For sometime now, ltele, a community in Ogun State, has been thrown into deep crisis over the ownership of vast plots of land in the area.
There have been accusations and counter-accusations from different quarters. The lingering differences even led to legal cases. Lives have also been lost in the past to the dispute.
Peace appears to have evaded the community. Every indigene involved in the matter is claiming to be the rightful owner to the tract of land. Despite all efforts by concerned members of the warring factions to find a lasting solution to the logjam, the bickering has continued.
Some of the protesters had accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of aiding a kinsman, Ibrahim Akanle, to intimidate those who have interest in the said land. A report in the Daily Sun of Tuesday, March 17, 2020 had accused Akanle of causing a crisis in the area. Some persons who claimed to be from the community alleged that Akanle had threatened to use security agents to frame members of their family with trumped-up charges.
But members of the Akapo family have refuted the allegations. Speaking on behalf of Itele Indigenes Forum in Itele-Otta, Awori Kingdom, Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, they said there was no land dispute between the family and the former President.
Monday, one of the sons of late Chief Oluwole Akapo and the current head of the Akapo family, said one of the persons claiming the land and causing confusion in Itele was not a member of the family.
“Chief Obasanjo is only interested in peace to reign in this community. But the man who claims to be Akapo’s son is not the biological son of Akapo. His father is Jacob. He is a grandchild of Akapo. He is from Ajibawo and not Itele. His mother is Akapo’s daughter. Unfortunately, some persons are backing him.
“We have made several attempts and even published a disclaimer in the media on these persons. At some point, we were at Sango Area Command. It was on record when our late father, Oluwole Akapo, was making efforts moving up and down to end the crisis on this land.”
The Oluomo of Itele, Alhaji Kazeem Ajiboye, said Obasanjo’s intervention had brought relative peace to the area.
“For peace to reign, we mooted the idea that the two families should come together as one, hence we have this umbrella body called Itele Indigenes Association,” he said. “All of us came together as one but these other people have refused to let peace reign. They went to court and lost. They even appealed the judgment and they lost.
“Akanle and his wife have no land here. They don’t even know this place, but these people feel the public will listen to them by cooking up stories of strange happenings.
“Two months ago, they wrote a letter and lied that it was from the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II. They took it to Obasanjo that he should forgo 500 acres out of his land, which he declined. That is where their crisis started with Akanle who told them that they wouldn’t get a foot from the land. He said even if Obasanjo was going to consider them, it should be the entire community, not just four persons.
“The entire community sold the land to Obasanjo since 1984 and there are legal documents to that effect. Let the Ogun State government come to our rescue from the hands of this group of persons fomenting trouble in our community,” he said.
Another member of the family, Bamisebi Taofeek, said: “My father was the third signatory to the document that backed the sale of the land to Obasanjo. He was Bamisebi Aminu. He was the Balogun of Itele. I can’t deny them but if they want something, it is advisable they come back home so we can work together as one.
“The community has lost lots of people in the past over this crisis. We don’t want a repeat of such again. Look at our road; very bad. We cannot boast of any tangible infrastructure done the government in our community.”
Chairman of the forum, Chief Wakilu Owotolu, said some disgruntled elements in the community, out of selfish and personal interests, were out to drag the family’s name in the mud.
Those accusing Obasanjo and Akanle had also alleged that Owotolu and his family members, who were also laying claim to the land, were strangers with no claim to the land in question.
But Owotolu noted that some persons in the community had approached Obasanjo to give them 500 acres from his expanse of land, a request the former president turned down.
Owotolu accused the other party of scaring prospective investors away from the community through their actions. He stressed that his family would not fold its arms and allow a few people to sow discord between them and the former President.
“We, the family of late Chief Jimoh Oluwole Akapo hereby irrevocably pledge our loyalty and commitment to Chief Obasanjo and Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited. We have never challenged his title over the parcels of land that were legitimately sold to him,” he noted.
He explained more: “This land belongs to Itele and the portion in question is that of Iluwo. Those that wrote in the media that Baba Akanle encroached on their land are not from Iluwo and if they claim to be so, let them come out in the open and explain to the public. They are the ones fighting the community; we are not fighting anybody.
“We desire growth, progress and peace in Itele. And on the past crisis, we don’t want a reoccurrence because it was a terrible situation, and I pray we will never experience such again. Let all sons and daughters of this land at home and abroad sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign. We no longer want shedding of blood in this land. And those at war with us, we pray God should touch their hearts for peace to reign.
“Neither President Obasanjo nor Baba Akanle is fighting anybody. The land belongs to Obasanjo. The man bought the acres of land legally, not that he encroached on it or grabbed it from us. Akanle and his wife have no land here, those were mere allegations. To set the record straight, we have all gone to Obasanjo together with them and Akanle and we all signed a peace agreement that there won’t be any trouble on Iteleland again.”
He said it was surprising that, after the peace meeting, some persons were still hell-bent on going to court. He stated that the community would overcome the crisis and those fomenting trouble would have themselves to blame, even as he insisted that the gods of the land would bring justice.
“It is Obasanjo himself and Akanle that even advised that we have a Baale for Iteleland for peace to reign. They said after the selection of Baale, we could then have an Oba for the town. As Baale, we already have for all the units and are waiting patiently to choose an Oba. If the other people are aggrieved or confused about the whole issue, then let them go to Obasanjo to make their findings,” he said.
Owotolu denied the allegation that some of his own people were using Obasanjo’s influence to harass and inflict pains on the other party.
His words: “They are lies from the pit of hell. We are all on this land together. We live here together. Nobody is using either Obasanjo or Akanle’s influence to torment or intimidate them. This Akanle that is being accused had once given them a huge sum of money when they went to him. Similarly, Obasanjo once gave them money too. And there was an undertaking, which we all signed to, that there would no longer be trouble in this land and that we would live in peace with one another. There was also a promise not to encroach or grab any part of Obasanjo’s land. But their current action is baffling to all of us.
“We gather as sons and daughters of Itele. It was during one of those meetings that we were advised to have Baales and we were all present on the day of choosing the Baales. However, they came over with another plan on that day by withdrawing their interest.
“We all belong here but the land in contention is that of Ilewo and I am one of the strong members of that society. They don’t have a right to the said land.”
When asked why he was holding meetings with those he claimed had no right over the land, he explained that the people met over Iteleland generally, which comprises so many units. He insisted that the other party had no claim to the particular land in contention.z