Former President Olusegun Olusegun Obasanjo has given insight into why he ordered traditional rulers in Oyo State to stand and then sit.
Mr Obasanjo is being widely criticised over the incident which occurred on Friday during the inauguration of two projects in Iseyin, Oyo State, where the former President was special guest of honour.
In a short video circulated on the internet, Mr Obasanjo is seen expressing displeasure at the seated monarchs’ failure to rise and greet the state governor, Seyi Makinde, describing their behaviour as a sign of disrespect for the governor and his office.
Speaking in Yoruba, Mr Obasanjo then ordered the seated traditional leaders to rise and greet the state Governor Makinde. The monarchs rose promptly and then sat as commanded.
Several people have criticised Mr Obasanjo for tongue-lashing the traditional rulers and ordering them to rise, describing his action as a desecration of Yoruba culture.
The Oluwo of Iwo, Abdulrosheed Akanbi, sternly rebuked the former President for his controversial “stand up order” directed at the monarchs.
Oba Akanbi said respect should be earned and not demanded, pointing out that traditional rulers deserve respect from those they encounter.
The Oluwo described kingship as a divine institution that should be treated with utmost modesty, courtesy, and respect. He expressed disappointment in the monarchs who complied with Mr Obasanjo’s directive.
The Oluwo then demanded a formal letter of apology from the former president, arguing that Yoruba monarchs should always be treated with respect.
But when contacted on the matter on Saturday, Mr Obasanjo told PREMIUM TIMES 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.”