Seven Months Monarch Chairmanship Dispute; Ooni, Alaafin Make Peace in Ekiti

EXCLUSIVE: Seven Months Monarch Chairmanship Dispute; Ooni, Alaafin Make Peace in Ekiti

The misunderstanding between the Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi and some prominent traditional rulers over the chairmanship of the state traditional council which caused the tension in the state has been resolved last Monday.

Recall that about seven months, there was a standoff between Governor Kayode Fayemi and some Monarchs under the aegis of the Alademerindinlogun (meaning 16 crowned Obas) or the 16 Pelupelu Obas.

But the intervention of the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, when the matter reached the peak last week brought about solution to the matter.

According to the Punch newspapers who gathered the report where the crisis between the state government and some traditional rulers began:

How it began    

The bone of contention was the appointment and inauguration on August 15, 2019 by Fayemi of the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi, as the chairman of the state Council of Traditional Rulers to succeed the immediate past council chairman, the Oloye of Oye Ekiti, Oba Oluwole Ademolaju, on expiration of his two-year tenure.

The Alademerindinlogun Obas (formerly consisting 16 but now 17 monarchs) had opposed the appointment of the Alawe, saying that chairmanship of the council was the exclusive preserve of the 16 obas and that picking someone outside the group as chairman of the council was “a violation of the Ekiti State Chieftaincy Law.”

Although the council chairmanship had always been rotated among the 16 Pelupelu Obas, it was the reasoning of the Fayemi administration that since there had been addition to the group of the Pelupelu Obas which had increased the number to 22, all of them could as well chair the council, hence the appointment of the Alawe.

But the 16 Pelupelu Obas saw the appointment as an aberration; hence their decision to stay away from the meetings of the traditional council, government programmes as a mark of protest.

Members of the Alamerindinlogun Obas are the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oloye of Oye, Elekole of Ikole, Elemure of Emure, Ajero of Ijero,  Alara of Aramoko, Ogoga of Ikere Ekiti, Olomuo of Omuo, Alaaye of Efon, Ologotun of Ogutun, Olujudo of Ido-Faboro, Onisan Of Isan, Attah of Ayede, Owa-Ooye of Okemesi, Onitaji of Itaji, Oore of Otun and Arinjale of Ise Ekiti.

The Alademerindinlogun Obas also took the governor and the Alawe to court in a suit number HAD/76/2019, to challenge Fayemi’s choice of Oba Alabi as chairman, praying the court to, among others, determine whether the action was right and nullification of the appointment which they described as “a violation of the Ekiti State Chieftaincy Law.”

The Pelupelu concept

The Alawe, had, while explaining the Pelupelu concept, described it as “a nomenclature used in the local parlance for the meeting of Obas. It means ‘call Obas to meeting.’ He explained that it came into being in 1900 when the British colonialists came to Nigeria. For them to be able to ensure the success of indirect rule policy, they had to use the monarchs.

“That was the first time monarchs in the country were brought together. They successfully called 16 Obas in Ekiti. That was the beginning of what they called Pelupelu. The Deji of Akure, now in Ondo State and the Owalobo of Obo, now in Kwara were among the 16 obas in Ekiti that attended the first meeting.

“Deji and Owalobo left in 1901, remaining 14 obas. Attah of Ayede was admitted to Pelupelu in 1920, Elemure of Emure was admitted in 1929. In 1947, four obas (Alawe, Arajaka, Olojudo of Ido-Ile and Olosi) were admitted bringing the number to 19. Olomuo was admitted in 1973 and Oluyin in 2018 bringing the number to 22. The Alawe has been a Pelupelu Oba since 1947.”

Oba Alabi, who had at that time expressed assurance of resolution of the crisis, said, “Be as it may, we are all colleagues, we are members of the same family, it is royal family, we cannot but have disagreements. If we have any disagreement, we will settle it peacefully and amicably.

“We are traditional rulers. We are supposed to be the embodiment of discipline, decency and pacesetters in the communities. If we are fighting among ourselves, how will our subjects look at us? Who would adjudicate for us? To me, it doesn’t augur well. We are talking, I am reaching out to my colleague obas.

