The ex president has been embattled over his ordering traditional rulers to get up to greet him.
There is a public outcry in SW Nigeria where traditional rulers are revered as direct representatives of the god.There have been calls for an apology from him.
A recent video shows him prostrating before the Olota of Ota,odun state yesterday 26th Sept 2023.
The normal practice is that visitors prostrate before kings.
A take by Bola Akinterinwa
Apart from the condemnation by the Oluwo of Iwo, the Yoruba Council Worldwide has not only threatened to mobilise all market women, youths and leaders of thought to protest against Chief Obasanjo if he did not apologise within 72 hours but also made it clear that the Ebora Owu, that is, Chief Obasanjo himself, should be prepared to face ‘untold traditional and legal consequences not limited to filing action at a court of competent jurisdiction for defamation and scandalous libel, if he does not apologise.’ In fact, the Yoruba Council Worldwide has asked that Chief Obasanjo be stripped of all his chieftaincy titles. For instance, the Ebedi Frontliners Iseyin has declared Chief Obasanjo a persona non grata in any of the Oke-Ogun communities in the event Chief Obasanjo does not apologise unreservedly as quickly as possible.
Many points are noteworthy from the statements of the Oluwo of Iwo and the Yoruba Council Worldwide. First, the Obas can be said to have respectfully complied with the command of Chief Obasanjo, regardless of their traditional status in the society. This in itself is very commendable in the context of due respect for the Yoruba culture. Chief Obasanjo appears to be older than many of the traditional rules that were gathered at the LAUTECH event.
We believe, and strongly too, that both Chief Obasanjo and the traditional rulers are wrongly right. Many Obas have been compromised and can no longer stand up to the truth. Can the purchase of the throne be respected? Can an Oba-designate not truly chosen by Ifa tradition be respected? Has Chief Obasanjo not been endorsing Obas-designate before their eventual installation? There are more questions than answers in this case.
Yoruba culture is beautiful, very civilised and a major source of sweet inspirations when compared to any international culture. The respect for old age, especially by younger people, and particularly by the female kneeling down and the male prostrating, is quite commendable. Yoruba culture does not allow for speaking ill of the dead, regardless of what the deceased might have done while living. This is an expression of protocolar respect. An old man is never considered at fault in mediation or reconciliation processes. The aged is always right. A young person cannot be sitting down while an elderly person or old man is standing. Perhaps most importantly, even if an Oba is very young, all his elders and old people still bow or prostrate for the king, not for him or her as a person, but for the crown that is worn.
In evaluating the Iseyin incident, both Chief Obasanjo and the Obas are rightly wrong. Chief Obasanjo tried to enforce international practice to the detriment of traditional culture, which varies from one country to the other. For instance, Asian countries, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan in particular, always take a bow to show respect, to show gratitude and to greet. Eating with the right hand in India is an appreciated expression of due respect. Language wise, the French use ‘vous’ to show respect, rather than the use of ‘tu’ both of which mean ‘you.’ ‘Vous’ is for the elderly and official use. ‘Tu’ is for familiarity and younger people.
Chief Obasanjo is a traditional chieftaincy title holder. The title is conferred by traditional rulers. With the title, he owes the Oba allegiance in various ways. This means that President Obasanjo, as a subject of the king, cannot be superior to the Oba. Accepting a chieftaincy title is admission of the superiority of the Oba in whatever ramification. Chief Obasanjo is on record to have been respecting the Obas the traditional way. People have insinuated that Chief Obasanjo’s action was vindictive or that he purposefully did so to bastardise Yoruba culture. We do not share this view point at all because Chief Obasanjo might have unreservedly considered that he and the governor were superior to the Obas when it is an official meeting and no one can fault that. Asking traditional rulers to stand up is not in honour of their persons but the office occupied. Official meeting should not be confused with unofficial meeting, working meeting, and an officious meeting. The meeting or event in Iseyin was lato sensu very official.
In the same vein, every Oba in Yoruba land is given a Staff of Office by the relevant Governor. This again is a reflection of the superiority of the Governor to the Oba. In other words, the extent to which Chief Obasanjo can be faulted is quite limited. His command was consistent in part with international best practices. However, this is the source of the conflict between traditional and state protocol. The mere fact of compliance by the Obas is good. It justifies the need for respect for the Governor, Seyi Makinde. Consequently, in this case, there is only the need for mutual apology. Seeking to sanction Chief Obasanjo, who removed his military titles in favour of that of a traditional chieftaincy title, clearly suggests non-animosity for the traditional institution.
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