From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
A former Commissioner for Justice in Oyo State, Michael Lana, has asked Governor Seyi Makinde to withhold his approval for installation of the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Senator Lekan Balogun, as the 42nd Olubadan, following the demise of Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I, the 41st Olubadan, who joined his ancestors on Sunday.
The letter, dated January 3, 2022, and emanated from MFL Chambers, Lana House, Liberty Road, Oke Ado, Ibadan, was addressed to Governor Makinde, and a copy of it was also sent to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Prof Oyelowo Oyewo, SAN.
The letter read in part: “May I firstly, commiserate with you on the demise of His Royal Majesty, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I, the Olubadan of Ibadanland. May his soul rest in peace. Secondly, may I humbly draw your attention to a traditional aberration and illegality that may occur in an attempt to install another Olubadan of Ibadanland. In view of the existence of Suit No: 1/22/2020-HRM Oba (Senator) Lekan Balogun and Others vs Governor of Oyo State and Others.
“Kindly note, Your Excellency, that your predecessor in office, without thinking of the legal effects of his actions on the future of Ibadan traditional institution, conferred the titles of Obaship on some High Chiefs and Baales and gave them the right to wear beaded crowns and coronets, in 2017. This action was challenged in Suit No: M317/2017-High Chief Rashidi Ladoja vs the Governor of Oyo State. The High Court per Aiki J, nullified the said conferment, which was actually a total contravention of both the Chiefs Law and the Ibadan chieftaincy customary law.
“However, the Court of Appeal, in Appeal No. CA/IB/99/2018 set aside the said judgment of Aiki J on technical grounds without touching on the merit of the case and sent the case back for retrial.
Upon your Excellency’s assumption of office, it was resolved that the matter be settled amicably and the same was settled through the instrumentality of terms of the settlement, which became the judgment of the court. The said terms of settlement recognised the illegality of the said actions and therefore set aside the Gazette by which the said chiefs became Obas with a right to wear beaded crowns and coronets.
“The High Chiefs and Baales were dissatisfied with this consent judgment and therefore instituted two separate suits to set aside the consent judgment, while at the same time clinging to the title of Obas (which actually is in contempt of court). One of these cases is Suit No. I/22/2020-HRM Oba (Senator) Lekan Balogun and Others vs Governor of Oyo State and Others. Now, may I draw your Excellency’s attention to the fact that in committing this aberration, which changed the Ibadan Chieftaincy customary law, the Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration of 1957 was not amended and therefore remains extant. Under that declaration and all relevant laws, no Oba can ascend to the throne of Olubadan. In other words, as long as the High Chiefs still cling to the title of Oba, they cannot ascend to that throne and any installation of any of them during the pendency of that suit is illegal, null and void.
“In the entire history of Ibadanland, we have never had such a situation where the legality or otherwise of the installation of the Olubadan would be an issue and this was what your predecessor did not take into consideration before venturing into an illegal journey. Ibadan chieftaincy elevation had always been smooth and without any rancour to the envy of all other towns. It is in line with this legal situation that I advise, most humbly, that you should withhold any approval of any High Chief to become the Olubadan so that you will not also join in the desecration of Ibadan Chieftaincy Customary Law.
“There are two ways to deal with this situation: one is for the High Chiefs to withdraw the aforementioned cases and the other is to wait for the court to pronounce on it before any step is taken to install an Olubadan. If the court holds that they have the right to be Obas and entitled to wear beaded crowns, then they are perpetually barred from becoming another Oba. Nowhere in the customary law of any Yoruba town is an Oba elevated to become another Oba. If, on the other hand, the court holds that the terms of settlement stand, and their obaship title is illegal, then, they are free to be elevated to the post of Olubadan. The ball, your Excellency, is in your court. I wish you well as you consider, as an Ibadan man, and as governor, your place in history.”