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Alaafin of Oyo to Buhari : Regional autonomy only way to save Nigeria by nairaway(m) : 11:32 am On Oct 14, 2017
•Oba Lamidi Adeyemi backs return to 1963 Constitution
•‘I’m the chief custodian of Yoruba tradition, culture’
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111, is the permanent chairman, Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs. His father, Oba Adeniran Adeyemi 11, was deposed and exiled in 1954, in controversial circumstances.
He arguably inherited that controversy when he was crowned on November 18, 1970, after a fierce and protracted struggle. He explained it this way: “There were some reasons for that. The first was the heat surrounding the deposition of my late father, Oba Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi II on trumped up charges by the powers- that -be at that time. That was after a political riot between supporters of the ruling Action Group and the opposition National Council for Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) on September 5, 1954, at the Akesan Market. What irked the government was the refusal of my father to stop the NCNC from holding its planned rally.”
Oba Adeyemi who will be 79 years old tomorrow spoke on sundry national issues in this interview with FEMI ADEOTI.
Sir, since you ascended the throne of your forefathers, you have been through thick and thin. Can you relate some of the most profound experiences?
We should start from the sensitivity of the Oyo Crown to the Yoruba as a whole. My appointment could be described as the proverbial elephant passing through the eyes of the needle and even after my ascension, the intrigues still continued in different forms.
One of these was the political conspiracy to demean the status of the Alaafin in one way or the other. The relentless squabbles between the Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III and the Ooni of Ife, late Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II, was the attempt of the people in power to hide from the public, well documented historical facts i.e. the archival materials in the archives of the old Western Region Government and the Federal Ministry of Information dating back to pre-colonial era.
Whenever I make such documents available to members of the public those in government become peeved, rattled and unsettled. I have lived under various governments of the defunct Western Region to the old Oyo State before Osun State was carved out from it.
It is relevant to state that I was the first to fire salvo for the creation from the old Western State, three more states during the visit of Alhaji Femi Okunu, the then Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing. My speech was succinctly captured in the Daily Times with the bold headline; “Break West into Three.”
As a follow-up to that, the Federal Government set up a panel of inquiry to determine the creation of more states headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe, a distinguished jurist. I was the one who convinced them to append their signatures to the memorandum prepared by our patriots from different parts of Yoruba land.
It is relevant to reveal the fact that I defended the memorandum before the panel. It may be of interest that I was only allotted 30 minutes to speak on this voluminous memorandum out of which I spoke for just 28 minutes extempore on the salient points in the memorandum.
There was a thunderous ovation from the members of the audience, which comprised various patriots and the Obas. Ayo Irekefe and all the members of the panel stood up to acknowledge my presentation just as I took a bow out of the hall. The aftermath was the creation of Oyo, Ogun and Ondo states.
In all these processes of political structure adjustments, I was directly and actively involved. I have always been involved in chieftaincy reforms dating back to the old Western State and especially the old Oyo State. This was with particular reference to the composition of the Council of Obas and Chiefs at that time.
On ascension to the throne, what I met was a 15-member council of Obas and Chiefs. Judging by political arrangements when the Southern and the Northern protectorates were amalgamated in 1914 by Sir Frederick Lugard, we had Oyo Province constituted on January 14, 1914, it covered an area of 14,381sq miles for purpose of effective administration, the province was divided into three divisions viz:
Oyo Division with an area of 8,323 sq miles; Ibadan Division with an area of 4,318 sq miles and Ife/Ijesa Division with an area of 1,660 sq miles.
Ironically, Oyo Division with an area of 8,323sq miles was represented in the council by the Alaafin of Oyo alone. Ibadan Division with an area of 4,328sq miles was represented by the Olubadan alone, while Ife/Ijesa with an area of 1,660sq miles was represented by 13 Obas.
This lopsidedness in the composition of the council formed the basis of my memorandum to the Military Governor of Oyo State, General David Jemibewon, on my birthday on October 15, 1976, explaining that an area totaling 12,641sq miles was represented by just two Obas while an area with just 1,660sq miles was being represented in the council by 13 Obas. Unfortunately, the recommendation contained in my memorandum was not implemented.
