Ondo State: When land dispute pitches Ago-Alayes against Araromi-Obus
Consequent to the land dispute that broke out between the Ago-Alaye people in Okitipupa Local Government Area and their Araromi-Obu neighbours in Odigbo LGA on July 16, the governor had visited the two warring communities to assess the level of damage two days after.
The two warring communities had gone berserk with rage, killing one another and destroyed several properties worth millions of naira; following a High Court judgment, Suit No: HOR/2/2004 in May 2019 that ceded 57 out of 59 communities to the Ikales as the rightful owner.
Victims of the attacks on the Ikales were: Seun Akinbule (a.k.a. Oba Ilu kan), Folu Akinmadelo (a.k.a. Chief FAA), Sunkanmi Ogundayomi and Okuyemi Sola (a.k.a Agba), whose intestines were ripped out and rumoured death stoked a reprisal on the Araromi-Obu people. The Araromi-Obu people claimed two deaths and many casualties but no names to date.
However, the Chairman of Araromi Obu Development Committee, Senator Omololu Meroyi, at various media briefings, had accused the Ikale people of encroaching on their land, claiming that their fathers had lived in the area for more than 500 years.
Meroyi condemned the invasion by the Ikales, whom he said failed to adhere to the stay of execution on the recent judgment, and that they carted away farm produce and dispossessed the people of their farms.
He said: “The Araromi-Obu people have been under severe attack from their Ikale neighbours over the judgment of an Akure High Court that ceded part of their land to Ikale people.
“Our experiences have been bitter in the last two weeks. Some people want to drive us away from our land. These people were born in Araromi Obu, they lived with us and never claimed to be landlords.”
He specifically accused the Abodi of Ikaleland, Oba Faduyile, of stoking the communal crisis by sponsoring bandits to invade their farms and town.
“There is a court judgment that ceded our lands to Ikale people,” he explained. “But rather than wait for the law to take its course, these people have taken the law into their hands.
“We will not cede an inch of our land to anybody. We are ready to defend our land with our blood. Local Government officials can no longer go to their place of work. They invaded our land and prevented our people from going to farm. We are being suppressed on our land.
“It is not that we cannot fight back, but we did not want to contribute to the security challenges in the country. We appeal to men of goodwill to come to our aid before the situation gets out of hand.
“The monarch of Araromi Obu is the 18th Ajobu of Araromi Obu. There is nowhere in history that it was said the Ikale people came to install monarch on our land. We cannot allow this kind of brutalisation to continue.”
According to him, the tragic incident nearly resulted in internecine war, “but for the maturity of the community heads, necessitating the intervention of the state police command.”
While at the palace of Abodi, Governor Akeredolu was recorded to have warned, saying: “What happened in Ago-Alaye must not repeat itself and it will not.
“How? People live with themselves for years and some people will just start burning down houses. How can we live like this?
“We’re here to serve you people and when we’re done, we’ll go our own way.
Speaking on the incident, Oba Faduyile explained that the Araromi-Obu people attacked the Ikale people in disobedience to the court judgment.
He said: “Ikale nation is very disturbed by the breach of the peace occurring in Araromi Obu and Ago Alaye. We crave peace and on that, we are on the same page with your Excellency.
“I, as the Abodi of Ikaleland, together with Ikale Obas and leaders, will do everything within limits of decency to ensure that peace is maintained. However, we need Your Excellency’s involvement and active contribution in ensuring peace and in sustaining it.”
According to him, the Araromi-Obu people, who have lived for over a century peacefully with the Ikales, made mischievous moves to demonise the Ikales.
He said: “In the aftermath of the current crisis, security agencies are painting the Ikales as being the aggressors and are so treated. This, of course, is not correct. Your Excellency, this type of attitude makes maintaining peace difficult for us.
“It is always so, where the head of the truth is buried deep inside the sand. In our relationship with the Obu people, from the time they became our guests on Ikaleland until now, we have never, I repeat, never been the aggressors in any conflict.”
The First Class monarch affirmed that the Ikales have silently endured the indignities of being treated as non-indigenes on their own land until the current Ajobu came to power, using the machinery of Odigbo Local Government to evacuate the people from their land.
“When the Ajobu led the leaders of Araromi Obu and Odigbo Local Government to court against Ikales in HOR/2/2004 for the purpose of ejecting the Ikales from our land, we begged for out of court settlement.
“We begged, not because we had a bad case, but because we Ikales had no money to waste on litigation and because almost every Araromi Obu person is related, through their mother’s side, to Ikaleland. The Ajobu, his chiefs, and Odigbo Local Government derisively shoved aside our request for settlement.
“For 15 years, the hapless Ikale nation struggled in the case, which finally ended in our favour on May 13, 2019. And up till today, we have not been served with any application for the stay of the judgment.
