Adedeji Jokanola Vs The Military Governor Of Oyo State & Ors (1990)
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The appellant is the Otun Bale of Lanlate and a member of Olabebe ruling house one of the two ruling houses for the appointment of Bale of Lanlate. The other ruling house is Bioku ruling house. In 1957 a Chieftaincy Declaration relating to Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy was drawn up.
The Declaration was registered on 28th November, 1958. It provided for the rotation of the candidature of Bale of Lanlate between Olabebe and Bioku ruling houses. In 1977 the government of Oyo State set up Ademola Commission of Inquiry which reviewed all the existing chieftaincy declarations in Oyo State. The Commission received memoranda from various interested groups including Olabebe and Bioku ruling houses who presented a joint memorandum.
After thorough consideration of all memoranda the Commission affirmed the 1957 chieftaincy Declaration of Bale of Lanlate. At the demise of Oba Babatunde Aremu, the Bale of Lanlate, on the 7th of October, 1984, the appellant, the 8th respondent, Oyewole Oyediran, and two other members of Olabebe ruling house contested for the vacant stool. At the end of the contest the kingmakers declared Prince Oyediran Oyewole, the 8th respondent, the winner, having scored majority of the votes cast. Thereafter the name of the 8th respondent was forwarded to the Oyo State Government for approval.
Dissatisfied with the selection and election of Prince Oyediran Oyewole as the candidate to be appointed the new Bale of Lanlate, the appellant instituted this action against the eight defendants/respondents, listed above, in the High Court of Oyo State and claimed as follows:
“(1) Declaration that paragraph v of the Registered Declaration of 1957 relating to Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy which was retained by Ademola Commission of enquiry and approved by the 1st Defendant in his letter of the 11th of January, 1978 reference No. C. B. 141/169/1/VOL. v. 557 is contrary to the customary law relating to the Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy and is therefore invalid.
(2) Declaration that according to tradition and customary law of Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy, the surviving Otun Bale automatically becomes the Bale elect. (3) Declaration that the nomination and selection of the 8th defendant as the Bale of Lanlate by the 4th to 6th defendant is irregular, contrary to the customary law relating to Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy and invalid. (4) Order of injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants by themselves, their servants, agents or otherwise howsoever from recognizing or approving the appointment of the 8th defendant as the Bale of Lanlate.
(5) Injunction restraining the 1st to 7th defendants by themselves, their servants, agents or otherwise howsoever from treating or dealing with the 8th defendant as the Bale of Lanlate. (6) Injunction restraining the 8th defendant from acting as or parading himself as the Bale of Lanlate pending the determination of the substantive case.” The case of the appellant, through the pleadings, is that he was appointed Otun Bale of Lanlate by Oba Babatunde Aremu, in 1976. He averred that according to the custom and tradition of Lanlate, on the demise of a Bale of Lanlate, the Otun of Lanlate is automatically appointed to succeed the deceased Bale, while the next ruling house from which the last Bale came would produce the next Otun Bale.
Both Bale and Otun Bale being the most important chieftaincies in Lanlate must not come from the same ruling house at the same time. He further asserted that before the position of Otun was created, the next chief to Bale of Lanlate was the Sobaloju and that the Sobaloju was the automatic choice of Bale of Lanlate when a vacancy in the Baleship occurred. The appellant submitted that in view of the clear custom of the chieftaincy of Bale of Lanlate, which he narrated above, the 1957 Registered Declaration which merely provided for rotation between the Olabebe and Bioku Ruling Houses did not fully represent the true customary law of Lanlate since it omitted the vital element relating to succession by the Otun and the impossibility of the Otun and Bale coming from the same ruling house at the same time.
For these reasons plaintiff’s counsel argued that the selection of the 8th respondent who came from the same ruling house with him, as Bale of Lanlate, was invalid, null and void. The learned trial judge considered the evidence adduced before her and, in a well considered judgment, dismissed the claim of the appellant. Dissatisfied with the decision of the trial High Court the appellant filed an appeal at the Ibadan Division of the Court of Appeal. There again the appellant, Mr. Adedeji Jokanola, was not successful. He has now come before this court on three grounds of appeal. Chief Afe Babalola, Learned Senior Advocate who prepared the appellant’s brief for the prosecution of this appeal raised the following issues for the determination of this appeal;
“1. Whether the decision of the Court of Appeal is sustainable considering the failure of the Court to consider and pronounce on germane issues i.e., the effect of what happens to an Otun who survives the tenure of Bale, particularly considering the custom that both Bale and Otun must not come from the same ruling house at the same time. 2. “Whether the decision of the Court of Appeal took into consideration the essential elements of a good custom which must not be repugnant to good reason when the effect of its holding is that both the Bale and Otun could come from the same ruling house. 3. Whether the Court of Appeal was not wrong in failing to hold that an accepted customary usage or practice of the people of Lanlate where the three successive Otuns become Bale, a practice that spanned over 30 years had hardened into custom cognizable by court to be judicially sanctioned. 4. Whether the failure of the Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy Declaration of 1957 to provide for automatic ascension of Otun Bale upon the demise of the incumbent Bale particularly in a situation where the next ruling house would produce Bale and Otun passes to the other ruling house thereby creating a lacuna was not established, as it was the situation in the case of Edewor V Uwegba (1987) 1 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 50) 313.” Three learned counsel appeared for the three sets of respondents. In their respective briefs each counsel formulated issues which for all intents and purposes are similar to those filed by the learned counsel for the appellant. I do not see it pertinent to reproduce those issues in this judgment. The whole arguments of learned counsel for the appellant, in his appeal, boil down to two issues. First, whether it is the custom of the chieftaincy of Bale of Lanlate that on the demise of a Bale the Otun Bale or Sobaloju will automatically succeed to the throne left vacant by the deceased. Secondly, whether the 1957 Registered Declaration which was approved by Ademola Commission is exhaustive of the customary law relating to the nomination, selection, appointment and installation of the Bale of Lanlate.
