Today he ascends to the sit of Olubadan from all commentators an honourable man with a clear vision to restore the dignity and aspiration of the people of Ibadan in their transition from a warrior dissident people to the promise of Intellectual beacon that the city has evolved to become in modern times. As I post these comments my colleagues in Vivid Features headed by the excellent leadership of Taizir Ajala and researching skills of Jide Smith accompanied by a excellent crew are interviewing as well as taking footage of the coronation as part of a feature programme called Afrolution. A partnership between myself and Vivid headed by my brother Tunde Oyekunle we are putting African solution and evolution on a platform for the world to see. We believe that the only sustainable modernisation will be true Africanisation and ours is the vision to capture this revolution not just for television but on all digital platforms. As we evolve this I share with you an eloquent piece of historical and contemporary analysis of Ibadan written by Chief T. A. Akinyele O.O.N . It is a powerful introduction to Ibadan and its special place in the evolution of modern Nigeria. There is no better placed person to give such an insight so I commend the article below by Chief T. A Akinyele the Bobajiro of Ibadan.
EVOLUTION IN THE UNIQUE SYSTEM OF SELECTING THE OLUBADAN OF IBADAN by Chief T.A. AKINYELE
Each time an Olubadan is to be crowned many people who do not know the background history and the nature of the chieftaincy system in Ibadan have always wondered why Ibadan people choose to have very old men to lead them as their Oba and consequently almost every ten years a coronation ceremony occurs. As all Ibadans proudly and joyfully celebrate the coronation of 93-year old Oba (Dr.) Samuel Odulana, Odugade 1 as the 40th Olubadan of Ibadanland on 17th August, 2007 such questions are again likely to be raised. The purpose of this short article is to enlighten the general public about the traditional system that produces the Olubadan of Ibadanland; its peculiarities that confer a fascinating uniqueness on the process in the context of Yorubaland and the prospects that exist in the future for its modernization without affecting its rancour-free nature.
Apart from mythical stories of some ancient rulers in Yorubaland who were reported to have reigned for over seventy years some living for over 120 years, we have recorded factual cases of an Ooni ( Oba Sir Adesoji Aderemi) who reigned for 50 years or an Olowo of Owo or Deji of Akure for similarly long years on their thrones. But the systems of ascension to the throne in these places are markedly different from the Ibadan system, which by its very nature produces old men who must be content with short reigning tenures.
Ibadan’s Unique System
The traditional chieftaincy system that produces the Olubadan of Ibadanland essentially consists of two approved lines—OTUN and BALOGUN lines; each line having a 23-step rung on either ladder in a promotional system that abhors supersession unless there is an exceptionally grave circumstance. Originally the Otun line is the civil line while the Balogun line is the military. There is a truncated line of the SERIKI expectedly a short line (now elongated) reserved for the young militants forming part of the BALOGUN line. This aspect of the matter is sub-judice and can therefore not be elaborated upon. There is in addition a distinct IYALODE line created to take care of the interests of the women folk in the community. This female line has also grown to have a 23-rung ladder. However, the system does not permit a woman to aspire to become the Olubadan. Persons in the two male lines must go through a step by step system of chieftaincy promotion to reach the throne of Olubadan of Ibadanland as shown in Table 1 hereunder :-
The following most senior chiefs constitute the OLUBADAN-IN-COUNCIL, the pre-eminent advisory council of the Olubadan who also constitute the Kingmakers upon the demise of a reigning Olubadan. Usually this council meets weekly to consider issues of tradition, customary and lesser chieftaincy matters. The council operates on the basis of consensus but the Olubadan has the final say on most issues.
For a person to be entitled to move on either line, he must ab initio be the recognized Mogaji of his Idile (homestead) or Agbo-ile (Compound). Thereafter, subject to vacancy, good report and good standing among the kingmakers of Ibadan (12 in number) and the Olubadan the person concerned gets promoted on his chosen Chieftaincy line until definitely by the grace of God he finally reaches the pinnacle after an arduously long journey climbing the 23 steps with alternating chances. If one should take recent examples, it took the late Olubadan, Oba Yunusa Bankole Ogundipe, Arapasowu 1, a total of 35 years from being Jagun Balogun in 1964 and becoming Olubadan in 1999. Similarly, the present Olubadan. Oba (Dr.) Samuel Odulana, Odugade 1 started the journey as Jagun Olubadan in 1972 exactly 35 years ago. It is generally true to say that except for Oba Yesufu Kobiowu (under 60 years of age) who unfortunately reigned for only 6 months in 1964, most Olubadans are usually about 80 years of age on ascension to the throne. Table 2 below shows the list of 39 Traditional Heads of Ibadan since the third settlement of the City put at about 1820.
