On Olubadan and Other Thoughts on Age and Leadership


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It is no longer news that the Olubadan of Ibadan, Ona Samuel Odulana Odugade has joined his ancestors. Therefore I want to express my condolences to the chiefs and the people of Ibadan for this great loss. There is no doubt that the city will miss his astute leadership experience, and One can only pray that his family be granted the fortitude to bear the loss and may the city of Ibadan never become desolate in his absence.

As the Yoruba say about Oba especially at their passing, “the Oba, who ruled and kept the peace, will not be forgotten, the one that the city was destroyed by war under his rule, will also not be forgotten.” There is no denying the fact there was peace in Ibadan under Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade’s rule, how much of that was his influence is a matter I have no desire to debate. However what really struck me was what a friend, Seun Akinrinde said about him, that he was an Oba “who rejected all unholy overtures to to be stained with the dollar dung.” Indeed anybody who was in Ibadan would remember what happened when then President Goodluck Jonathan came to visit Oba Odugade in 2015 in order to garner support for his reelection bid, the Olubadan was said to have told him “As the President of Nigeria, I have no choice but to welcome you to my palace, but it is ultimately the people who will determine if they want you as president, there is nothing, I cannot interfere with the wishes of my people so there is nothing I can do but to wish you all the best.” That kind of honesty is a refreshing find in these days of Obas being accused of corruption and Obas clearly supporting politicians whom their people are clearly dissatisfied with. The office of the Olubadan has of course always maintained a dignified approach to politics, indeed when I was younger and used to go with my family to my grandpa’s house in Isale Ijebu in Ibadan, one story that our older relatives used to tell us was when Gen Sani Abacha became the Commander in Chief of the Armed forces of Nigeria, he reportedly demanded that all the Obas in Yorubaland to come to Abuja to see him. Oba Yesufu Asanike who was Olubadan at the time reportedly said in Yoruba “who does he think he is, that I will leave Ibadan and go to Abuja to see him? I am not his mate. I am as old as, if not older than his father, so if he has anything to say, let him come to Ibadan and talk me”. It is pleasing to see that Oba Odulana did not allow that high esteem that the Olubadans before him have been held before him to drop one bit, and that is worthy of commendation.

While I was thinking about how Olubadan Odugade managed to avoid being dragged into the murky waters of Nigerian politics, I had a flashback to  just before the general elections of 2015, when  my Dad and I were had a discussion on age and leadership. I remember he started with football, pointing out that Sir Alex Ferguson gets more respect than Pep Guardiola in football mostly  because of his experience and age. Dad then went ahead to give the example of the age of  the Olubadan being the major reason why the office is held in high regard, that at Olubadan Odugade’s age, he can neither be bribed nor intimidated, and that no matter how rabid a politician is, at least he has to give the Oba the respect due to an elder. Also the many years of experience the Oba has garnered in leadership  will always be useful, even if he doesn’t have the strength to do the grunt of work anymore. That made me remember the Half of A Yellow Sun movie, where Olanna ( the Thandie Newton character) chides Mama (The Onyeka Owenu character) that tobacco is bad for her health. Mama promptly retorts “I am too old to die young”  It provoked a laugh at the time, but remembering it later I found that it espoused an important characteristic of a leader, especially an Oba. An elder is a realist, he cannot be flattered, or swayed with empty promises, he is already in his twilight years so he is not looking to be popular and he will thus not pander to any section of the population. He will not mince words with you, given that he has gone past caring about your feelings and what you can do to him if you do not like what he says, at that age, elders on the average also tend to respect themselves and transfer that dignity to their position, because frankly speaking, jumping on bikes while eating  corn, directing traffic and climbing electric poles may look good on politicians attempting to pander to an increasingly youthful population, it does not look good on a man whose job description is to be a royal father.

Of course the purpose of this piece is not to argue that youth does not deserve a shot at leadership, of course you cannot have elders without youth. However, even though Obas are no longer the highest political authority in the land, they are still the custodians of culture and tradition, their own rule is more far reaching than politicians who have a less profound effect on the lives of the people. Buhari can afford to say “I am for everybody, and I am for nobody” because he has at best an eight year window, to be responsible for how Nigeria is managed, so people can just say “let us cope with him until his term ends and then we will be rid of him forever” but with a royal father it is not the same, he has to be a person who has experience dealing with all sections of the population old and young. In other words  a wise and experienced elder who will make sure that every section of the population is carried along in decisions, not a smartphone wielding youth, who can be tempted to sell his people out for promises of exotic cars and kowtow to politicians for government contracts and cheap political clout. So far it has worked for Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade who now rests with his fathers. May his soul rest in peace.

One again to the entire people of Ibadan, may we continue to have peace in Ibadan like we had during the time of Olubadan Odugade, may we have more like him, Olubadans who will maintain the dignity and respect the whole Nigeria accords to the throne of Ibadan, and not an Oba who will sell us out for cheap dollars. Amen.
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3 thoughts on “On Olubadan and Other Thoughts on Age and Leadership

  1. Oba Odugade was a graceful king, may his soul rest in peace. I can’t say I knew him as I have my own wahala king to think about, actually my experience with my royal family distorted my thoughts about any king. Thank goodness for getting older and for technology.

    A few months ago, I was chatting with a 70 year old lady, she told me Oba Odugade was her favourite king in Yorubaland so I got her to share her views – all positive. May we continue to have more kings like him in Yorubaland – those who believe that youths lives are worth investing in, those who will take pride in uniting us all for the betterment of the tribe and the nation.

    And by the way, the first time I saw the late Oba’s photo I thought he was one handsome man and the Abaja marks suited his cheeks well, well. Bi omo eni ba daa, ka wi, aa ni fi s’oko.

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