Aiyetoro: After three years, peace returns to Ondo’s communist island

The Secretary General, Supreme Council of Elders of the community and church, Apostle Atimishe Ademolu(left); the Baba-Ijo, Lawrence Lemamu; the Ogeloyinbo, Oba Olorumbe Ojagbohunmi and the Head of the prophets, Bola Ojonla.

Peace has returned to Aiyetoro Community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, as the people unanimously crowned the sixth Ogeloyinbo and spiritual head of the Holy Apostles Church after three years interregnum.

The latest development was sequel to prompt intervention by Ondo State government at the behest of the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who hails from a neighbouring community. He made strenuous effort to preserve the people’s rich heritage and preclude intra-communal war.

There had been kingship crisis in the community since the last king, Oba Gad Asogbon died on February 13, 2015, leading to the closure of the only church in the community, Holy Apostles Church, since 2016.

It has been a communal rivalry between a revolutionary prophet, Olorumbe Ojagbohunmi, grandson of the community’s founding father, who has the community’s staunch support and a former diplomat to African Development Bank (ADFB), Olaseni Micah Ajijo, who is supported by a few elite.

Aiyetoro is an island and one of the last surviving communist communities in the world, founded by a group of 70 Saints, who were reportedly led by the Holy Spirit on January 12, 1947, living a unique life and civilisation like Apostles of old in the Bible.

It is a coastal community 160 kilometres away from the Eastern part of Lagos and severed 40 kilometres from the mainland that stretches between Ugbo and Igbokoda, the headquarters of Ilaje Local Government Area.

The ancient town is a movement of the celestial order, whose administration and organisation since creation, is a theocratic system of government that makes the community king also head of the church, as laid down from the first Ogeloyinbo, Oba Peter Ojagbohunmi, who reigned from 1949 to 1953.

The Guardian gathered that Aiyetoro, the land of the Apostles and City of Saints, as fondly called by the folk, became a refuge and place of comfort for those oppressed by the society.

Like the crusade by Mary Slessor in Calabar, the mother of the oldest twins in Ilajeland was offered refuge in 1945 by the movement, which also spared the twins of an Olugbo, whose existence then were regarded as a desecration and a taboo.

But the leadership crisis began when Ajijo reportedly stormed the community with gunboats and security operatives to declare himself the Ogeloyinbo-elect on August 7, 2015.

The church was eventually put under lock and the whole community worshipped under a big tent on the town’s Broad Street and appointed Ojagbohunmi as ‘Alakoso’ of the new church, while Ajijo set up a worship centre in his house, which he converted to his palace.

According to the folk, it is a taboo for anybody to be proclaimed Ogeloyinbo-elect because ascension to the throne has always been through divine selection and celestial procedure in line with laid down tradition by their founding fathers and holy apostles.

They also accused Ajijo, who had been parading himself the self-acclaimed king, of stoking crisis in the community by using his influence to oppress the people and erode their tradition by stationing mobile police post in the town for the first time in 71 years.

The 100-year-old Mother-in-Israel of the Holy Apostles Church, Flora Ojogbon, revered for being one of the surviving few who followed the first king to establish the community, denounced Ajijo’s ascension to the throne.

She lamented that there was never a time in the community’s history, when the people had Ogeloyinbo-elect or a police post, revealing that they resolve their matters amicably through the leading of the spirit.

The centenarian, who is also a member of the “Igharafa,” the Spiritual Majesty-in-Council that consists of six apostles who help the king on administrative matters, declared that an Ogeloyinbo’s ascension to the throne is spiritually bound and not by selection or imposition.

Another elder in the community, Lawrence Lemamu, 79, who is the Baba Ijo of the Holy Apostle Church and had been harassed severally alongside others with security agencies, noted that Ajijo and his cohorts were only forcing themselves on the community.

A close aide to the third Ogeloyinbo, the late Oba Charles Akinluwa (1966-1992), the revolutionary who brought modern and Western development to the community, Joshua Bankole, pointed out that the community has never had a king who was not a prophet.

Bankole, renowned for his intercontinental voyage and expertise in the construction of the legendary Western Explorer vessel in the mid1960s, said: “I can surrender my wife, children and entire family, but will never sell out my community and the tradition of my people for anything; even if it leads to war.”

However, a former Chairman of Ilaje Local Government Area, Mr. Tola Alabere and staunch supporter of Ajijo, recounted that peace evaded the community since Ojagbohunmi started his prophetic business in 2006.

Alabere alleged that the prophet had also been running a parallel government with surreptitious move to forcefully ascend the throne, despite intervention by the leaders, government, police and the Olugbo-In-Council under, Oba Fredrick Akinrutan to restore peace.

The former council boss said: “The allegation that Oba Micah Olaseni Ajijo was imposed on Aiyetoro community and the church is, therefore, false, malicious and a deliberate misinformation.

“The appointment painstakingly followed due process in accordance with the church’s age-long tradition and the Constitution of the Holy Apostles Church, Aiyetoro.

