Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
In Ilawe-Ekiti, Ekiti South West Local Government Area of Ekiti State, an ideological war premised on alleged distortion of the history of the town, as well as traditional roles of her prominent chiefs and founders, is currently raging.
The war is brewing between the Ilero and llemo families both of whom have their ancestral homes in Oke Emo quarters of the town. The head of llemo family, who is the Elemo, Chief Gbenga Agbonna, had in a recent interview with Daily Sun claimed to be in charge of installing the Alawe as the head of Oke Emo. But the llero family dismissed the claim as lacking details about the more important and deeper primordial roles the family plays on such occasion.
The Elemo had said: “I became the Elemo because my great grand fathers own the title. The Elemo came from Ile-Ife, Osun State, with the Alawe. In the hierarchy, I am the fourth after the Alawe, as the head of Oke Emo, one of the four quarters that founded Ilawe, I am the one who installs the Alawe.
“There is a place called Owa Agbaludi where the main rites of installation take place. The clothes the Oba wears to the place are changed and left there and the Oba would never set his eyes on that spot again. “This is why the Oba does not come to Oke Emo after his installation till he joins his ancestors. As the Elemo, I have a role to perform during the burial of the king. As a matter of fact, the Elemo is first informed when the king passes on.”
But in a counter reaction, the Ilero family, through its spokesman, Mr. Ojo Esan, said Elero, as traditional head of Ilero family, occupies a more significant historical space than Elemo being one of the founding fathers of the town. He said Elero was one of those who accompanied Oniwe and founder of Ilawe kingdom from Ile-Ife:
“It was sad the colonialists who did not know our history came to rewrite our tradition for us. They came here and placed Elemo over other superior chiefs in Oke Emo quarters. Elemo is just a chief of Ilemo’s Compound, not Oke Emo. It was the Britons that made it so.
“Elemo came here after Elero had settled at a place called Igbo Aba. Elero gave them (Elemo family) a portion of land they settled in that farmstead. He is a stranger. He was honoured with the title of Elemo of Ilemo’s Compound only for him to lobby the colonialists for him to become the quarter head (Oke Emo). According to history, Elemo was just a circumstantial head.
“It was the then Elero that brought Elemo from Igbo Aba to the present site. He brought him closer to himself on the instructions of Alawe, so that both Elero and another chief called Oloogun could monitor him (Elemo) due to a powerful deity he brought. The land where he is staying today was given to him by this family, how can a stranger be claiming superiority over the owner of the land?
“Elero plays significant roles in the installation and burial of Alawe, while the role of Elemo is mere ceremonial. He is just an observer. It is indisputable fact that installation rites of Alawe are performed at several spots in Ilawe. It is the duty of the Elero to perform them while the Elemo merely serves as onlooker. lf we take the king to Igbo Ogunmeo, the Elemo and Elero will be there but the Elemo has no role to perform there.
“In the installation of Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi, the stool of the Elero was vacant then. But then, the people insisted that the eldest member of the Ilero family be empowered to perform the rites while Elemo merely administered the leaf as the only existing chief from the Oke Emo that time. So, the Elemo’s role is just a ceremonial one and he mustered no power because tradition and custom do not permit him.”
“Elemo has little or no significant role in the burial of Alawe. The Omo Owa, who are children of the royal families inform the Elemo about the King’s passing and he leads them to inform the Elero about the development and Elero takes over all other rituals from this point.
“Also, Ogun festival is central to Oke Emo. It is only the aboriginal chiefs who take active part in it, Elemo as a non-aboriginal chief has no role in it. The festival is being performed at Ugbo Ogun, meaning Ogun grove where only the aboriginal chiefs including the Elero can enter.
“Owa Agbaludi in our tradition means a place where chiefs and elders of the town meet to take decisions that have to do with Oke Emo. It is not sacred to any individual. The sacredness of Oke Emo has to do with all the taboos that are peculiar to all Yoruba traditional rulers and not the Alawe alone.”