“A leader takes people to where they want to go. A great leader takes people to where they don’t want to go, but ought to be.” (Anonymous)
Late Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the immediate past governor of Oyo State must have used this quote in his lifetime hundreds of times in the presence of those that were close to him. This was one of the philosophies that he cherished so much and usually mentioned when emphasizing his style of leadership and governance. And he often worked the talk in that regard.
In the year 2017, when he mooted the idea of Ibadan Chieftaincy Reform, the ancient city was sharply divided into two. A group for the reform, and the other group vehemently against it.
He advanced a number of reasons why Ibadan city deserved more than a monarch. He gave numerous examples of far smaller cities having many kings under an Imperial Majesty. It is so in Abeokuta, Ile-Ife and Ijebu. This is not to mention our neighbors in Okeogun, Ogbomoso and even in the far away ancient city of Kano.
He dwelled persistently on the good such a reform would bring to Ibadan as an ancient city and one of the most populous city in Africa. This is not to overemphasize the honor it would rub on the topmost Royal Title of the Olubadan of Ibadanland as the Imperial Majesty. While the majority of Ibadan High Chiefs embraced the innovation with enthusiasm, it was not so for the immediate past Olubadan of Ibadanland, Imperial Majesty Saliu Adetunji (Aje Ogugunisho 1). He was inseparably joined in his opinion by the Osi Olubadan then, High Chief Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja.
But like a cat with nine lives, late Senator Abiola Ajimobi was not perturbed by the ranting of the critics. He stuck to his gun. He went ahead with the process courageously. At the historic event in Ibadan on Sunday, August 27, 2017, the governor crowned twenty -one kings in one sweep and presented them with their staffs of office. The incumbent Olubadan, His Imperial Majesty Lekan Balogun, was then the Balogun Olubadan of Ibadanland and one of the members of Olubadan-in-Council who gladly partook in that epoch making occasion.
Despite the fact that the governor emphasized that the reform was not targeted at changing the age long traditional way of ascension to Olubadan throne, and that it was not meant to whittle down the influence of the Olubadan but rather to enhance his dignity and honour, the doubting Thomases never agreed with him.
This development actually set the stage for serious bickering between the government of Oyo State and the then Olubadan on one hand, and between the Ibadan High Chiefs and their Chairman, the Olubadan on the other hand. Although, they were polite with each other, but it was clear that there was no love lost between them, to say the obvious.
No doubt, an issue of this nature and magnitude will attract political interest. The opposition parties at that time, particularly, the PDP cashed in and started using the issue as an instrument of propaganda to discredit the government of the day. It became a topical issue at the market places, beer parlours, inside commercial vehicles and all other informal gatherings that one can think of. The media were not left behind in what had become the most interesting discourse of the moment. The Social Media were also awash with comments and commentaries on the same issue.
The governor himself, late Senator Abiola Ajimobi did not stand aloof to these negative talks about his good intention. As an outstanding debater that he was, he was taking his time to educate the people at every given opportunity. Same went for all the aides working with him in government. But because of the phobia that people naturally have for change, the louder voice in town then was not in support of the noble idea of Mr Governor. The subsequent political developments actually gave credence to this assertion.
Also, the resentment to the reform was born out of the fact that a lot of the indigenes were already indoctrinated by politicians. However, this was not enough to bother the Koseleri governor who was strongly guided by his beliefs in what was good for Ibadan, and of course, in what was in consonant with the philosophy of his government.
Out of sheer envy and Pull Him Down (PHD) desperation that the political class had for him, just because of his rising profile, they warred against the reform that was meticulously and conscientiously worked out for the betterment of Ibadanland. They criticized his good intention to the high heaven, calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
Eventually, they employed the weapon of the judiciary and halted the noble course on the premise that Senator Abiola Ajimobi never followed due process. What is in due process? Due process my foot! They have forgotten the popular paraphrase of Niccolo Machiavelli, which says that “the end justifies the means’. It states that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of getting it is acceptable. Always think out of the box!
The most interesting part of it is that within a spate of short period of time, they began to see the sense in what they earlier perceived as nonsense. They now saw the light as against the darkness that pervaded their vision in 2017, and of course, they embraced the honour in what used to appear to them as a potential danger. The reality eventually dawned on them that that was the way to go. They now have a rethink and a reversal of their old stance on the matter.
No option was left for them but to restore in 2023 what the visionary Abiola Ajimobi actually actualized for the greatness of Ibadan in 2017. What an elderly person saw while sitting down, a young man would not see it, even if he climbed Iroko tree (ohun ti oju agbalagba ba to ni ijoko, ti omode ba gun ori igi Iroko ko le ri). That was late Senator Abiola Ajimobi for you!
In the spirit of what is good is good, a couple of months ago, Governor Seyi Makinde, reenacted the event of 2017 by re-elevating ten (10) out of the eleven members of Olubadan-In-Council. The Otun Olubadan, High Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja opted out of the coronation arrangement by still sticking to his earlier position on the matter.
But the governor had some strong words for the dissenting voices. In his speech at the occasion, he was quoted as saying that in democracy, the minority will have their say, while the majority will have their way. At least, ten out of eleven High Chiefs were crowned in that occasion. He also advised that whoever that was not in support of this development could approach the court and seek redress, but with a rider that such people would fail.
As at now, not less than thirty Baales have equally been elevated to the rank of “His Royal Highness”. And with this, the history made by late Senator Abiola Ajimobi in 2017 has been fully reaffirmed, reenacted and reestablished. To those whose earlier perception of Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s vision on this reform was myopic and blurred, this is the time for them to change their minds. The Koseleri governor has once again been vindicated, just the same way Governor Seyi Makinde embraced the School Management System that he earlier despised and suspended. With all these developments, Ajimobi must be smiling in heaven by now.
Finally, for all intents and purposes, this write-up is not meant to denigrate or cast aspersions on anybody. It is only meant to set the records straight. Books can be repackaged, music can be remixed and products can be relaunched, but that will never blot, remove or obliterate the shine and honour which the copyright holder deserves.
Therefore, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi posthumously remains the undisputable hero and copyright holder of the Ibadan Chieftaincy Reform. We shall always cherish the legacies you left behind!
Adieu, the true son of the soil !!!
Aderemi Ogundele (Jagunmolu)