Osolo and Iralepo as Minor Obas Under the Deji of Akure: The Issues and the Facts at Stake, and the Ramifications of all the Forces at Work
Dr. Wunmi Akintide
For information of the younger generation of Akure people at home and abroad, I see a compelling reason to digress a little bit from my serial articles on the Deji of Akure which now stand at number eight, minus the piece on the late Prince Adewole Adesida. Any of my readers who want a better understanding of the relevance of the Deji’s articles to this digression, will be well advised to go into the archives of the Lagosforum dot com or Gamji dot com, and some of the other newspapers like “Africans Abroad” and few magazines around the world which have carried some of those articles. I will try and speak to these issues in the order in which I have listed them above
The struggle by all of the past Osolos and Iralepos to gain recognition as “minor” Obas in Akure Kingdom is arguably as old as Akure history. Why? Because all the holders of those two titles in Akure have never, at any point, in Akure history, been treated the same way with the rank and file of other Akure High Chiefs in the Iare group, the Ikomo group, the Ejua group the Egbele group, the Owose group or the Erinses/Military Police group in Akure.
The Deji of Akure, as a point of history, does not appoint or select the Osolo and Irelepo, as they both have their own traditional king makers and palaces in Akure. Once selected, they are, however formally introduced or presented to the Deji of Akure in much the same way like every new Deji in Akure, at some point in his installation formalities, is introduced to the Owa Obokun of Ijesha Land, like a son pays a visit to his father, in recognition of the historical linkage of the first Deji and founder of Akure kingdom with the Owa Obokun as one of the direct children of Oduduwa at Ife. The title “Deji” comes from a statement “Mo f’ade ji o” that the then Owa Obokun had uttered in sending off his son when he left Osu in Ijesha Land on his journey to create a new homestead of his own. “Akure M’Osu mo pe ira ule Oye” which is now one of the permanent cognomens of Akure comes from that historical linkage with Ijesha Land.
By the same token, Isolo and Isinkan were two distinct and separate hamlets and entities from Akure just like Oba Ile which is older than Akure, by the way, Oda or Ogbe, Ilara Mokin, Ijare, Isharun, Ibule, Upogun, Igbaraoke, Ugoba, Ishinigbo, not to talk of new villages like Umafon, Ugunshin, Ulado and Arodoye village near Ulado, Ago Abo now Ilu Abo, Eleyowo, Alayere, Aiyede Ogbese Upinsha, Ikota, Aponmu all of which now claim to have their own Obas today. Some of them like the Olujare, the Alara of Ilara Mokin and the Olowa of Igbara Oke and the Alaiyede of Aiyede Ogbese are often addressed by their people as their “Royal Majesty”, a term normally reserved for the King or the Queen of England, but which is now commonly used by very prominent natural rulers like the Ooni of Ife, the Alafin of Oyo, the Alake of Egba land, the Awujale of Ijebu Ode, the Owa Obokun of Ijesha Land in a concerted effort to differentiate themselves in proliferation of traditional rulers in Yoruba Land.
The Obaship position in Yoruba Land has been totally politicized and polluted. They are now sold two for a penny, to a point that every hamlet or household in our society now wants to name its own Oba. Few Obas in Yoruba Land now command the same respect, medicinal power clout their predecessors used to possess. Their myth has been broken when you find prominent traditional rulers, in the name of religion, all scrambling with their subjects, to go seek redemption or deliverance, and keeping vigil at Holy Ghost night, once a month. An amazing wind of change is blowing all over Yoruba Land, if not the whole of Nigeria. I have seen the Olojada of Oda, with my own eyes, come visit the Deji of Akure, Oba Ataiyese in his Palace and wearing a crown. Such a spectacle would have been considered inconceivable and a sacrilege when Oba Afunbiowo or Oba Agunsoye Ademuagun was the Deji of Akure some few years ago.
Don’t be too surprised, if tomorrow, you hear the Aloko of Iloko in Ijesha Land, Oba Olashore or the Olu of Ilu Abo in Akure, Oba Oluyemi Falae being referred to as”their Royal Majesty” if their prescribed authorities and their senior colleagues in the Owa Obokun of Ijesha or the Deji of Akure could not match them in terms of their wealth, political connections, and educational attainment. The Oore of Otun used to be number one in the order of seniority among Obas in Ekiti. The Oore is still important, but there are lesser Obas in Ekiti today, if they are politically connected, who will not defer to Oore in the scheme of things, because they are well educated and filthy rich.
Isolo and Isinkan hamlets were said to have been overrun by wars and the Osolo and the Iralepo had both sought refuge in Akure under the Deji who had absorbed them into Akure while allowing them to keep their titles and all of their traditional ceremonies and protocols back home in their former enclaves The only exemption the Deji would not grant was for them to publicly wear the beeded crown, just like him, because the Deji naturally did not want to divide his kingdom into three or reduce his own power or leverage in accommodating or entertaining his new guests. His new guests have, by and large, observed that protocol which was not documented in black and white in a charter document, like any King or Queen of England would have ordered. Nothing was documented because of lack of Education at the time.
