Molashin Steps Up Above Chieftaincy Disputes:
In the afternoon of Monday, 20th January 2014, the 9th Omolasin Iwarefa Afobaje of Owu Kingdombholder in Abeokuta, since 1855, departed for the abodes of his ancestors.
Chief Olufemi Sunday Ogunlolu was 82 years old last October. He had held the title of Molasin for about 22 years, although the last 9 years of those were shrouded in official controversy!
It is noteworthy that Chief Ogunlolu as Molasin was one of the kingmakers caught in the web of legal friction that strained the ranks of the foremost 7 ancient citizens of the Kingdom at the selection and inception of the present royal regime of Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, the 13th Olowu in the series at Abeokuta.
For the records, the great grandfather of the present Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was the 4th in the line of the kingdom’s Molasin Iwarefa kingmakers and title bearers in Abeokuta.
Seven Primus Citizens:
Omolaasin (Molashin) was the 7th of the original first 7 citizens of the ancient Owu Kingdom set up by Ajibosin (Asunkungbade) who was crowned as an infant as the first Olowu by Oduduwa, his maternal grandfather at Ile-Ife. Ajibosin is regarded as the 1st citizen of the Kingdom, a status still symbolized by his crowned descendants as Olowus!
In his wake come the Iwarefa Afobajes starting with Akogun as the 2nd citizen, followed by Obamaja, Orunto, Osupori, Oyega and finally Omolashin as the 7th in that order. Together they formed the Grand Senate and highest decision making council of the ancient Owu Kingdom!
This represents the classical heirarchy of the ancient institution headed by Ajibosin, then known as Omo-Olowu, son of Obatala and Iyunade, and grandson of Oduduwa, patriach of the whole of Yorubaland.
When Ajibosin was compelled to set out on his pilgrimage of exile from Ile-Ife after haven become a child-king, he was accompanied by 6 of the most faithful nobles and lords of Ile-Ife, personally handpicked for the exodus by Oduduwa himself to guide, nurse, and counsel the Royal infant until when he would be matured enough to handle the stately matters of Kingship wherever he would choose to set up his domain. These 6 accompanied by a retinue of citizens and servants set out with their royal ward to the land of Obatala, Ajibosin’s father who must have granted them land lease from his sprawling holdings of cotton plantations situated near the River Niger in present Kwara State to set up the first Owu Kingdom!
These 6 primus citizens were the original custodians of the crown of the Omo-Olowu granted by Oduduwa to his first grandson, Ajibosin, born of his first daughter, Iyunade, who married the roaming Ifa High priest, Obatala.
Ajibosin was the ward of these noble trusted Iwarefas who were to hold council for him as a Junta of Regents until he was ripe enough to exercise his inherent powers of Kingship as the first citizen of the emerging Owu Kingdom!
Conflicts around the Crown:
Recently, perhaps some 900 years after these beginnings which were later trailled by a kaleidoscope of experiences and happenings which had ultimately led some of the descendants of these noble 7 primus citizens and their entourage into the sprawling composite city of Abeokuta, a mighty challenge occurred…a vendetta!
A crack tore through the fabrics of these Owu crown custodians, sending ripples through their tightly knit ranks and slicing them in splinters along a sharply drawn divide!
So far there had been a general silence over the actual cause of the imbroglio that caused such a widespread misunderstanding amongst the citizenry of the kingdom in Abeokuta and beyond. Time may now be rife for an attempt at educating the public about the general cause of the friction, especially now that the last of the primary actors of the scene on the side of the Iwarefa kingmakers has gracefully taken a bow out of the stage!
In a nutshell, it all started after the death of Oba Adisa Odeleye of Owu Kingdom, the 12th in the succession of Olowus in Abeokuta…
Controversy in Kingmaking:
Perhaps if Ifa divination which was the ancient order for making new Kings had been employedbonce again in the selection process for a succeeding Olowu, the ensuing conflict may have been averted, as the oracle would have likely been more definitive about the directives to be adopted for the selection…but then, we are in modern times and Kingmakers’ guidelines now tend to emanate from laid down traditional Chieftain Laws of the State rather than suggestions stemming from an unseen animistic entity who speaks through patterns and symbols depicted on a Divination Board, and interpreted by its anointed native priests!
