Obaro of Kabba Solomon Owoniyi, mounts throne, set to appease opposition
• He’s God’s Choice — Gov Yahaya Bello • We’ll Challenge It — Ilajo Family
GOVERNOR Yahaya Bello of Kogi State may have scored a political point in the recent appointment of a new Obaro of Kabba, in the person of Solomon Owoniyi, as it seemed to have received people’s approval. In the past, such appointment was usually characterised by violence. But it was gathered that majority of the ruling houses was at home with the choice of Owoniyi, a retired Customs officer, because of his wealth of experience, hence the peace that attended his appointment.
The death on May 16 of the late Obaro, Oba Michael Olobayo, aged 71, who was laid to rest on September 25, 2016, created a vacuum that needed to be filled. And for almost two years, the stool was vacant until recently, when the governor announced Owoniyi as the Obaro.
The homily of the Catholic Bishop of Lokoja diocese, Bishop Martin Olorunmolu at the burial/thanksgiving service of the late Obaro, when he admonished the people to make the selection of a new Obaro crisis-free, to sustain the legacy of peaceful co-existence, confirmed the fragile nature of the stool.
Hence, it was with fanfare, pomp and pageantry that the people of Kabba, led by the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly Kolawole Mathew, trooped to Okene, the country home of Governor Bello on Sallah day to thank him for his choice, which was devoid of violence.However, there was a discordant tune from Ilajo Clan, which produced the late Obaros in recent history of Owe people, as they rejected the choice of Owoniyi. Their disagreement was contained in a statement signed by Chief Mark Olowosayo of Ajinuhi Ruling House, Chief Stephen Ojo Bebeyi of Ajibohokun Ruling House and Chief Paul Toluhi of Mokelu Ruling House.
The Ilajo Royal Descendants of Kabba, the statement indicated, made up of the Mokelu, Ajinuhi and Ajibohokun Ruling Houses said they vehemently denounced, condemned and rejected the choice of Chief Solomon Dele Owoniyi. According to the statement, the newly appointed Obaro is from the suburban village of Odolu, which is a separate settlement outside Kabba with its own ruler, a Second Class Chief. It said: “It is like a ruler of Agevba from Obehira, Olu of Ogori from Magongo, Ooni of Ife from Modakeke or Olu Adde from Egbeda-Egga. We reject the choice of the said Owoniyi because it is not in consonance with the tradition and culture of Kabba/Oweland, and it is an aberration in the Kabba/Oweland traditional setup and administration.
“When the late Chief Daniel O. Aka was wrongly and maliciously appointed Obaro of Kabba by the Northern Nigerian Chieftaincy Law (1960), the Ilajo Royal Family challenged that appointment and persisted, until the title was restored to the Ilajo family by Justice Sule Aremu Olagunju Tribunal of Inquiry.
“The tribunal affirmed the findings of other previous tribunals on the Obaro of Kabba issue and appointed His Royal Majesty Oba Michael F. S. Olobayo, Obaro Ero II to the throne of his forefathers in 1985.
”The wrong appointment of Chief Daniel Aka, who hailed from Idogba family of Kabba was challenged and opposed, because it was made from outside the traditional home of the throne and stool of the Obaro of Kabba, which is in the Ilajo Royal Family.
“It must be clear, therefore, that this present appointment cannot pass without appropriate challenge. For even if we go by the Kogi State Edict No. 12 of 1995, which seeks to impose a new tradition/formula of rotation on the Stool of Obaro of Kabba, the said stool has only been taken away from Kabba and donated to Odolu as bonus to that community leaving Kabba with nothing!”
They called on the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello to reject the temptation of playing politics with the sensitive traditional, cultural and spiritual sentiments and values of the people of Kabba and Oweland.
“We hope that the entire royalty in Nigeria will grasp the kernel of this press release and stand up to this affront, by protecting its own kind, mindful of the saying that “what goes round comes round.”
They went further to seek for an order of Kogi State High Court to restrain the new Obaro from parading himself as the Obaro of Kabba. The court granted the order of interlocutory injunction restraining Chief Solomon Owoniyi from assuming the position. It barred Owoniyi from doing anything relating to the position of Obaro of Kabba, pending determination of the substantive motion.
The presiding Judge, Justice M. M. Gwatana ordered that Kogi State government and the state chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs that were joined in the suit refrain from taking further action of recognising Owoniyi or any other person, except from the Ilajo Royal family as a person that has the right to the chieftaincy of Obaro of Kabba, pending hearing and determination of the motion of notice.
The Ilajo Royal family had approached the court challenging Owoniyi’s appointment as Obaro on the ground that he is not a member of the royal family. They sought that the court declares the Ilajo Royal family as sole custodian of the chieftaincy stool and the only family that can occupy the revered stool. They maintained that Owoniyi’s appointment was politically motivated.
However, Governor Bello, during the ‘thank you visit’ said he could appease aggrieved persons. He declared that the court injunction had been vacated. He said: “By the special grace of God, I am going to prevail and talk to those that are aggrieved to sheath their swords, and I am confident that we shall resolve all the differences and work together as one big family.
“Few days ago, when I spoke with you and learnt that there was a court injunction, I urged you to relax your mind and assured that the injunction shall be vacated, and it has been so. So, go about as the Obaro of Kabba. Nothing good happens that some persons would not feel aggrieved about one way or the other.
“The emergence of the Obaro is God’s making. He is the choice of Almighty God. The people of Kabba and Owe land decided to select from among themselves a righteous, very noble and pious one; a very charismatic man who is worthy to represent the people. You have demonstrated that in Kabba, Owe land and Okun land, you have men of character and integrity. The man you chose is very hardworking and highly connected home and abroad.” He said the people’s choice had made his job very easy, as all he needed to do was assent and approve of their choice.
Bello indicated that to put the matter to rest, the new Obaro’s coronation would take place on or before the second week of September. He promised to build a befitting palace for the Obaro.
In his response, the Obaro-elect said: “In our part of Kabba, we last occupied the Obaro stool 137 years ago. So, we thank God and the governor for doing the right thing, for following due process, for obeying the wish of God and doing what the community wanted. I feel elated that God has used me to take back our crown from where it has illegally been for a long time.”
On the governor’s promise to bring aggrieved parties together, he said: “There are 13 clans and 12 of them endorsed me. The only dissenting clan would be brought on board.” The Speaker, Mathew Kolawole explained that his decision to lead a delegation to Bello’s country home was to thank him for the good thing he did by appointing the new Obaro. He said their joy stemmed from the fact that the appointment of a new Obaro was always characterised by violence, leading to loss of lives. But in the current situation, the people were happy because they were at home with the choice.
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