Alake, Olowu on ‘war’ path over traditional council, paramount ruler status

Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III, Alake of Egbaland.


• Owu People Say They Are Fully Qualified
The cord of harmony binding together the Egbas and Owu people of Abeokuta in Ogun State for centuries appears to be tearing apart, with the brewing supremacy battle rocking the ancient town. 
 
The cold war, basically on the paramount rulers’ status and the Traditional Council’s seat, had been an open-secret between the two ethnic groups for ages and well managed, until the current face-off, supposedly initiated by the Baapitan of Egbaland, Chief Adebola Lawal, which has potential to put things in disarray.

Recently, in a local newspaper publication, the chief did not only castigate the Owus as unqualified for an upgrade, he allegedly asked them to leave the town, if they are not part of the Egbas, a statement that has not gone down well with the Owus.
 
This claim has not only sparked unhealthy rivalry between the two neighbours, but has made the Owus intensify their agitation for Owu Traditional Council and Paramount Ruler status, which they claimed is long overdue.

The said publication captioned: “Stop Lobbying Government, Alake Cautions Olowu,” where the Baapitan allegedly declared the area as Egbaland and asked Owu people to quit the land, among other weighty issues, with the look of things, might pitch the two neighbours against one another, if not urgently put under control.

Though for now, the Olowu of Owu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oba Dr. Olusanya Adegboyega Dosunmu has refused to comment on the development, but The Guardian learnt from his aides that despite strong oppositions, Owu people are resolute that this is the time to get their demands.

The Oganla of Owu Kingdom, Chief Saheed Adesola Akinmade told The Guardian that Lawal’s anger was triggered by a statement reportedly made by the Akogun Owu, Chief Ishola Akinsipo, during the last Odun Omo Olowu Day celebration, which held last October in Abeokuta.He highlighted salient parts of the statements allegedly credited to Akinsipo during the occasion to include the fact that, “Owu People are an independent ethnic group different from the Egbas, who are not under the control of the Alake or any other Egba Oba; that the Akogun Owu has been incessantly pestering Ogun State government to formally grant them an Owu Traditional Council seat with the Olowu as the Paramount Ruler.

“In an effort to justify the demand, the Akogun Owu has often referred to Ogun East Senatorial District, where there are two paramount rulers – the Awujale for Ijebu and the Akarigbo for Remo. Still in his bid to prove his point, the Akogun Owu has made reference to Egba division, now known as Ogun Central, arguing that the area is larger than Ogun East and, therefore, deserves another paramount ruler in the Olowu, whose domain extends to some parts of Ogun West.”

But in his counter statement via the interview, Lawal portrayed the Akogun Owu as “a young man who knows nothing about history. Owu is not different from Egba. If the people of Owu feel they are not Egba, why not pack their loads and leave this place?  Why is Owu different from Egba? 

“Are they not on Egbaland? Egba people came to Abeokuta before the Owu. Owu people met Egba here. They got here in 1834, while Egba got here in 1830. It was Sodeke that invited them in when he learnt they were outside the gate. The Alake of Egbaland is the consenting authority. No Oba in all the sections (of Abeokuta) can be installed without the Alake. Ijebu and Remo are separate groups. Hence, they have two paramount rulers. Remo and Ijebu are not the same. They are separate ethnic groups. We cannot have two presidents in a country and we cannot have two governors in a state. So, we must not have two paramount rulers in Egba division… in our own case, we shall fight it to the end.”

In a statement made available to The Guardian and signed by Akinmade, he claimed that Owu people are different from others and not Egba, a fact which he claims Lawal is fully aware of, but only feigning ignorance. He said: “Our language, our culture, our values, our way of life – all these, and more, make us out as a totally different entity. In this respect, Owu Kingdom is comparable to Ijebuland and Remo land. Hence, like those areas, Owu Kingdom is fully qualified to have its own Traditional Council with our Royal Father the Olowu as its Paramount Ruler. This argument is further buttressed by the fact that from the geographical point of view, Owu Kingdom is larger than Ijebu East Senatorial District.

“The Baapitan’s description of the Akogun Owu as an ignorant young man who knows nothing about history is very unfortunate indeed. It is really surprising that the Baapitan, being an Egba man, has interpreted the history of the period to favour the Egba. Isn’t his interpretation therefore, altogether subjective? Indeed, it is absolutely unreliable and unacceptable.

“When the Akogun Owu declared that we Owu people are an independent ethnic group different from the Egbas and, as a result, not under the control of the Alake or any other Egba Oba, he was only speaking the minds of all of us the Owu people. By disparaging the Akogun Owu, the Baapitan has blatantly and egregiously insulted our royal father, the Olowu of Owu and the entire people of Owu Kingdom. He must, therefore, apologise unreservedly to us.”

Akinmade explained that in citing the different dates the Egbas and the Owu people settled in Abeokuta, the Baapitan has conveniently lost sight of one very crucial point that both ethnic groups are all immigrants in the area. “We emigrated from the defunct Old Oyo Empire. On arrival here, whom did we meet? It was the people of Ibara, led by their legendary Lafa. The Ibara people were our hosts; we were only their guests. They accepted us and we settled on their land. This may sound unacceptable to the Baapitan and those who share his view, but it is the truth.

“Conveniently and deliberately ignoring this fact, the Baapitan declared the area as Egbaland and asked us Owu people to quit the land. His declaration is both amusing and naïve. It has compelled us to recall a Yoruba saying: Eni ri nkan he to fe ku pelu e, owo eniti o ti s’onu nko? (Roughly meaning, “If someone finds a lost object by chance and then start fighting to death to retain it, what should the person who lost the object in the first place be expected to do?”).The Oganla Owu claimed that in each of the several towns in today’s Ogun Central Senatorial District, there are either two Baales or two Obas ruling in the same town, a development which was until recently regarded as a taboo.

He said: “Obviously, doggedly determined to continue to live in the past, the Baapitan, in the so-called exclusive interview declared the Alake as the consenting authority, where he claimed that no Oba in all sections of Abeokuta can be installed without the Alake. He also said we must not have two paramount rulers in Egba division.“The Baapitan is obviously not aware of the overwhelming national demand for change sweeping like a hurricane throughout the country. There is a nation-wide call for restructuring, aimed at rendering the federation easier to govern and satisfying the desire to make life really worth living for citizens. As already warned, if Baapitan refuses to change with the times, he will be left behind by this unstoppable phenomenon called change.

“The Baapitan has warned us Owu people to stop lobbying Ogun State government to grant us our own traditional council and our Royal father, the Olowu of Owu, the status of a paramount ruler. Dear Baapitan, please tell us, to which other body should we direct our request? Surely, you are fully aware that the state government is the only political organisation endowed with the necessary power and authority to grant or reject such a request. 

“We Owu people also have the right to press ahead with our appeal to the state government. And whether you like it or not, we shall continue to exercise that right. Meanwhile, Baapitan, you should remember the following Yoruba adage that Bi ika ba r’ojo ika ko lo maa daa, meaning, “A wicked man’s case will never be adjudicated by a wicked judge.”  It is another way of saying, “Man proposes, but God disposes.” The Ogun State Government is an upright judge and will adjudicate uprightly.

“There is no shaking, no going back. We Owu people will press ahead with our demand, because it is our legitimate right. No opposition or hostility from millions of Baapitans can stop us. And we are absolutely confident of achieving a resounding success.“We Owu people are totally convinced that our request will succeed eventually – sooner than later. And not only shall we have our own traditional council, our Royal father, the Olowu of Owu will also become a paramount ruler.”

In this article:
Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III
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