We’ll resist Alake or any other king in Ogun — Chief Abayomi Bashorun

Professor Adeyemi Obalanlege – The Olota-elect

The Ota-Awori people are battling the Alake of Egba land, HRM Oba Adedamola Aremu Gbadegbo, over installation of some obas and baales in Ota. This disagreement has to do with the history and origins of the Aworis. The Olota of Ota, Oba Professor Adeyemi Abdulkabir Obalanlege, was said to be on vacation in Switzerland and would not be back until late June. So, Palace Watch interviewed the Seriki of Ota, High Chief Taofeek Olanrewaju Abayomi Bashorun, who is the traditional Chief of Staff and spokesperson for the Olota in council.

What brought about the problem between your people and the Alake of Egba land?
Some weeks ago, we heard from a very reliable source that the Alake was coming to Ota to install some Baales and Obas. This has always been the practice of almost all the Alakes of Egba land. This was the offending act. They had attempted to do so in the past, which Backfired. This issue has always created friction between us. So, that the present Alake was coming to do it again was most unacceptable.

As the Chief of Staff to the Olota of Ota and the Seriki of Ota, I went alongside other Awori Chiefs to Iwe Irohin House in Abeokuta, to address a press conference, because it took us quite some time to calm frayed nerves, and for our people to maintain peace over the matter. They were all very ready to do battle over the issue, not minding the consequence, if the Alake dared to step onto Ota land, when such an act ever happens.

At the press conference, we appealed to all concerned to prevail on the Alake, as he had no right whatsoever to come into Otta land to attempt to install anybody as baale or king in Ota-Awori land, which does not belong to him or his ancestors. We made this categorically clear to him and the world. That his power as an Alake ends in Abeokuta. The press statement was made about three or four weeks ago.

We were, therefore, surprised and shocked at the Alake’s reaction to our press statement. Because he knew the Olota of Ota was travelling outside the country for some time and everybody knows that I, as the Olota’s Chief of Staff, I am not always at home. I am always in England or America.

Instead of being civil, the Alake in Council came out with a very derogatory and abusive press statement, which stated among other things, that the Otta-Aworis are under their conquest. They said they conquered Awori land some centuries back, painting a false picture of their conquest of the Otta-Aworis in particular. And consequently, they have administrative and other rights over us. They said the Otta-Aworis are in captivity and such other nonsense. The language deployed in their press statement was not only abusive, but it was also most unethical, which was very sad indeed.

Expectedly, the Olota of Ota responded immediately before travelling, stating clearly that there was no time in history, when the Egba people captured the Aworis. He said the issue of having the right to come and install baales or a king in Otta-Awori land was nothing but a figment of their imagination.

But rather than being reasonable, the Alake and his people kept on coming up with all manner of distorted stories about how they captured the Otta-Awori people. So, the disagreement between the Alake of Ake and the Olota of Ota has continued ever since.

What is the relationship between the Otta-Aworis and Egba people?
As the Chief Of Staff and spokesperson for the Olota of Otta in Council, I would want to put things in true perspective.

The Aworis and Egbas have been co-habiting since the creation of Egba in 1850 or thereabout. The Aworis, especially the Otta-Aworis, have been in existence since the 14th century. The type of land they have in Abeokuta is rocky, and so is not good for arable farming. This made the Egbas to migrate to our area for suitable farmland. And because of our hospitality, we allowed the Egbas to farm as our tenants over the years. This has been the relationship between Otta-Aworis and the Egba people. The Egbas are there in Aton, Ifon, Ilaro and so many other places in and around Ogun State.

Do you have evidences to back your claims?
We have more than 50 court judgments against the Egbas up to the Supreme Court supporting our claims over the Egbas. In most of these judgments, the Egbas have been told in very clear language that they don’t own Otta-Awori land, as they were just tenants.

What was the relationship between the immediate past Olota of Otta and the Alake of Egba land?
We had a very cordial relationship with Egba people, until they began taking our hospitality for granted. That was when our disagreement with them arose. It got to a point where they were trying to install non-indigenes as Obas and Baales, especially in the areas we gave them to farm. Most of the previous Olotas had issues with Egba people over matters like this.

Oba T.T. Dada had issues with them. The same goes for Oba Oyede of blessed memory. The immediate past Olota also had issues with them, to the extent that he even took them to court, which was one of the reasons he refused to attend the Egba Traditional Council of Obas for some time.

This problem has been ongoing. I would say it has continued because the Awori people are so docile. The Ota-Awori people are so simple. They have always believed that the problem would go away. But that same problem has come again with full force, especially with the present Alake, who is calming that they conquered us. That is one of the reasons we are where we are over this matter.

Secondly, I am not too sure whether or not the Alake was represented during the recent coronation of the current Olota of Ota. But they must have sent a representative for administrative purposes. That is just administrative, which has nothing to do with history. It has also got nothing to do with customs and tradition. Anyhow, the Alake and Egba people have a role to play, if a first class Oba is being installed.

Again, because the Olota and the Alake belong to the same Traditional Council, he must send a representative if he could not come.

Some part of Aworis were grouped under Egba Traditional Council, while others were grouped under Ilaro Traditional Council. We Aworis of Otta happen to fall under Egba Traditional Council. The Alake of Ake is the Chairman of Egba Traditional Council of Obas. He must, therefore, have a role to play in the coronation of the Olota of Ota.

Olota is a first class king, who originates from Ile-Ife and according to history; the root of the Aworis of Otta is from the lineage of the elder brother to the present Alake in Ile-Ife. We are, therefore, their elder brothers. Anyhow, we are a different set of people, with different customs and tradition from the Egba people. The Egbas speak a different dialect, while we the Aworis speak a completely different dialect from theirs. We do not have anything in common with Egba people.

For example, Chief Jide Ojuko, who was a commissioner in the immediate past administration in Abeokuta, resigned his appointment under Governor Ibikunle Amosun, because he could not stomach the atrocities they were trying to commit against our customs and tradition. He is an Otta man and knows the consequences of allowing such a crime to happen under his watch.

When one notices something like an abomination coming to play, it is either such a person tries to correct it, or stays out of it. And that was what Chief Ojuko tried to do. If a serving commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture said in protest, if you are going to commit an abomination against my people, I am not going to be part of it; we must know the gravity of such an offence.

Are you saying former Governor Amosun’s action was in support of what the Alake of Egba land and his people are trying to do to Ota-Awori people?
If a king is doing something that is wrong, and the government of the day pretends not to know what is going on, what do you call that? Since he did not call the Alake to order, his administration must be guilty of complacency.

Since he did not have the guts to call the Alake of Egba to order, he must be in support of such an act. If somebody is jumping from Abeokuta South Local Government Area Council, and in the process jumps over three or four other Local Government Area Councils to penetrate somebody else’s areas councils to claim ownership without being questioned, what do you call that?

For someone to have the effrontery to say we captured your areas some centuries back, I must therefore, be allowed to install baales and obas is a very serious abomination. Something must be seriously wrong. It is another tacit way of saying former Governor Amosun was in support of what the Alake is trying to do here.

If you are to be made a high chief in Otta, you must, as a matter of custom and tradition, go through so many traditional rites. That is why a lot of people say Otta people are very traditional and fetish. Our Chieftaincy titles are not cheap to come by. It is only the right persons and our indigenes that get installed as our chiefs and kings.

Palace Watch contacted the former Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture, Chief Jide Ojuko for comments on the matter.

Chief Ojuko appealed to both sides to exercise extreme caution in handling the delicate matter. “The Egbas and Aworis in Otta have cohabited for several centuries. So, they cannot wish themselves away now,” he said.

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