Tension in Offa, Kwara State over Olofa's removal

Date: 2013-07-20

THE decision of the Court of Appeal which removed the Olofa of Ofa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Oloyede Esuwoye II, last week has put the town on edge.

The once sleepy town on the western borders of northern Nigeria has witnessed very uneasy calm with both sides in the tussle for the stool taking their cases to the court of public opinion.

While the side that won at the Appeal Court addressed the press in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Monday hailing the court verdict, supporters of Oba Esuwoye in their thousands held a rally in the town the following day. They described the judgment as a miscarriage of justice.

"Any attempt to remove or dethrone Olofa of Ofa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Oloyede Esuwoye II, would be a clog in the wheel of progress of this community. Since his ascension to the throne, he has been the strongest factor in the social and economic development of Ofa. This town has never witnessed such tremendous growth before, such that everybody expresses delight at the turning around of our fortune as a people.

"The claim that Olofa was not duly elected or selected before his coronation as a traditional ruler is total falsehood. His selection followed due process. When the throne became vacant, the two royal families, Olugbense and Anilelerin, submitted their respective nominees. But, later, the Olugbense withdrew the name of their nominee, saying that the person was promiscuous and corrupt. Later, they submitted another name and the two names of the nominees were taken to Ifa oracle for selection. In Ofa here, we rely on the Ifa oracle to select our king. Ifa chose the better of the two. And that was Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Oloyede Esuwoye.

"This made the kingmakers submit his name to the state governor. The state government did not influence his selection as being speculated in some quarters. Since he became the king, there has been peace and progress. If there is a challenge of any form, he would always be there to provide solution. Part of his financial intervention is the construction of Ofa Descendant Union (ODU) secretariat, building of Ofa Central Mosque and the building of this palace, amounting to millions of naira. He did not take a penny from anybody to construct this palace. He set up companies where thousands of indigenes are earning their living today."

These were the submissions of the Iyalaje of Ofa, Alhaja Khadijat Mogbonjubola Adebiyi, on the imbroglio over the chieftaincy tussle in the town. Her standpoint on the crisis was in tandem with other stakeholders in the town, who contended that removing the monarch might spell doom for the community.

In its judgment, the court held that it was the turn of the Olugbense ruling house to fill the vacant stool of the Olofa after the demise of Oba Olawore Olanipekun of Anilelerin family in 2010.

But when Saturday Tribune visited the Olofa’s sprawling palace on Tuesday, the compound was filled to the brim as early as 8.30 a.m. with the Oba’s supporters numbering over 7,000, comprising market women, artisans, students, drivers, commercial motorcyclists (popularly known as okada riders), among others.

Apparently dissatisfied with the outcome of the judgment, they were on the ground to give solidarity to the embattled traditional ruler, whom they described as an agent of positive change to their community.

Displaying placards with inscriptions such as ‘No More Case, Gbadamosi is Our King’, ‘Ema B’ofa je, Mufutau ni Olofa’, ‘Don’t Disrupt the Growth and Progress of Ofa’, ‘There can be no king in Ofa except Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Oloyede’, the crowd staged a peaceful protest, denouncing the court ruling over the Olofa chieftaincy tussle, which they said was capable of plunging the town into chaos and unimaginable crisis.

However, the rival Olugbense ruling house appealed to the state government to enforce the judgment of the Court of Appeal and install their own Prince Abdulrauf Adegboyega Keji as the new Olofa of Ofa in the interest of peace, justice and fairness.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin, the spokesman of the Olugbense ruling house, Prince Saka Adebayo Keji, said that there would be no recognised traditional ruler in the town until the state government enforced the court judgement.

Prince Keji said the installation of the new Olofa was necessary as it would assist in ensuring that peace continued to reign in the Ofa Local Government Area of the state.
He said the judgment, which ruled that it was the turn of the Olugbense ruling house to be the Olofa of Ofa upon the demise of Olawore Olanipekun of the Anilelerin ruling house in 2010, had put the Olofa chieftaincy status in historical perspectives.

"Ofa has been very peaceful and, as a matter of fact, many people, including those on the side of the deposed Mufutau Esuwoye, have been trooping to our ruling house to congratulate us and wish us well as we take the mantle of leadership," he said.

He also said that in 2010, when it became the turn of Olugbense to produce the candidate to fill the vacancy created by the death of Oba Olanipekun Ariwajoye from Anilelerin ruling house, their candidate, Abdulrauf Keji, was rejected by the kingmakers.

"Our ruling house has lost faith in any arrangement that will continue to perpetually deny us our right to ascend to the throne of our forefathers.

"In the interest of peace, justice, fairness, equity and adherence to the principles of rule of law which form the bedrock of democracy, our forefathers have made compromises before in the interest of peace in Ofa, particularly in 1969 when Oba Mustapha Keji was persuaded by the government of the day to step down to allow the candidate from the female Anilelerin ruling house to be produced to start the rotational process, and he did," he added.

Reacting to the development, the President, National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) and the National Coordinator, Offa Student Leaders Forum (OSLF), Mr. Salahudeen Lukman, said the judgment of the Court of Appeal was a calculated attempt to destabilise the peace and order in the community.

"It is on this note that the student leaders call on the entire people of Ofa to see beyond the present as the future and hope of the town belong to us, while the history has made it clear that dethronement is a setback to a community in all ramifications.

"Only a land of peace germinates the seed of progress and we want to appeal to both ruling families to see reason and settle this matter out of court with the involvement of all reputable indigenes of this great town in the interest of this generation and those yet unborn. There is the need to say no to dethronement. Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Oloyede is a symbol of peace and development," Lukman remarked.

Explaining the role of the state government in the installation of the monarch, a former chairman of Ofa Local Government, during whose tenure the Olofa ascended to the throne, Chief Segun Olawoyin, said the government did not err in picking the Oba during the selection process.

Commenting on the issue, a leader of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the twon, Babayemi Adigun, said the judiciary should be seen to be making peace in the society, stressing that "the voice of the people must prevail in a sensitive matter like this."

As it stands now, it seems the last word on this tussle will actually come from the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

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