At the time of the interregnum, the Balogun of Owu Kingdom, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the president of the Federal Republic, and was generally regarded (rightly or otherwise) as regent and custodian of the Owu Palace. He issued directives to the kingmakers about the prescribed parameters to be adopted in the selection of a new monarch in line with the State’s chieftaincy laws and regulations, as the story is told.
This time, the onus was to fall on the Royal family acknowledged to produce the next Oba, the Amororo House, who initially fielded some 5 or 6 candidates.
Apparently the Kingmakers opted to exercise their own prerogatives, choosing largely to disregard the directives albeit with somewhat valid arguments about their rights to choose freely according to their conscience and preferences. After all, they reasoned, if the process was to be so automatic, what use then is the institution of Kingmakers? A programmed computer would easily do the job better!
The outcome of this dissention was a choice of candidate not favoured by the legally prescribed regulations. A conflict ensued when the kingmakers opted to hold their grounds and not retract their original preference, and the umpire, the Balogun Owu (himself a kingmaker since the political inclusion of Baloguns from the time of Akin-Olugbade), insisted that they must do a retraction, employing all the authority at his disposition to ensure compliance for the sake of sanity and preservation of the legal prescription on such matters.
So what are these prescribed selection clauses that created the sharp divide?
It is reported (I never saw the edict) that a candidate must be preferred if he is male, and issues from a male lineage.
It is even better preferred if this candidate issues from a lineage which had previously worn the crown of the Kingdom.
In this guise, it is said that Adegboyega Dosunmu who eventually ascended the throne after much controversy was the only candidate who qualified on both counts, being of a masculine descent, and also direct grandson of a previous Olowu of the same surname, Olowu Adesunbo Dosunmu, the 6th Olowu in Abeokuta from 1918-1924, thus he shouldn’t have been opposable by any of the other candidates!
Therefore when despite all these odds and entrities, the kingmakers’ votes still went to the ‘unqualified’ opposition, the umpire lost his cools as was reported, and adopted highhanded military tactics!
Allegations and counter-allegations of improprieties and/or favoritism on both sided of this divide rapidly followed and the State Government had to step in through dissolving the body of kingmakers and instituting an emergency panel of some Owu chiefs to take over the selection functions.
So, what right did the government have to interfere?
The government of Olabisi Onabanjo had withdrawn its prescribed authority from the stool of the Olowu in the 1970s at about the reign of Oba Adebowale Oyegbade, when there were some fracas involving the then Balogun. Following a 13 year interregnum which eventually resulted in the enthronement of Olowu Adisa Odeleye, the Owu palace had neglected to institute a restoration of this withdrawn authority which forbade the stool of the Olowu from appointing anybody to the order of chiefs in the kingdom. Consequently, all chieftaincy appointments made by Oba Odeleye who was crowned after the withdrawal of this prescribed authority were null and avoid according to law, regardless of the fact that he wasn’t privy to the disputes that brought about the injunction.
After the 13 year interregnum, the only surviving Kingmaker in the Kingdom was the Orunto, the other remaining kingmaker, Chief Adeyemi, the Obamaja haven died not too long before the selection exercise commenced.
So, the new Olowu Odeleye had the singular distinction of haven been officially selected by only one kingmaker out of a total of eight the kingdom now paraded! Even the Orunto was soon to join the realm of his ancestors after his solitary achievement.
Olowu Adisa Odeleye was thus saddled with the unique task of appointing virtually singlehandedly the entire Owu Traditional Council, including the entirety of the 8 Kingmakers comprising all the 6 Iwarefas who form the core of the Afobajes, plus the Olosi (Olowu’s Ifa diviner), and Balogun who were recent additions during Oba Gbadela Ajibola’s reign that make up the team of eight!
Alas, these appointments by Oba Odeleye were to later become a mammoth exercise in futility as he had not procured the Prescribed Authority from the Ogun State Government to do so. Throughout his 10 year regime, he had neglected to seek a restoration of his royal right that was withdrawn from him even long before he dreamt of ascending the throne!
