Culture and tradition have deep roots in the lives of the people of Yorubaland. Not minding the global scramble to be part and parcel of a modern world where tradition and culture seem not to have a place, an upset or assault on the duo of tradition and culture has the tendency to throw the people into a state of nature. The state of nature, we are told by Thomas Hobbes, is a state where life was nasty, brutish and short. If you doubt this, cast your mind back to the event which happened in Ikire, Osun State on October 26, 2020. On that tragic day, irate citizens of the State of Osun showed their displeasure at the notice of appeal of the Supreme Court ruling which gave the Akire of Ikire, Oba Falabi, stay of execution of a judgment earlier delivered on April 11, 2014. The Supreme Court had ruled that the chieftaincy process that resulted in the nomination and selection of the Oba was not legal as the 1958 Akire Chieftaincy Declaration law was bypassed in the selection. The ruling seemed not to have an effect on the people as it was viewed as a mere declaration with no weight. However, with the ruling which granted the traditional ruler stay of execution, Ikire became one hell of a jungle, consumed by a war of attrition. Irate mob unleashed an attack on Oba Falabi and were reported to have chased him from the palace and forcefully sealing off the palace.
The Akire royal stool, which became vacant at the demise of the erstwhile Akire, Oba Oseni Oyegunle on August 5, 1987, seemed to have thereafter been primed fit for acrimony. After initial tussles, Oba Olatunde Falabi was installed on May 8, 1993. His installation was to later court crises. The Aketula family was the first in the Obaship rotational order. It also had the honour of being recognised by the 1958 Chieftancy Declaration of Ikire Town as the next ruling house to have its candidate mount the royal stool immediately after the fifth ruling house in the rotational order. The crisis also had the Omisokan ruling house which then proceeded to court and challenged Oba Falabi’s installation. The case became a long-drawn one, proceeding from the High Court and down to the Supreme Court. It was a tug of war which went bloody, riotous and capable of spelling doom for the community.
However, the moment Governor Adegboyega Oyetola stepped into it, extending the olive branch to the parties concerned, the ice of the crises melted immediately. The governor then proceeded to get the ruling families involved to reach a resolution and sign a joint agreement adjusting the rotational order of the traditional Obaship. The rotation pattern had earlier been established by the 1958 Akire Chieftaincy Declaration. This afforded the Aketula ruling house to produce an Obaship candidate whenever the Akire stool goes vacant and the occupant joins his forefathers.
Two other traditional stools were embroiled in same traditional and legal squabbles. Though they might not have generated the type of conflagration that the Akire stool did, their own cases too were the proverbial hen that perched on a tiny rope which inconvenienced both the rope and the hen. The stools were that of the Owaloko of Iloko-Ijesha in Oriade Local Government Area of the state and Elekusa of Ekusa in Odo- Otin Local Government Area. The squabbles had lingered for nine and eleven years respectively, leaving gore and violence in their wake and threatening the peace profile of the state.
The Iloko-Ijesa stool was indeed unique in its trading of bile. For the years it lasted, strife and battles were the order of the day. There were claims of repression and suppression. It was an atmosphere where people feared to announce their views, for fear of where the other person belonged in the schism. For six years that it lingered, the Rauf Aregbesola government literally went to sleep, leaving the people to stew in their broth. The then six-year kingship tussle was consuming the people’s joy, harvesting people’s lives surreptitiously and drastically nosedived the progress and communal growth of the ancient town. Like a Maradona, the ex-governor dribbled the people of Iloko-Ijesa and left the tussle unattended to. People knew that politics was at the basement of this governmental attempt to play ludo with the lives and peace of the people. Through the Ministry of Chieftaincy Matters, the government pretended as if the Iloko stool did not matter.
Now, fast-forward to the government of Governor Oyetola. With the magic wand of a God-given sagacity, he brought peace into the warring kingdom and got all the parties involved to sheathe their swords inside the scabbards. When he now appointed the Aloko, it was as if he had given cold water to the thirsty people of Iloko-Ijesa. This decision engendered an atmosphere of celebration and jubilation. Market women abandoned their wares and took to the streets to dance and youths, as well as aged ones, showed their genuine excitement at the decision.
