A tussle is in the air in Ibadan, although much of the nation is not paying attention. Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi has set up a committee to look into how the Olu of Ibadan is elected. Two members of the Olu’s council have risen in protest. They are joined by Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, the hoary upstart and serial loser.
Ajimobi wants the committee to review the formula where only old men emerge as Olu, and look for modern ways to make younger people. A system where men in their 80’s or older want to be kings rids a society of the contribution of their vital years.
Ajimobi is calling for merit to upend age. “When I was old,” said the Chinese proverb, “I did not have the strength.” The governor wants a throne where kings brim with energy and wisdom, whose orders do not sound like whimper, who do not walk as though they limp.
The irony is that Ibadan is a product of talent, not entitlement. It was a repository of the best, fleeing other towns and kingdoms. The city, built on a hill, became the forte of military ardour and strategic elan. It became a progressive bastion, a tradition that we can trace in Yorubaland from Ogunmola to Awolowo.
That is what Ajimobi wants to recreate. A better and more vital past. Not the past of 1957 where gerontocrats reign. It is the same town where, as the governor noted, the big names could not raise enough money to build a befitting palace. It seems some of the town’s bigwigs hark back to a wrong Ibadan past. A past of dilapidated palace tenanting an old and expiring king. Ajimobi is attempting another paradox: a revolution in a palace, if not of a palace. He wants Ibadan to return as the city on a hill.