*Oba Akinruntan unveiling a Moremi statue.
From all oral accounts, two ancient towns occupy a place of pride whenever Yoruba civilization takes the center stage. The first is Ile-Ife; while the second is Oyo.
Those are the places where the cultural and traditional persona of the Yoruba take its shape and essence.
And there’s around ninety-nine percent agreement on that like Aare Gani Adams recently alluded to.
To that effect, all the Yoruba subgroups today have some accounts, oral too, which proudly linked them to one of the two and how they migrated to their current abodes.
The Egba, of which I’m one proudly, for instance, were said to have migrated to their present site in Abeokuta from Oyo-Ile under the leadership of Shodeke.
It then logically means that no kingdom or chiefdom, as it were, in Yoruba land comes close to any of them.
But if we take the logic further, the closest in ranking perhaps would be those kingdoms directly created by the children of the progenitor king of Ile-Ife of who was Oduduwa.
Just like Alake of Egba land, I’m aware, Olowu, the founder of Owu kingdom also in Abeokuta is reputed to be one of the sons of Oduduwa. In fact, there is a popular song which highlights this veracity.
The line goes thus:
Owu la koko da;
Bi e de Owu e bere wo.
When translated, it roughly means, 'Owu was the first to be created. And when you get there, don’t hesitate to ask'.
In spite of that, the kingdom has never in a manner of speaking lay claim to being the cradle of Yoruba civilization, nor brags any of its kings as the number one Oba in Yoruba land.
Similarly, no other kingdoms in that bracket have attempted such sacrilege like Ugbo land just did through its Oba, Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan.
But that’s not to say that other kingdoms have not been created and kings installed in the course of time.
They have; as such today, there’re first, second, and third class Obas in Yoruba land.
The first-class Obas are those Obas whose crowns/stools originated in the ancient past.
This makes them not to owe allegiance to the politicians because their ascension to the throne is not dependent on the magnanimity of the politicians.
They have the powers, acting in collaboration with the relevant political authorities, to install new Oba where there is an interregnum particularly as soon as the last reigning king joins his ancestors. Or where installing one becomes a political necessity.
The second-class Obas are those Obas who were promoted or elevated to their current status from their previous lower positions as Baales or chiefs.
The third-class Obas were those installed by the political authorities where they think one is needed, and especially to whittle down the influence of the non-co-operative first class Oba(s) in that domain.
Or where there is agitation by the indigenes for one. The military governments were quite notorious in this regard. But they were not exclusively responsible for all.
A classic example of the making of an Oba in this way is the crowning of the Onijoko of Ijoko land in Ado-Odo Otta local government area. A land that is a subject of an ownership dispute between the Egba and the Awori. This time around, it was the handy work of an elected former governor of Ogun state.
It must be noted, however, that the process of installing an Oba in Ijoko land was crisis ridden.
In fact, there were prolonged violent confrontations between the two Yoruba sub-groups in which thugs were regularly hired from the neighboring communities to unleash mayhem on the innocents and the partisan alike.
Houses were burnt, and women raped. And there were regular incidents of daylight heist too. The economic and social life of the community was brought to a near halt.
I’m aware that the town now has two realms to accommodate the contending but emergent royal families. That’s by the way.
Let’s get back to the issue of Ile-Ife as the grand source of the Yoruba cultural and traditional persona.
Up until now, there has never been a known attempted distortion of the timeless beauty and hardened facts of the orally transmitted history that Ile-Ife is the cradle of the Yoruba civilization.
More so, there has never been a time when a Yoruba Oba would unilaterally install multiple Obas, especially from the diaspora.
The closest to it was an unsuccessful attempt by the France diaspora to induce Oluwo of Iwo land in Osun State, Oba Abdul Rasheed Akanbi to install them as kings. This happened not long ago.
There is now a twist to that time tested respect. Ugbo land in the Ondo realm is now been branded as the new grand source of the Yoruba cultural and traditional persona, say Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the Olugbo of Ugbo land.
Unfortunately, this development has a diaspora connection again. According to news reports, a group of desperate Yoruba surrogates came from France and induced the king to install them as Obas. And he allegedly expressly obliged.
Perhaps high on something, it was in the process that he allegedly made what can be called an illusionist, discretionary, and impudent claim of being the number Oba in Yoruba land.
Expected, the development has angered a lot of Yoruba, and most especially the current Aare Ona Kakakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams who immediately raised an alarm calling on Yoruba Obas and the governors to call the royal father to order before it is too late.
But in line with local worsts practices, the action of the Oba did not take me by any surprises. It only reinforces the standing misnomers in that spectrum.
It also underscores the fact that an average Nigerian loves titles and power, and is disposed to doing anything to get them hence, for instance, the mindless killings in the polity during electioneering time.
We all know it is one thing to have money; it is another to have power. The two, however, have a meeting point.
It is the quest for power by the moneybags that has often led to the incessant breakdown of law and order and at the same the breaches seen in the cultural and traditional values of society.
We know also the role money now plays in the process of selecting and installing a new Oba in Yoruba land. The kingmakers in most cases are being compromised with reckless abandon.
It has gotten so bad that even people who have no links to royalty have succeeded in buying or forcing their way there. Now the diaspora has come to compound it all because they have a lot of money to throw around.
If you ask me, the closest thing to holding a political office in Nigeria is being a king.
As a result, there have been disturbing cross-cultural incursions and tussles in the area of chieftaincy and kingship matters across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Power game even from non-Yoruba elements in predominantly Yoruba cities and towns has been reported.
There have been cases where people of Igbo race who were made Eze Ndigbo by Yoruba Obas only for the gesture to become an albatross to existing peaceful race relations.
Some Igbo moneybags who have the privilege of being crowned Eze Ndigbo in some Yoruba realms have been known to have gone ahead to equate themselves to the indigenous kings who were their benefactors. As such, in many places, the title of Eze Ndigbo has been placed on a permanent ban.
Ordinarily, while there is nothing wrong in making people who have contributed immensely to the growth of the domain where they made their money as chiefs and even honorary kings to their people, it has time and time again proved to be prone to abuses and misuses because most time the purpose has been misunderstood. '
In his desecrationary onslaught, the report has it that the Olugbo of Ugbo land has at his beck and call some academic heads. It, however, remains to be seen how far they can go in there efforts to de-market Ile-Ife and Oyo as the cradle of Yoruba civilization.
I want to believe Oba Obateru Akinruntan didn’t mean it but rather throwing a stunt to impress his newly crowned fake Obas who of course must be in cloud nine over their newly purchased statuses.
I also believe the lure of money is more at work than anything else. But I’m still struggling to be persuaded otherwise that an Oba like Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan who himself is a moneybag can be bought just like that.
However, it cannot be totally discountenanced after all like they use to say ‘everybody has got a price’.
I hope, finally, that the south-west governors and most especially the governor of the concerned realm will heed the call of the Aare Ona kakanfo Gani Adams and take proactive steps to curtail the incident because it has the potential to become a regrettable albatross for the pride and elegance of Yoruba culture and tradition.
If found to be true, not only must he and his academic accomplices be sanctioned; the beneficiaries of his cultural fraud must also be fished out and giving the same treatment to serve as a deterrent to others who might want to toe the same impudent line. A stitch in time they say saves none.