Monarch, residents kick against plan to uproot sacred tree in Ekiti

The protesters

There was tension in Ikere-Ekiti, headquarters of Ikere Local Council of Ekiti State yesterday over the move by a contractor handling a road dualisation project to uproot a tree considered sacred by the community. The sacred tree is located in a historical site in the heart of the community.

An attempt on Monday by the contractor handling the project to uproot the tree was disrupted by the youths and traditional religion worshippers, who invaded the scene. Some irate youths held up traffic and lit bonfires at Odo-Oja area of the town.

The protesting indigenes claimed that the historical site known locally as “Ereja” was the source of Ikere Ekiti, and uprooting the tree would result in dire consequences for the community. They also claimed that the site of the tree was host to the annual Olosunta festival.

Governor Ayo Fayose, who visited the scene yesterday, appealed for calm, saying he would ensure that the traditional rulers of the community and Olukere of Ikere, Oba Ganiyu Obasoyin, were sensitised on the need for the road dualisation project.

Residents had earlier in the day placed fetish objects made with a goat and pigeon at the site while palm fronds were also tied around the shrine to scare away agents of the contractors.

Some of them also formed a human shield round the shrine in a bid to frustrate any plan to demolish the site and uproot the tree. Addressing reporters at his palace, Oba Obasoyin who is the custodian of traditional sites in the town, said “cutting down the sacred tree and demolishing the Ereja was akin to passing a death sentence on him.”

Present at the briefing were the Alare of Are-Ikere, Chief Oguntuase Atitebi and the Elejoka of Ikuomoba-Ikere, Chief Benjamin Owolade. “It is when a king dies that the branches of the tree are cut off and I went to meet the governor that he should not pass a death sentence on me. The only way forward is that government should see reason with the people of Ikere and respect the people’s cultural heritage,” Obasoyin said.

The state government has insisted that the tree was obstructing the ongoing road dualisation in the town and must be cut down. It was learnt that Governor Ayodele Fayose led operatives of the state security outfit, “Operation Flush” to the town in the heat of the crisis.

Speaking with newsmen on Tuesday, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, said the road construction must continue because, for every developmental effort, people must make sacrifices.

“Houses had been demolished, now that it is the shrine, it is only proper that we relocate the shrine to a proper place. “With the necessary appeasement, the shrine could be relocated. All the gods in Yoruba land are for protection and not for death. We want to assure him (Olukere) that nothing bad will happen to him.

“The government will continue with the construction of roads, government must carry on with its responsibilities,” he added

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