NIGERIA: My kingship was unexpected – Timi, paramount ruler of Ede

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Eyelids were raised in the ancient town of Ede in Osun State  when he was announced as the 13th Timi five years ago. The expectation had been that someone from one of the five major ruling houses was going to be chosen as the town’s paramount ruler, but, according to Oba Muniru Adesola Lawal, Laminisa 1, God threw him up from a minor ruling house.

Born into the Laminisa ruling house of the late Bariyu Abefe Lawal and Alhaja Akanke Lawal, who hailed from Ile Imole compound. Oba Lawal,  who  grew up in his maternal family’s compound, never thought of being an Oba while growing up and, as such, never used the title ‘Prince’.

He explained that his stay at his mother’s  family house could be the reason he never knew that the Laminisa family had been added to the other five ruling houses by a panel of inquiry set up to look into chieftaincy issues in the then Western Region by the Jemibewon administration.

“I happened not to have stayed in our family house and so, I did not know that the Laminisa family had been added to the other five ruling houses. You know there were five ruling houses in Ede before General Jemibewon set up a panel of inquiry to look into chieftaincy issues in the region, it was then that the Laminsa ruling house was added in the declaration as one of the ruling houses. And since I was not raised in the family compound, this was not known to me. In essence, I am saying I  never dreamt of being a king”.

Oba Lawal added “There were many princes in Iree where I taught, but I never for once called myself a prince while there.I need to quickly make a correction here because some people are now saying that someone who never called himself a prince or dreamt of being a king now became one.They have forgotten the work of God who knows all things and makes who He wishes a king. We might be looking at this person being a king and God will look the other way. So, I will say that my being on the throne as the 13th Timi of Ede is the work of Almighty God.”

Looking back to his formative years, Oba Muniru Lawal said his career as a teacher prepared him for the position he is occupying today. “I want to thank God for he has a way of doing things and has a way of preparing one for the future. He has actually used the teaching to prepare me for this position”, he said.

“As a teacher, you are an administrator, a counsellor, an arbiter, you are everything. So, God has used the profession to prepare me.”

Explaining his sojourn in the profession of teaching, the Timi said that after his Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination at Ogbomosho Grammar School in 1974, “ due to the shortage of manpower in the school system then, I was employed as a teacher by the central school board in Oshogbo and posted to Timi Agbale Grammar School, Ede, where I started my teaching career. There I taught students mathematics, chemistry and physics.

“I was there from 1976 to 1978 before going to Adeyemi College of Education where I read mathematics and chemistry education. I completed my NCE in 1980 and did my youth service in Borno State in 1981. After my NYSC, I was employed again as a teacher by the central school board in Ibadan and was posted to Baptist High School, Ede, my Alma mater. I started there September 1981 and two months later I left for further studies in Bayero University , Kano , where I studied mathematics and library studies with second class upper degree”.

For the love of the teaching profession, Oba Laminisa returned to Baptist High School, Ede after his first degree in 1984. “So, I started by teaching career again. I was in Baptist High School from then till 1987/88 session before being posted to Moremi High School in Ile Ife which is a university town; there I did my Master’s in Business Administration. After my MBA, I asked for transfer and was sent back to Ede to teach at Oba Laoye Grammar School. I was there between 1990 and 1992″,the monarch said.

“As God will have it, the first Executive Governor of Osun State, Isiaka Adeleke, converted the satellite campuses of the then Ibadan Polytechnic at Eruwa and Iree to full fledged Polytechnics. It was there I was appointed as lecturer 3 in November 1992. At Iree, I taught mathematics where I rose to the top which is the senior principal lecturer/ chief lecturer. I was given the chief lecturer in 2006 before this opportunity to be an Oba came in 2008.”

Oba Laminisa 1 said being a teacher was quite different from being an Oba, explaining that as an Oba you cannot go out and do what you like. “ Everybody calls you baba baba, which was a big problem to me in the first year. I always feel it as an insult to call my father’s age mates by names, but that has been the tradition. The tradition believes no matter how aged you are, you can’t be above the Oba.”

As a custodian of the people’s culture and with his background as a teacher, are there things he will like to change in the culture of the people. He answered, “Culture should not be static, it should be dynamic. For every culture, there are those things that are good and those that are bad. I can’t say one needs to change something suddenly, but if a particular thing is bad, God has a way of eliminating such.

