Like any aspirant, it took Samuel Odulana, 99, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, more than 30 years in succession line to actually scale the necessary 23 steps to ascend the Olubadan stool in 2007 at the age of 93
| By Olu Ojewale | Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
SAMUEL Odulana, Odugade I, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, is perhaps one of the oldest monarch in the world. In April he celebrated his 99th birthday. It was a big do, with billboards placed strategically around the city of Ibadan to celebrate with the royal father. To commemorate the occasion there were events like thanksgiving in the church and mosque, lectures and social get together. The centenary celebration next year promises to be even more colourful, elaborate and better coordinated with both the federal and state governments participating in what promises to be a grand occasion.
At such an advanced age, one would have expected Odulana to step aside and allow a younger person to take over the throne, after all, Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard of The Netherlands, did so when she abdicated the throne in April this year, in favour of Willem-Alexander, her eldest son. She was only 77, and the son was 46. But nobody expects that of the Olubadan. Only death can take him from the throne.
Besides, ascending the throne of the Olubadan is a life-long process, which sometimes takes between 30 to 35 years or more to accomplish. It normally begins from the aspirant’s family compound. Any son of Ibadan who is interested in the seat must first be initiated as the Mogaji or traditional head of his compound. But being a Mogaji does not guarantee anything yet because there are several other Mogajis in other compounds and unless there is a vacancy, the Mogaji cannot move up to become the Jagun. Once the Mogaji is made the Jagun, then he has overcome the first hurdle and is now in line to the throne with 22 more steps to take.
Becoming a Jagun is, in itself, achievable only after the death the sitting Olubadan, which creates vacancy for someone in the next position to move up.
For instance, the current Olubadan got the Jagun title in 1973. He then climbed 22 steps in 34 years before becoming the Olubadan in 2007. The uniqueness of the Olubadan stool is that every male child with root in Ibadan can aspire to ascend to the throne as long as he is patient and is ready to take his turn. There have been numerous cases of some aspirants being the heir apparent only to die before the king. It is not uncommon for the Otun Olubadan, that is, the next in line to the throne, to die before the royal father.
For instance, the late Lamidi Adedibu, the strong man of Ibadan politics, was the fifth to the current Olubadan before his death in June 2008. He was 80 years old and much younger than the Olubadan. The current aspirant from the Olugbode family is on the fifth step at 70, and has 19 more steps to climb before having a chance of ascending to the throne.
But the steps to the throne are not restricted to that line. In fact, there are two lines to the throne of the Olubadan, Egbe Agba or council of elders (civil line) and the Balogun (military line). The Olubadan is appointed from the two ruling lines, on rotational basis, to ascend the throne on the death of the monarch. The next in line to the Olubadan are the most senior on both lines with the Otun Olubadan heading the civil while the military line is headed by the Balogun who, under the Western Nigeria Law, are recognised as second class traditional rulers and therefore, included in the the civil list, which makes them entitled to stipends from government.
Next to them are the Osi Olubadan, Asipa Olubadan, Ekerin and Ekarun on the civil side, as well as Otun Balogun, Osi Balogun, Asipa Balogun, Ekerin and Ekarun Balogun in the military line. They are all members of the Olubadan-in-council, which helps the Olubadan on matters relating to his subjects and government. There are two other members in the council who are not in line to the throne. One is the Seriki, the male head, and Iyalode mother of the town.
The 11 high chiefs that form the Olubadan-in-council, apart from the Seriki and Iyalode, are recognised as the traditional heads of each of the 11 local governments in Ibadanland. However, because of their sensitive positions and responsibilities, all the senior chiefs, including the Olubadan, are forbidden from taking part in partisan politics. In their domains, for instance, the senior chiefs are presidents of customary courts, whose responsibilities include adjudication on matrimonial, land disputes, boundary and other communal conflicts.
The Olubadan himself is a very powerful figure and has the authority to depose or stop a chief from advancing from his current post, irrespective of the person’s position on the chieftaincy line. Hence, high chiefs on the lower cadre could be promoted above a high chief whose position has been pegged. Even when forgiven, in the event that he was penitent, the promotion made while the offending high chief served his punishment would not be reversed. One of such incidents happened between 1948 and 1952 during the reign of Oba Fijabi II. A wealthy Balogun, who was next to Olubadan, was said to have had his chieftaincy halted from advancing to the throne. During the same period, a holder of the title of Osi-Olubadan was also punished for acts of disloyalty to the cause of Ibadanland, an offence akin to treasonable felony.
It is on record that a former minister in the old Western Region was similarly demoted. Having tried all his best, using the instrument of government and courts to have his punishment reversed without success, he sought help outside the courts and got a pardon. But he still lost his seniority to some of those who were placed below him.
The latest act exercise of such enormous power by an Olubadan was in 1983 when Yesufu Asanike, the then Olubadan, withdrew the honourable chieftaincy title of the Are Alasa bestowed on the then Governor Bola Ige of old Oyo State. The late Ige was said to have been involved in an act said to be disrespectful to Ibadanland.
The city of Ibadan was founded in the 16th century, but the present occupants who came from different parts of Yoruba-speaking enclaves, only took control in about 1820. In 1850 they established the unusual succession policy, which is incomparable with other traditional Yoruba rulers. Thus, making it possible for just about any male born title-holder of the metropolitan city to be a potential king.
Adekunle Adeniran, a professor of history at the University of Ibadan, while commending the uniqueness of the Olubadan stool, wants Ibadan chiefs to have the kind of education that would make them more effective. At a lecture organised to mark the 99th birthday of Odulana in Ibadan recently, Adeniran said this had become imperative considering the number of years they have to wait in the line for the throne. In the lecture titled: “The imperative of education and further education for career effectiveness,” the professor said it had become necessary for chiefs in the Olubadan rung to equip themselves with up-to-date information on the history of Ibadan and current events as they unfolded, in such a way that would help them in administering their domain.
“The study of history has gone beyond telling stories. Today’s events shaped tomorrow’s history… I consider that what should make an Ibadan senior chief or high chief to stand out and be different from chiefs or even the Oba of any other Yoruba town or any other part of Nigeria for that matter is the amount and quality of the historical, political, administrative or even business education he has acquired over those 25 years as he is moving up,” Adeniran said.
Such education, he said, would help the Olubadan become a guru on the history of Ibadan and also be inspired by the exploits, strategies and heroism of past leaders like Balogun Ogunmola, Balogun Ibikunle, Balogun Oderinlo and others. But what the professor did not say is that a good number of families have lost interest in the throne because of the long line of succession. For instance, the families of such important figures as that of Oluwaiye, Lakanle, Keji and many others have not been showing interest in the stool in the recent past.
Speaking to Realnews, Bolarinwa Abolude, 98, patriarch of the Oluwaiye family, said he was not interested when he had the opportunity and none of his siblings was interested either. What about the children. “I have told them about the availability of the chance for any of them to ascend the throne, but because of their educational pursuits and religion, none of them appears to be willing to take part,” Abolude said.