Indiscriminate sale of ancestral lands threaten Ileogbo Town’s peace

Oba Agbaje
Ileogbo, a sleepy town in Aiyedire Local Council of Osun State, is considered one of the famous communities in Yoruba land due to its renowned cultural activities and tradition.
The community possesses an enviable record as a peaceful haven, where inhabitants – both indigenes and residents live in harmony, thereby attracting investors.
But the harmony that prevailed in the community over the years is gradually waning, no thanks to land grabbing, and intimidation allegations leveled against the Olu of Ileogbo, Oba Abeeb Adetoyese Agbaje a.k.a Kadara, Arowo Okun Joye II.
The Guardian learnt that the unpleasant development, which has been happening since the monarch was enthroned, is not in the best interest of the community, as investors have allegedly been forced to flee the town. 
Those averse to his policies are accusing the monarch of enriching himself with the people’s commonwealth, intimidating and arresting those that do not agree with his ways, and illegal arrest of members of the community.
But the monarch, Oba Agbaje, who spoke to The Guardian on phone, denied all the allegations, claiming that the allegations were baseless and meant to malign him. 
One of the petitioners, Prince Oyewole Yakeen Ajagbe, alleged that the moment the monarch assumed office, it was very obvious that he wanted to prey on landed property owned by the royal families (Omo Obas), which he has been selling against the will of the people.
He said: “We have five ruling houses in Ileogbo. Coincidentally, my family and his were grouped in the same ruling house – Ile Onigari and Ile Onido who were entitled to produce the monarch when the stool was vacant in 2011. It is as if he had an agenda to make himself rich from the natural wealth of Ileogbo, even before he assumed the throne.
“It became very clear within one year of his ascension that he has come to act like ‘Lagos people’ – land grabbers. This attitude started causing trouble as he was going to court day in, and day out, but we stopped him on his first attempt when he planned to sell some plots of land in Oko Osun, that is where we grew up. 
“We had to contribute money to procure the services of a lawyer at that time, and we dragged him to court to stop him from selling the land. We didn’t know that was the tip of the iceberg. Suddenly, he was encouraged by some individuals (which I’ll not name), to sell plots of land. I have not seen how he shared the money because he took advantage of these Omo Obas, who reside in Ileogbo, by ensuring that the property doesn’t allow them to see beyond their noses. He made getting rich quickly his primary objective hence he resorted to selling plots of lands that his forefathers preserved for the benefit of Ileogbo.”
Ajagbe explained that according to the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Ahoro Oba land, which is meant for the benefit of the whole community has been sold, and the proceed mismanaged, adding that the development and other actions of the monarch have not only led to the underdevelopment of the town but has driven away some indigenes and philanthropists who would have contributed to the town’s welfare. 
“We have a lot of philanthropists that are willing to invest in the town, but they have been forced to leave. There’s a lady who lives in America. She built a clinic in Ileogbo, which gave free medical services to people, but she was forced to close down the health facility. Some indigenes have vowed not to return to Ileogbo because they don’t know whom they are talking to,” he said, adding, “I have spoken to people who are older than me, some of them have promised not to comment on the development because they fear being arrested, or being petitioned. It was at that point that I asked myself, why would the king, father of the community engage himself in writing petitions against his subjects? 
“He has become unapproachable, and people are now finding it uncomfortable living in Ileogbo. Some of my mates that were also prominent members of Ileogbo Unity Front (IUF) have withdrawn their membership since this man came to the throne,” Ajagbe said.
Continuing, he asked, “Where is the money generated from the sale of the royal families’ lands? Where are the millions of naira generated? Is there no benefit that the town can derive from this money? Since a new administration has assumed office in Osun State, this is the time for us, that is, indigenes of Ileogbo, both home and abroad to write to the new governor, the Committee of Obas, attorney general and commissioner for justice, as well as and the chief judge.
“We need to petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The state government needs to conduct a discreet investigation on the sales of land in Ileogbo since the monarch assumed the throne. It is sad that if the state or Federal Government is planning to bring any developmental projects like tertiary institutions or hospitals to the town, we don’t have any land to host such projects. It is shameful that we are selling lands to indigenes of Ileogbo that are establishing schools. This is because we are not thinking of the benefits that such schools would bring to the community. It is high time all indigenes put an end to this act; we should think of the future of our children and that of our grandchildren.”
Ajagbe, who averred that the development may not bode well for the community, added: “When I was in the town in November last year, I told someone to take me on a tour of the land that belongs to the royal families, I was made to understand that all the lands have been sold. So, the future of Ileogbo is very bleak. There has been no development since he came to the throne, the only thing that has come to Ileogbo is a private academy brought by one of our philanthropists, they even sold the land used to him. 
“When I challenged them on why they sold the affected land to the man, I was given what I considered as a stupid excuse response. Not only did they collect a huge amount of money, they even forced the buyer to give money to them for onward transfer to individual houses to placate them. So, as far as I am concerned, Ileogbo’s future is very bleak with the monarch still in the saddle with this kind of mindset. He needs to change his attitude, and he also needs to be checked.”
Another indigene of the town, Prof. Lere Amusan, who lectures at the Northwest University, South Africa, equally rued what is happening in the community, stressing that because the Yoruba operate communalism, lands are not meant for sale. 
“Let me start from theoretical perspectives, there was a book written by the first Attorney General of Nigeria, the late Prof Taslim Elias. He said from the African context, the land is meant for the unborn, the living, and the dead – that implies that land is not meant for sale. So, because we operate communalism in Yoruba land, you cannot say this is my land, but you can say this is our land. 
“When we contextualised this, from an economic perspective, we have four factors of production – for labour it is wages; for entrepreneurs, its profit; now, for land, its rent, which implies that the western world appreciates the fact that land must not be sold, but you can rent it out or you lease it.”
Prof. Amusan said in Yoruba belief and tradition, each compound and family has its land of which may not be sold, noting that with the 21st Century land grabbing phenomenon, which has been ongoing unabated and unchecked, traditional rulers in Yoruba land would come up with a dictum that Oba l’o nile (the land belongs to the king) “forgetting that the land belongs to you, provided you are only the custodian of the land and you cannot sell it. 
“I lecture in South Africa, and when you go to Lesotho, Swaziland and among the Zulus, they have plots of land which may not be sold, there are portions meant for the king, irrespective of where the king comes from, and the king may not sell the land but because of the greed of majority of our traditional rulers, and the lack of appreciable employment, they descend on land, selling every available plot without the knowledge of the family that has it. 
“This is what is ongoing in Africa in general. The question is, is it because of the poverty of the so-called traditional rulers? When we are appointing kings, we hardly consult relevant oracles, even when they consult the oracles, they manipulate the results since everything is being monetised. So, this unfortunate development has become cancer that is ravaging a majority of rural areas, where the rural poor are always manipulated. This is not peculiar to Nigeria,” the don said.

