A dashing young king, the paramount ruler of his land. A beautiful young lady, daughter of the premier. A prolific parrot who became a governor. A storyline from a Kunle Afolayan movie? Nah!!!
That’s the cast of a drama that was more dramatic than any Nollywood film. The cast of a historical battle, an epic battle between tradition and constitution, between royalty and power, and between royal court and the court of law.
The news hit Ijebuland like a thunderbolt. In the twinkle of an eye, it had reverberated across the length and breadth of the nation. That was decades before twitter, instagram and Facebook. That however did not stop the news from spreading like harmattan fire.
His Excellency, Governor Victor Olabisi Onabanjo, the Governor of Ogun State had removed His Imperial Majesty, Oba Sikiru Adetona as Awujale of Ijebuland! It was unheard of! An Ijebu son, an Awujale subject removing his own king! Could Ayekooto remove the Crown?
Ayekooto (Parrot) was the pen name of Chief Olabisi Onabanjo. He was a London-trained journalist, publisher, parliamentarian, and statesman. As Ayeekoto, he wrote more than 476 published articles.
Could it be true? People wondered. Those who knew the close relationship between His Majesty and His Excellency doubted the veracity of the news. Years before Onabanjo became the Governor of Ogun State, he had fallen ill and needed to travel abroad for medical check up. It was Awujale that secured the flat of Afolabi Kuku for Ayekooto’s use whilst in the United Kingdom. Oba Adetona also arranged for his brother’s wife who lived in the same building to prepare his meals.
So what went wrong? What you are about to read is the intriguing saga of the deposition of a Monarch. It didn’t start in the Second Republic however. It however didn’t start in the Second Republic. Let’s travel back in time. Let’s go back to the First Republic.
The young Sikiru Adetona became the Awujale on April 3, 1960. That was in the tempestuous days of the First Republic. It was the period when Western Region was polarized sharply along political line. The Awujale was a young man, suave, urbane, cosmopolitan and handsome.
The premier, Sir Ladoke Akintola, the Are-Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland had a beautiful daughter. Modele Akintola was beautiful, graceful, brainy and ebullient – a chip off the old block. Modele was very close to the Awujale. It was not hidden that His Majesty had a personal relationship with Ms. Omodele! According to Oba Adetona: “Many in the Awolowo camp were uncomfortable about this relationship!” Olabisi Onabanjo was in the Awolowo Camp. Count One!
If anything, Awujale was and is still passionate about the issues affecting Ijebuland and Ijebu sons (and of course, Ijebu daughters) When the premier awarded an Ijebu son a contract for importation of pipes, the entire Ijebuland was excited. Then news filtered out that Awolowo had asked Akintola to cancel the contract. This was not done. The Ijebu son, Chief Okunowo, was incensed.
For purpose of fair hearing, let me tell you Chief Awolowo’s account of the contract saga. Before Awolowo relinquished office in the Western Region, the government had approved the purchase of a large quantity of asbestos pipes for water supply. The government had to decide whether to import the pipes or to manufacture them locally. Awolowo preferred the local option, as it would contribute to local technology, provide employment and would have fewer cracks. It was on this basis that Awolowo advised the premier to consider the local option.
People took sides. Some supported Awolowo. Others supported Chief Okunowo. Awujale stood in support of his Chief. Count Two!
Following his release from prison by Yakubu Gowon, Awolowo was appointed the Minister of Finance. One of the agencies under his superintendence was the Customs and Excise Department.
It was around this time that another Ijebu son was planning to open a bicycle and inner tubes factory in Ijebu-Ode. Out of the blues, the Government imposed an additional excise duty on tyres and inner tube parts. The Ijebu business was no longer competitive. It could not compete with giants like Dunlop and Michelin. Rightly or wrongly, it was concluded that Awolowo was to blame!
Iyan ogun odun, a ma jo ni lowo is a Yoruba proverb. Pounded yam of two decades might not be cold. That was what Awujale discovered in the Second Republic. The yam pounded years earlier was still oven fresh when Ayekooto emerged as the Governor of Ogun State.
The first salvo was fired when it was time to constitute the National Council of State. Under the 1979 Constitution, a person appointed by a State’s Council of Chiefs “from among themselves” was a member of the Council. Awujale expected the Ogun State Council of Chiefs to nominate one of its members. The Council was therefore surprised when the Governor unilaterally selected a relatively junior Oba to represent Ogun State.
Awujale picked his pen and wrote to the Governor resigning from the activities of the Council. The Governor responded. His Excellency asked His Majesty to withdraw his letter of resignation. His Majesty refused. Clouds began to gather!
One fateful day, the Chief Imam of Ijebu Ode received a special letter. The letter had the Seal of Office of the Governor. His Excellency informed His Eminence, the Imam of his intention to attend Jumat prayers for thanksgiving. The Muslim Community was excited. A response was dispatched to Abeokuta with dispatch assuring His Excellency of a warm welcome.
His Majesty was soon informed of the preparation to receive His Excellency by His Eminence in the mosque. Awujale invited the Chief Imam to the Palace to show him where in the Quran, Christians could come to the mosque for thanksgiving. The Chief Imam must have searched frantically for a relevant verse or an apposite tradition. He found none.
When His Excellency received a second letter from His Eminence. He thought it was to inform him of advanced plans for his reception. It was with shock that Ayekooto read the letter asking him not to come to the mosque. Though the letter was signed by the mosque leadership, Onabanjo clearly saw the invisible signature of Awujale on the document.
The gathering clouds became heavier.
To or not to go! That was the question the wordsmith Governor must have been pondering as he put down the letter. Of course, he decided to go. He informed the Muslim community that he was going to attend the Jumat Service as scheduled.
The Chief Imam was in a quandary. Torn between His Excellency and His Highness, His Eminence looked unto Almighty Allah. On the scheduled Friday, those who had not attended mosques in decades found their way to the Central Mosque. When a siren was heard from a distance, the elders of the mosque looked at the Imam. It was however a police car passing by. His Excellency did not turn up.
The gathering clouds became heavier and darker.
The governor was not Ayekooto for nothing. In addition to being a smart bird, parrot can also be patient. The governor waited. He waited for his chance. After all he was the Executive Governor.
And his chance came! It came by way of an innocuous letter from palace. Like a starved hawk, Ayekooto pounced!
To be continued...