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Aworis have no business in who becomes Oba in Atan-Ota — Oba-elect, Showunmi

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Showunmi

As the Kingship crisis in Atan-Ota continues to brew, with some stakeholders, especially the Aworis, contesting the emergence of Biodun Showunmi as the Oba-Elect, through a process is overseen by the Egba Council of Traditional Rulers, Showunmi has reiterated that the Aworis have no right to Obaship because they are strangers in the land.

Your forefathers are alleged to be strangers who came into Atan-Ota as butchers and that one of them later received an honorary chieftaincy title for good conduct in the community. How do you correlate this with your quest to become the traditional ruler?
It is shocking the extent people could go with falsehood. In those days, there was nothing like butchers or meat sellers. People were traditionally hunters and farmers. It was when the Fulanis from the North started to bring cows into the Southwest, that was about 80 years ago, that the phrase ‘Eleran’ or butcher or meat seller came into the Yoruba lexicon. This is a very recent experience; it was when we started to have cows being butchered in the markets in the 1950s through the 1960s.

From this insight, you can see that their claims are wrong. As we speak, my father is almost 100 years old. He was a teacher before joining the Nigerian Police Force from where he retired in 1978. The allegation that people in my lineage were once butchers or meat sellers is not correct. I have never heard of any member of my immediate family that was a butcher or meat seller, past and present. None of my forebears sold meat.

My forebears owned the stretch of land from the Atan junction on Sokoto Road. We sold most of the land in that area. It used to be my great grandfather’s farmland. It was our family that sold the land to the people living there now; this can be verified. The place was a cashew farm of my forebears. The people making all these allegations and telling all these stories that are not backed by any practical historical documents are actually the tenants and strangers in our place.

It is actually the Awori people who came to borrow land from my forefathers. They were the same people who applied to the then Alake of Egbaland, requesting that they are allowed to borrow our land for farming and hunting within the Gbanlefa Peninsula. That was how they were allocated those lands. We have been in Atan, our forefathers have been in Atan and we will continue to remain in Atan.

How did your forefathers come into Atan-Ota and for how long have they been in the place?
The place known as Gbanlefa Peninsula, where Atan is a town, Iju, Oke-Ore, and many other towns and villages, used to be an uninhabited forest, owned by the Egbado people of Ado-Odo and Ilobi. But in 1836, the Egba army waged a war against the Ilobi and Ado-Odo people. And the war went on between 1836 and 1845; the Ado-Odo, Ilobi and later Ota people were defeated in that war. Reverend Henry Townsend, who was then the colonial missionary in these areas, had to negotiate a truce and witnessed the demarcation of boundaries between Ado-Odo and all the other conquered territories. This was in 1839.

Since then, the Egba people have occupied these places. It had never been an Awori town or territory. This particular place originally belonged to the Egbado people of Ado-Odo and Ilobi. But since the war, these areas have been treated as conquered territories. Even the original owners of these territories or uninhabited land areas then are not trying to claim the areas back. They have been living peacefully with the Egba people. Our forefathers were warriors; they were Owu warriors, who came from Egbaland to conquer these places.

So, we have been to Atan since that time. And the other people, led by Gbanlefa, who led the Egba army, settled in Adio, while my own great-grandfather settled in Ahor.

The Aworis insist they still have the receipt with which your forefathers bought land from them. Some of them even say they are ready to testify this fact. How do you react to this claim?
Again, this is absolutely wrong. At no time did my forebears buy land from any Awori family. We never did. When our forefathers were extending their farms, the land they bought in 1925 to extend the farm was not even from any Awori person.

Secondly, it was my father that gave a piece of land to the Awori people to create a Tipper garage. Then, they were looking for a piece of land to create a tipper garage when my father gave them that land. As a matter of fact, we have more land than we required at any particular time. We, therefore, had no need to buy land from anybody.

