As battle for Olowo stool commences

The selection process to produce the next traditional ruler for the ancient town of Owo has commenced. Hakeem Gbadamosi examines the development within the three royal houses jostling for the exalted seat. 

 

With the completion of all the burial formalities of the late Olowo of Owo, Oba David Folagbade Olagbegi, the battle for the throne of the Olowo of Owo, in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State has commenced, with those desirous of the exalted stool indicating their interest as the selection process is underway.

The search for the successor to the late Olowo of Owo has been thrown open for all the princes in all the ruling house under the umbrella of Elewuokun royal family. All the three ruling houses – Ogunoye, Ajike and Olagbegi -have shown interest with one ruling house and the other laying claim to the throne and giving reasons their ruling house should be favored.

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The head of the kingmakers and Omo Olowos, saddled with the  responsibility of selecting a traditional ruler for the town, who also doubles as the traditional ruler of Ijebu Owo, Oba Kofoworola Oladoyinbo, during a press conference in Owo, announce the commencement of the selection process, calling on all ruling houses aspiring to the stool to present their candidates to the kingmakers.

The Ijebu Owo monarch specifically stated that only princes from the Elewuokun family can aspire to the throne while he issued a stern warning to those with the intent to interfere in the selection process to stay away, saying those saddled with the responsibility of selecting a new king are experienced and incorruptible high chiefs, adding that the selection process will be handled in line with the custom and tradition of the town.

He said “the process of selecting another prince to put on the shoes that Olowo Folagbade left behind is about to commence. The process, we pray it will be peaceful, enjoyable and interesting, in accordance with the age- long peaceful disposition of the people of this ancient town of the Yoruba people.

“Contrary to the diverse views canvassed by people, both informed and uninformed on the pages of newspapers, social and electronic media, our process is simple, clearly defined, and not open to manipulation by any individual, or group of individuals. It is not a political issue, and is being handled by experienced, responsible and incorruptible members of the Ogho Royal family.”

“The Elewuokun Family remains the umbrella body from which an Olowo will emerged. Any other opinions or conjectures remain those of whosoever is advocating them and they are of no effect. We are bound by the extant Declaration and Laws of Ondo State. We shall also seek the assistance of our spiritual fathers in accordance with normal practice.”

He called on interested aspirants to the stool to pick their forms at the palace but stressed that the Olowo-elect must be someone who is in tune with the culture and tradition of the ancient town who will be able to continue from the remarkable spot where the late Olowo stopped.

Most Owo indigenes expect that the selection of a traditional ruler for the town should not be controversial this time around. They believe the selection should be crisis free because the number one citizen in the state and governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu hails from the town and no son or daughter of Owo will pray for the repeat of the controversies and battles that surrounded the emergence of the late Oba Olagbegi  between 1999 and 2003. Apart from Akeredolu, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Adekola Olatoye and the Chief of Staff to the governor, Olugbenga Ale, are also from Owo.

However, Akeredolu has vowed not to interfere in the selection process with a promise to support whoever is selected by the kingmakers. While he said that it is only God that enthrones a leader, Akeredolu pleaded with the people of the town to remain peaceful and avoid anything that can cause crisis in the town.

The ascension to the throne of the Olowo by the late Oba Olagbegi in 1999 was greeted with crisis in Owo, with oppositions from various quarters raising objections to this selection. The challengers claimed the late Oba Folagbade Olagbegi did not have the right to the throne and could not be installed after his father. But  eventually he was  given recognition by the state government in 2003 when the late Governor Olusegun Agagu presented him the Staff of office.

This might be one of the reasons some ruling houses are calling for the exemption of the Olateru Olagbegi family from the contest, saying the family has ruled the town for long and being the immediate past ruling house.

However, Oba Oladoyinbo has cleared air over this,  saying all the princes from the Elewuokun ruling houses are eligible to contest for the stool.

However, Nigerian Tribune reliably gathered that princes across the three lineages that make up Elewuokun Ruling House have signified their intention to occupy the throne which became vacant after the death of Oba Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi. The princes who have obtained nomination form from the senior Omoolowos include those from the Olateru-Olagbegi, Ajike and Ogunoye Royal lineages.

While the Ajike ruling house unanimously presented Prince Olayemi Olatunbosun Ajike as its sole candidate for the stool, the Ogunoye royal lineage is divided over the alleged imposition of a candidate on the ruling house.

Speaking during a press conference in Owo, the spokesperson for the Ajike Atanneye ruling house, Prince Agboola Ajike, disclosed that the whole family had spoken with one voice to support Olatubosun.

He said the decision became imperative to ensure the Ajike ruling house produces the next Olowo.

He noted that the last time the Ajike ruling house occupied the exalted throne of the kingdom was about four decades ago when the late Oba Adeoye Ajike Atanneye was installed as the Olowo of Owo.

The spokesperson who appealed to the senior Omoolowos and kingmakers in the kingdom to consider the Ajike Atanneye’s family this time around, said it’s been almost 79 years  since the family occupied the exalted throne of the Olowo of Owo. We have always been gallant in defeat and cooperated with victors each time we contested. We will do same if we are victorious this time around.”

He added that other ruling houses were aware of the development that the next Olowo should emerge from the Ajike ruling house in the spirit of equity and fairness and expressed optimism that the candidate of the Ajike Atanneye ruling house would be chosen this time around,  describing Olatunbosun as competent, generous, noble, experienced, fit and eligible for the throne.

However, the princes from the Ogunoye ruling lineage have kicked against the consensus candidate for the family. It was gathered that about 13 princes had expressed their interest in the stool. While three aspirants from the Ogunoye family gave in to the decision of the family heads, nine other kicked against the decision to present a consensus aspirant.

