Rumble! as things fall apart in Akure North Kingdom
For the past three years, there has been no love lost between the paramount ruler of Akure Kingdom, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo and other monarchs, especially in Akure North council, as “things have fallen apart, and the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” in the old Akure Division.
The palace squabble started after Oba Aladetoyinbo ascended the throne in 2015 as the 47th Deji and removed the Asinigbo of Isinigbo, Oba Samuel Elewuju on charges of alleged defiant attitude and insubordination to constituted authorities and the people of his community.
In a letter dated September 9, 2016, the Deji suspended the monarch of the community in Akure North and ordered him to stop addressing himself as Olu under any guise, saying the subsequent removal on October 25, 2016 remains the prerogative of his office as
“Imperial Majesty and Paramount Ruler of Akure Kingdom.”
The Deji accused him of conducting himself in a manner that brought the traditional institution into disrepute and also alleged that he repeatedly dishonoured invitations of committees set up to investigate allegations leveled against him by Ayetoro community.
The letter read in part: “All these your actions have brought contempt and disrespect to His Imperial Majesty, Deji and Paramount Ruler of Akure Land. Consequently, you are hereby suspended and you are also stopped from parading yourself as the Olu of Isinigbo forthwith. I am to add that this suspension is with immediate effect.
“A copy of this letter shall be sent to His Royal Majesty, Oba Oluwadare Agunbiade, the Oloba of Oba-Ile, who shall direct that your stipend be stopped forthwith. A copy of this letter shall also be sent to the chairman, Council of Olus, Akure North Local Government Area, to declare your seat vacant for your deviant attitude to the revered institution of the Deji of Akure Land.”
The Guardian learned that the issue that stoked the crisis between the monarchs was the appointment of one Chief Ojo Sule as the Olu of Ayetoro community, a quarter in Isinigbo, to the chagrin of Oba Elewuju, who deemed it a trespass in his kingdom.
It was gathered that the Deji repeatedly claims, “Ayetoro, like most of the areas of land now known as Akure North Local Government, was historically, customarily and legally under the traditional control of the administration of Deji of Akureland.”
But in defiance of the Deji’s powers, Oba Elewuju, a centenarian, declared that Aladetoyinbo has no authority to suspend him as the traditional ruler of Isinigbo, stressing that he was not under the Akure monarch’s authority.
In his response, the Asinigbo, who noted that the suspension order had no effect on him, told the Deji: “As you may know sir, I am an oba, just as you are and under the supervision of the Akure North Local Government.
“My authority as an Oba is over Isinigbo and the people therein. I also have chiefs from different quarters of Isinigbo, who assist me in the smooth administration of the good people of Isinigbo.
“In view of the above, please note that I am not under your authority, as I am not within Akure City. Hence, I hereby state that your letter of September 9, 2016 is of no effect on me. My suspension is, therefore, null and void and of no effect.”
The palace saga revealed the disunity among the towns and communities that were hitherto under the Old Akure Division, which are now delineated into four councils namely: Akure South, Akure North, Ifedore and Idanre local government areas.
Akure, the metropolitan capital city of Ondo State, was founded by Asodeboyede, who was historically said to have migrated from Ile-Ife at the same time with the Oba of Benin to establish his own kingdom and became the first Deji of the ancient town in 1150AD.
The ancient town has grown in size, population, expansion and development to what is described as a metropolitan hub, but seethes with disunity and strife, which in the words of Abraham Lincoln, makes it a house divided against itself and extremely impossible to have a common front.
This also reflected on the political scene, though there were efforts from different quarters to overcome the difficulty in the 2016 governorship election in the state, creating a lot of concerns among indigenes.
The drive for unity berthed the establishment of several socio-political and cultural groups like Akure Development Forum (ADF), led by Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Akure Division Renewal Group (ARG) led by Prof. Emmanuel Fayose, Inner Circle, women and youth organisations with a common purpose.
In his lecture during the ARG 2014 Summit, titled: “Contemporary Issues for the Socio-Economic Development of Akure Division,” Prof. Olu Aderounmu said “the disunity in Akure Division has bred irreconcilable communities, which does not augur well for the division’s development.”
During the Oyemekun Festival on December 4, 2008, Aderounmu presented a paper themed: “Akure: Past, Present and Future Challenges,” which addressed all pressing issues militating against the town’s development.
He lamented the imminent vacuum in leadership, as there tends to be no suckers to outlive the bananas in the social and political spheres.
He said: “From the above, it can be seen that Akure people and the environment have been debilitated in the economic and political scheme of things in Ondo State.”
He stated that in the state’s three senatorial districts, there are five sub-ethnic divisions, namely: Okitipupa/Ikale District, Ondo Division, Akoko Division, Owo Division and Akoko Division, whose communities seem to be rebelling against the Deji’s powers in Akure Kingdom.
Alongside other illustrious Akure indigenes, Aderounmu, a former Provost of Ondo State College of Education, Ikere Ekiti and Vice President of ARG, lamented the disunity among the various communities in the Old Akure Division and hoped that the rivalry among the traditional rulers would fizzle out.
But rather than abate, the squabble took a dramatic new dimension, when the Oloba of Oba-Ile, Oba Oluwadare Agunbiade, who is also the former Chairman of Akure North Local Government Chieftaincy Committee, as well as the current chairman, the Ogbolu of Ita-Ogbolu, Oba Idowu Faborode, alongside other traditional rulers, urged Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to call the Deji to order.
