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Ogun Obaship Bill: The Controversy, Assent, Jubilation and Threat

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Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has signed into law, a controversial bill, which is set to redefine the administration of the traditional institution as well as the rights and privileges of royal fathers in the state.

 

The bill stipulates how traditional rulers and chiefs are to be selected, appointed, recognised and buried and was initiated during the tenure of Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, as chairman of the Ogun State Traditional Council in 2020.

 

Titled, “A Bill for a Law to provide for an approved method for the selection, appointment and recognition of Obas and Chiefs in Ogun State and for Other Related Matters”, the Bill is being opposed traditionalists, who had stormed the State House of Assembly on July 14, last year, to make their grievances known.

 

Even after the governor’s assent, they are still threatening legal action to challenge the governor’s action, insisting that it is an attempt to push cultural practice into extinction.

 

Welcomed by the Christian and the Muslim faithful, the bill among others, confers on the traditional rulers the right to decide the mode of their burial.

 

FAMILIES CAN NOW DETERMINE HOW OBAS WILL BE BURIED, ABIODUN

Abiodun, who signed the bill at the private residence of the Awujale in Ijebu Ode and in the presence of the monarch himself as well as the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle and the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, said it was imperative to review the existing law, which he described as “antiquated and contravene the fundamental rights of individual traditional rulers and what the state stands for.

 

The government, he added, would continue to blaze the trail in enacting laws that are in tandem with modern times, adding that “I believe that one of the unique things about this law, beside the fact that it is set out to improve the method for the selection of obas and chiefs, is the clarity that this law provides as it relate to the passage of our kabiyesis.

 

“This law seeks to improve on the previous existing Western Nigeria laws on where there had been ambiguity as it relates to how our kabiyesis will be buried. It states emphatically that the families of the respective obas should have a say on how they are buried henceforth. It now allows the families to determine how our obas will be interred and, of course, without prejudice to the traditional rites that are meant to be performed by the customary laws. Going forward, the families now have a say on how our royal fathers should be buried”, he emphasised.

 

Describing traditional rulers as reliable, dependable, closest to the people and practising the oldest form of administration, he assured that his government would collaborate with them to deepen development in the grassroots.

He appreciated the Awujale for his doggedness and persistence, by ensuring the bill sailed through, while also commending the members of the State House of Assembly for ensuring that they went through the necessary meticulous process that led to its assent.

 

BILL IN CONSONANCE WITH NATION’S CONSTITUTION, SPEAKER OLUOMO

 

Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Kunle Oluomo, in his address, said the lawmakers ensured that the bill is in consonance with the nation’s constitution, noting that it passed through the toughest proceedings in the history of the assembly, as it generated a lot of controversy from members of the public.

Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Oluwasina Ogungbade, said the law is the first in the South West, hoping that it will be a template for other states.

 

I THANK GOD IT HAPPENED IN MY LIFETIME, AWUJALE

 

In his address, Oba Adetona, who will be 88 years old on May 10 and has been on the throne since April 2, 1960, said the governors assent to the bill was an achievement after attracting a lot of attention from Christian and Muslim faithful, commending the governor and the speaker for making it happen. He also thanked God for keeping him alive to witness the event.

Oba Olugbenle and Oba Ajayi couldn’t hide their joy, as they believed that the law will correct grey areas bordering the traditional institution and rites in the state.

 

THE JOURNEY

First presented in 2020 and scaled through second reading on March 3, same year, it was then marked “State Traditional Rulers (Installation and Burial Rites) Bill 2020,” the bill, sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Akeem Balogun, sought to make “a law to provide for the Preservation, Protection and Exercise by Traditional Rulers of their fundamental rights to be installed and buried according to their religions or beliefs and for other related matters.”

 

Divergent views, which greeted it, made a public hearing, then fixed for June, 2020, to be suspended indefinitely, but reintroduced with slight modification to its title in July 2021.

 

The bill was rechristened “H.B. No. 069/ OG/ 2021- Obas, Chiefs, Council of Obas and Traditional Council law of Ogun State, 2021- A bill for a law to provide for an approved method for the selection, appointment and recognition of Obas, Chiefs and Traditional Council in Ogun State and for purposes incidental and supplementary to them.”

 

SUBJECTING MONARCHS UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF INFERIOR SECRET CULTS IS BABARIC, OLUWO OF IWOLAND

 

The assent to the bill by Abiodun has received the support of a monarch in neighbouring Osun state, as the Paramount Ruler of Iwoland, in Osun state, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, has said, “it will restore sanity and respect for monarchs’ rights into the Yoruba traditional institution.

 

“The Governor should be specially commended for rescuing Yoruba traditional councils from extinction and subjugation to the authority of secret societies. Governor Dapo has just demonstrated real leadership, thank you for this, I celebrate you.

 

Oluwo, in a statement signed by his Press Secretary, Alli Ibraheem, added that “traditional institution is like no other. It is the highest and most perennial of all earthly echelons. Subjecting such a powerful force under the authority of an inferior secret group is barbaric. A turnover is here. Ogun State is a template for pure monarchy. This is the hope of the entire Yoruba race, not only the traditional system.

 

“Kings are the heads, but disappointedly, cultism has subjected some kings to their dictates. And a governor just signed a bill bringing Yoruba kingship to limelight. On behalf of those who trust in pure monarchy, I say thank you governor Abiodun”, he stated.

 

Urging other states to follow suit and enact similar law, the monarch believes it will make the traditional system attractive to all citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

 

The governor’s assent to the bill, he noted, is a manifestation that Ogun State indigenes are indeed the first civilised people of the Yoruba race.

 

A DEAD MAN HAS NO RIGHTS, TRADITIONALISTS

 

However, the traditionalists have threatened to challenge the governor’s action legally, claiming that “a dead man has no right under the law.”

 

Oluwo of Iperu and Vice Chairman of Osugbo Remo Parapo, Ifasola Opeodu, said no one is forced to become an oba, and that “on no account should either Christians or Muslims bury an oba. We are going to call a meeting, we are challenging the implementation in court. We are going to ask the court to restrict them from implementing the law and the court will decide.

 

“The first ground is that a dead man has no right under the law. Anybody that is dead has lost all the rights that he has. The right of obas that they are claiming that we are violating is not right, because a dead man has no right again under the law.

 

“Secondly, what we are saying is that Obaship institution will is optional, we are not forcing anybody to come there, we are not saying they should not bury obas, but what we are opposing, if you follow our argument, is that how can they now say Christians and Muslims should come and be burying obas, traditional heads? If there is anything that they don’t want during their burials, they should say, but traditionalists must be the ones to bury obas, not Christians.

 

“Why don’t they say that Christians or Muslims should be the ones to install the monarchs? They are not saying this. The governor even said without prejudice to the rights of traditionalists under customary law. All these things are there. We are not saying that they should not bury obas, but it should not be Christians or Muslims that will bury the Obas”, Opeodu said.

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