Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Let The Eagle Perch And The Hawk Also

analysis

Lagos — THE Nation of Friday January 30, 2009 carried the judgment of one monarch by another. In soccer such judgment will draw the attention of the referee, for its severity is apparently outside of the rules of engagement.

The Nation headlined its story by Olokorede Yishau thus: Alaafin is ruling a dead empire, says Ooni:

"The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade yesterday rekindled the era of barb-throwing between him and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. Oba Sijuade, at the centenary posthumous birthday celebration of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Lagos, said Oba Adeyemi was ruling a dead empire.

According to him, the Oyo Empire "is no longer in existence". The two monarchs have been at loggerheads since the old Oyo State when they were locked in a supremacy battle over the headship of the state Council of Obas and Chiefs.

Oba Sijuwade was the permanent chairman of the council, a position which Oba Adeyemi and his supporters said should be rotational.

"The battle subsided with the excision of Osun State from the old Oyo State on August 27, 1991. Oba Sijuwade said the Oyo Empire 'challenged and disintegrated in September 1793 under Alaafin Aoole and Alaafin lost his beaded crown with fringe benefits during that episode and that crown was never re-consecrated by Ile-Ife till today'.

He said it was wrong for Oba Adeyemi to claim to be the number one Oba in Yorubaland. He described his claim as a taboo. Oba Sijuwade said: 'I have been approached by millions of our people both here and abroad on Oyo State Council of Obas problem and our stand at this end is to make sure there is peace. But honestly speaking, the Olubadan crown has nothing to do with Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.

"The controvercy was finally settled and laid to rest in 1976 between the then Governor of Oyo State General David Jemibewon and the late revered Oba Adesoji Aderemi, then Chairman of Council of Obas and Chiefs of Oyo State with my good self, then as Prince Okunade Sijuwade in attendance.

The first founder of Ibadan, Crown Prince Adio Lagelu, was a direct son of Ooni Luwo Gbagada who had a beaded crown with fringe benefits and was sent to settle in Ibadan in 1401AD. We must thank Professor Jide Osuntokun for saying it in his congratulatory birthday message to Alaafin that Oyo is an offshoot of Ile-Ife and I would strongly advise those junk writers and paid professors to go back to the classrooms to learn more".

The entire story of Olokorede Yishau has been reproduced for ease of reference, for I will address the issues that are in contention between the Ooni and the Alaafin as reported by Yishau. First of all, let us establish the context of this contention for privilege.

The setting is states created by the government. Such a quarrel could have taken place in the First Republic Western Region, where the question of who was paramount in the old House of Chiefs of the Western Region was settled in favour of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi.

It happened in the old Oyo State, again a creation of the Military Government. It is happening in the present new Oyo State. The terrain of the contest for privilege is thus government terrains.

The Council of Obas and Chiefs is an institution of the State Government. The authority contested for is a delegated authority and the hierarchy amongst the obas and chiefs is that recognized by the State Chief Executive, the Governor.

This is appreciated by the Ooni Oba Sijuwade in his reference to the role played by the then Military Governor of old Oyo State, Major General David Jemibewon. T

he contestation for supremacy is thus a striving for recognition by Government of one of the claims of one of the contestants for supremacy over all the Obas and Chiefs constituting the government established Council of Obas and Chiefs.

What is true for Osun and Oyo states is true for all councils of obas and chiefs and councils of obis and chiefs and councils of emirs and chiefs in all the states of the Federation where such councils have been set up by governments.

And if as it is presently the case where the Federal Government through the decisions of their ruling parties were to yield to the pressures of those lobbying for the creation of a Federal House of Obas and Chiefs, the competition for eminence will certainly accompany government's decision on the hierarchy amongst the royal fathers.

In short, the occasion for the disputes between the two eminent monarchs of Yorubaland is that provided by governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And this is the paradox that this Federal Republic creates room for the accommodation of monarchi-cal values and tendencies.

Were the people to be fully republican, there would be no place for monarchical institutions in Nigeria, just as there are none in republican France or the United States. The rivalry between these two monarchs is modern; it is political and principally culturally hegemonistic.

History is employed for support of claims for status in government created and financed establishment. Therefore, the government that created these neo-monarchical institutions can also abolish them.

Pre-colonial kingdoms of Ile-Ife, Ibadan, Oyo, Ijebu, Egbas, etc, were dominion rivals and enemies involved in trade and expansionist wars.

It may have been the case that Ife Kingdom expanded through settlements of its princes as the case of the Crown Prince Adio Lagelu in Ibadan, and that relationship of suzerainty and tributeship existed between the parent kingdom and its satellite kingdoms.

However, when kingdoms were developed into empires by war, peace made under such conditions may be on the basis of the post-war balance of power. The inter-kingdom relations may thus have reflected vassal and tributary hierarchy. Thus, could have emerged the protocol deference and legitimation of relations amongst obas and chiefs.

The events of September 1793 during the reign of Alaafin Aoole may have been the result of an all-out war between enemy kingdoms during which the Alaafin Aoole suffered a catastrophic defeat with consequences gleefully described by the Ooni as power challenge followed by kingdom disintegration.

The key issue, however that changes all that transpired with the annexation of the territories that came to be administered as Nigeria is that all that were independent sovereigns with governments they ran and states that secured their governments and kept their society independent of external control became parts of the British Empire.

The British Empire in Nigeria was not a co-regency of the British Monarch and the pre-colonial monarchs of Ife, Oyo, Ibadan, to use Nigeria's South West illustratively.

The peoples and their resources and their lands of the British colonies were possessions of the British state. The colonized comprised both the precolonial sovereigns and subjects.

Whatever of the precolonial that could be used to legitimize British colonial ownership and rule in the British Empire of Nigeria the British Colonial Office utilized.

The system of Indirect Rule found use for pre-colonial rulers in the British colonial administration and that for reason of state. The ruler whoever such may be that would lead a mutiny or rebellion against British rule in their traditional domain was promptly removed and replaced with more cooperative accomplice.

Traditional or pre-colonial rulership was thus brought to an end by the founding of British Empire in the lands collectively registered internationally as Nigeria. Independent Nigeria as a successor state to the British Empire in Nigeria was not and is not a resuscitation of precolonial rulership.

The putative post-colonial sovereigns are the governments run either by elected politicians or by military juntas on the successful execution of coups.

The existence, role and status of traditional rulership and the recognition of rulers chosen by their respective kingmakers are at the sufferance of governments. It is in this sense that the traditional rulership can be defined as cultural political institutions maintained for reasons of state.

Thus, the disputes between rulers and subjects as was the case of the Ife-Modake conflicts have to be managed by governments when they are not pre-emptively prevented.

Government cannot allow these disputes to heat up the system to the extent that it makes the conduct of electoral constitutional politics impossible in the traditional domains of today's "government" acknowledged traditional rulers.

Since the advent of British rule all pre-colonial kings and emperors have been "rulers of dead empires"; whatever of the reality of their precolonial splendour and culture that have been accepted and encouraged first by the British government and now by the postcolonial governments, have served interests that sustain the legitimacy of governments amongst the "subjects" of the traditional rulers.

This political administrative diplomatic rapprochement between the descendants of the pre-colonial rulers and governments constituted of parties of politicians whose ancestors were subjects both of the precolonial and colonial governments is functional legitimation of the post-colonial order.

The Ooni and the Alaafin are pugilists fighting under the mediating rules of the state governments and so long as the state security services are not perturbed by their rivalry however justified by scholarship or sycophantic idolation such disputes can be allowed expression.

So let the eagle pearch and the hawk also.

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