From Clment Adeyi, Osogbo
the rich culture, customs and tradition of Ijebu-Jesa, a suburb of Ilesa Town and the headquarters of Oriade Local Government Area of Osun State, is currently facing a serious threat. This is against the backdrop of the imbroglio over the appointment of a new monarch, the Elegboro of Ijebu-Jesa, Femi Agunsoye, as successor to Oba Felix Taiwo Aribisala, the Ajigiteri II, who joined his ancestors on March 9.
The appointment took place on September 25.
Before the process for the selection of a new Oba began in April, the Regent and second in command, Chief Dele Faseru, had sent formal letters to all the ruling houses to present candidates.
But Daily Sun’s investigations confirmed that powers that be from the local government council and government circles thwarted the process by appointing and imposing warrant chiefs on the kingmakers who reserved the traditional right to appoint a new king as they have been doing over the years.
It was also gathered that it was the six warrant chiefs appointed by the government that appointed the new Oba even without screening.
Faseru, who is also the Odofin of Ijebu-Jesa and head of the kingmakers expressed worries that the gods must be angry over what he described as a shambolic appointment. He said the newly appointed Oba might not be their (the gods) choice because the kingmakers, fondly called the Iwarafas, who were supposed to consult the oracle that has the final say in the appointment, were shoved aside and denied the opportunity to carry out the sacred assignment.
Faseru who described the appointment as an error and insult on the tradition of the land warned that it was an harbinger of doom for the community if the whole process was not reversed and the tradition of the land allowed to have its way.
The appointment sparked off wild protests by the kingmakers and the four contestants who are crying blue murder that due process was not followed. Consequently, they approached the Osun High Court sitting in Ilesa to seek redress. They are claiming that the process that led to the appointment of Agunsoye was not only a breach, but also tarnished the image, custom and tradition of the land.
The rumble started a few days after September 25 when Agunsoye was appointed.
Investigations indicated that some community leaders and people of the town were seriously disillusioned with the process leading to the appointment. They claimed that appointment of an Elegboro by warrant chiefs instead of the traditional kingmakers had never happened in the history of Ijebu-Jesa land. Some of them claimed that the appointment was politicised and hijacked by a political class that used government machinery to perpetrate injustice and evil. They described the process as a “typical coup de’tat against the good people.”
Faseru, who painted a vivid picture of the scenarios in a chat with Daily Sun, said appointment of an oba in the magnitude of the Elegboro of Ijebu-Jesa was a sacred assignment that had been the exclusive duty of the kingmakers.
He disclosed that never in the history of Ijesaland had they been denied the traditional task or warrant chiefs engaged to do the assignment.
“Before the race for the exalted stool began, we (the four kingmakers) had first of all invited ‘the Omobas’ and asked them to produce candidates from the six ruling houses for screening,” he said.
Among the candidates were Sola Adewumi, Adebusuyi Adewumi and Babalola Arojojoye all from Nibayo ruling House. Others are Air Vice Marshal Samuel Amolese (retd) from Akoku Ahun-Ogbarukusoro Ruling House; Prof. Abayomi Oni from Ajigiteri Ruling House as well as Femi Agunsoye from Agunsoye Ruling House.
Faseru said when they wanted to do the screening, the government council stopped them, with a claim that it (the council) needed to appoint two warrant chiefs to replace the two kingmakers that had died since they were supposed to be six in number.
He lamented that at the end of the day, the council appointed six warrant chiefs altogether who later appointed the new Oba without screening and denied the kingmakers the privilege of carrying out the task according to the custom.
“When we raised eyebrows for being stopped from screening the candidates after which we were to consult the oracle, the council (LGA) claimed that they received a petition that one of the candidates was a 419 (fraudster). They said the security agencies such as DSS, Police and Immigration must first of all do the screening. This took about six weeks because the security agencies needed to go to the aspirants to confirm their status. Later, they came back with a report that none of the contestants was a 419 member (fraudster).
