Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has responded to the controversies surrounding his directive to traditional rulers to rise and sit down during the inauguration of two projects in Iseyin, Oyo State, last Friday.
Obasanjo, who served as the special guest of honor at the inauguration of the road projects constructed by Governor Seyi Makinde, found himself at the center of attention not for the projects themselves, but due to a viral video showing him instructing the traditional rulers to stand and sit.
Various Yoruba groups, monarchs, and critics criticized Obasanjo for allegedly disrespecting the traditional institution with his actions towards the kings at the event.
In a statement on Sunday, one of Obasanjo’s former wives, Taiwo, also appealed to the traditional institutions in Yorubaland to forgive her ex-husband for his conduct.
However, in an exclusive interview with Premium Times, Obasanjo defended his action.
He explained that he had ordered the traditional rulers to stand during the occasion because they had refused to do so when he and Governor Makinde arrived at the event.
According to Obasanjo, the traditional rulers’ refusal to stand constituted disrespect towards Governor Makinde and a breach of protocol. He further revealed that the monarchs had also declined to rise when the governor ascended the podium to deliver his address.
Obasanjo clarified that he had been informed that the Obas had a history of showing disrespect towards the Governor, which motivated him to correct their behavior during the event.
“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 out of 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 I decided to speak to them about it.
“As far as I am concerned, there is a constitution and there is a 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 realize 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.
Obasanjo emphasized that despite the criticism surrounding his actions, he holds a deep respect for traditional rulers.
“I respect traditional rulers, and even when I was President and till today, I treat them with reverence. I prostrate, bow, and kneel before them as necessary.
“I respect our culture. But let us also know that there is a Constitution that 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 respect that arrangement. I am saying there is culture and there is a constitution. One must not disturb the other.”