By Sam Omatseye
The country has watched with fascination the row and celebration over the inauguration of new Obas in Ibadan. Former Governor Rashidi Ladoja and Olubadan have regretted the boost while a string of Obas are awash with glee. Governor Abiola Ajimobi knows he has pulled off a masterstroke, both politically and economically.
While the Olubadan thinks his position has shrunken, others are thrilling to their new status as kings. Those formerly known as chiefs can now be addressed as kabiyesi. What elation. But that is not all. With the now about two dozen Obas, we will expect a new royal economy. We shall see contracts out for the building of new palaces. Those who want to become chiefs or heavyweights in their new kingdoms can now start unleashing cash for projects.
We might even have competition. Some Obas may start saying, my palace is bigger than yours. Labourers will get jobs, architects will design, tailors will loom, painters will boom, interior decorators will invent, Dangote or his competitors can start loading cements around Ibadan. Even “mama put” will entrench herself around the construction sites. We need the Federal Office of Statistics to crunch the numbers, so Oyo State can also eye some IGR boost.
Those hankering for chieftaincy titles can easily get it. It is a boom for egos. Every palace will also have its own chiefs. I anticipate palace intrigues. Who will be senior chiefs or subordinate ones?
Ibadan began as a republican enclave, a fierce tribe of warriors. The town of Balogun Latosisa was broken into war divisions or garrisons around town as it duelled its foes to the death. Like the Roman General Cincinnatus, who turned from soldier to statesman, the warriors changed to kings. Washington followed his role model Cincinnatus’ path.
The Obas will now become instruments of political mobilisation. The chiefs, palace, their followers will, from now on, become part of the party machine. It does not have to be APC or PDP. While Ladoja may have been naïve here, Ajimobi may have rebuilt not only a feudal fortress, he just rejigged a modern political machine.
Omatseye is Chairman Editorial Board of The Nation.