Fayemi, Ekiti Obas: Who blinks first?

August 20, 2019
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There is crisis between Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi and 16 foremost traditional rulers (Pelupelu) over the appointment of the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi, as Chairman of the Council of Obas. Correspondent RASAQ IBRAHIM examines the genesis of the discord and efforts being made to resolve it.

All is not well between Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi and the Council of Traditional Rulers. The bone of contention is the appointment of the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi, as Chairman of the council.

The position became vacant, following the expiration of the tenure of the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, Oba Oluwole Ademolaju, on July 31.

Trouble started when the 16 most prominent traditional rulers, otherwise called ‘pelupelu’, including Fayemi’s hometown monarch, the Onisan of Isan Ekiti, petitioned Fayemi over Oba Alabi’s appointment.

The rift has factionalised the council. Some monarchs accused the 16 monarchs of monopolising the exalted position.

Many have argued that Fayemi took the action to spite majority of the obas, who pitched their tent with former Governor Ayo Fayose’s  annoited candidate, Prof. Olusola, against Fayemi during the 2018 governorship election.

The chairmanship tussle has snowballed into a legal battle as the pelupelu obas approached an Ado Ekiti High Court to challenge the governor.

In a suit filed by them, they sought for the nullification of Oba Alabi’s appointment, claiming that Fayemi contravened the Ekiti State Chieftaincy Law, which stipulated that the chairman can only be appointed among Alademerindinlogun/pelupelu Obas.

They described the action taken by the governor to appoint someone outside the league of 17 to occupy the prestigious seat, as a flagrant disregard for the Ekiti State Chieftaincy Law.

The Pelupelu started in 1886 after the end of Kiriji war between Ibadan and Ekiti. It came into existence with 16 obas, including the Deji of Akure and the Owa Olobo of Obo Ayegunle Ekiti.

The decision of Akure to secede from Ekiti to form Akure kingdom through Ajapada and the ceding of Obo Ajegunle to Kwara brought about an adjustment in the pelupelu composition. The Elemure of Emure Ekiti, Attah of Ayede and Olomuo of Omuo-Ekiti were screened by the Obas then and absolved as Pelupelu.

The 17 Pelupelu are: the Ajero of Ijero, Alara of Aramoko, Ewi of Ado Ekiti,  Ogoga of Ikere, Olomuo of Omuo, Attah of Ayede, Onitaji of Itaji, Oloye of Oye, Arinjale of Ise, Ologotun of Ogotun, Elemure of Emure, Alaaye of Efon, Owa Ooye of Okemesi and Olojudo of Ido Faboro, Onisan of Isan Ekiti, Elekole of Ikole.

Joined in the suit with registration number HAD/76/2019 are: Fayemi (1st defendant), the Attorney-General of Ekiti State, Wale Fapohunda (2nd) and Oba Adebanji Alabi(3rd).

An originating summon filed by Dr. B.A.M. Ajibade((SAN) on August 7, 2019 and deposed to by Ajero of Ajero, Oba Joseph Adewole, on behalf of the other 15 Obas, sought an interlocutory injunction restraining  Fayemi from swearing in Alawe as the chairman of the council.

The 16 rulers argued that the promotion of Alawe, Olosi, Olojudo (Ido Ile), Arajaka and Oluyin to the Pelupelu rank by government was an erosion of tradition.

They averred: “We reject the appointment of Alawe because he was not one of the Oba Alademeridinlogun stated in the extant laws.

“Similarly, the so-called political promotion or elevation for Alawe to Pelupelu obaship does not derogate in anyway whatsoever from the established tradition which had been statutorily established in the law already cited.

“It was for this obvious reasons that the court struck out a case by four obas namely; Alawe of Ilawe, Olosi of Osi Ekiti, Arajaka of Igbara Odo Ekiti and Olojudo of Ido-ile. They approached the court for recognition as Pelupelu Obas.

“Your excellency, the matter was struck out and then never relief they asked for. Interestingly, there is no appeal against the order of court.

“Later in spite of the fact that the court struck out the case, Oluyin of Iyin Ekiti was promoted. All the five appointment were done in violation of our tradition and existing law.”

The 17 aggrieved obas shunned the inauguration that was attended by many first class and other monarchs under the aegis of ‘Majority Obas’ of Ekiti State.

The aggrieved traditional rulers are resolute in their opposition to Fayemi’s action.

The governor, who spoke at the  inauguration held at the Conference Hall, Governor’s Office, Ado Ekiti, called on the aggrieved monarchs to eschew baseless and unnecessary rivalry that can lead to communal clashes. He said well-meaning Ekiti should aim at the peace and progress of Ekiti State.

Fayemi added: “I want to appreciate the immediate past council for putting in their best in piloting the affairs of the council. I have no doubt that the new council will collaborate with government for more development in our state.

“Ekiti has been lucky since its creation and in this period of its history, I am the Chairman of the Governor’s Forum, despite the fact that Ekiti is not the oldest state in Nigeria. Whatever we must  have achieved or got in life, is an act of God, who knows the end from the beginning.”

The deputy governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi, said Fayemi’s approval for reconstitution of the council was in tandem with Section 2(3) of the Council of Traditional Ruler Law no 3 of 2000.

He said that government had painstakingly selected 26 rotational members alongside 32 permanent members to make up the new council, whose tenure will end in 2021.

Oba Alabi promised to be fair to all Obas, regardless of status.

The monarch urged his colleagues to restrict themselves to playing advisory roles to the governor and not to criticise since the council is not a labour union.

He added: “We can’t afford any form of antagonism and bickering as we are not in competition with the governor. We are an advisory body in line with the law that established this council. We assure Mr Governor of our unalloyed loyalty to be able to move Ekiti forward.”

Oba Alabi said the security challenges in the country can only be tackled with the cooperation of Obas with the government at all levels.

“The best way to cooperate with government is by ensuring that we don’t allow criminal elements to infiltrate our communities.

He added: “If we do this, we will be able to insulate security threat, whether in form of banditry, kidnapping, robbery or insurgency . We can also help government pursue a delibetate policy of disarmament as part of the ways to overcome the present situation.”

He thanked Fayemi for appointing him as the chairman of the council; saying that the council will not shirk its responsibilities in ensuring that government delivers the goodies of democracy to the people.

In the unfolding scenario, the 17 rulers seem to be standing alone in their agitation against Fayemi. Most first class obas and other monarchs under the aegis of Majority Obas’ of Ekiti State are behind Oba Alabi.

Observers said the frosty relationship between Fayemi and the monarchs, if not well managed, may produce negative effects. The monarchs may wait for a time in future to frustrate his ambition since they are the closer institution to the grassroots.

Observers say the ongoing squabble between Fayemi and the aggrieved monarchs is not a good omen for Ekiti State, considering the myriads of challenges confronting the state.

But, whether Fayemi has committed any infraction by appointing Oba Alabi or not will be determined by the interpretation of provisions of the Ekiti State Traditional council Law, the Nigerian Constitution, democratic principles, culture, tradition and history.

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