Supremacy battle between Olota and Alake frustrates Showunmi’s Coronation in Atan-Ota
On December 10, 2010, the Ogun State Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, appointed Oba Solomon A. Adebiyi as the Alatan of Atan-Ota, in Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of the State. The appointment was conveyed in a letter with reference CHM10/63/Vol.111/71, signed by a certain N.B. Oyedele, the then Director, Chieftaincy Affairs, who was acting on behalf of the then Permanent Secretary in the ministry. Otunba Gbenga Daniel was the governor at the time.
Oba Adebiyi ruled over Atan-Ota for seven years before his passage on March 19, 2018, aged 92. Atan-Ota is part of what is today known as the Gbanlefa Peninsula in Ogun State. The late Oba Adebiyi is said to be of the Egbado stock in Ogun State.
The Egbados is said to be the original settlers/owners of Gbanlefa Peninsula. The Egbas captured the Peninsula in a war in the mid-1830s. But at the time of appointing the first traditional ruler for the area in 2010, in an effort to maintain the unity of the Egba and Egbado and engender a sense of belonging among everyone on the Peninsula, the Alake of Egbaland, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adedamola Gbadebo, was said to have graciously asked that an Egbado man be made the first Oba, hence, Adebiyi’s ascension.
Since Oba Adebiyi’s demise, however, a succession battle has engulfed the Peninsula, threatening its quiet. While Biodun Showunmi, the Oba-elect said to have been selected by the Egba Council of Traditional Rulers, awaits approval and installation by the State government, opposition to his ascension to the throne has continued to grow, with the Aworis being the group with the loudest disapproval.
For the Aworis, the Obaship of Atan-Ota belongs to them because the area is on Aworiland. According to the Olota of Ota, His Royal Majesty, Oba Professor Adeyemi Abdulkabir Obalanlege, what Biodun Showunmi and the Egba people are trying to do by trying to become Oba “is nothing but pure madness that is not part of our culture and must never be allowed to stand.”
Oba Obalanlege said that there was no place like the Gbanlefa Peninsula in the Atan-Ota area of Ogun State neither were the Egbas from the place. “Atan-Ota belongs to the Aworis. The Egbas are nothing but expansionist. They are just like Soviet Union or Russia. The whole country should condemn what they are trying to do. And we should send them back to wherever they came from,” he said.
The Olota noted that he once had cause to remind the Alake that in Ogun State, the settlement of Awori people preceded the establishment of Abeokuta as the Egba Kingdom in 1830 and that Ota, the foremost Awori town in the State, has been in existence since the 15th century.
He said: “The first Olota, Oba Ikoriku Toribo, was coroneted in 1621, while the first Alake in Abeokuta, Sagbua Okukenu, was crowned on August 8, 1854. It goes without saying that putting an Olota under an Alake is both a traditional misnomer and historic fallacy. The Ife palace, where the crowns came from, knows better! Never in history has Ota been captured by the Egbas, rather we rescued the Egbas from the Oyo invasion.
“In the Atan-Ota case, former Governor Ibukunle Amosun actually told Biodun Showunmi that he could not approve the recommendation made by the Alake of Egbaland in the name of the Egba Council of Traditional Rulers to make him Oba of Atan-Ota because I, the Olota of Ota, blocked it. That was because I told the then governor that Showunmi is not an Awori man and that I will never allow an Egba person to be made an Oba in Aworiland. How could he cross over four local government councils to come and become an Oba in an Awori territory? That is most unacceptable. His parents bought land in Atan-Ota; Biodun can’t look at me and say that he wants to become a king in Atan-Ota!”
Oba Obalanlege said he was standing against Showunmi’s ambition because he knew the history of his people, adding that the Alake had been playing on the intelligence of past Olotas.
He added: “The Alake is a subject of the Olota, where did he come from? We got our crown from Ile-Ife; please ask the Alake where he got his crown? I have told the Alake that he should respect me and that we are no mates. I told him that the first Olota was installed in the year 1621, whereas the Alake’s stool is not up to 200 years.”
The Olota stressed that Atan-Ota does not belong to the Alake and queried the rationale for using a memo with the Egba Council of Traditional Rulers’ letterhead to recommend anybody to the government as Oba. He also frowned at the Alake being the sole person that took the decision without consulting with any other Oba who are members of the same council, saying the act was criminal.
“What the Alake did is what I term as part of the administrative errors or criminality that he has been involved in. If nobody has been challenging him, I have started to challenge him. I have been attending the Egba Traditional Council meeting to observe what is going on here and now that I have seen all that the Alake has been doing, I have to ask him to account for all his misdeed. He should henceforth stop using the letterhead tricks of the Egba Traditional Council to unilaterally write to the State Governor to seek approval for a King who does not deserve to be a King in my domain because his ancestors did not come from Atan-Ota. Let me emphasise, the ancestors of Biodun Showunmi came from Abeokuta and it is not right in Yoruba land for a stranger to try to assume the throne of where he did not come from,” Oba Obalanlege said.
Reacting to beliefs that the Alake is the prescribing authority recognised by the State Government for approving traditional rulers, the Olota said the chieftaincy law of the State recognised the Governor and not the Alake.
He stressed that the Alake needed to be educated. “In the letter of appointment given to me by the Ogun State government, I am the prescribing authority for my own areas, Ota and its environs. And Atan is called Atan-Ota. Sango is called Sango-Ota. I am the prescribing authority over all these areas. When you look at the Chieftaincy law and the gazette, it is very clear that the Alake should concern himself with Abeokuta South Local Government Area and that the Olowu of Owu should concern himself with Abeokuta North Local Government Area. The laws are very clear about these things.”
But the immediate past Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs in Ogun State, Jide Ojuko gave a different submission as to why Showunmi has yet to be installed as the Oba of Atan-Ota.
Ojuko said Showunmi simply failed to follow laid down rules required before being made a second-class Oba. He said that the Atan-Ota stool, being second-class, could not just be approved by the Governor as the Coronet Oba’s stool.
He stressed that whoever wanted to occupy the stool must start the process from the Local Government Area Council. “The Council chairman must call a meeting of all the stakeholders in Atan-Ota and make sure all concerned nominate Showunmi to be their Oba. The council must again make sure there was a meeting where Showunmi is again selected as a candidate for that position. None of these processes was followed or took place.
“We told Showunmi to go back to the Local Government and make sure all these processes were followed. We asked him to tell the Council chairman to arrange these meetings where he will be nominated and selected. None of these processes took place. We had to tell him, in clear terms, that if these processes were not followed, whatever was done in Abeokuta will amount to a nullity.”
Ojuko disclosed that the process of installing a replacement for the late Oba Adebiyi had become different because the Ogun State government, under Ibikunle Amosun, had upgraded the Atan-Ota stool from Coronet to Second-Class.
“As a Coronet Oba, you don’t have to pass through nomination and selection. The nomination and selection of a Coronet Oba are done by the family and approved by the Governor. But as a Second Class Oba, it has to be a joint meeting of all the ruling houses in that area, that will sit down and do the nomination and selection under the headship of the head of families and kingmakers. Showunmi did not pass through the nominations of the head of the families and the kingmakers, and he wants to be made the Oba of Atan-Ota,” Ojuko said.