Saturday July 5th has been set aside by Ondo State Government, the Regent of Akure, Princess Dr. Adetutu Ojei nee Adesida and Akure Council of Chiefs to stage the grand finale of a goodbye to the late Deji. The ceremony puts a closure to all the rites and rituals reserved for every Deji who died in office. Kabiyesi Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida came and went like a flash in the sky having reigned for only 3 years. It is an occasion fit for paying our last respect to him while recalling all of his virtues and achievements including few of the plans he had on the drawing board but which he could not implement because man proposes but God disposes and tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. Kabiyesi has, however, left the stage while the ovation is loudest and no tears we shed now would bring him back. The ball is now in the court of those of us he has left behind. It is now up to us to think of what to do with that awesome responsibility.
I have earlier on offered a special tribute which was widely publicized on the Internet within a few days of the man’s exit. I captured in that tribute all I thought the charismatic traditional ruler has achieved but I stopped short of highlighting some of what he had in mind but did not live long enough to execute or implement. He and I spoke at length during his last trip to New York on his last vacation to the Bahamas. I therefore have a pretty good idea of his plans for Akure and his order of priority for solving them. There is therefore no doubt in my mind that his sudden exit may have compounded some of those problems thereby leaving Akure a food for thought as we all reflect on those problems preparatory to Akure’s search for his successor.
I do not intend to repeat in this final goodbye most of the points I already covered in the special tribute. This piece is going o focus like a laser beam on problems the Kabiyesi knew up front that Akure faced but decided to postpone because he thought he could still live another 20 years or more on the throne.
The first was to challenge the December 12, 1991 Deji’s Declaration signed into Law by Navy Captain Sunday Olukoya which unilaterally broke the only Asodeboyede Ruling Line in Akure into two. As the custodian of Akure history and tradition, the Deji was to be the chief litigator in the planned Court action. The Asodeboyede Ruling Line used to comprise of all the descendants of every Deji who has ruled in Akure since Asodeboyede the pioneer Deji. Sunday Olukoya’s edict arbitrarily singled few out of those 46 individuals namely Osupa and Odundun which were lumped together to form the new ruling line while Ojijigogun and few of his direct children or grandchildren were lumped together to make the other ruling line.
The Declaration was done on the wrong presumption or premise that the descendants of the remaining Dejis who were left out did not count. We now have a situation in Akure today where the selection of a new Deji has now been narrowed down to just the descendants of Deji Osupa and Deji Odundun and Deji Ojijigogun because all the other Dejis who ruled after Ojijigogun minus Odundun and Adepoju Adesina were direct sons or grandsons of Ojijigogun. They included Deji Arosoye and Deji Afunbiowo as direct sons. The rest of them starting from Deji Ademuagun Adesida to Deji Adelegan Adesida, and Deji Adebobajo Adesida were all grandchildren of Deji Ojijigogun while the last Deji was Ojijigogun’s great grandson. My point is that the Asodeboyede Ruling Line which embraced all of us would have made sure that the selection of who becomes the next Deji is not confined to few individuals whose claim to royalty in Akure is very much in doubt like is happening right now.
The last Deji knew the Olukoya Declaration should not have been allowed to stand from the “get go” and he and I were committed to doing something about it because it was decidedly wrong and the move has created many more problems than it claimed to solve for Akure. The only good to come out of that Declaration was the decision to abrogate the so-called “omo ori ite” provision in the the 1958 Deji’s Declaration by the Awolowo Government which barred grand children whose father were never crowned a Deji in Akure from being able to contest and crowned a Deji in Akure. If the provision has not been abrogated the deposed Deji Osupa Adesina Adepoju would never have been qualified to reign from 2005 to 2010 and Deji Afunbiowo the Second who reigned from 2010 to 2013 would never have been qualified to be crowned a Deji in Akure. Why? Because they were both great grand children and their own biological fathers were never crowned a Deji in Akure and their mothers were never accredited Oloris who had to swear to an oath of chastity to a reigning Deji.
Under the Olukoya Declaration most if not all of the individuals presenting themselves today as candidates for the Deji’s throne are all great grandsons and some of them have some doubtful claim to royal blood in Akure. Most of those candidates who have never been identified as princes in Akure are now coming forward from every nook and corner claiming to be grandchildren of either Osupa or Odundun in a society where making false claims is hardly given a second thought by many. People will claim to be what they are not, if they find an opening and if they have enough money to bribe their way to selection and coronation. If you don’t believe me, just think about the number of crowned Obas in Yoruba Land who have been dethroned as illegitimate by a Court of Law in Nigeria. They are two for a penny. I don’t have to mention names.
The way we are going an Igbo or Ebira or Hausa man who has lived very long in Akure, speaks Akure dialect fluently, and has plenty of cash to throw around, can be crowned a Deji in Akure in a heartbeat. It is a prediction. Igbo traders have bought most of the old buildings in the choicest areas of Akure, pulling them down and rebuilding them can later lay claim to Akure tomorrow than many of us. It is only a question of time before an Igbo man offers himself for coronation as the Deji in Akure. That kind of thing would never happen in Igbo Land because Igbos as a rule are very insular. They would ask to create an “Eze igbo” title for their own people in Yoruba land, but would never tolerate or consider such a title for a Yoruba man in their midst however benevolent and loved. That is just the truth and not a criticism.
