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Obasanjo may not apologise to Oyo monarchs – Ex-Adviser, Abimbola

A popular professor of African Languages and Literature, Wande Abimbola, who is also a former Special Adviser on Cultural Affairs and Traditional Matters to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has said clamour for Obasanjo to apologise for ordering some monarchs in Oyo State to stand up and greet their governor may not yield the desired result, given his military background.

Abimbola, a former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, said he agreed with Obasanjo that monarchs should respect their governor but that it would have been better if he spoke to the monarchs in private rather than the way he did it publicly.

Obasanjo had at the recent inauguration of the Oyo–Iseyin Road project at the instance of Governor Seyi Makinde expressed displeasure that the monarchs did not rise to greet the governor. “I greet the kings and chiefs here sitting; I am grateful that you are here. Let me say this: wherever the governor is or the president, the king has to stand up. Stand up,” he ordered them.

After the monarchs stood up, he again ordered them to sit, which they did.

Among the reactions that greeted the action, the Council of Yoruba Elders, Yoruba Council Worldwide, the Oluwo of Iwo and the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, in separate statements described Obasanjo’s action as unacceptable, while asking him to apologise to the monarchs. The YCW also threatened to take legal action against him if he refused to apologise.

However, in an interview with our correspondent, Abimbola said, “We often forget that Obasanjo is a soldier and a decorated soldier at that. Sometimes, he does things that you and I may and say why should somebody be so brave to do this? It’s because of his background as a soldier.

“The only thing I don’t like about what happened is that it could have been done in private. He should have called the governor when he saw that those kings didn’t stand up for the governor. He should have privately spoken to the governor and the kings after the ceremony.

“Nigeria is now a republic and in a republic the leaders are the president, the governors and the civil authority. So, it is fit and proper if you stand up for the governor, except any of them who is very old and cannot easily stand up. It takes like less than half a minute to honor your governor.”

Speaking on the clamour for Obasanjo to apologise, the don, who served as the Senate Majority Leader in the Third Republic between 1992 and 1993, stated, “I don’t think he will ever apologise, for that same reason. What he said was not wrong, it was just the way he said it.

“It is true that if the president of Nigeria comes to a gathering, everybody should stand up. If the governor in his own territory comes to a gathering, we also honour him. Some people have asked if the Prime Minister of England could ask the Queen to stand up, they have forgotten that the United Kingdom is not a republic, it’s a kingdom.

“Obasanjo himself started by saying we should respect one another. There is no way you can ask him to apologise, but like I said, I think he could have said that in another way.”