Oluwo’s belligerent monarchy
The fracas between the Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba AbdulRosheed Akanbi, and the Agbowu of Ogbaagbaa, Oba Dhirulahi Akinropo, will continue to electrify the Yoruba people for months to come.
The temperamental Oba Akanbi, who has acquired a reputation for settling minor scores fiercely and pugilistically, was alleged to be the aggressor when he manhandled Oba Akinropo in the presence of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Bashir Makama, over some long-standing land disputes involving many obas in Iwoland.
Oba Akanbi was the complainant in the land dispute, and the now infamous peace meeting to resolve the dispute took place in Osogbo, capital city of Osun State, in the presence of the police on February 14, 2020. Nothing, allegedly, could deter the Oluwo, not the presence of senior police officers, nor the presence of other obas.
A day after he allegedly manhandled Oba Akinropo, the Oluwo reportedly gloated that he used irresistible force to deal with the Agbowu when the latter attempted, as he said, to stick his staff in the Oluwo’s eyes. Hear him, as quoted by a newspaper: “It (deploying the staff to poke the eyes of the Oluwo) was heavily rejected with force which Agbowu could not withstand.” But when the outrage over the altercation began to rise, the Oluwo slightly rephrased his story, accused the media of bias and corruption, and gave a new account of what transpired at the ill-fated meeting, insisting that he did not touch Oba Akinropo nor knew anything about the cut on the victim’s face, a cut that was emblazoned on newspaper pages nationwide.
The Oluwo insists he is the victim, being the complainant trying to stop the other obas in Iwoland from oppressing their subjects and nefariously selling lands that did not belong to them. “I did not punch Agbowu of Ogbaagba, although there was altercation that almost resulted to exchange of blows, but that didn’t happen at all,” the Oluwo said. But Oba Akinropo and many of the obas who attended the meeting insist that the Oluwo was not just the aggressor, he also manhandled the Agbowu.
On Thursday, after many days of hue and cry, the Oluwo was finally suspended from the Osun State traditional council of chiefs for six months, not for fighting the Agbowu, as many expected, but for being rude to both the Alaafin of Oyo and the Ooni of Ife, which facts are somewhat unknown to the public.
According to the statement suspending him, Oba Akanbi will still be investigated over the altercation that took place between him and Oba Akinropo. It is not clear what the nature and scope of the suspension would be. He is suspended from the traditional council of chiefs, but does it also mean that he is suspended from the throne, a course of action only the local government is authorised by law to perform when the need arises?
The Oluwo had it coming. He luxuriates in controversy, becoming perhaps the most controversial oba in the Southwest, not just for his comic actions and statements, but for his cantankerousness and absolute lack of reverence for senior monarchs in the state.
Appointed as Oluwo in November 2015, it took him less than two years to alienate his main backers, among whom was Abiola Ogundokun, a senior chief in Iwoland. Chief Ogundokun once recounted Oba Akanbi’s quarrelsomeness, including a time when the oba wanted to beat him up in the presence of former governor, Rauf Aregbesola. The Oluwo is reputed for using foul language and is generally uncouth. Again, only this January, Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State attempted to reconcile the pugnacious oba with his chiefs, many of whom revile him. But the oba cannot be placated.
Oba Akanbi is even more theatrical than pugnacious. In 2018, he adopted the title of emir, describing it as a metaphor for the disunity of Yoruba chieftaincy institution. What is metaphorical about that? Hear his rambling justification: “I will love to emulate everything that is good. I love a place where there is unity. There is no peace among the monarchies of the Yoruba as there is backbiting, backstabbing, and encroaching (?) among them. There is so much corruption in our cultural values and I have tried, I have been talking about it. I love my culture, I love my tradition, but if there are some bad things in there, we need to work on it and remove it. Talking about the emirship, do you know what happens in the north? Do you see emirs fighting each other? Because there is unity among them, they have respect for one another, they have love for one another. But in Yoruba land, what I met on the ground, since I was a youth, I have been hearing the Ooni fighting Alafin, this one fighting that one, and so on and so forth. I became the king, and the same thing is happening. It is in Yoruba land where you find an Oba lying against another Oba saying that an Oba is yahoo yahoo.”
There is no question that AIG Makama and other leading political actors, including Osun State governors, can be character witnesses on behalf of the contending obas. Whatever they have to say will definitely not be complimentary, if they are honest. Did Oba Akanbi manhandle Oba Akinropo? Nobody will believe he didn’t do it. Does he have a history of abusing opponents and engaging in street fighting? Nobody thinks he is too sophisticated to be above such atrocious behaviour.
It is, therefore, curious that he could still muster some support in Iwoland, with hundreds of his loyal subjects rallying last week in his favour and against Oba Akinropo. He has been suspended for six months by the Council of Traditional Rulers of Osun State, of which he is a deputy chairman. They should make the suspension indefinite. More, the state should find the laws and regulations to dethrone him and rid themselves of the ridicule and embarrassment Oba Akanbi’s reign has become for the state. He is not indispensable.