Twenty-four years after the demise of the Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, Oba Daniel Adetayo, there is no sign that the ancient town would have a successor soon. In this circumstance, the people of the town are suffering the protracted repercussions of this vacuum created by the obvious absence of a traditional ruler. TUNDE BUSARI examines the issues involved.
The late Afenifere Chairman, Pa Abraham Adesanya, the late Apala maestro, Alhaji Haruna Isola, Chairman of Globacom company, Sir Mike Adenuga, Chairman of Sokas industries, Alhaji Olanrewaju Kazeem, among many others, are proud indigenes of Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, who have, in their respective fields of endeavor, made some noticeable marks that put the town on the global map. Their presence is felt in terms of their contributions to the socioeconomic developments of the town founded conservatively in the 17th century.
For instance, the music of the late Haruna Isola, who died on November 9, 1983, is still enjoying good air time in almost every household as if he were alive. Also a cathedral, which was reportedly built by Sir Adenuga, was sighted in the town.
Getting to Ijebu-Igbo, one of the ancient towns of Ogun State, through Oru-Ijebu, off Ibadan-Ijebu-Ode highway is a smooth journey any traveler would wish for. The asphaltic road is strong, straight and a motorist’s delight. Though the township roads are crying for rehabilitation with potholes dotting them from one point to another, the overhead bridge currently under construction through the market axis, is raising the hope of the residents of physical development coming to the town.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that the growth of Ijebu-Igbo would have been accelerated safe for the vacuum created by the town’s inability to install a new traditional known as the Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo. Since the last Orimolusi, Oba Daniel Adetayo joined his ancestors on May 20, 1994, having reigned for about 35 years, various setbacks were said to have characterised the process of selecting a successor.
It was also learnt that the matter had reached the Appeal Court in Ibadan where the litigants were reportedly asked to return home for a fresh selection exercise. Already, the Supreme Court was said to have also asked the contestants to perfect their application giving them February 2019 to return and file the application.
“This is the situation we have found ourselves in the last 24 years. It is a matter which I don’t like to talk about because it touches my core interest as a son of the soil who should not be comfortable with his town having no traditional ruler.
“The people of the town are also not happy considering the present state of this town. What is happening now makes the adage that when elephants fight, the grass on which they war, suffers. The truth is that we are not happy that we don’t have the Orimolusi in the palace,” an indigene, who craved anonymity, disclosed.
An abandoned palace
The Orimolusi’s palace which the source mentioned, sits on a large expanse of land at the heart of the town. However, what is left of the palace is a relic awaiting a bulldozer to save the neighbourhood of criminal elements who might turn it to hideout where nefarious activities could be carried out. There is no distinct entrance into the palace as the whole place is left without perimeter fence let alone a gate to restrict movement of the public.
The buildings, which bring out the modest taste of the last occupier of the palace, have been taken over by reptiles and weed. The doors and windows have broken just as the floor gathered dust and the entire environment falls short of what could be called a place that once housed a royal father.
It was further learnt that the open ground in the premises had been converted to venue of social functions where parties are held almost on weekly basis. Not only that, the land surface is gradually being swept away by gully erosion occasioned by rainfall.
President of Congress of Ijebu Igbo Youth, Shakirudeen Adesanya described the palace as an eyesore and a subject of ridicule to a town blessed with hugely successful sons and daughters who are respected in the corporate world. Adesanya said he felt sad whenever he went beside the palace considering the embarrassment the edifice had become as it affected the image of the town.
“The state of the palace is the price we are paying for not having Kabiyesi for the past 24 years. Isn’t it embarrassing for a town of Ijebu-Igbo’s status? I hope other meaningful people of the town feel what I feel. A true lover of this town must not like the state of this palace. It does not befit the name of Ijebu-Igbo among other Yoruba towns. After all, we go to different places and meet their traditional rulers.
“Why is our own different? But maybe when they return from the Supreme Court in February next year, something would happen and our king would emerge. I believe in God, and that is my submission on the matter now. God’s intervention is my hope. I know God will not allow things to continue this way because we don’t deserve to be without our traditional ruler.
