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Oyo Mesi is like a cult but some members divulged our secrets to Gov Makinde —Lagunna of Oyo

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Basorun

The dust raised over the choice of a candidate to fill the vacant stool of the Alaafin of Oyo is yet to settle not only in Oyo town, but in Oyo State as a whole. In the course of the week, the Bashorun of Oyo town, High Chief Yusuf Ayoola in his house in Oyo town, authorised the Lagunna of Oyo, High Chief Wakilu Oyedepo Akindele, to speak on behalf of his Oyomesi-led faction to Saturday Tribune’s SOJI AJIBOLA on the crisis attending the process of the selection of the next Alaafin. He and the other High Chiefs listened as the interview happened.

 

Why is the Oyomesi under your leadership not united over the choice of the next Alaafin?

Governor Seyi Makinde, through the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, gave us the go-ahead through a memo shortly after the conclusion of the burial rites of the late Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, to commence the process of electing the new Alaafin. The Council of Kingmakers, otherwise known as the Oyomesi, consists of seven members: Basorun (chairman), Agbaakin, Samu, Alapinni, Lagunna, Akinniku and Asipa. But the death of Asipa has reduced our membership to six. In order to meet up with the traditional requirement, his replacement was sought through a memo written by the authorities of Atiba Local Government to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters. I don’t know who and who were recommended but the ministry approved Aare Ago as a warrant chief in the replacement of Asipa. With this development, Aare Ago can now take part in the selection process. We started the process with the screening of no fewer than 80 candidates. The number was later pruned down to 10 through a painstaking exercise. As expected, some candidates felt disenchanted with the process. In order to make their grievances known to the outside world, they embarked on a media campaign. They even granted an interview to your media organisation, the Nigerian Tribune. That is the beginning of the crisis that we are battling with till date.

 

What is the role of Ifa in the selection process?

Ifa (oracle) has never been consulted in the process of selecting the Alaafin of Oyo. The Oyomesi is Ifa; Ifa is the Oyomesi. The decision of the Oyomesi is supreme in the choice of a nominee for the exalted stool of the Alaafin. Ifa was not consulted when late Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III was to be enthroned as the Alaafin. What happened at the time of his enthronement is still fresh in our memories. Why was it that the person that topped the list was not enthroned as the king but Oba Adeyemi if truly Ifa was involved in the selection process? Since we have been enthroning the Alaafin in Oyo, Ifa has never been consulted. The issue of Ifa arose during the reign of Alaafin Sango.

 

How many of you signed off on Prince Lukman Gbadegesin as the choice of the Oyomesi for the next Alaafin?

The entire Oyomesi, including High Chief Asimiyu Atanda, the Agbaakin of Oyo town and High Chief Lamidi Oyewale, the Samu of Oyo town. They (Samu and Agbaakin) were full of praises for the nominee, noting his (Gbadegesin’s) philanthropy. High Chief Oyewale was said to have remembered how he had been a beneficiary of the man’s philanthropy when he was personal assistant (PA) to a minister. He encouraged the nominee to improve on what he has been doing to better the lots of the Oyomesi. That is what they called a secret. The Oyomesi is like the Ogboni cult, it is not everything that we do in the closet that is brought to the full glare of the public. Only the traditional chiefs, not ceremonial ones, know what the Oyomesi is all about. We all signed the document for the nomination of the next Alaafin with gladness, including the Baale Oke Apo who replaced late Alapinni. His nomination was sequel to a letter written by Oyo East Local Government and approved by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters.

 

Is there any court case instituted by any of the candidates to challenge the choice of the Oyomesi?

Yes, there is. We forwarded the duly signed endorsement document of the Alaafin-nominee dated 30 September, 2022 to the Office of the Governor on 4 October, 2022, but it will interest you to note that on 11 October, 2022, we got a court summons challenging the outcome of the selection process. A suit was filed by some aggrieved candidates in the state High Court. The Oyo State government, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, the Director of Local Government Chieftaincy Matters, Chairman, Atiba Local Government and the Oyomesi were joined as defendants. The allegations were that Ifa was not consulted in the selection process and that the warrant chiefs were not chosen in accordance with laid down procedure. However, the counsel for the state government countered their arguments with a constitutional provision that warrant chiefs are appointed by the state government, not the Oyomesi as alleged. He argued further that the provision was followed in the appointment of the affected warrant chiefs. The case was therefore dismissed on 19 December, 2022.

