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Olukere stool: One long journey to recognition

LAST week’s landmark pronouncement of the Ekiti State government in recognising the stool of Olukere in Ikere Local Government Area and the subsequent granting of Odo-Oja Ikere Ekiti as an autonomous community was the climax of old agitations. In this report, ‘YOMI AYELESO examines the history of the age-long clamour, the reason for government’s decision and the public’s response to the new reality.

IKERE-EKITI, one of the largest communities in Ekiti State, is an ancient town with rich cultural values but was for long embroiled in a traditional stool controversy. The community has two traditional stools: the Ogoga and the Olukere. For years, the Ogoga was recognised as the paramount ruler and accorded the necessary paraphernalia by the state government but the Olukere was not given the recognition as a traditional ruler, a development which created tension in the town. The stool was only regarded in history as the first royal institution in the community with the root traced to Ile-Ife.

The supremacy battle which started with crown-wearing raged on for years and was further brought to limelight when the present occupant of the Olukere stool, Oba Ganiyu Obasoyin, Okomolose II ascended the throne in 2013 following the death of Oba Olufemi Ijasan, who also fought unsuccessfully for recognition before his demise.

It was gathered that since the emergence of Obasoyin and the present Ogoga, Oba Adejimi Adu, who was crowned in 2015, the supremacy crisis was rife as the Olukere made uunrelenting efforts to achieve the recognition of his stool by the government, a move the Ogoga was said to have challenged in court.

Ogoga based his argument on the fact that the Olukere stool was just a priesthood linked to Olosunta festival. He admitted that the Ogoga came into the town and had met the Olukere on ground but insisted that as a prince from Benin Kingdom, he was the one who established the monarchy.

However, the Olukere countered the argument consistently that as a traditional ruler part of his duties was leading his people in the worship of the Olosunta festival. Olosunta was said to be the only religious festival of the people of Ikere-Ekiti before the advent of Christianity and Islam in the town.

The battle raged and successive governments failed to recognise Olukere, with different administrations advancing reasons for their actions and the continued recognition of the Ogoga as the only traditional ruler, in the ancient community until the present administration of Dr Kayode Fayemi on October 8, 2021 made the decision and pronounced Olukere as a traditional ruler.

Unknown to many, the creation of Ikere West Local Council Development Area alongside 18 other LCDAs recently by the government undoubtedly set the tone for the ultimate recognition of the Olukere stool. There are eleven political wards in the town, four of these wards are in the new Ikere West LCDA which falls in the domain of the Ogoga, while the remaining seven wards are in the domain and territory of the Olukere in the original Ikere Local Government Area.

According to a statement last Friday, signed by the Executive Secretary of the Bureau of Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Adegboyega Morakinyo, the Odo-Oja community of Ikere Ekiti submitted a memorandum to the commission which recommended it as an independent town and Olukere as its oba.

“The Odo-Oja Community of Ikere Ekiti submitted a memorandum to the commission including an application for recognition as an autonomous town and its traditional head as an oba. The commission found merit in the application and further affirmed the eligibility of the Odo Oja Community to be recognised as an autonomous town and its traditional head as Oba.

“In furtherance of the ongoing review of the implementation of the White Paper on the report of the Commission, Government has revisited the recommendation on the application of the Odo Oja Community of Ikere Ekiti.

“Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Odo Oja Community of Ikere Ekiti is accordingly granted autonomous status and its traditional head-Olukere is hereby recognised as an Oba,” he said.

Presentation of staff of office to Oba Ganiyu Obasoyin by the deputy governor of Ekiti State, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi

Less than an hour after this announcement, the governor presented the long expected staff of office to the Olukere, Oba Ganiyu Obasoyin at the conference hall of the governor’s office to signal the beginning of a new era in the town.

Speaking at the brief ceremony, Fayemi, represented by his deputy, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, congratulated the traditional ruler for the feat, saying, “what you have been striving to achieve for years has now been achieved.”

Fayemi who added that the decision of his government was sequel to the proposal for autonomy by the people of Odo-Oja community forwarded to the Justice Jide Aladejana’s Chieftaincy Review Commission set up to look into some contentious traditional issues in the state, revealed that the proposal was meritorious. He advised the new monarch to ensure peace and unity in his domain, assuring the people that government would do everything possible to prevent any break down of law and order in the community.

The visibly elated Oba Obasoyin commended the governor for the honour. According to him, “What the government has done will remain an indelible and unforgettable event in the history of Ikere-Ekiti. I humbly accept the honour bestowed on me by the government and it will remain a significant event in the history of Ikere-Ekiti. Today is a revelation of the truth.”

We lost people due to the battle – Residents

Expectedly, the government’s action has been greeted with wild jubilation and celebration by youths and the aged who were full of praise to the state government. A community leader, Mr Ogundare Ogundaisi said that the gesture would enhance development in the community.

The 67-year-old said that the battle for the recognition was fierce and deadly, revealing that he was lucky to still be alive “considering the fact eleven of my close associates lost their lives in the struggle for Olukere’s recognition in the community in the last twenty seven years of my active involvement.”

He said, “It is a great thing that the government has finally recognised our own Olukere because it was a tough battle. I have been in this struggle since 1994 and I can tell you that 11 of my mates died in this battle in Ikere. It is victory for all and we believe with the help of God, great things will begin to happen in Ikere community.”

On his part,  82-year-old community leader, Mr Gabriel Omokulade said, “I have been around in the last fifty years in this battle for Olukere’s stool and I can say it almost led to a serious war here, very tough at a time. We thank God for a time like this and confidently I can say, you will begin to see massive positive changes in the land.”

The 84-year-old head of the Olukere family house, Adeniyi Obasoyin recalled that the battle began between the two traditional rulers with the issue of wearing of crown, which he said prompted the then Ogoga to sue Olukere to court but “we won.”

He said, “The issue became fierce when the Olukere said he wanted to collect staff of office from the government. This was resisted in the last 25 years until Friday when the state government did the needful.”

To 56-year-old Honourable Tope Ijasan, the whole battle was a tough one which claimed the lives of 35 individuals in the community. He added that about 15 cases were instigated against the Olukere in court.

According to Mr. Micheal Ayodele, the recognition of Olukere by the government was made possible due to the distinct steps taken by the traditional ruler and other members of the town.

“Oba Obasoyin is a great man, loved by all and sundry. You can ask around about his personality. Even before his recognition, he had been contributing to the development of the people and the community,” he said.

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