“There are some of our cultural beliefs that are very good that are now being eroded by Western culture and there are some that are bad that have gone into extinction, so, I want to let you know that God has a way of taking care of things. Those things that are bad in our culture will naturally fall out.

But that is not the case with the Yoruba language which is to a large extent about being eroded by foreign languages. We need a lot of work in this direction as everyone now tends to gravitate towards foreign languages. We as traditional rulers and custodians of the people’s culture should do more work so as not to allow our language (Yoruba) to go into extinction.

“As a principle, I don’t speak any other language in this palace except Yoruba language. The other traditional rulers in Osun State here are taking efforts to make the Yoruba language richer.”

The Oba explained that as part of his efforts to protect the culture and tradition of his people, he has tried in the last five years of his kingship to promote the Sango festival and others in the face of opposition from religious leaders.

“You cannot remove the seat of Timi from that of Sango and that is why Sango has been one of the major traditional festivals that we celebrate. In the last five years, I have tried to rekindle the dampened lights of this festival.

“People will testify that I have done a lot to promote the festival, but Islamic and Christian religions have been affecting the festival. If anything happened to an Ede person, he will shout’ Sango Timi’ in those days. We believe Sango is part of Ede and Ede is part of Timi and that is why I have been trying to promote the festival again.

“People believe once you celebrate this festival that you are no longer a Muslim or a Christian, but I am a Muslim and I know my relationship with God. So, I have tried to raise the standard of the festival so as to attract people from far and wide”.

He noted that there is bound to be clash between tradition and religion, “but you as a traditional ruler, you are a father to the Muslims, the Christians and the traditionalists.” The monaech went on :” So, you are a father to all. With this in mind, you know, you will give everyone his due. That has been the bedrock of my success as I give unto Caesar what belongs to him.

“The origin of Timi itself is Sango and one should not allow religion to blind fold him as to close his eyes to the traditional worshippers and the culture of the people.

I know I am going to give account of my stewardship for all the religious beliefs of my people in Ede before my creator as their burden is on me.”

Being a traditional ruler of an urban town like Ede has its own challenges and the Oba admitted this much when he said “everything and development centre on land. The issue of land has been the most challenging issue in Ede in the last five years.

“My people are looking for developmental projects in the town, but all these projects involve land and the people are not willing to give up their land. My challenge has been how to allow my people to willingly give up their land for development of the town.

“There are many projects that are coming into the town and these projects will not be sited in the air but on land, so I want to implore my people to let us work together as one for the development of Edeland. My aspiration is to see Ede land become a financial hub and a place where people will live comfortably and a place where people from all over the world will want to visit.”

While explaining that the traditional stools are important for good governance in the country, he does not want constitutional roles for the traditional rulers because of what happened in the past. “You know before the advent of the Europeans, the Yoruba had their system of governance. The old Oyo Empire had the Alafin as the traditional ruler with the Oyomesi acting as check and balance. They had standard ways of making people to become one.

But when the Europeans came and met this standard ways of doing things, they introduced the divide and rule system. The parliamentary system that was once practised here gave room for Obas to be appointed as ministers, commissioners and given political positions.

With what happened under that arrangement, you will not advocate for traditional rulers to go into politics. Then there were traditional rulers whose salaries were reduced to one penny because of their involvement in politics.

“Obas have enough work to do, especially those of us who preside in towns where the people still have faith in the traditional institutions. In my palace here we sit from Monday to Friday from 8- 3pm attending to issues. We attend to issues on land, marital problems and others. You see, Obas have lot to do”.

Oba Lawal said with the position of Obas in the present dispensation as fathers to all they are still relegated to the back seats in their domains, “what is annoying is that while in your domain, ou are the father to the local government chairman, when there is a function in the local government, the chairman is recognised before you.

“Even the wives of  local government chairmen are recognised before traditional fathers. I am not calling for political posts that will expose traditional rulers to ridicule before their subjects, but, in the protocol lists, the traditional rulers should be given a place of respect that shows the traditional rulers as the father of the political officer holders. But the situation where the local government chairmen and their wives are recognised before the traditional rulers is an insult.”

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