By EBUN SOSSOU
..I am the authentic Aidonogie – Umoru, contender to the throne
Disagreement lingers over the heir to the throne of Aidonogie of South Ibie Kingdom in Etsako West Local Government of Edo State. Recently, Alhaji Kelvin Aliyu Zibiri Danesi claimed to be the Aidonogie, saying there is no controversy over the title. Prince Umoru Inusa Umoru, a chartered accountant and tax practitioner, in this interview, speaks on the genesis of the dispute surrounding the rightful heir to the Aidonogie of South- Ibie throne. Excerpts:
Could you chronicle the events leading to the Aidonogie chieftaincy dispute in South-Ibie?
In South Ibie, there is only one ruling House known as Okhokho Ruling House and the occupant of the chieftaincy stool/Clan Head of South Ibie referred to as the Aidonogie. The Okhokho Ruling House has two branches known as Oghiator and Danesi, from which the Aidonogie is installed.
The procedure regulating the ascension to the stool is codified and it was made under section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict, 1979 and entitled, “The Customary Law Regulating Succession to the Clan Head (Aidonogie) of South-Ibie”.
Sections 2 and 3 of the law regulating succession to the title of the clan head provide that succession alternates between the two branches and, to qualify, one must be the eldest surviving son of the last clan head from the branch of the ruling house whose turn is to produce the clan head.
After the death of the last Aidonogie in 1997 making the post vacant, in accordance with provisions of section three of the law, it became the turn of the Danesi branch to produce the candidate to fill the throne. The Danesi branch presented Kelvin Aliyu Danesi, who, on the account of the clear provisions of section 3, was not qualified
When my father, Alhaji I M J Umoru, died in 1997, we were still organising the burial rites when we received a writ of summon from Kelvin Aliyu Danesi restraining us from installing another king from our family. After we received the summon, we proceeded to court and when judgement was to be delivered, the then military administrator, the late Navy Captain Onyearugbulem, did not understand the issues involved but nonetheless came to my village and gave Kelvin the staff of office.
We wondered why this should be, and went to court. On June 20, ,1999, Justice Coram Sadoh delivered judgement, saying Kelvin had no right to become the Aidonogie because of the law on ground. After the judgement, he went on appeal at the Appeal Court. Meanwhile, the state government had taken their decision on the matter that whatever staff of office he had received before was null and void according to the law.
That he had no right to the throne. Then my family was asked to present someone who will occupy the throne and my late elder brother, Mr. Momodu Yinusa Umoru, was presented by the family but because Kelvin said he had gone to the Appeal Court, we waited for the judgement. When the judgement from the Appeal Court came in our favour, he went to the Supreme Court. Then there was a twist. The chieftaincy law dramatically changed. Somebody allegedly tampered with it.
We went to court and Justice Komolafe Wilson delivered another ruling restraining Kelvin, as well as and the state government from recognising him as the person entitled to the throne, according to the chieftaincy law of 1979. The judge told them the law could not be tampered with.
After this, Kelvin wrote to the Supreme Court that he wanted to withdraw his appeal. We went back to court on April 13, 2009 following which Justice Ighodalo of the High Court, Edo State told Kelvin that he had been told by three different courts that he should not parade himself as the leader of South- Ibie. The recent media claim that he is Aidonogie and that there is no controversy is a very good evidence to tender at the court of law that he has committed contempt of court.
It is worthy of note that, in 1979, the then Bendel State government reviewed all the Chieftaincy Declaration Acts in the state including that of South Ibie Kingdom and the Danesi dynasty seized the opportunity to re-establish itself as a contending party to the throne. There was a caveat though, that is, vide Clause 3 of the Act which states, “To qualify as the Aidonogie of South Ibie Kingdom, one must be the eldest surviving son of the last clan head from the branch of the ruling house whose turn it is to produce the clan head”.
Between 1979 and 1997, during the reign of the first Aidonogie, HRH Alhaji I M J Umoru ‘JP’, no one challenged this law. When the Aidonogie joined his ancestors, the only person qualified in the Danesi dynasty to take over was Chief Pa Momoh Danesi who was disfranchised by the Danesi dynasty itself as too old in an affidavit dated February 2, 1998 and signed by him and members of his family. The extant law did not leave a vacuum.
For example, Section 14 (1c) of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law of Edo State clearly states that in a situation like this, “…the branch next entitled according to the Declaration shall submit a qualified candidate for the Aidonogieship”.
From the foregoing, therefore, it is very clear that the claim in the publication by Aliyu Kelvin Zibiri Danesi is not right. It is nothing but an attempt to stand history on the head.