Iralepo Isikan Community in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State, Oba Olugbenga Ojo talks to PIERRE DADA on the controversy surrounding the appointment of the Olu of Aladodo and its relationship to the Deji of Akure
You were recently inducted as the traditional leader of the Isikan community. How would you describe the trip so far?
I was born in the family of Oba Joseph Ojo. I attended St Louis primary school and later attended St John and Mary for my secondary education. I studied Insurance at Ibadan Polytechnic and then gained admission into Ado Ekiti University in 1998 where I studied Law and graduated in 2003 and I was called to the bar in 2006. Since then, I have practiced law. I am my father’s 13th child and happily married with children.
I became the Oba of Isikan on November 4, 2021, but did not get the office staff until July 14, 2022. Being crowned and being officially recognized by the state government are two different things. My community had me by the grace of God crowned Oba according to the customs and traditions of Isikan and the government of Ondo State under the leadership of Arakunrin Oluwarorimi Akeredolu, SAN recognized the Iralepo stool under the Part 1 of the Ondo State Chieftaincy Act on June 22, 2022, after the meeting of the State Executive Council held that day.
There was controversy over the process leading to the emergence of the Oba of Isikan. What really happened?
After the disappearance of Oba Olufunmilayo Ojo, on the second day of February 2021, the community notified the state government and local government council of Akure South. The regent, Margaret Ifedayo Omonije, was installed on March 2, 2021; and in August last year, the community began the process of filling the vacancy of Iralepo, and among those who were part of the process were the Omowas.
The princes and princesses of Isikan, those related by blood to the throne of Isikan have started this process and nine of us have shown interest. Nine princes submitted demands to the Omowas. We participated in the selection, paid the required fees and fulfilled the traditional obligations towards the Omowas. Eventually five of us were checked and cleared and the names of five people were presented to the kingmakers of Isikan and they repeated almost the same thing. The selection was made, questions were asked and finally they consulted the Ifa oracle.
Were all applicants satisfied with the process?
After the kingmakers consulted the Ifa oracle, some of the contestants were not comfortable with the outcome, leading the kingmakers to send a letter to the local government council of Akure South and the State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs urging them to send observers for the final selection by ballot among the five candidates.
The 12 kingmakers sat down and the state government sent Akure South Local Government Area Secretary Gbenga Fashua and some local government officials to oversee and observe the selection process in which the five of us sat down.
We were invited and each of us brought our witnesses. The Omowas were there, the kingmakers were there, the competitors were there and our representatives were there as well. The election took place and by the grace of God, Gbenga Ojo, my humble self, got seven votes. Gbenga Adeleye had four votes. Omolewa Obadunjoye had one vote and two other candidates, Tope Odu, who is my younger brother; and my cousin, Adeyemi Adekanbi, had no voice. Afterwards, the local government secretary declared me the winner of this process. From that day I became the chosen one of Iralepo and the installation process started immediately. The rites started from that day. I was taken to the Igbo-Oye shrine, where I had to perform other traditional obligations. After that, I was made to climb the “Okiti Omoolore” in front of the palace and was ushered into the palace of our ancestors on November 4, 2021.
What is the role of Akure’s Deji in the emergence of Iralepo?
Akure’s Deji has no roleplay. It has nothing to do with it.
But it’s been reported that the Deji consider you one of their neighborhood leaders. Is not it?
Everyone is free to express their opinion. You can wake up one day and call yourself president of the United States of America. It is their wish, a personal wish. Akure’s Deji is an institution that I hold in high esteem. Iralepo is also an institution. We have been here for decades. When the late Deji, Ademuagun Adesida II, died in 1973, it was written in DailyMirror and Sketch that Ademuagun died while having lunch at his mother’s house in Arakale, Isikan. The people of Akure rejected Ademuagun’s corpse because he died in a foreign land. They were angry that he died in Isikan. This is to show you that Isikan is a separate town. Ademuagun’s daughter, Adebukola, was fined two cows before allowing the corpse to be taken to Deji Palace. Now the current Deji says he considers Isikan a quarterback. Isn’t that laughable? It is a mistake. I will tell you why. The first Akure Oba who ever received an office baton was Oba Adelegan Adesida and he received it in 1976. Ademuagun did not receive an office baton from anyone. Baba Agunbiowo, the Adesida I, did not receive office staff from anyone. It was during the (old) Western Region in Ibadan (Oyo State) that the issue of clerical staff was formalized and during this period the Iralepo who was already on the throne died in 1976. My father was installed on July 31, 1978.
