As families draw battle line over stool
We’ll resolve crisis soon, Oba of Lagos assures
By Charles Adegbite and Austin Ofoma
Since mid last year, all has not been well within the Onisiwo Royal Family of Isale-Eko, Lagos State. Since the late Onisiwo, Oba Yinusa Ayeni, died in June 2015, the family has been enmeshed in a serious tussle over who should be the rightful occupant of the royal stool.
But the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, says he’s doing everything to bring the crisis to an immediate end.
The Onisiwo family owns the Islands of Takwa Bay, Agbagbo, Itomaro and their environs in Lagos State. Naturally, the Onisiwo has control over the choice land.
The fight began in late 2015 when it was time for the next ruling house to present a candidate to fill the vacant stool. There are four ruling houses in the Onisiwo Royal Family: Moyeni, Opegbuyi, Ogabi and Orefunmi. It was Ogabi’s turn to fill the stool. But controversy ensued over legitimacy of the candidate and the family that presented him, Daily Sun learnt.
The reporters learnt that the Ogabi Ruling House, of which Alhaji Lasbat Akanni Ayinla is the head, presented a candidate, Captain Muhammed Musiliu Adio Yusuff (retd.) to the Arole and Head of Onisiwo Royal Family, Alhaji Sikiru Akaani Oduwole. This followed a letter the Ogabi family sent to the Arole Onisiwo, dated October 28, 2015. But the letter attracted opposition from the Onisiwo family.
The letter partly reads: “I am directed to inform your noble office that Captain Muhammed Musiliu Adio Yusuff is a bonafide family member of Ogabi Onisiwo Ruling House… However, communication meant for Ogabi Ruling House should be addressed for delivery to Alhaji Lasbat Akanni Ayinla of No 2, Oworonshoki Road, Olopomeji Bus Stop, Lagos.”
But both Oduwole, who has the prescribed authority to announce the Oba-elect after the screening had been done, and the three Onisiwo ruling houses have rejected the Ogabi family and the candidate they presented. They also prevented Yusuff from participating in the screening process. They made it clear that although there are four lineages in the Onisiwo family that are entitled to the stool, three are the existing families that make up the Onisiwo Royal Family.
Said Oduwole: “It is the turn of Ogabi to be on the throne. But Ogabi did not have any child before he died. His name was included in the ruling houses because he was one of the children of Onisiwo. Ogabi had a wife, but his wife did not bear any child before he died. Ogabi’s lineage is supposed to have ended the day he died.”
Oduwole said further that leaders of the family decided to add Ogabi ruling lineage with the other three lineages that make up the Onisiwo Royal Family in order to immortalise him so that he would not be forgotten as a prince.
Indeed, other family members, who spoke with Daily Sun added that the family had agreed long ago that each time it was the turn of Ogabi, one of the other three lineages would present a candidate to fill the stool. According to them, there was never an Ogabi family at all, since the man had no child before he died.
Consequently, the Ogabi Ruling House petitioned the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Aremu Akiolu 1, on February 8, 2016, alleging that the Onisiwo family was marginalising them. On February 17, Oba Akiolu sent a letter to the Onisiwo family addressed to the Arole, urging him and the entire family to get the problem resolved before it got out of hand. In the letter, Oba Akiolu explained that he had made a lot of efforts in the past towards making the process peaceful.
Following this, the family called a press conference where they made a public declaration for the ruling houses to present their candidates. Alhaji Ayinla, who was in attendance, accused Oduwole, the Arole of not inviting his Ogabi family to the conference, whereas he invited the other ruling houses. But the Arole told him the family did not recognise the candidate the Ogabi family brought and would not allow him to be imposed on them.
Ayinla, while briefing Daily Sun recently, alleged that Oduwole had written a letter to the Ogabi Ruling House earlier and asked them to present their candidate. He alleged further that, that was the reason the family sent the earlier letter. One Imam Ibrahim Olabisi Agoro, who introduced himself as a member of the Ogabi family, confirmed this.
He said: “It was after he (Oduwole) did this that we presented our candidate. We have a copy of the letter. It was later that he brought another person again. There was chieftaincy declaration that has been used thrice since 1972 and nobody challenged it. How come that they are now saying there is no Ogabi when it is the turn of the Ogabi family?”
The Onisiwo family, however, set up a12-man screening committee, headed by Oduwole. And the three other families of Moyeni, Orefunmi and Opegbuyi Ruling Houses presented candidates. The candidates are Prince Rasheed Babatunde Onisiwo, Prince Abdul Fatai Adegboyega Onisiwo and Prince Temitayo Bashorun. They were screened, but Captain Yussuf (retd.) of Ogabi Ruling House was left out. And at the end of the process, Prince Abdul Fatai Adegboyega Onisiwo from Orefunmi Ruling House emerged, as the Oba-elect. The other two contestants immediately congratulated the oba-elect in compliance with the family agreements at the Onisiwo Shrine.
Oduwole told Daily Sun: “Prince Abdul Fatai is our Oba-elect now. Captain Musiliu Adio Yussuf was not screened at all. He is not a real son of Onisiwo. His father was from Abeokuta. Oba Rilwan Aremu Akiolu is just trying to impose him on us. Adio Yussuf and Oba Rilwan are not related to the Onisiwo at all.”
A nonagenarian and matriarch of the Onisiwo family, Alhaja Mutiatu Otun, also confirmed this in a separate interview. She told Daily Sun: “The Onisiwo was my great grandfather. My grandfather was the first son. Ogabi had no child. Those parading themselves as Ogabi descendants are not our blood relations at all.”
Also speaking on the issue, Oduwole noted: “We have gone to the Lagos State Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs, Zone B Police Station at Apapa, Oduduwa Police Station, Ikeja; Etiosa Local Government’s Chiefs and Oba-in-Council, asking them to intervene. All our efforts seem to have hit the brick wall. We were only told to go home and dialogue for peace. The billion-dollar question is, who are we going to dialogue with? As far as the Onisiwo Royal Family is concerned, we are not quarrelling with ourselves. Our problem is with these non family members whom we allowed to live with us.”
They called on the Lagos State Governor, the Oba of Lagos, Inspector General of Police, human rights organisations and other peace-loving Nigerians to help them stop what they described as intimidation and injustice.
But while contradicting the claim by the Onisiwo family that the late Ogabi had no child, Oba Akiolu informed Daily Sun: “Simbiat was my mother, and her maternal grandfather, was Ogabi’s biological son. God will never allow me to use my wealth and position to oppress the poor and the less privileged. That is the reason I don’t join others to use power. Power belongs to God, authority belongs to government, and influence belongs to the monarch. Onisiwo family was the first to take the British people to court in the case of Oduntan Onisiwo (1905 to 1912).”
Oba Akiolu said he was already making some moves to resolve the crisis. “I’ve really been spending on that family and I told them that if they could exercise patience, what is available is enough for them. It is a common thing when there is a vacant stool like this or chieftaincy position to vie for. It is then you will be hearing a lot of ugly stories. When Prince Adeniji Adele was to be crowned the next Oba of Lagos in 1949, it was his own brother who said their mother had told him before she died that his brother, Adeniji, was not his father’s son and that they should not make him the king. So, it is a common thing in Lagos. They have been saying this one is from Tapa, from Abeokuta and all that. But we will resolve the matter,” he said.