Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Brickbats, claims, counterclaims are still being traded between the Osun State paramount ruler, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, the Oluwo of Iwo and a fellow traditional ruler, Oba Dikhrulahi Akinropo, the Agbowu of Ogbaagbaa. This followed last weekend’s alleged punching of Oba Akinropo by the Oluwo, during a peace meeting in the office of Bashir Makama, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone IX, Police Headquarters, Abere, Osogbo. It had residents of Osogbo reeling in a big shock when the news filtered out.
The AIG had summoned the traditional rulers from Ayedire, Olaoluwa, and Iwo, the three local government areas in Iwo land to the meeting to resolve a lingering controversy over alleged land grabbing and sales by some traditional rulers, a development that did not go down well with the Oluwo who gave them the crowns to be in charge of the domains where acres and hectares of land are said to be allegedly grabbed and sold cheaply and indiscriminately at the expense of the owners.
Saturday Sun gathered that in the middle of the meeting, there was an altercation between Oluwo and Agbowu when the former allegedly rose from his seat and descended on the latter with a punch which later landed him in hospital. Piqued by the development, one of the traditional rulers and monarch of Ile-Ogbo, Oba Agbaje Adetoyese, accused Oluwo of threatening other monarchs at the meeting after the unfortunate incident.
He said: “This is indeed a beastly conduct that is highly unbecoming of an ordinary individual let alone a royal father. How could a monarch of Oluwo status descend so low to the level of physically assaulting another king in the presence of AIG? This is strange, to say the least. He just stood up from where he was sitting without any provocation and started beating a revered monarch from Ogbaagba; it was the AIG himself that rescued the monarch from him.”
Oluwo denies beating Oba
It is a lie, Oluwo, said, while stating his own side of the matter. He debunked the allegation of beating or punching. According to him, the Agbowu pointed his staff of office at his face and attempted to stick it into his eyes. And, this was what prompted him to defend himself.
Three days later, scores of protesters from the three local government areas (Olaoluwa, Iwo and Ayedire) staged a peaceful protest on the streets of Osogbo and at the government secretariat, demanding Oluwo’s suspension. Reacting to the development, the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Funke Egbemode, in a statement, expressed government’s disappointment and called for peace. She, however, assured that the Osun Council of Traditional Rulers would wade into the matter and resolve it amicably.
Angered by the allegation against the Oluwo and the clamour for his suspension, hundreds of supporters, indigenes of Iwo and Ogbaagbaa which monarch was reportedly assaulted, on Tuesday staged a solidarity walk for Oluwo on the streets of Iwo Town and later terminated it at his palace. They absolved the Oluwo of any blame and claimed that he was fighting for their right. They corroborated the Oluwo’s claim that the traditional rulers have actually been grabbing and selling their land and leaving them in abject poverty.
My grouse with the Obas – Oluwo
Oluwo is happy to hear that. “I did not punch Agbowu,” he insists while giving explanations on what he described as widespread land grabbing and sale among the traditional rulers. “I’m only fighting corruption in a traditional way. For those, who care to know the background of the Agbowu of Ogbaagbaa’s arrogant attitude at the AIG zone IX peace meeting, I have decided to break my silence. What played out at the peace meeting was a gang-up to twist my hands backward and prevent me from defending these poor people they have continued to oppress with impunity. It was a case of the oppressor fighting back against the defender of the oppressed, their victims. In the course of the meeting, the Ologbaagbaa tried to play out their orchestrated plan when he tried to poke his walking stick into my eyes and I quickly responded to prevent him from achieving their plan, of turning me to a blind king. These monarchs are lording themselves over their subjects, taking their family lands and selling their inheritance with impunity. They have gone as far as arresting and imprisoning anyone in these families, who try to obstruct them from selling their heritage.”
He disclosed that his palace has continued to be inundated by complaints of how their innocent subjects are sent to prison “because these monarchs do influence cases against their people through their accomplices. I found their complaints and protests to be true after I had carried out my own personal investigations. I am disappointed when most Nigerians allow sentiments to override their sense of reasoning and hail bad leaders. But I have vowed to continuously fight corruption in the traditional system just like President Buhari is fighting political corruption.
“In doing so, I have decided to turn deaf ears to critics. I feel bad about the strong oppressing the weak and the vulnerable in society because I always feel the pains of the people. Most disgusting is that, these monarchs have employed thugs to protect illegally acquired land sold to speculators. The thugs are paid with proceeds from the land. Of my greatest worry is the amount they sell the land, imagine a standard acre of eight plots being sold for N60, 000.
“Many family lands with ancient cash crop trees such as cocoa, palm trees, oranges, plantains, etc are sold and uprooted without the consent of the family owning the land. Many families have been rendered ineffective; many orphans had their heritage (land) grabbed with no compensation. Many cried to my palace seeking justice. Ask them. I do invite them for mediation with their victims but they refused to change. They went as far as saying that land is part of their luxuries (awon fi n d’ola ni).”
At this juncture, he queried: “Are they kings to alleviate or inflict hardship on their subjects? Before man and God, I have invited these monarchs to my palace more than 10 times and appealed to them to protect the future of their children by halting the frequent and indiscriminate land sale. It was like my admonition was spurring them to sell more and more. They care less, and were recruiting touts to unleash mayhem on their subjects. I once told them that only a hopeless father who believes that none of his children will grow to greatness sells land that his children may use to build companies tomorrow. Kings should not be tyrants, feeding fat on their oppressed subjects. Kings can sell their personal land at will but not hijacking and grabbing their subjects’ property with no respect to their dignity.
