By Demola Akinyemi
Offa, in Offa local government area of Kwara State, is on edge following the Appeal Court judgement which ordered its monarch, Oloffa, Oba Gbadamosi Mufutau, from the Anilelerin ruling house, to vacate the throne and directed the state government to install the rival candidate, from Olugbense ruling house, Alhaji Adegboyega Keji.
A suit to stall the execution of the court order has been filed pending the hearing of the appeal at the Supreme Court. The tussle for the throne is generating ripples in Offa.
One of the kingmakers involved in the process that produced Sanni, Chief Shao of Offa, bares his mind on the issue, making some clarifications,and what the development portends for the town. Excerpts of interview:
How did things degenerate to this level?
We have some third party on this issue, because for the Olugbense ruling house to have forwarded the name of its candidate, it means it has accepted defeat. I think along the line some people told them not to accept; that there is rotation. It is something like an after thought.
If not, immediately they got the letter of invitation to bring their candidate, they should have said they would not participate, that it is their turn as ascension to the throne is rotational. If not for fifth columnists, this chieftaincy tussle wouldn’t have got to this level.
Can you give a background into how the kingmakers arrived at the choice of Oba Gbadamosi?
We arrived at his choice based on the statue, customs and tradition of the town coupled with the requirements in the government gazette. Being the custodians of customs and tradition of the people, we had to apply what the people wanted. We also approached stakeholders before arriving at his selection.
Was the Olugbense ruling house carried along before the choice of Oba Gbadamosi?
There was an interaction with them and we have evidence to that effect. We invited them to submit name of their candidate, which they did. The gazette laid down the procedures for the two ruling houses. We took to the instructions of the chairman and took into consideration the numbers of things in the gazette. They actually nominated their candidate against the Anilelerin candidate.
What have been the feelings of the people of Offa since the Appeal Court judgment?
Actually many people didn’t even know there was a case in the Appeal Court. They felt the election of the Oba had been concluded since the coronation and victory for Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi at the High Court here in Offa. It was a surprise to many people. We have to appeal to the people to calm down and not cause any trouble, as many of them think Oba Gbadamosi is their favourite candidate.
What will you suggest as the way out?
I don’t want to preempt the court, so to make any conclusion may be tantamount to commenting on the case in court. We are peace-loving people and all of us believe that God is the one who does whatever he wants; and we believe in destiny. If we want to live in peace, we just have to follow how God lays that out.
Are you thinking of out-of-court settlement?
It is premature now. Since this matter is in court, I have to be very careful, but I assure you that something will be done on the matter. This is because both Anilelerin and Olugbense ruling houses are the same family; there should not be any basis for fighting over the Oloffa stool. They should be happy that stool is occupied by one of their own, not another man from another lineage coming to contest it with them. They are brothers and sisters. Even their facial marks are the same.
What does the community stand to benefit in an atmosphere of peace?
People of Offa tend to struggle to achieve development and, if there is no peace, there will be no development. It is when you have peace that there will be freedom of association.
What development projects have been attracted to Offa community since the enthronement of Ob Gbadamosi?
Oba Gbadamosi is a well travelled man. The knowledge he has gathered from his travelling he brought it to bear on the community. Even the trademark of his business before he became the Oloffa is enough to build confidence in any investor or somebody with good business idea to come to Offa. He has been very successful and everybody will like to play along with a successful man.
This is a man who studied building in the university and there is no story of him inheriting the business empire of his father. He started from the scratch. You know by associating with him you will gain some business sense. There is nothing like having somebody who has the interest of his people at heart. They say Obas have blue blood but his own blue blood Offa is written on the blood. All the time he is always thinking of this town and how to come up with something. People are more than ever before ready to pull their resources together for the development of the community. In the advanced countries, they don’t always go to court wasting resources on litigation. Though, you can fight for certain things you claim is your right, sometimes you have to consider what your people will benefit. It is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.
Do the people of Offa appreciate all these things?
They do. You can see that after his ascension to the throne, Offa indigenes in the Diaspora have been associating with the people at home. This was not the case before. Almost the major towns in the South-west, we have Offa people; even there was a time an Offa indigene was the Olubadan of Ibadan. An Offa man was the first chief judge of Tanzania when it was Tanganyika. This is to show you how intellectually up to date our people are. People have seen Oba Gbadamosi as the rallying point. Everybody brings what he has including expertise for the development of the town. The annual Ijakadi festival is even being gradually turned into tourist attraction. Since he came, Offa, being an education loving community, scores of schools have sprung up and we are happy as we want something that can bring development to the town, the state and the country as a whole.
My advice to the people of Offa
As law-abiding people, we have weathered so many storms even in ancient times. We should just look at our predecessors and see how they kept the community intact. We should not act like the Israelites, who maybe because of too much pampering from God decided to allow that enter their heads. We should know that whatever God does not give us we can not get it. We know that a good name is better than gold and silver; we should never allow ourselves to be instigated by some people out to protect one interest or the other.