Some communities across Osun State where new monarchs were installed by the immediate past governor Adegboyega Oyetola have been witnessing unrest leading to loss of at least one life and destruction of valuables.
After losing his re-election bid at the July 16 Osun State governorship poll, Oyetola appeared to have raced against time to clear his table of several matters that had been begging his attention.
Apparently, the issues of towns with vacant stools were among those pending issues that the former governor had to dispense with as his administration winded down.
As part of his parting gifts, the governor appointed traditional rulers to fill the vacant traditional stools of Ikirun, Iree and Igbajo.
But things haven’t been calm in these towns as contending parties laying claim to the traditional stools have been issuing threats against one and another and resorting to protests, which in some cases turned violent.
For instance, the installation of a new monarch in Ikirun threw the town into a crisis, following a protest to challenge the choice of the governor.
During the protest, five people were shot as the protesters clashed with the police operatives deployed to maintain law and order.
Oyetola, on November 27, 2022, handed over to the new state governor, Ademola Adeleke.
The new governor had hardly settled into office when he issued an Executive Order suspending the new monarchs appointed by Oyetola for Ikirun, Iree and Igbajo towns.
The governor ordered the new traditional rulers to vacate the palaces pending a review of the processes that led to their emergence.
Findings by Sunday PUNCH showed that the Executive Order issued by the new governor suspending the monarchs was predicated upon complaints he had received from parties opposed to the emergence of the persons that Oyetola installed as traditional rulers in those towns.
For instance, the stool of Akinrun of Ikirun, one of the nine biggest towns in Osun State, had been a subject of bitter tussle since the process started. So, it was not surprising when protest greeted the appointment of Prince Olalekan Akadiri from Obaara Ruling House as the new Akinrun of Ikirun.
Findings revealed that Akadiri enjoys the backing of powerful forces in Oyetola’s government.
The powerful forces were said to have influenced his choice and ensured that he was appointed and handed the staff of office before the expiration of Oyetola’s tenure in office.
But Akadiri’s appointment has been stiffly opposed by members of the Gboleru Ruling House, who have insisted that that it was their turn to produce the next Akinrun of Ikirun.
Akadiri hails from Obaara Ruling House, which produced the late Oba Lawali Adeyemi, the Akinrun that reigned before the immediate-past Oba Rauf Adedeji.
Following Oyetola’s decision to pick Akadiri, members of the Gboleru Ruling House took to the streets in protest. They would not allow the slot to slip off its hands without putting up a challenge.
In the ensuing chaos, aggrieved parties reportedly scaled the perimeter fence of the Akinrun’s palace and set the sprawling edifice on fire.
The men of the Osun State Fire Service who responded to a distress call were resisted. The firemen were beaten, with five of them injured and the fire truck was damaged. Amid the melee, charms were brandished while gunshots rented the air, sending people running helter-skelter.
By the time the dust settled, a lifeless body, later identified as Lukman Olatunji, a prince from the Gboleru Ruling House, was lying close to Akinrun’s palace gate. The prince was hit by a bullet in the head.
Two police operatives also reportedly sustained gunshots injuries.
Whereas there appeared to be a consensus that it was the turn of the Gboleru Ruling House to produce the next Akinrun, internal tussle or in-fighting among princes in the ruling house had not allowed Gboleru Ruling House to come up with a candidate consensus candidate to be presented to ex-governor Oyetola for appointment as Akinrun.
The wrangling became a subject of litigation and Justice Jide Falola of an Osun State High Court, sitting in Osogbo, in a judgment, directed the government to proceed to the next ruling house to pick the next Akinrun, following the failure of Gboleru Ruling House to produce a candidate within a specific time frame.
The government, exploring the judgment, moved to Obaara Ruling House from where Akadiri was chosen.
But even the kingmakers were divided over Akadiri’s choice.
While six other kingmakers backed Akadiri, the Eesa of Ikirun, who is the head of kingmakers, Chief Lawal Kareem, insisted that the process was manipulated.
But defending government’s decision, then Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Funke Egbemode, insisted that the Oyetola administration “followed a court order by Justice Jide Falola of Osogbo High Court.”
Despite being ordered to step aside as the Akinrun of Ikirun, the new monarch, Akadiri, told our correspondent that there was no cause of alarm.
He insisted that his emergence was grounded in law and due process and even though he was stepping aside as ordered by the new government, he was confident of returning to the stool after a review of his appointment by Governor Ademola.
He said, “I don’t have issue with the fact that the government wants to set up a committee to review the process. The process that threw me up to become a king is intact and I don’t think I have manipulated anything.
“I have ordered the chiefs to move out of the palace to allow the government do their job,” Akadiri said.
The situation in Igbajo is similar to what is playing out in Ikirun.
The immediate-past governor, in the twilight of his administration, picked and installed the then Chairman of the Osun State All Progressives Congress, ‘Gboyega Famodun, as the new Owa of Igbajo.
The choice of Famodun hardly came as a surprise to many but it was met with stiff opposition, which has seen Igbajo embroiled in crisis.
Soon as the Owa Oke Ode Ruling House, where Famodun hails from, announced that he was their consensus candidate for the throne, some aggrieved princes and community members began a series of protest marches even to Osogbo, the state capital.
They raised concerns over the plan to instal the APC leader as monarch, saying it should be anyone else but Famodun.
Famodun’s father, the late Oba Adelani Famoodun, was the Owa of Igbajo that reigned before the immediate past occupier of the stool, Oba Olufemi Fasade.
The protesters, carrying placards with inscriptions such as, ‘Don’t impose anyone on us,’ ‘Igbajo is a peaceful town, don’t set it on fire,’ We don’t want imposition in Igbajo,’ among others, insisted that crises may erupt, should government proceed with its plans to install Famoodun.