There were other contentious traditional stools which lingered in chaos and lack of determination for years, until Governor Oyetola waded in. like the quintessential man of peace that he has become, in each of them, he brought peace and quiet into an otherwise chaotic environment.
Take for instance the Alapomu of Apomu Obaship tussle. After the passage of Oba Lasisi Afolabi of Ayeye ruling house, the vacancy in the stool engendered so many competitions, contradictions and altercations. Within this period, the question of who mounted the saddle became a raging issue in Apomu. There were muzzling and underground mudslinging; fussing and fighting. Again, the moment Oyetola decided to look into the crisis, the icy cold atmosphere gave way to peace. Carefully and methodically, it took the God-given sagacity of the governor to bring peace into the kingdom, leading to the installation of Oba Kayode Adenekan Afolabi of the Atoyebi ruling house, who was ratified as the new Alapomu with effect from March 6, 2020.
Again, let us take a look at the Apetumodu of Ipetumodu stool of Ife North. While anyone may say that the period of the pendency of the crisis surrounding the stool was a mere two years, the damage it did to social relations in the town was phenomenal. At the demise of His Royal Highness, Oba James Adedokun Adego (Akunradoye II) in November 2017, the community literally went in flames with people thrown into different camps. Expectedly, bile and acrimonies became the order of the day. The crises of two years tore the community apart, with things falling apart on a daily basis and the centre seemingly not being able to hold. Again, it took the intervention of Governor Oyetola, who stepped into the matter, met different sections of the agitations for the stool and peace began to reign in Ipetumodu. At the end of the day, Oba Joseph Gbenga Oloyede mounted the saddle of the Apetumodu on September 30, 2019.
The stool of the Alara of Ara in Egbedore local government was another communal feud that threatened the peaceful coexistence of the people of Osun State. the crisis again received the Midas touch of the peace-loving governor. The stool had become vacant at the demise of its erstwhile occupant, Oba Sumonu Omolaoye Ekundayo, Adumasi II. He had died in February, 2010, leaving a huge gap and a ball of acrimony among the contenders for his stool. Expectedly, the Ara community immediately went into a royal conflagration, with brickbats and quarrels flying in the sky. Brothers suddenly became sworn enemies and only God knows what damage individuals must have done to themselves in the process. The two ruling houses of Ajadi and Agbetusi spat fire into each other’s faces, even as they laid claims to the throne. Again, Governor Oyetola stepped in and peace enveloped the warring community. Thereafter, the governor ratified the appointment of Oba Adesola Olubayo Windapo Oyelade, Abidogun I, of the Ajadi ruling house, with effect from December 16, 2019. Since then, brothers have embraced brothers and peace has returned to Ara.
Now, there is the tendency to see these as inconsequential and wonder what a state governor’s job was if not to bring peace into contention. As valid as this may be, we must also not lose touch of the penchant of political powers to take sides in lingering disquiets, seeking political solutions to the tussles and thereby making them to assume larger and more deadly tendencies. Thus, if any political leader deploys God-given wisdom, sagacity and all the qualities of a peace-maker and eventually bringing about the much desired peace in their locality, the most desirable thing is to give them kudos and acknowledge their proven initiatives.
This becomes of note when compared to the conflagration that Osun was before Oyetola mounted the governmental saddle. Violence became the order of the day in the state. coloured by political affiliations, government took sides in disagreements, leading to a state that was on the verge of implosion. The people of Osun, now armed with the ability to compare, know what it means to have a peaceful and peace-loving governor.
Now, if anyone thought the peaceful inclination of Governor Oyetola was a happenstance in the above scenarios, a further peep into how he has been able to engender peace and resolution of crises wherever they occurred would prove any doubting Thomas wrong. As we know, Obaship tussles have been in existence since time immemorial. They have become part and parcel of the narratives of the palace. What however is not said is that such tussles, in time past, have consumed so many people due to the acrimony that it threw up. Apart from the physical tussles, there are said to be spiritual combats as well, all of which do not augur well for peaceful coexistence of a community or the state in general.
The level of toxicity associated with kingship tussle can only be imagined. In sustaining peace and the harmonious relationships within palaces, it’s no gainsaying that Osun has never had it this good. Thanks to the deft and steady hands of the bridge builder – Gov Adegboyega Oyetola.
• Iwalaye is an Ikirun, Osun State- based legal practitioner.