Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ibadan Obaship: A Governor Confronts History.

It would take years before the full implications of what happened on Sunday August 27 in Ibadan to manifest. On that day, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State installed 21 new persons as monarchs in Ibadan to superintend over the affairs of the city and its satellite towns and villages.

With this masterstroke, he has tampered with age-long traditional system in Ibadan that has become ossified for generations. For better or for worse, something has happened in Ibadan that has shaken the traditional elite class. Twenty-one men have just been installed as Kabiyesi. And they were not even princes!

Ibadan was a unique experiment in nation building during the turbulence of the 19th Century following the collapse of old Oyo Empire. After Oyo, the capital of the empire was destroyed by rebels from Ilorin, aided by the Fulanis, the old city and all the adjourning settlements were evacuated and the refugees, including members of the soldierly class, moved south. This was to have serious demographic impact on the rest of Yorubaland. A band of soldiers, led by Lagelu, an Ife war commander, was the first to settle in Ibadan. He was succeeded by another Ife man called Maye. Oluyole, a war commander from Oyo was the third ruler. He was the one who instituted the republican Constitution for Ibadan. There had been tampering since then, but nothing as fundamental as what Ajimobi did on Sunday.

One thing that set Ibadan and Ilorin, its old rival, apart from other Yoruba towns was the scant regard paid to the old Ife system which dictated that for someone to become an Oba, he must trace his roots to the House of Oduduwa in Ile-Ife or to one of its princes or princesses. Ibadan, a city built by soldiers, had no time for such niceties. It saw itself as the rightful successor state to the Oyo Empire and after its subjugation of Aare Kurumi of Ijaiye, tried to bring other Yoruba states under its wing. It was spectacularly successful, bringing a large part of Yorubaland under its influence, if not direct rule, until checkmated by the Ekitiparapo Grand Alliance in the Kiriji War.

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