Ikare-Akoko, in Akoko Northeast Local Government of Ondo State, was recently engulfed in crisis over who has the right to install the Olokola of Okoja between the Olukare of Ikare, and Owa-Ale of the ancient town. Babatope Okeowo reports that the faceoff was an offshoot of a supremacy battle between the two monarchs in the town
The hilly town of Ikare-Akoko in Akoko Northeast Local Government area of Ondo State is one of the towns in the ‘Sunshine State’ with more than one traditional ruler administering the towns and villages. Others in that category included Ajowa-Akoko, Akure, the state capital and Owo, the hometown of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
While other towns and villages that parade more than one monarchs rarely engage in supremacy or territorial battle; that of Ikare-Akoko has become a major source of worry to virtually all the governors that have governed the state. The recent crisis over who has the right to install the Olokoja between the Owa-Ale and Olukare of Ikare.
Owa-Ale and Olukare, both in Ikare, had always locked horns over who was superior between the two monarchs. While Owa-Ale claims he brought his crown from Ile-Ife and hence superior to Olukare, the Olukare, who is one of the first class monarchs in the state, sees the Owa-Ale as one of his chiefs. Recently, the Olukare, Oba Akadiri Momoh wrote to the state government announcing the demise of Oba Samuel Adedoyin- Adegbite, the immediate past Owa-Ale. Oba Momoh is the letter referred to Oba Adegbite as one of the quarter chiefs in his domain. The state government has, however, ratified the choice of Oba Adeleke Adedoyin as the new Owa-Ale for the town.
The recent crisis was the outcome of the cold war between two monarchs in the community; the Olukare and the Owa Ale. The latest crisis that erupted recently was over who has the right to summon a periodic meeting of the Okoja community. The Olukare of Ikare, Oba Akadiri Saliu Momoh on January 20, 2021 allegedly dethroned Chief Idowu Ogunye as the traditional head of Okoja known as Olokoja over his absenteeism from traditional meetings, disloyalty and refusal to obey directives of the monarch. Following the alleged dethronement of the erstwhile Olokoja, another person; Chief Sunday Bada was installed as the new head of Okoja quarters, a development which was said to have infuriated Chief Ogunye. Crisis erupted, residents said, in the ancient town over the alleged insistence of Ogunye, a ‘deposed’ Chief of Okoja quarter in the community, to continue to act as the Olokoja of Okoja. Some suspected thugs, alleged to be loyal to the deposed chief, were said to have in-vaded a meeting of the quarter which Chief Bada was presiding over as the new Olokoja. The meeting, which was disrupted by the suspected thugs, led to the death of two persons from Okorun and Okeruwa quarters following the move to repel the attack by suspected thugs loyal to a faction in the dispute. In order to forestall further bloodshed, the state government announced a dusk to dawn curfew on the town. According to the Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo, the curfew, which begins from 6.00pm, would last until the crisis subsides. Ojogo said: “Anyone who violates or contravenes this order shall face the full wrath of the law. Dire consequences await such defaulters. “In the meantime, the government has ordered the immediate suspension of all activities relating to the Olokoja chieftaincy title. In this regard, no one is permitted to parade himself as Olokoja, or engage in promotional activities relating to the title in question. This directive takes immediate effect.”
Prince Ojo Momoh, who spoke for the Owalukare Ruling House, said the crisis that rocked Ikare-Akoko in which the Olukare of Ikare, Oba Saliu Akadiri Momoh, is the Paramount and prescribed authority, is most unfortunate. He said this situation that could have been handled without chaos, has led to the destruction of property and loss of precious lives. His words: “For the records, Ikare-Akoko was divided into five quarters by the grandfather of the current monarch, Oba Momoh I, for easier administration of the town. Each of the quarters is administered by a High Chief of which Ale is the one heading Iyometa quarters until he was elevated by the government in one way or the other to his present position. “Simply put, the crisis arose from the interference of Iyometa quarters into the internal affairs of Okoja-Ikare in Orunn quarters by the dethroned former Olokoja of Okoja, Idowu Ogunye. He was dethroned due to absenteeism, disloyalty and refusal to obey directives of the Olukare of Ikare after writing several warning letters to him. “The former Olokoja, who was installed by the Olukare, late Oba Amusa Momoh III, in 1975, was relieved of the appointment by Oba Saliu Akadiri Momoh IV with effect from January 20, 2021 and he was cautioned to stop parading himself as the Olokoja of Okoja. “Another Olokoja was installed as required by tradition by Oba Saliu Akadiri Momoh IV. During one of the meetings chaired by the new Olokoja, the dethroned Olokoja mobilized people from Iyometa quarters in Ale’s area to disrupt the meeting. They destroyed property belonging to the family of the newly installed Olokoja. “It should be noted that they were armed with dangerous weapons, cutlasses, clubs and guns. It was after the destruction at Okoja that they turned round to Olukare’s Palace but were pushed back by Ikare people who quickly mobilized to avoid the destruction of the ancient and traditional edifice. “The crisis has no connection with the planned coronation of Ale by the state government as claimed in some quarters. As the Paramount ruler of the ancient town, the Olukare of Ikare Oba Saliu Akadiri Momoh IV appealed to all sons and daughters of Ikare to eschew violence and allow peace to reign as Ikare belongs to us all.”
