By adopting and taking care of abandoned children and other orphans, by giving scholarships to indigent students and making loans available to underprivileged people, the Ooni has challenged other rich individuals and corporate bodies as well as the federal, state and local governments to eliminate poverty in the society.
Though young, the Ooni of Ife has continued to demonstrate Solomonic wisdom on the throne. At home he has rallied the Yoruba people to demand and fight for their rights in a united Nigeria. He personally led the crème de la crème of Obas to the recent Summit at Ibadan where the Yorubas political leaders demanded for restructuring. Since Obas are closer to the people than politicians, they should ensure that the economy is structured to ensure that the socio-economic needs of the people are provided for by the government. Since traditional rulers are paid by the local governments, they should ensure that all local governments are made to function, in line with the provisions of the Constitution.
In his several trips abroad, he has linked up with Yoruba people, including the descendants of millions who were captured and enslaved. Scores of them have visited Ife since Oba Oyewusi ascended the throne. In order to restore the dignity of the throne, the Ooni has rejected pressures to confer chieftaincy titles on people of dubious pedigree. He has also refused to join traditional rulers who are found in the corridors of power chasing contracts which are never executed and thereby exposing the traditional institution to public opium. The battle for supremacy among Yoruba Obas has not attracted his attention. Hence, upon ascending the throne, Oba Oyewusi visited leading Yoruba Obas in their palaces and made a strong case for unity and collaboration. Through such display of maturity, he has earned respect among Yoruba Obas.
As custodians of culture, our Obas must appreciate the dynamism of culture and the need to modernise and adapt culture to meet the challenges of a modern society. In view of the leading roles played by prominent Yoruba women like Moremi of Ife, Tinubu of Lagos and Ransome-Kuti of Abeokuta in the struggle of the Yoruba people for freedom, our Obas must discard and ban backward cultural practices that discrimate against women. Apart from promoting the girl child education, Yoruba Obas should lead the battle against female circumcision, oppression of widows and festivals which impose curfew on women alone. As custodians of culture, our Obas should ensure that all those who subject women to sexual assault including rape are made to face the full weight of the law.
Our modern traditional rulers must emulate King Jaja of Opobo, King Ovonramwen of Benin, Esugbayi Eleko and several others who challenged the illegal control of coastal trade and the criminal annexation of several parcels of land by British land grabbers. For daring to resist the colonial intruders whose forefathers had engaged in enslaving Africans for 400 years, some of our traditional rulers were deposed and sent on exile to remote islands where they died. The British government recently condemned the prescription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The Information minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed ought to have reminded the British government of the cold murder of 21 coal miners in 1949 and the the proscrption of the Zikist Movement in 1950 by the colonial regime.
Since institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, controlled by the former colonial masters and their allies, are involved in the underdevelopment of Africa, our traditional rulers should lead a battle for our economic liberation. As the artifacts stolen from Ile-Ife and palaces in Africa have been located in European countries, our traditional rulers should initiate diplomatic and legal measures to reclaim them. The struggle for reparation, which the late Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola championed, ought to be revived in view of the ruthless exploitation of the enormous human and natural resources of Africa by the former colonial masters. This is an area where our traditional rulers should collaborate with progressive organisations all over the world to put up a legitimate claim for a just compensation.
Finally, I congratulate the Ooni of Ife for the celebration of his 43rd birthday anniversary and commend him for his philanthropic gestures which have lifted many vulnerable people from the cocoon of poverty. By adopting and taking care of abandoned children and other orphans, by giving scholarships to indigent students and making loans available to underprivileged people, the Ooni has challenged other rich individuals and corporate bodies as well as the federal, state and local governments to eliminate poverty in the society.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos.
This is excerpted from the address delivered at the public lecture in honour of Ooni of Ife, Oba Babatunde Enitan Ogunwusi held at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State on October 17, 2017.