In this interview with Bankole Taiwo, Seriki of Ota and spokesman for Olota-in-Council, High Chief Olanrewaju Bashorun speaks on the brewing trouble over alleged plans to install obas and baales in some towns and villages in Awori land by some Egba monarchs saying that never again will Awori people lie low in the face of this sheer injustice and needless provocations
You recently raised the alarm over imposition of obas and baales on some towns in Awori land, can you shed more light on this?
Let me first of all say that Awori people are very peaceful and law abiding and we won’t want anybody to categorise us as trouble makers. However, when we noticed that something is wrong or trouble is brewing, we won’t bury our heads in the sand like the ostrich and pretend as if all is well. From reliable sources, we gathered that some people are hellbent on foisting non indigenes on us in some of our towns and villages as obas and baales. After checking on this report, we found out that it was true. In fact, some are already parading themselves as obas and would-be officially installed before this month of May ended. It was against this background that we have to cry to the world over this injustice and particularly call on the governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun, to quickly intervene in this matter. This no less is a calculated move to denigrate the highly exalted seat of Olota of Ota by those who are behind this unacceptable acts. Some of the towns in question where we heard this despicable installations are to take place are Sango Ota, Atan Ota, Oke Ore, Ijoko, Adekoyeni, Mesan among others.
How true is the allegations that Alake of Egba land and Olowu of Owu are allegedly the brains behind these installations?
The facts are there for people to verify because this won’t be the first time when we would have people coming into our towns and villages and claimed that they had been installed as kings and baales by either Olowu of Owu or Alake. These first class traditional rulers are among the kings that we highly respect and hold in high esteem. From history, we are like cousins, I mean egba and Awori coming from same Ile Ife. Awori people are like senior brothers to the egba…
(Cuts in) But the Egba have always claimed all these places you claimed are Awori lands are under Egba territory, what is your take on this?
Well, the truth is that you won’t hear either Olowu or Kabiyesi Alake to be saying this, a lot of people are very good in distorting history and there is this proverb in Yoruba (Agbalagba to ba fe jeje kuje a pa itan kitan) when an elder want to manoeuvre things to suit himself, the next thing is for him to distort facts. The history is there for anybody to confirm. The first Olota of Ota was installed in 1621 and I am sure you heard what Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona said recently about some other stools in Egba land. I know the first Olota was installed in 1621 and other obas in and around us here knew when their forbears were installed as kings. When we mentioned that Olowu and Alake have done this or that, it is not that we are just dropping names, no, we have seen certificates issued to some people installed in the past in some of our villages as baales bearing signature of either Olowu or Alake. In Ado-Odo/Ota, we have a prescribed authority lying in the hands of Olota of Ota. So, I don’t know how it is possible for someone to now come from another territory and be claiming that he has power to install baales or obas in another person’s land. I personally believed that all these are being done without the knowledge of Alake or Olowu because they won’t want to join others to distort history.
In the light of your explanation above, how come the Olota cannot be installed without the approval of Alake as consenting authority?
Let me quickly correct this erroneous belief or insinuation, you see, there is EgbaTraditional Council where the Awori belong for now and the Alake is the chairman. We are not Egba but Awori with different culture and dialect. If I speak our dialect the Egba can never understand, so we can never be the same and we ought not to have been lumped together. It was the political arrangement that merged some parts of the Awori with the egba. So it is right politically for the new Olota to be introduced to Alake as the head of the traditional rulers. It has nothing to do with consenting authority or not. Whether or not Alake consented, we would still have gone ahead with the installation of the Olota because he is not an Egba man and neither is he being installed over Egba land but his people, the Awori.
However, this is part of the marginalisation we are have been crying about. This arrangement is long overdue for review. How can you pack Efik and Igbo together, it is an arrangement that is not the best and may not work because they are two different set of people with different cultural practices and beliefs. This is our case under Egba Traditional Council. We are two different people with difference in dialects, beliefs and cultural practices. It is an arrangement that is totally wrong and long over due for review. I have that assurance that just very soon by the grace of almighty Allah and deities of Awori land, we shall have our own traditional council. Awori are peace loving, we don’t jump over other people’s territory and install kings, others might do it. Our behaviours are like the Awori in Lagos and it is what they do for the Awori in Lagos leaving them with no more land that they want to do for us in Ogun state. We just have to stand our ground and resist this invasion or else, like the Hebrews, we will be chased out of our lands.
