Historical roots of Yahaya Bello’s conflict with Ohinoyi of Ebiraland

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi and Ohinoyi of Ebira land, Ado Ibrahim,

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi and Ohinoyi of Ebira land, Ado Ibrahim,

The knives are out between the Governor of Kogi State and 94-year-old Dr. Ado Ibrahim, the Ohinoyi, paramount ruler of all Ebiraland in Kogi State. What is happening between the two looks like a mortal duel that will attract spectators from the four winds! It is a clash between traditional authority and contemporary government.

The Ohinoyi’s suzerainty covers Okene, the birthplace of Governor Yahaya Bello, who is also Ebira by birth. The youngest of six children, Bello was born in Okene, attended Local Government Education Authority Primary School, Agassa in Okene LGA beginning in 1984 and finished at Agassa Community Secondary School, Anyava, Agassa-Okene 10 years after. These were before he proceeded to Kaduna Polytechnic and Ahmadu Bello University Zaria for his BSc in Accounting and master in Business Administration.

In terms of enlightenment, the Ohinoyi, Ado Ibrahim, son of the second paramount ruler of Ebiraland, AbdulRahman Ado Ibrahim, is not a push-over either. Born on February 7, 1929, he attended both western nursery and Quranic schools and went on to conclude his primary education in 1940 at the Native Authority (NA) primary school in Okene, over 50 years before Bello studied there. The Ohinoyi began his secondary school education at Ondo Boys High School and later, Oduduwa College, Ile Ife, now in Osun State, where he graduated in 1949. In 1954, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and a master’s degree from Harvard Business School in 1959. The Lagos-based entrepreneur became the traditional ruler of Ebiraland in 1997, after the demise of Ohinoyi Sanni Omolori of the Ogu clan.

Now, Bello and his traditional father are behaving like two cocks thrown into a pit. Trouble started when the Ohinyi did not show up when President Muhammadu Buhari visited Kogi to commission projects, one of which was said to be in the Ohinoyi’s domain, on 29 December. However, when Governor Bello read his address of welcome, he said the traditional ruler was indisposed and “ably represented by the Ohi of Okengwe, Alhaji Tijani Mohammed Anage.”

The query was contained in a letter addressed to the traditional ruler dated 5th January 2023, with reference no MLG A/CHt /39/VI/XX, obtained at the weekend.
The letter signed by a Director in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Enimola Eniola, has since gone viral on social media.

Part of the letter read: “It has been observed with serious concern that you have exhibited deliberate attitude and actions capable of bringing Kogi State and Eblra land In particular to grave disrepute. These actions are quite unbecoming of a revered Royal Father of your status.

“Specifically, you were aware through many fora of the glorious visit of Mr President and Commander-In-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR to Okene on 29’” December 2022 to commission landmark projects executed by our dear Governor, His Excellency, Alh. Yahaya Bello.

“In a flagrant disregard to the persons and high offices of the president and the Governor, you bluntly refused to come out and receive the president at the designated venue rightly approved by the Executive Governor of the State.”

The letter read further: “It might interest you to note that official courtesy demands that when a personality of a president occupying the highest office in the land is visiting or even passing through the state, the governor and top public officers, including topmost traditional rulers are expected to receive him as a mark of respect for him and the office he occupies.

“It is on record that in time past, topmost traditional rulers including the President, Kogi State Council of Chiefs do receive the Governor of the State on his return from critical missions undertaken on behalf of the state.

“But, you have chosen to disdain the office of the Executive Governor, and this time, you did it with effrontery before the number one citizen of Nigeria.

“This action of yours is an act of insubordination and disloyalty to the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces, the Executive Governor of Kogi State and the entire Ebira nation as a whole. It portends grave danger to the security of the state and laying bad precedence for the traditional institution of the state.

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“Given the above, I have been directed to request you to forward a written explanation within 48 hours why disciplinary action should not be taken against you for these acts of insubordination and disloyalty. Oral explanations may be required from you when a panel is set up to study your case.

“It is expected that you will accord priority to the content of this letter.”

The Past Undercurrents

Governor Bello’s late mother was of the family of Alhaja Atta, wife of the current Ohinoyi’s father. “It was this that brought Yahaya’s father and Ado Ibrahim together as confidants.” At one point, they fell out with each other over some issues.  Not a few believed in Okene that it was this primordial sentiment that made Bello to block the road leading to the home of Ohinoyi’s father from Total junction. It was a blockade that made travellers detour through Osinsin, Ogamnana and burst out at Lokoja Road. However, the “Ohinoyi cleared the blockade”, an Ebira man told this medium.

Notwithstanding the above, another reliable source said the main reason that the Ohinoyi did not come to welcome Buhari was the explosion that happened 40 minutes before the President’s arrival. “The Ohinoyi’s security men advised that it was not safe for a 94-year-old man to come out,” the source added.

Loss of Power By Traditional Rulers

Compared to what happened in the pre-colonial days, traditional rulers wielded enormous powers. The Oyo empire was headed by the Alaafin whose influence extended to far-flung places like Northern Ghana, Nupe and others. His power was controlled by the great Oyomesi. In the North, it was a pure absolute monarchy, influenced by an Islamic theocracy, a situation that made the British Indirect Rule System easy. The South East was a different kettle of fish. It was Republican in nature, a condition that made the British colonialists introduce warrant chiefs.

The great powers wielded by traditional rulers, even up to the First Republic when they were members of the House of Chiefs started to whittle down when they flexed muscles with politicians. Examples were the dethronement of Muhammdu Sanusi in 1963 and his son Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, some years ago.

Oba Sir Olateru Olagbegi II of Owo in Ondo State was another example. As reported by Tempo, in its story, “Exit Of A Two-Time Monarch,” on 2 November 1998, Olagbegi was appointed Olowo in 1941 and ruled for 25 years before he was deposed. His exile from power was a fallout of a regional crisis between two Action Group leaders: Awolowo and Samuel Ladoke Akintola. The Action Group which was launched in his palace a decade earlier was led by Awolowo in the 1950s. A battle of wills between the two gladiators in the early 1960s saw Oba Olateru pitching his tent with Akintola.

However, his choice only fomented tension in his community. A military coup in 1966 created an avenue for some citizens of Owo to unleash violence and revolt against Olagbegi. He was banished from power in 1966 by the military administrator of the Western Region and re-instated 25 years later (1993) by Governor Bamidele Olumilua.

There was also the clash between Awolowo and Alaafin Oba Adeyemi I Alowolodu, who ascended the stool in 1945 and reigned for about a decade before his abrupt and unexpected dethronement in July 1955.


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