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Royal rumble in Owo!

By ANGELA NKWOCHA
Eight years after the incumbent Ojomo-Oluda of Ijebu Owo, Ondo State, Oba Kofoworola Oladoyinbo Ojomo, ascended the throne, the Appeal Court is set to decide who between him and Prince Michael Adewunmi Amaka Ojomo is the legitimate occupant of the stool. Kofoworola, a retired army general, was installed as the Ojomo-Oluda on 13 June, 2004.

The knotty question before the appellate court, sitting in Benin-City, is, did the monarch emerge through due process? In other words, is he legally occupying the stool? The appellant is contending that Kofoworola is an impostor on the stool of Ojomo-Oluda.

*Olowo of Owo, Oba Victor Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi ...controversial stool in his domain.

The immediate past Ojomo-Oluda, Oba John Agboola Ojomo Agunloye, had joined his ancestors in May 2003,  thus creating a vacancy in the stool.  It is the circumstance of the succession of Kofoworola to Agunloye that is creating ripples.

Amaka is appealing against the ruling of the Ondo High Court, Owo, which affirmed Kofoworola as the Ojomo-Oluda of Ijebu Owo, saying the verdict of the lower court is against the  weight of evidence.

He wants the Court of Appeal  to set aside the 3 March, 2005 ruling of the lower court delivered by Justice B.O. Fadoja. Fadoja had held that the case, which sought to nullify the ascension of Kofoworola, lacked merit.

Amaka had filed an application for interlocutory injunction on 13 June, 2004 at the Ondo High Court, Owo following the controversial emergence of the Ojomo-Oluda. Joined as defendants in the case were the attorney general of Ondo State, Kofoworola, nine Ijebu Owo kingmakers and Owo Local Government.

Amaka’s prayers included a declaration that the presentation of Kofoworola by the state  government  and kingmakers as Ojomo-Oluda was against the history, native law and custom of Ijebu Owo and hence wrongful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever; and an order on the state government to consider his (Amaka) appointment with a view to approving same.

In his 32-paragraph affidavit in support of motion, the plaintiff claimed to be the true Ojomo-Oluda, having emerged through a process initiated by the Ijebu Owo kingmakers in collaboration with relevant authorities.

Amaka stated that Kofoworola was not even a candidate in the process. The election, according to him, took place on 11 November, 2003. The plaintiff  listed other candidates who emerged through rigorous screening and interview conducted by Senior Omoojomos and Oloriebi Omoojomos (kingmakers) and vied with him in the election as Prince Olugbolagun Oladoyinbo Ojomo, Ade Anthony Ojomo and Kehinde Aderinsoye Ojomo.

Amaka disclosed that Owo Local Government was involved in the preparation for the election by the family head (Oloriebi Omoojomos) to avoid malpractice.

At the end, Amaka won with  eight of the 10 votes cast in his favour. Two votes went to Olugbolagun Oladoyinbo Ojomo. The two other candidates scored zero. The election paved the way for the declaration of Amaka as the Ojomo-Oluda.

But as the people of the town awaited the Ondo State government approval of the election, events took a twist. The state government nullified the election and ordered a fresh one. It alleged in  a letter dated  8 June, 2004  that the ‘Dukes’ (Omo Ojomo Ode otherwise known as Omoarigwe) were not allowed to vote in the 11 November 2003 election.

Amaka averred that on Sunday, 13 June, 2004, without any election and reference to him and other contestants in the 11 November election, Kofoworola was announced elected as Ojomo-Oluda “ in a commando and Kangaroo” way.

The plaintiff contended that the consequent enthronement of Kofoworola was illegal as “at all material time”, he “did not participate or contest for the post of Ojomo-Oluda of Ijebu Owo.”  He cited two Owo top politicians, in his affidavit in support of his motion, as being behind the move to impose Kofoworola as the Ojomo-Oluda.

Indeed, the story was that the then PDP government of Ondo State was opposed to Amaka  occupying the Ijebu-Owo stool because he was not a member of the party.

The defendants, particularly the attorney-general of  Ondo State; the incumbent Ojomo-Oluda (Kofoworola  and second defendant); Chief Sule Ojomo Semola (family head  of Omo Ojomo family and third defendant) and Owo Local Government attacked the plaintiff’s averments mainly on the grounds that he failed to make representation to the executive council of Ondo State over his grievance against the ascension of Kofoworola to the throne in accordance with the law, before restorting to legal redress.

Consequently, they averred that the court action was premature, improper and irregular. The attorney general, in addition, claimed that Amaka’s emergence was by Ifa oracle and not by election. To this, the plaintiff responded in a counter affidavit, dated 26 July, 2004, saying he made representation to Ondo State government “when I heard the hints that the second defendant (Kofoworola) and his cronies were making moves to impose him (Kofoworola) on the people of Ijebu Owo.”

He actually tendered a letter of 14 June, 2004 addressed to the then Governor Olusegun Agagu and entitled, ‘Save our Soul’, as exhibit to back his claim. In the letter, the prince put a lie to the claim by the state government that it voided the process that produced him as Ojomo-Oluda on the basis that it excluded the ‘Dukes’.

The trial, which started on 8 July 2004, came to a close on 3 March, 2005. Presiding judge, Justice  B.O. Fadoja, ruled as follows: “once there is lack of jurisdiction, the reliefs sought will fall like a pack of cards. The foundation having  given way, there is nothing to hold anything built on it.

Nothing comes from  nothing and nothing ever will. I hold therefore that the suit lacks merit and I hereby strike it out.” Dissatisfied, the plaintiff is appealing against the ruling. He says the ruling is against the weight of evidence and prays the Court of Appeal to set it aside.

Ahead of the appellate court ruling, Amaka’s supporters are upbeat. They believe their principal has been unjustly denied of the Ijebu Owo throne and that justice will be done by the judiciary.


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