FEATURE ARTICLE

Olusola OyeyemiTuesday, April 15, 2008
ooyeyemi@simmonscooper.com
Chicago, IL, USA

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REJOINDER: ''OONI NOT A PARAMOUNT RULER IN YORUBALAND'' -BISI AKANDE

y attention has recently been drawn to an interview granted to Chief Bisi Akande by "Great Encounter" and published in the Sun Times and Nigeriaworld wherein he was quoted as saying that "It is a misnormer [sic] and a historical distortion, the claim that the Ooni of Ife and Chairman of the Council of Obas in Osun State, His Royal Highness Oba Okunade Sijuade, is a paramount ruler in Yorubaland." This distortion of fact is disgraceful and to say the least unbecoming of someone that I have before now placed in high esteem.


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For the records, I am neither a politician, nor an historian. I am a practicing legal practitioner based in Chicago with offices in both Ibadan and Lagos, Nigeria. I am a born and bread Yoruba man that happens to work and live in America but with very strong roots in Nigeria. Since I relocated to the United States about eight years ago, I remain very conversant with what goes on in Nigeria on a regular basis.

It is unfortunate to read such an annoying and misleading piece on the pages of the Nigerian newspapers and on the internet attributed to someone of the caliber of Chief Bisi Akande, a Yoruba man, an Ila chief, who is also an octogenarian that should be versed in Yoruba history and should be educating us, the younger generation which we in turn will pass down to the generations coming after us. He is a leader of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on whose platform he was elected as the Governor of Osun State in 1999 before he woefully lost the election to the current Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003. He is also a leader in Action Congress (AC) and the "Afenifere" group and has served as Deputy Governor to Late Chief Bola Ige of blessed memory in the old Oyo State in 1979 under the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

Anyone with an iota of familiarity with the history of the Yorubas will know that Oduduwa is the father of Yoruba race. The history that I was taught in secondary School over 25 years ago has is that Oduduwa only had one son, Okanbi. Okanbi had eight children, Onipopo of Popo, Onisabe of Sabe, Alara of Ilara, Ajero of Ijero, Orangun of Oke-Ila, Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, Oranmiyan and of course the Ooni through another wife named Orunto. The first seven were sent out by their father to establish other kingdoms while Ooni stayed behind to take care of their father and he inherited the throne of his father after his demise (Professor Jide Osuntokun). The Ooni of Ife is the representative of Oduduwa, the father of Yoruba race and as such should be accorded such respect. Scholars who wanted an objective history of Yoruba (including Professor Samuel Johnson whose work was criticized by his colleagues) all agreed on this undisputable fact. The supremacy of the Ooni can be found in Gazette No 8 of 1902, 1903 and 1931.

Chief Akande said "Each Oba is a traditional ruler of his own domain and there are so many domain in Yorubaland So, to say somebody is an important traditional ruler in Yorubaland is a misnormer [sic]. Nobody is more important a traditional ruler in Yorubaland than he is in his own domain'. In as much as I agree with Chief Akande that each Oba is a traditional ruler in his domain, I disagree that there is no paramount ruler in Yorubaland. I believe based on all historical facts available and consensus of opinion by prominent scholars on this issue that the Ooni of Ife is the undisputed paramount ruler of Yorubaland, he is the "Arole" (representative) Oduduwa on earth and as such the custodian of our culture. He is the spiritual head and head of the Yoruba kingdom. Anyone that occupies that position today should be accorded that respect.

In America where I live there is no respect for elders, everyone is treated as peers. The fact that you are older than me does not compel me to respect you. That is their culture; even President George Bush will not feel offended if a three year old boy calls him by name. But in Yorubaland, we take pride in our rich culture that accords respect to our elders, our tradition has taught us that "wherever we call the head we do not use it to walk", meaning that the head should never be disrespected and Chief Akande as an elderly man will not appreciate any younger person being rude to him especially a Yoruba man (because he will be expected to know better).

Chief Akande took a personal swipe at His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuade when he said "That was the origin of our disagreement. I told him, to his face that I can't impose him on his colleagues as paramount ruler. I advised Sijuwade to change his ways. You can't enforce respect, you earn it! His predecessor, the late Oba Adesoji Aderemi of blessed memory, earned the respect of other traditional rulers in Yorubaland, because of the dignified manner he conducted himself. Nobody imposed Aderemi as paramount ruler in the entire western Region, he just earned it." He admitted that there is a disagreement between him and his Imperial Majesty Oba Okunade Sijuade. It is wrong for Chief Akande to try and rewrite the history of the Yorubas because of a perceived "disagreement" between him and Kabiyesi.

If my recollection is right, this so called "disagreement" was brought about by Chief Akande's disrespect for the tradition of Obaship when he was the Governor of Osun State between 1999 and 2003 which was resisted by the Obas in Osun State led of course by their leader, Oba Okunade Sijuade. Chief akande sacked about 10,000 civil servants at a stretch in Osun State and got disconnected with the people that he was supposed to serve. This eventually led to his being voted out of office by the people of Osun State and Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola (a prince of Okuku) who knows the importance of our traditional rulers corrected this flagrant impropriety by reconstituting the Osun State council of Obas and rightly made the Ooni of Ife the President of the council. Governor Oyinlola also called back civil servants that were wrongly sacked by Chief Akande within his first 100 days in office.

Chief Akande admitted that Late Oba Adesoji Aderemi was a paramount ruler in the then Western Region of Nigeria. He however attributed this to the fact that he conducted himself in a dignified manner among other Yoruba Obas. This assertion is far from the truth, although Late Oba Aderemi conducted himself in a dignified manner when he was alive and rose to become the first Premier of Western Region, which was a political appointment. He was the paramount ruler of the Yoruba race because he was the Ooni of Ife and not because of his achievements in politics. The current Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade has conducted himself in a manner that dignifies his position as the Ooni of Ife and the paramount ruler of Yorubaland since he was appointed a king in 1980.

I have been opportuned to witness on a few occasions the way his Royal Majesty conducts himself in the public and more importantly among his fellow Obas. A recent example was at a seminar about Yoruba culture at Harvard University, Boston, MA. USA put together by Professor Jacob Olupona, the head of African studies department of the institution. Professor Olupona told the gathering that he invited the Ooni of Ife as the paramount ruler of the Yorubas to the occasion and Kabiyesi magnanimously invited ten other Obas from the Yorubaland to be part of the program at his own expense. Some of the Obas that came with the Kabiyesi to the program were the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland His Royal Highness Oba Adekunle Aromolaran, the Timi of Ede, His Royal Highness Oba Muniru Adesola Lawal, Apetumodu of Ipetumodu, His Royal Highness Oba James Adegoke, the Orangun of Oke Ila, His Royal Highness Oba Adedokun Adeniyi Abolarin and the current vice chairman of the Osun State council of Obas, Olojudo of Ido-Osun His Royal Highness Oba Aderemi Adedapo among others.

I was very proud as a Yoruba man to witness the camaraderie that exists among our Obas. All the Obas lodged at the Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston and they were always together during their stay sharing jokes and educating people about our rich culture. At some point, some journalists came to interview his Imperial Majesty, Oba Sijuade at his lodge, he invited all the other Obas to join him, he shared the spotlight with all of them, he did not make it about himself alone but he made the other Obas contribute and they spoke about our rich culture. This should be commended and encouraged, they definitely do not need people like Chief Akande to create disharmony amongst them. We should be encouraging peace, harmony and tranquility not only amongst our Obas and politicians alone but also among the citizens of Nigeria to ensure the development of Yoruba race in particular and Nigeria in general.

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