FORMER President Olusegun Olusegun Obasanjo has explained why he ordered Oyo State’s traditional rulers to stand and then sit.
Obasanjo has been extensively chastised for the incident that transpired on Friday during the inauguration of two projects in Iseyin, Oyo State, where he was the special guest of honor.
Obasanjo could be seen in a short video posted on the internet expressing his unhappiness with the seated monarchs’ unwillingness to rise and greet the state governor, Seyi Makinde, citing their behavior as a sign of disrespect for the governor and his office.
Obasanjo then instructed the seated traditional chiefs to rise and greet state Governor Makinde in Yoruba. The monarchs rose swiftly and sat down as instructed.
Several people have however criticized Obasanjo for tongue-lashing traditional rulers and ordering them to rise, calling his actions a betrayal of Yoruba culture.
Abdulrosheed Akanbi, the Oluwo of Iwo, harshly chastised the former President for his controversial “stand up order” directed at the monarchs.
Respect, according to Oba Akanbi, should be earned rather than demanded, and traditional rulers deserve respect from people they encounter.
Kingship, according to the Oluwo, is a divine institution that should be regarded with the utmost modesty, civility, and respect. He was disappointed with the monarchs who followed Obasanjo’s directive.
The Oluwo then insisted that the former president issue a formal letter of apology, noting that Yoruba monarchs should always be treated with respect.
But when contacted on the matter on Saturday, Obasanjo told Premium times that he acted the way he did because the monarchs displayed utter disrespect for Governor Makinde.
“I arrived the event venue with the governor,” the former president said from South Africa where he was attending the burial of politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who died on 9 September at 95. “As we arrived, every other person at the venue rose, but they (the monarchs) remained seated. I was surprised because I considered that a breach of protocol and disrespect for the governor.
“It later became the turn of the governor to speak. As he rose, every other person at the venue, including me, stood up as demanded by protocol and in respect for the governor and his office. Again, the Obas refused to rise. They all remained seated.
“I then asked people around whether that was the practice in Oyo State. I was told the Obas have always displayed disrespect for their governor. I wondered where they got that from and then decided to speak to them about it.
“As far as I am concerned, there is constitution and there is culture. By our constitution, the governor is the leader of a state. Everyone must respect him no matter his or her status or age. He deserves respect no matter how young he is and protocols must be observed.
“That was why I spoke to them the way I did. I wanted them to realise that it is not part of Yoruba culture to disrespect authorities. Respect begets respect and they must learn to deal with their governor with respect if they want to be respected in return.
“I respect traditional rulers and even when I was President and till today, I treat them with reverence. I prostrate, bow and knee before them as necessary.
“I respect our culture. But let us also know that there is a Constitution which puts a chairman as head of a local government, a governor as head of a state and a president as head of our country. Whatever we do must be in respect for that arrangement. I am saying there is culture and there is constitution. One must not disturb the other.”