Justuce ‘Demola Bakre (retd) is a prince from the Egiri Ruling House, whose turn it is to produce Agura of Gbagura, in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The last Agura, Oba Halidu Laloko, Sobekun II, joined his ancestors in July 2018, at age 78, after a 38-year reign.
Gbagura, is the homestead of the late business mogul, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. His late wife, Simbiat and the first Nigerian woman to own a motor car, Madam Efunroye Tinubu, among others also hailed from the area.
Bakre, 87, told Daily Sun why a new Agura has not emerged and the efforts of the royal house at ensuring that peace and tranquility reign during and after the emergence of a new Agura.
What is the procedure for electing a new Agura of Gbagura?
The procedure is very simple. Normally when the state government has been officially informed of the demise of Agura, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs will write back to the family telling them the next ruling house. The government, through the commissioner will also inform the royal house to forward to the government candidate or candidates.
Unfortunately, government has not done so up till now. Although when we were mourning, the commissioner in charge of chieftaincy affairs visited us, but we have not got anything in writing, at least not to my knowledge.
As a royal family, we have met and we have got about 17 applicants who are interested in the exalted position. Even those who are not really from the Egiri Ruling House have also applied. The kingmakers will sort that out, because it is their responsibility to sieve the shaft from the grain.
How many kingmakers do you have in Gbagura?
We should have 12 of them, but unfortunately only five of them are alive now. I am sure they are ready to pick a new Agura, but unfortunately that procedure is being delayed by government.
Since the Chieftaincy Title Law recognises 12 kingmakers and only five of them are alive now, are you likely to have warrant chiefs to join the kingmakers to make up the official figure?
No, I don’t think so. The issue of warrant chiefs is an aberration. If kingmakers are more than one, they should be able to take decision about who becomes the next Agura.
I am of the opinion that if you make appointment of warrant chiefs during interregnum, such an action will be subjective and it gives room for corruption and partiality. So those kingmakers who are alive are the ones to take decision on electing the next Agura.
When will the procedure of picking new Agura commence?
As soon as government writes us, we should then send name or names of candidate or candidates from our royal house. We are ready, we are waiting for government to kick-start that by formally writing us.
Have you officially informed government about the demise of the Agura?
Yes, we have informed government. They are aware of the demise of the last Agura,, Oba Halidu Laloko, Sobekun II. It is for them to write back informing the community officially of the next ruling house which should bring candidate or candidates to occupy the exalted throne.
If the government has not written you officially and you have started meeting, are you not running foul of the chieftaincy law?
No, we are not contradicting any law, but rather, our meeting is to get ready so that anytime the government writes us officially we should not be taken unaware. Once government informs us officially, I can assure you that within 14 days, we should select a candidate for the stool. Our meeting is not contradicting the law, but rather we are pre-empting and there is nothing bad about that.
Can you give a list of those who have expressed interest in the vacant stool?
I don’t want to task my brain, but we have about 17 names already among who qualified and those that are not qualified. They have all applied and we have no right to drop their names except they step down. All their names will be sent to the kingmakers who will sieve the shaft from the gains.
Who is the head of the Egiri Ruling House?
My brother was the Olotu before his demise and there has not been any replacement. But in term of age, from the male line, I am the oldest now. Someone from the female line has also shown up, but I am not contesting with him, even though he is older than me, but I am not contesting with him or anyone.
I just know that when occasion arises, we will know who is who. We are anxiously waiting on government to fast track the process of electing a new Agura for us.