The Obaloja of Oloje Kingdom in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, Oba Peter Falade, recently celebrated the annual Ikidun Festival. He speaks with SAM NWAOKO on a number of issues relating to the festival and the traditional institution in the south-west region of the country.
What is the Ikidun about and what is its significance to you and the people of Oloje Kingdom?
Ikidun is the new year of the people of Oloje-Ekiti. It is the time when people of the community gather to pray and for thanksgiving. The people come from far and wide because it is the only major gathering for the people of the community, through which they interact with their monarch and lay bare their feelings about the government of the community. In the ancient times, the Kabiyesi is not seen in public and it was one in a lifetime opportunity to see and interact with the king. On the occasion, people raise their concerns and express their feelings about how the community is governed by the Kabiyesi, and this is without any consequences. However, in the modern times, we gather, pray, meet to proffer ways of developing our community and then make merry.
I thank the Almighty God that the celebration has been improving and getting bigger over the years. We were using the market square for the Ikidun before, but in the past five years, it’s been growing and we now use the AUD Primary School playground. It also the time to confer honours, especially chieftaincy, either traditional or honourary. Ikidun is the only day for doing this.
Kabiyesi, it is the contention in some quarters that the traditional institution is losing its relevance, especially in Yorubaland. Do you agree with this and what do you think is the cause of this erosion?
I blame it all on politics and politicians. In those days, the community, through their kingmakers would elect their monarch, perform the various traditional rites of ascension and, afterwards present their Oba to the public. Years after, when the government stepped in, the community still elected their king and after the necessary rites, present him to the government for its approval. However, that’s not the case nowadays. The government has virtually muzzled the communities and has taken over the roles of the people and their kingmakers. In some cases, it is the government that would say ‘here is your king.’ Imagine a local government chairman being placed above a traditional ruler in hierarchy. In the olden days, Kabiyesi can do and undo but today it is the government that installs an Oba and therefore, has systemically stripped the Oba of any authority and power. That is why the traditional rulers have no powers as of the days of old. In your local government, the chairman is above you. In the state, the governor is above you. So, monarchs are between a rock and a hard place. That is why it is important for traditional rulers to have roles in government, roles which would largely help the government to better manage the affairs of the communities in the various states. The governments are formed by people who would serve terms and leave, but the monarch is there for a lifetime. Yet, he is systematically crippled by each of the governments, especially when their views are opposed. This is not his to build a virile society.
But despite the seeming powerlessness of the traditional rulers, some of them are assumed to be flamboyant and show so much affluence. How do you see this?
The monarchs are ordinarily supposed to be the richest in their domains. They own the land and sundry resources. That was then. And many of them still are. So, if they show affluence, it is sometimes as a result of royalty. If you go to the northern part of the country, may people still hold their traditional rulers in awe. They are, as they are described in Yoruba land: “Alase Ekeji Orisa/Olodumare” meaning “the next to the gods in power and influence.” There are some Emirs who are housed in special rooms at airports while waiting to board flights. In the Benin Kingdom, the Oba is still revered. But in the West here, we display so much disdain for our royalty. The politicians are more powerful than monarchs and they display more affluence and power. I’ve seen in Ekiti here when a politician threatened that he would deal with an Oba, and he did! In fact, it is not that the kabiyesis are not relevant, we are. It is just that the politicians would manipulate everything to bring the traditional rulers under them for them to gain the upper hand in relevance.
Recently, the people of the South West gathered to take a decision on the vexed issue of restructuring. Where do you stand on this and how do you think the South West should go about it?
I think restructuring should start from the grassroots. Let us fashion out constitutional roles for traditional rulers and make them relevant. Then we take to the local government, the state and the federal. When we think restructuring, are they thinking about the Kabuyesis? I ask because I believe the whole thing should start from the grassroots, from the towns and villages. You can’t just start restructuring from the top, let the kabiyesis have their functions. It shouldn’t be a political move alone. There should be input from the communities and their leaders, what they want. Monarchs know what their people need and what they want. He is there for a lifetime and might have seen so many regimes. But you just come and say ‘restructuring’ without asking me ‘what do you need?’ I think it is proper that we take it from the basics. Let’s go to the grassroots, then we progress with it.
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