In support of these issues Chief Afe Babalola, S.A.N. submitted that there had developed a custom in Lanlate whereby the Otun becomes the Bale upon the demise of the reigning Bale, notwithstanding the provisions of the Registered Declaration. Counsel then pointed out that three successive Otuns had become Bales and that the adopted practice had spanned for over 30 years.
It is also the learned Senior Advocate’s argument that the 1957 Registered Declaration did not adequately provide for this developed custom of the people of Lanlate. Learned counsel thereafter referred to the case of Edewor v Uwegba (1987) I N.W.L.R. (Pt. 50) 313 and submitted that this court had decided that although an existing declaration must be taken to represent the customary law regulating the particular chieftaincy in respect of which it was made, where there is a lacuna in the Declaration other evidence would be taken to fill in the lacuna.
Now, let me pause here and ask; Is there any lacuna in the 1957 Registered Declaration in respect of the chieftaincy of Bale of Lanlate as has been submitted by learned counsel for the appellant? The Court of Appeal on this issue reproduced the Registered declaration in its judgment before it resolved that there was no lacuna or gap in the Registered Declaration – Exhibit l.
I think it is relevant to reproduce the Declaration here because it gives a clear picture of the custom of the chieftaincy of Bale of Lanlate which has been embodied in it. It reads as follows: “Declaration made under Section 4(2) of the Chiefs Law, 1957 of the Customary Law regulating the selection to the Bale of Lanlate Chieftaincy. (i) There are two quarters and the identity of each such ruling quarter is: 1 Bioku 2. Olabebe. (ii) The order of rotation in which the respective ruling quarters are entitled to provide candidates to fill successive vacancies in the chieftaincy shall be:
1. Olabebe 2. Bioku (last ruling house) (iii) The persons who may be proposed as candidates by a ruling quarter entitled to fill a vacancy in the chieftaincy shall be: (a) Male adults (b) Members of the ruling house of the male or female line. (c) Popular with the people. (iv) There are six (6) Kingmakers as under: 1. Chief Otun 4. Chief Ikolaba 2. Chief Osi (Chairman) 5. Chief Jagun 3. Chief Onitabo 6. Chief Odofin (v) The method of nomination by each ruling quarter is as follows: The eldest member of the ruling quarter whose turn it is to provide a candidate shall summon a meeting of all adult male and female members of the family to consider applications for nomination.
The decision of this meeting shall be conveyed by the eldest member of the kingmakers. Made by the Chieftaincy Committee of the Ibarapa District Council which has been designated as the competent Council by Western Region Legal Notice 61 of 1955, and signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Committee this 4th day of October, 1957. (Sgd.) Chairman, Chieftaincy Committee Ibarapa District Council. After considering the pleadings and evidence adduced before the trial High Court it is quite plain that the Court of Appeal is right to say that there is no lacuna in the Registered Declaration reproduced above.
I now turn to the submission of the learned counsel for the appellant in support of averments in the statement of claim that by the custom of the chieftaincy of Bale of Lanlate, on the demise of a Bale the surviving Otun Bale is automatically nominated by the Kingmakers to occupy the stool. Also, that the Bale and Otun must never, according to the custom of the people, come from the same ruling house at the same time.
The respondents countered this submission. In paragraphs 9 and 10 of the 2nd respondent’s statement of defence the tradition was pleaded thus: ‘With further reference to paragraphs 10, 17, 18, 20 and 21 of the Statement of Claim the 2nd Defendant repeats paragraphs 7 and 8 above and avers that it is not correct to say that the surviving Otun Bale Lanlate must become the Bale of Lanlate when the stool of Bale is vacant.
10. The following are examples of people who did not hold the title of Otun Bale of Lanlate before becoming the Bale of Lanlate. (i) Chief Bioku (ii) Chief Oguntayi (iii) Chief Oyedokun (iv) Chief Ebofin (v) Chief Adio (vi) Chief Ajadi (vii) Chief Ojo (viii) Chief Ajala (ix) Chief Oyewole (x) Chief Oriola”
The learned trial judge after reviewing all the evidence adduced before him considered, among other points argued, the issues of automatic ascension to the throne and rotation between the two ruling houses for the titles of Bale and Own Bale and concluded as follows:
“I find further that Ebofin, the sixth Bale, was the first to hold the title of Otun Bale, and that this title was conferred on him by the Bale of Ibadan to compensate him when he should have become Bale but Adio, who was the Balogun, took his place. Ojo, Ajala, Oyewole and Oriola, all reigned after Ebofin, none of them held the title of Otun. Ojo Ajala and Oyewole held the title of Sobaloju, Oriola, succeeding his brother Oyewole as he did, was neither Otun nor Sobaloju. From these facts it is manifest that prior to the 1957 Declaration it was not the custom to choose the Otun Bale as the next Bale.” The
Other Citation: (1990) LCN/2416(SC)