I would be the first to condemn the effrontery of any Yoruba community leader in Onitsha or Arochukwu who asked to be confirmed as the "Oba of the Yorubas "in the two Igbo towns of Nigeria. The two towns have taken great pride in their monarchy and traditional system from the dawn of their history in Igbo Land and rightly so.
I recall famous Professor Kodlinye, a one-time personal physician to Her Royal Majesty the Queen of England. The great Professor returned back to Nigeria to be appointed Vice Chancellor of the great University of Nsukka. The Professor was a prince of Obosi who could easily have asked his people to make him the "Eze Ndigbo" of London if not the whole of the United Kingdom. He would not even consider taking the title in Obosi talk less of asking for such a title in a foreign country like Britain which is ruled by only one monarch from the Royal House of Windsor.
As well-organized as the Igbo National Union has been in the United States, I am yet to hear of any Igbo man asking his people to confer on him the title of "Eze Ndigbo" or" Igwe" in any of the major cities of America. That would have been a joke in America. The Igbos know better not to do that kind of thing in America or any of the civilized countries of the world.
I did hear of a Yoruba community in South Carolina who claim to have a leader who reportedly got his crown from the great Alaafin of Oyo. They operate in private, however, and they have never sought any public or official recognition like the so-called "Eze Ndigbo of Akure has done by going ahead to build himself a Palace and by claiming some parity with the Deji of Akure, the preeminent ruler of the Kingdom.
I visited Rio de Janeiro in Brazil during the last World Cup. I seized the opportunity to visit the "Favelas" and the areas occupied by the Yoruba descendants in the great city. I never heard of any of their leaders seeking to be recognized as a traditional ruler of their community. They know they are in a foreign land. They could maintain or treasure their Yoruba identity, but they have done it within the rules and norms of what is acceptable in Brazil.
I could say the same thing of Cuba where the Yoruba descendants accorded the Late Ooni Risa Sijuwade Olubushe the Second, a rousing welcome reserved only for Heads of State the first time he paid an official visit to Cuba as Arole Oodua "Jigbini bi Ite Akun" the highly respected progenitor of the Yorubas who is actually worshipped as a deity in Cuba and some parts of the Caribbean, I never heard any of those Yoruba leaders seeking for recognition as titular "Yoruba Oba" because they know they have to respect the traditions of their host country. The day Ooni Risa Sijuade landed in Havana was viewed as special by the Yoruba descendants in Cuba because the visit ended a long period of draught in Havana and it was believed by many of them that the successor of Oodua had brought rain to their land and the visit was considered a great blessing to Cuba.
Akure people have no problem with Mr. Grail Illoson becoming the leader and the chief spokesman for his people on issues that are important to them, but coming to Akure and asking any Deji of Akure to confer on him the title of "Eze Ndigbo" of Akure is a different ballgame altogether. It is an abomination! Only a naïve Deji who does not understand the history of his own people or the import of traditional values and sensitivities would ever grant that kind of favor.
The words "Eze Ndigbo "simply means the King of the Igbos. There cannot be a king without a territory. If such a Deji agrees to create and recognize such a title in his domain he must be ready to identify the territory the title holder is going to preside over. Such a Deji would have no justification to deny creating similar titles and territories for the Egbiras, the Ijaws, the Hausa/Fulani and the Urhobo community in his domain if they all want similar concessions. How many Obas can you have in one town is a legitimate question to ask Mr. Illoson and his supporters? As huge and as highly populated as Ibadan is, the city has only one traditional ruler in the Olubadan of Ibadan. The same thing goes for most of the major cities of Yoruba Land. If the Igbos get their wish in Akure, it is only a question of time before they would start asking for similar concessions elsewhere in Nigeria.
The predicament the new Deji of Akure finds himself today can be traced back to Deji Adesina Adepoju who was banished for going out to the market place to engage in physical combat with his wife. The man who lived in London before his coronation knew next to nothing about the Deji's institution. He got to the throne as a compromise choice by claiming to be the great grandson of Deji Osupatadolaa who reigned from 1834 to 1846.
He got the title because the Deji's 1958 Chieftaincy Declaration signed into Law by the Awolowo Government had been amended in 1991 by a decree signed into law by military Governor and Navy Captain Sunday Olukoya. The amendment accommodated the "non-omo ori ite" meaning the male children who were born before their fathers became the Deji or grandchildren or great grandchildren like me and so many others in Akure, whose biological fathers were never crowned a Deji in Akure.
Akure was put into the mess it is now because the amendment has opened the door for impostors and many fake princes to have a chance to be crowned a Deji in Akure where very little to nothing is ever documented. Revisionists say what they like and tell some cock and bull stories when there is no one to challenge them or tell them they are wrong. I write some of the stuff I write today while I still have the capacity, the brains and the recall memory to document some of our history for generations yet unborn
Deji Osupa who called himself Osupa the Third was really Osupa the Second because there was only one Osupa before him. I pointed out the anomaly to him in writing before he was dethroned. Today we have Deji Odundun the Second because there was only one Odundun before him who reigned from 1882 to 1890 as documented in my book, "the Lion King and the Cubs" published in 2007. What I am doing is my little contribution to my town, and I would never shy away from it, even if it gives some fraudulent elements among us some discomfort or headache.
