The people of Ikire, the headquarters of Irewole Local Government area of Osun State, have been thrown into total confusion in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment of April 11 on the Akire stool. Two individuals are claiming the throne of Akire of Ikire and the people of the ancient town are in the dark on who their authentic traditional ruler is, report Ismail Afolabi and Ismail Balogun…
Palpable tension had enveloped the ancient town as news went round on April 11 that the Supreme Court had sacked the monarch while the traditional ruler insisted that he was not sacked. Ikire people are confused at present on the interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment on the legal tussle over the Akire stool, which started 27 years ago.
27-Year-Old Legal Tussle
A contender to the Akire stool, Prince Tajudeen Ijaduola Olanrewaju, had been battling the current occupant of the stool, Oba Olutunde Falabi, in a legal tussle in the last 27 years. The battle came to a climax when the Supreme Court delivered a unanimous judgment in favour of Prince Tajudeen and his Akintula ruling House.
Meanwhile, Oba Falabi insisted that he was not sacked by the apex court, Prince Olanrewaju who instituted the case said the state government must install him as Akire in line with Supreme Court judgment.
Prince Olanrewaju” I Was Duly Nominated in 1987
Speaking with WESTERN POST at his residence in Ikire, Olanrewaju explained that he was duly nominated in 1987 to become the next Akire when the stool became vacant after the demise of the immediate-past Akire, Oba Oyegunle. He said his nomination from Aketula Ruling House of Ikire was based on the 1958 Akire of Ikire Chieftaincy Declaration.
“After the demise of the late Akire in 1987, the then Oyo State government set the machinery in motion to fill the vacant stool and I was nominated from my ruling house, the Aketula. My nomination was approved by the kingmakers and forwarded to the then Oyo State governor. However, the Ladekan ruling house thwarted the process of my installation as they ran to court to challenge the inclusion of Aketula ruling house in the Akire of Ikire Chieftaincy Declaration of 1958”.
He said Lanbeloye ruling house that produced the current occupant of the throne, Falabi, quickly took the advantage of the situation and joined the case as defendant.
Olanrewaju said further: “I would have been installed then in 1987 but the process was obstructed and the then governor was hindered owing to the court action by the Ladekan and Lanbeloye ruling houses challenging the inclusion of my ruling house, Aketula, in the 1958 Akire of Ikire Chieftaincy Declaration.
“The case stated from the Ile-Ife High Court and its outcome favoured Lanbeloye ruling houses based on one particular Obasa Commission of Enquiry. That was how Falabi maneuvered and wriggled his way to the throne, relying on the position of that Ile-Ife High Court on the case, which granted his prayers.
“I was not satisfied with the position of the Ile-Ife High Court and I went to the Appeal Court, Ibadan to challenge the judgment of the Ile-Ife High Court on the case. Prior to the installation of the occupant of the throne then, the Ladekan ruling house that started the case and the remaining two ruling houses in Ikire, Onisokan and Disamu, ran to the Appeal Court and sought a stay of execution, which was granted by the Appeal Court.
“The Appeal Court then restrained the then governor from approving the occupant of Akire stool but he also ran to the Supreme Court to appeal the decision of the Appeal Court”.
For Prince Olanrewaju, now that the Supreme Court has given final judgment on the matter and set the injunction of the lower court aside, he wants Osun State government to act appropriately by deposing Oba Falabi and installing him.
Letter to Governor Aregbesola
WESTERN POST reliably gathered that before the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the case, the state ministry of justice had advised the state Governor Rauf Aregbesola that if Aketula ruling house won in the apex court, the Akire, Oba Falabi, should be deposed but if Aketula failed, Oba Falabi should have no problem.
In his letter to the state Governor Aregbesola after the Supreme Court judgment, Prince Tajudeen through his lawyer, Emmanuel Abiodun, dated April 22 said “the Supreme Court has declared that the 1958 Akire Chieftaincy Declaration by which the government of Oyo State commenced the filling of the vacant stool of Akire of Ikire after the demise of Oba Oyegunle in 1987 valid and the only means by which the successor to Oba Oyegunle from Onisokan ruling house could be appointed. The government of Oyo state and its successor in the state of Osun have waited patiently to abide by the final court decision.
“The governor should do the needful by requesting the incumbent to vacate the stool for it to complete the job commenced by the then Oyo State Government and allow me to reap the fruit of the judgment”.
Recourse to Ikire High Court
However, after the apex court’s judgment, Oba Falabi also ran back to the Ikire High Court and sought the court’s protection to prevent the state government from deposing him to install Prince Tajudeen. According to a suit No: HRE/08/2014 file by his lawyer, N. O. O. Oke (SAN), Oba Fafabi said he had not committed any offence to warrant his deposition by the state government and sought a court order to retrain the governor from deposing him.
Oba Falabi joined the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Barrister Wale Afolabi, the Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs, Barrister Kolapo Alimi, and four of Ikire kingmakers, Chief Daudu Aro, Chief Rafiu Morakinyo Oke, Chief Alawode Basiru and Chief Adebayo Aduke, as well as Prince Tajudeen as respondents in the suit.
