Former President Olusegun Olusegun Obasanjo has reacted to the controversies being generated by his order to traditional rulers to stand and then sit during the inauguration of two projects in Iseyin, Oyo State last Friday.
Obasanjo was a special guest of honour at the inauguration of the road projects constructed by Governor Seyi Makinde.
However, rather than the projects, it was Obasanjo’s order to traditional rulers at the occasion to stand up and then sit down as depicted in a video that went viral grabbed the headlines.
Yoruba groups, monarchs and other critics have accused Obasanjo of disrespecting the traditional institution with the way he treated the kings at the occasion.
Taiwo, one of the former wives of the former President also appealed to the traditional institutions in Yorubaland to forgive her former husband in a statement on Sunday.
However, Obasanjo in an exclusive interview with Premium Times justified his action.
He said he ordered the traditional rulers to stand up during the occasion because they refused to do so during his arrival alongside Governor Makinde at the event.
Obasanjo said the refusal of the traditional rulers to stand up was a disrespect for Governor Makinde and a breach of protocol.
He added that the monarchs also refused to stand up when the Governor mounted the podium to read his address.
The former President said he later learnt that the Obas have always shown disrespect for the Governor and that’s why he decided to correct them at the occasion.
“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.
Obasanjo noted that contrary to the criticisms that have trailed his action, he has a lot of 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 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.”