Speaking with newsmen at the scene of one of the protests, Prince Gbenga Akande from Akeran Ruling House alleged that ancient crowns of the town had been evacuated from where they were kept.
According to him, the crowns were evacuated as part of a grand plot to install a government-backed candidate as Owa.
He said, “Igbajo traditional crowns are missing and the remaining things that are supposed to be at Baba Looye’s house are not there. They kept them in the custody of one of the candidates.
“When the late king passed on, the traditional crown alongside other things used by the late king was supposed to be kept in Baba Looye’s house but instead of doing that, they took it to the house of a candidate they intend to impose on the community.”
Also during the protest, a traditional chief in the community, Logudo of Igbajo, Aderemi Adeife, advised against imposition of candidate on the community to avert a crisis.
Apart from opposition from his home front, Famodun’s choice was also opposed by supporters of former governor Rauf Aregbesola, who felt Famodun’s handling of the crises that rocked the APC prior to the emergence of Oyetola as the governorship candidate in February this year, left much to be desired.
He was also opposed by many supporters of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
But the multi-level oppositions were not enough to deter Oyetola from going ahead to instal Famodun as the new Owa of Igbajo and presenting him with the staff of office.
After the installation, the noise by the opposition died down and the the new king reigned in peace until last week’s Executive Order by the new Governor Adeleke, directing Famodun to vacate the palace.
However, Igbajo kingmakers, who favour Famodun, are pushing back against the new governor.
The Owa-in-Council, in a statement signed by the Obala Iloro of Igbajo,Chief Michael Olatunde Ajibodu, and four others, called on the governor to allow the sleeping dog lie.
The statement read in part: “The Kingmakers have appealed to the new governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, to support them in ensuring that nothing disrupts the peace and tranquility existing in Igbajo after the installation of the new Owa of Igbajoland, Oba Adegboyega Famodun, Famodun 111.
“The process that produced the king followed all laid down guidelines in the Owa of Igbajo Chieftaincy Declaration. The declaration that has been in use in the town recognises two lineage: Omo Owa Oke (with nine ruling houses) and Omo Owa Isale (with seven ruling houses).
“What the Chieftaincy Declaration stipulates is that if the throne becomes vacant, it will be either the turn of Owa Oke or Owa Isale to fill the vacancy without specifying any order of rotation among the ruling houses.
“The last Owa, the ate Oba Olufemi Fasade, who joined his ancestors on the 23rd of December, 2020, was from the Owa Isale side, while it was only ruling houses from Owa Oke that were asked to bring forth Omo Oye before we picked the front-liner among them.
“Please note that there was nowhere in the the declaration that states that it is this or that ruling house that must be favoured, but rather all the interested princes were given a level playing field before the emergence of one.
“And on the claim that the former governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, appointed the king in his last week of office, this is not the first time such will happen because he has the power and authority to take decisions till his last day in office. An example is the appointment of Orangun of Ila Orangun, Oba Abdulwahab Kayode Oyedotun, Bibire 1, at the twilight of the administration of (former) governor Adebisi Akande.
“Chief Adebisi Akande approved the selection of Oba Abdulwahab Kayode Oyedotun, Bibire 1, four days to the expiration of his tenure.
“He (Oba Oyedotun) was appointed on the 24th of May, 2003 while the (Akande) administration left office on the 29th of May, 2003. His successor, governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, did not because of that annul the appointment. God bless the royal blooded prince.
“And on the announcement of the appointment or selection of Oba Adegboyega Famodun, Famodun 111, nobody can say that a fly was hurt in Igbajo. We all accepted his choice because we know it is only God that chooses kings. The presentation of the staff of office followed three days after the completion of traditional rites and Ipebi programme.”
In Iree, there has also been a crisis over the installation of Oba Raphael Oluponle by Oyetola as new Aree.
The crisis has been as bitter as the one in Ikirun. Valuables have been destroyed and many have been injured.
The immediate past Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Adebayo Adeleke, an indigene of the town, was accused of imposing the monarch.
After Iree kingmakers refused to make themselves available for the selection of new monarch, the state government appointed warrant chiefs, who were then saddled with the responsibility of picking the new monarch.
The kingmakers, led by Aogun of Iree, Saliu Atoyebi, had explained that the traditional chiefs rejected the planned inclusion of the Iyalode of Iree among those that would vote when choosing the next Aree.
But the then Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Adeleke, accused the kingmakers of deliberately trying to drag the process in order to frustrate Oyetola administration from filling the stool before the expiration of his tenure.
As a result, Adeleke’s Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs appointed warrant chiefs, who then chose the new Aree, sidelining the kingmakers.
But despite the myriads of court cases over Aree Chieftaincy matters, Iree town had remained peaceful since Oba Oluponle was installed. But violence broke out last Thursday following a protest triggered by Governor’s Adeleke’s Executive Order, directing the new monarch to vacate the stool.
The protesters acted to ostensibly enforce the order, as they felt the monarch was slow in complying. The palace was razed down by the protesters who injured seven residents.
Hell was let loose when operatives of the Department of State Services arrested Aogun and took him to Osogbo for an undisclosed reason on Thursday.
In reaction to the development, some residents were said to have stormed the streets in protest, and set up bonfires on the major road that passes through the town, before moving into the palace where they set a building on fire.
The spokesperson for Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in Osun State, Kehinde Adeleke, confirmed that some youths protesting the arrest of a kingmaker embarked on the violent protest, setting up bonfires on the Iree-Eripa Road.
“The palace was partially burnt down. Gunshots were also heard. But our men on monitoring reported that no loss of life yet. However, the situation is said to be very tense,” he said.
Former Commissioner for Local Government and Cheiftaincy Matters, Adeleke, insisted that Iree people were happy with the choice and appointment of Oba Oluponle.