The Alaafin of Oyo ruling family has faulted the proposed amendment of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State, cautioning against passing such amendment into law.
The ruling family made its position known in a memorandum presented at the public hearing organised by the state House of Assembly on the proposed amendment.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the reform, initiated by the Gov. Seyi Makinde-led administration, seeking to amend Section 28 of the State Chiefs Law, has passed second reading at the assembly.
NAN also reports that the initial law gave the governor the right to approve beaded crowns for deserving chiefs, but could only exercise this discretion after he must have consulted the Council of Obas and Chiefs.
However, the ongoing amendment is aimed at giving the governor right to approve and elevate some chiefs to beaded crown-wearing Obas without consultation with the council of obas and chiefs.
But, the Alaafin ruling family faulted the governor on the request, cautioning the assembly against passing the proposed amendment into law in its current form.
The memorandum, which was read by the Bashorun of Oyo, High Chief Yusuf Ayoola, at the public hearing, was jointly signed by all the Oyo royal title holders (Oloye Omooba), led by the Babayaji, Prince Mukaila Afonja.
Others were the Onasokun of Oyo, Olusami of Oyo, Arole Oba of Oyo and Agunpopo of Oyo.
The family said that only the council of obas and chiefs was empowered to deliberate on and recommend the promotion of chiefs, with its decision subject to the approval of the governor.
“The amendment is perceived in many quarters as being targeted at whittling the influence of the Alaafin and the Soun of Ogbomoso by transferring their consenting authorities over many chieftaincies to the governor,” the family said.
The titled princes, who have the traditional mandate to protect the Alaafin throne pending the appointment of a new Alaafin, objected the proposed amendment.
They objected the abrogation of the powers of the council of obas and chiefs on all matters relating to chieftaincies in the state.
The family noted that it would be better for the governor to dissolve the council than subjecting it to public ridicule and rendering it “toothless and irrelevant”.
Entitled ‘Memorandum on Chiefs Amendment Law, 2023, Section 28’, the memo described government’s attempt “to clip the wings of the state council of obas and chiefs” as a dangerous trend.
Such trend, they said, would bastardise the age-long traditional and customary administrative system that had sustained the civilisation and heritage at the grassroots level of governance.
The memorandum noted that the passage of the amendment would turn traditional rulers into puns in the hands of politicians, enthrone a new era of nepotism, favouritism and influence peddling.
It added that conferment of beaded crowns might be turned into trophies for political servitude and awards to the highest bidders or the best connected.
Describing the proposed amendment as ‘dictatorial and usurpative’, the princes faulted government’s justification for the move, saying it was to regulate chieftaincies, in line with the dictates of modern society.
According to them, in Britain, it is public knowledge that the Prime Minister does not interfere in the selection process and the coronation of the Queen and the King.
“The law empowers the governor to specify, that is, to name or state explicitly or in details, the chieftaincy holders and those entitled to wear beaded crowns.
“Our understanding of this clause of the law is that the governor is the nominator, the specifier, the approving officer and the donor of the beaded crown to whomsoever His Excellency decides to favour.
“Royal fathers in Yoruba land are fathers of all their subjects, including those in governance. But by this new law, the tail will be wagging the dog,” they said.
The family said that the innovation was strange to Yoruba custom and culture since most recognised chieftaincies provide for the following steps: family nomination, kingmakers’ recommendations, which also include community acceptance and support, and government scrutiny, approval and pronouncement.
“In the sensitive matter of beaded crown, the traditional system calls for a normal request or application and production of ample support to justify the request.
“These include details and developmental evidences, as was the case when the Alaafin of Oyo presented the cases of the Aseyin, Olubadan and Soun to the council of obas and chiefs,” they said.
The princes said that the new law sought to throw away the cherished neat, democratic, unique and popular system and replace it with a dictatorial, manipulative, secretive and anti-traditional system.
They said that such could only weaken the public interest and respect for beaded crowns and the wearers of the selectively donated crowns and coronets.
The family said that the emergence of handpicked traditional rulers without historical roots and history of heritage of kingship would also make mockery of their once respected and time honoured traditional system.
“We plead with the governor and house of assembly to avoid giving room to the popular suspicion of seeking to donate compensatory crowns and chieftaincy titles.
“They (lawmakers) should not donate compensatory crowns and chieftaincy titles to some well-known title holders who recently lost their well-publicised crowns to the ascension of a prominent traditional ruler,” they said.
They also appealed to the assembly and the governor not to create strange and alien chieftaincies that might tend to polarise rather than unite their peaceful communities.
The princes suggested that instead of going ahead with the amendment in defiance of widespread outcry, government should consider reconstituting the council of obas and chiefs by ensuring that the council functioned adequately.
They also advised government to appoint a committee of traditional rulers to review the chieftaincy law in order to give it the required ‘modern’ face and colour.
The family urged government to empower the council to deal expeditiously with any urgent or outstanding issue of crowns and coronets to remove the anxiety and concerns of some of communities.
They urged government to leave the kings and chiefs to perform their statutory duties in accordance with the traditions and customs of each city and community, as approved by the law.