The deposed Deji committed an abomination when he placed more value on using the title to make money than to preserve our traditional values. He believed he was there not to make history and to leave his foot prints on the sands of history. He was there instead to make hysteria. He, all of a sudden, decided to enlarge the original "Iwarafa Mefa" group of Chiefs in Akure led by Olisa, Oteru Oba Ode by adding individuals with honorary titles into their rank and file. He did the same thing with the "Ikomo group" led by Baralaye the Sao of Akure and the "Ejua group" led by the Asamo of Akure. He did not stop there. He took a lot of cash from individuals like Mr. Grail Illoson to make him the "Eze Ndigbo" of Akure without any consultation with the Akure Council of Chiefs. He probably silenced his chiefs by threatening to rusticate them if they ever spoke up or challenged him.
The man was a ruthless despot who deposed the best Olisa in Akure history, retired Colonel Elijah Folorunsho David because the man refused to take any nonsense from him. I can say it without any iota of contradiction because I knew both of them very well and because Colonel David was my childhood friend and brother-in-law. I knew all of what transpired between them as an insider and a prince in Akure. I tell the truth as I know it and I damn the consequence because I know that sooner or later the truth will prevail.
I give all this background narrative to educate all of you reading this and to assure some of my Igbo friends who are so quick to blackmail me as a tribalist because I have the courage of my conviction to say or write anything that goes against them. Both Awolowo and Sardauna Bello were tagged tribalists because they dared to champion interest of their own base in Nigeria I recall Sardauna Bello saying in a video on the Internet that he embarked on his "northernization" policy in Nigeria to stop the Igbos from taking over the whole of the northern Public Service.
I make some exceptions though because there are Igbos like Alex Omeke and Agwunobi from Detroit, Michigan and Professor Ozodi Osuji to mention a few who don't usually rush to judgment to condemn anybody criticizing the Igbos for any reason. Mr. Agwunobi lived in Akure before coming to the United States and he and Alex Omeke and Professor Osuji are usually more objective in their judgment of those who criticize the Igbos. I would never deliberately malign the Igbos because there are also Yorubas, myself included, who do what the Igbos do when it suits their whim and caprices.
For those of you who may not know, the Deji of Akure has had a running battle with two of his quarter chiefs in Akure, namely the Osolo of Isolo and the Iralepo of Isinkan who have been agitating for recognition as traditional rulers within the Akure Metropolis for a long time. The Appeal Court has returned a verdict that they must never again parade themselves as traditional rulers in Akure. They refused to take a no for an answer. They have now taken their case to the Supreme Court which will give the final ruling.
The New Deji is well within his right and authority to dethrone the "Eze Ndigbo" of Akure and to abolish the title altogether because it has no place in our tradition and cultural setting, and we are not going to allow it to compound our problems in the capital city.
The Igbos are good people and they mean so much to the economic transformation of our town and our people want to live at peace with them like we have done for close to a hundred years starting from the reign of my grandfather, Deji Afunbiowo Adesida who reigned from 1897 to 1957 and whose three direct children reigned after him from 1957 to 1991 and whose great grandchild, Afunbiowo the Second reigned for from 2010 to 2013.
All the Dejis I know have encouraged the Igbos to settle in Akure and to peacefully make a living in our town as long they respect our sacred institutions and traditions. They must not impose their own values on our people. They should not do in our own domain what our own people would never do in theirs. It is that simple, if they truly value our own friendship and cooperation.
Mr. Grail Illoson, the "Eze Ndigbo" of Akure deserves to be dethroned with immediate effect because he has overstepped his boundaries. I would be saying the same thing about any Yoruba man in Igbo Land who oversteps his boundaries by riding roughshod over the traditional values and sensitivities of his host.
To be made an Oba in Yoruba Land, you have got to have a royal blood in you. It is not exactly so in much of Igbo Land where you can be picked or elevated to an "Igwe" or "Eze" if you are filthy rich and have exemplary conduct as a leader. Mr. Grail Illoson can go back to his homestead in Igbo Land if he is so passionate on becoming an "Eze" or "Igwe". If he wants to continue to live among us at Akure however, he must respect our core ethical frame work and value system. When you live in Rome you behave like a Roman. Mr. Illoson cannot eat his cake and have it.
I must seize this opportunity to reply to Mr. Kola Akere who deposed in his Facebook posting that what Mr. Illoson has done in Akure is permissible all over the world without giving one example. I don't know what the gentleman is talking about.
I am yet to hear of an "Eze Ndigbo in Kano, Sokoto or Bornu who wants recognition from Government or who wants to be placed on the same pedestal as the Emir of Kano, the Sultan of Sokoto or the Shehu of Bornu. I hear about an "Eze Ndigbo" of Lagos seeking the same kind of concession from Governor Raji Fashola but his request was politely and very quickly denied because it could have led to racial tension in Lagos and all of Yoruba Land.
Kabiyesi, the new Deji of Akure has done precisely the right thing in reference to Mr. Grail Illoson. Kabiyesi ought to go further to revisit some of the honorary titles that the deposed "Deji Osupa the Third" has conferred on some people in Akure. He should remove all of them from the three traditional groups I have listed above. Such honorary titles do not belong in the Iwarafa Mefa, or the Ikomo and the Ejua groups of Chiefs in Akure.
Right is right and wrong is wrong. There is no middle ground between the two. The deposed Deji should never have done what he did, but thank God Akure now has a Deji who appreciates and understands the full ramifications and consequences of desecrating our sacred institutions and traditional values and would not abandon his responsibilities by looking the other way. He has the support of all Akure people at home and in Diaspora to do what he has done.
I rest my case.