8th October, 2010
Ado-Odo: One Community, Two Kings, Confusion Reigns
The relative peace enjoyed by the Ado-Odo community was shattered recently when supporters of two monarchs engaged one another in a do-or-die encounter over the kingship stool of Olofin of Ado-Odo. MOYO FABIYI examines the latest development in the crises that has left Ado-Odo desolate while residents leave the town in droves…
Ado-Odo, an erstwhile serene agrarian community in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, South West Nigeria witnessed a lot of peace and transquility during the about 20 years reign of the late Oba Jacob Ogabi Akapo, the Olofin Of Ado-Odo who joined his ancestors in 1989, at a ripe age. Oba Akapo, it was reliably gathered, passed on as a result of old age related ailment.
The succession struggles commenced. Ordinarily, the process of succession should not have led to any form of crises and confusion as the town has witnessed since the last one year. An average citizen, especially the royal families were aware of a government gazette that it was the turn of Idobanu ruling house to present the candidate for the next Olofin of Ado-Odo.
However, the smooth ascension gave way to rancour when the Idobanu ruling house split into two factions. From the same royal blood emerged Muniru Odejide and Lateef Akanni factions.
Of the five kingmakers in Ado-Odo, two had died, perhaps as a result of old age. The three kingmakers sat and endorsed Lateef Akanni thus putting the two contestants from the same ruling house at loggerheads; that was 15 years after the demise of Oba Akapo.
Dissatisfied, Moniru Odejide approached the high court. He was vindicated as the right choice to the throne. Because he enjoyed the overwhelming support of the indigenes, he was instantly installed the oba.
His victory was to be shortlived as his occupancy of the Olofin of Ado-Odo palace lasted only six years. His challenger went to the appellate court and won. The worst was yet to come. And so in January 2009, the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered its judgement in favour of Lateef Akanni.
The people of Ado-Odo disagreed. Staunch supporters of Muniru Odejide smelt a rat. They fingered an Ogun State top politician who is a national leader as being the remote control behind Lateef Akanniâ€™s success at the apex court. They claimed the day the judgement was delivered, they were expecting counsel on both sides to address the highest court in the land.
The Ogun State government decided to honour the Supreme Court verdict. Oba Lateef Akanni was therefore installed as the Olofin of Ado-Odo on 2 May, 2009. He moved into the palace instantly.
However, the townâ€™s traditionalists refused to perform the necessary rites to officially install Oba Lateef Akanni. They insisted that they had performed the â€˜ipebiâ€™ and other rites for Moniru Odejide, who is still alive. They hinged their insistence on Yoruba belief that two kings do not reign at a time, a new king can only emerge when one joins his ancestors.
From that day, Oba Lateef Akanni got his staff of office from the Ogun State government, it could be said that Ado-Odo has two kings â€“ one installed by the people but deposed by the apex court, and the second approved by the highest court in the nation, supported by the state government.
Hell was therefore, let loose. People died mysteriously on both sides of the divide. Supporters of both obas were killed, maimed or arrested.
Worst still, before the obaship crisis came into being, there were series of land tussles here and there. Litigants were kidnapped and they never surfaced, dead or alive. The obaship succession battle escalated as the people insisted on tradition.
The state government moved in and slammed a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on the town. The curfew lasted for months.
A review only came with the last Ramadan 30-day fasting period. Prominent and well-respected Islamic clerics within and outside Ado-Odo came in. They appealed for a review of the curfew. Government acceded.
At the end of the Ramadan, Oba Lateef Akanni planned to go to the Eid prayer ground. But based on security report, the state government stopped him. His first year coronation anniversary was also aborted for the same security reason.
Since he was installed by government amidst tight police security, Oba Lateef Akanni had become a leper of a sort. He could not move freely in Ado-Odo without police escort. The desperate indigenes were ready to haul sachets of water at him.
Despite the obaâ€™s absence at the Eid prayer ground, supporters of his opponents openly threw black engine oil and petrol on protagonists of Oba Lateef Akanni.
An Islamic sect, the Shamusudeen group known as Gau Gau by the Ado-Odo indigenes did not help matters. They offered prayers for the controversial Olofin of Ado-Odo believing that they had installed him in lieu of the traditionalists. And when the obaâ€™s supporters were assaulted on Eid day, the Gau Gau men took to the streets chanting Islamic songs and claiming â€œwar has entered Ado.â€
P.M.NEWS gathered that the Ogun State government has set up a panel to look into the crises and proffer solutions.
The panel comprises: Prof. Asiwaju, Prof. Oduye and Olori Gbadebo. The committee has submitted its report. The indigenes of Ado-Odo believed the panel recommended â€œstrategic arrestâ€™ which has been ongoing since Sunday when armed policemen stormed the town arresting indiscriminately the residents, especially the perceived supporters of Muniru Odejide, who had gone on a self-exile.
Since Sunday when the strategic arrests commenced, the former lively agrarian community has turned a desolate and deserted town. People continue to move out in droves, thus turning Ado-Odo into a ghost town. And the once bubbling community has become a mere shadow of its former self.
Those moving into exile decided to embark on a journey to unknown destinations, if only to be excused from a community where suffering and hunger pervaded.
â€œAn adult in the town cannot feed himself with N20,000 worth of Indomie noodles because there was no food to buy. Farmers can no longer go to their farms. Markets closed, schools shut.
“Therefore, people who could move out considered themselves lucky,â€ an indigene of Ado-Odo told P.M.NEWS on Tuesday.
The residents were subjected to torture and arbitrary arrests by the police. The cops broke into homes and arrest anyone inside the house. People who have been arrested since Sunday could not be traced or their whereabouts ascertained.
One of the victims of police latest brutality in Ado-Odo is a photo journalist, Segun Olakitan, the Photo Editor of TELL magazine, also an indigene of the town.
Early on Monday morning, he was about travelling to Lagos but could not get public transport. Some policemen suddenly descended on Olakitan and rough-handed him. He was bundled into their van and carried along to many houses where they extort money and other valuables from residents after they might have been dehumanised and later arrested.
Olakitan, a former Concord Press Photo journalist, later regained his freedom after a senior police officer had intervened. But not until he had been rough-handled, battered and assaulted for no reason.
Another indigene, Engr. Saheed Alagbe regretted that his aged father was in Ado-Odo by the time he joined other residents following bush path to escape from the town. The son of the retired principal of Iganmode Grammar School, Ota, said his retiree dad was expecting him to shoulder his maintenance in Ado-Odo with the turn of events. With economic activities totally paralysed, both the old and young who manage to reside in Ado-Odo cannot afford to feed themselves.
The question on the lips of the indigenes of Ado-Odo remains, for how long will the present spate of police brutality and arrest last? And when will peace return to Ado-Odo?