The Alaaye of Efon Kingdom, Obalufon Alayemore, Oba Emmanuel Aladejare, in this interview by SAM NWAOKO relates his grandfather’s encounter with the founder of Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola, in 1930 and other issues about his community.
Your throne according to available history dates back to the third Ooni of Ife in the 12 Century and you are seated between the Ijesa and the Ekiti. Looking back, would you say this situation has adverse effects on Efon Alaaye community at some point?
Not at all. Efon Alaaye as a community has interacted with our Ijesa neighbours cordially over the centuries. We are actually so closely-knit but for the purpose of administration, we are in Ekiti. We are part of Ekiti confederacy. The kingdoms in Ekiti that formed the confederacy are referred to as Alade Merindinlogun (the 16 Crowns) and Efon is one of them. We had fought wars against the Ibadans and the Ilorins together and one of the reasons we are together is the common defence of our kingdoms. However, we still interact closely with the Ijesa. For example, when the Ibadans came during the Yoruba wars, Ogedengbe, the Ijesa General, came to join forces with us to confront Ibadan which was very mighty at that time. So, Ijesa and Ekiti had to work together to maintain our identity within this period. You can see that we are closer to Ekiti than Ijesa but we and Ijesa worked together to make sure that our separate identities are maintained over the passage of time.
The Efon Development League is pursuing an ambitious N1billion development fund, what prompted this move?
The government alone is not in a position to fulfill all the aspirations of the people. So, they want to put in our own bit just to improve the quality of life of this community. The League has been in existence since 1936 has been complementing the efforts of the Alaaye-in-Council, the traditional authority, in continuing doing that. That is why this year’s Efon Development League activities and they have been very wonderful in this edition and we are grateful to them as good partners in progress.
One of the perennial issues Efon has been battling is ecological problems. Are there some specific sites the community is targetting?
When you look at the topography of Efon, you will see that erosion is a perennial problem and that is beyond the capability of the community. We have approached the government several times and they have made contributions to this issue. When General Ibrahim Babangida was the president, he declared Efon a disaster area because of erosion. The first attempt to help us came to fruition during Babangida. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo came on board, he also made helped. I made several trips to Abuja and the result of that was the provision of N1billion for the control of erosion in Efon by the government. These have been very helpful.
In Efon, we have primary, secondary and tertiary gullies. The tertiary gullies are the ones which divide Efon into two. That one was done by the administration Chief Obasanjo, when the control of the channelisation took over N1billion from the Federal Government. So, there is no way a community like ours would have the means to singularly execute this. The problem is even beyond the state government because the state has several communities sharing the same resources. That is why we approached the Federal Government and they have been very helpful to us. That is why we are at this point in time.
We still need the assistance of the federal government because the erosion is a perennial problem and it needs to be solved one way or the other because many houses had been washed away in the past. We thanked God that has ceased to be our experience now, but for us not to experience that again, we still have to do some measure of channelisation too. We therefore appeal to the federal government and state government to still assist us because we don’t have the means as a community or local government to do this.
One of the stories about the affinity of Efon and Ijesa has to do with your grandfather, when he was on the throne, and his encounter with Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola of the Christ Apostolic Church fame. It was said that the Alaaye then had wanted to know who was preaching with the name: Olorun Alaaye. How true was this encounter?
It is a true story. When Apostle Ayo Babalola started his ministry in Ilesa, he was performing miracles and people were coming from far and near to be part of that great movement. People also went from Efon to Ilesa. They came back to relate to my grandfather, Agunsoye the First, that the man was calling “Olorun Alaaye” repeatedly. That enthused my grandfather, being the Alaaye of the Efon kingdom. He sent a delegation to meet the Apostle at Ilesa. His message was that he had been hearing about “Olorun Alaaye”, the Living God, who bears close affinity in name to his throne, and that he would want him to come to Efon. Eventually, Babalola agreed to come to Efon. When he came, my grandfather hosted him in the palace against all expectations of that time and entreaties against it. People complained that they could be noisy and might desecrate the palace and such other complaints against the delegation of Ayo Babalola. Why not give him somewhere outside the palace but Oba Agunsoye said no. He said whatever they did, that even if they passed excrement, he would ensure that all the undesirable things were evacuated. He insisted that Apostle Babalola would be in the palace.
Our father, Oba Agunsoye, the First was probably the first Yoruba Oba to be baptized following that encounter in 1930. He took the name Solomon as his baptismal name. As a result, he encouraged the people to do away with idols and so on. Many of these things were burnt in Efon at that time. In fact, the place he gave to Babalola for his revival was Igbo Aiwo, the forbidden forest. It was said that anyone who went to the forest would die. When he told Apostle Babalola that the only place available nearby was the Igbo Aiwo, he requested that the Kabiyesi should lead him to the place. Oba Agunsoye led Babalola who carried his bible and a bell. Babalola led prayers there and was the first to cut the bush. He now asked people to do it. That place was cleared and it became the revival ground for the people at that time. The place is very close to the palace. The first church built in Efon was built on that ground and they called it Oke Igbala (Mount of Redemption). Since that time, the affinity between our dynasty and the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) founded by Apostle Ayo Babalola has remained.
