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Akeredolu moves to tackle chieftaincy, land disputes in Ondo

The genesis Chieftaincy is one of the oldest institutions in Nigeria that is legally recognised by the government. In the pre-colonial era, a great deal of local power was concentrated in the hands of traditional rulers as they were considered to be sacred. In the post-colonial era and even in present time, Southern Nigeria still sees the throne as sacred. Thus, so much honour and respect is accorded traditional rulers. In many traditional towns in the Southwest geo- political zone, monarchs are regarded as second in command to God. After the demise of Obas in Yorub- aland, ascending the throne for most communities, except for a few, is usually not an easy task as it is not usually from father to son or promotion but the right of various ruling houses in the community. Many ruling houses also have royal houses that rotate the chieftaincy amongst themselves.

Jostling for the throne for some communities comes with lengthy tussles and litigation that lingers for years. Filling of vacant stools The Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu-led administration met several stools which had been vacant for between 10 to 20 years when it assumed office in 2017. Some also became vacant during his tenure as the governor of the state. For instance, the Olowo of Owo stool became vacant in the first term of the governor. He filled the stool without the rancour that usu- ally characterised the filling of such an exalted stool. The Olufon of Ifon stool became vacant after the gruesome killing of the former occupier of the throne, Oba Israel Adeusi. The stool of Onibule of Ibule-Soro in Ifedore Local Govern- ment is still vacant since the demise of Oba Falowo.

The Alale of Akung- ba-Akoko in Akoko Southwest Local Government is still subject to litigation many years after. The Ikaro chieftain- cy is also causing tension in the rustic community. Governor Akeredolu has explained his perception of the traditional insti- tution and his approach to ending such tussles. His words: “We love, respect and give due regard to our traditional institution. We believe in the efficacy of tradition as a vehicle for promoting peace, harmony and unity among the people. Our Obas as custodians of customs and tradi- tions are the closest to the people at the grass- roots. The mobilisation of people for positive development can best be achieved through them. We will continue to strive to promote the position of our traditional rulers.” One of the tools the state government has used to resolve chieftaincy tussles is; holding peace meetings with warring factions in the community.

The intent of this is to pacify them and make them see why the interest of the community should be placed above their personal interests. The peace meetings are usually chaired by the Deputy Governor. The peace meetings were evidenced in the filling of stools like; the Onirun of Irun Akoko, Kalasuwe of Apoi, Agadagba of Arogbo, Alafin of Afin and Oliye of Iye Akoko. Another key strategy to ending tussles is the determination of the government to fill vacant stools in the state. Being mindful of the importance of the role of traditional rulers, the governor resolved to fill vacant stools in the state, as long as stake- holders in the community are willing to come together, put aside acrimony and personal in- terests. This political will has greatly assisted in resolving chieftaincy tussles in the state.

Immediately the government is notified of the demise of an Oba, taking advantage of the existing political will, mercenaries are set in motion to fill the stool, if the people are ready, the process of selection and installation of Obas would be easy. The neutrality of government in the selection and enthronement process is another potent approach of the Akeredolu’s administration to ending chieftaincy tussles. The government is not partisan and does not have a preferred candidate, thus a level playing ground is given to all contestants. De- pending on the modality of selection which is either through Chieftaincy Declaration or the Custom and Tradition of the Community, the Chieftaincy Declaration, which is one of the modalities used, is a customary law, regulating the chieftaincy. It contains information such as; who should be reagent after the demise of the king, number of the ruling houses that have right to the stool, number of king- makers to that chieftaincy. Where the kingmakers do not form a quorum, due to the death of some of them, the govern- ment appoints Warrant Chiefs. In its usual tradition of maintaining neutrality, the Akeredolu-led administration allows the families of the late kingmakers to nominate someone.

