Makinde’s bizarre theory: Oyo should brace for life without natural rulers
Saturday, October 29, 2022 might be a turning point in the annals of Oyo state of Nigeria for on this day the Oyo state governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, during a live interview on a radio station in Ibadan, the state capital, when asked about the delay in the approval of a new Soun of Ogbomoso, having received the recommendation of the kingmakers since March 23, 2022, remarked that he would withhold assent until all cases instituted against the process are withdrawn. To justify his stance, he said the Eleruwa of Eruwa was removed by the Supreme Court after 18 years and so to forestall a similar episode in the future, all aggrieved parties must withdraw cases in court before he would endorse any nominee.
That came as a rude shock to many in Ogbomoso especially a community that has been without a natural ruler for almost a year – the last monarch having joined his ancestors on December 12, 2021. This postulation by Engr. Makinde it is believed is not in regard of Ogbomoso alone but all communities in the state. Thus, towns like Oyo, Iseyin, Ikoyi, Igangan and so on, whose Obas have joined their ancestors should begin to prepare for life without a natural ruler. According to statistics, there are not less than 20 communities whose traditional rulers have joined their ancestors in the last two years and who are yet to have new monarchs in the state.
Life without rancour is the best, it will amount to paradise on earth, but it is not possible to attain. Disputes will forever characterize our existence, a sense of injustice will always propel people to fight for their right and seek redress in court. Enthronement of a traditional ruler has from time immemorial being associated with animosity; communities have been torn apart on its account, wars have been waged to assuage feelings of resentment arising from choice of monarchs and desolation has been the lot of communities due to succession disputes. It would have been nice if the process gets devoid of such divisiveness and fissiparous tendencies. But can we attain such state of utopia? It is something we have to live with and manage in the best manner.
The availability of courts for adjudication on such disputes makes the matter less contentious as it precludes those who feel cheated and aggrieved taking laws into their hands in the crudest manner. This is a big relief. History all over the world is replete with how succession crises triggered conflagration of frightening dimension. In a society where denying people of their rights, disregarding the laws, stomping right on righteousness and being bad losers with no care if the whole process is torpedoed is the norm, succession feuds cannot be eliminated and court of laws becomes the best route to take to seek redress. That is not to say chieftaincies do not witness rancour-free processes, but making that the prerequisite and standard is like seeking desert in an ocean. Seeking arbitration in court in matters of chieftaincy ascension is indeed part of what makes the process challenging and interesting. If there are no legal fires the better but can the process be purged of it?
In the case of Ogbomoso there are two clear court cases challenging the process and choice of the kingmakers. The other one is jointly instituted by three families seeking inclusion in the ruling houses on the premise of being descendants of Soun Ogunlola, the progenitor of Soun Dynasty. The two cases challenging the nomination of Prince Afolabi Ghandi Olaoye were not instituted until about four months after the kingmakers submitted their recommendation. So, for the governor to have predicated his action on ongoing court cases is flagrantly unconvincing. What was he doing between March 23 and July when cases were first instituted in court? We need an explanation. Or was he waiting for that to justify his action? From March till October 29, he made no comment on the matter giving room for speculations that he had ulterior motives such as fearing backlash from the contestants that would lose out on account of his reelection bid.
Those who are in court have their reasons for taking that route, should they now be pressured to withdraw the case or if they refused will the throne be left perpetually vacant? It indeed sounds as if the governor whimsically encouraged the institution of the court cases. As with Ogbomoso so is with Oyo. Before the process even reached the stage of selection of the Alaafin-elect, court cases have already been instituted by discontented sides. Does that mean Oyo town will also be without an Alaafin until all the cases are withdrawn from court? The period is indeed strange! This is a new epoch; all that will be required to deprive a community of an Oba is to foist legal cases against the selection of the kingmakers, even if altruistic. In this new epoch men who are caught in the spirit of kaka ki eku maje sese yio fi se awadanu (a mouse will rather lay waste grains it could not eat), will thrive. To prevent a rival from being crowned all it will now take is for someone to run to court!
Nonetheless, there are indications that the chieftaincy law has become obsolete and needs reviews and reforms. As an instance, Soun Chieftaincy Law stipulates only a direct son or direct grandson of a previous Oba can ascend to the throne. In the past it was only direct sons, which gave rise to omo-orioko parlance. This of course is to prevent bastards from aspiring and seizing the throne. In about the middle of the last century the Soun Chieftaincy Law was amended to include direct grandsons to expand the circle of choices. In the present circumstances, there is only one known grandson of the previous Oba (Oba Oke Olanipekun Olaoye) produced by Olaoye ruling house, Prince Abioye Olaoye, who is said to be about 78 years sold. There is no direct son. Prince Abioye Olaoye did not vie for the throne but his son, Prince Kabir Olaoye, did. He is in court now. But before an amendment can be attained a Soun must be on the throne. There lies the complication. There are others within Olaoye ruling house who believe the section of Prince Ghandi – Kape – from where Prince Kabir also comes from, should be passed over having taken a turn on the throne (1940 – 1952), for other sections to have a shot at the coveted seat. Olaoye ruling house is said to have ten sections or branches but the law does not make room for internal rotation. But on this basis too, a court case is instituted.
The good thing a reigning Oba can thus do for his people now is to stave off death by all means so that his domain will not be without a traditional ruler for long because all what it will take is to get some overzealous or inordinately ambitious people to go to court during the process in opposition. No true Oba who loves his people will want that after his demise. So, traditional rulers should learn to stave off death! Or perhaps we should just go the way of USA, the two Koreas, China, Russia and so on where monarchy has been abolished so that we rid ourselves of dissensions embedded in it.
We need not go into the benefits the non-enthronement of Obas confers on the state helmsman but it is certain this moment will pass. All tough times do pass away.