O N I G E G E W U R A
“History Is Not Was, It Is”
The Inside Story of Oba Sikiru Adetona’s Deposition as Awujale – His Imperial Majesty versus His Excellency
A dashing young king, the paramount ruler of his land. A beautiful young lady, daughter of the premier. A prolific parrot who became a governor. A storyline from a Kunle Afolayan movie? Nah!!!
That’s the cast of a drama that was more dramatic than any Nollywood film. The cast of a historical battle, an epic battle between tradition and constitution, between royalty and power, and between royal court and the court of law.
The news hit Ijebuland like a thunderbolt. In the twinkle of an eye, it had reverberated across the length and breadth of the nation. That was decades before twitter, instagram and Facebook. That however did not stop the news from spreading like harmattan fire.
His Excellency, Governor Victor Olabisi Onabanjo, the Governor of Ogun State had removed His Imperial Majesty, Oba Sikiru Adetona as Awujale of Ijebuland! It was unheard of! An Ijebu son, an Awujale subject removing his own king! Could Ayekooto remove the Crown?
Ayekooto (Parrot) was the pen name of Chief Olabisi Onabanjo. He was a London-trained journalist, publisher, parliamentarian, and statesman. As Ayeekoto, he wrote more than 476 published articles.
Could it be true? People wondered. Those who knew the close relationship between His Majesty and His Excellency doubted the veracity of the news. Years before Onabanjo became the Governor of Ogun State, he had fallen ill and needed to travel abroad for medical check up. It was Awujale that secured the flat of Afolabi Kuku for Ayekooto’s use whilst in the United Kingdom. Oba Adetona also arranged for his brother’s wife who lived in the same building to prepare his meals.
So what went wrong? What you are about to read is the intriguing saga of the deposition of a Monarch. It didn’t start in the Second Republic however. It however didn’t start in the Second Republic. Let’s travel back in time. Let’s go back to the First Republic.
The young Sikiru Adetona became the Awujale on April 3, 1960. That was in the tempestuous days of the First Republic. It was the period when Western Region was polarized sharply along political line. The Awujale was a young man, suave, urbane, cosmopolitan and handsome.
The premier, Sir Ladoke Akintola, the Are-Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland had a beautiful daughter. Modele Akintola was beautiful, graceful, brainy and ebullient – a chip off the old block. Modele was very close to the Awujale. It was not hidden that His Majesty had a personal relationship with Ms. Omodele! According to Oba Adetona: “Many in the Awolowo camp were uncomfortable about this relationship!” Olabisi Onabanjo was in the Awolowo Camp. Count One!
If anything, Awujale was and is still passionate about the issues affecting Ijebuland and Ijebu sons (and of course, Ijebu daughters) When the premier awarded an Ijebu son a contract for importation of pipes, the entire Ijebuland was excited. Then news filtered out that Awolowo had asked Akintola to cancel the contract. This was not done. The Ijebu son, Chief Okunowo, was incensed.
For purpose of fair hearing, let me tell you Chief Awolowo’s account of the contract saga. Before Awolowo relinquished office in the Western Region, the government had approved the purchase of a large quantity of asbestos pipes for water supply. The government had to decide whether to import the pipes or to manufacture them locally. Awolowo preferred the local option, as it would contribute to local technology, provide employment and would have fewer cracks. It was on this basis that Awolowo advised the premier to consider the local option.
People took sides. Some supported Awolowo. Others supported Chief Okunowo. Awujale stood in support of his Chief. Count Two!
Following his release from prison by Yakubu Gowon, Awolowo was appointed the Minister of Finance. One of the agencies under his superintendence was the Customs and Excise Department.
It was around this time that another Ijebu son was planning to open a bicycle and inner tubes factory in Ijebu-Ode. Out of the blues, the Government imposed an additional excise duty on tyres and inner tube parts. The Ijebu business was no longer competitive. It could not compete with giants like Dunlop and Michelin. Rightly or wrongly, it was concluded that Awolowo was to blame!
Iyan ogun odun, a ma jo ni lowo is a Yoruba proverb. Pounded yam of two decades might not be cold. That was what Awujale discovered in the Second Republic. The yam pounded years earlier was still oven fresh when Ayekooto emerged as the Governor of Ogun State.
The first salvo was fired when it was time to constitute the National Council of State. Under the 1979 Constitution, a person appointed by a State’s Council of Chiefs “from among themselves” was a member of the Council. Awujale expected the Ogun State Council of Chiefs to nominate one of its members. The Council was therefore surprised when the Governor unilaterally selected a relatively junior Oba to represent Ogun State.
Awujale picked his pen and wrote to the Governor resigning from the activities of the Council. The Governor responded. His Excellency asked His Majesty to withdraw his letter of resignation. His Majesty refused. Clouds began to gather!
One fateful day, the Chief Imam of Ijebu Ode received a special letter. The letter had the Seal of Office of the Governor. His Excellency informed His Eminence, the Imam of his intention to attend Jumat prayers for thanksgiving. The Muslim Community was excited. A response was dispatched to Abeokuta with dispatch assuring His Excellency of a warm welcome.
His Majesty was soon informed of the preparation to receive His Excellency by His Eminence in the mosque. Awujale invited the Chief Imam to the Palace to show him where in the Quran, Christians could come to the mosque for thanksgiving. The Chief Imam must have searched frantically for a relevant verse or an apposite tradition. He found none.
