Arogbo-Ijaw: 11 years after tussle, new king is crowned

The new Agadagba receiving Staff of Office from Ondo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi.

• Amid Protest
After 11 years of tussle over who occupies the royal throne as the Agadagba of Arogbo-Ibe in Ijaw Kingdom, a new king was crowned, and without any fuss.

Amid pomp and pageantry after the royal battle, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu presented the staff of office to Egbunnu as Agadagba of Arogbo-Ijaw Kingdom and Opukutu III on February 18, 2018 after the first attempt was botched five months ago.

Two former governors, the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, had tried to no avail to settle the kingship crisis, as the Arogbo people in Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State resorted to serious litigation and fierce confrontations.

The Agadagba stool became vacant in February 2007, following the demise of late Pere D.M.E Eperetun (JP), Saga II. The installation process for a new king was stalled in 2010, due to conflicts in Perebiriyenmo Ruling House.

This resulted in ferocious litigations by members of the ruling house, who were unable to unanimously agree on the person to ascend the throne, as they held divergent views on the rightful heir to the throne.

Not until the sixth executive and incumbent governor of the state, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, assumed office that peace was relatively restored to one of the most volatile parts of the Niger Delta. Mr. Zacchaeus Doubra Egbunnu (JP) was eventually picked as Agadagba-Elect in December 2017.

Prior to Egbunnu’s emergence, a High Court judgment on August 31, 2017, removed the delay by striking out the pending suit and ordered Perebinyenmo Ruling House and the kingmakers to set in motion necessary machinery for the selection and appointment of a new Agadagba.

The Agadagba of Arogbo, the traditional ruler of the other Ijaw clan is also Grade A and a permanent member of Ondo State Council of Obas and Chiefs.

The aboriginal status of the Ijaws in the coastal belt of Nigeria spans the present six states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo States. They assert that they are not subject to the traditional authority of any other tribe in the Niger Delta.

The Apoi, from which most Ijaw clans sprang, were the aboriginal occupiers and owners of a vast territory spreading from the ancient Apoi creek of the Southern Ijaw in today’s Bayelsa State and westwards through Delta and Edo to the Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State.

From ancient times, the Ijaw-Apoi nation is politically organised in a confederation of nine principal kingdoms, with the Kalasuwe of Ijaw-Apoi now in Ese Odo LGA, as the revered paramount ruler.

The nine principal ancient kingdoms are Okomu, Kiribo/Ipoke, Igbekebo, Ojuala, Igbotu, Inikorogha; Oboro, Sabomi and Igbobini, while towns in Arogbo are Ajapa, Akpata, Agadagba-Obon, Karagbini, Okorobobigbini, Kurukurugbini and Ukparama, among others.

At the installation ceremony held at Oke-Shiloh Ground, Arogbo, Akeredolu expressed satisfaction over the choice of the monarch as people’s popular candidate, explaining that he was selected in accordance with the extant Chieftaincy Laws and tradition of Arogboland.

The Governor, represented by his Deputy, Agboola Ajayi, who is also an indigene of Ese-Odo council, charged the new traditional ruler to harness his people’s potential for the betterment of the community.

He urged the king to unite his subjects and mobilise them to partner effectively with the state government towards the development of Arogbo Ijaw-Ibe.

Meanwhile, the greatest antagonism against Egbunnu’s emergence stemmed from the Perebiri Ruling House of Arogbo, which enjoined the state government to prevail on its “agents and cronies” in power to desist from perverting justice in the community’s kingship process.

Sometime in April, Secretary of the ruling house, Mr. Roinland Oriamaja, who led other members, kicked against emergence of Egbunnu, a retired civil servant and former Secretary of the State Judicial Service Commission (JSC), as Agadagba-elect.

Oriamaja said the stool was subjected to a series of litigations, with some of them still pending in court, while the Peribi House is a judgment creditor in Suit No: HOK/1M/2009.

He alleged that some persons were making efforts to subvert the Chieftaincy Law and order of succession to the throne by creating Perebiyenmo Ruling House, which he said was a contravention of the community’s customs and traditions.

He lamented that Ese-Odo Local Government Area and some influential persons disregarded the judicial process by electing Egbunnu as Agadagba-elect at a meeting on April 7 and mandated that he be crowned within 14 days.

“Some mischief makers in and outside government are, for selfish interests, misinforming the government and using government cloak to brew crisis in Arogbo Ibe on the subject of Agadagba of Arogbo Chieftaincy,” he said.

He claimed that armed security personnel, including soldiers and naval officers, were deployed to the community allegedly by one Chief Bibopere Ajube, whose cronies and allies supported Egbunnu.

Specifically, he fingered the former Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Mr. Donald Ojogo, who resigned his appointment recently to contest for the Federal House of Representatives under All Progressives Congress (APC).

He said: “It smacks of reason that Mr. Donald Ojogo, the Commissioner for Lands and Housing, who is not the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs attended the meeting and purported election as a representative of state government.

“It is manifest that he is in collaboration with Chief Bibopere Ajube to set Arogbo Ibe on fire over the Agadagba vacant stool. It is an affront on the judicial process and is condemned in strong terms.”

The Perebiri Ruling House emphasised that, pending the outcome of the matter in court, its members would continue to be law-abiding citizens, saying, “We won’t fight. Whosoever it favours, we will support. We are all brothers.’

The indigenes also implored Governor Akeredolu to “call to order all its agents and their cronies to avoid a breakdown of law and order over an attempt to impose Chief Doubra Egbunnu as Agadagba-elect.”

But the former Commissioner, Ojogo, dispelled the allegations against government and its functionaries, saying Egbunnu’s emergence as Agadagba-elect was in accord with the community’s customs and tradition.

“The government followed due process. When government follows due process to do anything, there is bound to be aggrieved persons. And those people making these allegations are only trying to raise eye-brows, where there is no issue,” he said.

He acknowledged the fact that he was present during the meeting where the new Agadagba-elect was picked, but stressed that he didn’t go there as a commissioner, but as a member of the ruling house.

However, the crisis among the contenders to the throne seem to portend more litigations against the judgment-debtor and new Agadagba, as the state’s Chief Judge reassigned the case instituted by Oriamaja to a new judge.

The Perebiri Ruling House filed a case against Ese-Odo Local Government for flouting a court order, which compelled it to recognise the ruling house as the only authentic ruling house that can produce the next Agadagba after 11 years vacuum.

It was gathered that the judge handling the case at Court 2, Okitipupa Division of Ondo State High Court, declined to continue with the case for undisclosed reasons, stalling the proceedings on the kingship matter on April 10, 2018.

According to reports, the judge abandoned the case and asked the Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu to reassign the case to a new judge.

The counsel to Perebiri Ruling House, K.A. Atima Esq., confirmed that there was a letter from the Office of the Chief Judge containing reassignment of the case to a new judge.

Atima disclosed that the Law Office received the letter, and that he would press on with efforts to secure justice for Perebiri Ruling House as the only authentic ruling house in Arogbo.

Some aggrieved indigenes of the community alleged that some persons in Governor Akeredolu-led cabinet influenced withdrawal of the judge and eventually went ahead to install their crony, Egbunnu, as Agadagba despite court rulings.

They said the election conducted at the Arogbo Civic Centre on April 7, 2018 to pick Egbunnu was besieged with heavily armed and fierce-looking military personnel, who were deployed to intimidate the Perebiri Ruling House.

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