By Owei Lakemfa
HIS Excellency, Senator Abiola Adeyemi Ajimobi, the Governor, and by the Grace of The Almighty, the “Constituted Authority” of Oyo State, changed the 197-year history of the monarchy in Ibadan by minting 21 additional Kings where only one had existed. The projection of this reformist is that his chieftaincy factory will produce a total of 33 new kings in Ibadan alone. His raw materials are the 11 High Chiefs in the Olubadan-in-Council, 13 local chiefs or ‘Baales’ and 9 other local chiefs who are yet to be appointed.
There can arise the criticism that a King needs a palace, domain and subjects which some of the new Kings may not have. But in the digital age, this is not necessary; didn’t the English say a man’s home is his castle? Wherever a King lives, even if it be rented apartment, is his palace. It is not the palace, domain or crown that makes a King, but the authority that appoints him.
In pre-colonial times, Kings in Yorubaland where Ibadan is situated, used to be quite powerful. In fact, they were regarded as Deputies to the gods and therefore, their representatives on earth. So, their word was law. A Yoruba proverb says if the King summons you and you say you are in the midst of divination; supposing the divination says everything will be okay, but the King decides otherwise? In other words, the god of divination can proclaim long life for you, but the King can decree your immediate execution. So it was wiser to displease the gods rather than the King.
So revered was a king in Yorubaland that even if defeated in war, the conqueror was obliged to grant him all privileges and respect. The high point of the demystification of kingship was when some Kings had a problem with the new political authorities who in order to humiliate them, placed them on a one Penny (Kobo) stipend, hence they became known as ‘Oba Kobo’ ( One Penny King)
Ajimobi has rewritten the saying that just as two rams cannot drink from the same bucket, so can you not have two kings in one palace or kingdom; now, there are 22 kings in Ibadanland. I miss the populist politician, Lamidi Ariyibi Akanji Adedibu, who while just a chief in Ibadanland, saw himself as a king and referred to himself as ‘Alafin Molete’. He passed away nine years ago; were he still alive, he might have realised his ambition of being elevated to a king in the land.
Ibadan was a military camp before transforming to the sprawling city of four million people. It was part of its old military tradition, that even if you are caught stealing but could get the better of the owner, the stolen item can become your legitimate property. So the Olubadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, hitherto the only King in Ibadanland has to gird his loins, as his being declared the ‘Paramount Ruler’ can be taken from him. War, was said to be the disease of Ibadanland and deception regarded as an art; it is said that when the Ibadan man is preaching peace, he is already at war. The Olubadan group seems to have forgotten this fundamental principle when it hoped to go to court to stop the coronation of the new kings. All the State Government did was to carry out a preemptive strike and present a fait accompli. It began the process of writing and appointing the new kings after work hours on Friday August 25 after the courts had closed, and coronate them on Sunday August 27, before the courts reopened the following day.
Former Governor of the State, Rasheed Ladoja who was the only High Chief to reject being made a king against the prevailing tradition in Ibadanland, characterised the appointments and coronation as a Nollywood drama. He should know as Executive Producer of SAWOROIDE, one of the best films ever produced in the country. Except that this is a true story and not the normal fiction in Nollywood.
The Ajimobi Obas (Oba Ajimobi) should know that while the hawk has good eyesight to spot and swoop on the chick on ground, it cannot be compared with the eagle; that they are low class kings who aspire to be promoted to the Olubadan of Ibadanland. They know that they cannot compare themselves with past traditional rulers in Ibadanland like Oluyedun, Oluyole, Ibikunle, Ogunmola or Aare Obatoke Latosa. That they cannot even be compared with the more contemporary Obas; Daniel Akinbiyi, Yesufu Oloyede Asanike or Samuel Odulana Olugbade I.
I love Governor Ajimobi, I like his courage and his democratisation of the traditional institution: the more kings, the merrier. We will need to recommend this to Great Britain, so apart from Queen Elizabeth II who continues to hold on to the throne, other kings like Princes Charles, William, Harry and George, can be crowned kings, or women like Camilla Parker Bowles and Fergie, Prince Andrew’s wife, can be Queens. In fact, if Ibadanland can have 33 new kings, England deserves thrice that number.
Ajimobi has already shown himself a typical Ibadan warrior before he head-butted the bee nest of the Ibadan monarchy. Traditionally, the Governor of Oyo State with Ibadan as capital, has always spent one term or less in office, but Ajimobi broke the jinx by bagging a second term. When he repeatedly told students protesting against the 8-month closure of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, that he is the “Constituted Authority” in the state, not many believed him. But with his taking on the powerful Ibadan monarchy and genetically producing 33 brand new kings literarily from his ribs, there can be no doubt who the constituted authority is in the state. The only problems I envisage are the effects on a fractured populace and the reality that in 2019, another constituted authority, possibly, Ladoja or his ally, would be in power, and another round of matches with the monarchy as the ball, will begin.
Personally, I find Abuja boring. I am thinking of going on holidays in Ibadan; if I have the good fortune of meeting Governor Ajimobi and persuade him that I wrote this piece in his honour and as an ode to his fantastic legacy in office, I might be rewarded with a beaded crown before I return home.