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Editor's note: In this piece, a media strategist and public affairs analyst, Tona Bakare, writes about a recent uproar caused by an age-long battle between two royal families in Ikire, Irewole local government area of Osun state.
Ikire is in another avoidable mess. Monday, October 26, 2020, the dawn of the day broke like the day before it. There was no ominous sign of danger. But unknown to many, Esu Odara (devil) already had his left hand on the key of hell and was getting set to let loose some messengers of terror, panic and death.
The Kabiesi Akire of Ikire was in council with his chiefs as it has become the Monday rituals since Oba Olatunde Falabi mounted the throne of his fore-bearers. The royal counsels were in deep consultation when an irritant uproar caught their attention.
However, before anyone could seek the royal permission to check out the cause of the uproar, boys armed with cutlasses, knives, cudgels, and charms broke through the door and collapsed the sanctity of the Oba's presence. "Igbe a fewe", Kabiesi miraculously escaped into the inner recesses of the palace. The beaded chiefs were not as lucky. The rampaging boys pounced on them. They were beaten to a pulp, inflicting almost fatal injuries on them. Some of them were left for dead.
They chanted invective songs asking the Kabiesi to vacate the palace as he did not have any legitimate right to the throne after a high court in Ikire had dethroned him earlier in the year. They wreaked havoc on the palace unchallenged.
Carried away by the easy victory, they were emboldened as they found their way out of the palace. The devil seemed to have a hand in their matter, some said it was an indiscretion. They flagged down a Nigerian Army truck. Some said the Army was invited to quell the uprising.
One of the Kabiesi's relations, a retired military man is being accused of inviting the soldiers to rescue his now trapped family and the king from the palace.
Though, a statement from the palace attempted to explain this away as a mere coincidence, subsequent events in the community gave strength to the allegation that the retired officers invited the soldiers. But what could anyone in his shoe have done, when police's attempt to chase away the rampaging thugs failed?
Unfortunately, the soldiers' mission also failed. The rampaging boys reportedly overpowered them. How could motley boys overpower the soldiers? Some said it was because of their sheer number.
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A respondent swore the soldiers were hypnotized with the aid of a powerful charm. The thugs beat up and machete the soldiers, damaged their vehicle and made away with four of their riffles. The soldiers escaped but one was not that lucky. He was abducted.
Meanwhile, it became even more urgent to rescue the Kabiesi who was still being holed up in the palace. A very top government officer and an indigene of the town allegedly engaged the service of another set of dreaded thugs from neighbouring Ikoyi to help evacuate the king from the now unsafe palace. The Ikoyi boys had a successful operation taking the king to safety.
The soldiers returned reinforced for reprisal with more men. They would not go without a fight. They were desperate to have their gun back. They turned the community into a slaughter slab. They shot indiscriminately at the boys.
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Initially, the boys made some futile attempts to resist them. They threw every object they could lay their hands on at the approaching soldiers. Things soon boiled over. The soldiers opened fire. About five boys reportedly fell with many sustaining injuries.
The boys took to their heels. The soldiers followed in their trail. Many sources said the chase led to Prince Tajudeen Olanrewaju's house. The soldiers were said to have met many more boys in a cloud of smoke from the lighted wraps of cannabis. They opened fire on them and by the time the dust cleared, additional ten boys had been dispatched to the great beyond.
Not satisfied, the soldier went round the community shooting recklessly sending panic and trepidation in the community. They insisted that Ikire would remain under siege until their missing guns were produced. On Tuesday their guns were recovered through the intervention of the Ikire Progressive Union (IPU)'s leadership.
As the bereaved buried their dead, the injured nurse their wound, the scars of this warfare, and unjustifiable disproportionate use of force on the community will remain indelible in the memories of many and in the psyche of frightened children. Our concern now should be how to exterminate the root cause of the present situation permanently and ensure it doesn't ever happen again.
Everyone knows the issue of who should be on the throne of Akire is at the root of this crisis. Should HRM Olatunde Falabi continue or he be removed for someone from Aketula ruling house to take the ancient crown?
I do not want to narrate the story that has been on for 33 years, every Ikire true born is familiar with the tale. It ran a full course from the lowest court to the Supreme. Those who have read the judgment said the Supreme Court only affirmed the right of the Aketula to the crown but never ordered the removal of the sitting Oba.
If this is the case, I assumed this is the only reason Oba Falabi still holds the throne since 2014 when the pronouncement was made. Those who supported the Aketula have insisted that the Supreme Court ordered the dethronement of the king but the Osun state government has neglected to enforce it. If this were so, there are legal ways of enforcing court judgments without resulting in violence.
The court case in which an Osun High Court recently dethroned Oba Olatunde Falabi would not have been entertained by the court had the Supreme Court made a definite decision on the fate of Oba Olatunde Falabi. No lower court can sit on a matter already determined by the highest court in the land. Meanwhile, the judgment of the High Court dethroning the Oba has been appealed by him.
The self-help with the aid of the thugs or even the Army will not go far. All well-meaning indigenes and interested royal houses must therefore allow the case to run its full course in court. That is the only civilized thing to do.
There can be no justification to stimulate crisis in the community or forcefully taking over the palace. This will only rob the crown of its dignity and insult the sensibility of the citizenry. Whatever grievances cannot justify the engagement of thugs and the terror it visited on Ikire.
How do we as citizens ensure this doesn't happen again? Deliberate effort must be made to remove easy access to thugs. Most of the boys engaged were those I called the community's attention to in a piece two weeks ago.
We cannot continue to handle the issue of drug abuse in the community with a kid-glove. As it stands, would anyone no be justified to say that the police in the town receive returns from those who trade in drugs to look the other way?
The local government authorities at the highest level have also been accused of encouraging the boys; giving them funds and indulging them, believing they would not foment trouble in the community. Many sources also alleged that the armed thugs actually provide security for the Irewole council chair.
This is a dangerous strategy. The boys will only grow wings of importance and demand for more patronage. The event of these past few days proved beyond doubt that we have created a monster. The recent crisis also confirmed that the bad boys will always offer their service to the highest bidder.
It is therefore time we began a process of de-radicalizing these boys. My fear is that when it will be elections time we may have a more terrible situation on our hands when desperate politicians lay their hands on the boys, they are lethal. Ikire cannot prosper in an atmosphere of fear.
This royal rumble must stop. It is time to apply the latch. The princes, must henceforth, act princely. The people want to have their peaceful and lovely community back.
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