- Other Yoruba Obas keep mum
All is not well among prominent Yoruba Obas. This is a fact. And the bone of contention is supremacy tussle with royal rumbles amongst two prominent Yoruba Obas deepening and degenerating daily, pitching some other Obas against the two camps, while some prefer to keep mum and watch events as they unfold.
At his palace yesterday, the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo asked his tormentor-in-chief, the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona to stop churning out what he called ‘outright historical falsehood (about the Yoruba race) in the presence of knowledgeable Nigerians’.
The Egba monarch who unleashed Egba high chiefs on the Awujale maintained his
earlier ranking of Yoruba monarchs and declared the Awujale’s public verbal attacks on him as “uncalled for and neither civil nor decent.”
The Alake, who spoke through his Chiefs was responding to recent public diatribes against him by the Awujale, saying he will maintain what he called an ‘Egba decorum of Omoluabi’.
Speaking recently at a public event in Lagos, the multi-billionaire Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland had tongue-lashed the Alake over his (Alake’s) recent ranking of Yoruba Obas, which is still generating heat in the polity. The Alake, in the ranking of five top Obas, placed the Ooni of Ife as the first, followed by the Alaafin of Oyo, the Oba of Benin, with the Alake coming fourth and the Awujale fifth.
Dismissing the ranking as self-serving, false and misrepresentation of facts, Awujale said the Alake was not higher than him in the order of ranking, adding that at best, he was a junior traditional ruler in Yoruba land.
To get the records, the Awujale advised the Alake to meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo for proper tutelage. “My advice to Alake, being a young and inexperienced traditional ruler, is that he should contact Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for proper education so as to save himself and his people from further embarrassment,” he said.
Also, the Benin Kingdom has rejected the Alake’s ranking of the Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo above the Oba of Benin, stressing that no Yoruba Oba is higher than the Oba of Benin.
However, mum seems to be the word from other Obas in Yoruba land with each of them keeping sealed lips when our correspondents sort their reactions to the raging supremacy crisis. One of them, who preferred anonymity, told our correspondent on phone: “My son, this is a contentious and dangerous issue. They say when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. It is not the first time we will witness supremacy tussles among Yoruba Obas. We saw it between the Alaafin and the late Ooni. There are other tussles not reported but going on among other Obas in various states. Leave them for now. With time, they will get tired,” the Oba said.
Addressing journalists yesterday at the Ake Palace in company of other Egba high chiefs, the Ba’aroyin of Egbaland and Chief Adviser on Media Affairs to the Alake, Alhaji Lai Labode said that while it was true that both the Awujale and the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu contacted Alake on the ranking of the Yoruba Obas, the Egba monarch responded that his “ranking was supported by documentary evidence and he therefore stands by his position.”
Labode who read the Alake’s response signed by the Balogun of Egbaland, Chief Sikirulahi Atobatele on behalf of the Egba Chieftaincy Committee, stated that in ranking the Yoruba Obas, the Alake quoted page 100, paragraph 16 of the Government Gazette of the Colony of Lagos, dated Saturday, February 20, 1903.
Responding to the Awujale’s question on who categorised the Yoruba traditional rulers, Alake’s spokesman said, “The then Ooni of Ife did at the Central Native Council meeting which was chaired by the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir William Macgregor, M.D, KCMG, CR at Government House, Lagos in 1937.”
And pointing at a large portrait of the then Yoruba Obas placed in front of the hall, he listed the monarchs who attended the meeting to include “the Ooni of Ife, Alafin of Oyo, Oba of Benin, Alake of Abeokuta and Awujale of Ijebuland.”
The Egba high chiefs also said that contrary to Awujale’s claim that historically the Alake was a junior Oba like those under him in Ijebuland, “Alake was higher by salary differentials paid by the Colonial Government,” with the Egba monarch earning a fatter annual salary of 2,250 pounds while the Awujale was only paid 1,700 pounds, in spite of the fact that the two of them were rated as first class Obas.
They “cited page four paragraph four of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Information National Archives, File Numbers 33044, CSO 26, letter SP11828120, Secretary’s Office, Southern Province, Enugu 31st January, 1938” as the source of information on the salaries paid to the monarchs.
The monarch said, contrary to the claim by Awujale that Alake was the last Oba in Egbaland, twenty Alakes had reigned in Egba Forest prior to the founding of Abeokuta in 1830.
Last week, at the Inaugural Lecture of the Professorial Chair in Governance he endowed at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Oba Adetona picked holes in the ranking and faulted the 1903 gazette the Alake based his categorisation on. His words: “Not long ago, after the installation of Oba Alaiyeluwa Adeyeye Ogunwusi as the Ooni of Ife, he undertook steps to foster unity and cooperation among leading Yoruba Obas and for which I personally commend him. “First, he joined the Alaafin at his 77th birthday celebration at Oyo. Thereafter, he visited me at Ijebu-Ode on Friday, January 29, 2016, followed by another visit to Abeokuta on Sunday, February 7, 2016, where he met Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo in his palace at Ake, Abeokuta, with the exception of the Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta, who was not around then.
“The Alake, while receiving the Ooni at his palace, said the Yoruba Obas (the Big Five so to say) had been categorised with the Ooni in the first position, followed by Alaafin, the Oba of Benin, with Alake coming fourth and the Awujale as the fifth in that order. He also went further to quote wrongly from a 1903 Gazette to support all the fallacies in his statement.
“When I learned of the statement, I made several calls to Alake until I eventually succeeded in finding out from him if those statements were actually made by him, which of course he vehemently denied”.
“In a recent discussion between the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and I, we also touched on the same issue and the Oba of Lagos told me that he too had asked Alake the same question, which he had again denied vehemently. “Regrettably, however, when the said statement a few days later was continuously credited to Alake on the pages of newspapers, I expected him to deny it or issue a rebuttal, but he did not do so. Therefore, I consider it necessary to debunk the aforementioned falsehood and misrepresentation of facts from Ake Palace so as to put the records straight.
“First, I would like to make it abundantly clear that the 1903 Gazette referred to by Alake was a Newspaper publication that he, in his self-serving role, is now presenting as an official Government Gazette. The first question to Alake is: Who categorised the Yoruba Obas and when? I challenge him to produce the document of the said categorisation. It is a known fact that Alake was a junior traditional ruler under the Alaafin at Orile Egba before he fled to Ibadan for refuge as a result of the war then ravaging Yoruba land.
“Following the defeat of Owu by the Ijebu Army in 1826, the Owus became refugees all over Yoruba land. Some of the Ijebu troops that fought the war proceeded to Ibadan where they met Alake and sacked him, consequently forcing him to seek refuge at Ake in Abeokuta in 1830 where, of course, he met Osile, Olowu and Agura already settled at Oke-Ona, Owu and Gbagura sections of Abeokuta Township respectively.
“In short, the Alake from history and all available records is a very junior traditional ruler in Yoruba land. His peers in Ijebu land are the Dagbuwere of Idowa, Ajalorun of Ijebu Ife, Akija of Ikija-Ijebu, Olowu of Owu-Ijebu, Oloko of Ijebu-Mushin, Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo and Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye.
“I wish to recall that there had been an occasion in the past for three of us, the Awujale, the late Alake, Oba Lipede and the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife, to sit over the issue with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at Aso Rock, Abuja.
“It is important for Alake’s education to appreciate that Ijebu has been in existence for almost 1,000years and that we are the only people that still remain in our original homestead while other Yoruba towns and villages have relocated twice or more.”