One event that has created anxiety for you and Efon Alaaye is the Alahun chieftaincy matter. What, in your estimation is the exact problem with this stool?
Alahun is a single family with just five houses in Efon. They are priests who don’t take part in governance in Efon kingdom. The Alahun is the worshipper of Oodua deity based in Efon and it is called Iho Alahun (the hole of Alahun) which he enters.
The Alahun I met on the throne was Ojo Ajewole. When he died in 2007, they came to me to break the news of his passage. I took notice of it and after the Ifa divination, they said the person they had chosen as Alahun was Jacob Adelowo. I gave the approval and installed him. Soon after he got to this position, he started agitating that he was a king and so on. He wrote a petition to the government and the government set up a Council of Obas committee to look into the matter. This committee sat for over a year. It went physically to places, including the Oke Ahun which is made up of five houses. The committee wrote a report to government. Dr. Kayode Fayemi was the governor at that material time. The government sat on it and wrote a report that the case of the Alahun lacked merit and said that there was nothing in it.
Rather than embrace peace, the Alahun became a something else to the community. If you meet him and you don’t say Kabiyesi, he can start fighting you and so on and so forth. We reported all these to government.
There was another commission set up by the government under Governor Ayo Fayose to review Chieftaincy issues in the state. It was called the Oyewole Chieftaincy Review Commission. This man went there again to argue that he was a king and that he should be recognized as such. The committee took evidence from him and I also went to the commission. I countered what he presented with historical facts and figures. The Oyewole Commission in its report said his case lacked merit. There was a white paper from the Ekiti Council of Obas Committee which said the Alahun’s case lacked merit and for the Oyewole commission which also said that his case lacked merit. The Ekiti Obas committee that dismissed his case was during the first tenure of Dr. Fayemi.
When Dr Fayemi returned as governor in 2018, he set up another commission of enquiry. This other commission was probably to fight the leading Obas in Ekiti because that was the way I look at it. He set up the Justice Aladejana Commission of Inquiry. Alahun went there again and I also went there to counter what he presented. Interestingly, when it came to visiting the place, the Aladejana committee did not get to the palace in Efon. They only went to see the Alahun and the claims he made. They did not involve the palace when they came to Efon to seek the other view. It was only after they had concluded everything that they came to me and said ‘well Kabiyesi, other chiefs in the town complained that you don’t give them high salary and if you don’t do anything about it, we will give them autonomy.’ I said ‘you cannot do that because you have no basis for what you said you wanted to do’.
Probably as a way of getting at me – and I don’t know for whatever reason – Fayemi just went on to recognize five houses as a town in Efon. You had set up a criteria for doing these things at the beginning of the inquiry which were similar to what had been done in the past. These five houses have no market. In fact, because of the activities of Jacob Adelowo, I reported him to the Chieftaincy Department and the Ministry of Justice that they should prosecute him. This prosecution was instituted and he was causing all kinds of delays. His lawyer was coming up with all kinds of delay mechanisms. That not withstanding, I presented my evidences and closed my case after about one year. When he started his defence, Dr. Fayemi set up the second commission of inquiry. He now asked the Attorney-General of the state to enter “nolle prosequi” in the case and it could not continue. It is the prerogative of government to do that, I don’t question that. But I must say that it was entered in bad faith. When I saw what was happening, I now went to court. The case is at the Supreme Court and it was still there as at the time Fayemi gave him recognition. So, it is an affront to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He has been there. Nobody has anything to do with him. Nobody reckons with him, he is just on his own in that particular place.
Regarding this and every other issue, what will you tell the people of Efon Alaaye?
I want Efon people to rally round and maintain our unity. It is only in unity that we have strength and it is only in unity that we can develop as a community. As a matter of fact, all the major projects that we have been able to do have been done successfully because we are a united community. I want that unity to continue because it is at the heart of everything. Once there is unity, there will be peace and with peace, progress will follow automatically.
When I saw that the Aladejana Commission was showing bias in the court, I went to court before it completed its assignment. That case is still there. Interestingly, the white paper from the Aladejana commission’s report noted what the government itself referred to as the biased recommendations of the Justice Aladejana Commission. It also noted that the matter is a subject of litigation. These were in the white paper government itself issued. However, just four or five days to the exit of Fayemi as governor of Ekiti State, he unilaterally and secretly gave staff of office to the man at the governor’s office. He did not give him staff of office at Efon Alaaye. We got wind of that and went to court to stop it. We also asked the court to quash the action because it is an affront to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. We saw that the action was premeditated and done out of malice. That case is in court also.
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