When His Excellency received a second letter from His Eminence. He thought it was to inform him of advanced plans for his reception. It was with shock that Ayekooto read the letter asking him not to come to the mosque. Though the letter was signed by the mosque leadership, Onabanjo clearly saw the invisible signature of Awujale on the document.
The gathering clouds became heavier.
To or not to go! That was the question the wordsmith Governor must have been pondering as he put down the letter. Of course, he decided to go. He informed the Muslim community that he was going to attend the Jumat Service as scheduled.
The Chief Imam was in a quandary. Torn between His Excellency and His Highness, His Eminence looked unto Almighty Allah. On the scheduled Friday, those who had not attended mosques in decades found their way to the Central Mosque. When a siren was heard from a distance, the elders of the mosque looked at the Imam. It was however a police car passing by. His Excellency did not turn up.
The gathering clouds became heavier and darker.
The governor was not Ayekooto for nothing. In addition to being a smart bird, parrot can also be patient. The governor waited. He waited for his chance. After all he was the Executive Governor.
And his chance came! It came by way of an innocuous letter from palace. Like a starved hawk, Ayekooto pounced!
Awujale had written to inform the Governor of his plans to go to the UK for medical attention. The letter contained information about the Oba’s itinerary and contact details. The Governor read the letter. Finally! He responded. He responded by asking for further and better particulars about Kabiyesi’s health and the planned trip to enable him decide whether or not to approve the request.
Request? Awujale picked up his pen and explained that his initial letter was not a request for approval, but information about his journey.
Information? The governor fired another letter. “Your Majesty is hereby requested to comply with His Excellency’s earlier letter.” Oba Adetona filed away the letter and instead of picking his pen, it was his passport that he picked. Off to London!
The gathering clouds became ominous!
The governor was waiting patiently to receive Awujale’s response. He waited and waited. When the news came, it was not the letter he was expecting. Instead the news he got was that the Ogbagba II, Commander of the Federal Republic had left for London.
Onabanjo weighed carefully his options. He was an Ijebu son. He was Awujale’s subject. But he was also the Executive Governor of the State, the first citizen of the State by virtue of office. What was he to do? Should he call the Awujale and order him to return? He picked the phone. He hesitated. No, he won’t call. Instead, he called some prominent Obas in Ogun State.
Awujale had hardly settled down in London when his phone began to ring. ‘Kabiyesi, Gomina n binu o. E ma pada bo o!” It was a First Class Oba calling from Nigeria. The phone rang again, another Kabiyesi, with the same message. Another call. Another call. Another call. Another call. Alake of Egba called. Akarigbo called. The husband of Olori Iyabo Adetona refused. They pleaded with the husband of Olori Kemi Adetona. The Ogbagba II maintained his stand. When it appeared that the phone would not stop ringing, Kabiyesi changed his telephone number.
The Governor was waiting to hear that Awujale had returned to the country. If he heard anything, it was to be informed that Awujale was still in London.
The ominous gathering cloud became a bit too heavy!
On November 23, 1981, the people of Ogun State woke up to receive the first shock! “Oba Sikiru Adetona is hereby suspended from office as the Awujale of Ijebuland in the Ijebu-Ode Local Government area until further notice!”
Suspended ke? Suspension bawo? From Abeokuta to Ota, from Ifo to Ilaro, from Ijebu Ode to Sagamu, from Mowe to Idiroko, the question was the same. Could Awujale be suspended by his ‘son’, the Governor?
The second shock came almost immediately. The Government set up a Commission of Enquiry to probe the affairs of the suspended Oba Sikiru Adetona as the Awujale of Ijebuland. The commission was headed by Hon. Justice S. O. Sogbetun who became a Judge of the State on June 1, 1977.
Awujale picked his phone. He called two leading lawyers of the time; Chief FRA Williams and Omooba Sina Odedina. Timi the Law advised his client not to appear personally before the Commission, as it was not constituted properly. A case was promptly filed challenging the constitutionality of the Sogbetun Commission.
Well, Awujale or no Awujale, case in court or no case in court, Sogbetun Commission sat. Things became tense in Ijebuland whilst the Commission met. At the end of the day, the Commission submitted its report. The Awujale was found guilty.
It was in the evening that the report of the Commission was submitted to the government. Overnight, government read the report, government reviewed the report, government digested the report. All in the course of one night.
By the following morning, having carefully reviewed and painstakingly considered the report, the Government announced the deposition of Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, CFR, as the Awujale of Ijebuland.
Ha! From suspension to deposition! But Kabiyesi had a case in court! People speculated. What could have happened? It was one speculation after another.
Off to court again! The now deposed Kabiyei went to court. The case of His Royal Highness Oba S. K. Adetona v. Governor of Ogun State and Others was assigned to Hon. Justice Owolabi Kolawole. You remember him? His Lordship was the trial judge in the case of AYINLA OMOWURA.
On Friday, May 4, 1984, Justice Kolawole delivered his judgment. His Lordship found that there was: “so much indecent haste on the part of Government to depose the plaintiff that it overlooked so many fundamental issues…in its haste to have the plaintiff deposed, it overlooked to give any reason for the plaintiff’s deposition.” His Lordship therefore declared that the decision of His Excellency to depose His Royal Majesty was null and void.
Now something happened while the case was going on. A military coup occurred. His Excellency, Chief Olabisi Onabanjo was removed from office as a result of the coup. It was therefore the lot of the new military governor COL. OLADIPO DIYA to restore Oba Sikiru Adetona to the throne of his fathers. Coincidentally Col Oladipo Diya is another Son of Ijebuland! The saga continues……………
Thanks for your time!