Shameless Yoruba Obas

By Tunde Odesola

Wear a crown on a pig, clad it in the starchiest agbada, and sheathe its feet in Gucci shoes, it’s still a pig, not a king.

More than a thousand years after Oduwuwa ruled Ile-Ife in the 12th Century, and his scions expanded the kingdom to Dahomey and beyond, a taboo of impunity has descended on Yoruba palaces.

Sadly, pigs have clambered unto Yoruba thrones; firstly lifting their snouts and forelegs unto the seats of power while they momentarily rest on their hindlegs clumsily, before heaving themselves up the thrones to undeserved royalty and piggery.

I bring to you the parroted tale of a wicked king called Nureni Oduwaye. Oduwaye is the Onifojege of Fojege, a patch near Sotubo in Sagamu-Remo, Ogun State.

On September 21, 2022, Oduwaye clambered down from his throne, left honour and dignity in the palace, and headed up to a hotel called Moore Blessing, in Ikenne, where he manifested his piggery, kicking a chef, Wasiu Oduwole, in the eye with one of his hindlegs over an allegation that the chef danced with his queen. Eternal darkness fell on the left eye of Oduwole, leaving him with one eye to view the camera called life.

On September 30, 2022, a kindred of Oduwaye, Saheed Adamson, who is the traditional ruler of Ajido community in the Badagry area of Lagos State, also battered one of his high chiefs, Michael Kunnuji, in public, leaving him with a bloody face.

In the two separate instances, however, the police pointedly told Oduwole and Kunnuji that they couldn’t arrest the assailants because they were monarchs, a sad testimony that the Nigerian police force remained a state organ created to protect the powerful and oppress the poor.

In the case of Oduwole, the Area Commander, Sagamu, Ojugbele Adebola, reportedly said he (Area Commander) was a prince and, as such, could not arrest the king. Now, I clearly hear Fela Anikilapo’s voice, “Hear o, another animal talk!” in Beast of No Nation.

When contacted on the phone for his reaction, Oduwaye said he had visitors and couldn’t talk with THE PUNCH. The mother of Oduwole, Shakirat, said the Area Commander was bent on perverting justice, stressing that the police have refused to investigate the case.

Similarly, the police said they couldn’t arrest Adamson because of his royal status but Kunnuji’s lawyer, Ganiu Adeola, has vowed to ensure that justice was served.

Commenting on the ruthless attitude of some traditional rulers, a former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof Wande Abimbola, said the unwieldy number of monarchs in Yoruba was one of the causes of the misbehaviour among them.

In a telephone interview with me on Saturday, Abimbola, the Awise Awo Agbaye said, “Yoruba traditional rulers are too many. They are over 10,000. So, there are no checks and balances. Some communities have between 30 and 40 obas. Many of them who parade themselves as obas today were baales or heads of farmsteads. Kingship in the land has been so bastardised that some of them don’t even mind being kings over just their houses alone.

“Ooni Adesoji Aderemi said there are only 17 kings in Yoruba land. We must stop and ask ourselves if we want to continue with kingship or not. Having this large number of kings is too much, and it has turned the whole thing into a comedy.

“Our legislators should carry our traditional rulers along in their deliberations, we should give our kings roles to play in our democracy.”

The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Lekan Balogun, said it was wrong for any oba to engage in a fight, adding that it was a sign of irresponsibility for any adult to fight in public.

Balogun, who is 42nd Olubadan, spoke through his media aide, Oladele Ogunsola, on Saturday, in a telephone chat.

“For an Oba to publicly attack somebody is an indication that such an oba has not yet conquered his anger which is a big minus on his part. Anger is a psychological problem kindled by emotion and the moment one is still subjected to the dictate of his emotions, it amounts to deficiency in character. Olubadan certainly frowns on acts considered as adult delinquency.”

The first-class monarch said the long succession line to the throne of Ibadan subjects Olubadans to a profound learning process that imbues them with character, content and compassion.

A prince and former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said a real blue blood won’t desecrate the royal stool with bad behaviour, stressing, however, that not all kings were Judases.

Oyinlola, in a telephone chat with me, said, “There are bad eggs among bishops and imams too. A true blue blood prince who’s made an oba won’t misbehave.”

The Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Adesimbo Kiladejo, a first-class ruler, said kingship was an honourable position. Kiladejo, who spoke through his palace spokesperson, Chief Tadese Akinwande, said obas were the custodians of the traditions and customs of the people, and should live above board.

Also, speaking in a telephone interview with me, the Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Osun State, Oba AbdulRasheed Olabomi, another first-class ruler, said modernisation has changed the operation of monarchy in Yoruba land.

He said, “So many things have changed in the way Yoruba kingship system has evolved. There’s a need to rejig the whole architecture of obaship so as to revamped the system.”

One of the first-class Obas in Ekiti State, the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi, said on the phone that the attack was an extreme case of anger if the Kabiyesi in question actually blinded the man.

He said, “We need to get the details of what happened. Until we have that it will be difficult to comment on it. However, it is ungentlemanly for anybody to fight in public. That is a barbaric act, and to say an Oba fought in public makes the case worse. But we have to get the whole story to know what happened from the beginning.

“We need to know if the oba was the one that actually did that. But as omoluabi that Yoruba people are, it is not expected of any reasonable person to fight in public even if you are not an oba.”

The Eselu of Iselu land in Yewa-North Local Government Area of Ogun State, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi, said traditional rulers shouldn’t engage in brawls.

He said, “That is the height of it. Traditional rulers are not meant to fight (at all), not to talk of fighting somebody because of your wife, and going to the extent that he kicked the person (in the eye), that’s very abnormal.

“At times, provocation can set in, the best thing is to walk away. Because, it is not easy at times – what you cannot take when you are not an Oba, but, when you are an Oba, you need to control.”
Not everyone in the Nigerian Police Force is a bribe taker, but a force notorious for changing the course of justice in favour of the bribe giver, is a promoter of criminality.

With these two cases of suspected inducement, dereliction of duty and victimisation, the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, can launder the bad image of the force by ordering fresh investigations into both cases and getting justice for the victims. Doing so will reassure Nigerians that once a case comes to the hearing of the IGP, justice is on the way.

No doubt, the growing despicable behaviour of some Yoruba obas has rubbed off badly on the collective integrity of the class, creating an impression that obaship for some of the bad eggs is weapon of oppression.

If the kung fu trend among Yoruba obas doesn’t cease, maybe dictionary writers won’t have an option than to obacheap and obasheep in their lexicons.

Pigs can only be pigs. They can never be kings.

Written by Tunde Odesola and published in The PUNCH, on Monday, October 17, 2022.
Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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