Throwing the Missiles:
It is popularly said that, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. Believe me, the people of Owu are never to be found wanting in that arena! It was even said to me once (by a late Olowu in Kwara State) that the Owu must always be engaged in battle. “When there’s no foe at war to be fought, he’ll direct his missiles at home to his own kind”, said the Olowu, “It is part of the bloodline heritage passed down from our forefather himself, the great Owu partriach, Ajibosin, alias Asunkungbade!”
On this occasion, the missiles were directed homewards to demobilise the opposition, the Iwarefa Afobaje, because the issue of the long forgotten ‘Prescribed Authority’ suddenly emerged from the cobwebs, purportedly dug out by the pro-Dosunmu faction of the conflict for the attention of the Government in order to drive home their determination to follow laid down regulations. All chieftaincy appointments of Oba Odeleye were thus instantly nullified by law. The interesting drama here was that the resultant annulment affected nearly everybody on both sides of the struggle as they were virtually all, save a handful, stripped of their titles…and official functions, all the major actors haven been appointed by Olowu Odeleye without the prescribed authority!
However, even in this, the desired effect was attained, as all the Kingmakers were thus stripped of their powers to select since they were all affected and thus no longer bonafide chiefs in the eyes of the State Government!
The stage was thus set for the very State Government to appoint its own selectors who were ordered to strictly follow the prescribed guidelines to select a new Olowu. Oba Adegboyega Olusanya Dosunmu thereby energed as the 13th Olowu of the Kingdom in Abeokuta.
Immediately on ascention of the throne, Oba Dosunmu haven been conferred with a full restoration of the hitherto withdrawn Prescribed Authority by Governor Gbenga Daniel was quick to reappoint and thus restore the title of Balogun of Owu Kingdom to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, his staunch benefactor and childhood mate, right there and then on the podium in Coronation square at Ita-Iyalode.
Contrary to popular understanding, the new Oba subsequently issued a fiat to all annulled Owu chiefs to come forward for the restoration of their titles under the newly acquired prescribed authority. Many heeded the call, but a few including all the Kingmakers abstained swearing never to go for a second conferment of the same title as that would be tantamount to abomination and insult on their persons and office, they reasoned.
In time, Olowu Dosunmu toughened up in typical Owu fashion and revised his initial benevolent stance demanding for at least two candidates to be presented from the kingmaker families, a move that may be eyed with suspicion as a ploy to weed out the old brigade who failed to support his selection to the stool of Owu and continued to defy his moves for a truce!
On his part, the monarch may tend to argue that since Royal candidates for the crown are usually chosen by Kingmakers from not one, but a host of candidates presented by the ruling house-to-be, the crown too should be justified to choose from an array of candidates to be presented from the Iwarefa families instead of their choice alone being imposed on the whole community! Reasonable, logical and philosophical…but is it traditional?
Thus, yet again a new battle line was drawn by the feuding compatriots. Every entreaty had failed to budge both sides in the new faceoff!
In the case of the Molasin, as in a couple of others, their families stood solidly behind them over principles that it was their clans’ prerogatives to select and present their kingmaker candidates to the palace, for royal blessing and official installation alone, and not for the former to help them in selecting. This they said had always been the practise since the official institution of Ajibosin on the throne as Olowu when he became of age, in line with directives passed to them directly by Oduduwa. Thus an en-passe or stalemate ensued, which in the case of a few of the others, as is likely in the case of the Molasin, could only have been broken by death!
An Overview Philosophy:
My personal philosophy in all of these, for whatever it may be worth is that progress is only achievable through motion, and motion is facilitated only through changes. If these changes are forward looking, progress shall be achieved. If however the changes are lopsided, they will only result in negative motion with consequent retardation.
Changes, when they must take place, should do so delicately and slowly enough to be understood by those for whom they are intended so as not to generate disruptive ripples, which will end up decelerating the whole process and progress anyway!
The above is the story in brief of the feud amongst the Crown custodians of Owu Kingdom in Abeokuta as understood by me, the writer, from reports, personal discussions and interactions with affected parties and sundry. While admitting individual interest in the matter on both sides of the divide, one as an installed chief of the kingdom under the renewed prescribed authority, and also as a Molasin Iwarefa family member and mover, the accounts rendered represent my unbiased personal understanding and summations alone. They do not represent or portend to represent any official views and may not be admissible for any legal proceedings whatsoever.