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The fighter in the palace

By Rotim Fasan
FOLLOWING calls for the application of appropriate sanction on Oba Oluwadare Adesina Adepoju,  the dethroned Deji of Akure, who had led a lynch squad to the house of his estranged wife, Bolanle, only to find himself in an unseemly street melee, a roforofo fight in which he was reportedly flung into a gutter, traditional beads and all, by his own ‘subjects’ who came to the rescue of the woman, Segun Mimiko, the Governor of Ondo State, had warned that he would not be stampeded into deposing the Kabiyesi.

But the ‘come’ has finally ‘come to become’ as the Deji has now been deposed. It’s quite right of the Governor to have been seen to be above what might have appeared to have been the emotive call for the removal of the monarch.

But in supporting the decision to depose the monarch, the  Governor must also have been careful not to be seen as helping to sustain the reign of a man his own people had lost confidence in.

It will be recalled that when many months ago the kingmakers in Akure felt the Kabiyesi’s cup of iniquities was full and decided to dethrone him, it was the intervention of Mimiko that saved the day for the man who was one of the paramount rulers of Yorubaland.

When the powerful chiefs of Akure moved against their king, not many could have realised the enormity of the king’s misdemeanour to have necessitated the action of the chiefs.

But any Yoruba person would have known that whatever were the causes of the chiefs’ seeming unanimity of action without as much as a whimper of opposition from the people of Akure, the king’s misconduct must have been very serious indeed. And indeed, the allegations against the king then were quite damning. Yet the intervention of the Governor took the day.

That was before this latest show of shame that saw the Kabiye’s wife thoroughly bruised after some unknown substance that led to the peeling off of her skin had been thrown on her. In the immediate aftermath of this street brawl, Oba Adepoju who was reported as saying he didn’t ‘give a damn’ what people thought of his action would later want the whole matter seen as a domestic issue between him and his wife.

There have been other less savoury reports of encounters between the monarch and his own ‘subjects’, all pointing to his unsuitability as leader of the people. One thing is clear about the fight between the king and his wife: He was on the offensive. He it was who took the fight to the house of one of his subjects, albeit, his wife.

He had been known or reported to manage a squad of hoodlums at his beck and call and his utterances show him up as something of a twenty first century version of a medieval potentate, a throwback to the less enviable past of pre-colonial Yoruba society when rulers had the power of life and death over their people.

Situating the action of this Kabiyesi in that era, each time I contemplate the determined look on his face in press photographs, I have no doubt in mind that the king would have been one of those capricious types who wantonly ordered the imprisonment or decapitation of those who fell on the wrong side of their dour humour.

His actions were simply unbecoming of his position and how he, a returnee from America of no particularly distinguished achievement, came to occupy the position of the paramount throne of Akure remains a mystery. Yes, we’ve heard the bit about some people wanting an educated monarch with the right exposure, a twenty first century Kabiyesi who brought twenty first century embarrassment to the people of Akure and the Yoruba country in general.

Yes, Governor Mimiko must have been careful how he interfered in the matter. It’s true he had issued the Kabiyesi a query which had to be responded to within four days, but he must have been led by the superior argument of the kingmakers in reaching this decision.

I had hoped there were no political undertones to the action of the Governor in the wake of his warning that he would not be stampeded into endorsing calls for deposition of the king. It should be remembered that when the IG, Ogbonna Onovo, appeared before the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, he made it clear that preliminary investigations found the king complicit and there was no way his action could be explained away as a domestic matter between him and his wife.

Members of the committee as were other Nigerians had called for the prosecution of the king with the chairman, Gbenga Ogunniya, joining in the call. Gbenga Ogunniya is a PDP senator from Ondo State which means he was of the same party as the Governor before the latter moved over to the Labour Party.

Could this then be a PDP/LP war by proxy, I’d wondered? And should there have been any political differences between the king and his chiefs, or the chiefs and the Governor, then the king’s unbecoming conduct had only played into the chief’s hands. Let nobody forget that calls for the prosecution of the king stemmed from his action of wife battery in public and not for any other reason. It remains to be seen now if his prosecution would go ahead.

His action of leading a motley group to attack his wife and the consequences of it were enough to have cost the former Deji his position. A Yoruba monarch is the custodian of his people’s customs and traditions and where, as in this case, he is at the forefront of violators of those mores that justify his own position as king, then he ceases to be a true representative of his people. It is forbidden for a Yoruba king to be struck by anybody to say nothing of his being manhandled in public due to personal shortcomings.

The Deji’s action was an affront to those who believe in the institution of traditional rulership.
Except to protect him, perhaps, from those he must have offended, there was no need for him to have been dispatched into exile as some had demanded and the State has now acceded to. Of course, in the past when matters came to such a head as this, the king was simply requested to commit suicide.

But the situation that makes that untenable now is the same that makes it possible for the king to be subject to the same law as his subjects, to wit, democratic governance. Akure should now be very careful in its choice of another Deji.


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