…we look forward to the next man in line to be Olubadan, Chief Lekan Balogun… On the issue of new Obas in Ibadan, his position will be interesting. He is a supporter of the Oyo State Law and in fact went to court to assert it. By right, as the Olubadan, he can sign off on the Law and see the end of the role of the Olubadan as the everyman of Ibadan – a tradition that maintains the republican nature of this great city. I hope he upholds the tradition…
The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Salihu Adetunji, is now resting. The Olubadan is forever green and at the same time, it is like a Phoenix that rises from the ashes of the last one. Oba méwa, ìgbà méwa – ten kings and ten periods on the throne – seems like the literal interpretation of the sayings of our people (which my late father deployed for every eventful moment during his time). The Olubadan is a everyman of Ibadan – unlike most Yoruba monarchs, this is not an hereditary monarchy. This is a republican monarchy, which for many decades now, has had the stability of generating succession through a participatory system.
The 34 steps from Mogaji to Olubadan in modern Ibadan hides the logic that by sheer attrition and warfare, Ibadan chiefs rarely ever lived to get to the top of the pyramid of the Ibadan everyman, either as Baale or Olubadan. All the families that are indigenous to Ibadan, that are warrior families, that have ìdílé in Ibadan, have a chance of having an Olubadan. So it was with the recently passed Olubadan.
A cultural entrepreneur who succeeded against all odds in a country that had elevated certification above competence, he like many notables from Ibadan, never let the lack of certificates stop him from using is vocational craft as a tailor as foundation for starting and owning more than one record label, and promoting as well as establishing artistes such as Dauda Epo-Àkàrà, the godfather of wéré music, which eventually begat Fuji music and Wasiu Ayinde Marshal. For those who do not know, wéré music used to be the rhythmic vibrations at dawn during the Ramadan festival.
In the old town of Ibadan, young people went around twisting through corridor and walk paths, dodging the accompanying gutters that spiral across the sprawling space, with their tin boxes, creating polyrhythmic beats and wailing lyrics to wake up the faithful in neighbourhoods, to observe their Sahur or Sari pre-fast meal. It took a great cultural entrepreneur to build a business model out of propagating this creative effort. The late Olubadan amplified Ibadan in many ways and always authentically, without compromising to the disdain of those who saw this as a low culture of butchers, bus drivers and the working class. This same polyrhythms have subsequently been pushing Nigerian acts to global celebration and accolade.
The history of the Olubadan stool is varied, bountiful, and testifies to the fact that Ibadan – at least, the third settlement – used to have Baales. The Baale, in the Yoruba experience, is usually the head of a large homestead. Ibadan, nevertheless, was not just a city, but a place that had many territories under it. Ibadan’s history chronicles its evolution form a warrior state to a republic. The whole of what we now know as Yoruba land submitted to the British administrative hegemony, as their desire for Indirect rule and the prioritisation of the monarchical system, led to universal conformance and reduced – in fact – destroyed the diversity of the city-state.
…unlike the dictatorship of Kurunmi of Ijaye or the confederacy of Egbaland (both of which were contemporary constitutional devices at the end of the Oyo Empire), it remained a republic, as a tool of finding excellence in its diversity. Sad to say, this did not survive the British humiliation of the lack of a royal heritage, which led to the reclamation of the Olubadan title from Lagelu.
Ibadan was not just a republican metropolis but, in fact, was second only to Oyo in having an empire of vassal states. These it acquired through war and ensured that all paid taxes to it, with the exception of its complex relations with Oyo. Suffice to say, in about 100 years of Ibadan dominance of what we now know as Yoruba land, it never sought to establish a beaded crown or a kingship system. This was not because it could not, by force or reclamation of the Lagelu lineage, but because it accommodated a diversity of powerful people from across Yoruba spaces, and the republican status allowed meritocracy in the war front.