“We are friends. I can assure you that in no distant time, everything will be sorted out.”

Stakeholders’ interventions

The standoff between the governor and the traditional rulers was a source of worry to stakeholders in the state and indeed in the Yoruba nation, who were persuaded that the monarchs, as custodians in their domains, have roles to play in the development of the state in all spheres.

Elder statesman and the Chairman, Standing Committee for the Creation of Ekiti State, Chief Oladeji Fasuan, said, “The implication of the tussle is that there would be no peace  and this is what  we want to avoid. Both sides have good reasons, but the interest of this state is above every other thing. We are happy that all sides agreed that we can talk and resolve issues.”

Worried by the development then, the Ekiti Council of Elders swiftly moved in to intervene, a development best expressed by the persuasion of its President, Prof Joseph Oluwasanmi, who said, “The state cannot be at ease if the present situation should continue. That is the implication.”

The senior citizens, at a press conference where they disclosed their mediatory roles in the tussle, appealed to all sides in the crisis to sheathe their swords and explore options of peace and called for caution and restraint, saying the logjam, if not amicably resolved on time, could be hijacked by miscreants to cause problem for the state.

Oluwasanmi said, “We are not happy at the prospect of non-patriotic indigenes exploiting a minor situation that can be resolved between father and son. We have arrived at a situation where all sides will be willing to dialogue together with a view to finding favourable resolutions to the issues.”

The senior citizens, who said the situation, must be brought under control to enable the state to continue to live in peace and harmony, said, “We as senior citizens have had the opportunity of discussing with the governor and the senior obas.”

According to Oluwasanmi, following the “little disagreement between the government and our senior obas, we have had the opportunity of going through relevant documents. We have gone through records which throw light on the contending issue and we are satisfied that some form of accommodation can be reached between our government and our royal fathers.”

The Elders’ Council impressed it on the Alademerindinlogun Obas to withdraw the suit they had instituted to pave the way for amicable resolution of the standoff.

However, along the line, five of the 16 Pelupelu Obas – the Onisan of Isan Ekiti, Oba Gabriel Adejuwon; Attah of Ayede-Ekiti, Oba Abdulmumin Orisagbemi; Onitaji of Itaji-Ekiti, Oba Adamo Babalola; Owa-Ooye of Oke-Imesi, Oba Gbadebo Adedeji; and Arinjale of Ise-Ekiti, Oba Ajayi Adetunji, shifted grounds, thus depleting the ranks of the aggrieved obas to 11.

A new twist

When Ekiti people thought progress was being made in resolution of the crisis, the situation took a new turn on March 11 when Fayemi queried the 11 remaining aggrieved Pelupelu Obas over alleged insubordination.

The governor, in the query issued individually to the affected traditional rulers by the Bureau on Chieftaincy Affairs dated March 11, gave the monarchs 72 hours within which to reply.

The query entitled “Re: Absence from state functions and Council of Traditional Rulers’ monthly meetings” was signed by A.O Adeoye on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the bureau. It read in part, “It had come to the attention of Mr Governor that Your Royal Majesty has not been attending the monthly statutory meeting of the State Council of Traditional Rulers and State official functions since August 2019.

“Your conspicuous absence at the Council meetings and state official functions, without any excuse or justification is considered inimical to the proper administration of the chieftaincy institution you represent.

“Therefore, Mr Governor has directed that Your Royal Majesty should forward your representation for this inaction through this office within 72 hours on the receipt of this letter,” the letter stated.

However, the query caused anxiety the state, as people were alleging it was preparatory to dethronement of the prominent monarchs.

But Fayemi clarified it immediately, saying the letter was “merely an administrative matter which is neither contentious nor confrontational. It is definitely not a ploy or plan to remove any oba from office.”

The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, said, “As public officers, our traditional rulers act as the direct link between government and their domains; they have expected duties and functions, and as an administrative head, Mr Governor should be aware of reasons why such duties are not being carried out.

