Recently, news went viral on the conferment of a traditional title on the senator representing Imo West Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Owelle Rochas Okorocha by Oba Ebenezer Akintunde Akinyemi of Iselu Kingdom in Ogun State.
But less than three weeks after, the monarch suddenly withdrew the title.
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In this report, Daily Trust probes into the circumstances surrounding the title drama.
When the Eselu of Iselu kingdom in Ogun State, Oba Ebenezer Akintunde Akinyemi, on July 4, openly threw his weight behind the emergence of Nigeria’s next president from the Igbo extraction, little did he know he was threading the path of murky political waters.
In an open letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and read before newsmen in Abeokuta, the state capital, Oba Akinyemi, a first-class monarch expressly asked Buhari “to allow a Nigerian President of South Eastern (Igbo) extraction to emerge in the year 2023.”
Sitting regally before newsmen, the monarch read the two-paged letter in a jiffy and demanded for some questions or clarifications from the journalists on ground.
One of the central questions was: why did he, as a Yoruba monarch, throw an open support for a politician of Igbo extraction, to emerge as Buhari’s successor, to the ‘detriment’ of some Yoruba politicians equally running for the same office. He was reminded of former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is believed to be one of the contenders for the presidential seat.
The monarch appeared unruffled as he declared he would rise above ethnic sentiments to support a Nigerian from the South East, saying “Yoruba has ruled Nigeria before.” He also submitted that Tinubu has not made his presidential ambition known.
Justifying his position, Oba Akinyemi noted that a president of Igbo extraction would guarantee fairness and put an end to the insecurity, unrest and agitation going on in the SouthEast.
He added that the Igbos had been marginalised for too long, and should be compensated for the losses they recorded during the Civil War with the presidency which they had never produced before in the history of the country.
“Mr. President, it is my belief that Your Excellency too sees, hears and feels the tension in our dear country which can be traced to some cry over injustice and inequality from the South Eastern part of our great country.
“I want to state without equivocation that the entire security challenges bedeviling this country from the South East will disappear within a twinkle of an eye, if and only if, all sections of this great country can come together to pave the way for the emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in the year 2023,” he wrote in the letter to Buhari.
Barely three weeks after the monarch’s well-reported open letter, he announced that he had conferred the Senator representing Imo West at the National Assembly, Owelle Rochas Okorocha with the chieftaincy title of Otunba Asoludero of Iselu Kingdom.
Okorocha, a former Imo State governor, is believed to be a strong contender for the 2023 presidential race, riding on the much touted ‘Igbo Presidency’.
Oba Ebeneezer in a statement made available to newsmen in Abeokuta, said the formal ceremony of Okoroch’s title was scheduled to take place in his palace on September 19, 2021.
The first-class monarch said Okorocha has over years exemplified a track record of unifying people of different tribes across the country through his actions, deeds and philanthropic gestures.
He noted that the awardee who recently bagged a traditional title in Daura, Katsina State is a bridge builder.
The monarch said “despite the happenings in the country, we have been able to identify a de-tribalized Nigerian who is concerned about the well being of every Nigerian irrespective of their colour, tribe and religion.
“We hold Senator Rochas Okorocha in high esteem for that which he recorded in Imo State as a former governor and the lofty heights he has attained through the Rochas Okorocha Foundation that has offered no fewer than 25,000 less privilege and orphans free scholarship from primary school to university education.
“We are optimistic that this new task will set Oja Odan, Ogun State and by extension Yoruba land into greater heights.”
Akinyemi revealed that Senator Okorocha has pledged to establish a school in the border town for the less privileged and orphans; a gesture he said will help improve the standard of education within and around the border town.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that pictures of Okorocha and Oba Akinyemi’s meeting at an unidentified location had also emerged. Our correspondent gathered that the duo met to finalise on the title conferment and the former governor’s pledge of infrastructural project in his domain.
Twist and turns
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, strongly opposed Oba Akinyemi’s move to confer a title on Okorocha. The reason, insiders said, “is not farfetched.”
Insiders told Daily Trust on Sunday that Okorocha’s inroad into Ogun State threatens Tinubu, and the governor’s camps felt threatened as conferment of the traditional title on him would be translated to mean Okorocha’s political relevance and acceptance in the state.
