By Clifford Ndujihe, Yinka Kolawole, Amaka Abayomi, Gbenga Oke & Princewill Ekwujuru
LAGOS—THE Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, has tongue-lashed the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, over his recent ranking of Yoruba Obas, which is still generating heat in the polity.
The Alake, in the ranking of the five top Obas, placed the Ooni of Ife as the first, followed by the Alaafin of Oyo, the Oba of Benin, with the Alake coming fourth and the Awujale fifth.
Dismissing the ranking as self-serving, false and misrepresentation of facts, Awujale said the Alake was not higher than him in order of ranking, adding that at best, he was a junior traditional ruler in Yoruba land.
To get the records, the Awujale advised the Alake to meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo for proper tutelage.
“My advice to Alake, being a young and inexperienced traditional ruler, is that he should contact Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for proper education so as to save himself and his people from further embarrassment,” he said.
Oba Adetona spoke in Lagos at the Inaugural Lecture of the Professorial Chair in Governance he endowed at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye.
The Alake’s ranking of Yoruba sparked off heated debate, with the Benin Kingdom countering that no Yoruba Oba was higher than the Oba of Benin.
The polity had been suffused with series of arguments and counter-arguments over the issue since then.
Picking holes in the ranking, the Awujale faulted the 1903 gazette the Alake based his categorisation on.
His words: “Not long ago, after the installation of Oba Alaiyeluwa Adeyeye Ogunwusi as the Ooni of Ife, he undertook steps to foster unity and cooperation among leading Yoruba Obas and for which I personally commend him.
“First, he joined the Alaafin at his 77th birthday celebration at Oyo. Thereafter, he visited me at Ijebu-Ode on Friday, January 29, 2016, followed by another visit to Abeokuta on Sunday, February 7, 2016, where he met Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo in his palace at Ake, Abeokuta, with the exception of the Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta, who was not around then.
“The Alake, while receiving the Ooni at his palace, said the Yoruba Obas (the Big Five so to say) had been categorised with the Ooni in the first position, followed by Alaafin, the Oba of Benin, with Alake coming fourth and the Awujale as the fifth in that order.
“He also went further to quote wrongly from a 1903 Gazette to support all the fallacies in his statement. When I learned of the statement, I made several calls to Alake until I eventually succeeded in finding out from him if those statements were actually made by him, which of course he vehemently denied.
“In a recent discussion between the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, and I, we also touched on the same issue and the Oba of Lagos told me that he too had asked Alake the same question, which he had again denied vehemently.
“Regrettably, however, when the said statement a few days later was continuously credited to Alake on the pages of newspapers, I expected him to deny it or issue a rebuttal, but he did not do so. Therefore, I consider it necessary to debunk the aforementioned falsehood and misrepresentation of facts from Ake Palace so as to put the records straight.
The true history— Awujale
“First, I would like to make it abundantly clear that the 1903 Gazette referred to by Alake was a Newspaper publication that he, in his self-serving role, is now presenting as an official Government Gazette.
“The first question to Alake is: Who categorised the Yoruba Obas and when? I challenge him to produce the document of the said categorisation. It is a known fact that Alake was a junior traditional ruler under the Alaafin at Orile Egba before he fled to Ibadan for refuge as a result of the war then ravaging Yoruba land.
“Following the defeat of Owu by the Ijebu Army in 1826, the Owus became refugees all over Yorubaland. Some of the Ijebu troops that fought the war proceeded to Ibadan where they met Alake and sacked him, consequently forcing him to seek refuge at Ake in Abeokuta in 1830 where, of course, he met Osile, Olowu and Agura already settled at Oke-Ona, Owu and Gbagura sections of Abeokuta township respectively.
“Even then, the Olubara, of Oyo origin had always argued that all the aforementioned four rulers met him in Abeokuta and, therefore, claimed to be their landlord.
Alake’s real title
“To ever refer to Alake as Alake of Abeokuta, let alone of Egbaland is a misnomer as his control since arrival at Ake in 1830 and till today is restricted to Ake section of Abeokuta. The official Government Gazette testifies to this fact.
“In short, the Alake from history and all available records is a very junior traditional ruler in Yorubaland. His peers in Ijebuland are the Dagbuwere of Idowa, Ajalorun of Ijebu Ife, Akija of Ikija-Ijebu, Olowu of Owu-Ijebu, Oloko of Ijebu-Mushin, Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo and Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye.
“I wish to recall that there had been an occasion in the past for three of us, the Awujale, the late Alake, Oba Lipede and the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife, to sit over the issue with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at Aso Rock, Abuja.
“It is important for Alake’s education to appreciate that Ijebu has been in existence for almost 1,000years and that we are the only people that still remain in our original homestead while other Yoruba towns and villages have relocated twice or more.
“If only he cares to obtain a copy of the book: “The Ijebu of Yorubaland (1850-1950”) by the late Prof. E.A Ayandele, that erudite Professor of History, and endeavour to read it, there he will know who the Ijebus are and appreciate that from time immemorial and since our settlement on Ijebu soil, Ijebu was, indeed, a nation until 1892 when we were defeated in the Magbon War by the British colonial forces.
“As to be expected, the British colonial masters left no stone unturned to humiliate us for daring to engage them in a war.
“When Sir Gilbert Carter read intelligence reports on Ijebuland at the Home Office in London, he felt convinced that the Ijebus were a special breed. Therefore, when he later found himself as Governor of Lagos colony, he prepared a treaty for the Awujale to sign so as to allow the missionaries to educate and evangelize the people as well as surrender their monopoly of trade between the coast and hinterland and for which he offered an annual payment of 800 pounds that was rejected.
“Notwithstanding the conquest, our early contact with the expatriates was quite significant and rewarding. It was during this period that our God-given commercial acumen was bought to play, resulting in enormous prosperity for the Ijebus to the envy of our neighbours.
“In conclusion, I hereby strongly admonish Alake to refrain from making such unsavoury, unguarded and unfounded statements which if not checked, may seriously jeopardize the unity of Yoruba Obas and their people.”
The Roll call
Prominent Nigerians at the event where over N400 million was realised for the Kayode Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance, included members of the Ijebu Traditional Council, who donated N250 million; Professor Akin Mabogunje, who delivered the guest lecture; Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson; former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba; Ogun State Deputy Governor, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga; Managing Director of Sahara Energy, Mr Tonye Cole; General Tunji Olurin, Chief Alex Duduyemi, Mr Jimi Agbaje, Mr Emeka Oparah, Chief Oba Otudeko, former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Niyi Adebayo; and Chairman and Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr Sam Amuka.
There were also Justice George Oguntade, Dr Segun Oshin, Pro-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University; Professor S.A Adesanya, Vice chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University; Mrs Ibukun Awosika, chairman of First Bank; Senator Daisy Danjuma, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, Chief Chris Ogunbanjo, Mr Jimi Agbaje, Senator Lekan Mustapha, Chief Kola Daisi, Chief Subomi Balogun and Chief Olanihun Ajayi.