 

What do you think is responsible for the delay in the announcement of the name of the nominee?

All these things happened during the build-up to the 2023 general election. The governor came around at that period and we had a down-to-earth discussion with him. He promised that necessary actions would be taken on the name of the nominee forwarded to his office. However, we were of the opinion that if he had announced the name of the nominee at that period, some aggrieved candidates might lash on to it to work against his re-election. Also, the two prominent members of the Oyomesi are not helping matters either, as they currently constitute a clog in the wheel of the progress of Oyo with their attempt to truncate the laudable selection process of the new Alaafin.

 

What do you think made Agbaakin and Samu back out of the initial agreement?

Everything boils down to greed.

 

Has the Oyomesi received any letter from the government requiring you to go back to the drawing board and follow due process in arriving at your choice?

We have not received any letter to that effect. We are waiting for the government to communicate to us the approval of the name of the Alaafin-nominee forwarded to his office.

 

Is it true that the Oyomesi has chased the oloris and Kudefu out of the palace?

In line with the custom and tradition of Oyo town, there is a specified period that the oloris (the king’s wives) and personal aides of the late Alaafin can stay in the palace. Shortly after the transition of the late Oba Adeyemi, the government directed us to exit the oloris and the staff from the palace. As we all know, there is law and there is tradition. However, we (the Oyomesi) decided that the status quo should remain, bearing in mind that we are all humans. Some of the affected staff have nowhere else to go. Also, it is not good to leave the palace empty, bearing in mind that some visitors were still coming as of then to express their condolences to the Oyomesi and the generality of the Oyo people on the demise of the Alaafin. So, we decided to keep them around, but we later realised that these same set of people were abusing the privilege by turning the palace to a money-making centre and in order not to give the people a wrong impression about the administration of the palace, we (the Oyomesi) acted on the earlier directive of the government. Even at that, some of the staff are still in the palace carrying out basic functions. I remember vividly that when the oldest palace aide, Baba Keji, died, his entitlements and other benefits were paid to his wife before he was discharged from the palace.

 

Is it true that Governor Makinde accused the Oyomesi of not following the due process in the selection process?

Oyo State is blessed to have Engineer Seyi Makinde as governor. He is Omoluabi-personified. He has started well. Our prayer is for him to end his tenure successfully. We did not receive any letter from him or any of his representatives faulting the process of the selection of the Alaafin-nominee. The only letter that we received was the one directing us to commence the selection process. Aside from that, no other letter was received either from the governor or any of his representatives as regards our decision. The governor, before the conduct of the 2023 general election, promised that the name of our nominee would be announced after the election, but as I am talking to you, nothing of such has happened. There is no disagreement between the governor and the Oyomesi.

 

Is it true that you have not convened a meeting since 2022?

We have been meeting, but Agbaakin and Samu have not been coming. We always sent the notification of meeting to them, but they have not been honouring the invitation.

 

The governor said last week that the Alaafin stool was not for sale. He hinted that some kingmakers had collected money from contestants. What do you make of the governor’s comment?

Ko si ibi ti won kii ti jule, meaning, there is nowhere in the world where gift is forbidden. Such an act is not alien to our culture. Even politicians spend money during electioneering to lobby the electorate. I said it at the beginning of this interview that the Oyomesi is like the Ogboni cult. Our secret remains among us, but unfortunately, these same personalities betrayed the oath of secrecy. They travelled to Abuja to tell the governor that kingmakers collected money from one of the aspirants.

 

How do you think this matter can be resolved?

It is an internal matter. We (the Oyomesi) have a way of resolving our internal crisis. Mr Governor should stay off it.

 

 

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