Due to the respect the throne of Olubadan of Ibadan land commands, it is difficult for any politician who aspires to a public office to ignore its importance.
Since the occupier of the throne is often seen as a link between the subjects and the mighty in the society, the Olubadan is often dragged unconsciously into politics of Oyo State.
Even though the late Olubadan, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade, made it clear that his senior chiefs were not expected to engage in partisan politics, some of them are indeed big politicians in different capacities in Oyo State.
Perhaps because of the inseparable nature of man and politics, some of the high chiefs, like the late Lamidi Adedibu, dared the late Olubadan on the issue of partisan politics. The relationship between the two prominent Ibadan sons turned sour, with the late politician damning all consequences, including demotion by the Olubadan-in-Council. He even stayed away from the coronation of the late Olubadan because the then monarch ordered Adedibu to hands off partisan politics at the height of volatile politics in Ibadan in 2007.
Adedibu was not the only Ibadan high chief to be fully involved in politics. The Accord Party leader, Rashidi Ladoja, is a former governor of the state and now the Osi Olubadan. He also has yet to quit partisan politics. The Otun Olubadan, Senator Lekan Balogun, was until during the last general election, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo State.
Oyo State politics is so deeply rooted in the grass roots, such that those who are close to the people enjoy regular patronage from politicians. The coronation of the new Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, was held on March 4, with the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, stressing that the Olubadan must be above board in his dealings with his subjects because the jurisdiction of the king spanned over 11 local government areas in and around the metropolitan city.
Even if the Olubadan wants to stay within the norm, politicians from various political parties in Ibadan will troop to the palace to pay their obeisance and in the process ask for his royal blessings for their political ambitions. Even if the Olubadan wants to look away, it is difficult to reject visits by top politicians and offer of positions to his close associates and family members.
During the preparation for the last general election, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, caused a row in February 2014. The former President landed in Ibadan from Abuja according to his itinerary and boarded a chopper to Oyo town where he had a closed-door meeting with the Alaafin.
The Olubadan-in-Council took offence in the fact that the President overlooked the Olubadan when he landed in Ibadan before jetting off to Oyo town. According to the council, it is customary that a prominent person like the President, who was visiting Ibadan, either in transit or on a major visit, must pay homage to the Olubadan.
Governor Ajimobi was caught in the crossfire as he was accused of not properly guiding the President and thereby bringing the throne of Olubadan into disrepute. The council said Jonathan breached protocol and that the Olubadan was actually waiting to receive him in his palace before learning that he (Jonathan) had flown to Oyo town.
Reacting to the allegation, the then Special Adviser to the President on Media and Communications, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the former President had already lined up two visits to Ibadan with both coming up within two months of the visit to Alaafin.
Abati said the former President was billed to attend the South-West zonal rally of the PDP holding in Ibadan, as well as the centenary birthday celebration of the Olubadan.
He said, “The President appreciates the overwhelming supports he enjoys from the Olubadan, the people of Oyo State and the South-West in general. The Olubadan is a father and since the President assumed office, he has visited him twice. He enjoys an excellent relationship with the Olubadan and his palace and that is something he cherishes. Therefore, he has no reason whatsoever to treat the palace and the people of Ibadan in any way that will damage that excellent relationship.”
The former President indeed fulfilled the promise with the visits to the Olubadan, prominent among them being his presence at the 100 years birthday celebration of the monarch.
This is an example of the politics and relationship that exists between traditional rulers and politicians, which dates back to the colonial period.
Governor Ajimobi showcased his political skill in the state when he approached prominent Oyo State monarchs, including the late Olubadan, by bringing their sons and daughters to serve in the All Progressives Congress-led cabinet. Olubadan’s son, Gbade Lana, was appointed the state Commissioner for Information.
It could be argued that the children of the monarchs are adults and responsible for their decisions but prior to their appointments, all of them were not notable political players but using their family names spoke volume of how highly the governor rates the monarch when it comes to politics, and the relationships that existed between him and the king at the time.
But Ajimobi offered an excuse for his action, saying that they (the children of the monarch) were all qualified to hold political offices.
He said, “I am aware of what some people have been saying about the appointment of the children of some traditional rulers as commissioners. The question is: Who among them was not qualified for the appointment?
“Besides, I want to state here that I appointed them by myself. None of their fathers contacted me or requested appointment for any of the commissioners. I perused their papers thoroughly and I discovered that they all had their track records. They all did very well and we are proud of them. Let me also state that the appointment was to show our respect to the traditional rulers, support for the traditional institution and to recognise the contributions of their respective families to the development of the state.”
Apart from the appointment of the royal fathers’ children to serve in the APC-led government in the state, some of the royal fathers’ children picked up nomination forms of the political party and contested the last election. One of the prominent kings’ sons, who was a former council chairman, is now a federal lawmaker.
Another responsibility that the new Olubadan shoulders is the reform that the state governor wants to introduce to the Ibadan chieftaincy system. There are 23 steps between the first step in the royal lines, Balogun and civil, and the Olubadan. In completing the step, Oba Adetunji spent 40 years and it could have been more if the former Balogun of Ibadan land, High Chief Sulaiman Omiyale, did not die last November. His death paved the way for Adetunji to become the Olubadan.
The reform will see junior chiefs being elevated early to the royal lines so that gradually, younger chiefs will move up the ladder and become the Olubadan. The present Olubadan is 87 and the late Olubadan was installed at 92. Naturally, junior chiefs from various compounds in Ibadan will jostle to enter the royal lines and the new Olubadan will be at the centre of the decision to approve or deny them.
However, former Managing Director of Daily Times, Chief Areoye Oyebola, has urged the new Olubadan to shun politics in order to retain the confidence of the people. He also called on him to ensure younger men who were educated were encouraged to be in the two royal lines, while frowning at the 23 steps it would take to reach the Olubadan throne.
“At a lecture I delivered in honour of the late Oba Odulana in the University of Ibadan, I suggested that younger men who are educated should be put forward to join the two lines that produce Olubadan so that they will not be too old by the time they rise to become Olubadan in the future.
“Our society will thrive if educated younger people rule so that they can contribute to the development of the society. But the Olubadan-in-Council has a say over that.
“I also suggested that the long step to the throne should be reduced to 12. It will hasten ascendancy to the throne and produce younger kings. Some of our Olubadan spent 40 years to reach the throne.
“Olubadan and indeed our high chiefs are not supposed to play partisan politics. This will restore the confidence that the people have in them,” he said.