Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Scores of market leaders, traditional chiefs, youths and members of the Sango-Ota community in Ogun State, yesterday protested what they termed the “illegal suspension and attempted removal” of the Babaloja of the popular Sango-Ota Market, Shakiru Olasege by the Olota of Ota, Oba Abdul-Kabir Obalanlege.
The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions and walked through the main market and adjoining streets, chanted songs disparaging the Olota and declared that the monarch has no authority over the market.
They claimed that only the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo could remove the Babaloja.
The Olota had, via a letter, dated July 25, suspended the Babaloja over alleged “flagrant disrespect to our culture in Aworiland and Yorubaland” and appointed one Wale Akilo, the Baale of Sango-Ota, to oversee all activities relating to the office of the market leader.
But the protesters yesterday moved from stall to stall in the market, affirming that Olasege remained the Babaloja and told traders in the market to discountenance any information or directive to the contrary.
The embattled Babaloja, while speaking with newsmen after the procession, declared that he was still the authentic leader of the market, stressing that he had already notified the security agencies of moves to cause a breach of peace in the market.
He said: “We learnt some people came on Monday from Ota, that is another town from Sango, and introduced another Babaloja to this market. This is wrong. The person they introduced is illegal. We want the government to look into our affairs. They should not let the matter go overboard.”
Speaking in the same vein, the market youth leader, Ali Ismail, declared that the youths were ready to resist any form of imposition in the market leadership.
“We are appealing to the state and local governments to intervene so that Sango can be peaceful. We have our own Babaloja in Sango. We don’t want a crisis,” Ismail said.
In his reaction yesterday, the Olota described those protesting the Babaloja’s suspension as parasites who were only collecting money illegally from traders at the market.
According to the monarch, Olasege failed to honour his invitation three times following allegations of harassment levelled against him by some traders, hence his suspension till further notice.
“The Babaloja does not sell anything in the market. He is just a parasite collecting money illegally from the market women and men. And I suspended him because there was a report of harassment made to the palace.
“I invited him three times, and he failed to turn up, claiming his allegiance is to the Alake and to one Adebayo Oluwagbohun, the man parading himself illegally as Onisango. And we don’t have Onisango in Aworiland.
“This Babaloja was installed by the Olota and Olota has the right to suspend him pending when we investigate what happened.
“The Babaloja and his cronies must appear in the palace. I want to hear their own side of the story. Failure to do that, necessary disciplinary action will be taken against them.”
It was gathered that the Police Area Commander in Ota had deployed policemen to forestall a breakdown of law and order in the market and the town in general.