Interview

Olubadan chieftaincy: How family became the first to produce two crowned kings in Ibadan

When a late Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Gbadamosi Adebimpe, mounted the throne of the Olubadan of Ibadan land in February, 1976, little did he know that he was entering a special place in the history of Ibadan. Aside being the first Olubadan to wear a beaded crown, which he received in December of the same year, he is now the first Ibadan monarch to have his son crowned as another king in the historic review of the Olubadan chieftaincy system.

With the crowning of the Ashipa Balogun, High Chief Latifu Gbadamosi Adebimpe, as the Oba of Akinyele Local Government, Ibadan last Sunday, the Oba Adebimpe family of Odinjo Compound, Ibadan, has made history for being the first to produce two beaded crown monarchs in Ibadan land. The new oba relishes the feat as much as other members of the Adebimpe family.

In this interview with BISI OLADELE, Oba Adebimpe, who is the direct son of the first Olubadan to wear a crown in 1976, the late Oba Gbadamosi Adebimpe, shares the sense of pride he feels as he stood to receive his crown last Sunday.

Can we meet you, Kabiyesi?
I am His Royal Majesty, Oba Latifu Gbadamosi Adebimpe, the Ashipa Balogun of Ibadan land in charge of Akinyele Local Government Traditional Council, Moniya. That is where I am the traditional council chairman and that is my domain. Each of the 11 members of the Olubadan-in-Council (now Council of Obas in Ibadan) has his traditional domain which is local government. The question of domain or not should not arise in our case because it has always been there. Even my friend, Sen. Rasheed Ladoja, is the chairman of the Traditional Council of Ibadan South West Local Government. That is his domain. Criticism of the review is nothing but political.

You are among the first set of His Royal Majesties in Ibadan land. Can you share with us your ancestry?
Providence. That thing they call providence. I thank God that I belong to the Adebimpe Family of Odinjo. All the past Baales or Olubadan of Ibadan land used to wear abeti-aja (one of the stylish Yoruba traditional caps) and all other types of caps. When it came to my father’s turn to be installed as the Olubadan of Ibadan on 23rd February 1976, he wore ikoris (another traditional cap) and as the turn of events would come up during debates at the Oyo State House of Chiefs, a civil servant asked the then Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, why the Olubadan had to be in the front row without a beaded crown, while some other obas wearing beaded crown sat at the back. I think my father was seated between the Ooni of Ife and the Alafin of Oyo in the front row. Then the Ooni told the person that Ibadan can wear beaded crown at any point in time because the founders of Ibadan were warriors from different towns in Yoruba land.
Whenever any debate like that took place anywhere, the matter would be brought to the Olubadan –in—Council. So, my father had to report back to the council what transpired at the meeting, especially on the wearing of beaded crown. That was when Ibadan said it was an insult for anybody to query or question the dignity of the Olubadan wearing abeti-aja or ikori cap and they said ‘yes’ it was time for them to wear beaded crown like other obas. I don’t want to go into what really happened until eventually it happened on the 10th of December, 1976 when my father was crowned as the first Olubadan of Ibadan land to wear beaded crown.

As at the 1976, was the title the Olubadan or Baale of Ibadan?
It was the Olubadan of Ibadanland. So, I think, which means my father could be termed as a sort of reformer of the firmer system and now that system is being transformed again because Ibadan is no more a town. It is a mega city. It is too large and too big, and they used to call my father His Royal Majesty because my father could not crown any other oba in Ibadan land. He could install baales or mogajis, which was what had been happening since then until August 25 this year when more obas emerged in Ibadan. That is another transformation of what started from my dad. Incidentally, I happened to be the direct son of the late Olubadan, Oba Adebimpe, which means my family has crowned two kings now in the history of Ibadan. We are the first family to ever produce anything like that. I am proud to be part of that history and I am very thankful to God. Indeed, names often influence incidents. Before my father became the Olubadan in 1976, there was no one among the baales or Olubadan before him that had the prefix ‘Ade’ before their names. Adebimpe, just like it happened to my father, now it is happening to me. So, there is much in a name. That was when it started through my father and it is also starting through me. Names are really of key significance. It is joy forever!

When he became the first Olubadan to wear a beaded crown, how will you describe the feeling in your immediate and extended family?
We thanked God for it and it was awesomely celebrated by the whole of Ibadan. It was an innovation, the people accepted it and the occasion was really joyful. That it started with us, it has a place in history and the name has now become indelible and golden in the history of Ibadanland.