But the head of the Ogunoye royal family,  Chief Olutokun Ogunoye, said the lineage has adopted one of the aspirants, Prince Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye -as  the sole candidate for the throne. The head of the royal house who was represented at a press conference by his deputy, Chief Adafin Ologede, said Ajibade emerged out of the twelve princes that showed interest in the stool after consulting the Ifa oracle to pick the best among the interested contestants for the throne.

He maintained that the Ogunoye royal family should be considered for the stool, saying that it is the turn of the lineage to produce the next Olowo of Owo as other lineages have produced successive monarchs of the town.

He assured that the candidate to be presented by the family would bring and usher unprecedented development to Owo kingdom and said Ajibade is the choice of the Ogunoye family. Before we picked him, we consulted Ifa oracle in three different places and they were unanimous on the choice of Ajibade. We picked Ajibade because he is educated, exposed and vibrant. We want a king who will be acceptable to the people of Owo. He will be able to use his contact for the development of the town.

“Ajibade is a young man who can move around, especially during Igogo and Ogun festivals and other important festivals. He will be able to move around to bring development to the town. Ajibade was two years old when his father ascended the throne, he lived many years in the palace and he understands the custom and tradition of Owo kingdom.”

But about nine aspirants from the Ogunoye ruling house kicked against the choice of Ajibade, saying there was never a consensus over the choice of Ajibade. Speaking on behalf of the princes, Prince Olarenwaju Ogunoye, said the decision to pick one out of the 13 contestants from the Ogunoye family would cause division among the family and warned the head of the family against presenting the name of candidate to Senior Omolowos and kingmakers.

The aggrieved prince stated that  14 of them have obtained nomination form from the family and never agreed to settle for a consensus candidate as announced by the head of the family and said the adoption of Prince Gbadegesin as the sole candidate was not a collective decision of all the contestants.

The aggrieved princes frowned upon the decision of the head of the family, saying the parallel decision was taken without due consultation with other members of the family.

According to them, the decision to pick a consensus candidate was stalemated during a meeting when the meeting became rowdy as a section of the family wanted to foist a candidate on them.

Palace of the Olowo

Also speaking,  Gbenga Alamurin Ogunoye said the royal lineage has no role to play in the selection of Olowo but said the head of the family’s role is to coordinate aspirants while it is the duty of Senior Omoolowos, headed by Ojomoluda and the kingmakers, to select a king for the town. “The decision to pick Gbadegesin was fraught with irregularities,” he said.

“We want the Senior Omoolowo and the entire Owo people to know that we vehemently dissociate ourselves from the compromised process devoid of due process.The decision on Gbadegesin was without recourse to the agreement reached at the family level. This choice of the head negates the principle of fairness, and equity which the entire family is yearning for in the process of presentation of our candidate.”

However, the aggrieved princes say they will support Gbadegesin if the Senior Omoolowo and the kingmakers choose him as the next Olowo of Owo while they also pledge to throw their weight behind any prince of Eleweokun picked by the kingmakers irrespective of the lineage but maintain that the stool should be zoned to Ogunoye royal Lineage as claimed  by the head of the house.

The royal lineage however, insists on producing the next Olowo, noting that  the other ruling house – Ajike and Olateru-Olagbegi which belong to Ataneye royal lineages have produced Olowo for more that 82 years while the Ogunoye royal family has produced for 36 years. According to them, only two lineages have since 1888 contested the Olowo stool whenever the stool is declared vacant.

Meanwhile, a community leader in the town, town, Mr Agboola Ogunmolawa, has advised the Owo kingmakers and Omoolowos to be fair and transparent in selecting a new traditional ruler for the ancient town, while he warned political office holders in the state not to meddle in the selection process to avert crisis.

He called on all the royal houses in the town to sheathe sword and embrace peace, urging them to leave every issue in the hands of those saddled with the responsibility of selecting a new monarch for the town.

He said “what we want is peace and not what happened during the last installation of the last Olowo when we had a lot of crisis in Owo. The enthronement and the selection process was somehow very bloody in the town.

“A lot of people were killed while some people left the town and we do not want the repetition of what happened during the installation or during the struggle to install the oba in the last dispensation.

“Our advice to the Omoolowos is to be very careful this time around, though they have the sole right to pick the Olowo they are picking the Olowo to rule us and not them alone.

“The Olowo is going to rule the whole town and as a result of that, there is need for them to listen to the masses, listen to people’s opinion and allows these opinions  guide their decisions.

“In a situation where a handful of people would be responsible, care needs to be taken and they should make sure they make the right choice and follow the interest of the people. We don’t want the selection to be bloody this time”

“He called on the kingmaker to explore the old traditional method of selecting a monarch by “consulting oracles to choose for us, I am not against consulting Ifa but whoever is going to consult Ifa will have to be honest and must not be partial because we don’t want the stool to be for highest bidder.

“The Ifa will not give the town something that is not good for the town, the Ifa will know the wish of the people, and will also know who is going to befit us, do the will of the people and form a bridge between the communities in Owo. We want an oba who will bring all communities in Owo together as we need to relate with other subjects, it is then we will have peace in the town.”

“There is need for youth to occupy the throne, we are in the modern era, at least someone who is educated and above 50 years is okay for the throne instead of going for somebody who is 70 years or above. An old man may not be versed inwhat is going on today. We need someone who is very versed in our tradition, this matters a lot. We need an oba who is going to take into consideration our culture, tradition and cultural heritage.”

From all indications, the selection process of the new Olowo will be crisis-free, but the selection will definitely go a long way to measure and test the unity of the people of the kingdom in ensuring that the peace in the town continues to reign to usher progress and development to the ancient town. The most important thing is for the kingmakers to give the town the best and avoid setting Owo on fire or causing another catastrophe that will set brothers against one another, as the town is still licking the wounds from  past crisis.

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