The name or names as the case may be, is then sent to the State Executive Council for approval and the selection process was carried out. Where there is no Chieftaincy Declaration, the custom and tradition of the com- munity would be applied and this differs from one community to the other. Vacant stools that have been filled un- der the Akeredolu administration using either of the two modalities included: Onise of Ise Akoko, Owa-Ale Ikare Akoko, Oluboropa of Iboropa Akoko, Oniye of Iye Akoko, Elefifa of Ajowa Akoko, Onirun of Irun, Alafin of Afin, Alase of Ase, Oluso- san of Sosan and Asin of Oka-Odo. Others are: Alayede of Ayede-Ogbese, Iralepo of Isinkan, Agadagba of Arogbo Ijaw-Ibe, Eleti of Eti, Olurese of Irese, Amapetu of Mahin, Olu-Oke of Okeigbo, Odogbo of Omi, Akamuja of Igburowo, Akogbe of Ajue, Yangede of Epe, Ojima of Okeluse, Olumoru of Imoru, Odibiado of Ijagba, Olowo Owo, Ilupele of Ipele, Alale of Idasen, Olupemen of Ipemen, Kalasuwe of Apoi, Okiribiti of Sabome, Odogun of Igbekebo and Alaboto of Aboto. Implementation of Ajama’s report A very major step of the Akeredolu’s administration on Chieftaincy Matters is the implementation of the recommendation of the Justice Chris Ajama Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Chieftaincy Matters, which looked into cases of stools deserving recognition, adjustment, upgrading, elevation, disputed declaration and paramountcy of stools in the State. The previous administration inaugurated the committee but could not implement its recommendation before the end of the administration in 2017. To address several disputes and agitations on creation of Minor Chieftaincies as well as tackling insecurity which has be- come a menace in the country, the Akeredolu- led administration constituted a six-man team to review the recommendation of the commit- tee and prepare a White Paper on it. A total number of 62 chieftaincies were granted recognition and upgraded to Oba- ship status, 56 existing chieftaincies were also upgraded.

The impact of government’s approaches to resolving conflicts and ending chieftaincy tussles in the state as well as tackling insecu- rity, are enormous and multidimensional. It is one of the secrets of sustained peace in the state, as Ondo state is one of the most peaceful in the country. The benefiting communities now have sub- stantive heads to superintend and watch over them like mother hens. Part of the responsibilities of these Obas is to mobilise support for government programmes as well as securing lives and properties of those in their domains. To the Obas and communities who are the di- rect beneficiaries of the government largesse, it is a dream come true.

The joy of the Obas could better be imagined; to be the one to make history as the first Oba in that town. For the communities that have jostled for ages to have a king, they are now fulfilled. A case in point is the Asin stool in Oke Odo in Akoko Southwest Local Government Area, that got the recognition and upgrade after 114 years of tussle. The state government is also getting good rewards for its labour, as governance was made easier and people at the grassroots can enjoy the dividend of democracy more. Akeredolu’s warning One of the major reasons for disputes among the traditional rulers in the state is the tendency of first class monarchs to appointment lesser chiefs outside their domains in order to show superiority. But Governor Ak- eredolu warned against the expansionist ten- dency telling monarchs not to go beyond their traditional domains.

Presenting staff of office and instrument of appointments to five traditional rulers in Ese- Odo Local Government Area of the state, Akeredolu frowned at the expansionist tendency of some monarchs. The newly appointed monarchs who got their instrument of appointment and staff of office included the Ogidi Ogidigba, Amanana- wei of Biagbini, the Amananawei of Bolowou, Iginabou of Ajapa, and Amananawei of Ukpe. At the official presentation of the instru- ment of appointment and staff of office to the Ogidi of Ogidigba, Amanawei of Biagbini, Amananawei of Bolowou, Iginabou of Ajapa, and Amananawei of Ukpe in the different com- munities in Ese-Odo Local Government Areas, the governor said in recognition of peace as an essential ingredient of socio-economic development, the state government decided to implement the recommendation of the Justice Ajama Commission of inquiry into Chieftaincy Matters. The governor congratulated the commu- nities for being beneficiaries of the government’s kind gestures and for realising their age-long aspiration and desire to have a rec- ognised king to superintend over the affairs of their communities. While congratulating the monarchs for being the pioneer kings and direct ben- eficiaries of this largesse, Akeredolu urged them to use the opportunity given to them to strengthen the peace in their domains and the state in general.

He warned that his government would not tolerate any domi- neering expansionist tendency that could jeopardise the existing peace in the state. Every monarch, he said, should refrain from appointing or installing minor chiefs outside his jurisdiction, particularly in dis- puted areas. LGA Chair In her address to the occasions, the Ese- Odo Local Government Chairman, Hon. Fo- lawe Sipasi-Aluko thanked the governor on behalf of the people of her local government for his response to the yearnings and aspira- tions of the people and for putting smiles on the faces of the people by the elevation of baales to Obaship status. Sipasi-Aluko, who said the approval came after a long period of agitation, enjoined the kings to see it as a rare privilege and join hands with the government to bring the desired development to their communities. Performing the coronation which took place in all the communities before the pre- sentation of the Instruments of Appoint- ment and Staff of Office, the Agadagba of Arogbo Ibe, Doubra Zaccheaus Egbunu, Opukutu, prayed that ‘egbesu’, the tradition- al deity, should protect and guide the kings, as well as enable them to work for the good of their communities. The Agadagba placed on record the grat- itude of the entire Arogbo kingdom to the governor and his team for the great honour done to them in upgrading seven stools in the kingdom to Obaship status, while asking for more government presence and largesse.

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