“The hidden truth must be told that the entire opposition to the appointment of His Spiritual Majesty, Oba Micah Olaseni Ajijo, which has been showcased in Aiyetoro community till date has undercurrent of the failed vaulting ambition of Mr. Oluwambe Ojagbohunmi to ascend the hallowed throne of the Ogeloyinbo of Aiyetoro and Spiritual Health of the church.”

He stated that the community would peacefully resist any attempt by Prophet Ojagbohunmi and his group to usurp the Ogeloyinbo throne through “religious fanaticism.”

Ajijo, who claimed without mincing words that he was legally installed, accused Prophet Ojagbohunmi of brainwashing some youths in the community under the guise of “prayer warriors” to destroy both private and public properties.

Asserting he is the Ogeloyinbo and Spiritual Majesty of Holy Apostolic Church, Ajijo said: “He (Ojagbohunmi) even paid me homage in this same palace. It was unfortunate that he later declared himself ‘Baba Alakoso and General Overseer’ of the Holy Church, a position alien to the community’s custom.”

Meanwhile, investigation revealed that the tussle for the throne was a class struggle between some elite, who were accused of abandoning the community and cashing on every opportunity to always exploit the people.

Aside that, there is the issue of royalties from oil companies dredging from the Atlantic Ocean and oftentimes, the community sends representatives to attend meetings at Chevron, Agip and other oil companies.

Some of the community’s angsts against the so-called elites include abandonment of the community, whose existence is threatened by the recurring sea surge and allegation that some of them connived with a contractor to embezzle the N6.5bn embankment project awarded by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

More over, some government officials of past administration were said to be protecting some interests in the ongoing crisis in the community, either for political reasons or financial benefits that come from the rich island.

However, the state’s Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, recently intervened to reconcile the two factions and settle the kingship rift amicably, forestalling breakdown of law and order in the area.

The state government held a peace meeting with Ojagbohunmi, who was appointed the Alakoso of the community and Ajijo, who declared himself the Ogeloyinbo-elect in 2015 and king eventually.

The second meeting was also attended by the two factions, the State Secretary to the Government (SSG), Ifedayo Abegunde, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale and security chiefs.

One of the former king’s sons and community spokesperson, Mr. Victor Akinluwa, maintained that Ojagbohunmi was unanimously ordained by the people as their leader and “Alakoso” of the theocratic community in line with the founding principles of their ancestors.

Akinluwa denied allegation that he was breeding a group of young boys who would serve as a rebellion against the community’s doctrines, saying it was a cheap blackmail against the community’s righteous cause.

He said: “The whole community doesn’t like the kangaroo arrangement by the so-called elites, and that is why they kicked against it. Ojagbohunmi has never proclaimed himself a king. It is the people that installed him as the ‘Alakoso’ of the community, pending the time God will choose a king for us.”

In a statement made available to journalists in Akure last Monday by the Secretary General, Supreme Council of Elders of the community and church, Apostle Atimishe Ademolu, Prophet Ojagbohunmi was pronounced the new king.

Atimishe recounted that the council, which is the community’s highest administrative council, had been mourning the death of their former king, Oba Gad Olofin Ashogbon, who died on February 13, 2015.

He explained that thereafter, they set in motion prayers, fasting and other spiritual activities aimed at hearing from God the chosen one that would continue the good works the successive five kings had begun.

He said: “We are extremely joyous in the infallibility and sanctity of the leading spirit of God that had pronounced through the prophets a man amongst the multitude who lead us, feed us with the spiritual truth and guide us in our pious quest for eternal life in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“The founding elders numbering about 70 and more, who are custodians of our age-long tradition of king enthronement, have been diligent and uncompromising in this sanctimonious selection and are in absolute agreement with the process.

“For over 70 years, ascension to the throne in the theocratic community had been through leading of the Holy Spirit and church, where a new king is crowned in the midst of the service.

“Therefore, the Supreme Council of Elders, who are the highest decision making body of Holy Apostles Church Aiyetoro and Aiyetoro Community have unanimously chosen, adopted and crowned Prophet Oluwambe Ojagbohunmi king of Aiyetoro Community and Spiritual Head of Holy Apostles Church Aiyetoro.

“This puts an end to guesses, bickering and over three years of waiting. The wide jubilation and thunderous shouts of Hossanna that rent the church and community are testimony of the acceptance and confidence the people have in the character, courage, anointing and leadership qualities of this chosen vessel.”

The elders, numbering 127 and other 78 persons who appended their signatures, including women and youths of various ages, lauded the people for their prayers, patience and cooperation, especially the Head of Prophets, Bola Ojonla.

They commended Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, his Deputy, Agboola Ajayi and other neighbouring kingdoms for their support throughout the trial times.

“We pledge to continue to support and liaise with government in ensuring that peace, law and order prevail in Aiyetoro community and in our extended coastal environments,” the statement read in part.

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