It will observed from Table 2 above, that 39 Traditional Rulers have reigned in Ibadan since 1820, out of which 23 were titled as “BALES” and the remaining 16 were called “OLUBADAN”. If the theory of averaging is anything to go by, it will be observed that in the 183 years of fairly recorded Ibadan History, the Traditional Rulers reigned for an average of 4 years. However, if we break the period into two, the BALES (1820-1929) and the OLUBADANS (1930 to 2007) eras, it will be seen that the Bales reigned for an average of 3 years, while the Olubadans reigned for an average of 6 years, double the period of the average Bale. Can it be inferred that the hazardous nature of the military enterprise of the earlier traditional rulers has anything to do with the differentials? However, it is ironical to observe that the most pathetic picture of stunted regimes occurred during the Olubadan era when between June 1946 and June 1952 – a period of 6 years there were 5 Olubadans with one of them (Oyetunde 1) reigning for less than 1 month!
In other words, 23 Bales ruled for 70 years while 16 Olubadans reigned for 91 years. In examining the various factors responsible for the differentials, cognizance must be taken of the fact that the current promotional/ rotation system already described above came into vogue around 1930. Before then the Ibadan warlords decided on the basis of “might is right” such that most of the rulers were military men. The new system itself was a form of diarchy with the “Otun” line reserved for the old men left at home while the war enterprise of Ibadan flourished and the warlords returned home with booty and chieftaincy titles of their choices in the “Balogun” line, waiting for them. However, that line of divide has since been blurred as the years rolled by. With the virtual end of Ibadan military exploits in 1893, Ibadan war leaders began to adjust to peaceful preoccupations. Consideration of military prowess started to give way to an assessment of success based on limelight in education, commerce, the professions, wealth and occasionally political clout. Nowadays, the choice of line adopted is often a personal decision often influenced by the antecedents of previous traditional chieftaincy holders within, the given family. In other words, if your predecessors in the family chose the Balogun line, you often feel more comfortable to follow suit. Occasionally calculation based on the average age of the persons in the line may come into play on the assumption that when there are many old chiefs on a particular line, progression may become faster.
Causative Factors of Longevity.
The issue of longevity in this and other cases depends on several environmental and situational factors. Factors relevant in the matter include genetics, lifestyle, nature of duty, level of education, healthcare etc. Unfortunately, data on life expectancy in Nigeria are not reliable and in a Community where registration of births and deaths is still treated with levity and census exercises are more often than not politicized, it is difficult to make clear-cut assumptions. Even though the writer has witnessed the regimes of 16 Olubadans so far, I can only claim to be familiar with the detailed life history and style of living of only about three of them. What generally happens is that most of them became wearied out not too long after ascension to the throne. It can be assumed that there is something worthy of close scrutiny about the nature of the Olubadan’s daily work routine and work load. The existence of a retinue of personal staff usually hardly trained in the intricacies of management of time and human relations does not help in sharing the work load. The sedentary nature of holding meetings and giving audience to several people having various kinds of complaints some serious and others mundane is bound to make holders of the Olubadan title grow weary especially as they are usually too old for compensating physical exercises.
One would have expected that the level of Western education of any of the Olubadans would have positive effect on their management of available time, health care etc. From Table 3 below, it will be seen that the five Olubadans who had western education have an average reigning period of 5 years but for the youngest of them at the time of ascension ( Oba Yesufu Kobiowu) who unfortunately died within less than a year of becoming the Oba. On the other hand, one of the longest reigning among them was already almost 90 years old when he ascended the throne (No.4 below).
