South West in 2015: The issues, personalities (1)

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In March, 2015, the re-election bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan welcomed the year in the South West as leaders and elders from the region were pitted against each other over Jonathan’s re-election. Separate meetings were held in Lagos and Ibadan in March 2015 where both camps expressed different opinions on the topic and the agelong emotive issue of national conference for the ethnic nationality.

Those who gathered in Ibadan, Oyo State, under the auspices of the Yoruba Assembly, accused President Jonathan of marginalising the region and argued that the 2014 National Conference failed to address issues germane to the establishment of true federalism.

Their counterparts in Lagos lauded the President for the conference and its resolutions just as they expressed support for Jonathan’s re-election. Instructively, the former President was defeated by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and now president, Muhammadu Buhari.

Osun wage crisis

In July, 2015, civil servants in Osun State were engaged in a face-off with the Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was unable to pay workers’ salary for seven months.

The crisis degenerated to the extent that a High Court judge in Osun State Justice Oloyede Folahanmi, called on the state House of Assembly to investigate the alleged mismanagement of the economy by the governor and his deputy in accordance with Sections 128 and 129 of the 1999 constitution.

While Justice Folahanmi maintained that there was no moral justification for their continued stay in office, she accused Aregbesola of acting in defiance of some sections of the constitution which border   on the welfare of Osun people.

In a 30-page petition, Judge Folahanmi said it was imperative for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Amnesty International, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and Transparency International   to investigate any other person or persons   found to be responsible for the   mismanagement of the economy of Osun State.

In his defense, Governor Aregbesola, blamed the financial challenges facing his government on the huge wage bill occasioned by the implementation of the minimum wage for all junior workers since 2012.

Ooni Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II dies in London

Also in July, 2015, a foremost traditional ruler in Yorubaland and 50th Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade died in London, United Kingdom at the age of 85. The late monarch was born on January 1, 1930. He reportedly fell critically sick before he was flown to London. Oba Sijuwade, who ascended the Ooni stool in 1980, was regarded as a successful and wealthy businessman before he mounted the throne in 1980.

Ekiti Airport: Land owners/Fayose face-off

Similarly in December, controversy surrounded the proposed airport by the Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose. The face-off led owners of the land acquired by the Ekiti State Government to sue the state demanding N650 million as damages. The plantation farmers dragged the state government and Governor Fayose to court for what they described as “unlawful and forcible acquisition” of their land.

Farmers and land owners

In a suit number HAD/71/2015 filed before an Ado Ekiti High Court , the claimants – Faluyi Ayeni, Tunde Ademiluyi, Faturoti Simeon, Awe Ojo, Oladimeji Ojo, Oloniyi Agbadaola, Moses Ojo, Fabiyi Oso, and Julius Oso, – sued for themselves and on behalf of farmers and land owners of four communities affected by the proposed airport project.

The communities affected are Igbogun farm settlement, Igbemo farm settlement, Iwajo farm settlement and Aso Ayegunle spanning three local government areas of the state. The aggrieved farmers claimed that the agents of the 1st defendant, Mr. Fayose, forcibly entered their land on October 2 without any prior notice and on subsequent occasions to clear and remove economic trees, crops and buildings.

They said the action was illegal and was a violation of their fundamental human rights and provisions of the Land Use Act 1978.

Fulani men abduct Falae

Another episode that played out in the South West, was the kidnap former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Olu Falae, which happened in September. What ought to be a day of merry making turned sour for Falae, who was kidnapped by suspected Fulani herdsmen on his 77th birthday.

Falae, who is also a chieftain and leader of the  Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Afenifere, was said to have been abducted on his farm in Ilado, along Igbatoro road, in Akure, the capital city of Ondo State. The news of Falae’s kidnap drew the ire of groups from the region. For instance, the Oodua Peoples’ Congress, OPC, issued a warning to the abductors of former Minister of Finance, Olu Falae, describing the incident as a sin against humanity.

The OPC leader, who described the abduction as ungodly said “for a man who lost a very promising son only two years ago to be abducted on his 77th birthday is a dastardly act that should be condemned by all peace-loving and reasonable Nigerians.” A note of warning was sent to the Federal Government to do all within its powers to ensure that “Baba Falae is returned to his family safe and sound.”

Though the former SGF was eventually let off by his abductors, he described his ordeal as unpleasant. Provided shocking details of his ordeal at the hands of his abductors, Falae narrated how he was deprived of food and made to trek several kilometres to freedom. Falae, who is also the national chairman of SDP, said he was kidnapped by six Fulani herdsmen at his Ilado farm in Akure.

According to him, “There were six of them with three or four guns and every half an hour or so they will say, ‘Baba we are going to kill you, if you don’t give us money we are going to kill you.” Mr. Falae narrated. Giving further details on how he was kidnapped, he said: “When the hoodlums came, they slashed me with their cutlasses, they said I was not cooperating. And they dragged me barefooted into the bush.