Prof Amusan said the current problem, which is commonplace in society would persist unless drastic measures are taken. “As we sell land, it means we are mortgaging the future of the unborn, so that’s what I can say.”

While reacting to the allegations, the monarch said his predecessors fought for the lands with the people of Iwo in the 1940s and won at a court in Ibadan, in the old Western Region.

“Though I wasn’t born at the time, we were taken to the High Court and we won again, they took us to the Appeal Court and also the Supreme Court where we won, and we got the judgment papers. But when the then monarch died, the next monarch that assumed the throne paid little attention to the issue; he couldn’t continue the fight hence those people continued to sell our plots of land. During the reign of the late Bola Ige, we used hundreds of acres of land for low-cost housing. 

“What caused the current misunderstanding is that the Omo Obas who were farming on these lands started selling them, and that is the reason that I told them that nobody can sell the land without my consent. We have five ruling houses in Ileogbo and we had a meeting where we all signed, but some of them want my downfall, they are the ones maligning my image by going to radio stations and other media houses. 

“I have judgments on the lands with me. So, whatever judgments they have against me, they should bring them out. I am never a criminal, but those bent on maligning my image are those behind this campaign of calumny. I cannot just forcefully take over another person’s land, I am not daft.”

Oba Agbaje explained that the allegation on the Ahoro Oba land is a non-issue as the monies are shared through the representatives from all the ruling houses. He added that these representatives always sign appropriate documents to this effect, as the land proceeds are divided into five.

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