One of the surest ways to establish power is to first invent a cure, manufacture a disease for the cure, and then spread the disease. This tactic is very useful because it functions well as a tool for undermining whatever structure the one intending to establish a new power centre must eventually displace.
Up until now, and for a while yet, anyone who wishes to truly make a differecne on a scale that goes beyond the individual in Yoruba lands will have to talk to those in charge of the traditional power structure. This is because unlike most of the political jobbers/opportunists who call themselves 'modern' leaders, the holders of traditional offices are an organic part of their communities. They grew up in them and they
live with other members of the community. In most cases, they actually have no other residencies aside from the one in the community - unlike our modern leaders most of whom were parachuted into the rural and semi-urban areas from bases in Lagos, Abuja, Dubai, London and Sugarland.
Unlike most of these unaccountable breed of politicians, holders of traditional administrative offices are vulnerable to public opinion because they live in the environments whose leadership they claim. Where a holder of traditional offices operates with impunity, he does so because he has the backing of those who are able, from a distance, to inflict damages on the opposition.
In Akure, a man was installed as Deji against the wishes of the townspeople. Then after the man finished exhibiting some of his capabilities, the same Nigerian disease-manufacturers who inflicted him on the town came with a cure : In a magnanimous manner, they invited Akure's kingsmakers to present them with a list of three candidates. Knowing how things work, it is possible that if the list of three candidates
does not include at least one person that these modern-day political captains feel they can control, they will ask the kingmakers to come with another list. And if at the end of it all, the result of their decision turns out to be another dud, those who bay for the end of Yoruba traditional administrative bodies will once again have ample 'evidence' to back their calls for the dismantlement of these institutions.
Armed with fresh ammunition, they will advice Yoruba to abolish the office of Oba. They will point to incidents like the one this ex-Deji was involved in (and to other instances where ones closely linked to the Palaces and traditional institutions have misbehaved) as proof of the assertion that the Yoruba indigenous form of governance/administration is anachronistic and retrogressive.
But, if these were abolished, what would be put in their place? Would these bodies not be made up from members of the same political class that are actually responsible for the rot we are witnessing? What we have here is a case of attacking the symptoms while leaving the disease vectors unchallenged.
In other words, the problem is not with the institution itself but with the way it has been corrupted by its linkage with the political systems that were first introduced by the British. We must also keep in mind that there was never just one system of Obaship in Yorubaland; while there may have been great similarities in the outer forms, every town developed its own system.
Examples are given below of how administrative institutions took shape in four different locations and, how they adapted in accordance with changes in the socio-political environment:
1 - IBADAN : The republican system of Obaship was firmly established in 1851, when Oyesile Olugbode succeeded Opeagbe as the Baale of Ibadan and Ibikunle became the Balogun, Sunmola Laamo became the Otun Baale while Ogunmola was installed ÔÇśthe Otun Balogun'. The innovation became a regular feature whereby, there evolved two separate Chieftaincy lines namely: Baale line and Balogun Isoriki line. The Baale title gave the holder mainly the civic responsibility while the Balogun line comprised of war Chiefs held purely military titles.
According to Rev. Johnson, "a strong government thus emerged not only because Ibadan continually engaged in warfare but partly because those who flocked to Ibadan completely identified themselves with the new town". The Traditional Council (Igbimo Ilu), before the advent of the colonial administration was the supreme organ of State while in the exercise of power, the Baale was the Chief Executive. Its membership was made up of High Chiefs from both Baale line and the Balogun line, and council decisions on most issues were final.
Among the most important issues deliberated upon were; Diplomacy, War, Custom, Duties, Appointment, Promotions and Discipline of Chiefs, Military and Security. The Council had no staff of its own, rather, it relied on those of the ruled for administrative functions, on the masses for mob actions (e.g. the devastation plundering of compounds of offenders). The Council had no treasury; the wealth of the state was kept in the private purses of political elites.
