By Misbau Lateef
RECENTLY, Oba Al-Marouf Adekunle Magbagbeola, Olumoyero II, the 34th Olufon of Ifon-Oroluland, Orolu Local Government Area, State of Osun, passed on to glory to join his great ancestors, thereby leaving vacant the First-Class Chieftaincy stool of Olufon. In his condolence message, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the State of Osun clearly approximates general feelings when he described the passage of the late Olufon as a “colossal loss, not only to the state, but to Nigeria as a whole,” and of his legacies, as someone “whose contributions to cultural identity, national unity, peace and progress of Osun and Nigeria as a whole won’t be forgotten.”
To be sure, Ifon-Orolu is an ancient Yoruba Kingdom, founded by Olufon, the only son of Obatala, who founded Ile-Ife. Olufon Aladikun Olaosa Akogun Erujeje Adugbo was the first recorded Olufon in history (1488 – 1521 A.D). The stool of Olufon is, therefore, a First-Class stool with a beaded crown right from inception and through the eras of the Western Region, the old Oyo State, and up till now, when our part of the nation is known as the State of Osun. Also, Olufon is the permanent Chairman of Irepodun/Orolu Traditional Council, and Deputy Chairman, Osun State Council of Obas. According to Samuel Johnson in his authoritative book, “The History of the Yorubas: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate,” not many Yoruba communities can claim beaded crowns for their traditional stools as not all of them can claim ancestral migration from Ile-Ife, the fountain head of divine kinship in all Yoruba-speaking communities. Clearly, the foregoing underscores the preeminence of the Olufon stool, and why the question of who the next Olufon may be is very crucial at the moment.
As we continue to mourn the passage of our late amiable Oba, princes from different Ruling Houses in the community have begun to make open and subtle jostling for the stool, thereby creating a sort of apprehension in the community. It is in these prevailing circumstances, therefore, that I have thought it fit to put some issues into their proper perspectives. As I do not intend this to be a legal analysis, I shall strictly restrict myself to statement of facts only. First, it must be clarified that the process of selecting an Oba is both traditional and statutory, and each is important and complimentary to the other. Traditionally, each community has recognised ruling houses from among which nominations may proceed to fill a vacant chieftaincy stool. Thus, it is the customary duty of the certified kingmakers from that community to select a candidate from the relevant ruling house or houses. In the modern time where Ifa oracle is no longer the sole determinant, the selection process can become complicated where a prescribed rotation process has been distorted or compromised.
Statutorily, it is the duty of the State Government to declare a recognised chieftaincy stool vacant. In the present case of Olufon stool, the Government of the State of Osun is yet to do that and it is hoped it will do so soon. After such a declaration, the State Government will then issue a letter requesting the next ruling house or houses, which candidate(s) must have been ascertained and affirmed by the Kingmakers, to present their nomination(s) for scrutiny and approval by the State Government. Meanwhile, the Governor may only approve nominations that have been made in accordance with the provisions of an extant Chieftaincy Declaration. But the question of which Chieftaincy Declaration is extant or operative concerning the Olufon stool has become a subject of controversies and court litigations in recent times.
At present, there are at least two controversial Chieftaincy Declarations: the 1979 and 1988 Declarations, both made pursuant to the Chiefs’ Law of Oyo State (still applicable in the State of Osun). While the 1979 Declaration recognises five (5) independent ruling houses (Moronfolu, Olumoyero, Odunolu, Orisatoyinbo, Oluyeyin), the 1988 Declaration groups the same five ruling houses into two namely: Olaojo (Moronfolu & Odunolu) and Orisafi (Orisatoyinbo, Olumoyero, Oluyeyin). Although the re-grouping by the 1988 Declaration appears superfluous as an attempt to draw a distinction between a six and half a dozen, it has also become another subject of litigious controversies leading to conflicting interpretations of court judgment by the ruling houses. But whatever Declaration is accepted as operative today, it is clear that while all other ruling houses have filled the vacant stool of Olufon in successions till the demise of the late Oba in 2021, only the Odunolu and the Oluyeyin Ruling Houses have not ascended the Olufon throne in recent times. And since no rotation process has ever been strictly adhered to under the two controversial Declarations, it is only just and equitable that a new Olufon should emerge either from the Odunolu or Oluyeyin Ruling Houses. But as between the Odunolu and Oluyeyin, it is even more equitable, in my well-considered view, to allow the Odunolu to produce the next Olufon, given the chronological order of listing by the two controversial Declarations.
Since the appointment of an Oba by the Governor is now more of a political (or statutory) tool than it is traditional, it is hoped that Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the State of Osun will avail himself of the best legal and sound ‘political’ advice to navigate the brewing controversies from Ifon-Orolu. To help the Governor navigate the waters successfully and on time, the ruling houses, chiefs, kingmakers, and elites in the community must steer clear of all manipulations and stick to due process of law in the whole process. Filling the vacant stool of Olufon must not be frustrated, manipulated or delayed. In November 2019, it must be recalled, the Supreme Court of Nigeria dethroned Oba Samuel Adebayo-Adegbola, the Eleruwa of Eruwa, Oyo State, on the ground that he was not a member of one of the two ruling houses which turn it was to produce a successor in 1994.
All said, we crave that the next Olufon of Ifon-Oroluland must not only be an embodiment of our cherished cultural values and traditions, he must also be well-educated, enlightened, charismatic, and urbane.
- Misbau Alamu Lateef, Esq, Ph.D.
Akogun Odugbire Compound; Ifon-Oroluland.