Revd Dr Stephen Ayo Fagbemi, PhDSaturday, January 22, 2011
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Sunderland, UK



t was good to read Dr Akintide’s apt response to Barrister Ogunye’s brief on the above subject matter. It looks to me vital that a short contribution be added to further corroborate the argument of Dr Akitide in this discourse, as it is a very important subject that deals not only with the rights of an individual but also that of a community. It is imperative to assess such an argument not only on the basis of the law but also on the basis of the ‘common good’ and some essential practicalities that must not be ignored.

Now the soundness of Barrister Jiti Ogunye’s legal argument may not be in question but it is in the application of the argument that I noticed serious problems, and I doubt if any judge can disregard the implications of their judgement for the community concerned.

I would like to cite only two examples which are apposite in this regard and which Barrister Ogunye’s argument overlooked. I worked in Owo during the reign of late Oba Adekola Ogunoye while Olowo Olateru Olagbegi was still deposed but resident in Owo. I cannot count how many times there were troubles or when Olowo Ogunoye would not leave his palace for the traditional Igogo celebration on the rumour that Oba Olateru Olagbegi was going to find a way to return to the palace and die on the throne. Of course, by tradition that would create a lot of problems as reigning Yoruba Obas are forbidden from seeing corpses let alone one dying on their throne. Whether these rumours were true or fabricated, they did have implications for the city from time to time. So even if the deposed Oba was not fomenting trouble, his sympathisers were always there to do so. The law cannot deal with rumours of that nature; yet such matters do impact the running of the community.

The second example is from Oba-Ile (Akure’s neighbours). For years after the return of ex-Oloba Orioge II from exile in Ikaramu-Akoko to Oba-Ile, the community lacked any perfect peace. Every year, the ex-Oloba celebrated the traditional Agbon festival in his own house, which no one could stop, and rumours would be making the rounds that he was going to come out, to sit on the throne of the Oloba. Anyone who lived in Oba-Ile at the time or who understands the context of the celebration very well would appreciate the nature of the problem at hand, not least when the climax of the festival takes place at night. The fear this caused in people’s minds and psyche are better imagined than experienced. To say that there was fear is to state the obvious. But much more, some people simply had to stay away to escape what was perceived to be real danger. Now the law cannot deal with that. The person concerned (the ex-Oba) would be at home, but those engaged in peddling the rumours and indeed his sympathisers would not cease. This is not something the law can easily deal with, especially because in each case you need to be able to substantiate the arguments.

So, I submit that this case is rather complicated and beyond the clear legal arguments that Barrister Ogunye stated in his essay. In fact, the deposition and banishment of the Deji or any Oba in Yoruba land goes beyond simply denying an individual of his right; it touches the real soul and life of the community. The problem is striking the balance between the individual right and the right of a community to peace without any fear of a possible breakdown of law and order, whether real or imagined. Although I do not know how popular the ex-Deji was in Akure, it would be inconceivable that he would have no sympathisers at all. I think for some, he would always remain their own monarch even in the corner of their own house and, given the opportunity, such people would happily join any multitude to cause trouble. Akure the state capital cannot afford that and the new Deji needs more time to settle than to begin to deal with rumours and threat from a disgraced predecessor. Admittedly his banishment order cannot be permanent but it would have to be lifted only when it is considered safe and appropriate to do so.

The Revd Dr Stephen Ayo Fagbemi, Co-ordinating and Anglican Chaplain, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK