Chieftaincy crisis: Court rules against Ajimobi

Members of the Olubadan-in-Council, who were newly promoted as obas, with the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi (6th left); and his wife, Florence, during the presentation of their certificates and staff of office by the governor, at Mapo Hall, Ibadan... on Sunday. Photo: Governor's Office

The review of the 1957 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration and other Related Chieftaincies Laws in Ibadanland by the Oyo State Government has been declared by an Oyo state High Court sitting in Ibadan as unconstitutional, illegal, null, void and of no effect.

The court headed by Justice Olajumoke Aiki delivered the judgment in a case filed by a former governor who is also the Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, Senator Rashidi Ladoja against Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state and Justice Akintunde Boade, the chairman of the judicial commission of enquiry that review the declaration.

 Governor Ajimobi had on Friday May 19,  2017 set up a judicial commission of enquiry to review the 1957 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration and other Related Chieftaincies laws in Ibadanland.

Accordingly, a report was submitted by the panel, in August, 2017 and a White Paper on the report was published in the Oyo State Gazette No. 14, Vol. 42 by Authority on August 23, 2017 and the amended declaration on regulating the selection to the Olubadan of Ibadan Chieftaincies and related matters published in the Oyo State Gazette No. 15, Vol.  42 by Authority in Ibadan on August 24, 2017.

Another government committee was latter set up to review the report and recommendations of the committee.

The process brought about the installation of 21 new (obas) kings in Ibadanland by the government on Sunday August 27, 2017 at the Mapo Hall Arcade, Ibadan amidst drums and fanfare.

The 21 new kings comprised eight members of the Olubadan-in-Council elevated from ‘High Chiefs’ to beaded crown wearing monarchs while the remaining 13 are village heads (Baales) promoted to coronet wearing obas.

Ladoja, who refused to accept the beaded crown, had filed two cases against the review at the state High Court.

He jointly filed the initial suit with his immediate senior on the Otun Olubadan chieftaincy line, Oba Lekan Balogun, who is the Otun Olubadan and most senior chief on the Otun line. Balogun backed out of the case later. However,  Ladoja alone filed the second case.

In the first case, the duo sued the state government over the constitution of the commission in May, this year. They listed the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and members of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry inaugurated by the government on Friday May 19, 2017 to review the system, as defendants before an Oyo State High Court.

The claimants prayed the court, in the suit number M/317/2017, to restrain the commission from sitting, accepting any memorandum or in any way taking any step in furtherance of its assignment, pending the determination of motion on notice in respect of the subject.

However, in the second suit, Ladoja asked the court to set aside the report of the commission and prayed the court to nullify the proceedings of the panel and its reports.

The court, in the judgment held that wearing of beaded crowns are beyond the purview of Sections 10,12 and 25 of the Oyo State Chiefs Law, stating that Section 25 of the chiefs law could not be treated in isolation to the provisions of Parts Two and Three of the Chiefs Laws

The court also said provisions of Parts Two and Three of the Chiefs Laws,  particularly Sections 10, 12 and 25 did not give power to the governor to review the Olubadan chieftaincy declaration.

The governor, according the court, exercised his power beyond the constitution and the provisions of the chiefs laws made by the House of Assembly, adding that a judicial commission of enquiry could not amend or further amend, review or further review the chieftaincy declaration.

Counsel to Ajimobi, Mr.  Nurudeen Adegboye, in an interview with journalists after the judgment said: “The judge has invested a lot of effort, energy and precious judicial time on the judgment. Though we hold a different view from the view of the judge or the court, the court’s view is the one that is biding.

“So, we have applied for the copy of the judgment. We will look at it again and based on the instruction of our client, because it is our client that has the right to appeal or not, if he gives us the instruction or if he feels he wants to accept the judgment, it is left to him.”

Also,  Mr. Babatunde Akinola, who stood in for the lead counsel to the claimant, Mr. Michael Lana, told newsmen simply that “the judgment was okay.”

At the installation of the new kings, August last year, Ajimobi had said: “I wish to state categorically that we are not changing history, we are not changing tradition, we are not changing the culture of Ibadanland; rather, we are elevating and consolidating our traditional institution, the exalted position of the Olubadan of Ibadan as the Imperial Majesty in Ibadanland, the Olubadan-in-Council and the Chieftaincy Institution without altering or tinkering with the traditional succession and ascendancy system of the Olubadan Chieftaincy structure.”

Efforts had however been made by various stakeholders to ensure amicable resolution of the matter with the setting up of a truth and reconciliation committee before the latest court ruling.