Governor Abiodun enjoyed Tinubu’s huge political backing to emerge APC candidate in the 2019 governorship poll, and most importantly, during his square off with Senator Ibikunle Amosun and eventual victory at the poll. Hence, Ogun State, next to Lagos, is seen as a strong political ground for Tinubu, in the quest for his presidential ambition.
Our correspondent reliably gathered that Abiodun personally wrote letters to the top traditional rulers in the state, asking them to call Oba Akinyemi to order. The letter, Daily Trust on Sunday was made to understand, highlighted the monarch’s sins including his alleged opposition against the state government during the recent farmer-herder clashes which ravaged some Yewa land, while his backing for Igbo presidency and planned conferment of title on Okorocha, capped it all.
His domain was one of the areas ravaged by killings and wanton destruction of properties during the ethnic clashes in February. Oba Akinyemi had at different times knocked the state government over failure to secure the area against attacks.
Apart of the letter written by the governor, another one was also allegedly sent to the state leadership of the traditional institution, detailing the government’s grievances against the monarch.
Our correspondent gathered that a committee which comprises of paramount rulers in the state, including the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Dr. Sikiru Adetona, grilled the monarch over the move to honour Okorocha.
It was further gathered that the monarch was asked to write Okorocha on the decision to withdraw the chieftaincy title and cancel the proposed ceremony. Insiders also told Daily Trust on Sunday that the monarch was also mandated to withdraw his earlier support for Igbo presidency.
Bows to pressure
Apparently bowing to pressure, Oba Akinyemi in a letter dated August 9, withdrew the chieftaincy title from former governor of Imo State.
The monarch was however silent on the reason for the sudden withdrawal and cancellation of the ceremony.
A copy of the letter obtained by our correspondent, reads partly, “Senator Sir, I must state that my decision to withdraw the chieftaincy title offered you is not premised on any hatred for you, but is done in the interest of peace and harmony.
“For the records, I want to declare to Your Excellency that Eselu-in-Council and the good people of Iselu Kingdom still and will continue to love you and other well meaning Nigerians home and abroad.
“Your Excellency should note that the doors of my palace will continue to remain open to you and other patriotic Nigerians at all times for the progress of my community and Nigeria in general.
“My advice to Your Excellency is that you should continue to help the needy in Nigeria, especially through your foundation.
“Also, do not forget that development of every society requires all hands to be on deck; hence Your Excellency’s continuous show of love towards the development of Iselu Kingdom will always be greatly appreciated.
“Sir, it is my belief that what tomorrow will be will be determined by the future.
“Therefore, I appeal that you should see this development as an act of God and I pray to the Almighty God to continue to be with you in your political career and all your endeavours.
“Any inconveniences this withdrawal of the chieftaincy title might have caused you is indeed regretted.
“Please, accept the assurances of my esteemed regards.”
Count us out – Ogun govt
The State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Afolabi Afuape, outrightly denied the government’s involvement in the chieftaincy title issue.
Afuape said his ministry was aware that the monarch wanted to confer a chieftaincy title on Okorocha and did not have anything against it.
The Commissioner said he had acknowledged the letter of notification written by the monarch to him, but, claimed that he was not aware of the new development.
He said “It is left to him; I don’t know because he was the one that has chosen to give a chieftaincy title and he wrote me.
“I have not written any letter to him, I don’t know what the content of the letter is all about actually, but, to me, if he wants to write to the press for cancellation, I think we should also have the copy so that we will be able to react to it. I am hearing it for the first time from you.
“I am not aware; I should even be the first person to know. He had written a letter to inform me and if he wants to withdraw, I also deserve that right to be aware. We need to be informed.
“It is his right to install chiefs in his domain. He only informed us and we followed suit accordingly. I don’t even need to approve it, unless or maybe some people are complaining, or there are counter things.”
While Oba Akinyemi has carried out the marching order to withdraw the title from Okorocha, Daily Trust on Sunday understands that the second leg of the directive – withdrawal of his support for Igbo presidency – would be complied with by him in a matter of days from now.