As such, unlike the dictatorship of Kurunmi of Ijaye or the confederacy of Egbaland (both of which were contemporary constitutional devices at the end of the Oyo Empire), it remained a republic, as a tool of finding excellence in its diversity. Sad to say, this did not survive the British humiliation of the lack of a royal heritage, which led to the reclamation of the Olubadan title from Lagelu. This pattern of decay of the importance of the republican tradition led the immediate past governor of Oyo State (an Ibadan man for that matter!) to build the pathway to the demise of what is left of the republican exception that is Ibadan and the Olubadan stool.
The late Olubadan came from a long line of very interesting characters who were Olubadan. Often, the role of the Baale, or eventually the Olubadan, was that of a retired warrior who had become the most senior warrior of the city or the metropolis of Ibadan. Ever present is the fact that since this was a warrior republic, advancement in age was very rare for most of the competent warriors. As such, by the time anyone was able to age to the point that he came off the battle field, he was really appreciative of having a place to rest. Well, that can be said of one of my own ancestors, Balogun Ibikunle.
I remember very distinctly in Ibadan House in 2008, when I was executing a project called Mesiogo, which was an effort to build a strategic plan for the city of Ibadan, I engaged in a debate on whether Ibikunle, the architect and foundation builder of the Ibadan empire, was ever the Baale of Ibadan. For many years, Ibikunle was the de-facto ruler of Ibadan and he dominated the wider country, including his failed efforts at Pan-Yoruba engagement.
At the end of of his life, it is reported by many historians that he spent a year as Baale and died in that role. However, the Central Council for Ibadan Indigenes does not list him among recognised Olubadans on the Wall of Ibadan House. I cited the authority of Professor Bolanle Awe to no avail. This is not unusual of the stool that is now the Olubadan. All said, the authority of Chief Bolanle Awe has put that to rest (at least in my mind) that Ibikunle was an Olubadan or Baale of Ibadan.
The people of Ibadan will be looking forward, hopefully, to the wisdom and capacity that he would have to ensure that his reign does not lead to any political conflict or discord in the metropolis. We, Ibadan people, are extremely respectful of the capacity that we’ve had for many years to have a participatory democracy to reflect the collective will of a common man, and to evolve this into something that stands distinctively in the Nigerian country.
As indicated, the recently passed Olubadan was a man of distinctive character. The entire chieftancy cadre is full of the everyman of the metropolis of Ibadan. The late Olubadan will forever be remembered for his stance on the installation of kings in the Ibadan metropolis by the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi. He was able to maintain a level of cordiality with the governor, while taking him to court, which was not an easy thing to have achieved.
Inevitably, the Olubadan won in court, and helped to retain the traditional process that has led Ibadan to have a kind of non-contentious succession system, in comparison to most places in the Yoruba land of today. The fact that the egregious law is still on the books of Oyo State Government and that the case has not been finally resolved, is now up to those of us he left behind. If the march of homogeneity continues and the Oduduwan script plays out, then Ibadan metropolis, like every other place, will have kings and eventually hereditary ones. I hope not.
Now, we look forward to the next man in line to be Olubadan, Chief Lekan Balogun, who himself is a man of eclectic character; a man of many capacities and skills. An academic, an entrepreneur, a consultant, a senator, a statesman. On the issue of new Obas in Ibadan, his position will be interesting. He is a supporter of the Oyo State Law and in fact went to court to assert it. By right, as the Olubadan, he can sign off on the Law and see the end of the role of the Olubadan as the everyman of Ibadan – a tradition that maintains the republican nature of this great city. I hope he upholds the tradition and ends the support for the changes being canvassed.
The people of Ibadan will be looking forward, hopefully, to the wisdom and capacity that he would have to ensure that his reign does not lead to any political conflict or discord in the metropolis. We, Ibadan people, are extremely respectful of the capacity that we’ve had for many years to have a participatory democracy to reflect the collective will of a common man, and to evolve this into something that stands distinctively in the Nigerian country. We await and respect the new Olubadan. May his reign uplift the city of Ibadan.
Adewale Ajadi, a lawyer, creative consultant and leadership expert, is author of Omoluwabi 2.0: A Code of Transformation in 21st Century Nigeria.
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