Supreme Court affirms Oba Esuwoye as Olofa of Offa

Olofa of Offa

THE Supreme Court, on Friday, affirmed the appointment of Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoye II as the Olofa of Offa, in Kwara State.

The apex court, in a unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen, held that the appointment of the traditional ruler by the state government was in line with the custom and tradition of the people of Offa.

Justice Onnoghen, who read the judgement, agreed with Oba Gbadamosi’s claim that Anilelerin is the only authentic ruling house that can ascend to the throne of the Olofa.

The apex court voided the claim of Olugbense as a ruling house in Ofa on the grounds that there is no history to that effect.

The court also dismissed the claim of the Olugbense family as regards a purported principle of rotation between Anilelerin and Olugbense ruling houses, adding that if there was rotation as claimed by the Olugbense family, the principle of rotation would have taken effect before the ascension of the immediate past Olofa, Oba Mustapha Olawore Olanipekun.

Besides, the court faulted and prohibited the Kwara State government gazette of 1970 which recognised Olugbense as a ruling house.

Justice Onnoghen said the gazette is null and void because it was contrary to the custom and tradition of the people of Ofa.

The court barred Olugbense from being recognised as a ruling house by either the Kwara State government or the kingmakers.

“From the history, custom and tradition of the people of Offa, it is clear that the only ruling house, Anilelerin, being a male line, is the authentic and only ruling house backed by native law and authority that can ascend to the throne of the Oloffa.

“This court also found as a fact that there is no rotational policy in existence as far as the stool of the Olofa of Ofa is concerned and, therefore, the claim of the Olugbense family has no historical backing and, therefore, the claim of the appellant, through a counter claim on the issue, succeed and is hereby affirmed,” the court held.

The court also held that the ascension to the throne is by election and not by rotation as claimed by the Olugbense family.

The Olugbense family had, through Alhaji Saka Adeyemo, Prince Abdulrauf Adegboyega Keji and Prince Saka Keji, challenged the appointment of Oba Gbadamosi on the grounds that it was done in contravention of Section 3(3) of Kwara State Government Edict on Appointment of and Deposition Chief’s Law of 1970, which they claimed made provision for rotation between their family and the Anilelerin family.

In their originating summons argued on their behalf by Mr John Olusola Baiyashea (SAN), the plaintiffs claimed that it was their turn to produce the Oloffa in line with the principle of rotation.

However, the judgements secured by the plaintiffs at the Kwara State High Court and the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, were set aside by the Supreme Court on the grounds that they had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Meanwhile the state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, has congratulated Oba Gbadamosi on his victory at the apex court.

Governor Ahmed, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji Abdulwahab Oba, said the victory should strengthen the traditional ruler’s passion for the development of Offa and, indeed, the state.

Governor Ahmed advised Oba Gbadamosi to be magnanimous and extend a hand of fellowship to all the parties to the dispute.

“I urge the aggrieved members of the royal family to regard the Olofa’s victory as a victory for all by coming together to solidify the royal knot and develop the community,” the governor said.

In a related development, men of the state police command had a hectic time on Friday getting joyful supporters of Oba Gbadamosi, who took to major roads in the ancient town, to contain their emotions.

There was anxiety in the town before the judgement on Friday as people discussed the matter in hush tones.

At a point before the judgement was pronounced, members of the Olugbense family made frantic phone calls among themselves, just as members of the family moved in large numbers to the family compound.

The development, it was gathered, led some people to believe that a judgement had been made in favour of the Olugbense family.

The eventual pronouncement of the court affirming Oba Gbadamosi’s kingship ended all sorts of speculations that had initially pervaded the air.

Supporters of the traditional ruler promptly rallied on the streets and major roads to celebrate the victory.

Police personnel, in patrol vehicles, were on hand to forestall mayhem by preventing the celebration from being hijacked by hoodlums.

It will be recalled that after the predecessor of Oba Gbadamosi passed on in 2012, the Olugbense ruling house cited the rotational policy of the government, as gazetted by the government in 1969. But the majority of the kingmakers aligned with the position of the Anilelerin ruling house that there must be a contest between candidates of the ruling houses to fill the vacuum created by the late Oba Mustapha Olanipekun, who was from the Anilelerin ruling house.

One Oba Esuwoye of the Anilelerin ruling house was said to have been deposed, prompting the enthronement of Alhaji Mustapha Keji as the Oloffa in 1969.

But when the late Oba Olanipekun wanted to succeed the deposed king, the Olugbense ruling house was said to have opposed it on the grounds that the Anilelerin ruling house, with the deposition of Oba Isiwoye, had forfeited its turn.

The ensuing crisis at the time, which was described as threatening the continued survival of Ofa as a town, was said to have prompted government’s intervention, leading to alleged official documents on rotational policy over the throne of the Olofa “since 1969.”

The government, after the choice of Gbadamosi by the kingmakers, presented him with the staff of office at a ceremony in Ofa despite complaints by the opposing ruling house.

Displeased with the government’s decision, the Olugbense ruling house filed a suit at the state High Court, Ofa, seeking, among other things, the declaration of the enthronement of Oba Gbadamosi as “illegal, and, therefore, null and void.”

The court agreed that the two ruling houses exist in Offa but, in its judgement of July 2012, declared the non-existence of “rotational policy” as alleged by the Olugbense ruling house.

The Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, upturned the judgement of the lower court, saying it was the turn of the Olugbense ruling house to present the next Olofa.

The Anilelerin consequently headed to the Supreme Court, which reserved its judgement on the matter until yesterday (Friday).