Subsequently, when late Chief Bola Ige was inaugurated as the Executive Governor of old Oyo State, I presented this same request to him via another memorandum dated October 6, 1980, ref no Apo/608/6 entitled; “Re-Enlargement of the Council of Obas and Chiefs.” And the second paragraph of this memorandum is hereby reproduced:
“The same concern as the government had entertained for both needed representation and adequacy of exposure of Chieftaincy Information to the grassroots level has not abated. I am therefore writing in respect of Oyo North and South Divisions, further to the personal letter I referred to, that the time has come when proper review should be undertaken so that more Obas and Chiefs from the Local Governments from Iseyin, Kajola, Ifedapo and Irepo could be injected into the Council of Obas and Chiefs.”
I know I am placed in an especial position to advise the government on this matter as the main prescribing authority and the head of the traditional council of the area i.e. Iseyin, Kajola, Ifedapo and Irepo local governments.
Unfortunately, Bola Ige, a clever politician realised that I was trying to bring in more Obas from Oyo and Ibadan Divisions to dominate the Council of Obas and Chiefs, he refused to grant my request. On verbal enquiry from me, he jokingly referred to me and said “Kabiyesi, you are a Trado-scientific politician’.
How my fight for the injection of more Obas to the Council of Obas and Chiefs was achieved is a matter for another time. Suffice to say all the present members of the Council of Obas and Chiefs from Oke-Ogun were my nominees.
On the whole, my political philosophy has always been based on corroborative co-operation with successive government in the state and to make available my God -given talent in support of the progressive programmes of government.
But you have always been perceived to be at loggerheads with different governments in the state.
Co-operating with participatory democratic government does not mean we should not have occasional differences. Participatory democratic government had never been an easy thing even in the most advanced countries like Germany, U.S.A, Britain, France, Portugal and other democracies in Western Europe where most governments had been in existence for over 1,000 years. Nigeria just came into existence in 1914 when the Southern and Northern protectorates were amalgamated.
So what that boils down to is that we will continue to have occasional differences and if there is any of such, it can only be in the area of chieftaincy institution, which I hold very sacred. There might have been attempts of some executive’s politicisation in the process of appointments of Obas and Chiefs.
As the chief custodian of the Yoruba traditional institution, I always employ dialogue to iron out grey areas on some stools which I need not mention here, but when that option fails, as a law abiding citizen who believes in the rule of law, I sometimes approach the court. It is significant to mention here that none of such litigations have I lost, even to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
I should, however, add that even among the governors who showed antagonism to me while in office, some have turned around to be friends of the palace after leaving office. This must have been due to their reminiscence of the challenges faced while in office.
To me, on the whole, nothing strengthens the courageous than challenges and the ability to weather the storm of life. For behind the cloud, the sun still shines.
Kabiyesi, we understand the struggle for the throne was fierce and protracted. What do you think gave you the edge?
Yes, it was indeed. There were some reasons for that. The first was the heat surrounding the deposition of my late father, Oba Alhaji Adeniran Adeyemi II on trumped up charges by the powers -that -be at that time. That was after a political riot between supporters of the ruling Action Group and the opposition National Council for Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC), on September 5, 1954, at the Akesan Market. What irked the government was the refusal of my father to stop the NCNC from holding its planned rally. As part of the premeditated design to get rid of the Alaafin by all crooked means, government even neglected the recommendation of its commission of inquiry under Crown Counsel, Mr. R.E Lloyds.
Both my father and the Aremo were subjected to all kinds of unimaginable humiliations, which, will be detailed in another publication. The malice was to be extended to me with a view to disinheriting the Alowolodu dynasty.
But the people of Oyo in total unison resisted that ignoble move. The resistance cut across religious lines, business community, market people and other traditional institutions. Even on assumption of the exalted title, they still went on with their malice by doing everything within their powers to demystify the influence of Alaafin in Yoruba land. Again, details of that belong to another platform.
It is, however, instructive that for me, I hold no grudge against anybody, as I met them in the characteristic paternalism of Alaafin with open arms. It took them some time before they relaxed though not totally against the institution of the Alaafin.
In a nutshell, what gave me an edge was the common resolve of the Oyo people, nay well-meaning Yoruba people, to redress the injustice done to my father. I do not allow any prejudice to blindfold me against denying the achievements of Awolowo. The same goes for my acknowledgment of Bola Ige’s free education in the old Oyo State.
Who are those who played prominent and significant roles in your emergence and appointment as the Alaafin?
No matter how you tried to remember names, there is the tendency to miss out most of the people who contributed immensely and this may offend them or their offspring. The list is inexhaustible.