Right from Osolo Abibiri to Osolo Moliki as far as I know, we did not hear of any disagreement between the Deji in those days and these subsidiary “Obas” in Akure. It was true the Osolo and the Iralepo did not wear or parade their crowns round the town like any Deji, they did function, to all intent and purposes like minor Obas in their own quarters which have now spread to Akure proper in much the same way like Oba Ile, Ugoba, Ishinigbo, Oda, Upinsha, Ikota and Ulere have now joined with Akure. The Osolo and the Iralepo were allowed to wear their crowns in marking traditional ceremonies in their quarters and on the days they were installed. None of the Akure High Chiefs were ever granted such indulgence. It is true that the Odopetu is allowed to wear the Oliki crown and the Sao his Ogun crown, but they were allowed to do so on their ceremonial occasions only once a year. I recall the new Odopetu Adelusimo Falade getting into some hot water with Deji Otutubiosun Adelegan Adesida one time for failing to strictly observe the protocol. My point here, is that the Osolo and the Iralepo have a right to demand what they are asking for, in the context of the huge wind of change blowing through our own part of the world. They often compare themselves, with some justification, with the practice in Egba Land where the Gbagura king, the Osile and the Olowu of Owu are allowed to rule their own enclaves while the Alake is considered the overall boss. Even then, we now hear of instances where the supremacy of the Alake is sometimes challenged by these lesser Obas in the context of dirty politics. The same thing can happen in Akure, and that is why I think Governor Agagu should have learnt some lessons from that.
This observation is a fact of History that all of us cannot wish away or take lightly. Period. Once upon a time during the reign of Oba Afunbiowo, I know of an Alara Adamu of Ilara Mokin who was eventually sent on exile for equating himself with the Deji by wearing a beeded crown. That was then, this is now. Every Alara of Ilara Mokin starting with Oba Ojopagogo Afunbiokin and the current Alara now wear their crown to any where they like, and they are fully independent of any Deji of Akure today. That is a fact we have all come to accept. Once upon a time, the Deji of Akure used to be the prescribed authority for any Olu of Atoshin and Olu of Alade now in Idanre Local Government. These are incontrovertible facts. The only thing constant in nature is change, and we have got to live with it whether we like it or not. but there is always a better way to introduce a change is all I am saying.
What I am opposed to in giving recognition to the Osolo and the Iralepo as minor Obas in Akure Metropolis is the way the Agagu/Oluwateru Government in Ondo State has carried out the exercise. They have waited to make it a recess appointment, like the American President sometimes do in appointing nominees that they know the US Senate may not confirm. It is wrong, timid, dishonest and insulting to the sensitivities of Akure people to carry out the exercise during an interregnum, and to do so without spelling out the conditions in black and white, so the two sides can be aware of their limitations and the lines they must not cross, in the interest of the peace in Akure. I don’t appreciate and Akure people do not appreciate an Ikale and an Ijuodo Governor flaunting this kind of power, just because he can.
That was nonsense, and I am disappointed that his Akure-born Deputy Governor, Oluwateru would allow that kind of thing to occur under his own watch.
It was a shame even though I fully understand the dynamic of what may have happened. I am also disappointed that a father figure to the PDP Government and Party in Akure, Engineer Olusoga, a widely respected elder statesman in our town, would look the other way, while the Governor and his Deputy are committing this blunder that may irreparably damage the peace of our town. I understand, at one level, why Engineer Olusoga could possibly have condoned such an action from Governor Agagu. He might have done it to embarrass the current Chief Olisa, Folorunsho David, Otutuleyowo the Second, who himself is a descendant of Osolo Abibiri, because his late father, David Lawani had come from the same family. He had gotten his Olisa title through his mother side, as his mother was one of the grand children of Olisa Otutuleyowo. Engineer Olusoga and David Folorunsho, we all recall, had both vied for the Olisa title in Akure in 1993, and both were eminently qualified for the position, but in the end, it was Folorunsho David that got picked.
Right now Akure is in total disarray with the stalemate on the Deji’s selection and the bad blood between the current Regent and the mainstream of Akure Chiefs led by the current Olisa. I think the Governor saw an opening in that development or schism, and he decided to grab the chance which is totally in bad taste. You don’t create a king without defining the kingdom, and that is not the kind of thing you want to do as a Governor without intensive consultation with the Deji whose kingdom you are about to polarize and divide up. Two wrongs don’t make a right I have my doubts if Governor Agagu would have done what he did without consulting with important Akure sons and daughters in his party. I blame not just the Governor, but those Akure individuals for not making sure, they don’t let Agagu undermine the Deji’s authority in Akure by seeking to elevate the Osolo and the Iralepo in a very sneaky move and without a clear definition of what they can do or not do, as minor Obas. Kabiyesi Osolo is my friend and the life President of the Ajapada Social Club in Akure to which I belong. He is a decent gentleman and a great Akure patriot. He is also my brother-in-law and his late father was a bosom friend of my late father. He knows I don’t stand for injustice, but I want things done the right way. If the Osile of Oke Ona, Oba Dapo Tejuosho can get so power-drunk or “money-drunk,” at a point, to tell the Alake of Egba Land, he is not subservient to him, so can the Osolo and the Iralepo, challenge the next Deji, if their boundaries are not properly defined in writing, ahead of time. That is my position, and I make no apologies on that to anyone. Our Governor ought to be sensitive to that kind of sentiments, if he truly values the peace and harmony of our beloved capital. In a country which has become notorious for endless litigations and where the outcome of cases are determined by individuals who can offer more bribes, it makes no sense for Governor Agagu to just elevate the Osolo and the Iralepo without clearly defining the boundaries or the parameters of their authority. That is my major complaints against the action of the Governor.
