IJEBULAND, 3 I st December, 1959: The last day of the sixth decade of the 20th century. The ljebus awaited a new Paramount Ruler- Awujale of Ijebuland. January, 1959 had witnessed the termination, through natural causes, of the reign of Oba Daniel Robertson Adesanya, Gbelegbuwa II, the 57th Awujale. Yet during his last years in office, Oba Adesanya had carved for himself a significant role in the Chieftaincy declaration affecting the Awujale stool. Also he had, as it should be according to Ijebu custom, ensured the Awujale Paramountcy in all Chieftaincy declarations in Ijebuland.
In an epic struggle, Oba Adesanya successfully fought the new politicians who wanted to employ their new political stature to diminish the age long rights, and authority of the Awujale on the selection of Obas and important Chiefs in Ijebuland as the principal consenting authority. By the time the new Chieftaincy Declarations in Ijebuland were considered and approved by the Government of the Western Region of Nigeria in 1957 and 1958, the Awujale’s authority had been recognized, reaffirmed and entrenched in the State’s laws.
One letter stood out to epitomize Oba Adesanya’s stand and historically is worth recording in the context of the developments in the royal field during Gbelegbuwa II reign and the experiences of the past forty years (1960 – 2000). In a letter dated 24th June, 1957 and sent to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice and Local Government, Western Region, Oba Adesanya stated:
“1. I wish to invite your serious attention to the itching question of Chieftaincy Declarations as they are at present being made in this division under the shelter of the Western Region Appointment and Recognition of Chiefs Law, 1954.
2. The omission which is being made by District Councils in setting aside the authority of the Awujale is purely intentional. The ordinary Ijebu man in the street quite well knows that the tradition and custom of Ijebuland laid it down that it was a grievous offence to wink an eye at the authority of the Awujale on all Chieftaincy matters in Ijebuland. The law itself which these Councils are quoting so flagrantly does not appear to give them the illusive backing which they rest upon so securely. Section 3 (1) of the law says: “the competent Local Government Council shall make a declaration in writing setting out the native law and custom.
3. According to this section it seems obvious that the Regional Government had initiated the programme the right and proper way by respecting the “native law and custom”. But the competent Local Government Councils choose the independent and defiant attitude of setting out the native law and custom in their own irresponsible way leaving the Awujale entirely out of the picture, and not obtaining his comments.
4. Here, I wish to quote a precedent to substantiate the veracity of my claim. When the declaration in respect of the Orimolusi of ljebu-Igbo was being made in 1955, the Ijebu-Igbo Local Government Council did not, at the outset, see the necessity of obtaining the Awujale’s comments until I forwarded a complaint to the Ministry against their utter disregard of the native law and custom of Ijebuland. Immediately thereafter, your letter No. 27751/18/68 of the 23 rd of December, 1955 instructed them to adopt the proper procedure and then a paragraph was inserted in their declaration indicating that the consent of the Awujale must as a rule be obtained. If, therefore, the principle which this letter is trying to emphasize had been established at the very beginning there would have been no grounds at all for this kind of complaint.
5. In order, therefore, to find an early remedy to this unsatisfactory and disgusting affair, I wish to suggest that a foolproof amendment to the law or a new section thereto be made showing positively that no Chieftaincy declaration would be complete without reference to the Paramount Chief of the Division or province concerned according to the native law and custom of the area. And not only that; that the comment of such Paramount Ruler should be obtained before the final stage is reached. It was thereafter that such declaration could be submitted for approval.
6. I do hope every effort would be made in due course to adjust the situation by restoring to the Awujale his age long authority in all chieftaincy matters in Ijebu Division.”
The reply came swiftly from the Permanent Secretary. In a letter dated 21st August, 1957, he informed the Awujale:
“1. I am directed to refer to your letter dated 24th of June and to inform you that Section 4(2)(a)(vi) of the Chiefs Law 1957 requires the Chieftaincy Committee of a competent Council when making a declaration to record therein the identity of any person whose consent is required to an appointment made by the King maker and the usage regulating the granting or withholding of such consent.
2. The Local Government Adviser, Ijebu, has already addressed you on this subject in his letter No. 2729/160 of the 25th of July and he is being requested to consult you in future before forwarding for approval declarations in which you claim the right of final consent.”