All I have to say is to thank members of the Alaafin Alowolodu Adeyemi, Atiba Dynasty, the Oyomesi, the financiers, my strategic committee members, the mobilisers, Oyo people who stood stoutly by my father during his travails. From them, I drew a lot of courage and inspiration even before my appointment.
I was already worthy to be called a cult hero within and outside Oyo. How could I forget people like late Chief Emmanuel Oyedele, Ashamu the late wealthy business mogul of Oke-Afa fame in Lagos, late Chief Shittu Olopoeniyan of Okeho, late Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, former Attorney-General of Lagos State, late Emmanuel Fakayode, a distinguished jurist who later became the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide, the former Attorney-General of the Federation, late Pa Afolabi, the Jagun of Oyo, Chief M.0 Ogunmola, the Otun of Oyo and the founder and former proprietor of Ladigbolu Grammar School, Oyo, Chief Abiodun Akerele, members of Oyo Parapo, different organizations and guilds, one of those who co-founded the Morning Post newspaper.
But most importantly the duo of late Colonel (later General) Adeyinka Adebayo, the Military Governor of the defunct Western State and the indefatigable and distinguished scholar of all times, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, the Balogun of Oyo who was then the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters in the then Western State.
Olunloyo impressed and still continues to impress me as a quintessential man of this universe. He graduated with honours from one of the oldest universities in Scotland at the age of 21 and was the first African scholar to visit the Buckingham Palace.
He had a handshake with the Queen of England. The duo insisted on my candidature despite all political pressure and stood on the part of justice. To the two of them, I am grateful. I say without any doubt that the political class never forgave them till today.
Any comment on the current Olubadan of Ibadan land Obaship crisis with the governor?
Any comment on the matter is subjudice.
Do you subscribe to the call for constitutional role for traditional institution in the country?
I laugh whenever I hear the call for constitutional role for traditional rulers. I laugh because it is another way of centralising traditional rulership in the country. Will such constitutional role also include the process of selecting them too?
The absurdity of that can be found in the diversity of our culture on which our federalism is based. It is custom and tradition of each culture that assign roles to traditional rulers. Centralisation of traditional institution is to me another way of looking for national relevance, which, to me is not necessary.
In any case, can anybody define a uniformed system of settling leadership hierarchy among traditional institutions in the country? The colonialists met two major political empires- Yoruba/Oyo Empire and the Sokoto Caliphate, which exercised both political and religious authorities. It was on this basis that Governor Clifford invited both the Alaafin and the Sultan for their opinions on the 1922 Clifford Constitution as former heads of political empires.
Interactions among traditional rulers at that time were very rare unlike now that it has become a monthly routine for some traditional rulers. Every sector is now running helter-skelter for national attention. It may have to be until the centre is decongested of its excessive powers with a return to zonal arrangements.
What is your position on the ongoing debate on restructuring of the polity?
It is a national imperative. It is the air on which the country can breathe in good health. It is not just now that I am calling for the restructure of the country. I have, way back in 1994 during the awful reign of General Sanni Abacha, made a call through newspaper features article written by me . for the duo of Abacha and (General Oladipo) Diya to restructure our federal system.
There seems to be so many brands of restructuring. To which does Kabiyesi subscribe?
A return to the First Republic, the 1963 Constitution, that granted regional autonomy, of course, when each zone manages its resources and it develops according to its peculiarities. That was why the West under Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to develop fast as model of development in the country at that time.
The same position with the recent Yoruba Leaders of Thought in Ibadan?
Yes. Call it whatever you like- restructuring, devolution or whatsoever there is unanimity that the present structure is not balanced. Some even go to the extreme of marginalization. However, whatever may be the name adopted for the revisit of the federal system, it should be within the context of Nigeria’s sovereignty.
Is the government style of fighting corruption on course?
By all standards, it is on course. The success of the fight can be traced to the impeccable integrity of the President who has always been consistent in his abhorrence for corruption and illegal amassing of wealth through misuse of public funds.
How will you react to the constant friction between the executive and legislative arms of government?
That is the beauty of democracy. The important thing is that dialogue is being used as the tool for resolving differences between the two arms. Where there is conflict, however, the judiciary is there to adjudicate. That is what separation of power is all about.
What is the relationship between Kabiyesi and the Ooni of Ife?
Very cordial. We are on the same page as far as unity in Yoruba land is concerned. We relate on any issues whenever there are needs for such.
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