The intricacy of the business of being the Olubadan, the suzerain of the largest indigenous city in Black Africa with myriads of problems associated with underdevelopment is very onerous. One of the ingredients for the success of the system in spite of the old ages of the Olubadan is the amount of relevant experience acquired over the long years of tutelage experienced by most of them before becoming the Olubadan ranging from 15 to 20 years of becoming members of the 12-member Olubadan Advisory Council which also serves as Kingmakers when a new Oba is to succeed a demised one. In addition many of the Council members now styled “High Chiefs” would have served at various times as President/Member of Customary Courts as well as Chairmen of Traditional Councils of Local Governments in Ibadanland.
Areas of Reform
Much as the system has remained rancour-free serving the yearnings and aspirations of a highly volatile, republican and individualistic Community such as Ibadan, it has its many challenges loudly crying for reform. The system faces the challenges of blending the calculating old and the adventurous young, the rich in intellect but poor in financial resources all intermingled in a vibrant and restless megalopolis that serves as the commercial and administrative centre of Oyo State and the intellectual hub of Nigeria. In a short article of this nature one can only touch the fringes of the challenges. The Yoruba would say “ibi pelebe lati mu ole je” broadly interpreted to mean “to climb a mountain you must start from the bottom.” The ‘mogaji’ system which is the base of the traditional chieftaincy system needs a complete overhaul. At the moment there are over 200 approved mogajis most of who are not likely to have an early chance of joining any of the two lines because they do not have the wherewithal for a competitive edge. Over the last thirty years, consideration given to wealth and riches has overshadowed the criteria of a good pedigree and demonstrable inclination to offer selfless and patriotic service for the common good of the society. It is also gradually becoming clear that illiteracy has become a stumbling block to any aspiration to move forward in the system. The backlog of mogajis waiting in the lurch should be cleared while simultaneously introducing reforms that would establish stricter conditions including literacy, good family and personal backgrounds of honesty, integrity and commitment to public good. Each family should see it as a matter of enlightened self-interest to put forward young persons as “mogajis” by separating it from the concept of “baale” (head of household) who must invariably be the oldest male of the family. In other words, the mogaji does not necessarily have to be the oldest person if the family expects its nominee ever to reach the top. It is just time to consider an institutionalised arrangement to make productive use of the corps of mogajis if they are not to constitute a festering wound on the body politic of Ibadan. Similarly, the Association of Ibadan Honorary Chiefs should be accorded some sort of recognition that will facilitate their greater contribution to the development and progress of Ibadan. As many of the honorary chiefs are not indigenes of the City and since the city’s anthem includes a prayer for the good fortune of both indigenes and non indigenes alike, it behoves all persons resident in Ibadanland to reciprocate by seeking the welfare of the City and its environs and support the yearnings and aspirations of the indigenes for restoration of the glory that belongs to Ibadan by supporting the call for the creation of Ibadan State which every Olubadan in the past fifteen years including the new Olubadan have always made a persistent clarion call.
Consideration should also be given to the need to reduce the number of steps on each ladder from 23 to 10. Deliberate effort should be made to reduce the influence of money in chieftaincy affairs so as to accord recognition to merit in the selection processes.
Finally, the impasse over the Seriki should be settled once and for all, otherwise its existence will continue to be the Achilles heel of the system.
Given the pressure of rapid urbanisation and modernisation on the fragile fabric of Ibadan’s cultural and traditional institutions, it is imperative to consider the kind of advice on the importance of delegation, division of labour and appropriate utilization of high-level human capital given by Jethro to his son-in-law Moses in Exodus 18, verses 21–22 in respect of the future administrative management of the traditional institutions of Ibadanland.:-
A Bright Horizon Ahead
With the ascension of the new Olubadan, Oba (Dr) Samuel Odulana, Odugade 1, there is a feeling of renewed hope of a rejuvenated system in the Olubadan Chieftaincy of Ibadanland. As a person combining political adroitness with administrative sagacity, a bold, courageous leader who has always been on the side of truth and justice, as an encourager and motivator of the young in pursuit of education and progressive commitment, a lot is expected to be changed for good in the traditional affairs of Ibadan. My prayer is that God is His infinite mercy will endow him with more years to be able to carry out some of the lofty ideals of patriotism for which he has been widely known in Ibadan in particular and Nigeria as a whole.
Bobajiro of Ibadanland and Chairman Olubadan
Coronation Planning Committee, 1994 and 1999