As we speak, the houses belonging to the Awori people in Atan are not up to 20. Where did the Aworis get land to sell? They don’t have land because they were not the original settlers in the place in question. They were also not the people that conquered the place, where did they get the land to sell to anybody? It was until recently that the Awori people in Atan began to buy land. When they came initially, the only land they had was the ones Alake allocated to them for farming. This is the only area they can lay claim to. Even at that, houses belonging to the Aworis in Atan Ota are not up to 20. All other houses in the place belong to the Egba/Egbado people in Atan. Atan is made up of 85 per cent Egba/Egbado inhabitants. It is very sad that the Aworis are saying things they know obviously not to be the truth.

As we speak, we still have land that we have not used. So, we would have no reason to buy any land from anyone. If they say we bought land from them and they have the receipts, let them produce the receipts.

What the Awori people are currently doing is a deliberate attempt to undermine my candidacy. What they are not addressing is the fact that we were four that contested the stool of Atan; the three other persons have since respected and accepted the decision of the kingmakers that made me the Oba-elect. The findings of the kingmakers have since been submitted to the Egba Traditional Council Rulers and it has been ratified over a year ago. We are only waiting for the approval of the Ogun State Government before my installation.

The Alake, who is the consenting authority in this matter, has already written to the State government. The effort being made by the Aworis is nothing but a vain effort.

Ordinarily, the Aworis have no right, whatsoever, to sell any land in Atan. Sadly, however, they are presently doing so using Ajagun gbales (land grabbers). They have gone into different parts of Gbanlefa Peninsula, grabbing land. As I speak, they are trying to dislodge the original owners of the land in Ijemo. This case is already with the Police. The matter is being investigated in Abuja. The Baale of Ijemo can attest to this; so also is the Alake of Egba land. This has been the practice of Awori, an invasion. Instead of going to court to prove or establish their cases, what they try to do is discredit the original owners of such land and then try to take over such places, by whatever force possible.

If I may remind you, they had about 10 cases in court, all filed by them. But they have lost all. I can give you a few of them. On November 18, 2005, the High Court of Justice in the Ota Division of Ogun State, under Justice H.O. Sholanke, gave a decision in favour of the Egba community and awarded the sum of N50, 000 against the Aworis and restrained them from committing any further acts of trespass on our land. In April 2010, the Abeokuta High Court also dismissed the ownership claim by the Ota community over our land.

In 1993, the Appeal Court, sitting in Ibadan, under Justice Owolabi Kolawole, in the Appeal suit, PA/1/129/90, submitted that the motion to file and argue additional grounds of appeal could be tied to nothing. It, therefore, dismissed the motion and the appeal as being incompetent.

Go and read the history of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson, you will see that Ota never owned the Atan-Ota and the places they are claiming.

The Aworis have no business getting involved in who is made the traditional ruler in Atan because it was never their land. As far back as December 10, 2010, when the first Oba of Atan was coronated, in the letter written and approved by the Ogun State government, it was clearly stated that it was the Egba Traditional Council and the various Egba communities that asked for an Oba to be coronated. And that was what was granted. But we decided to recognise the presence of some minority in Atan, hence, the decision to allow an Egbado man to be the first Oba in the place. What we are just trying to do now is a replacement.

Why do you call the place a peninsula, because a peninsula must have certain features, which are not available in Gbanlefa?
The reason the place was named Gbanlefa Peninsula by the Colonial Missionary, Reverend Henry Townsend, is simply because of the uninhabited land, then conquered by the Egba army from the Ado-Odo and Ilobi, occupied a portion of land between two rivers – River Iju and River Ore. River Ore is the last river before you get into Owode. Those two rivers were the trading roots in those days. You know canoes were used in the 18th up to 19th centuries to bring goods into Lagos. Iju was then a major trading point. That was why Reverend Townsend named the place Gbanlefa Peninsula.

There is no truth to the claim that the Ogun State Government set up a panel to examine whether or not Gbanlefa was a Peninsula. If the Aworis claim there was such a report, let them produce it. The reasons Reverend Townsend called Gbanlefa Peninsula are there in so many books for anyone interested in that history.


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