Reacting to the suspension and removal of the Asinigbo, Oba Elewuju, they said: “We hereby assure the people and government of Ondo State and Nigerians that the Asinigbo of Isinigbo remains the traditional head of Isinigbo Community. The Asinigbo is also a member of Akure North Local Government Council of Obas and Olus, and still drawing his entitlements from Akure North Local Government like other Obas and Olus. Whoever asserts otherwise must be under illusion.”
Meanwhile, Oba Aladetoyinbo had written to the Oloba, who was the then chairman of the committee to stop Elewuju’s salary after his removal, but alongside other monarchs from Akure North, they called the Deji’s bluff, saying he can neither suspend nor remove any king in the council.
The monarchs warned Oba Aladetoyinbo over his provocative actions in handling chieftaincy matters between his domain and Akure North council, saying it could result in destabilising existing peace in the state capital, if not carefully and lawfully handled.
They also kicked against the recent judgment of an Ondo State High Court, which affirmed that Oba Aladetoyinbo has consenting and prescribed authority to install minor chiefs and olojas in both Akure South and Akure North local government areas.
According to them, the verdict by Justice W.A. Adetoroye that the Deji has installation powers over minor chiefs and olojas in domains and communities that are traditionally and constitutionally associated with the Deji stool, notwithstanding, the bifurcation of erstwhile Akure Local Government is strange and contradictory to the 1984 Chiefs Law of Ondo State, as amended in 1991 and the Land Use Act.
The traditional rulers, under the umbrella of Akure North Local Government Chieftaincy Committee, argued that the chief law and act limited the prescribed authority of any traditional ruler to only communities in his local government area.
Whereas, it was the Elewuju that litigated against the Akure monarch over the propriety to remove him and the installation of Ojo as the Olu of Ayetoro community, nonetheless, the traditional rulers, to rally for solidarity, avowed that the verdict in favour of Deji would be challenged at the Appeal Court, as the ruling was strange to the State Chiefs Law.
Sequel to Friday March 30 judgment in Akure High Court, Oba Aladetoyinbo said: “It is a gross contradiction of historical fact and indeed, logic, to assume that the Deji’s power is restricted to Akure South, as is being erroneously canvassed by the plaintiff.
“However, the court judgment has finally brought to rest controversies surrounding the Deji’s traditional powers. The judgment of the Ondo State High Court validates the age-long power of the Deji of Akure over communities historically, traditionally and customarily under the control of His Imperial Majesty, the Deji of Akure Land.
“Incontrovertible historical rendition of the emergence of Akureland reveals that the place currently named Akure had been in existence and extended beyond the current state capital. It is, therefore, an act of dishonesty and an attempt to distort facts and history for any latter-day revanchist to state otherwise.”
Interestingly, the Deji pointed out that the judgment is a “win-win situation, with no victor or vanquished, as he remains father to all, irrespective of what might have transpired in the course of this needless tussle.”
He said the Deji-in-Council shall inform necessary organs of government, as it begins to take steps geared towards giving effect to the judgment in due course.
“There is no iota of doubt that this judgment will further unite us, rather than divide us, as is being speculated.”
The Deji added that he would continue to sue for peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationship among all traditional rulers in Akureland.
“We will not allow profiteers to divide us under any guise. All other chiefs and obas in the affected local governments shall be duly carried along and given their due respect, notwithstanding the effect of the judgment of Ondo State High Court earlier referred to.”
Leaving Asinigbo out of the purported peace accord, he said: “On the other hand, it is important to clarify that the removal of Mr. Samuel Elewuju, as the Asinigbo of Isinigbo remains unchanged, while the installation of Chief Sule Ojo as the Olu of Ayetoro subsists.
“Moreover, His Imperial Majesty believes in the unity and progress of Akure, despite the clear position of the High Court on the Deji’s power to appoint minor chiefs in his community, where he had such powers before the bifurcation of local governments.”
But, as the vanguards for Akure North monarchs, Oba Faborode and Oba Oluwadare insisted that the Deji lacked powers to remove the Asinigbo, because the action violated existing Chieftaincy and LG Edicts in the state.
They implored Governor Akeredolu and his Deputy, Agboola Ajayi to use their legal knowledge to caution Oba Aladetoyinbo over the matter, pleading for the release of Government’s White Paper on Justice Ajama Chieftaincy Commission to resolve myriad of obaship tussles in the state, particularly in Akure.
Justifying their stance in relation to the state law and act, they noted that “after all, the Deji would never dream of going to any of the communities now in Ifedore LGA of the state to make purported appointment or removal of chiefs, just because those communities used to be part of Old Akure District.
“Can His Majesty, the Ooni of Ife come to Ondo State and appoint, install or remove the Deji of Akure, simply because Akure is part of Yorubaland? Let every king know his domain.
“The term ‘consenting authority’ has been abolished under our chieftaincy laws, as far back as 1981 in the Ondo State government White Paper on Morgan Chieftaincy Review Commission, in paragraph 10.
“To say the least, therefore, the judgment of the court in this regard is completely strange. We are, however, aware that those involved in the matter are already appealing it.”
But despite the judgment and rift among the monarchs in Akure North, some 28 Olus in the council paid homage and pledged their unalloyed loyalty to the Deji in his palace recently, hailing his response to the verdict as a welcome development.
Describing his attitude as the mien expected of a peace-loving monarch and a father to all, they stated that the judgment is a new dawn that will bring unity to the entire Akureland.
At the end of the palace meeting, which lasted over two hours, Oba Aladetoyinbo assured that none of them would be victimised as a result of the Judgment.
“I will ensure that none of you is persecuted in any manner. Rather, I will ensure that we resolve any rift among communities, where there are issues,” he said.
He also pledged to extend an olive branch to aggrieved parties, so as to make peace and mend all broken bridges.