assigned by the Olubadan of Ibadanland.

The traditional chieftaincy system that has been producing the Olubadan of Ibadanland has the Balogun line, with 23 rungs, while the Otun Olubadan line has 22 rungs. The ladder shows the specific steps an aspirant to the stool of Olubadan must climb before finally arriving at the zenith. The Iyalode line too currently has 23 rungs, with the Iyalode of Ibadanland as one of the kingmakers of the Olubadan-in-Council.

It is also important to note that the Olubadan is the paramount ruler of Ibadanland and, upon his approval, Baales are appointed for provinces and communities. Hitherto, a Baale could only appoint his chiefs for the community only with the approval of the Olubadan, being the prescribed and consenting authorities. Baales in ancient towns and settlement have been agitating that they should be promoted as Obas, to make them at parity with their counterparts in the neighbouring towns and states.


The new order

The Oyo State government, under the administration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, commenced moves to review the 1959 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration made pursuant to the 1957 Chiefs Laws and other related chieftaincies in Ibadanland by setting up a O.A. Boade-led Commission of Inquiry on May 9, 2017. The commission, after its sitting, came up with recommendations in its report submitted to the government on August 19, 2017. Consequent upon this, the government set up a technical committee to look into the report and came up with implementable recommendations. The White Paper was published in Government Gazette No 14, Notice 27 Vol.42 of August 23, 2017 and Gazette No 15 Notice 28, Vol. 42 of August 24, 2017 respectively.

There had been clamour that each family producing a Magaji (family head) must look for younger candidate between ages 25 and 35. The new order, according to the Government Gazette No 14, Notice 27 Vol. 42 of August 23, 2017, did not, however, place any age limit, but to emerge as Magaji, the aspirant should have a family compound within Ibadan city, produce evidence of family support and must not combine the position with that of a Baale in the village. To, therefore, ensure emergence of a younger Olubadan of Ibadanland, the steps on ascendancy ladder is now reduced from 45 to 23.

In the old order, the Otun Olubadan line has 22 rungs, while the Balogun line has 23. In the new order, however, as published in the Gazette, the Otun Olubadan line has 11, while the Balogun line has 12. The entry point to the ladder on both sides is now Ikolaba instead of Jagun, with steps between the Jagun and Ikolaba levels abolished. The ladder is now shorter!

The sequence is now as follows on the Otun Olubadan line: Ikolaba Olubadan – Aare Alasa Olubadan – Agbaakin Olubadan – Ekefa Olubadan – Maye Olubadan – Abese Olubadan – Ekaarun Olubadan – Ekerin Olubadan – Ashipa Olubadan – Osi Olubadan – Otun Olubadan, before eventual emergence as Olubadan.  For the Balogun line, this is the order: Ikolaba Balogun – Aare Alasa Balogun – Agbaakin Balogun – Ekefa Balogun – Maye Balogun – Abese Balogun – Ekaarun Balogun – Ekerin Balogun – Ashipa Balogun – Osi Balogun – Otun Balogun – Balogun, before the eventual emergence as Olubadan. It is recommended that the new appointment to fill any vacancy in both Olubadan and Balogun lines should be frozen until the time the incumbent Jagun on each of the two lines had been eventually promoted to Aare-Alasa on both lines, thereby leaving Ikolaba title on both lines vacant, to be filled as the first step of the ladders of the new structure.

The new order allows the retention of the rotational system to become the Olubadan between the two lines, the Otun Olubadan line and the Balogun line. It, however, approves the change of titles of members of Olubadan-In-Council from High Chiefs to Obas, who will, from now, wear beaded crowns and each will be recognised as His Royal Majesty. The development did not make provision for the Seriki line. The high chiefs promoted to beaded-crown obas are the Otun Olubadan, Osi Olubadan, Balogun, Otun Balogun, Osi Balogun, Ashipa Olubadan, Ashipa Balogun, Ekerin Olubadan, Ekerin Balogun, Ekarun Olubadan and the Ekarun Balogun, 11 in all. The 11 beaded-crown obas, in addition to the Iyalode, shall be the kingmakers of the Olubadan of Ibadanland.

To ensure a sound-mind candidate without any dispute emerges as candidate for the Olubadan of Ibadanland, the reviewed declaration, as published in the Gazette, holds that “no person shall be qualified to be a candidate for a recognised chieftaincy who: (a) suffers from serious physical infirmity, or (b) has, under any law in force in Nigeria, been found or declared to be a lunatic or adjudged to be of unsound mind; or (c) has, in any part of the Commonwealth: (i) been sentenced to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years; or (ii) been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty and sentenced to imprisonment therefore, and has not been granted a free pardon.”

With the coronation as obas and wearing of crowns, each of the 11 kingmakers of the Olubadan of Ibadanland shall become a beaded-crown wearing oba and shall be addressed as High Royal Majesty with the prefix “Oba” before his name, in conjunction with his respective title. They are to preside over the affairs of the existing 11 local government traditional councils in Ibadanland. Though they now bear obas, they are not called after a province, village or settlement. One of the high chiefs-turned Oba is the current Otun Olubadan. He is now to be called Oba Lekan Balogun, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland.


