Tension is brewing in Orin-Ekiti, a town in Ido-Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State, among three families (Famokiti, Olubunmo and Ajibewa) claiming the right to produce the community’s next monarch five years after the last ruler Oluwole Olubunmo passed on.
Most of the people of the town, kingmakers and the women leaders have rejected a 1999 Gazzette which mandates that a new monarch must be chosen from the Ajibewa ruling house.
The Ajibewa family, the Gazzette insists, is a third of the other two royal families, Olunbumo and Famokiti who, according to the kingmakers, have for over 200 years been taking turns at having their sons installed as successive monarchs of the town.
Acting on the dictates of the Gazzette, the state government has ordered the kingmakers, led by High Chief Falua Francis Omodele, to nominate a candidate from the Ajibewa family to fill the
vacant Olorin royal seat in line with the extant law as soon as possible.
The directive came through Deputy Governor Bisi Egbeyemi at a meeting held recently with kingmakers and community leaders to solve the four year old chieftaincy impasse rocking the town.
According to the Special Assistant (Media) to the Deputy Governor, Odunayo Ogunmola, the state said the choice of the next king must be in line with the Olorin Chieftaincy Declaration, Gazette No 2.
Egbeyemi maintained that the state government is bound by the law which recognized Ajibewa as the third ruling house, insisting that “no one can change it.”
Stressing that the state government has no interest in who becomes the next monarch of the town, Egbeyemi warned that anybody who violates chieftaincy law by presenting himself for kingship or conducting illegal installation or coronation risks going to jail, adding that the Gazzette came into being over 20 years ago, long before the Kayode Fayemi administration.
But in a protest led by kingmakers, community leaders and women leaders and young people, townspeople rejected the stipulation of the Gazzette, insisting that the idea of a third royal family as indicated in the law was a fraudulent arrangement by the Ajibewa family to usurp leadership of the community.
They stated that for over 200 years the kingmakers had been installing candidates from the Famokiti and Olubunmo families to fill the Olorin seat, and that no one from the Ajibewa family has been installed, as the family is not of royal blood but belongs to the priest class, Aworo Ero (‘Priest of Ero’), Ero being a local diety worshipped by the people.
Speaking on behalf of the people, kingmakers and leaders of the town, High Chief Falua warned the state government not to support what he described as a coup against the traditional leadership of the community, insisting that forcing through a man from the Ajibewa family as monarch would lead to a serious communal crisis capable of causing bloodshed and chaos in the town.
“For over 200 years now, we have been having men from only two families, Famokiti and Olubunmo becoming monarchs of this town. It has never ever been three. The two royal families were actually descendants of one man, Oba Olayisade, who was the eight paramount ruler of Orin-Ekiti,” Falua said.
He continued that: “In 1978, before Honourable Justice Adeyinka Morgan, a ruling that confirmed that only the Famokiti and Olubunmo royal houses exist in the kingdom was given, it was documented on the Morgan Chieftaincy review Commission, and we as kingmakers have copies of this.
“As a matter of fact, and by hierarchy of succession, the last Olorin was the 16th Olorin of Orin-Ekiti while the first Olorin was Apelua who came from Ile-Ife and was the founder or Orin-Ekiti.”
Countering Chief Falua’s claims, an aged member of the Ajibewa family, Pa Samuel Ajibewa, 77, denied claims that the documents that generated the Gazzette were a fraud.
He said that the position of the Morgan Commission of 1978, which recognised only two ruling houses of Famokiti and Olubunmo, has been canceled in the Gazzette owing to an out of court settlement by the three ruling houses in 1995 which also led to a judgement of the court the same year.
Ajibewa, who alleged that some people of the town have began demolishing their family houses in Orin-Ekiti, alerted the police to rescue them.
“We had challenged the Morgan Commission’s declaration in court when the late Olorin, Oba Oluwole Olubunmo, was to be installed. The crisis had lingered from 1988 till 1998, when the Famokiti and Olubunmo families and the town pleaded with our family to settle out of court with a promise that once the late Oba was installed, the Kabiyesi and kingmakers would sit and make another declaration that would recognize Ajibewa as a third ruling house.
“We agreed and the declaration was eventually done with the signature of the late head of kingmakers, Chief Ige Eletin, and other kingmakers. We have documents confirming these claims, including the one which the town wrote to our family on the agreement which was duly signed and stamped by the then regent of the town, Chief A. Ajayi, who ruled before Oba Oluwole Olubunmo.”
Pa Ajibewa also refuted claims that the Ajibewa are not of royal blood, countering claims that a certain former monarch of the town had two wives who gave birth to Famokiti and Olubunmo, who headed the ruling houses, but that the monarch in question had had three wives, the third of whose son was Ajibewa.
“The three royal families of Famokiti, Olubunmo and Ajibewa belonged to one father who was a monarch that most successfully ruled Orin-Ekiti in his time. This was why we have our forbears erected their royal family houses inside the Orin palace and these houses are there up till date,” the elder said.
“Prince Abel Dada Ajibewa, alias Babaeolomo, who was my uncle was a very successful man, a carpenter and business guru. He was a very close confidant of Oba Adekolawolu Olubunmo, during his reign in the late 1960s and they lived in the same palace. My uncle was then like a second Oba in the palace; but this cordial relationship upset many people then.
“When the Olorin from Olubunmo then died, my uncle was to succeed him but he couldn’t as he suddenly disappeared and was never seen till date. That affected our chance of getting the throne then.
“Again, Anasin, is a chieftaincy title for women who are wives of the Oba; two of these Anasins have come from the Ajibewa family. Anasin is the head of women in the palace, she is a royal wife. Any child she bears could be a monarch. Because there was no rotation then, they would pick an Anasin from another royal house apart from where the Oba on the throne comes from. When Oluwole Olubunmo was king, the Anasin was from the Famokiti family; and when Oba Adekolawolu Olubunmo was king, the Anasin was from Ajibewa family. If we didn’t come from a royal house why would we have had two Anasin from our family in the history of the town?
Pa Ajibewa explained further that: “Later in history, the great grand father of the Ajibewas became a king. He was Oba Adewunmi Ajibewa Idimehinsuwon and ruled for so long. To confirm further that the three ruling houses of Famokiti, Ajibewa and Olubunmo have always been one, our farm settlement in Ijere area of Orin-Ekiti which binds us is still there up till now, and has been there for so long. The Ajibewa family house is the biggest in the middle of the palace in Orin-Ekiti till date.”