PRINCE ADEWOLE ADESIDA (1829-2005)
The Deji of Akure we never had
As I embark on this eulogy, I cannot help but recall how the defunct Mid-Western Region of Nigeria had felt about the painful exit of the late Chief .J. S. Marriere, their first civilian Governor. If you can do the same, you will be close to getting a clearer picture of how Ondo State of Nigeria and Akure City in particular feel today, as we all mourn the sudden death of “Dan Saki”(Prince) Adewole Adesida who will be buried at the St David’s Cathedral Church Cemetery in Akure on June 23rd 2005. I cannot think of a better epithet to describe this transition than the same epithet crafted in Urhobo language that graphically brings to mind the place of Chief Marriere in the hearts of his people.
I recall the Guardian Newspaper published by another Urhobo icon, Chief Michael Ibru, doing a special edition, announcing the death of Chief Marriere. It simply titled the announcement “Ovie Kpor” in Urhobo language meaning “The King is dead” Even though Chief Marriere was neither born into any royal family nor proclaimed a king, at any point, in his epoch-making life, he was truly a King in his own right. By the same token, the late Prince Adewole from the Adesida unit of the one and only Asodeboyede Ruling House in Akure was an “Ovie” of a kind in our own neck of the woods in Ondo State, Nigeria. He should have been our 43rd Deji of Akure, by unanimous consent, because he was that good. I will elaborate on that in some details, if you bear with me as I dig deeper into this eulogy for a Prince Charming who had been a true hero and genius of our time, a role model, and a precious jewel of inestimable value to our beloved city, the Ondo State Capital, and certainly more so to the whole Ondo State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I present to all my readers around the world, a true prince of Akure I am very proud to call my uncle. He has been the chief spokesperson for the Asodeboyede Ruling House in Akure, at a time our history is being desecrated and compromised by a Governor and his Deputy who had become so power-drunk and insensitive that they would choose to dynamite the peace and quiet of their State Capital, by repeating the silly mistake of a hopelessly dictatorial military Government headed by Navy Captain Olukoya who had unilaterally chosen to break the only Asodeboyede Ruling House into two ruling Houses thereby giving 419 pretenders and phony princes with no provable linkage to Royalty in Akure, a wiggle room to start claiming what does not belong to them Such scenarios are very common in our country. The so-called Osupa/Odundun Family in a desperate attempt to produce a Deji by crooked means went all out to nominate Prince Adegbola Adelabu as one of their candidates for the Deji’s throne after taking so much money from him. A few months later, the same family has come out to openly denounce the man as a phony who should be rejected by the king makers. Right now, newly minted princes among them who did not realize they were part of that Family when the first batch of nominations were submitted to the king makers, had, all of a sudden, rediscover themselves and are now playing a pivotal role on why Adegbola Adelabu had to be stopped by all means. I repeat that if they are lying about Adelabu, who knows what else they are lying about.
There are three parallel Obi of Onitsha as we speak The same thing can happen in our Akure. I will not be surprised, if Mr. Okechukwu of O.K. Stores in Akure or Ofei Day Spring Photographer in Akure is presented next as their candidate for the Deji’s throne. because Akure has been these individuals’ home away from home, for as long as any of us can remember. They have all grown up in Akure. They are married to Akure women and they speak Akure as fluently as the former Speaker of the Ondo House of Assembly, Kenneth Olawale who had his roots else where outside Akure, but he is as authentic an Akure man as any of us. For your information, Kenneth had represented my constituency in Igbatoro Fammilugba/Kajola/Igbatoro/ Igunshin axis in Akure Local Government area. Don’t be surprised, if under the Olukoya rule rubberstamped by Agagu and Omolade Oluwateru, Kenneth easily traces his lineage back to Oba Osupa and Odundun tomorrow, and he submits his name for consideration as a future Deji. It is a clear possibility from what we are all witnessing in Akure and else where across Nigeria.
The Olukoya Government was probably told that 43 Dejis have ruled in Akure since 1100 starting with Asodeboyede and up until the late Oba Ataiyese was crowned on his second consecutive attempt in 1991. All previous Dejis in Akure have always been selected from the only Asodeboyede Ruling House, thereby giving all surviving descendants of each of the 44 Dejis, that are able to prove their royal identity and linage, a chance to, at least, participate in the selection exercise for a new Deji, every time there is a vacancy. They have a right to be nominated, if they show interest, and the choice will then be left to the king makers to do their home work, and to pick their choice in accordance with the powers vested in them by the 1958 Chieftaincy Declaration and its subsequent amendments.
The same protocol of asking the Asodeboyede Ruling House to nominate had been followed for close to 200 years in Akure history. It was followed when Ojijigogun was selected and when Odundun succeeded Ojijigogun in 1882. The same protocol was strictly followed in selecting Oba Arosoye in 1890, Oba Afunbiowo in 1897, Oba Agunsoye in 1957, Oba Otutubiosun in 1975 and Oba Ataiyese in 1991. What is the compelling reason for any Ondo State Government to change the protocol now? I just don’t see the rational. The Olukoya Government just wanted to create confusion by creating another ruling House .The present Queen of England had spent more than 50 years on the throne just like it has pleased God to grant Oba Afunbiowo long life on the throne for 60 years. Why should any sensible Governor, because of that, change the rule or move the goal post, because of any fear the Adesidas have dominated the throne for so long. It was an act of God that Oba Afunbiowo had reigned for so long. Agagu and Oluwateru cannot because of that deny the Adesidas or any of the remaining Dejis in Akure, their chances to participate in the selection process as part and parcel of the only ruling House in Akure. If the Asodeboyede Ruling House is allowed to conduct his own business without undue interference by a corrupt military or civilian Government, the kingmakers know who the genuine princes are in Akure, and will play pick the right candidate, like the Ijesha king makers had done, not too long ago, when they chose to pick Owa Agunlejika, a farmer, and rejected Prince Ladejola Oginni the millionaire business tycoon and a cousin of S.B. Bakare, the Sobaloju of Lagos.
