FCMB founder, and Olori Omo-oba of Ijebuland, Otunba Subomi Balogun and former ICAN president, Otunba Lateef Owoyemi have been best of cousins and confidant, until recently when the issue of Olori Ebi of Fusengbuwa, one of the four ruling houses in Ijebu-Ode put them apart.
In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly Dayo Rufai, Otunba Owoyemi, a man of many parts faulted the purported presentation of Otunba Subomi Balogun to the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona as the new head of the Fusegbuwa.
Otunba Owoyemi says he remains the only legitimate head of the house. He backed his claims with series of historical references in the hold no barred interview. It was a revealing encounter.
What have you been doing since you relocated back to Ijebu many years back?
At a point in time, I was the chairman of our local government here in Ijebu-south, that was Leguru local government before the army took over. I resigned from the LG on one Friday and army took over the next day which is Saturday. I’ve been here and the Obaship tussle that happened in 1981 met me here and since then I’ve been here in Idowa-Ijebu until this recent issue of the Fusengbuwa ruling house came up.
Before then, what were you engaged in?
I’m a management consultant. I’m the one who organized Corporate Affairs Commission for the Federal Government. I’m the one who hinted FG to bring in Peugeot by sea instead of Air. I’m the one who organized Nigeria Institute of Management. I’m doing some jobs now for AMCON, PEMCON and BPE as well. I’ve been very busy as a consultant and also, I’m the Secretary of the Past President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.
Sir, recently, the media was awashed with the story of the crisis within the Fusengbuwa ruling house. Sir, for the sake of clarity, and of Nigerians who have been reading from right, left and centre, can we have an exclusive insight to what really happened?
Laughs…There is no crisis. Some people will think this is the first time we are having crisis over this matter, no, there have been three incidents of double Olori Ebi of Fusengbuwa ruling house. There was a time of Baba Oduneye, 1989, Baba Bisi Adeyemi, 2003, and Tunwase himself took the position of Olori Ebi and was receiving the entitlements meant for Baba Adebisi until we intervened and the thing was reverted. This issue of having double leadership has been there for many years, so, it’s not a crisis for us but it was Tunwase (Subomi Balogun) who externalized it by engaging the media in the appointment of Olori Ebi. You know yourself; you have never read the story of Olori Ebi’s appointment in any newspaper, why did it become a matter of Nta, Ogtv, Thisday, Punch, Guardian, Encomium, Tribune, The Nation, internet and the whole lot. He has his purpose because he knows he’s not legitimate, and he wants to get the legitimacy by imposing himself on us through the media and we won’t accept it.
What actually happened because there was an event at the Awujale palace where members of the ruling house openly came to present Otunba Subomi Balogun?
Cuts in….Some people claimed to be members, they are not members of the ruling house. There are three units. There is a core ruling house to which I belong. Tunwase himself grouped some people together which he wanted to call Tunwase ruling house and we said no, you can’t change the name of the ruling house.
There are some in Jadiara ruling house who legitimately belongs to us; those are Bode Osinusi’s group. I recognize them as member of Fusengbuwa ruling house. There is a third group which says they are descendants of Adebubi, and they call it Bubiade.
So, those are the units that are claiming to be members. Some of those units that took Otunba Balogun to Awujale, are not members of the ruling house, and he (Subomi Balogun) knows it.
Sir, when did this crisis come up?
It came out of arrogance. When the family decided to have deputy of the ruling house three years ago, I personally went to Tunwase that he should allow us to appoint him as the Deputy Olori Ebi. I told him then that when Baba Adebisi passes on because he was then 93, he would take over and he replied point blank that having been made the Olori Omoba of the four ruling houses, it will be a diminishing in status to become an Olori Ebi of one of the units.
He said it’s like the President of a country wanting to be made the governor or the chairman of a local government council. Even when the former Olori Ebi eventually passed on, he was the first person I informed that he should come home… to come and meet the family and greet the children so that electing him as the Olori Ebi would be easy but he refused to come and said he is not interested in that kind of thing, that he doesn’t want any proximity, any familiarity with anyone.
