In everything, I think we have to go back to history. From the beginning, before the colonialists came, every kingdom or community was governed and administered by the king. When the colonialists came, they realised that to get to the people and pass a message, they had to go through the traditional rulers. That was when they had the indirect rule through the obas. Following that, in the western region, there was the House of Chiefs; notable obas were part of that House. It was like another legislative arm where they put heads together to advise the government. When you look at that period where there was peace, progress with good suggestions, input from the obas, things were going well. I believe it is not right to say that if a platform is created for the obas, wherein suggestions can be made into the policies of government, that the obas will become political. They did not become political in those days; I don’t think any oba will want to become a politician. For instance, if you have 10 political parties in your town, you are the father of everyone. Today, what we do is that obas will give advice; sometimes, it is not even heard. I believe it is much better to create a platform where government can have direct link and that is open and transparent to the public. I think it is wrong to say that because of that, they will become political. These days, if there is any issue, it is the obas that politicians will run to first, regardless of which political party they belong. In every state, there is the council of traditional rulers which is advisory to the government on chieftaincy and related matters. A traditional ruler can’t be partisan. If there is a government in power, the monarch must support it by way of advice and help to pass the policies of the government to their people.
Were monarchs really involved in the running of local governments?
Monarchs were the heads of local governments before. These days, the calibre of people becoming monarchs is intimidating. You have lawyers, judges, PhD holders, medical doctors, engineers, architects, accountants, diplomats and other quality people from all fields who are now traditional rulers. The reservoir of knowledge that these people have should be utilised. I think it will benefit the government at the state and federal levels to get these people involved. These are resources for governments to use. I think the local government, honestly, should be under the monarch of that local government.
The idea of palace courts is assuming a new status in Ekiti State. Do you think they can end rape, land disputes and other communal issues?
In Ikere Ekiti, our structure is such that there is a palace court which is held thrice a week within the palace. Most of the issues that are resolved are civil. For instance, issues between husband and wife, marriage, land dispute, disputes between families and chieftaincy issue. Anything that is criminal like burglary is referred to the police for investigation and possible prosecution. We are able to sensitise our people to the evil of rape and violence against the woman. Once these issues come to the palace courts, we are able to resolve them. Our arrangement is that at the palace court, we have a registrar and all our cases are documented. If any person is not satisfied, they bring it to the king, who will hear what the court has done and he will adjudicate on it. We have had huge success in this regard. Ninety-nine per cent of such cases were resolved. It is even cost-effective.
The scramble for obaship is becoming tougher in Ekiti State, like your journey to the throne. What do you think is responsible for this and what should the towns do?
It is a fact that it is getting fierce. It was only recently that judgement was passed confirming the appointment and coronation of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who came to the throne 16 years ago as the Oba of Lagos. I believe it is a taint on our tradition and customs. In the past, two or three people would contest to become the king. It is okay for people to aspire to want to be king, but the throne is for only one person at a time. The new law says a prince, who is identified and confirmed by the head of the family that he is a bona fide son of a royal family, is entitled. Of course, there will be many people. But if we follow the path that our fathers followed, all this acrimony will reduce. Just as in politics these days, when somebody emerges, even when a candidate is not willing to contest the election, there are some people who think they can benefit by exploiting the person, urging him to go to court. This is the norm in Yorubaland and it is a shame. I think the laid down rules must be followed. And to prevent this, if there is a vacancy, every candidate should be made to sign to say that whether the candidates are 10 or 40 or whatever, only one person will emerge and because they will have representatives in all the processes, either it is the interview or ifa or voting, you will have representatives. Therefore, all the candidates will sign an undertaking that they will not go to court once a candidate emerges. That commitment should be obtained from every candidate so that when any of them goes to court, he would be asked whether he witnessed the process or not, whether he was at the interview, represented at the ifa oracle consultation and the voting process. And again, I will advise that video coverage of the processes should be made so that everybody can see clearly if there is transparency; if there is manipulation and so forth. I am still in court now with some people who say they are not happy.
For me, there are ways to reduce the controversies that usually follow the appointment of a new king. Recently, I read an article by a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs Sinatu Ojikutu. She made a very good suggestion that the appointment of kings should be taken away from the governor as approving authority. Once the kingmakers, the people that God has mandated to choose kings, do the process transparently, then the process should be seen to be completed. In my case, it took over four months after I was elected by the kingmakers before my appointment was approved by the then Governor Ayodele Fayose. This is where politics is brought into the appointment of obas. If the people in government believe they don’t know you, they don’t like you or that you didn’t support them, they can even throw it away and pick somebody that has no vote or who ifa did not pick. That is against our tradition and it has repercussion.