As a strategy of effective administration, the colonial government inaugurated the Ibadan Town Council in August 1897. The main objective was to make use of the indigenous Chief in the administration of their town, though they were functioning under the authority of the British Administration. Between 1897 and 1901, the Council comprised the Baale, Otun Baale, Osi Baale, Balogun and eight (8) to twelve (12) other High Chiefs traditionally regarded as the most powerful. A number of changes were introduced in 1901 as a result of the Native Council Ordinance of 1901 initiated by Governor (Sir) William MacGregor. The Baale became the president of the Council while the Resident was only to advise when necessary. Three educated elites were also allowed to be members of the Council namely; The Right Reverend James Okuseinde, Messrs Foster and Adetoun. Rulers of Ibadan were generally referred to as Baale until 1936, when the title of Olubadan was resuscitated and substituted for that of Baale because the title of ÔÇśBaale' was common and did not befit the ruler of an important town such as Ibadan.
In 1946, the Ibadan Native Authority made a declaration under the Native Law and Custom regarding the appointment of a new ruler of the town that Balogun eventually ceased to be the only successor to the Baale. Part of the Declaration made in 1946 read thus: "The holder of any title in either the Olubadan line or the Balogun line in the rank of senior Chief shall be eligible for the post of Olubadan, but the two
lines shall succeed in turn. In the event of a vacancy occurring, Chiefs in the line from which the late holder was promoted shall not be eligible". The Chieftaincy declaration was incorporated into the Chiefs Law of 1957 section 4 (3) and it went further to treat the eleven members of Olubadan." - Source
2 - ILARO: The tradition historically then was that an OLU of ILARO reigned for 3 years after which period he had to return to OYO. In his absence the ADELE OLU was the regent. Another OLU of ILARO was not appointed until the demise of the incumbent that returned to OYO-ILE.
Oba Asade Agunloye was the first OLU of ILARO who did not return to OYO after three years. He was installed in 1812 and reigned up to 1832." - Source
3 - SAGAMU : Makun Community of Sagamu is a combination of urban and rural settlements. It is an important area in the present Sagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State. It has boundaries with Ofin in the township and in the rural areas. It has boundary with Epe in the urban area. It has boundary with Sonyindo in the urban and the rural areas. It has boundary with Ibido and Igbepa both in the urban and rural areas. It has boundary with Ijagba both in the urban and the rural areas. The last boundary mates are the Egbas of Owode in Obafemi/Owode Local Government Areas of Ogun State, and this is in the rural areas.
Makun is one of the thirty-three Remo traditional towns that made up Remo Division, the smallest and the most vibrant division in the old Southern Provinces of Nigeria. Makun is one of the thirteen traditional towns that federated and gave birth to the present SAGAMU in 1865.
The idea of coming together and settle in one place had been mooted among the Remo Traditional Communities because of the devastating social evils of the internecine wars. The meeting was held under the leadership of the Akarigbo of Ofen, Oba Oduname Igimisoje. The idea was accepted by all the Traditional Rulers of Remo then. The motive behind the joint settlement was to collectively ward off the invasion of any aggressor. After the defeat of the Egba-Dahomey soldiers in 1865, Makun did not bother to repair its damaged settlement by the Egbas, but moved out of Agbele under the Ewusi Soleghe Olukokun I. They came to the present site of SAGAMU. Makun came to the new settlement before any of the other twelve communities. Makun performed all the necessary rites and rituals to make the new settlement worth living. She named the new settlement after the rivulet found which looked magical in nature. The name of the settlement came out from "Orisa gun amu ewa" and abridged to SAGAMU.
From the early settlement, Makun Community used the Orisagamu rivulet as their source of drinking water. No other river is available to them except the Orisagamu water. Sonyindo relied on the Ubu river. Epe and Oko also relied on the Ubu river but approached at different locations. Batoro and Ado relied on the Egudu water. Ofen relied on both the Egudu and the Ubu river. Ijoku, Latawa, Ijagba relied on the
Eruwuru river at different locations. These rivers and the Egudu water source were the sources of the drinking water for the separate Sagamu Communities after settlement in Sagamu till 1958 when Sagamu was given pipe-borne water. There was no confrontational attitude among the separate communities. Each of the rivers those days had their ALASE. An ALASE oversees the rites and rituals for the separate river sources of the communities. The Alase of the rivers then were women. The goddess of the river is regarded as a woman, hence, the ALASE of the rivers then were women. The Alase in Makun for the Orisagamu river was a woman. As one Alase dies, another woman was appointed to replace her. Some years back, for political reasons, the position of the Alase of the Orisagamu river was taken away from Makun. Land ownership removed the position of the Alase from Makun after a century in office. The present Alase of the Orisagamu river is now a man as against a woman. He was appointed by Ofin and acts on behalf of Ofin.