Why has it been this convenient for the Awori to allow this to go unchallenged for a very long time until now? There is case of Iju and Gbalefa among others
Time will soon be up for all of them and God will not hesitate to punish those distorting history. What is Gbalefa? (Awon gba ile ifa) they acquired land as fringe benefit, there is nothing like that in any part of the world. No land no matter how small is not owned by someone, how can somebody now be claiming of land as fringe benefit? There is nothing like that, we have over 50 court judgments declaring all these illegal installations of obas and baales as null and void. Look at the case of Sango Ota where the Egba people said they captured the Awori many years ago and all manner of unfounded stories. I am a bit particular about this Sango Ota case because one Gbohun who we gathered had been selected as Onisango of Sango Ota is a foreigner from either Ondo or Osun state. His father was a medical dispenser and his mother a nurse. In fact I have an aunt that this Gbohun will normally address as “My sister” because when he was a little boy, his mother usually leave him in the care of this my aunt when going to work. How can we open our eyes and allow these total strangers to occupy thrones meant for Awori people? It is sacrilege of the highest order. Do you know of series of traditional rites you have to go through before you mount any throne in Awori land? Such alien won’t even survive seeing some of the deities in our land. There is another case of one Sowunmi in Atan Ota who is also being touted for the throne in this area. Sowunmi is an Egba name, why can’t such people go and take over a section of the vast Egba land and leave Awori people alone? We are however saying enough of this callous acts, we won’t take it again. We won’t lie low as far as imposition of obas is concerned any longer in Awori land. Even those who were illegally installed in the past should be counting their days.
How do you feel when you heard that an Awori man, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon Jide Ojuko resigned over this issue?
Well, I may not want to join issues with anybody or government over this matter. I read it also in the news just like everybody but it may not be out of place to want to protest what you considered as untoward behaviour towards your people. If it was on this note that the Commissioner resigned, he was only proving to be a true indigene of Awori land and we are very proud of him for his courage and for standing with his people when it actually mattered most.
What is the expectation of the Awori as we are set to have a new leadership in the state under Prince Dapo Abiodun?
It is a known fact that Awori have been marginalised for a very long time. Despite contributing over 70% to the Internationally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state due to several companies operating on our lands here, our roads are in disrepair. The same goes for our schools and hospitals. In a sane clime, you don’t really have to beg the government over all these because its their primary responsibilities. However, we have that assurance that our dear daughter and deputy governor elect, Engr Noimot Salako-Oyedele from Awori land know where the shoe pinches us and will surely work together with the governor elect, Prince Dapo Abiodun to address our concerns. They have both given us their words and I strongly believe that our days of sorrow and sadness in Awori land are almost over. We have that assurance that Prince Dapo Abiodun will give us Awori Traditional Council.
Your message to the people of Awori land
I want to thank them for their support and cooperation. I urge them to remain law abiding and cheerful because as I have said earlier, there will soon be light at the end of our tunnel. We should however remain united whether it is the Awori in Igbesa, Ota, Ado-Odo among others. We should jointly resist any act tantamount to desecrating our forebears or one that is tailored towards disuniting us. Anybody who however wants to play game of betrayals among us will definitely have the deities of Awori land to contend with.
What is your take on the first coronation anniver-sary of the Olota of Ota, Oba (Prof) Abdukabir Adeyemi Obalanlege?
We thank almighty God for the glorious reign of the indefatigable Olota of Ota, Oba (Prof) Abdukabir Adeyemi Obalanlege. His ascension to the throne last year May has no doubt been a blessing to us all. The highly cerebral Oba has been working assiduously in the last one year to move Awori land forward through initiatives such as Olota Foundation among others. He has always been a rallying point for the overall wellbeing of Awori people. We are grateful to God for giving us a royal father like him and it is my heartfelt prayers that the almighty God will continue to renew Kabiyesi’s strength. He will surely celebrate many more years on the throne of his forefathers in sound health and prosperity by the grace of almighty Allah.