Thirty nine years after the gruesome killing of prominent Akure indigenes during the political riots of 1983, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, has now declared August 16 every year as a day of prayer, setting the stage for healing process of the state capital. BABATOPE OKEOWO reports on the implications
August 16 every year was used to mark the death of three prominent sons of Akure among others who were killed on that day in 1983 during the riots that broke out over who was the winner of the gubernatorial election between Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and his erstwhile deputy, Chief Akin Omoboriowo of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), during the shortlived Second Republic. Rather than continue to mourn over the irreparable loss of 39 years ago, the Deji of Akure, paramount ruler of the kingdom, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi has turned the date to a day of prayer for the indigenes of the town both home and abroad. The monarch said the August 16 of every year, which used to be a day of mourning of the death of the departed, would now be a day of prayer for all Akure indigenes across the globe. This, according to palace sources was to begin the process of healing the old wounds left open as a result of the sad incident of almost four decades ago. The monarch, in a statement made available by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Adeyeye Michael, during a morning thanksgiving prayer service organised to commemorate the monarch’s seventh coronation anniversary, said there was the need for the people to pray God for peace in the land to forestall the occurrence of such in the future. The Deji, while addressing the early morning worshippers at his palace, thanked God for His mercies and goodness throughout his seven years as the Monarch of the ancient city. His words: “There is nothing I could have achieved if not for God who had been on my side. I decided to make the celebration a thanksgiving service, considering what God has done for me and all my accomplishments.” Oba Aladetoyinbo, who recalled the ugly incident of August 16, 1983 which he said was a major setback for the kingdom, urged the people to continue to pray for the city. According to him: “We know that as a people, the incident of 1983 was indeed a trying period which we prayed never to witness again. However, we must go back to base and commit our ways to God. We will therefore use this date as a day set aside to commit ourselves and Akure Land to God. We will pray for the good of the land, Ondo State and the country at large. We will surely overcome the amalgams of challenges occasioned by the incident.” However, Oba Aladetoyinbo said he is aware of the pockets of challenges that seem to be threatening the unity in the Kingdom. He was, however, optimistic that the unity of Akure Kingdom would be achieved under his watch as there is no sacrifice too much to achieve unity. The Monarch thanked God that Akure had witnessed a great turnaround during his reign and prayed that God will continue to guide him in making right decisions and leading the people right with the fear of God.
The incident of 1983
The August 16, 1983 crisis was as a result of desperation for electoral victory. The two major contending parties for the Ondo governorship race encompassing the present Ekiti State of 1983 were the United Party of Nigeria, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the National Party of Nigeria, the party of the then President, Shehu Shagari. One of Awolowo’s protégés, Chief Ajasin, governor in the state since 1979, was seeking re-election, while his deputy with whom he had fallen out, Chief Omoboriowo, with the connivance of younger elements in the UPN thought they could upstage the establishment.
In the aftermath of his resignation as deputy governor, Ajasin put forward the name of Dr. N.F. Aina to the State House of Assembly twice, and was rejected for approval on both occasions in solidarity with Omoboriowo. When it was time for the primaries, the former deputy governor presented himself in opposition to his erstwhile boss,but lost the UPN’s ticket to the incumbent, and quickly alleged that the primaries had been rigged in Ajasin’s favour, so himself and some other party bigwigs including Samuel Ajibade Akerele, defected to the NPN, consequently securing the Federal Government’s backing in the process. He promptly became the NPN’s flag bearer.
Unlike the 1979 poll when there was only a handful of NPN members in the state, four years later things were different as many people, including congressmen, had cross carpeted to join the party at the federal level. On August 16, 1983, three day after the governorship election was held; Chief Omoboriowo was declared the winner by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO).
he impact of the declaration was immediate as allegations of vote rigging using “federal might” ensured that violence erupted in various parts of Ondo State. Some reports claimed that the outbreak of violence was the worst in the history of post-independence Yoruba land. In the violence that followed the announcement, at least 40 people were killed in Ondo, including two NPN congressional candidates, Chief Olaiya Fagbamigbe and Chief Tunde Agunbiade. An NPN chieftain and Sasere of Akure, Chief Agbayewa was set ablaze by an angry mob in retaliation.