Our founding fathers improvised the “omo ori ite” clause in our traditional history and in the 1958 Declaration which prescribed just one ruling line to purposely maintain the purity of the royal blood and to ensure that individuals who did not have the royal blood flowing in their veins are not crowned a Deji in Akure. The British Monarch out of concern for the same awareness and sensitivity in Great Britain could not stomach Princess Diana falling in love with a Muslim, Dodi Fayed. They quickly moved to nip the situation in the bud in their own way and the rest is history. For the same reason the monolithic line in Edo kingdom would never allow the Edo tradition to be rubbished by just picking any Dick and harry to succeed the Oba of Benin.
The “omo ori ite” provisions were added by Akure founding fathers at a time when traditional rulers and their order of succession still count for something in our culture and tradition. Those were the days when a commoner and a politician like Ahmed Bola Tinubu of Lagos would never have the audacity to openly rubbish all traditional rulers as useless and irrelevant father figures while extolling the virtues on only 2 or 3 of them. He, Tinubu did not hesitate to name Kabiyesi Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode and Kabiyesi Rilwanu Akiolu the Oba of Lagos and possibly Kabiyesi Lamidi Adeyemi, the Alaafin of Oyo whose name he did not specifically mention in his statement as the only traditional rulers he respects. It was a reckless statement he should never have made but he did and there is no telling how that statement could come back to bite him and his party in Yoruba Land.
Such a sweeping condemnation of Yoruba traditional rulers by any politician was unheard of and unthinkable in past Yoruba history. I recall Bode Thomas as Deputy Leader of the Action Group openly challenging the authority of the Aremo of Oyo in a Law Court. Bode Thomas paid a price that is well documented in Yoruba History even though the particular Alaafin ended up being sent into exile by the Awolowo Government. I recall Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a lawyer merely putting the Deji of Akure, Afunbiowo Adesida the first in a witness box to be cross-examined in a way the Deji could not tolerate. Deji Afunbiowo who did not speak a word of English had considered the Awolowo cross-examination to be very rude and disrespectful of him.. Kabiyesi told the Court it was below his dignity for Awolowo to address him like that and he walked out of the Court in the protracted land dispute between Akure and idanre in the 50s. Those who are familiar with the story knew what happened and the rest is history.
The point I am making is that the traditional institution has been so relegated that people now treat traditional rulers anyhow. The least lovers of tradition like me can do is to ensure that only genuine and authentic princes among us are allowed to have a free ride to be crowned a Deji or even a traditional chief in our town. Since the last Deji did not have a chance to fully address the problem, the development is something Akure Council of Chiefs and leaders of thought must pay attention to as we go forward.
The last Deji only appointed 2 “Iwarafa Mefa” chiefs and one Ejua group of Chiefs before his exit. He appointed High Chief Aro Yemi Adedipewho died within two years of his appointment. He appointed High Chief James Olusoga as the Olisa of Akure and High Chief Asamo Olusanya. Right now, there are two major vacancies in the Iwarafa Mefa Group in Akure. High Chief Adelusimo Falade the Odopetu who is number 2 in that hierarchy is an old man whose health is not that buoyant as we speak. High Chief Elemo’s position the number 3 is currently vacant. High Chief Aro’s position, the number 4 is also vacant. The two most active chiefs in that group now are James Olusoga, the Olisa and Head of the group, and High Chief Oluyide the Ojomu who is number 5 and High Chief Asae the number 6. The 6 titles are among the 21 kingmakers some of whom have died as we speak. Akure right now is in a very precarious situation that would require a lot of wisdom and maturity to manage as we embark on the selection of a new Deji
Only God knows How the town is holding on in the wake of the two successive tragedies that have just befallen the town. Akure lost the first non “omo ori ite” Dej,i Adepoju Adesina 45 year old who reigned from 2005 to 2010 and a second non “Omo-ori-ite” Deji Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida who reigned from 2010 to 2013. Deji Osupa Adepoju was disgraced out of office for beating up his wife in the market place and was dethroned. The last Deji was just in the process of restoring the good image of the institution in 3 short years when he lost his own life. Akure elders have every reason to step back to reflect on what we may be doing wrong as we go forward.
The late Deji has done his bit and has moved on to join his ancestors. The rest of us who survive him must chart a new way forward for our town The last Deji, to his credit, has maintained a very high profile that saw him becoming the first Deji ever to be appointed the Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas. He held the position with dignity till his death. Akure cannot afford a Deji of a lesser stature than the one we have just lost. We need a Deji who is going to be a strategic thinker and a true leader of his people. We need a true royal blood. We need a Deji we can trust and believe in again. So help us God and may the soul of the last Deji rest in perfect peace? Amen.
I rest my case.