Between the Oba and the Governor: Rejoinder to General Obasanjo’s Repose

By S.O K Shillings

A video is making rounds in the public domain showing General Olusegun Obasanjo in at a state function commanding the traditional rulers of Osun State to stand up and greet their Governor because the Governor and President are senior to the traditional rulers in state hierarchy and Yorubas respect age and positions.

Aside the disservice that the Owu High Chief has done to his image especially as an antithesis and meltdown on his effort at promoting the traditional institution by himself prostrating to the Oni’risha on his visit, I consider the position as an expression of a misconceived order.

There are records of dethronement of traditional rulers by Governors when the traditional ruler offends them. You can recollect Alaafin Adeyemi, the first, Olateru Olagbegi, Olowo of Owo kingdom and recently Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano among several.

I submit that this is a wrong position. The Governor of a State does not appoint a traditional ruler. The Governor only presents the staff of office as a ceremonial symbol of state recognition. Even if the traditional ruler receives stipends from the state (in fact it is local governments that pay), it does not make him an employee of the State who could be sacked or dethroned by the Governor. If it is read otherwise, then, the ‘traditional’ will be an aberation

The removal of a traditional ruler is an usurpation of the rights and duties of an organ of the traditional organisation. In Yorubaland, it is the osugbo. If the Oba or Emir or Obi behaves in a way that is unbecoming of the exalted office or offends against state law, if criminal, he should be taken to court and when found guilty, should serve the sentence and the osugbo may be advised, if it fails in its duty, to proceed to depose the king; not otherwise.

If there is any state law that empowers a Governor to depose a traditional ruler, that law is ultra vires the powers of the state. It is an interference and hijack of the powers of an institution. The state law may regulate the mode of choosing, even the mode of removal but not to seize the power to choose and remove. It is like regulating religion to the point of appointing and removing pastors and imams. Bear in mind that the Obas are the heads of the Yoruba traditional religion.

The dethronement of a traditional ruler is an insult to the town much more than the king. Imagine if the Governor deposes a king and the community refuses to abide. Suppose they say that it is their palace and they want their king to continue to sit on their throne, will it be a crime for the king or community leaders? Can the state enter the palace and seize it; quaere if it could seize RCCG church or the central mosque when no crime is committed?

The traditional stool is a distinct institution from the state. There must be mutual respect and in fact, where the Governor of the state is an indigene unlike in military governments and odd cases, the Governor owes a higher debt of respect to the traditional rulers. They must be sitted in proper environment befitting of the regale. They are not to stand and greet like schoolboys. They may be advised in the affairs of state but not ordered. Compare the monarchy in the United Kingdom.

Former President, General Obasanjo, like former Governor Nyesom Wike, scolding and schooling traditional rulers on respect for Governors and Presidents is, with respect, an abuse of status and misappropriation of power.

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, deposed traditional rulers have simply accepted fate and the issue (of the right of the Governor to dethrone) has not enjoyed judicial test and pronouncement.

S. O. K. Shillings Esq., writes from Ikorodu

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