Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
A strange development has birthed in Isaoye-Ekiti, Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State. This is threatening the peace of the sleepy community.
Its monarch, 40-year old Oba Gabriel Olajide, has allegedly chosen to ignore traditional practices and opted for strict adherence to Christian norms and practices. Even though he accepted to ascend the throne of his forefathers through Ifa divination in 2017, he appeared to have made up his mind not to join the fray of idol worshippers.
This stance has pitched him against both the custodians of the traditions of Isaoye-Ekiti and the people of the town. Oba Olajide is a minister in the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church and sergeant in the Nigeria Police.
He said mounted the saddle hoping to change the narratives of the town, which he claimed was reputed for backwardness and human capital deficit. But in rejecting the traditions of his people, he has secured the wrath of his chiefs, kingmakers and other subjects who are finding it difficult to forgive him.
The battle line is drawn between tradition and modernity. Daily Sun learnt that the hostility reached its peak in August 2018 when a crusade was organised by his church. As soon as the crusade ended, news spread that a woman died. Although the connection between the woman and the crusade could not be proved, the people believed that the failure of the monarch to worship his ancestors might be responsible for the death of the woman.
Oba Olajide said: “I heard that they were bringing the corpse to me. And you know that a king does not see corpse. I had to escape through the road leading to the farm. Two weeks later, I made attempt to return home. When the youths saw my vehicle, they deflated my tyre and hauled stones on my vehicle. They barricaded the road, I escaped using my intelligence as a police otherwise they would have killed me.”
He initiated a peace committee from self-exile to pacify the aggrieved subjects, kingmakers and chiefs in December 2018. But the people shunned the committee and asked its members to vacate the community.
The town had to live without a monarch for more than eight months. Worried by this development, in April 2019, the council of traditional chiefs in the town, known as Asaoye chiefs, petitioned Governor Kayode Fayemi through his deputy, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi. They alleged that the Oba abandoned the throne for about nine months and refused to perform his statutory duties especially holding meetings in the town.
The letter copied to the Commissioner of Police, Secretary to the Bureau of Chieftaincy Affairs among others, reads in parts: “That he has continually bastardised our customs and traditions; that frantic efforts made by Moba Traditional Council members to appeal to him fell on deaf ears; that similar efforts made by majority Obas of Ekiti land was without success.”
In yet another petition signed by Chief J.S Ogidi, the Obaisa, who doubles as second in command to Oba Olajide, on behalf of 13 others, dated July 19, 2019, and addressed to the state council of traditional rulers, the Asaoye chiefs listed another 13 offences the monarch committed and demanded for his deposition.
The chiefs raised offences ranging from non-performance of traditional rites, harassment of subjects with police and highhandedness. They urged the royal fathers to advise the monarch to voluntarily submit his instrument of office to the appropriate authority so that the community would commence a process for the installation of his replacement.
However, government gave Oba Olajide, a two-week ultimatum to make peace with his subjects to prevent breakdown of law and order. Egbeyemi advised the monarch to listen to his subjects and respect the tradition and culture of the town: “You have till the end of February. If you cannot follow the path of peace and secure the interest of your people, everything is left to you.” He expressed dissatisfaction over allegations levied against Oba Olajide, wondering how an entire community would turn against its monarch.
The monarch, however, criticised the government directive. He insisted that in as much as he could not stop his subjects from practicing what they believe in, he could not also be coerced to worship a deity that he did not believe in:
“Going by the provision of the Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution, I have no power to eradicate any religion, because we have freedom to practice religion of our choice. I cannot stop them from what they believe. For instance, as a king I cannot put on shirt and trousers to event because that will amount to disregarding my culture and tradition.
“I believe in culture and tradition but I do not want to worship idol. I respect their religion but I cannot participate in it. Every idol in the town has a priest. Before I became a king, all the money they required performing sacrifices I paid and they did rituals for seven days.”
He said he became the king in 2017 with a strong vision to rewrite the history of the community and foster development, by changing its backwardness to prosperity: “The town has been in existence for over 500 years, no good road, no palace and no development. The community has been backward.
“In my view, we need to reform. If somebody is doing things the same way, he cannot expect different result. Their idolatry worship has not helped us. Since the coming into being of the community, we have not produced even a councillor. Nobody has ever travelled out of the country before from the town, but I have broken the yoke.
“When I came in 2017, unlike before, I made sure that we retain the councillorship. Two people have travelled abroad since 2007 due to the grace of God upon me. If they allow peace to reign in the community, we can move mountains. They should do their religion and allow me to do my own.
“I want to appeal to the government to plead with them to allow peace to reign in the interest of our children and generations coming. Government should help to douse tension by calling those who are up in arms against him to order. They should look beyond self and think of the progress of the town.
“Let me also tell those who are struggling for this Obasaoye stool with me to have the belief that only God can enthrone a king.” He dismissed the threat to depose him: “It is only God that enthrones and deposes. Any task that would end well must be difficult at the beginning.”
Quoting from the Bible, Nehemiah Chapter 24, on the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, he said: “God chose a builder whose name was Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem as the first step of rebuilding the nation.” He likened his mission to the biblical Nehemiah, urging his subjects to show understanding and give him a chance to concentrate on the task ahead.