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Alari: A town consumed by lust for crown

For indigenes and residents of the town, the memories of the day would forever linger, as according to Chief Bode Adewuyi, a retired military officer,…

For indigenes and residents of the town, the memories of the day would forever linger, as according to Chief Bode Adewuyi, a retired military officer, such an incident has never occurred in the over one century of the creation of Alari. The town was a shadow of its former self. The mostly farming community was desolate and the only evidence of life was the goats, fowls and other domestic animals that took abode in different corners of the town.

The genesis of the clash that pitched three ethnic groups that make up town was linked to events that took place months back. The incident snowballed into violence of unimaginable dimension on Saturday, July 4, 2009. Lives, proprieties running into millions of naira were lost, while several indigenes of opposing groups still languish in detention in Abeokuta and Ilaro as at the time of filing this report. Those who could beat retreat have found refuge in the neighbouring in Republic of Benin, which is a walking distance from the community.    

Some of those who have fled, Sunday Trust learnt last Thursday have become refugees at Ifoyin, a border town, where reports indicated that their names had been compiled and their welfare being taken care of by the Beninoise authorities. Some have escaped to Gbariojo, Ifonyin, Igolo and Itasuba in the neighbouring Benin Republic.

Youths of the town from the Eyo (Iree) stock had reportedly gone violent following an attempt to install Alhaji Jimoh Olajunwon as the new Oba of Alari, despite a court injunction given to the Anago, Eyo (Ogbomoso) and Egun stocks of Alari town restraining him from doing so, pending the determination of the suit.

According to the Bale of Alari, Chief Mustapha Adeleye, who spoke to journalists from his hideout in Yewa area, the state government might have allegedly given Olajunwon the go-ahead to disobey the court injunction and get the crown last week. But his (Adeleye’s) subjects resisted, a development that led to the invasion of the town by Olajunwon’s Eyo (Iree) youths. Chief Adeleye said that houses were burnt and yet to be ascertained number of people were killed, hence the fleeing of people to various parts of the adjoining communities, including the Ifoyin in Republic of Benin.

The traditional head said that in suit number HCL/16/2009 filed before an Ilaro High Court on June 3, 2009 before Justice Onafowokan, he and other claimants/applicants were granted injunction restraining Olajunwon, who was the sole defendant, from offering himself to be appointed as the Oba Alari.

According to the copy of the motion on Notice under Order 38 and 39 of the high court of Ogun state (civil procedure) rules 2008 copies which were made available to journalists, the court also restrained the defendant from “installing himself or being installed as the Oba of Alari, Yewa, Ogun state pending the final determination of this suit.” Adeleye noted that the order was given on June 5 and was served on Olajunwon on the 13th “after series of attempts failed.”

When the case came up for hearing on June 23 both parties were in court and the court deferred ruling to July 6: “Yet, to our surprise without, any sign of such ceremony, the Olu Imasayi, who is the acting paramount ruler of Yewa came to Alari for the purpose of installing Olajunwon last Saturday, on July 4. When we resisted, they went to Ilaro about 60km from Alari to go and install Olajunwon. It was on their way back to the town that the youths went violent. Go to Alari now. It is a ghost town, with houses destroyed due to some people who think they are God,” Adeleye said.

The Mayegun of Alari town, Chief Waheed Ayelabola, corroborated the submission of Adeleye, saying, “the state government wants to cheat us and if we accept this, generations yet unborn will not forgive us. How on earth could they crown a visitor as Oba? This is unheard of.’’

Ayelabola added that when the move to upgrade the status of the town’s Baale to Oba began, they made several calls to the Yewa Council of Traditional Rulers, but the council allegedly demanded for money. On the fateful day, Mayegun narrated that, “when the people resisted their plan, the commissioner pleaded with the people but nobody listened to him. Despite their refusal to yield to his request, he still went ahead to perform the installation ceremony in Ilaro.

“Though we know he is acting on the Governor’s instruction because Olajuwon is a close friend of the Governor, we have vowed that the man (Olajuwon) will not enter our community again. He should stay where he was crowned and govern them there.”

The Commissioner, who is in charge of the Local government and chieftaincy affairs, Aare Tunde Alabi claimed that the installation ceremony went peacefully. Though he admitted that some people protested that day, he said the security officers were there to checkmate them.

Meanwhile, groups and individuals under different aegis have continued to express their views on the condition in which the people of Alari town found itself. A youth leader, who is simply identified as Ope Olu of Ilase told this reporter shortly after leaving the town back to Abeokuta that it was an experience beyond the imagination of the Alari youths since they had come of age.

“We are seriously worried that what is happening has never happened. We, from the available records, know the steps and procedure of how we elect our traditional heads, so this confusion is just diversionary and political. We are not happy at all, and we are calling on the government to let peace, fairness and justice to reign in Alari,” Ope said.

Similarly, “ Alari Stakeholders” had also called on relevant bodies to intervene in the crisis in the town, lamenting that, for a town that has produced an Archbishop, a former secretary to  state government, business magnates and very senior military and customs officer, the recent situation was very pathetic.

In a statement signed by Adewuyi, the group noted that “the town is unknown for any chaos for over one century. Over the years it has hosted thousands of persons of Anagos, Eguns, Ogbomoso and Iree indigenes and they have lived in harmony. But now, Alari is a ghost town.  

“The dispersed ones cannot return to their abodes for business. Relations of the arrested ones run helter-skelter to muster demands for bail bond at Eleweran in Abeokuta, where they are all packed for six days running because the Ipokia and Ilaro Police command could not be trusted to handle the sensitive security problem. They are not charged to court either.”

On how to ensure that justice prevailed, the presiding Judge, Justice Onafowokan affirmed that nothing would hinder him from giving justice on the matter, saying, and “I do not care any position. Let heavens fall. What I will do here will be within the law,” he declared, as he adjourned ruling on whether his court has jurisdiction to hear the case till July 27.

Speaking on the matter, the state Commissioner of Police, Hasim Argungun, claimed that normalcy had returned to Alari, assuring that his men had been on ground to maintain law and order.