A community leader from Okoja, Chief Ojo Agboola said: “Like you know that the foremost traditional festival in Ikare, ‘Aringiya’, is usually celebrated by virgins from Iyometa, Orunun quarters and Olokoja plays prominent roles in the festival and Owa-Ale of Ikare presides over such festival since this town was founded by the first Owa Ale, Agbaode. “During Aringiya festival, ‘Didomo-Olokoja’ an aspect of the festival takes place at the Olokoja’s compound 24hours to the celebration of the Aringiya festival. You can see the historical link of Okoja and Olokoja with Owa-Ale. How come Olukare will now be saying he has power over Okoja or Olokoja? “History shows that out of respect and prominent roles of High Chief Olokoja to the founding of Ikare, the first Owa-Ale honoured Olokoja with the ‘Okore market’ which is in the heart of Okoja quarters. “It is unfortunate that injustice and long term distortion of the history of Yoruba people is now causing a crisis everywhere. Majority of Ikare people know the truth, but they don’t talk for fear of the unknown.” Similarly, lawyer to Chief Ogunye, Mr Femi Emodamori, said: “In reaction to the claim that High Chief Idowu Ogunye, one of the Kingmakers that participated in the selection of the new Owa-Ale, had been suspended since 2018 by the Olukare, our clients stated that the purported suspension was contrary, and consequently constitute an affront, to the Ondo State Government Circular Number CD/C43/S VOL. XXII/349, dated 27th April. 2017 and signed by the Secretary to the State Government. “The Circular categorically states, amongst other things, that ‘All traditional rulers are, therefore, directed to suspend the appointment and removal of minor chiefs, pending the release of the Government White Paper accordingly’,” Emodamori said.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in his broadcast over the crisis that rocked the ancient town said the government would no longer tolerate a situation where chieftaincy disputes would lead to loss of lives of innocent citizens. Akeredolu said: “We are concerned with various chieftaincy and land tussles in some communities in the State. Chieftaincy tussles are ill-winds that have never blown anyone any good. It is a known fact that bitter tussles are capable of derailing society, stability and development programmes of government. “These tussles, if not carefully managed, could lead to conflagrations, especially when they assume ethnic or political colourations in view of the current tense situation in the country. The instant case of Ikare-Akoko where the perennial crisis between Olukare and Owa Ale has dominated the length and breadth of the community in the last 72 hours is a cause for concern. “Lives have been lost and properties destroyed over a minor chieftaincy in the community. As a way of stemming further crises, the government has imposed a 24-hour curfew on the entire Ikare-Akoko till further notice. The immediate cause of the current crisis is the contention as to who is the rightful Olokoja. “Thus, the government has also suspended the chieftaincy till further notice. Nobody should henceforth parade himself as the Olokoja. The security agencies have been given instruction as to how to treat anybody who flouts this order. “Therefore, in furtherance of the efforts of our administration to address frontally these emergent and aforementioned security matters in our State, the following measures have been put in place: All traditional rulers in the state should henceforth revert to the government beforeallowing anygrouptosettleintheirdomains, any departure from this will be sanctioned.” With peace gradually returning to the town with the government relaxing the curfew from 24 to 12 hours, the people are waiting for when a fresh round of supremacy and territorial battles would erupt between the two feuding monarchs.