How can you be the Olori Ebi without being familiar with the people? It’s not possible. You want to be the chairman of a local government and you don’t want to be close to the community, it’s not possible. Why he wants this crisis on, I don’t know. He has never attended the meeting of the ruling house since 1985, he does not attend the meeting of Otunbas, and he doesn’t attend all these meetings, why does he want all this unnecessary argument.
But I’m happy in a way that his intervention had brought the Fusengbuwa ruling house to international limelight. Not only local now, but we are now known everywhere which is unnecessary.
There is an Awujale that is there right now, and we pray for him to reign as long as possible because his reign has been very successful and it’s only after him, and we don’t know when that would be, that anyone could aspire to become the next Awujale, we don’t know. We pray long life but I know when the time comes, the right person will emerge as the next Awujale but that time is not here, nor near. Why the publicity? Why all these hyper actions? I don’t believe in it. I think it’s all wrong.
What was the relationship between you and Otunba Subomi Balogun before now?
No. you can ask him, I’m one of his best confidants. We are cousins if you care to know. When he had a problem with Awujale many years back, I was the staunchest supporter of him in the palace. Every day I took Awujale on to please forgive Tunwase. The day he was to be re-installed as the Otunba, quite secretive event, Awujale phoned me in Lagos to come and take part and I was in Ijebu Ode and we were only five that were present.
When he was going to celebrate his mother’s 10th year remembrance anniversary last year, it was me he called to help him beg the members of the ruling house to come and take part in his mother’s prayer and about 18 of us were there in his house to take part in his mother’s anniversary.
The members of the ruling house said they are not going to go there because they said they have quarrel with him saying he doesn’t know them, he doesn’t know if they exist and I said “No, it is the mother who is our relation and it is her mother who is being remembered. We must go and honour this woman and we all went there that day.
There is this report in town that it was after Subomi Balogun had gone to Awujale for presentation that you began to lay claim to this position. And that if you have been chosen before them, you should have gone to the Awujale and tell him you are the new Olori Ebi long before Balogun’s presentation?
Laughs…It is a pure propaganda. First of all, the issue of appointment of Olori Ebi is strictly reserved for the ruling house. Being presented to the Awujale is a subsequent issue. It can be one year, two years or more. Infact, my late uncle, Olori Ebi did his own three years after he had been appointed. You don’t know you are going to be appointed. You don’t just rush to the Awujale. It’s not a cheap event. You must inform everyone, and sometimes they even create a special uniform the day you are going to present to the Awujale.
That can take place at anytime. Immediately I was appointed as the deputy head of the family in 2011, a letter went to the Awujale from the ruling house and he has it on his file. Immediately the Olori Ebi passed on, we wrote a letter to Awujale to inform him that Olori Ebi died and he commiserated with us. When I was appointed on April 7, a letter was sent to Awujale on April 8 to say that I’ve been appointed. Tunwase’s own was June 24, and if you read the minute of the Otunba’s meeting, you will see there that I announced myself there that day as having been appointed as the Olori Ebi of the ruling house.
Sir, you claim to have been very close to Otunba Subomi Balogun. When you were appointed as the Olori Ebi of the Fusengbuwa ruling house, did you contact him?
No, until after I’ve been appointed. I had gone to him to inform him that our Olori Ebi has passed on. I asked him to come to the ruling house to commiserate with the family so that we would eventually appoint him as the Olori Ebi and he said he is not interested and that he doesn’t want any proximity with anybody.
Until I was appointed, this was April 7. The next event which was held was April 13, which was the meeting in his house. But I disagreed with the content of the letter he was writing to the Otunbas inviting them for the meeting. I disagree with that letter when he was saying our or ruling house was not respected, I said No, our family is highly respected, in fact we are the most respected family of the four ruling houses in Ijebu Ode today.