Oba Falabi in his statement of claim at the Ikire High Court stated that Aregbesola invited him to a meeting in Osogbo on the 15th of April and discussed the issue of the Supreme Court judgment with him. He said Aregbesola insisted that he (Oba Falabi) should be preparing to vacate the throne as the Akire of Ikireland. Oba Falabi said the Commissioner for Justice who was at the meeting told him (Falabi) that an alternative arrangement with confortable accommodation would be arranged for him at any other town he desired with some money to live the rest of his life because they (the government) wanted the deposition to be peaceful.
Oba Falabi told the court that he rejected the offer and that his (Oba Falabi’s) rejection of the offer did not go down well with Aregbesola and with both the Commissioner for Justice and that of the Chieftaincy Affairs who were at the meeting. The embattled monarch said the Attorney-General told him at the meeting that it would be in his (Oba Falabi’s) own interest to leave the throne peacefully.
Case Struck Out
When the matter came up at the Ikire High Court, the case was struck out. Though, the counsel to the 6th defendant (Prince Tajudeen), Barrister Olalekan Thanni, filed a notice of preliminary objection against the traditional ruler, but Oba Falabi’s lawyer, Oke, informed the court of a filed motion for the discontinuance of the matter. Relying on the development, the presiding judge, Justice R.A Shiyanbola, struck out the case, having listened to the submission of Oba Falabi’s counsel who urged the court to strike out the suit.
Jubilation in Ikire, Pensive Mood at the Palace
When the news went around Ikire town that Oba Falabi’s case was struck out, a large crowd of the people of the town who were at the court to witness the proceedings jubilated just as heavily armed riot policemen were spotted in patrol vehicles, marked NPF 2685 C and NPF 7633 C, trying to maintain law and order.
Thousands of Ikire residents including market women, commercial motorcyclists and artisans and other categories of people on the streets and neighbourhood started paying homage to Prince Olanrewaju as he was coming back from the Ikire High Court. But the palace of Akire where Oba Falabi is still staying pretty at present was in a pensive mood. Neither the Oba nor any of those sighted at the place was ready to volunteer comments on the development when WESTERN POST visited the place.
Osun State Government in Dilemma
When contacted, the Akire of Ikire, Oba Falabi merely said: “I don’t want to talk on the matter. You can meet my lawyers. Those people you see jubilating are not from Ikire. They brought them in. That is not the way to go about it”.
Reacting to the judgment in a chat with WESTERN POST, Prince Olanrewaju said “the judge respected the Supreme Court judgment, having realised that he could not adjudicate on the matter. Ikire people are happy with me because they know that I’m their genuine traditional ruler”.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State, Afolabi said he could not comment on the matter because of a pending suit. He also said he could not react to the monarch’s statements so that his comments would not be deemed prejudice.
The state’s Commissioner for information, Mr. Sunday Akere, however, debunked the insinuation that politics had crept into the matter. He said the state government was in dilemma because the judgment was not declaratory and that there was need for proper interpretation of the verdict of the Supreme Court.
What Supreme Court Judgment Says
Aketula Ruling House Can Produce Akire of Ikire
The Supreme Court upheld the claims by Prince Tajudeen Olanrewaju that Aketula Ruling House is one of the houses qualified to vie for and be appointed as Akire of Ikire. In a judgment which finally resolved a dispute that was submitted to the court 27 years ago (1987), the apex court held that it was wrong to exclude the Aketula Ruling House from consideration for the throne of Ikire stool. Prior to the judgment, only four ruling houses namely: Ladekan, Onisokan, Disamu and Lambeloye had been producing the Akire to the exclusion of the Aketula ruling house.
In opposing the inclusion of the Aketula ruling house from the list of those qualified to produce the monarch of Ikire, the other ruling houses had contended that Aketula was not a direct child of the Kujelanyo, the original founder of the stool. They claimed that in his old age, Kujelano was given a new wife who later begot another son named Aketula whose paternity was said to have been in dispute. They claimed he was the son of Desamu- one of the direct sons of Kuje.
However, while in court, all the parties agreed that the mother of Aketula was Kuje’s wife and that Aketula was born in the lifetime of Kuje. Nevertheless, it was the four sons of Kuje that were said to constitute the ruling houses of Akire Stool to the exclusion of Aketula and his descendants. Justice Walter Onnoghen who delivered the lead judgment set aside both the judgments of the Oyo State High Court and the Court of Appeal in Ibadan. He held that having found that Aketula was a direct son of Kujelanyo, the Akire of Ikire Chieftaincy Declaration, which included the Aketula ruling houses as one of the five ruling houses qualified to produce the Akire was valid.
Justice Onnoghen said the fact that Aketula had not produced a king in the past was not an issue since the ruling house had always fielded candidates for the stool. He therefore held that the inclusion of Aketula house as one of the five ruling houses for the Akire of Ikire Chieftaincy in the 1958 declaration was not in violation of Section 4(4) of the Chiefs Law as found by the trial court and affirmed by the lower court.
He had held: “It is evidence that the 1958 declaration has not been amended in anyway by the appropriate authority and consequently remains the customary law applicable to the nomination, appointment, etc of an Akire of Ikire and applicable to the facts of this case.” He also held that it would be strange that a house (Aketula) that had produced two Asalus- head of the princess of Ikire- could not ascend the throne of which he was a prince.