Oba Afunbiowo was able to compete for the throne three consecutive times in 1882, 1890 and finally in 1897 when he finally got sele
cted. Because he had reigned for 60 years before his exit in 1957, all of his other entitled cousins who could possibly have participated in the selection exercise, after him, were either too old or senile to be crowned a Deji. None of their surviving descendants, at the material time, could be picked as a Deji by the kingmakers because they could not prove that their biological fathers, had ever ascended the throne of Akure. The practice of looking for genuine prince to crown as a Deji, made a lot of sense to our finding fathers, at the time, because the king makers in their wisdom had wanted to be hundred per cent sure, the throne never went to a” mutumu banza” meaning phony princes claiming to be a genuine ones in Akure, because they have position, influence and power, and because they have a lot of money to throw around, like we are now witnessing in Akure today as we speak.
If there is any Akure Prince dead or alive who has consistently stood up for Asodeboyede as the only Ruling House in Akure, it was Prince Adewole Adesida. His position which I have always shared in all of my writings on the Deji, and which happens to be the truth, is that the selection exercise must be thrown wide open to all descendants of all the 44 Dejis without exception, especially now that the provision barring grand children from being selected a Deji, have now been expunged from the Declaration by consensus and popular demand. It is clearly a silly Declaration which will try to make it illegal for any grand children to be able to claim a title to which their biological parents were entitled. If another Deji were to again reign for as long as Oba Afunbiowo had done, there will always be surviving grand children of other Dejis in Akure to compete and be deemed qualified to be crowned a Deji. Narrowing down the selection of a Deji to just 2 out of the 44 Dejis like the Ondo State Government is doing today is a no brainer if they really think about it.
The insensitivity of the Ondo State Government to the predicament of Akure under Agagu and Oluwateru has now been plainly played out by their decision to grant a “recess” recognition to the Osolo and the Iralepo chieftaincies in Akure, and presenting them with the staff of office during an interregnum, and without due consultation, and a clear division and a proper documentation of responsibilities was a stab in the back for all Akure people at home and abroad, and a great insult to Deji as an Institution. Agagu and Oluwateru who once claimed they wanted to steer clear of chieftaincy disputes and distractions in their efforts to develop Ondo State, have now put themselves at the epic center of controversy at the State Capital by going ahead to more or less permanently divide Akure into three separate kingdoms in the absence of a substantive Deji. The ripple effects of what Agagu and Oluwateru have done against the consensus of all Akure people is, without any question, the beginning of the end for the Agagu-led Government in Ondo State, and a flamable chain reaction, the end of which nobody can predict at this time. I thought the Owa Ale and Olukare stalemate that have become a running sore for years in Ikare-Akoko, should have thought Agagu and Oluwateru a lesson. May be, they plan to turn Akure into a battleground for War, long after they leave office. It makes no sense at all.
I must hasten to add that I am not personally opposed to granting some measure of recognition or autonomy to the Osolo and the Iralepo just to differentiate them from the rank and file of other quarter chiefs in Akure. Why? Because Akure tradition, from the get go, has always done that. What was needed was to clearly define their roles and the limits of their powers, and their relationship to the Deji and other quarter Chiefs in Akure The way the exercise was done and executed by the Agagu/Oluwateru Government was very egregious and offensive, if not dishonest. If Agagu is making them minor Obas or Bales, it ought to be clearly stated in black and white. The Government must also be compelled to carve out a kingdom for them from what used to belong in perpetuity to the Deji of Akure as the overall boss Agagu’s Government ought not to be allowed to destabilize Akure in that way. At a time Akure is still struggling to restrain Idanre from encroaching on Akure Land, Agagu and Oluwateru’s Government is adding more insult to an injury, and there is going to be a price to pay for that horrendous mistake sooner than later.
The analogy with Abeokuta where the supremacy of the Alake is never in dispute, is neither apposite nor an iron-clad reassurance to the Akure Community at large, and the next Deji, that the two elevated chiefs may not, by and large, equate themselves with the Deji of Akure, just like Oba Dapo Tejuosho the Osile of Oke Ona had once tried to do to Alake, before he was put in his place. In other words, Akure as the State Capital now has three traditional rulers, and could still have more as the Odopetu or the Sao now borrowing a leaf from the Osolo and the Iralepo, may now seek to be recognized as minor Obas, because they too like the Osolo and Iralepo, were, by tradition, allowed to wear beeded crowns during certain ceremonial occasions in their respective quarters. The Odopetu wears the so-called “Oliki” crown, while the Sao wears the “Ogun” crown. If Agagu as an Iju-Odo/Ikale man is ignorant and insensitive to Akure History and tradition, how does anyone excuse Omolade Oluwateru who is Deputy Governor today, because he is an Akure son. As far as Akure is concerned, Agagu and Oluwateru have murdered sleep, on this issue, and shall sleep no more, if Akure goes up in flame, because of the way this exercise has been carried out, without adequate consultation, painstaking preparations and very thorough reflections. What was the hurry in not allowing a new Deji to be installed before Akure is rail-roaded into this potentially dangerous development? It is a legitimate question to ask?