•Excitement as Gani Adams donates Oba’s palace to Ondo community
By Tope Adeboboye
For the people of Arigidi-Akoko, a sprawling town in Akoko North West Local Government Area of Ondo State, Saturday, August 19, 2017, would remain an indelible date.
On that day, dignitaries thronged the community in their numbers, as the new palace of the Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko was commissioned.
It was a particularly memorable event, as the palace was being re-opened 50 years after it was destroyed by an uncontrollable mob in 1967 during a political crisis.
The new palace was donated to the community by a prominent son of the town and National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Abiodun Adams.
From early in the morning, hundreds of indigenes of Arigidi-Akoko started converging on the Zaki’s palace to be part of the momentous event. Also in attendance was an impressive array of dignitaries, including royal fathers, high chiefs, eminent businessmen and government functionaries, among others.
The old palace was destroyed in 1967 by members of the community loyal to the leader of the Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the communal crisis that culminated in the devastation of the Zaki’s palace was the fallout of the unending fracas in the Action Group in the 1960s.
It was gathered that when the late Premier broke away from the Action Group and formed the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), the new administration made it clear that all traditional rulers in the West must remain absolutely loyal to government. Appropriate sanctions were meted out to royal fathers who showed the slightest signs of resistance.
At that time, a vast majority of members of the community were clearly sympathetic to the leader of the Action Group, the late Awolowo. The then Zaki, Oba Muhammadu Olanipekun, was seen as a loyalist of Ladoke Akintola and his government, and this earned the monarch considerable animosity from some of his subjects. Explanations by the monarch that, as a king, he had no choice than to support the government of the day were rebuffed by the Awo group.
Following the coup of January 1966, Akintola was murdered alongside some other leaders across the country. That incident gave the people the opportunity to settle scores with those they perceived as supporters of the late Akintola. And the major culprit, according to the Awo group, was the Zaki.
Besides, some other forces in Arigidi also wanted to use the opportunity to seize power from the Olanipekun family, the only house that had been ruling the town since the founders moved to the location from Ile-Ife through Benin a century earlier.
It was learnt that the first attempt to physically remove the Zaki from the palace in May 1967 was thwarted. But the rebels rallied more support and returned three months later. In Auguat 1967, the reporter was told, the anti-Olanipekun forces returned to the town and forced the king out. The Oba subsequently went on exile and the mob destroyed the palace.
“He returned to the town a few months later and constructed a temporary abode for himself,” an elderly man told the reporter.
It was learnt that attempts to install a new Zaki from outside the ruling house had remained unsuccessful over the years.
In 2008, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, a businessman, became the new Zaki. He promised to bring the office of the Zaki back to its old glorious state and ensure that the town got a befitting palace.
Early this year, during the annual Okota Festival, Otunba Gani Adams had pledged to build a new palace for the town. And a few months after the pledge, the new edifice was unveiled.
Zaki of Arigidi, Oba Yisa Abu Olanipekun, informed journalists at the venue that, since the palace was destroyed in 1967, efforts to rebuild the place had been fruitless. He commended Adams for coming to his people’s aid at the most appropriate time.
He told the gathering that the gesture by Adams had already added considerable value to his reign, as it would always be remembered that the new palace was constructed during his time as monarch. He also asserted that the unveiling of the new palace had signalled the commencement of new developments in the town.
He said: “I have many houses in this town and in other places but, for a monarch, there is no place like the palace. And with this palace, Arigidi has assumed a new status and we are happy.”
In his speech, chairman, Arigidi Development Union, Chief Abiodu Ilesanmi, affirmed that what Gani Adams had done was a patriotic move. He said the community would record more achievements if other prominent indigenes and residents would emulate the convener of Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) and contribute ther own quota to the development of Arigidi-Akoko.
His words: “Fifty years ago, Arigidi was burning. People were in a pool of their own blood. There was no peace, no harmony, no development. But today, we are happy that normalcy has returned to the town. I thank God for giving us a man the like Otunba Gani Adams, who has helped us to rebuild this palace.”
Another community leader, the Edibo of Arigidi, Chief Francis Rotimi, also lauded Adams for the construction of the new palace. “We are all happy that this is coming at this time and we will forever be grateful to God and to Otunba Gani Adams,” he enthused.
A prominent group, Arigidi Leaders of Thought, also presented a message of appreciation to the OPC leader. The message partly reads: “Otunba Gani Adams has played a significant role in making a new palace spring out from where the old palace was destroyed. You said it, and it happened. The ancestral fathers who left Arigidi since the unfortunate burning of the palace have returned. Joy, peace, fortune, progress, harmony and lost glories are back in Arigidi. Today, you are the Nehemiah of Arigidi: the great builder.”
Speaking at the event, Adams challenged his kinsmen and women to desist from trading blames, urging them to instead collaborate to lift the town.
Noting that the construction of the palace was part of his contributions to the advancement of Arigidi, he said there were other projects waiting to be done for the community. In his words, everybody should come together to work for the greatness of Arigidi-Akoko.
“Let us stop the blame game,” he noted. “Stop blaming Gani Adams and stop blaming Kabiyesi, the Zaki of Arigidi, for anything. You too should do your own. I have started with the palace. There are many other projects to be done. We have the civic centre, town hall and other amenities that will make our community to be one of the prominent communities in the world.”
There were Christian, Islamic and traditional prayers as the palace was commissioned, even as members of Arigidi cultural troupe thrilled the guests.