By Daud Olatunji, Abeokuta
The incident occurred in 2005, few days after the immediate past Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oyebade Lipede, joined his ancestors, according to the father of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, Chief Alani Bankole, at a launch of his book, titled, ‘ Alake of Egbaland:The Succession Dynamics’.
Bankole, the Seriki Jagunmolu of Egbaland and Oluwo of Iporo Sodeke /Iporo Ake, claimed to have witnessed one of the most heart-breaking violations of tradition during the performance of the traditional rites for the Lipede, the 9th Alake of Egbaland, when the location of the remains of the late Oba got enmeshed in controversy.
“In the days of old, nobody would dare make such move”, he said.
Lipede ascended the throne in 1972 following the transition of Oba Adesina Samuel Gbadebo on October 26,1971.
He died on February 3, 2005 after spending 33 years on the throne, aged 90 years.
While revealing how the corpse of Lipede went missing shortly before burial rites, Bankole said the transition of the monarch did not go without some drama. Indeed,there was a tussle between the kingmakers and the family of the late monarch, particularly the youngest Olori who was alleged to have taken the remains of the Oba away to the traditional ruler’s private residence in the Government Reserved Area, Ibara, Abeokuta.
“Traditionally, as soon as an Oba joins his ancestors, his family ceases to have control. So, the Olori or family, does not have the authority to go near his remains, let alone take them away. The impasse was resolved when the kingmakers found the Oba’s remains in one of the rooms in the palace, but that was not without a thorough search”, the Egba chief stated .
“If such thing occured, I would not blame the Olori or whoever was involved in such abomination because, as it is popularly said, if you give a hoe to a mad person, he will till the soil to his side. I think that, we, kingmakers, should take full responsibility for all the drama that happened.
“I make this statement on the grounds that we should have been more proactive in our responsibilities. Ideally, the moment we begin to sense that the health of an Alake is deteriorating, all the occupants of the palace are supposed to be sent packing and the palace taken over by the ‘Omo-Iya-Marun’.
“Perhaps, I should state here that the palace does not belong to the Alake because it is actually owned by the entire sons and daughters of Egbaland and kept under the care of the ‘Omo-Iya-Marun’.
“Aside the fact that we did not act according to the dictates of our culture and tradition, most of us arrived the palace late. So, we provided the grounds for those traditionally ignorant individuals to violate the tradition or, mildly put, make attempt to do the unexpected. In the process of searching for the remains of the Oba, we were shuttling between the palace and the Government House for consultation because the Alake is not an ordinary Oba”.
However, while speaking on the intrigues that greeted the selection of the incumbent Alake, Oba Gbadebo, the kingmaker claimed that government had wanted another person to ascend the throne.
Bankole said government wanted a younger brother of the incumbent as the new Alake.
“Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo became the Alake not with my effort alone. During the struggle, one of the contestants came to my house and told me that I was the only one blocking him and that everyone had agreed except Sarafa Ishola and the deputy governor.
“On the eve of the election, I got an anonymous telephone call during which the caller told me that government had decided to either scuttle what we wanted to do or make sure somebody else was chosen”, Bankole said.
“I reported to Sarafa Ishola who called the then Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs who confirmed to him that they were taking some steps to install another person, but I told them none of them was from Egba and that they should leave the Egba sons to handle their affairs.
“On the first day we wanted to do the election, the then governor was outside the country; Ishola ran to us in the palace around 12 midnight and said he had come to plead with us that the governor wasn’t around and wouldn’t want us to run into collision with government, and we listened to him.
“The truth was that the governor wanted somebody else and he didn’t hide it. After the election, the governor phoned me around 12 midnight accusing me of announcing the result of the election; and I told him I only announced the result of the election and not the choice of Alake and that he had the audacity to disagree or allow it.
“He went ahead to write it in one of his books that the present Alake was not as popular as Adeleke, but most of you here are witnesses to what happened when the new Alake was announced; I have never seen such a tremendous support for the Alake”.
He also revealed how he scuttled the plan by the then administration to announce the Alake-elect within seven days as against the provision of law which stipulated 14 days within which petitions are entertained. According to him, the decision of the then administration was to create a lacuna and good ground for other interested parties to fault the selection of the Alake-elect.It would be recalled that Oba Gbadebo continued to accuse the former governor of plans to remove him.
In his remarks, the Alake acknowledged the role Bankole played during the interregnum, saying he as a king maker, refused to collect a dime from him when he was seeking the throne.
“More importantly, when you are going to be an Alake, you give free
traditional gifts to all other chiefs, it is free, you are not compelled the same way you were given when you were being elected or
before the election of all kingmakers. The only one that declined anything from me throughout the six months, it was exactly six months after the death of Oba Lipede, that election was 3rd of August, Oba
Lipede died on 3rd of February, so for the six months,Chief Alani Bankole told everybody else ‘I have collected my own , so go and take your own’, but, he never took any penny from me. For that singular reason today, I should show my love to him”, Oba Gbadebo stated.