“The Executive Secretary of Oriade Local Government Area, Olomolatan Adedeji also corroborated their findings and asked us (the kingmakers) to go ahead with the screening. He warned that whoever came up with such a false petition next time would be dealt with by the laws of the land.
“A few weeks later, the executive secretary wrote another letter to us to stop the screening when we were about to start. He claimed that the council needed to appoint two warrant chiefs to join the four of us, the kingmakers, to replace the two who had left due to death and controversial circumstances and we complied.
“While we were expecting the two warrant chief to be appointed, I received another letter one fateful Sunday from the council, claiming that two of the aspirants had written a petition to it (the council) that we (the four kingmakers) had taken an oath of secrecy to install a candidate of our choice and as a result, no longer had confidence in us.
“But unfortunately, government (the council) did not bother to investigate the allegation before it went ahead and appointed six warrant chiefs who are politicians from the APC. Some of them are former councilors. One of them is former chairman of the council, while another is from Odogu, outside Ijebu-Jesa.”
Chief Faseru lamented that it was the warrant chiefs that appointed Femi Agunsoye at the local government council without screening the candidates or following any selection process while the appointment was approved by the executive secretary.
He also alleged that though the other contestants were present during the appointment of Agunsoye, they refused to subject themselves to selection process by the warrant chiefs because they were aggrieved.
“When they left the council, the contestants came to my house and asked me to select one of them, but I said no because the whole process was wrong. I told them that the best thing to do was to go to court and challenge it. That was why they went to court a few days later. The matter is in court. Later, we (the four kingmakers) also went to court to challenge the process. So, there are two cases in the court now.
“The court has already started sitting on the contestants’ case. It has even given an order that Agunsoye should stop parading himself as the new Oba and that the coronation should not hold, pending the determination of the case. But it has not started sitting on the kingmakers’ suit because the executive secretary of the council has not given a reply to our lawyer.”
Chief Faseru said the mass of the people were confused. He added that while some of them believed that Agunsoye was appointed by the kingmakers after a due process based on the tradition of the land, others were aware that the tradition was abused with warrant chiefs’ appointment of the new Oba.
“Some of them believe that if a new Oba has been appointed, it then means he has been appointed and could no longer be removed but allowed to be enthroned since court’s ruling to resolve the matter might be delayed and the community could not afford to exist without having a king to rule over its affairs.
“But our (the kingmakers) position is to pursue the case to a conclusive end to serve as a deterrence and to protect the interest and the sanctity of the tradition of the land,” Faseru said.
He also spoke on the implications of the breach of tradition on the community:
“The appointment did not agree with the tradition and custom of Ijesaland. It has never happened in the history of this land where warrant chiefs who are politicians would take over the assignment of traditional kingmakers who had been saddled with the responsibility over the years according to tradition. It is an impunity. It appears they want to turn this place to Banana Island where anything goes. If allowed, then we are setting a bad precedence and our forefathers would not forgive us.”
Daily Sun’s investigations also indicated that the Ifa Oracle is supposed to have the final say in the appointment of the Elegboro.
Faseru who confirmed this, also said the kingmakers never took any oath of secrecy to appoint any candidate of their choice as alleged by the petitioners. He stressed that doing so was an offence against the gods of the land and the Ifa Oracle who would pick the candidate of choice after the screening by the kingmakers which did not hold.
“We still believe in the Ifa Oracle to pick the best candidate. We were supposed to consult the oracle after screening to give us the right candidate, but we were not even allowed to do the screening in the first place. But all this has been rubbished.”
What happens if a wrong Elegboro (not chosen by the oracle) is enthroned? “The gods, our forefathers (the Ara Ile), will not be happy. There could be many bad implications. The town may not progress or have peace. Anything can happen,” Faseru said.
Did the kingmakers miss anything or have any regrets?
“We have missed a lot. We lost our traditional rights, functions, dignity and pedigree. The lie that we took an oath of secrecy is an insult on our integrity and respect for tradition,” Faseru said.
