Recently, the palace of the paramount ruler of Egba Kingdom, Oba Michael Adedotun Gbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland in Abeokuta, Ogun State, was stretched beyond capacity. It was the day the first class traditional ruler conferred the prestigious traditional titles of Aare Ago and Erelu Aare Ago of Egbaland on the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu respectively.
RAZAQ BAMIDELE, who witnessed the colourful occasion, writes on the political undertones of an event that was supposed to be purely cultural.
The invitation card simply invited selected personalities to the “Conferment of Egba chieftaincy titles by His Royal Majesty, Oba Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo,CFR, (Okukenu 1V), The Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland.” The invitation card puts the time of the event at 2pm. But surprisingly, when our correspondent arrived the venue by 10am, it was a hell of an effort to gain entrance into the palace due to the population of well wishers and admirers that had thronged the place.
Going by the caliber of the personalities struggling to be part of the event, one wondered whether it was more than conferment of mere traditional titles but events that started to unfold convinced even doubting Thomases that there must have been a hidden agenda.
The list of the dignitaries that made it to the event was endless. In attendance were former Head of State and the Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, an elder statesman and former Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ), National Chairman of the Action Congress of Ngeria (AC N), Chief Abdul-Kareem Adebisi Akande, former General Secretary of Afenifere/National Democratic Coalition (NADECO)(, and current Convener of Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER), Mr. Ayo Opadokun and former Ogun State Governor Aremo Olusegun Osoba.
Others were all the ACN South-West Governors-Senator Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun), host, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (State of Osun), Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), and his Deputy, Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Lagos. Also in attendance were political heaviweights like Chief Lanre Razak, Prince Tajudeen Olusi, Chief Joe Igbokwe, Cardinal James Omolaja Odunmbaku (JP), and all Local Councils’ bosses from Lagos State among others.
On hand to receive them were high class monarchs from Egbaland and beyond. They included Oba Adedotun Gbadebo himself, Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, Osile Okeona, Oba Halidu Adedayo Laloko, Agura of Gbagura, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, Olowu of Owu, and Oba Jacob Olufemi Omolade, Olubara of Ibara.
While honouring Tinubu and his wife with the war titles, Oba Gbadebo described the ACN National Leader as “a fighter for the oppressed and the common man in the country.” Tinubu according to the monarch has demonstrated “high courage and commitment to justice,” adding that “he is an irrepressible fighter for protection of civil liberty in the country.”
The Oba therefore charged him not to relent in his efforts at librating the masses from the shackles of poverty and oppression.”
In his address, the host governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who described Tinubu as a dogged fighter for justice and the rule of law said “the title conferred on him by our revered father is a challenge for him (Tinubu) to do more for humanity irrespective of their religions, tribes or or political persuasions.”
In his response, the elated new Aare Ago of Egbaland, Tinubu pledged his support to the monarch and his entire domain in areas of development of the Egba kingdom.
Although, going by the thrills and frills of the occasion, a political novice would outrightly pass the event for a purely cultural and traditional outing, no more, no less. But to political observers, the event went beyond the mere recitation of citations and swearing to the oath of allegiance. They were not deceived that no political statement was made openly. The tete-a-tete at the reception and some silent discussions in hotel rooms coupled with a nocturnal meeting in the ancient city long after the occasion had wound up spoke volumes on the real objective of the gathering.
Since the event was deliberately designed to be cultural in outlook, nobody wanted to volunteer information about what transpired behind the close doors.
A chieftain of the ACN, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity confided in him that “the merger talk between the ACN and the CPC has been sealed with the presence of the likes of Buhari, Ribadu and el-Rufai at the event.”
According to him, the events that would be unfolding very soon would confirm that “this Abeokuta gathering is not a mere cultural jamboree but a real political carnival aimed at making some strong political statements.”
The fear of possible merger of the ACN and CPC might have informed the prompt reaction of the PDP the same day in a release where it described the merger plan as gangsterism. Olisa Metu, the National Spokesman of the party took a critical look at the build up towards 2015 and raised an alarm that it was ganging up against President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Obasanjo factor
What appeared as “some political statements” came from the Akirogun of Egba himself, Aremo Olusegun Osoba who said “this conferment should have come seven years ago,” but lamented that “we had a government in power who did not want anybody else to become anything in Egbaland or in Ogun State.”
This statement, to some political analysis was referring to the administration of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. With the installation of the ACN in Ogun State, the political statement coupled with the suspected hidden agenda of the event was to tell the former President that the baton of political power in the state has changed hands.
But a source close to former President’s camp, who did not want his name in print dismissed the notion that Obasanjo has been dethroned as the powerful kingmaker in Ogun state. According to the source, Obasanjo’s affinity is majorly for his Owu enclave rather than the Egbaland. “If he wanted to assert his authority in Egba kingdom, 20 Tinubus could not have ventured near the kingdom for anything let alone being conferred with a title as important as Aare Ago,” he submitted with finality.
However, what is certainly undisputable is the fact that there are a lot to Tinubu’s chieftaincy title in Abeokuta recently than mere cultural jamboree and we may not wait too long to behold some developments that would serve as pointer to the real motive of the Egba war title.