The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, has described the Alake of Egbaland as a junior traditional ruler in the hierarchy of Yoruba obas.
Oba Adetona, who spoke on Thursday in Lagos, said it was wrong for the incumbent Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, to categorise himself as one of the five topmost traditional rulers in Yorubaland.
He said even within the Abeokuta community in Ogun State where the Alake reigns, he is the least among the four traditional rulers there.
Adetona, who spoke in Lagos at the launch of an endowment fund for a professorial chair in governance in the Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, said it had become imperative to set the records straight since Oba Gbadebo had not disowned the statement credited to him on the issue.
Ola Gbadebo had during a visit to him by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, on February 7, 2016, said he was among the leading Yoruba obas.
Oba Adetona, speaking on Thursday, said Oba Gbadebo was inexperienced, hence the need to tutor him.
He said: “Your Excellencies, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, kindly allow me to digress a bit to comment briefly on a statement that emanated from the Ake Palace recently. Not long after the installation of Oba Alaiyeluwa Adeyeye Ogunwusi as the Ooni of Ife, he undertook steps to foster unity and cooperation among leading Yoruba Obas and for which I personally commend him. First, he joined the Alaafin at his 77th Birthday Celebration at Oyo. Thereafter, he visited me at Ijebu-Ode on Friday, 29th January, 2016 followed by another visit to Abeokuta on Sunday, 7th February, 2016 where he met Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbedebo in his palace at Ake, Abeokuta, the Osile, Oke-Ona Egba at Ago-Oko, Abeokuta, the Olowu in his palace at Owu, Abeokuta with the exception of the Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta who was not around then.
“The Alake, while receiving the Ooni at his palace said that Yoruba Obas (the Big Five so to say) had been categorised with the Ooni in the first position followed by the Alaafin, the Oba of Benin, with the Alake coming fourth and the Awujale as the fifth in that order. He also went further to quote wrongly from a 1903 Gazette to support all the fallacies in his statement. When I learnt of the statement, I made several calls to Alake until I eventually succeeded in finding out from him if those statements were actually made by him, which of course, he vehemently denied.
“In a recent discussion between the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and I, we also touched on the same issue and the Oba of Lagos told me that he too had asked Alake the same question, which he had again denied vehemently. Regrettably however, when the said statement few days later was continuously credited to Alake on the pages of newspapers, I expected him to deny it or issue a rebuttal, but he did not do so.
Therefore, I consider it necessary to debunk the aforementioned falsehood and misrepresentation of facts from Ake Palace so as to put the records straight.
“First, I would like to make it abundantly clear that the 1903 Gazette referred to by Alake was just a Newspaper publication that he, in his self-serving role is now presenting as an official Government Gazette. The first question to Alake is: Who categorised the Yoruba Obas and when? I challenge him to produce the document of the said categorisation. It is a known fact that Alake was a junior traditional ruler under the Alaafin at Orile Egba before he fled to Ibadan for refuge as a result of the war then ravaging in Yorubaland. Following the defeat of Owu by the Ijebu Army in 1826, the Owus became refugees all over Yorubaland. Some of the Ijebu troops that fought the war proceeded to Ibadan where they met Alake and sacked him, consequently forcing him to seek refuge at Ake in Abeokuta in 1830 where of course, he met the Osile, Olowu, and Agura already settled at Oke-Ona, Owu and Gbagura sections of Abeokuta Township respectively. Even then, the Olubara, of Oyo origin had always argued that all the aforementioned four rulers met him in Abeokuta and therefore claimed to be their landlord. To even refer to Alake as ‘Alake of Abeokuta” not to talk of Egbaland, is a misnomer, as his control since his arrival at Ake in 1830 and till today is restricted to Ake section of Abeokuta. The official Government Gazette testifies to this fact. In short, the Alake from history and all available records is a very junior traditional ruler in Yorubaland. His peers in Ijebuland are the Dagburewe of Idowa, Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife, Akija of Ikija–Ijebu, Olowu of Owu-Ijebu, Oloko of Ijebu-Imushin, Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo and Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye.
“I wish to recall that there had been an occasion in the past for three of us – the Awujale, the late Alake, Oba Oyebade Lipede and the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife – to sit over this issue with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at Aso Rock, Abuja. My advice to Alake, being a young and inexperienced traditional ruler, is that he should contact Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for proper education so as to save himself and his people from further embarrassment.
“It is important for Alake’s education to appreciate that Ijebu has been in existence for almost 1,000 years and that we are the only people that still remain in our original homestead while other Yoruba towns and villages have relocated twice or more. If only he cares to obtain a copy of the Book: ‘The Ijebu of Yorubaland 1850-1950’ by the late Prof. E. A. Ayandele, that erudite Professor of History and endeavour to read it, there, he will know who the Ijebus are and appreciate that from time immemorial and since our settlement on Ijebu soil, Ijebu was indeed a nation until 1892 when we were defeated in the Magbon War by the British colonial forces. As to be expected, the British colonial masters left no stone unturned to humiliate us for daring to engage them in a war.
“When Sir Gilbert Carter read Intelligence Reports on Ijebuland at the Home Office in London, he felt convinced that the Ijebus were a special breed. Therefore, when he later found himself as Governor of Lagos Colony, he prepared a Treaty for the Awujale to sign so as to allow the Missionaries to educate and evangelize the people as well as surrender their monopoly of trade between the coast and hinterland and for which he offered an annual payment of 800 pounds that was rejected.
“Notwithstanding the conquest, our early contact with the expatriates was quite significant and rewarding. It was during this period that our God-given commercial acumen was brought to play, resulting in enormous prosperity for the Ijebus to the envy of our neighbours.
“In conclusion, I hereby strongly admonish Alake to refrain from making such unsavoury, unguarded and unfounded statements, which if not checked, may seriously jeopardise the unity of Yoruba Obas and their people.”