By Ayobami Olajumoke
Reprieve at last. That might soon be the general refrain on the lips of residents of Okegun-Odofin in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State.
After a protracted chieftaincy tussle in the area, it appears the people would soon be enjoying a breath of fresh air.
A three-man committee constituted by the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into the crisis in the area has just concluded its investigations. The crisis, it was gathered, began after the creation of another community, Okegun-Ladeseso, by the Onibeju of Ibeju-Lekki, Oba Olusegun Salami, and the installation of Mufutau Olamiji as baale of the new community. This was done allegedly in connivance with the Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Musulumi Folami. The move did not go down well with the baale of Okegun Odofin, Chief Ismaila Ogunkoya, who has been community head since 2008. Oba Salami was accused of imposing Olamiji on the residents even when they resisted the initiative. The outrage has lasted almost three years.
Okegun-Ladeseso is by the waterfront, where massive dredging is going on, while Okegun-Odofin is by the entrance of the community. But immediately the tussle began, the harmony that once existed between the people of both communities vanished.
In June, hundreds of residents of Okegun-Odofin picketed the state House of Assembly to protest the installation of Olamiji as baale.
To ensure that peace returned to the communities, the House of Assembly, in June, mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petitions and Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), led by Hon. Funmi Tejuosho, to wade into the situation.
Okegun-Ladeseso and Okeogun-Odofin are about 500 metres apart. But the Okegun-Odofin people said while Ogunkoya was always willing to show the gazette of his own community by the Lagos State government, Olamiji was not forthcoming with any.
At the sitting of the committee, Olamiji was said to have told the members that he did not have his gazette, and explained that he was just coming from Ibadan, Oyo State, when he was invited for the meeting.
Investigation revealed that Ogunkoya became apprehensive when he got wind of Oba Salami’s plans to make the baale of Ladeseso the oba of the entire Okegun-Odofin and Ladeseso. Ogunkoya suspected that he was on the verge of being placed under a new oba or ousted outright.
Those close to Ogunkoya said he had uplifted the community in diverse ways, equipped the community primary school with books and other facilities, built boreholes and ensured steady electricity supply in the community.
The elder brother of Ogunkoya, Chief Shamsudeen Ogunkoya, said his brother (the baale of Okegun-Odofin) was the rightful person to be crowned Oba of the communities.
“My brother, who is the baale of this community, has a cordial relationship with the oba and has contributed immensely to the wellbeing of this community. I am surprised that the same oba could plot with certain people to install and force another person against my brother. If the plot is not checked immediately, the consequences may be disastrous,” Shamsudeen said.
However, Oba Salami insisted that the Ogunkoyas were being greedy, noting that the two baales controlled different territories.
According to the oba, both baales wrote applications for an upgrade of their positions, from baale to oba.
Said the Oba: “Both have the right to upgrade to oba and they have paid the necessary dues. It is also possible for both of them to become oba in their respective zones. One thing remains certain; I am their father.
“My kingdom started way far from Abijo, before Ajah, till a little beyond Akodo. My kingdom is almost one quarter of Lagos State. It’s about the biggest.”
Oba Salami accused the Ogunkoyas of plotting to take total control of the land in Ibeju-Lekki and its environs.
He said, “There is actually no problem with us at all. They are the ones who want to lord over the people. Okegun has four parts, and they are both occupying only two parts. Okegun is just a compound name. Going by history, the Aladeso migrated from Benin, Ifeland to the Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos, where they met an existing Oba.”
On his part, Olamiji claimed that it was the Ogunkoyas that were fomenting trouble between the two communities. He said they framed him up, got him arrested and took him to Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), where he was kept underground for several days.
He accused the Ogunkoyas, especially the baale of Okegun-Odofin, of expressing interest in the waterfront that was close to the Free Trade Zone.
When he appeared before the House Committee, Folami, the commissioner, maintained that he approved the papers installing Olamiji, following due process. But the committee members rejected his explanations, even though Folami allegedly argued that Olamiji’s papers passed through all the required levels before getting to his table.
It was gathered that one of the recommendations of the committee was that the baaleship of Olamiji be rescinded so as to allow peace reign in the community. The committee also held that the creation of Okegun-Ladedseso within the Okegun-Odofin community was an illegal exercise.
A document detailing the outcome of the public sittings by the Tejuosho-led committee stated that the team met with all the parties and stakeholders involved before arriving at its decision.
Okegun-Odofin had petitioned the House of Assembly, saying that there was no place known as Okegun-Ladeseso, and as such no baale should exist in such a place. The committee was said to have held three different meetings with the parties on the issue.
According to the committee, its findings after conducting a fair hearing with all parties indicated that the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs was complicit in the whole episode.
The committee recalled that there used to be a cordial relationship between the feuding parties in Okegun-Odofin, noting that conflicting personal interests over various tracts of land and transactions going on in the area were eroding the harmony between the parties.
In the report submitted to the leadership of the House of Assembly, the committee noted, among others: “That the committee found absurd and unacceptable the motive behind the creation or carving out of the newly created Okegun-Ladeseso out of Okegun-Odofin, mainly to checkmate the influence of Baale Ismaila Ogunkoya.
“Accordingly, Baale Ismaila Ogunkoya remains the only baale of Okegun-Odofin, which includes the purported newly created Okegun-Ladeseso, thus, such new creation should be taken as null and void.”
Part of the recommendations was also that an immediate stop should be put to the illegal land deals allegedly being perpetrated by Oba Salami and Mufutau Olamiji at Okegun-Odofin.
“The Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs should take appropriate action by revoking the gazette given to Mufutau Olamiji, who was maliciously installed after the coronation of Baale Ismaila Ogunkoya by Oba Salami himself,” the committee said.
Members of the community insist that peace would return to the area once the state House of Assembly ratifies the recommendations of the report, which will soon be debated.