•Community head, ruling family at war with monarch, others
By Kehinde Aderemi
At the moment, all is not well in Ibeju-Lekki, a thriving coastal community in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State. A leadership tussle involving the paramount ruler of the community, Onibeju of Ibeju Lekki, Oba Olusegun Salami, and other notable personalities in the area is threatening the community’s peace.
Besides Oba Salami, Daily Sun learnt that other personalities involved in the brewing conflict include the Baale (traditional ruler) of Okegun Odofin, Chief Ismaila Ogunkoya, Baale of Ladeseso, Chief Mufutau Olamiji and the Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Musiliu Folami.
Daily Sun gathered that on April 1, 2008, the Onibeju installed Ogunkoya as the Baale of Okegun Odofin. Five years ago, the monarch was said to have suddenly created another community within Okegun Odofin, known as Okegun Ladeseso. He thereafter reportedly installed his former personal assistant, Mufutau Olamiji Sefiu, as the Baale of the new community. Both communities are about 500 metres from each other. Okegun Odofin is at the entrance, while Ladeseso is by the waterfront, where a lot of sand excavation takes place.
Right now, there are rumours that the Ibeju Lekki monarch is considering installing Olamiji as Oba of Okegun and Ladeseso. If that happens, Ogunkoya fears that he would be reporting to Olamiji.
Residents that spoke with the reporter insisted that such a move might cause some chaos in the community. They said Baale Ogunkoya does not deserve such humiliation, and, if anyone should be made Oba, it should be Ogunkoya.
Elder brother to the Baale, Chief Shamsudeen Ogunkoya, said the Ogunkoya and Onibeju families were close friends until the leadership tussle began. He warned that the issue might snowball into uncontrollable crisis, if not properly handled by the appropriate authorities.
The Oloriebi, who is head of the Ogunkoya family, Alhaji Wasiu Ogunkoya, said besides the Onibeju, the Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs was among those fuelling the fire. He noted that the moves to impose Olamiji had been generating tension in the area. He said the Ogunkoya family had always paid the necessary dues to the Onibeju, the paramount ruler, whenever any land was sold in the community. He added that the Lagos State House of Assembly had already been petitioned on the crisis, even as he urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to quickly wade into the matter to avert an avoidable crisis.
The family alleged that the Onibeju had submitted Olamiji’s name before the appropriate state agencies for his absorption as Baale of Okegun Ladeseso, even as they noted that there was no community in the area known by such name. But Olamiji and Oba Salami said the area had been gazetted by the state government.
Meanwhile, other stakeholders in the community have not been quiet on the matter. On September 5, 2014, Prince Alade Ogunlana and Alhaji Taoreed Kazeem, on behalf of the Aladeseso Royal Ruling House, one of the ruling houses in Ibeju Lekki, fired a petition to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs about plans by the Onibeju to create a new community in the area and make Olamiji the head. The petition, “Complaint against the representation of one Mufutau Olamiji as the Baale of Okegun-Ladeseso, Ibeju-Lekki LGA, Lagos State,” was copied to the Committee on Chieftaincy Matters in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Fatai Mojeed, a member of the House, and the Speaker of the House.
While insisting that Olamiji was not a member of the ruling house neither did he belong in any of the three ruling houses in Ibeju-Lekki, the Aladeseso Ruling House, Abejoye Ruling House and Oniwolu Ruling House, the petitioners also clarified that Aladeseso was a ruling house, not a village with a baale. They said the two communities in Okegun were Okegun Odofin and Okegun School.
The petitioners said the action to install another Baale in the community had subjected the family to untold trauma and intimidation, adding that the lives of members of the family were in danger. The former commissioner received the letter on September 15, 2014, while the current commissioner got his copy on June 17, 2016.
The letter added: “The entire descendants and members of the Aladeseso ruling house of Ibeju-Lekki resolved that the said Mufutau Olamiji is not a member of our family and that there is no place in the entire Ibeju Lekki Kingdom known as Okegun Ladeseso, and that it will be a direct affront on us for someone to impersonate and use our family name to commit fraud. Hence, we submit that he is not qualified and thus request that the foregoing facts be investigated and the said Olamiji be told to stop parading himself forthwith as the Baale of the so-called Okegun Ladeseso.” The petition said the aggrieved family might seek redress in court.
On March 7, 2017, Ogunkoya and members of Okegun Odofin community petitioned the Lagos State House of Assembly. In the letter addressed to the Chairman, House Committee on Chieftaincy Affairs, the community’s lawyers, K.S. Kasaratu and Co., protested against the activities of the Onibeju. They refuted the monarch’s claim that as the paramount ruler of the area, he owned the land in the community and as such had the powers to choose the Baale.
The petition said Baale Ogunkoya had made several payments to the Onibeju on land sales within the Okegun Odofin community, as homage to the Ibeju monarch: “Our client made several payments to the Onibeju of Ibejuland, His Royal Majesty, Oba Rafiu Olusegun Salami, whenever any land was sold, as a way of paying homage to the paramount ruler within the Ibeju Lekki community. Can the owner of a parcel of land be given a paltry sum of money after the sale of his land? The answer is no.”
Head of the Ogunkoya family, Chief Wasiu Ogunkoya, said Oba Salami had not been fair to the community, accusing the monarch and the commissioner of intimidating the ruling family.
Elder brother to the Baale, Chief Shamsudeen Ogunkoya said the cause of the crisis was his refusal to connive with the Ibeju monarch to grab and sell plots of land in the area. He said his refusal caused him a lot of persecution, including arrest and detention as well as physical assault. He said he was also charged to court before Justice George Oguntade, who discharged him.
He alleged that the commissioner was victimising the Baale because he, Shamsudeen, the Baale’s brother, refused to join the commissioner to fight (the commissioner’s) younger brother.
“For over 537 years, since the establishment of Lekki, land grabbing never occurred until about seven years ago. There have been 18 Obas, and the current Onibeju-Lekki is the 19th Oba,” he explained.
However, Oba Salami dismissed the claims by the Ogunkoyas. He said he installed both Ogunkoya and Olamiji as baales of separate communities. In his words, the Ogunkoyas were “rascals who wanted to reap where they did not sow.”
He said: “The two Baales both wrote applications for an upgrade of their positions, meaning from Baale to Oba. Again, they 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 Obas in their respective zones. One thing remains certain, I am their father.
“Olamiji was my personal assistant, but he’s also my first cousin. My kingdom starts far from Abijo, before Ajah till a little beyond Akodo. My kingdom is almost one quarter of Lagos State. It’s about the biggest.
“The problem here is that the Ogunkoyas want to take total control of the land in Ibeju-Lekki and its environs. They want to lord themselves over the people. But the truth is, their fathers borrowed land for cassava-peasant farming from us.”
He also insisted that he had never sold a piece of land in the area since he was crowned 10 years ago. The monarch said the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs had nothing to do with the issue, noting that the crisis had been on before the appointment of the commissioner.
Olamiji countered that the Ogunkoyas were the ones creating tension in the area. He stressed that he was framed up by the Ogunkoyas, arrested and detained for days in the underground cell of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad. He said all the problems arose because the Ogunkoyas coveted the waterfront, which is close to the Lekki Free Trade Zone. He admitted that the Lagos State government approved his papers for an upgrade before Ogunkoya’s, and he pushed the papers through some top government functionaries.
Efforts to speak with the commissioner were unsuccessful, as he neither picked his calls nor replied his text messages.