Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has provided an explanation for his actions regarding the traditional rulers in Oyo State during the inauguration of two projects in Iseyin.
Mr. Obasanjo’s conduct has faced widespread criticism, as captured in a video circulated on the internet, where he expressed dissatisfaction with the seated monarchs’ failure to rise and greet the state governor, Seyi Makinde, deeming it disrespectful.
In the video, Mr. Obasanjo, speaking in Yoruba, ordered the seated traditional leaders to stand and greet Governor Makinde, a directive they promptly followed. Numerous individuals have criticized Mr. Obasanjo for publicly scolding the traditional rulers and compelling them to stand, viewing his actions as a breach of Yoruba culture.
In response to the criticism, the Oluwo of Iwo, Abdulrosheed Akanbi, reprimanded the former President for his “stand-up order” and emphasized that respect should be earned rather than imposed. He asserted that traditional rulers should naturally receive respect from those they encounter, underscoring the sacred nature of kingship and the importance of modesty, courtesy, and respect.
The Oluwo called for a formal letter of apology from Mr. Obasanjo, asserting that Yoruba monarchs should consistently be treated with respect. When questioned about the incident, Mr. Obasanjo, who was in South Africa for the burial of politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who passed away on 9 September at the age of 95, explained his actions.
Mr. Obasanjo clarified that he took the actions he did because the monarchs exhibited blatant disrespect for Governor Makinde.
Upon his arrival at the event venue with the governor, Mr. Obasanjo observed that everyone else in attendance rose to their feet, but the monarchs remained seated. This, in his view, constituted a breach of protocol and disrespect for the governor.
When it was Governor Makinde’s turn to speak, protocol demanded that everyone rise in respect for him and his office, and most attendees complied. However, the traditional rulers continued to sit. Perceiving this as a recurring issue in Oyo State, Mr. Obasanjo decided to address the matter, aiming to convey that disrespect for authorities is not aligned with Yoruba culture.
Mr. Obasanjo emphasized that, regardless of culture, the constitution establishes the governor as the leader of a state and mandates respect for his position. He emphasized that respect should be mutual and encouraged the traditional rulers to treat the governor with the respect he deserves if they wish to receive the same in return.
He concluded by underscoring his deep respect for traditional rulers and his continued practice of paying reverence to them through gestures like prostration, bowing, and kneeling as appropriate. Mr. Obasanjo emphasized the need to harmonize culture and constitutional principles, ensuring that one does not infringe upon the other.