Ancient Baales now promoted as obas

All senior chiefs customarily senior to various Baales in Ibadanland are now upgraded to Recognised Chiefs under Part II of the Chiefs Law, in order to maintain the customarily- cherished seniority of the senior chiefs over the various Baales. The development was to enhance their dignity and superiority.

A cross section of Baales promoted as Obas. PHOTOS: TOMMY ADEGBITE

In the reviewed declaration, these Baales are now promoted to become Obas and will therefore wear coronets, symbolising their superiority over other Baales. Each one of them will, henceforth, bear the title of His Royal Highness and the following titles: Onijaye of Ijaye; Oniroko of Iroko; Onikereku of Ikereku; Elerunmu of Erunmu; Ololodo of Olodo; Elegbeda of Egbeda; Onido of Ido; Alakufo of Akufo; Oloke of Okelade-Okin; Alawotan of Awotan; Olomi of Omi-Adio; Onilalupon of Lalupon; Olugbon of Ile Igbon; Olofa of Ofa-Igbo; Ologburo of Ogburo; Onilagun of Lagun; Alaba of Abanla; Onilatunde of Latunde; Alayunre of Idi-Ayunre; Alakanran of Akanran; Alajia of Ajia and the Elejioku of Ejioku.


Justification for the new order

While justifying his position, the Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, said the review was in response to yearnings of well-meaning stakeholders, including the Ibadan Elders Council, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) and eminent sons and daughters of Ibadanland, such as Chief T. A. Akinyele, the late Chief Omowale Kuye, members of the Olubadan-in-Council who desire the elevation and the need to redress the lopsidedness in the number of beaded crown obas in Ibadanland, vis-à-vis other zones in the state. He said by virtue of the panel report, all senior chiefs on the Olubadan line will now be Part II recognized chiefs under the Chiefs Laws of Oyo State.

Speaking on the reasons for the review, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Olalekan Alli, said obas in other parts of Yorubaland were granted approval to wear beaded crowns. Therefore, to make obas in Ibadanland as par and not inferior to their counterparts, the recommendation for wearing of beaded crowns by the obas are made, especially for the Baales who are recommended for elevation. The Olubadan of Ibadanland will retain his superiority to all other obas so appointed and he shall be addressed as His Imperial Majesty. Other members of the Olubadan-in-Council will be addressed as Their Royal Majesties (with beaded crowns), while the promoted Baales will be addressed as Their Royal Highnesses (with coronets).

The SSG said the governor exercised the powers conferred on him by Section 28(i) Cap. Vol 1 of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000 and the amended 1959 Declaration to effect the changes. Alli further said the review made pursuant to the 1957 Chiefs Laws and other related Chieftaincies in Ibadanland, by the Oyo State Government led by Governor Ajimobi is not peculiar or unusual, adding that successive administrations had instituted commissions of enquiry to review the declaration and changes adopted.

The new order, according to him, would enhance the status and title of the Olubadan as supreme ruler of Ibadanland, who shall be addressed as His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadanland. It will also enhance the sociocultural status of Ibadanland and give the Obas a greater sense of responsibilities. It provides justification for the upgrade of Ibadanland to the status of a state and, therefore, conforms to the cultural realities and traditional settings within Oyo State and beyond.

Oba Saliu Adetunji, the Olubadan of Ibadanland

Also justifying the position of government, the state Commissioner for Information and Culture, Mr ‘Toye Arulogun, who also is a member of the government technical committee that drafted the white paper, said it would be wrong for the high chiefs in Ibadanland to preside over Baales who had been crowned at the traditional council meeting in every local government they were assigned. He said to correct the lopsidedness, the government decided to promote the Ibadan high chiefs to crown-wearing obas, to show their superiority and supremacy over the promoted Baales and to give them a sense of leadership at whatever meeting they called at the local government where they preside. He also justified the reason for their new appellation as Their Royal Majesties, as against the appellation of the coronet-wearing Baales, who are now promoted as Their Royal Highnesses. He said “The Royal Majesty will now be able to call meeting at the local government assigned to him by the Olubadan and enforce his authority over The Royal Highness(es) at such meeting alongside the other Baales in the traditional council.”


Affirming Olubadan’s superiority

To avoid conflict and to affirm the supremacy of the title and office of the Olubadan of Ibadanland, the Government Gazette published on August 22 affirmed that no newly elevated oba shall add “land” to the name of his domain in his title. The “Olu” title is exclusively reserved for the Olubadan of Ibadanland, likewise the suffix “land.” The meeting of the council, now called, “Council of Obas in Ibadanland,” shall henceforth be at the Mapo Hall, pending the completion of the official residence of the Olubadan of Ibadanland at Ibadan House, Oke Aremo. The meeting shall be chaired by His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadanland.

The new order, as published by the government, also affirmed the superiority of the Olubadan of Ibadanland as the only consenting and prescribed authorities for Ibadanland. “Any oba in Ibadanland who shows disregard or disrespect to the position of authority of the Olubadan through refusal to pay necessary customary obeisance and flouting of superior customary authority shall be investigated by a committee of traditional chiefs and appropriate sanction will be recommended against any guilty offender. A very serious infraction of the tradition can be reported to the state governor, through the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters.”

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