“I have told them that I cannot stand here and watch them oppress our people. I am human and I feel the pains of their victims. Anyone doing such will not be forgiven by the destiny of the affected families. Honestly, it is heartbreaking, mind-bugging and ironical of the function expected of responsible traditional rulers. The target of these kings is the poor who have no one to fight their battles for them but God and whoever God sends to do so. The police in my area are tired of their regular and myriads of daily complaints. My critics may refuse to listen. I leave everyone to God, our creator. For me, I have forgiven those who are criticising me. But henceforth, if you still castigate me, I pray your generations will live to fall victims of what many families have experienced from these Obas. God will spare you and your relatives to have a taste of such hopeless they have subjected their subjects to.”
The truth about the controversial punching
Still speaking on the controversial punching, he explains: “I stand to assist the innocent victims and one of the culpable kings still stood against me and wanted to stick his staff of office into my eyes and you say I should not defend myself? Haba, God will judge us accordingly. Any king that doesn’t have a job should leave the palace and stop selling our lands for peanuts. That’s why it’s a bad idea to install poor people who don’t have the pedigree, work, and business as kings. They only see the selling of ancestral lands as their business. What they did to His Imperial Majesty, Oba Asiru Olatubosun Tadese, they can’t and they should never try such with Telu 1. I am your nemesis.”
Boiling with anger, he placed a curse on himself: “If all that I am fighting for is personal, God should remove the crown from my head. I have no interest in taking any land in my domain as against those peddling lies against me but to protect the helpless subjects were subjected to hardship and harrowing experiences by these Obas.”
Asked for his reaction on the clamour for his deposition, he said: “This ignominious attitude can’t stand anymore. Those calling for my removal henceforth will meet their waterloo as done to the victims of land grabbers. It is disappointing to note that most of these critics are the children of the poor I am defending. I am not moved at all as much as God sees me.”
Finally, he called on the government to intervene by stopping the traditional rulers from grabbing and selling their subjects’ lands. “I want to charge the government to intervene before these kings impoverish innocent people under them,” he said. “They should conduct thorough investigations on the numbers of land cases these kings have in the court. I am ashamed that the affected kings go to court almost every day on land matters with the crown I gave to them. The government should visit the grassroots to see the havoc they have wrecked on the future generations. As a human being with conscience, it is a complete irony of duty expected from the crown, which I humbly represent.”
Olu of Ile-Ogbo reacts, debunks Oluwo’s claims
But the Obas with whom he is in disagreement insist that he is being economical with the truth. Weighing in on the matter, the monarch of Ile-Ogbo, Oba Agbaje Adetoyese debunked claims by Oluwo that the traditional rulers are selling their subjects’ lands with reckless abandon. Though he admitted that the Obas sell lands, those lands, he add, belong to them and their families. He stressed that everybody has the right to do whatever they like with their property. He added that the lands being sold by the owners and their families are their ancestral property and do not belong to Iwo nor the Oluwo.
His words: “I have the right to sell my family lands. Oluwo has no control over that, says Olu of Ile-Ogbo. Under the Yoruba land tenure system, it is the families that own the lands and not Oba. An Oba can only lay claim to stool lands, but not family lands. It is therefore illegal for Oba Abdulrosheed Adewale Akanbi to seek to appropriate all families and stool lands in Iwo. I have all the documents of my family lands in my custody. I have the right to do whatever I like with them inasmuch as my family members agree with me as their head.”
He further argued that the fact that Oluwo is the chairman of the Council of Traditional Rulers in Iwo land did not mean that he has authority over family lands. “He is not our master,” he said. “He is only the chairman of the Council of Traditional Rulers in Iwo land which comprises Ayedire, Olaoluwa, and Iwo Local Government Areas. His palace is only being used as a meeting point for us the Obas within these areas. But that does not mean that he is the head of our families. I am from Oyo and my father is Alaafin. So, Oluwo cannot have authority over my father’s land. I am selling my father’s land at Ahoro, Ati Okejoye, Ile-Ogbo. We have five ruling houses in Ile-Ogbo. We all agreed to sell our lands to bring development to our people. We also use the proceeds to assist the needy.” He cited a church, private secondary school, petrol stations among others as pieces of evidence of the development which parts of the lands sold were used for.
He continued: “There is a boundary between us and Iwo. It was a Supreme Court judgement that gave the boundary many years ago. Since then, we don’t invade each other’s lands. By right of ownership, I gave about 1,000 acres of land to the Oyo State Government when the late Bola Ige was the governor. The land now belongs to the Osun State and there has been no controversy. So, how can Oluwo come and challenge traditional rulers from selling their fathers’ lands? If he has any problem with that, he should go to court but not beating up a fellow Oba.”
On what he sees as a sacrilege, he insisted that Oluwo should be punished. “On February 16, 2020, after the deadlocked peace meeting, a cross-section of Council of Traditional Rulers, Iwo land, held a meeting and resolved that Governor Gboyega Oyetola should suspend Adewale Akanbi as the Oluwo and as the chairman of the council,” he said. “The police should be encouraged to conclude their investigations and arraign Oba Akanbi in the court immediately. The government should create a separate council of traditional rulers for Ayedire and Olaoluwa local government areas for peace to reign.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The interview with Oluwo was done before his suspension and the order placed on him not to talk to the press.