“Any rumour claiming that Governor Fayemi is planning to dethrone any Oba in Ekiti State is a deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of the true situation. It is obviously an attempt from opposition to create confusion between the Ekiti State Government and the good and law abiding people of Ekiti State.

“The Bureau briefed the Governor on the prolonged absence of some members at the State’s Traditional Council meetings as well as traditional council meetings at the local government level. Mr Governor directed that the Bureau should write the affected traditional rulers to find out reasons for their absence. The formal nature of the letter is what is being misconstrued to be a query.”

How it was resolved

The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi, in his intervention letter to Fayemi, said “To some races, nothing outside the mundane is attached to their traditional institution whereas, that of Yoruba is beyond the mundane as it is also ancestral and spiritual.”

Oba Adeyemi, who said, “The Yoruba Oba is the representative of the ancestors, the real owner of the land or ground,” hence the need to treat the institution of obaship with dignity, advised the governor on the handling of the situation.

The letter prompted Fayemi to pay a visit to the Alaafin to explain his own side in the crisis.

For his intervention, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi, visited Fayemi the governor and the aggrieved obas in the state.

The Ooni, on arrival, on Monday had a brief meeting with the affected 11 Pelupelu Obas at the Palace of the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe, before leading them to the Governor’s Office where they later met with Fayemi and Oba Alabi.

Oba Ogunwusi, who spoke after the meetings, said, “We are here to resolve any issue that probably might snowball to something else. What is key is communication breakdown and we have actually closed that gap.”

The monarch added, “We are here for a particular reason. To the glory of God, we don’t have any issue again, everything is settled. It is normal, there might be slight differences here and there, but it is something within the family of the Oduduwa clan and to the glory of God, it has been resolved.

“The governor is here, we are in the Governor’s Office, all the Alademerindinlogun, the Pelupelu obas, the main founding kings of Ekiti and to a large extent, we have resolved. They are the fathers to the governor and it has been resolved.

“There are no issues because we have a very amiable son of the Yoruba people who is the governor of the state like the Yoruba will say ‘bibiiire o see fowo ra’. Everything has been resolved. To the glory of God, there is mutual respect between the people in government and the traditional rulers.”

The Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Adejugbe, said, “There is no royal rumbling as such, just a misunderstanding within the family. You heard it all from Kabiyesi Ooni. The details will be worked out later. For now, there is peace in the state. We (have) agreed that we would work together.”

Also speaking, the Ajero of Ijero Ekiti, Oba Joseph Adewole, who said the court case instituted by the traditional rulers had been suspended in the spirit of resolving the crisis, said, “Litigation has to be suspended now.

“You know that we, the Pelupelu obas, have been clamouring for the suspension of that court case so that we can resolve the issue. There was communication gap, no doubt, (but) the communication gap has been closed today. The court case is suspended.”

The Alawe, Oba Alabi, expressed gratitude Fayemi; Ooni of Ife and all others who contributed to the return of peace to the traditional council and indeed the state.

He also lauded Yoruba elders led by Prof Banji Akintoye, the Ekiti Council of Elders, the Minister of Trade, Niyi Adebayo, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), religious leaders, the media and members of the public for their positive contribution towards the resolution.

The council chairman said Ooni’s “immeasurable way of mediation, using ‘traditional brilliance and native sagacity’ to bring the brother Obas together will go down in history as unparalleled and unprecedented in conflict management and resolution (of crisis) among monarchs in Yorubaland.”

Ekiti Council of Elders expressed joy that the rift between the Obas and the state governors had been resolved at last.

President of the Council, Prof Oluwasanmi, said, “I am happy that, at least, it has been settled. That is what the elders are for and we are happy about it. In fact, I want them to go beyond suspension of the case in court, if there is genuine settlement, they should withdraw it.”

He praised the governor for visiting the Alaafin and also expressed happiness for the presence of the Ooni in the state.

Meanwhile, the people of the state and the public are eagerly waiting for the details of the resolutions reached at the meeting.

 Until that is released to the public and accepted by the parties involved, it may be difficult to say a permanent resolution had been found to the royal rumble that nearly turned the Obas against their governor.

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