“While the case was on, Obu people, including the Ajobu, took over lands used by Ikales for hunting and farming and started planting cash crops on them.
“We waited for over a month, after the judgment, to see if Obu people would disobey the order of injunction restraining them from further acts of trespass on our lands.
“We caused necessary forms to be served with the notice of the judgment, and when we saw that they have stayed away from the lands, we moved in unto our lands. To date, Ikales have not gone an inch outside the areas granted to them under the judgment.”
Recounting the post-judgment incident in May, Faduyile said: “Suddenly, Ikales started receiving invitations from the Police and Government. We requested to know the complainants’ identity, so we could proceed against them under the law, but no name was given to us.
“We received information that militants were moved into Araromi and passed it to the Police. We also received information that Araromi Obu leaders had acquired a cache of sophisticated arms and ammunition and passed it on. But the information was disregarded by the security agencies, which kept pressurising us to keep the peace as if we were the ones threatening it.
“We had no problem and there was no breach of peace until the event of July 16, 2019, occurred. Information reached me that while on their way to hunt and farm on their lands located on the way to Araromi Obu, a group of Ikales and their tenants were ambushed and attacked with guns and machetes, so badly that the intestines of one of them spilled out, while others sustained severe gunshot wounds.
“All hell broke loose. While the injured were taken for treatment, rumour filtered into Ago Alaye that the man whose intestines spilled had died. This started an instant mob reaction that saw some houses of Araromi people torched.
“There were reprisal attacks against Ikales in Araromi, many of whom have fled their houses for safety. In all of these, the security agencies only concentrated their hostilities on Ikales, portraying them as the aggressors, while treating Obu people with kid gloves.
“In a hostility in which Ikales were victims and not the aggressors, no one, especially the Police, has asked after our injured and their whereabouts and condition.
“To make it easy for us to maintain peace, we seek your Excellency’s intervention in ensuring impartiality from the security agencies, so that they do not continue to give the impression that they are for a section of the affected parties only.”
Ikale descendants across Okitipupa and Irele councils flayed Akeredolu for his discourteous attitude towards the Abodi, accusing the state government of taking sides with Araromi-Obu people.
Leading Ikale people to a press conference in Akure, the Jagunmolu of Ikaleland, a retired General, Oluyemi Bajowa, accused the Governor of failing to constitute an inquiry committee as promised.
He said: “The Governor formed an opinion before his visit to the palace of His Royal Majesty Oba George Faduyile, the Abodi of Ikale Land. Coincidentally, I was at the palace of Abodi of Ikaleland when the Ondo State Governor visited.
“I was shocked and horrified at the Governor’s public display and pronouncement on power, devoid of decency and protocol, by taking the Abodi of Ikaleland and other Ikale traditional rulers present, to the cleaners.
“He threatened to instruct the security services to level Ago Alaye and other Ikale villages in Araromi-Obu and its environs to the ground. He also threw caution to the wind, by boasting that he does not need Ikale votes for his re-election.
“At this point, I had to cut in and cautioned against any bias and indiscriminate arrest of Ikale people. I also advised the government to abide by the rule of law, whilst I implored the security services to confine their activities to the established/standard operational rule of engagement, as we are in a democratic dispensation.”
Giving a historical perspective to dispel the 500 years claim of Araromi-Obu people, Bajowa said: “We placed before the court hard facts, which effectively contradicted the unfounded stories of Araromi-Obu settlers that they came from Ile Ife and not Ondo, amongst others. Aside from solid historical facts, records that supported our claims were also placed before the court.
“Amongst such records is a letter written by Revd. David Hinderer, one of the Christian Missionaries from the CMS in England, who spent three nights at the then Araromi-Obu camp and, in his report back home dated May 14, 1875, he confirmed that the Araromi-Obu settlers were from Ondo living within Ikale territory.
“Another is a document that reported a meeting held at Aiyesan on October 12 and 13, 1922, where “Desami the Ajobu,” confirmed his Ondo origin and the seizure of his crown by the Osemawe of Ondo.”
While inaugurating the inquiry committee in his office on Monday, the Governor charged the panel to be dispassionate, courageous, just and fair to all parties involved.
He expressed hope that the panel would provide a lasting solution to the crisis, assuring that the state government would continually display the readiness, willingness, and capacity to resolve crisis regardless of who is involved.
Some Ikale people have, however, protested the panel membership, doubting the cooption of Sola Atere as its Chairman, due to his relationship with the former Secretary to State Government (SSG), Mr. Rotimi Adelola, the younger brother to Ajobu.
The former SSG and Atere, who was also a Commissioner for Natural Resources and had a connection with the plantations in Araromi-Obu, worked together in the immediate past government of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
No comments yet