Where was the crowning of your father done?
The crowning was done at Mapo Hall. And incidentally my own crowning too was done at Mapo hall. Even the present Olubadan of Ibadanland also received his crown at Mapo Hall.

So government organised a special ceremony for the crowning since the Olubadan was already on his throne?
Yes. The ceremony was held on December 10, 1976. Now, the beauty of the present reformation is that all the Olubadan, including my dad, uptil the present Olubadan, were known and addressed as ‘Royal Majesty’, because there was no other oba below them or there was no oba to be enthroned under them. Only the kings that can enthrone other kings are known and addressed as ‘Imperial Majesty’. And that is what we have been nurturing, thinking about, pondering about for a long time. And now God has used the present governor, Abiola Ajimobi, to be bold and courageous enough to promote the dignity of obaship in Ibadanland. I thank God for him and he will go down in history as the transformer of the Olubadan chieftaincy system. All the previous governors have tried to reform the Olubadan Chieftaincy system in Ibadan in one way or the other, but none ever thought that it could come up in this way. Well, I won’t say because it didn’t happen during their time, God has time and purpose for everybody and Ajimobi is only destined to achieve this feat for Ibadan. Because he was courageous and bold enough to achieve the rare thing and rare feat, for Ibadan, I thank God for him and by the grace of God, his name will go down in history as the transformer of Ibadan chieftaincy system.

Since you have been enthroned as His Royal Majesty, how have your kinsmen and women been responding to the elevation?
Yes, I tell you, everybody gladly accepted it and they were happy that it is happening and that we are again part of that history. It started from us, from our family, and we are still part of another history that is being made. That means we have scored two golden goals already. And who will not be proud of that? Two obas from Adebimpe family? We thank God for it. And I want us to appreciate it that it is coming at this time and that this man, Ajimobi, is the one doing it. I will still mention it again, before our coronation, we said Olubadan was a royal majesty and it was from that day of our coronation that he became His Imperial Majesty. He will now be installing obas in Ibadan. Take for instance, the Oba of Lagos, he has so many other obas under him and any occasion he attends, you will see the entourage of his royal fathers following him. See other paramount rulers as well, that is what makes them Imperial Majesty. See what happens around the Ooni of Ife and the Alaafin of Oyo and many places like that. The only thing that is constant is change. That we are part of these changes is good, and that is not the end of it. Many things will still happen later. This is not even the end of the change to the Olubadan chieftaincy system. Some people will still bring other innovations that will promote the dignity of Ibadanland.
I am indeed happy, joyful and elated that I am part of this history at this time. I am indeed very grateful to God. And perhaps many people don’t understand it; it will not diminish Olubadan authority on the administration of Ibadanland. Far from it. Anything that his obas do in their various domains must be ratified by the Olubadan because he is the prescribed authourity of the entire Ibadanland. So, as the Chairman of the Traditional Council of Akinyele Local Government, if we want to appoint any baale there, the traditional council there will have to do the exercise and report to Olubadan and the Olubadan-in-Council because they still have to make the final decision to approve or not. Any of the baales that we screen at our local government levels depend on them. It is the decision of the Olubadan-in-Council that Olubadan will stamp as the prescribed authority. So, that is what will dignify the system and I think it is a beautiful thing. We thank God that it is happening. Our kabiyesi must not fear anything. And I thank God for him and as the reformation started from my dad, this new reformation is also starting from him (Olubadan). His name will go down in gold as the first Imperial Majesty in Ibadanland. I think it is a lack of understanding of the nitty-gritty of the whole system that is causing the misunderstanding. But in actual fact, it is a fantastic thing.

There are some critics of the new review. One of the questions of the critics is if the new royal majesties can appoint chiefs as expected of every oba and how do they get chiefs since they don’t have specific ancient kingdoms they are to rule over. The second question is that now that we have the Imperial Majesty supervising the Royal Majesties and Royal Highnesses, is it going to still be in a line of royal tradition in which the lesser obas will remove their crown in honour and respect of the Imperial Majesty?
Like I told you earlier, the Royal Majesties have their different domains, that is where they represent the kaboyesi, the Olubadan of Ibadanland. I belong to Akinyele Local Government Traditional Council just like all others in the 11 local governments in Ibadan. I told you something about the appointment of baales in the lesser cities; I have a traditional council which I chair. I have members there, including baales. They are under me. We will screen all the candidates for any vacant position in the local council where I preside over, particularly the villages and or communities. We will screen them because they have to present documents to back their claims to the ownership of the baale of the place. We will do our write-up and everything and we will then send our final report to the Olubadan and Olubadan-in-Council for final screening and ratification. The final decision or whatever we have done at the local government level rests on the kabiesi and his council, which means we are still subjected to whatever is the decision of the Olubadan and the Olubadan-in-Council.

