Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The race to occupy the throne of the Olowo of Owo in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State gathers momentum as the three ruling families in the town intensify their efforts to occupy the stool that became vacant last month following the demise of Oba Victor Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi.
Overt manoeuvrings by different ruling families in the last two weeks have lent momentum to the development and raised public expectation with various interest groups increasingly showing interest in who becomes the next traditional ruler of the town. This is even as the kingmakers, who have the traditional and constitutional right to select the traditional ruler of the town, narrowed the contest down to only one ruling house.
One ruling house, three royal lineages
According to the history of the town, Elewuokun is the only ruling house in Owo town. Within the ruling house, however, are three lineages––Ogunoye, Ajike and Olateru-Ogbagbeji––with legitimate claim to the throne. Going by history, the three lineages had produced Olowo of Owo at different times but the Olateru-Olagbegis had produced more than the other two lineages, hence the insistence of Ogunoye and the clamour by some prominent indigenes of the town to ensure that the next traditional ruler of Owo emerges from Ogunoye ruling family, which so far has produced the least number of Olowo.
Recently, Oba Kofoworola Oladoyinbo, the Ojomo Oluda of Ijebuowo, disclosed that the Elewuokun ruling house is the next family to produce the next Olowo of Owo, stressing that the process of selecting the traditional ruler is not political and warned against political interference on the matter.
The contest, he stated, is opened to all qualified and interested princes of the Elewuokun family. The process of selecting a traditional ruler in the town was simple and clearly defined by the tradition and culture of the town, he said.
He promised that the kingmakers would not compromise the standard already laid down by the traditions of the town.
The rationale for N25, 000 nomination form
The head of the kingmakers’ council also advised all candidates interested in the throne to obtain a nomination form from the secretariat of the Agba Omo Olowo, located at the palace of Olowo. This development was queried by some observers and indigenes of the town who described it as strange and out of sync with tradition. Oba Oladoyinbo, however, clarified: “We have made the cost affordable at a modest fee of N25,000 so as to provide a level-playing ground for all the princes.”
He stated further: “It is not a political issue, and the selection process is being handled by experienced, responsible and incorruptible members of the Ogho royal family. We are bound by the extant declaration and laws of Ondo State. We shall also seek the assistance of our spiritual fathers in accordance with normal Yoruba practice.”
The Ojomo Oluda of Ijebuowo, however, appealed to all the people of the town and Nigerians to support them at ensuring that the best person emerges as next Olowo of Owo. “We are shopping for an Oba who will be an inspiration to our people irrespective of their religious, personal or political inclinations, we are hoping for an Oba who will be a bridge builder in Ondo State. We hope to get an Olowo who will make Owo great again,” he said.
Caution against political interference
One of the senior Omo-Olowos, Chief Jamiu Ekungba, in an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun also corroborated the statement by the leader of the kingmakers. “We only have Elewuokun ruling house in Owo, no other one. Nobody can divide it,” he said. “We will not allow politicians, media or anybody to divide it, it is an indivisible ruling house in Owo.”
He avowed further: “Owo is unique when it comes to an issue like this. It is different from other towns in Yoruba land and we don’t allow external forces to influence us because we will not accept that and that is why we said there is no town like Owo in Yoruba land.”
He continued: “Besides, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is from this town; he understands the culture and traditions in Owo and he has promised not to interfere or get himself involved in the process. He has said it in the media and we have begged all politicians that came to commiserate with us during the late monarch’s transition to steer clear and allow people to do it the way it should be done, and if they do that, things will move on smoothly. There won’t be any rancour, crisis or problem; we don’t want that to happen in Owo.”
On the process of selecting a new traditional ruler for the town, Ekungba stated: “God gives the crown to whoever He wants. We won’t allow anyone that doesn’t understand our culture to be the king. We will check all the particulars of all the contestants, after that we will consult Ifa oracle, imams and pastors. Then we will aggregate and tell the Agba Omo-olowo that this is the result, that people should go and vote, and when that day comes, we will invite the local government and the media to witness it.”
He entreated the media, especially social media operators to stay away from needless speculations. “If anybody needs clarification or any questions, such person should come to Owo to confirm from appropriate quarters,” he said while also declaring that the people of Owo are hoping to have a fair process “because we want a traditional ruler that will start from where Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi stopped in term of development.”
Why the stake is high
The stake for the throne of Olowo is unusually high due to the historic importance of Owo town, which according to historians occupies an important place in the politics, history and tradition of the Yoruba nation. The ancient town has a pride of place in the Yoruba-speaking southwest geopolitical zone of Nigeria as the birthplace of the politics of the Yoruba nation.
Owo town was the birthplace of Action Group in 1951, the Western region political party founded by the late sage and political icon, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
In addition, the town has a great historical and traditional heritage with a strong affinity to Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba race.
On the strength of these and other salient points, the Olowo of Owo occupies vital positions in Yorubaland and beyond, nationally and internationally.
The late Olowo was the Chairman, Ondo State Council of Traditional Rulers and also the Chancellor of the University of Abuja. These are the underlying factors responsible for the keen contest that usually ensues anytime the stool of Olowo of Owo is vacant.
The emerging contestants
Latest developments in the town indicate that the three ruling families now meet regularly and are mobilizing support for their respective candidates. The families reportedly engage in intensive lobbying to ensure that their candidates emerge the next traditional ruler of the town.
Presently, the contest is a two-family race. According to Saturday Sun findings show that both the Ogunoye and Olateru-Olagbegi ruling families have met and have expressed their desire to present candidates for the vacant stool. While the Ogunoye family has reportedly concluded on presenting Prince Bade Ogunoye, a Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ondo State Civil Service, the Olateru-Olagbegi were said to have settled for Justice Adesuyi Olateru-Olagbegi, a retired jurist.
However, while the Olateru-Olagbegi speaks with one voice, the Ogunoye ruling house appears to be divided as a group within the family affirmed that the name of Prince Bade Ogunoye was the only one the family is presenting while another group claimed the family may present other names.
Nonetheless, there is no indication yet that another candidate will be presented by the Ogunoye family aside Bade, whose name, Saturday Sun learnt, has already been submitted to the kingmakers as the family’s candidate.
A member of the Ogunoye family who preferred anonymity disclosed that the head of the family will formally address a press conference next week on the position of the family for the vacant stool of the Olowo of Owo. Another source within the family told Saturday Sun efforts are in top gear to appease other interested persons within the family to step down for Bade Ogunoye, who is not just the family’s preferred choice but is also very popular with the majority of the family and indigenes of the town.