HID Awolowo’s death

The South West and indeed, the nation was thrown into mourning in September by the passing away of the Awolowo matriach, Mrs HID Awolowo diead at the age of 99 just over 2 months short of her 100th birthday. Popularly known as  HID, she was married to the late sage and premere of the old Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

President Muhammadu Buhari among other eminent Nigerians attended the burial ceremony of late Chief HID Awolowo in Ikenne Ogun State.

South West succession threat

The backlash of Falae’s abduction was the threat by elders and leaders of the South west to  secede following allegations of incessant, unprovoked attacks and invasion of their farmlands by Fulani herdsmen. This came to the fore in Ocotber. The declaration was reached at a summit entitled, “National Insecurity and the Menace of Fulani Herdsmen in Yorubaland”.

The meeting, presided over by former Governor of the Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo, warned that the Yoruba will no longer tolerate the present structure of the country, which they claim undermine self actualization of the people of the South West. Reports from the summit said failure to restructure Nigeria using the 2014 confab report might force the Yoruba people to review her place in a political arrangement that cannot guarantee the protection of her citizens.

The summit strongly condemned what it described as the “invasion and killing of people in Yoruba territories” by the Fulani herdsmen. The summit held in the House of Chiefs Section of the Parliament Building of the Oyo State Secretariat with the theme “National Insecurity and the Menace of Fulani Herdsmen in Yorubaland.”

The participants also decried the continued oppression of the Yoruba in their homeland by some Fulani herdsmen.

Akure Eze Ndigbo eyeballs Deji

By October, crisis erupted in the ancient town of Akure when Igbos shut down their businesses to protest the planned dethronement of their Eze- Ndigbo, Sir Gregory Iloehike. Shops belonging to the Igbo were locked in all   major markets in Akure just as; they withdrew their services from the markets.

The Igbos insisted that the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi had no power to dethrone one of their own. The Deji had accused the Eze Ndigbo of insubordination and disrespect. But Iloehike, in his defense, said he was not rude to the Deji, adding that he contributed immensely to the monarch’s installation.

But as part of a truce with the estranged Eze Ndigbo of Akure, Gregory Iloehike, the Deji of Akureland, listed conditions that the Igbo leader is forbidden from wearing any form of crown henceforth. Oba Aladelusi gave the conditions during a meeting Governor Olusegun Mimiko had with him and the Akure Council of Chiefs   in Akure on the crisis while it lingered.

Fasoranti’s resignation

Another interesting episode that played out in the South west was the resignation of leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti in November. Fasoranti’s resignation jolted members of the organisation to the marrow. The action of the octogenarian, did not go down well with members of he group, who felt such decisions should not have been made public.

Fasoranti, who became the leader of the group after the death of Chief Abraham Adesanya, declared that with the statement, he has since stopped being the chairman of the foremost Yoruba organisation formed in 1951 under the leadership of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He, however, noted that as events have been unfolding in the past few years, the focus and goals of the founding fathers of the   great organsation ‘Afenifere’ were gradually eroding.

“This therefore made it herculean task for our members to work in unity. Several efforts were made to ensure the actualisation of the Afenifere goals, but it appeared that we have not succeeded in achieving this. This is basically due to reasons best known to our members individually.”

Besidfes, he said “considering my age, efforts and selfless dedication to my country, my state (Ondo), my political parties, my past leaders and my members in Afenifere both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, I hereby wish to inform you all that I have decided to step aside as leader of our great organisation Afenifere.”

New Ooni of Ife crowned

FIVE months after the death of Oba Okunade Sijuwade at the age 85, Oba Babatunde Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja 11 ascended the Ooni stool becoming the 51st Ooni of Ile-Ife in December. Remarkably, the ancient city of Ile Ife stood still as the 51st Ooni was presented with the staff of office and instrument of appointment.

Interestingly, the coronation came exactly 35 years and one day after the immediate-past Ooni, Oba Sijuade was presented the staff of office. Prior to his installation, the choice of the new Ife monarch proved a herculan task for the kingmakers. Also, crisis enveloped one of the ruling house following the selection of candidate for the vacant stool.

Contestants from all the four ruling houses, namely, Giesi, Osinkola, Ogboru and Lafogido, showed interest to occupy the exalted stool. Remarkably, 43 candidates had signified their interest in ascending the Ife throne but at the end of the day, then Adeyeye Enitian Ogunwusi emerged victorious.

During his coronation ceremony, Oba Ogunwusi promised to build a new Yoruba nation where all traditional rulers will unite and promote unity among the ethnic group. On his programme for the youth, Ooni Ogunwusi said he had experimented  with a model for youth empowerment in the last three weeks, with the employment of about 3,000 youths, which has in return reduced crime rate in the town.

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