In this interview with Bankole Taiwo, the Seriki of Otta in Ado-Odo/Ota local government area of Ogun state, High Chief Olanrewaju Bashorun speaks on why Gov Dapo Abiodun should waste no more time to create Awori Traditional Council for the traditional rulers in Awori land rather than lumping them under Egba Traditional Council with whom they shared no cultural heritage, affinity among. Excerpts
Can you briefly introduce who you are and the importance of your office to Olota in Council?
I am High Chief Bashorun, the Seriki of Ota and Awori land. There are two types of chiefs in Ota land, the Osugbo and administrative chiefs, I belong to the administrative chiefs and the the closest to the Olota. I basically function as the Chief of staff to Olota and by virtue of my position I also serve as the Spokesman of Olota in Council. The Chieftaincy tittle is our lineage thing because my grandfather was also past Seriki of Ota.
Over seven months into the administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun, will you say that the issues of neglect of Ota land and the marginalisation is being addressed?
Yes, to some reasonable extent the government of Prince Dapo Abiodun has shown that he is really committed to help address some of the grievances we have had against successive governments in Ogun state. Basically, our complaint has been on marginalisation in terms of having adequate representation in the government and of course the shame of our infrastructural decay, our bad roads despite being home to highest number of companies contributing to the economy of the state. We thank God we now have a listening governor who started by picking one of us, Engr Mrs Noimot Salako-Oyedele as his Deputy. The governor within this shortest time has also been helping to reclaim some of the roads that connected us to Lagos State which has for long been in state of disrepair and in a matter of weeks these roads will be commissioned. We are trusting God that the governor will still do much more for us.
Recently, residents of Ota land protested saying that they do not want their kings to be under Egba Traditional Council anymore, that the government must constitute Awori Traditional Council for its traditional rulers, what is informing this agitation?
Thank you, may be because Awori people are very welcoming and seems to be calm in the face of provocation, we have for some time been taken for fools and people who could not stand up for their rich cultural heritage and Olota stool that is older than 500 years. Our people are however saying enough is enough because if you say that what you want to do is tie up the tail of Tiger with that of the dog, you are only inviting acrimony. Because for no just cause be it socially, economically, cultural and history wise, how will you split Awori people into two and lump some under Yewa Traditional Council while some are under Egba Traditional Council. Does that mean Awori people can’t stand on their own? These are people with distinctive cultural heritage. We don’t speak same dialect with the Egbas or the Yewas. We are totally different to one another. Did you ever hear of Alake of Egba land coming here to be part of our traditional rite? He won’t because he doesn’t know what we are doing. Lumping us under Egba Traditional Council is like putting the Ijaws and Igbo together, the Niger Deltans, it can’t work. This is a forceful marriage that its dissolution is now and that is why I am begging the governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun and the executive council to please act fast to address this error. We need our freedom now.
When they want to use us they will say Yewa/Awori but after using us they will say there is nothing like Yewa/Awori or did you hear Egba/Awori Traditional Council?
We are really sitting on keg of gunpowder. Our people are tired of being imprisoned, they are saying this embarrassment must stop. How can somebody fly over six local governments, leaves his domain and come here to impose an oba or baale on the Awori people? We can’t take it anymore. Historically, we are by far ahead of the Egbas with Olota stool that is over 500 years older than theirs. Time to have our own Traditional Council is now.
What has been the position of law over this issue?
We have over 40 Supreme Court judgements on land matters given credence to the fact that Awori people own this land and by implication should administer what belong to them or how can I go to Ijeun or Lafenwa now and be selling their lands because I have lived long in that area?
There was this report that during the recently celebrated Armed Forces Remembrance Day at Abeokuta, some traditional rulers from Yewa Traditional Council kicked against the choice of Olota to lay the wreath on behalf of the Olu Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewa land.
Can you shed light on this?
What actually happened was that the Chief of staff to the governor, Alhaji Shuaib Salisu beckoned on Olota of Ota, Oba (Prof) Obalanlege to lay the wreath on behalf of Olu Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewa land who was not at the programme. The Chief of staff had thought that Olota was the highest ranking Oba among the traditional rulers that were seated there and indeed, he is because his stool is over 500 years old but some traditional rulers from Yewa kicked against this and the Abepa of Joga Orile was picked to lay the wreath. Can you now see the problem yet some Awori traditional rulers are under the Yewa Traditional Council but the Olota can’t stand in for them. We never thought that many were aware of this shabby treatment meted to our Kabiyesi, so, now there is no Yewa/Awori when Olota is to represent the Olu Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewa land yet you call us Yewa/Awori when you want to deceive us. We are Awori nation and very proud of our heritage. The governor must stand up to be counted and help us address this anomaly. Our people are very angry and the youth in Awori land are becoming very restive. We have been calming the fray nerves but for how long we don’t know. Just some weeks ago, Alake of Egba land was at Ilogbo Ota here to install Baale. This abuse of power and maltreatment must stop.
Some are even saying that all these things have been gazetted and that except a bill is sponsored to repeal this law, you may not have your way?
It is all lies. It is a total misrepresentation of the law and 1952 gazette that created Egba Divisional Council. This gazette was very explicit on the members of this division and the district under it. No doubt it was a big council but Ota wasn’t included. Ota had its separate district council and was at no time under Egba council, it was Olota that was the head of this council. Meanwhile, the perogative to create traditional council does not lie in any edict but in the governor. So nobody can tell us what is not. You see this is what Egba has been using against us, they thought we don’t know but we knew everything. It is said that the narrative was always in favour of the hunter until the lion also learn to read, write and speak. So the hunter can’t afford to be telling the villagers any fantastic stories of how he dealt with the lion because the lion that can now read, write and speak will say Oga, pls what you said never happened, you only manufactured them. Now we have a Professor of Mass Communication as the Olota and the Olota, we can’t stomach this embarrassment again. Enough of these terrible lies of Ota people being subservient to the Egbas. We earnestly plead with the governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun to act fast before things get out of hand. Do you know how big Ota is? Do you know that parts of Akute is Ota? We have a court judgement to that effect. This is not to talk of Awori land that spreads as far as Isheri and many other places. The time for Awori Traditional Council is now and the governor should please not waste time on this anymore.