Another kingmaker, the Enurin of Ijebu-Jesa, Chief Olowe, described the allegation as an insult.
“It’s a slap on our face. It is a bad precedence on our cherished tradition if allowed to go like that. The traditional kingmakers are pivotal to the kingship. They are supposed to be six in number with three sitting at the left hand and another three sitting at his left hand on the throne. The reason is that they installed him. Only the king makers have the traditional right to elect and install the Oba. But the tradition has been messed up by the government council and the warrant chiefs. The four of us (the kingmakers) after the demise three years ago of one of us who was the Sajiku of Ijebu-Jesa, and another who left in controversial circumstances, had been working with the immediate past king until he died last March because we formed a quorum. Yet, we were sidelined.”
Chief Olowe, however, said that government had dissolved the warrant chiefs that appointed Agunsoye and was lobbying the kingmakers to work with him. He said they declined. To show that they would never compromise their stand, he said they decided to go to court. He said one of them, Adejuyigbe Ikotun, had already joined him.
“Though the community people are begging us to bury the hatchet and allow peace to reign, our stand is that justice must be done in the interest of our tradition. We must return to the status quo and start the whole processes all over in line with the culture and tradition of our land to pick the Oba of our choice on the Ifa Oracle’s decision,” he said.
Another kingmaker, the Asolo of Ijebu-Jesa, High Chief Samuel Ojo, said: “It is against the tradition of the land for party men or politicians to be appointed as warrant chiefs to appoint an Oba for us. We want government to be fair and reverse the decision. It should ensure that the kingmakers be allowed to start the whole process all over and appoint the Oba. If it fails to do that, then we will pursue the matter in court to a conclusion.”
But what if the court rules in favour of the government council? “The court may have the final say, but we will live everything to the gods to decide,” he declared.
One of the contestants, Professor Abayomi Oni, said said the decision by government to bypass the traditional kingmakers who have the prerogative to appoint the Oba and appointed warrant chiefs to carry out the task was wrong and against the tradition of the land.
“The whole thing started after the kingmakers were blackmailed by one of the contestants who offered them N10 million bribe which they rejected it. But government failed to investigate the matter and went ahead to appoint the warrant chiefs and sidelined them. Owing to the wrong process, we the contestants went to court and have obtained an interim injunction that the newly appointed Oba should not parade himself as the new king for now, pending the court’s decision.
“Earlier, we wrote a letter to the Osun State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs that we would not subject ourselves to the six appointed warrant chiefs for screening because we felt it was a kangaroo arrangement. Yet, they went ahead and appointed Agunsoye.Already, there is a motion on notice in the court and we are ready to pursue the case until justice prevails.”
When Daily Sun sought government’s reaction, the Executive Secretary of Oriade Local Government Council, Olomolatan Adedeji said the kingmakers lacked the jurisdiction to elect the new Oba because they had no registered nor gazetted chieftaincy declaration for Ijebu-Jesa. Consequently, the kingmakers are not recognized by government.
He said government had been reckoning with them since the people of the community put them in the position and when there was no petition or rancour against them.
“There is no chieftaincy title declaration for Ijebu-Jesa. There is no registered chieftaincy title declaration on the chieftaincy title gazette. As a result, the law of the state does not recognize the kingmakers. Though the community people put them there, they may not be recognised by government until the chieftaincy title declaration is registered and gazetted. So, they don’t have the legal right to appoint an Oba. They had cases and petitions against them during the race for the appointment of a new Oba. If there were no rancour, government would not have come in. They refused to register their chieftaincy title declaration. That is why government does not recognise them. Government only recognizes them in acting capacity, but if there is anything that makes government to lose confidence in them, it means they are no longer qualified to appoint an Oba.
“All they need to do is formalize their status by registering their chieftaincy title declaration with government before they can gain recognition by government to be able to carry out their traditional assignment subsequently,” the secretary said.