Heritage Reporter

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That the traditional institution has been bastardised in Yorubaland is no longer in doubt.


Within the last seven days three traditional rulers were hacked down just as small children catch rats.

This development has been made possible because the traditional institution has not only been politicised but ridiculed to the extent that a former president in the country whose root as a Yoruba man is alleged to be in doubt, asked Obas at an occasion to stand up to respect a governor present at the event. What a gross disrespect for culture! I won’t blame him as the institution has been brought under government led by politicians rigged into office.

What then do you expect from a decadent system in which political rulers get to office via courtroom decisions rather than the ballot box? It is said that: ‘he who pays the piper dictates the tune.’

Traditional rulers across the country, constitutionally, are paid their wages via their respective local governments from allocations paid to them by the federal government. This is a shadow of what we used to know when we were growing up.

The traditional institution in any locality, in the days of yore was independent of politics. This was why public officers, including the Divisional Officers (DO’s) during colonial times, visiting any locality would visit the traditional ruler in that area, first, to pay traditional respect, and second, to explain his mission and take his permission.  While leaving, the public officers would take official leave of the traditional ruler.

The tide has since changed, in most cases but not in all cases. Stories have it that the revered Oba of Benin, acclaimed to be a prominent custodian of tradition once summoned a public official to his palace. But because the public officer didn’t want to honour the invitation, he feigned sickness, and his message was delivered to the Oba who echoed it: ‘he’s sick.’ In less than an hour, the public officer, who was hale and hearty, was carried to the palace, almost dead, to seek pardon by the Oba.

In Yorubaland, Obas are regarded as Ekeji Orisa (the deputy of deities). I was told the Ekiti Oba who escaped being killed was the one driving his colleagues as they were returning from a meeting when the assailants attacked. Sacrilege! Obas, in those days needn’t to travel in vehicles to go from place to place. They merely stayed in their rooms, conjured their magical powers and they found themselves wherever they wanted. Those were the Obas selected by the Ifa Oracle and ‘cooked’ traditionally in Ipebi before ascending the throne.

During the ‘Operation Wet E’ in the Western Region in 1964, native eggs were thrown against houses of political opponents, and they caught fire! Our traditional rulers were the custodians of such powers!

Today you can become a traditional ruler by merely being friendly with the political rulers in that domain. A traditional ruler today can emerge after the hands of the king makers have been oiled with cash. Strangers who are non-indigenes have started to emerge as traditional rulers.

Our Obas may continue to die like fowls until we return to our roots where tradition is given a pride of place in the choice of our traditional office holders, and not the approval of corrupt politicians whose election into office has been manipulated.

It is sad and unthinkable that politicians have denigrated our revered cultural values and brought the institution under their whims and caprices. No wonder they sack or suspend Obas at will.

I am surprised that several days after the killers laid their hands on persons whose positions are supposed to be sacred, the gods have not struck as they did in the days of our forefathers. Or is it that the gods are sleeping? Sango (god of thunder), Obatala (god of divination), Ogun (god of iron), etc, where are you?  They may not have refused to strike or that they are sleeping; it may just simply be that they love justice and that it is their way of restoring sanity in our cultural system.

What holds sway today, and is becoming almost the norm, is like trying to build an edifice on a false foundation; it is bound to collapse!

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