By Ayodele Fagbohun
To stem the ill tide of the ever growing armed banditry kidnapping, ritual killings and other related security breaches across the country, a critique of chieftaincy institution is of necessity, to the review its role with a view to living up to mandate of the true custodians of people`s culture, norm and tradition.
Unfortunately, the role of Obas and chiefs as the custodians of the nation`s cultural heritage has become irrelevant and anachronistic, it is gradually being blown off by the gale of republicanism and herculean challenges of the millennium.
The institution has undergone various traumatic experiences in the hands of the arts while military juntas. The advent of the democratic experiment has not reviewed the bizarre tactics which the ex-military dictators employed to stampede our chiefs, otherwise regarded as the true conscience and repositories of our culture.
With the harbinger of the murderous dimension of primitivity, violence, venal and mischievous manner the affairs of the state is being conducted, the lot of the institution is far from being improved upon in the foreseeable future.
Politics is reduced to a game or pastime of the underdogs brazenly hijacked by some gangs of ruffians to maim and kill; innocent people more often than not to settle personal scores and for the enhancement of filthy lucre.
This is a grand spill-over effect of gross indiscipline and corroding maladies which the preceding military rule foisted on the country. It is nauseating that the military rulers violated the hallowed sacredness of the chieftaincy institutions and turned Obas and chiefs to toothless bull dogs.
The chiefs were then brought into odium and lured with filthy lucre thus desecrating their exalted position. Thereafter, they were sent on dastardly suicide mission as mere colonial errand boys with suit-case to embarrass, cajole and hoodwink with the sole object of selling an aberrant military rule or at worst diarchy to the gullible and the heavily traumatized people as a fait accompli.
Bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, the retired Anglician cleric, fearless critic of prolonged military rule in Nigeria and incidentally a devout church man, whose nurture and respect for the preservation of Yoruba culture is not in doubt stirred a hornet`s nest by way of press controversy against the immediate past Ooni of Ife arguably the pre-eminent and chief spokesman of Yoruba at home and in the diaspora.
Perhaps, out of anxiety and hazy position often taken by a cross section of our natural rulers in critical phases in recent political history of the country. Gbonigi, characteristically, did not mince words to identify the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, as the greatest facing Yorubaland.
The Anglican cleric well versed in exegesis and Yoruba culture knew the ken of parable of logic which could be unraveled in the press report loaded with meaning.
Some of our first rate chiefs who could be the pride of the race and by extension the nation, have gone so under by doling out chieftaincy titles to popular political pygmies and the social outcast in the society just by ordinary access to ill gotten wealth from sources known and unknown and via dubious social eminence.
Whereas in the days of yore, even in no distant ill- fated second Republic (1979-1983), chieftaincy titles were sparingly and scrupulously bestowed on well deserved, tested and socially eminent citizens for their outstanding contributions to the community.
Chieftaincy titles are earned and not bought. It is a matter of grave concern that some natural rulers display morbid adherence and apish loyalty to their clans which is quite detrimental and inimical to the general well being of the entire nation.
Some natural rulers in the modern trends are doubtless very spineless; and vacillate in taking coherent and proactive decisions to advance the people and their communities to enviable heights where lives and property are fu8lly secured. By invoking primordial and extant status of divine potentates conferred on them.
For, it was unheard of, abhorrence to dignified Yoruba cultural norms and tradition for common political hoodlums to have unleashed an orgy of violence on eminent political strategist, dynamo of Yoruba politics, Uncle Bola Ige SAN, first elected Governor of old oyo state(1979- 1983) right inside the palace of the Ooni of Ife, the heart throb of Yorubaland, in the broad day light in the name of politics.
It was lugubrious; sad and ominous commentary that the distinguished highly respected and cerebral Yoruba personage was openly and rudely violated and the hoodlums disappeared to the thin air without being apprehended to face the full wrath of the law.
A great calamity in deed which grave repercussions will linger on for some time to come, to the discomfort and angst of all and sundry in Yoruba enclave and beyond.
Dr. Tai Solarin, the late erstwhile foremost and inimitable social reformer and redoubtable educationist that ever lived in this country pooh-poohed and avoided like a plague being decorated with an encumbrance of a chieftaincy title throughout his useful and veritable sojourn here on earth. Perhaps, Tai Solarin considered chieftaincy as a social stigma of complete obsequious subservience and enslavement to lewd tradition which used to carry a tag of backward, benighted and indolent race on black, dark continent of Africa.
Efforts by some impetuous politicians with Marxist-Leninist leaning to take up chieftaincy titles from their nature potentates with a view to introducing radical changes to tradition and the status quo ante is rendered a nullity .For, tradition dies hard as some of the chiefs are still bent to hold fast to tradition which is ever shrinking daily and clearly repulsive to modern influence.
Some chiefs themselves have allowed the institution to flounder and toss on the high waves of their own indecisions of insincerity of purpose, nepotism and greed to dine and wine with the establishment especially the former military adventurism politics in total disregard and affront to the well being and corporate existence of the country.
It is time our natural rulers and their protagonists stopped canvassing for recognition and clear-cut roles as amendment to constitutional provisions. What should be uppermost in their minds is first and foremost to put their house in order; act as catalyst of progressive change and enlightenment in their domains now bedeviled by violence, armed banditry and insecurity.
Above all, our traditional natural rulers must be more vigilant and be security conscious and at all times alert in the social milieu.
Since all right thinking nations across the world have fillip and full assert to constitutional democracy as a way of life, the institution of chieftaincy must imbibe the whole gamut of democracy to take firm root their respective domains.
It should cease forthwith as an inhibitor of growth, virility and progress of the nation lest the chieftaincy institution suffer atrophy or natural death!