Both Omoboriowo and Akerele barely made it out of the state alive, with Akerele and his family skipping town the night before his house was burnt down by displeased protesters. To de-escalate, FEDECO postponed the scheduled senatorial elections in Ondo State indefinitely, and then, their own offices were hit by rioters, and burned to the ground. It must be noted the result of the election was aired on Radio Nigeria headed by an Akure son, Chief Sanya Oyinsan.
It was the music of Sunny Okosun ‘baba ti bawa se’ played on the station that woke the consciousness of the people that something sinister was about to happen. People who were on their way to offices had to return back home. The FEDECO office was burnt while that of Radio Nigeria was protected by the combined team of soldiers and Mobile policemen deployed by the Federal Government to the state. Some of the families of those killed have vowed not to have anything to do with Akure while some left the relics of houses burnt during the riot as a sad reminder of what the town did to her prominent sons.
Administration of Akure since 1976
Akure remained the Provincial Headquarters of Ondo Province, since it was created 1915, until February 1976. On February 3, 1976 Akure was made the capital of the newly created Ondo State of Nigeria. The state was carved out of the defunct Western State and covered the total area of the former Ondo Province.
Since then Akure has tripled as the traditional headquarter of Akure kingdom, capital of Akure South Local Government and sit of the government of Ondo State. From the foregoing, it is evident that the significance of Akure in the political development of the region and Ondo State cannot be overemphasised. Be that as it may, since the region has now been balkanised into three local government areas: Akure North, Akure South and Ifedore. In nearby future, more local governments may be created from the region and this may snowball into more recognised kings that will join the catalogue of the kings already on ground namely: The Deji of Akureland, the Alara of Ilara-Mokin, Owa of Igbara-Oke, Olujare of Ijare, Adapogun of Ipogun, Olojoda of Oda, Okiti of Iju, Ogbolu of Itaogbolu, Oloba of Oba-Ile, Alayede of Ayede-Ogbese, Akota of Ikota, Osolo of Isolo, Aralepo of Isinkan, Akapinsa of Ipinsa, Onibule of Ibule, among others. It is important to note that right from the British incursion up to the present, traditional rulers in the region and elsewhere in Nigeria have been accorded little political powers in the administration of their people.
The relegation of the traditional political institution that was started by the colonial authorities has continued and has been sustained ever since. This has the implication of driving the government far away from the people. Thus, the prospects of good governance in the re-gion strongly rely on the collaborating efforts of the three tiers of government – the federal, the state and the local governments – and the traditional institutions. This will promote peace and tranquillity which are basic ingredients for development. This will also prevent political crises such as that of August 16, 1983 from repeating itself.
Deji’s right step
Prominent Akure indigenes have hailed the efforts of the monarch in trying to bring about healing and reconciliation among the various warring factions in the town. A university lecturer, Dr Adedayo Afe said the Deji of Akure should be commended for the steps he has taken in bringing about peace in the land.
Afe, a history lecturer at the state-owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) said the pogrom was during the reign of Oba Adelegan Adesida and several kings have reigned after the demise of the monarch without any of them thinking about healing the land after the incident of 39 years ago. His words: “For him to have done that, God has given Oba Aladelusi Ogunlade the wisdom of Solomon. Since the incident of 1983, Akure political landscape has not been the same. It was a barbaric act. Unfortunately, the two gladiators were not Akure indigenes but Akure bore the brunt where some of Akure first eleven were burnt alive.
As at today, parts of buildings burnt were still there as a sad reminder of the period. Major drivers of the violence were not Akure people but the conniving with the indigenes to destroy their land. This is the beginning of the healing process.” Another Akure indigene, Chief Aina Babalola said aside prayers, the Deji of Akure should institute an annual lecture to be delivered on the need to allow peace to reign after each political dispute.
He said it was the crisis of 1983 that has made it difficult for Akure to produce the civilian governor of the state 46 years after the creation of the state and Akure, the state capital. Meanwhile, the indigenes have called on the Deji of Akure to use the period of Ulefunta to bring all the aggrieved families back to the fold and unite the kingdom for prosperity of the people and the land. They prayed for the monarch to live long in order to complete the healing process he has begun.