Are you not going to have chiefs that will be working with you?
No, the baales are there already to do that. They are already serving as my own chiefs and in that case, not all the baales have been elevated to the post of Royal Highness. Even the baales that have been elevated to the position of royal highness in my domain are still under me and under my control because I am the chairman of the traditional council of the local government and that is why I am the Royal Majesty. It is higher than the Royal Highness and that is one of the beauties of it.

And as Royal Majesties, how do you pay homage and or obeisance to His Imperial Majesty when you are also wearing beaded crown?
It is still the normal thing. You cannot just stand with your hands to your side or your pocket to greet Kabiyesi Olubadan. Neither can my own Royal Highnesses stand up to me; they have to do the normal thing as prescribed by the tradition. The elevation does not erode or remove the normal traditional courtesies the lesser obas pay to the higher oba.
I congratulate you, because you are a direct son of the late Oba Gbadamosi Adebimpe. The world is changing and I will like to know if any of your sons is also interested in this traditional system so that we would say in the nearest future, that we can still have another crowned king in the Adebimpe family.
Adebimpe family is made up of four principal sections. It is only by coincidence that my own choice as the traditional chief came when it was my section’s turn. We have produced many mogajis but unfortunately they couldn’t ascend to the line, but when it got to my father’s section, I was picked. So, it could still happen but that is a decision for the whole family. So, it is not my section’s exclusive right, the system is a fantastic one. The Adebimpe family is a very large one consisting of four principal sections.

Were you already a mogaji in 1976 when your father was enthroned?
No, it was impossible. It was after him that I became a mogaji. It doesn’t work like that. You cannot be an oba and your son a mogaji, it is impossible. It is after the demise that you will have to apply to the Olubadan for the appointment. After a king’s demise, the families will agree on who to represent them as the mogaji. I started as a mogaji in 1991. Sen. Rashidi Ladoja became a mogaji about a year later but he was at the ceremony where I became the mogaji as my very good and close friend.

How come Ladoja is your senior in rank?
That is God for you. Now, even in July 1993, I was already Jagun Balogun of Ibadan but before the formal installation that took place in October 1, 1993, there was vacancy at the Olubadan line and Ladoja became the Jagun there. It was from October 1 that his own ladder started counting but my own started counting since July 1993. So, I was his senior but your elevation depends on vacancies on your line. There were so many vacancies at the Olubadan line. Even some people who started many years after me had gone higher in ranks in the Olubadan line because of the several vacancies there. Now, Ladoja had risen tremendously along that line.
In fact there was a time the gap between us was about eight steps but that is the work of God. You cannot become anything except God makes you. So there is nothing to rival or envy about. He who God wants to make the Olubadan of Ibadan is only known by God. You cannot struggle, you cannot contest it, you cannot protest it or even buy it. So, only God knows who is going to reach there. But the prayer of every chief is for them to reach the peak of the traditional chieftaincy line. That is how it is. He is today the Osi of Olubadan line and I am here today by the grace of God, the Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland. God knows. You only know when you get to the line, you don’t know when you will bow out and only God knows who will get there and there is no competition about that.

What word of advice do you have for the critics of this latest review and for the sons and daughters of Ibadanland?
For any reform whatsoever, no matter how good it is, people will always see the other side of it. There is nothing good that is not criticised because the way I see it may be different from the way you will see it and you have the independence and freedom to express your opinions about it. But the most important part of it is to educate people, tell them the benefits over the demerits of that reformation. The reformation of the new system is more advantageous, more dignifying and more befitting for our traditional headship of Ibadanland. When you make them to realise that the Olubadan cannot become His Imperial Majesty if he does not have other smaller or lower kings under him that he can install and crown, it is impossible. All the kabiyesis that had ruled Ibadanland had only installed baales and mogajis and those ones are not crowned obas. I thank God for the present Olubadan because this reformation is starting with him. He started it and his name will go down in gold as the man from whom a new order started.
To all Ibadan sons and daughters, I want them to embrace it; thank God that we have a son who is the current governor of Oyo State that has thought of giving Ibadan this befitting and dignifying status through the transformation of the Olubadan Chieftaincy.

*Culled from The Nation newspaper

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