If he wants to give us idea or help to make the family much better, my own concern is empowerment of the masses, that’s the main problem of that ruling house. I’m willing to support him but to say that our ruling family is not respected is a great lie. So we are respected. What they said they were going to do in the meeting of April 14 was the way to move the family forward and unite its splinter groups.
There was no agenda that there was going to be any appointment of the Olori Ebi. They have no right to appoint any Olori Ebi because Otunba as he wrote in his own letter, they are just part and cannot become the whole, so, whatever they have done has no foundation in law or in equity or in history, it hasn’t.
Sir, but the presentation has been done. He was at the palace…
(Cuts in) Anybody can be presented at any time. I have told you this earlier, what else do you want me to say?
Have you brought the attention of Awujale to this lingering issue?
Yes, we have written the Awujale after what we saw as presentation. I can’t blame Awujale because we can see the reports on the internet. Awujale said every member of the ruling house should support Tunwase because his appointment was unanimous.
That is the lie Awujale was sold. Tunwase was lying to say his appointment was unanimous, who appointed him? Let him show the minutes of the family meeting where he was appointed. If he recognizes the late Pa Adebisi as the ruling house head, then of course there must be a ruling house.
Let him show the minutes of the meeting of the ruling house that appointed him as the Olori Ebi.
Lastly sir, what do you intend to do now? There seems to be a logjam. Otunba Subomi Balogun is laying claim to that position, you are also laying claim to that position. So, what do you think would be the solution?
Laughs…Look; it’s like the issue of splinter groups in accountancy. I handled the one of ANAN with ICAN, so I know how to handle it. There have been splinter groups from time to time; even in our ruling house, we’ve been having parallel leaders. We’ve had two before. This is the second time Tunwase is claiming to be Olori Ebi.
So, there is no crisis in it. The Ebi knows who their Olori Ebi is and he (Subomi Balogun) knows he has never been appointed as the Olori Ebi. Time will show whether he is right or wrong. The Olori Ebi cannot be self imposed, you can’t declare yourself as the Olori Ebi, it’s not a club, it is not a regberegbe and it’s not a company where you can say “come and meet with me”.
If you call a meeting and the Ebi didn’t show up, then you are not the Olori Ebi. Tunwase knows he cannot convey any meeting of the Ebi, nobody will answer him except those who claimed to be members of our ruling house but we have not yet accepted. I keep telling our ruling house, they must not do mischief, and they must not deny anybody his legitimate right.
Tunwase cannot impose himself as the Olori Ebi of Fusengbuwa ruling house. The danger is this; if anybody gets up and say I’m the Olori Ebi of this ruling house, what will happen to the royal families? It would be like anybody can now take over and appoint the rulers, not only in Ijebu ode but all parts of Ijebu land.
If anybody could just stand up and say I’m now the Olori Ebi of Olisa in Ijebu Ode for instance, it means you can appoint anybody as the next Olisa, or the next Kakanfo or the next Balogun, who will stop him? And at the end of all, the whole traditional institution will be destroyed by imposition and that was why, when one of our ancient fathers imposed himself as the Awujale, Baba Olukoku, he was removed by the authorities and taken back home. You cannot impose yourself as the Awujale, you cannot do it. That is what we are saying and by the grace of God, it would not succeed.
Sir, can we briefly meet you?
I am Abdulateef Adebayo Owoyemi, former President Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, former President, Institute of management consultants of Nigeria, former President, Association of all Management Firms and Establishments in Nigeria, former member, Developing Nation’s committee of International Federation of Accountants in New York. I am the Otunba Sikuloye of Idowa. I was a candidate for the Dagburewe chieftaincy that had just ended with the appointment of my cousin, Prince Adekoya as the Oba, the Dagburewe. Also, I’m the Mogaji Adinni of Idowa and Otunba Jadiara of Ijebuland.
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, August 06, 2013