There seems to be a disagreement between you and the current Deji of Akure over the naming of the Olu Land of Aladodo. Under what domain does Aladodo fall?
Isikan land stretches from Mogu, around St Thomas Church, Ondo Road. In 1968 there was a crisis between some Iralepo tenants called Osabi. Iralepo Adetoyinbo told them to leave the lands they were using. The people claimed that the land was given to them by Asodeboyede, then Deji of Akure. Iralepo said they were trespassers on his land, but people went to report Iralepo to Deji Ademuagun. The Deji sat with his cabinet, the Deji in Council, for three years. They invited Iralepo and Osabi to come and show proof of ownership of the land. The Deji then (Ademuagun), in his wisdom, took the position of Osabi and he issued a verdict duly signed by him and 10 of his kingmakers were summoned.
What was the verdict?
He said that the land of Iralepo starts from St. Thomas Church (Arakale, Akure) and shares a border with Aro Elegbin and extends to the Aponmu River while going to Ondo and that Iralepo had full authority over the earth. He went further saying that no Deji could take any part of Iralepo land without prior consultation approval, and that the community called Aladodo is in Iralepo territory. When I came on board, the place was under the management of the late Pa Asuda Fatoki, the Asuda of Isikan. It was to this person that the Iralepo gave the land, to cultivate and because of the development in this area. I want more development. After consultation with Asuda’s family, local farm owners, Isikan kingmakers and other chiefs and the Omowa people, we decided to make Ayodeji Fatoki the Olu of Aladodo .
But the location is disputed. Is not it?
The place is under Isikan territory. It can never be disputed. I will tell you why. During the Benin War, Iralepo and Arulemolasi fought alongside the Deji of Akure to defeat the Teens. It has been clearly stated in a book titled “Itan Akure ati Agbegbe re, Igba tan da re”, that the warrior of Isikan, called Omoron, captured the leader of the Beninese warriors called Ugbeboh and almost used him as a sacrifice for Oluiroko, a deity in Isikan. The man then fled to Benin, and when he got there, he informed the Oba of Benin. So they (Benin) brought their army back and Iralepo gathered men from Isarun, Ilara-Mokin, and went to Ofosu to meet the Beninese army. The Oba of Benin was so worried that he wondered who had captured Ugbeboh. So he decided to curse this community. He cursed Isikan and the city began to demote. Akure was progressing but not Isikan. By this time, the people of Akure had left Akure City and settled in Oke-Oge and Osi, near the airport. They were three kings. That’s history and they can’t argue with it.
Why do you think Deji named Olu?
Everyone has a mindset. I may not know why he is doing this, but I am very sure of one thing: the land in question belongs to Isikan and Iralepo is the singular person who founded Isikan and, under the law of this state, Iralepo has the power to appoint a chief, olu or baale under his domain. We will never do what is beyond us. Iralepo of Isikan is the prescribed authority under the Ondo State Chieftaincy Act over Isikan and the area in question falls under Isikan. So, I don’t know the mission or the purpose. But I know that we installed Ayodele Fatoki on August 2 (2022). The Deji said he installed someone else the next day and I submitted my process letter to the appropriate quarters of the government and I am very sure that by the grace of God wisdom will be used. The bottom line is that we need peace. Bandits are everywhere, so we shouldn’t fight over lore or anything. We want peace in our country and the Deji of Akure should just allow us to keep the peace quietly.
Since your induction, have you reached out to the Deji?
My father trained me well and I am a Christian and a lover of peace. When the Deji was inaugurated as the 16th President of the Ondo d’Obas State Council, I met him. I sent him a message. During the crisis, I personally visited the Ooni of Ife to help me persuade Baba (Deji) to allow peace to reign in South Akure Local Government Area. I went to see the Olowo of Owo and the Oba of Benin on the matter, and subsequently I made a phone call to the Deji saying that the problems had to be seen and discussed at the friendly. He said he would call me when the time was right and when he was free but I’m still waiting for his call. By the grace of God, the community really wants to visit him.
The first thing is to have peace. When we have peace, then we can talk about development. I want to be at peace with our neighbors as much as possible. Our neighbors extend to Idanre, Akure and Ifedore. I want the sons and daughters of Isikan to come home and see how we can move the community forward.