I have already addressed the full ramifications of the forces at work and the implications for the Deji-in-Council, the current Olisa and the peace and quiet of Akure as the State Capital. I have great respect for the current Olisa who is my good friend and my brother-in-law. I don’t care what many of his detractors are saying about him. The Folorunsho that I know is a decent Olisa who is self-reliant and patriotic. Those who think he is corrupt, just don’t know what they are talking about. I supported his candidature for the Olisa title with everything I got, because I believe in him and I still do with passion, till tomorrow. The Olisa is a reasonable man who knows when the game is up and how to retrace his steps without losing face. As I have often told him, there is only one Ruling House in Akure and that Ruling House is Asodeboyede without any question in my mind.
The king makers don’t decide for the Ruling House how many princes can be nominated and presented to the King makers. That is a job for the Ruling House to do and the duty of the king makers is to pick one person to be crowned a Deji out of the several candidates presented to them.
If the phantom Osupa/Odundun Family now say that Prince Adegbola Adelabu, alias Ileri Oluwa is not one of them, who are the king makers to second-guess them The last time an Osupa or Odundun candidate had reigned in Akure is clearly more than 145 years ago. In that space and length of time, a lot of water has definitely passed under the bridge. If Okechukwu the proprietor of O.K. Supermarket in Akure who was born in Akure and knows no other home in Nigeria, is now telling stories that his great great grandfather was an Odundun or Osupa who has immigrated from Ifite Oraifite in Imo State. How can anybody disprove him as a prince in Akure? Okechukwu speaks Akure fluently. He is married to an Akure woman and he has several children all bearing Yoruba names. He is contributing to the economic development of Akure in ways that other Akure indigenes cannot match, and he has plenty of cash to throw around. Who can stop him from becoming a Deji in Akure now, but the family he claims to come from? I think that family has nullified itself from contention, if after 145 years in the wilderness the best they could come up with, is nominate a phony prince to ascend our throne. There ought to be a price to pay for their collective dishonesty.
I am still waiting for Kayode Olukayode Olugunmoye, the multi millionaire President of the Sawmiller Association in Ondo State or Chief Omotosho of Onward Electronics, or Chief Toyin Faninmi of Toyin Bookshop, Akure or the Proprietor of Titilayo Chemist in Akure or retired Justice Ojuolape from Ogotun or Chief S.A. Ogedengbe of Oke Agbe in Akoko or even Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, all prominent people in Akure and Chief Rueben F. Fashoranti, to just find some ways to prove their linkage to the phantom family, and be considered fit and qualified to be a Deji in Akure just like the late lawyer Bello had done. The door is now wide open for any pretender to be crowned a Deji in Akure because the selection has been unilaterally narrowed down to only a unit or two of the Asodeboyede Ruling House in Akure because the Ondo State Government is convinced the Adesidas have dominated the throne for too long because our progenitor, Oba Afunbiowo Adesida the First, has reigned for too long.
The Government has forgotten that there are still descendants of any of the 44 Dejis in Akure, outside Adesida, that can still be picked to become the next Deji. With many more candidates like Chief Oluyemi Falae, Chief Femi Alewi and others coming out of the woods, to prove their connection to the Osupa/Odundun Unit of the Asodeboyede Ruling House, the king makers can surely find a good candidate to pick, other than an Adesida, if that is the Government problem. The more the merrier. The way out is doing the exercise all over again, and letting the Asodeboyede big tent present as many candidates as they are able. Now that the “Omo Ori Ite” provision no longer applies, there are hundreds of genuine and qualified grand children princes from any of the 44 Dejis who can be crowned a Deji.
With the Osolo and the Iralepo now confirmed as minor Obas, if there is anything like that, the need to pick a Deji that can stand his own, and can fully assert his right, has never been more urgent in my judgment. With 12 out of the 14 surviving King makers in Akure now willing to go back to the status quo ante bellum by calling on the Asodeboyede Ruling House to submit a fresh list of candidates to the king makers, the time has come to revisit the exercise, because democracy is a game of numbers, and nobody understands that precept better than the current Olisa. It is about time to throw in the towel and to let wiser counsel prevail on the right way to select a new Deji. As for the Osolo and Iralepo issue, they do deserve their recognition, but their role and limitations must be clearly defined in a way that does not compromise the Deji’s authority and kingdom.
I rest my case.
Dr. Wunmi Akintide.