This has not been the best of times for the traditional institutions. At this difficult period in their history, the Yorubas urgently now more than at any other time, require a truly distinguished royalty.
Why is this so important? One might be tempted to ask, afterall, this is a modern democratic republic and so forth. It is obvious of course, that there will always be the question of the compatibility of traditional institutions with modern society. There will always be contradictions and fault-lines. However, within the culture, orientation and organization of Yoruba society, the institutions will always have a central-role to play.
As we have already stated, in this period, the Yourbas are at a low ebb. On every front of activity the Yoruba nationality is slipping behind and losing its once wanted and envied place of pride. The race that produced the nation’s first lawyers, doctors, engineers and sundry professionals, is now operating a clapped out educational system at a time when access to education is the determining-ground for success in the modern economy.
The debilitations wrought on the Yorubas by an incoherent leadership is particularly worrisome. Economically, unless it is been deceived by the property values in the Lagos metropolis and a handful of other centres, the race is lagging behind. Access to credit is hampered with the loss of such key financial institutions such as National Bank, Cooperative Bank amongst others. The government institutions which once provided long-term financial assistance such as the Western Nigeria Finance Corporation have long been defunct. To add insult to self-inflicted injury, a recent Central Bank directive, specifically called for the inclusion of three directors from outside the Southwest to carry out the reorganization of Wema Bank- a venerable – old Odua institution which had started out as Agbonmagbe Bank.
In this difficult time, the response of the royalty in Yorubaland has been below par. They simply do not appear to grasp the seriousness of the issue. What is at stake is the future prosperity of the entire Yoruba-speaking nationality. This is a time for sobriety. The response required from the royalty is how to recognize priorities and reinvigorate all of our institutions. They are expected to show the light and move the race forward. In the past, revered rulers such as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, a host of distinguished Alake of Egbaland, the Olowo of Owo and so on would have provided the much needed leadership and be at the forefront of a fight back.
Today, we indulge in nostalgia and miss these titans because of the perceived inadequacy of the present crop of rulers. During the harrowing days of the Abacha interregnum, only a handful stood out as been principled.
Many played an inglorious even treacherous role in an era that is better forgotten. However, we must learn lessons from transient power and temporary advantage is. The present situation in which traditional rulers fail to speak out against injustice is untenable, demeaning and cannot stand the test of time. The injustices being meted out to the Yoruba at this moment are terrible and the people have suffered in silence with enviable patience.
It cannot be an edifying moment for the Yoruba that our traditional rulers cannot speak when the right of the Yoruba to freely elect their own representatives and leadership is been violated with reckless abandon. It cannot be edifying that a 17-year-old girl is gang-raped and no one speaks out against such injustice. What have our traditional institutions done against the assault on Yoruba culture, society and economy perpetrated during the ignominious rule of Olusegun Obasanjo and his henchmen and collaborators, such as the late, unlamented Lamidi Adedibu?
A rebirth of the Yoruba is currently under way. Everyone will have to take a stand. It with be to either be a part of the problem or be a part of the solution. There is no middle way. There is every need to ensure that the royalty is part of the solution. To do this, they will have to make atonement for their inglorious role in the recent past. The Yoruba seek truly distinguished royalty today more than ever. Great men, who will not be tempted or swayed by temporary advantage and pecuniary gain. It will require fighting on behalf of the welfare, enhancement and the rights of the people. It will mean recognizing that the Yourba must move in tandem with the requirements of the time. The institution of royalty is too central to the Yoruba for it to be wantonly abused and desecrated. There must be a positive move in the right direction now!