The Vision and Mission of Makun on the new settlement for peaceful co-existence and social development became realistic. No single war attacked the new settlement since its formation. The community continues to extend right, left and beyond ever since. Makun put in place the first ever market in Remoland and it was called Obu Makun. Obu Makun means Makun Market. For political reasons, the Obu Makun had for many years now been called FALAWO.
The other Remo towns in the South- Ibido, Igbepa, Sonyindo, Epe, Ado, Oko, Ipoji, Batoro, Ijoku, Latawa, Ijagba and Ofen-moved into the new settlement from the last quarter of 1865 one after the other. The first set of Ofen people to come from their homestead to the new settlement came in 1869. The final batch of the Ofen people came in 1872. The Northern Remo towns did not comply with the joint decision.
They jettisoned the idea on the advice of the then Alaperu. The non-compliance of the joint decision had created a division, Remo North and Remo South. Despite the separation into Remo North and Remo South, oneness has not eluded the Division and Sagamu has since then been the Headquarters of the Division. The Akarigbo remains the Paramount Ruler. - Source
4 - EKITI: Before Christian era in Ekitiland, there were some notable age groups used by the Obas in Ekitiland for enforcing laws on their subjects.
The most popular group commonly used by these paramount rulers in Ekiti was the Iwarafa or Iwara mefa. Usually, they used to be either 5 or 6. These group Iwarefas helped the paramount rulers in Ekitiland in their executive work before the advent of Christianity. There were also, militant group that were also co-responsible for any matter that might be affecting the community. The name of the militant group was called Egbegun. This militant group used to acting as the check and balances between the kings and their subjects. This militant group was also, responsible for the security of the town and village from outside invaders (Olomola, 2005). The Egbegun could deal with any king or chief if he misbehaves. As earlier said, this group were acting as checks and balances for the kings and chiefs in Ekiti traditional administration. With this system of checks and balances among the kings and chiefs, it will not be possible for any king or chief to be ruling their subject autocratically.
Where, there is no law, there is no sin. This was the reason, why there were laws in Ekitiland, but mostly not written, by which the paramount rulers and their subjects were being guided. Therefore, there were various kinds of punishment meted out to any offender in Ekitiland before the advent of Christianity in Ekiti, which was pre-Christian era. The punishments were in categories. These punishments include, fine of bringing kegs of palm wine, a number of yams, bush meat and kolanuts, depending on the weight of the offences committed by the offender (Olomola, 2005). In Ekitiland, any Oba, chief or his subject who violated the norms and cultural values of his community would be taken as an offender.
OTHER ARMS OF PRE-CHRISTIAN EKITI POLITICAL STRUCTURE
This have more effective administration in Ekiti, the following agencies were made use of. These were the age grades, the family heads and the quarter heads. The age grade Egbegun imposed standard of conduct on their members and saw that none of their members either by seeming disrespect to the lawful authorities or any other misdemeanour brought their group into the public ridicule. They see to the proper performance of their share of the common task of clearing of paths and public places.
It is the duty of family heads to settle all minor disputes among members of their families. Any family head ensure that any fines imposed on members of his family were paid, although he was not held responsible for any offence committed by them. Similar functions were performed by the quarter heads in his own quarter. Many of the age group heads and the quarter heads being invariably elderly men belong the Ogboni (Fasanmi, 1999). All the above listed organs of Ekiti government worked together in peace and harmony.
As a matter of fact the whole system of Ekiti government ensured that the wellbeing of the community did not depend on the arms of any chief because everybody felt the sense of belonging and that no one individual possessed too great power. - Source
In conclusion, if we looked at a hundred different Yoruba towns, we would find a hundred different systems of governance. Each a result of the townspeople consulting with themselves and coming up with a system that they found amenable to the given circumstances. Most of these are the products of hard lessons learned. The people who founded these towns were often refugees who may have had to depart from other locations at the onset of chaos. The ancestral memory of many attempts at trying to found societies where people can live together in peace was at the foundation of the intellectual strivings that enabled the Yoruba to devise their various styles of government. Instead of discarding these results of ages old social engineering, what we should be trying to do is find ways to add our own creative strokes to the works commenced by our ancestors long ago.