Oba Gabriel Olajide – On self-exile, caught in web of tradition and modernity
Born about 40 years ago to the royal family of Aduwojolomo in Isaoye Ekiti, Moba Local Council of Ekiti State, Oba Gabriel Olajide became the community’s monarch, when his predecessor joined his ancestors in 2017. He was thus saddled with the mission and commission God gave him to take the community out of the doldrums.
A minister at the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church and a sergeant in the Nigeria Police Force, the monarch took over the reins, hoping to change the town’s narratives. Prior to this time, the town was noted for being backward and lacking in human capital.
And though Oba Olajide accepted his nomination to ascend the throne of his forefathers through Ifa divination, he decided not to join the throng of idol worshippers in the community.
This unusual disposition to his people’s traditional beliefs and practices soon became his albatross, so much that his chiefs, kingmakers and other subjects hated him with passion. To them, he was like a bull in a China Shop that must just be tolerated.
However, the matter came to a head in August 2018, when a crusade was organised in his town by his Church. As soon as the crusade ended, news filtered into town that a woman had died. Although the connection between the woman that died and the crusade could not be ascertained, the people believed that the monarch’s failure to worship his ancestors might have been responsible for the woman’s death.
“I heard they were bringing the corpse to me,” he recollected. “And you know that a king does not see a corpse. So, I had to escape through the road leading to the farm. Two weeks later, I made attempt to return home. When the youths saw my vehicle, they deflated my tyres and hauled stones at my vehicle. They barricaded the road, and I escaped using my intelligence as a police. Otherwise, they would have killed me.”
From his self-exile, Oba Adedeji constituted a peace committee to pacify the aggrieved subjects and chiefs in December 2018, but his people shunned the committee and asked the members to vacate the community.
However, worried by the monarch’s continuous absence from the throne, in April 2019, the Asaoye Traditional Chiefs wrote a petition to Governor Kayode Fayemi through the Deputy Governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, alleging that Oba Olajide had abandoned the throne for about nine months. The petition said he had also refused to perform his statutory duties, especially holding meetings in the town.
The letter, which was copied to the Commissioner of police and Secretary to the Bureau of Chieftaincy Affairs, among others read in part: “That he has continually bastardised our customs and traditions, that frantic efforts made by Moba Traditional Council members to appeal to him fell on deaf ears, that similar efforts made by majority of Obas in Ekiti land was without success.”
The chiefs said in line with the principle of ‘No work, no pay,’ his salary should be stopped with immediate effect, since he had refused/neglected to perform his statutory duties.
In another petition signed by Chief J.S Ogidi, the Obaisa, who doubles as second in command to Olajide and 13 others and dated July 19, 2019, which was addressed to the council of traditional rulers, the chiefs listed another 13 offences the monarch had committed. They resolved to demand for Oba Olajide’s deposition.
In the entreaty, the chiefs raised other offences, which include non- performance of traditional rites, harassment of subjects with police and highhandedness, among others.
They urged the royal fathers to advise the monarch to voluntarily submit his instrument of office to the appropriate authority, so that the community would commence a process for the installation of a new Oba.
But rather than accede to the Asaoye Council of Chiefs’ request to depose the monarch, Ekiti State Government gave Olajide a two-week ultimatum to make peace with his subjects to prevent breakdown of law and order in the community.
The Deputy Governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi said the ultimatum was in view of the state government’s commitment to ensuring peace in Isaoye, as well as all other communities in the state.
Egbeyemi advised the Isaoye monarch to listen to his subjects and respect the town’s tradition and culture, saying the state government had no intention of deposing any traditional ruler.
He told the monarch: “You have till the end of February. If you cannot follow the path of peace and secure the interest of your people, everything is left to you.”
He expressed dissatisfaction over the series of allegations leveled against the traditional ruler, wondering how an entire community could turn against their monarch.
However, the monarch picked holes in the government directive that he should respect his people’s tradition and culture. He insisted that in as much as he could not stop his subjects from practising what they believe in, he would not also be coerced to worship a deity he did not believe in.
He assured his people that he would not forbid them from practising whatever traditional religion or others they chose. The monarch, however, vowed never to participate in ritual activities, as a Christian.
He said: “Going by the provision of the Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution, I have no power to eradicate any religion, because we have freedom to practise any religion of our choice. I can’t stop them from what they believe in. For instance, as a king, I can’t put on a shirt and trousers to event, as this will amount to disregarding my culture and tradition.
“I believe in our culture and tradition, but I don’t want to worship any idol. I respect their religion but I can’t participate. Every idol in the town has a priest. Before I became a king, all the money they required for performing sacrifices I paid it and they did rituals for seven days.”
A community member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the crux of the matter was the monarch’s refusal to perform necessary and important rites and customs, as well as the violation of taboo in the community, which he claimed have been practised for over 400 years. He said the only condition that could guarantee peace was for the monarch to retrace his step and take up his role as the custodian of the community’s tradition.
“If he accepts to participate in this age-long traditional worship, there will be peace. Nobody has said the king must not go to Church. He can worship God, but he must make himself available whenever the need arises to perform certain ritual for the town’s progress and development,” he said.
On his part, Oba Olajide said he became king in 2017, with a strong vision to rewrite the community’s history and foster development, by changing the town’s backward status to that of prosperity.
He said: “The town has been in existence for over 500 years, and since then, there has been no good road, no palace, and no development. The community has been backward. In my view, we need to reform.
“If somebody is doing something the same way, he cannot expect a different result. Their idolatry worship has not helped us. Since creation of the community, we have not produced even a councilor. Nobody has ever travelled out of the country from the town, but I have broken the yoke.
“When I came in 2017, unlike before, I made sure that we retained the councillorship. Two people have travelled abroad, due to the grace of God upon me. If they allow peace to reign in the community, we can move mountains. They should do their religion and allow me to do mine. I want to appeal to government to plead with them to allow peace to reign in the interest of our children and coming generations.”
He urged government to help douse tension by calling those who are up in arms against him to order.
He also appealed to his detractors to sheath their swords and join hands with him to improve the human resources and infrastructure facilities of the ancient community.
“They should look beyond self and think of the town’s progress. And to those struggling and contending for the Obasaoye stool with me, they should know that only God can enthrone a king.”
On the threat of deposition, the embattled monarch dismissed it, saying that it was God that put him there. Though he acknowledged that the challenge was daunting, he, however, said any task that would end well must be tough at the beginning.
Quoting from Bible (Nehemiah chapter 24) on the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, he said God chose a builder, whose name was Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, as the first step of rebuilding the nation.
Oba Olajide likened his mission to the biblical Nehemiah, urging his subjects to show understanding and allow him concentrate on the task ahead.
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