“Despite modern system of government, the position of traditional rulers is still intact as grassroots mobiliser. Why do families still take their problems to the palace? The Yorubas don’t rush to the police to settle domestic squabbles. The palace is there to hear them out and resolve issues amicably. But here in Ijebu-Igbo, we are missing that,” he said.
Also uncomfortable with the impasse are the various leaderships of Christians, Muslims and traditional faithful. At various times, they organised interdenominational prayers so as to get the town to its pride of place. Observed in 2015, the prayers were offered for peaceful and early resolution of the lingering dispute so that the town would have a king. One figure who played a key role in this was the former chairman of Tricycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (TORAN), Isiaka Odumosu. As a community leader, Odumosu jumped at the prayer proposal and indeed mobilised 20 tricycles for sensitisation road show round Ijebu-Igbo township.
The awareness was not only successful, it drew a large congregation to the prayer ground where each faith sought the face of God and indeed pleaded with Him to give the town a traditional ruler. Odumosu said he committed his personal resources to the exercise by picking the bills of the tricycle operators engaged in that exercise among other expenses.
He, however, grieved that his reward came a day after the road show when some section of the town verbally attacked him and queried his interest in the matter.
“To say the least is to confess that I was surprised hearing people who were supposed to join hands with us in praying to God then making efforts to discourage me. They said a lot of things as if I had committed a crime. It was then I realised that the matter was beyond the ordinary.
“But I thank God that despite the insult, the prayer held but up till date, we have not got over the issue. Ijebu-Igbo is not a small community. Even small communities have their baales. We are due to have the new Orimolusi for the town to progress from where it is now,” he noted.
Odumosu added that one of the casualties of the situation was the state of the Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic sited in the town, pointing out that the higher institution had not developed from infancy years after it was founded by the eight-year administration of Governor Gbenga Daniel.
He lamented that were the Orimolusi in place, he would have found a way of calling individuals and associations in the town and seeking their views on how to contribute to grow the school to the standard befitting the name of Ijebu-Igbo.
“Kabiyesi himself would have put pressure on government through diplomacy to improve the state of the school. Even many bad roads, which you must have seen on your way to this place, would have been brought to the attention of the government in Abeokuta and fixed. That is the role played by traditional rulers to improve their towns and communities. They easily find their way to government houses where they make friends with people there for the benefit of their towns and communities,” he said.
Regardless of his personal faith, a traditional ruler supervises affairs of the central mosque in his domain with a view to maintaining peace between the leadership and congregation. In Ijebu-igbo, the Muslim community lost this opportunity since 1994, hence the efforts by the leadership in its regular prayers to God to bring to an end the ongoing succession contest in the town.
Chief Imam of Ijebu-Igbo, Alhaji Aliu Baoku recalled the efforts of his congregation in observing special supplication in that regard. The 107-year old disclosed that matters, which should be taken to the palace for discussion and right intervention, are brought to him.
“I am an Alfa, not a traditional ruler. But I don’t have a choice than to handle those matters using Quran as my guide. On some occasions, we take matters of importance to the palace ground as a respect to the traditional institution. We would arrange our seats in the premise to show our respect to the custom of the land even when the king is not in the palace. Despite my age, I still pray to God to spare my life to see a new Orimolusi,” he said.
Lately, Ijebu-Igbo has been in the news for regular occurrence of criminal activities, recent of which was the abduction and killing of two students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU). Presence of a traditional ruler, a source argued, would have proffered some solutions to the menace. The commercial motorcycle operator, who pleaded for anonymity, said the palace would have sought the assistance of traditional religion to find lasting solutions to it.
“We are Africans. We know that the Kabiyesis are close to the traditionalists enough to ask them to carry out sacrifices to stop the problem. Only traditional rulers can do this. That is what we are missing in this town because we don’t have one. And I am not sure those three big men who are fighting over it, think this way. I don’t think they see reason why they should settle amicably for the peace of the town. An oba is a spiritual father of his town. Imam and pastors and babalawos are under him,” the outspoken okada operator said.