Before the petition to the Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, by the 12 Iwo kingmakers, demanding the dethronement of the Oluwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, got to the public domain, neither the monarch nor the chiefs knew the dimension the festering crisis would take, according to The Punch NG.
The letter dated September 9, 2020, signed by 12 out of the 13 kingmakers addressed to Oyetola was very specific about the demands of the chiefs, who listed a litany of ‘sins’ committed by Oba Akanbi to justify the call for his removal.
Oba Akanbi, in reaction to the call, quickly rallied the residents to his side and a large turnout at the rally held inside the Oluwo palace on Friday, September 25, 2020, to show him support, indicated that many people in the town still love the monarch.
The disagreement between the monarch and his chiefs has expectedly polarised Iwo into two major camps of pro-Oluwo and supporters of the kingmakers.
But a handful of the indigenes, who are non-aligned in the feud, it was learnt, had been reaching out to the parties to prevent an escalation and deal with the remote and immediate causes of the disagreement.
While efforts are being made in that regard, the two parties in the matter have shifted the battle to the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs by trying to seek the attention of relevant government officials on the merits of their respective cases.
Oba Akanbi was accused by the kingmakers, led by the Osa of Iwo, Chief Yekeen Bello, of underpaying the chiefs and village heads in the petition sent to the governor.
From all indications, the chiefs were holding back from divulging details of their disagreement with Oba Akanbi, even though Bello, who is next in line to the Oluwo, told journalists, “He (Oluwo) called us and we honoured him.
“After the meeting, he told us to go and find jobs to do, saying the allocation was for him alone. We know that the allocation is for the king, the chiefs and the Baales. He thought we didn’t know, but we know. The allocation is not just for the king. We are fighting for our rights. Is it not embarrassing for a chief and Baale to be given N3,500 or N4,000 per month?”
After the first press briefing, the chiefs practically refused to comment further on the issue.
But from sources close to the chiefs, the untold part of the disagreement was the discovery that the reduction in the monthly salaries of the kingmakers and other title holders drawing salaries from the Iwo Local Government Council was not occasioned by a drop in revenue.
A source close to one of the kingmakers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the suspicion started during the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Rauf Aregbesola, when the salaries of the chiefs dropped by as much as 70 per cent.
According to the source, the chiefs, however, could not raise an eyebrow since even the state workers were being paid modulated salaries at the time.
The source stated, “But when Oyetola took over in November 2018 and the issue of modulated salary was rested, it became clearer to the chiefs that the reduction in their take home pay was not necessarily due to a reduction in government allocation.
“Chief Osa, who is the deputy to the Oluwo, used to get a monthly pay slightly higher than other chiefs, who are also kingmakers although it is not static. They draw their salaries from the Iwo Local Government Council. We have up to 45 chiefs in the town, but the kingmakers are just 14 in number.
“Like I said earlier, the salaries of the chiefs are not static. What they get usually depends on whatever the local government gets as allocation every month. Some of these chiefs served the immediate past Oluwo, Oba Abimbola, and got paid during the period; so, when some of the highest paid among them were given as low of N22,000 as salary in the last two years, they were dazed.
“It was during Aregbesola’s administration when the modulated salary structure was in place that the chiefs were also paid reduced amounts, so they did not immediately know that their take home pay had not been slashed by the government.
“But it became obvious that their entitlements had not been reduced by the government when the modulated salary was rested and both the state and local governments started paying in full, yet the amounts that the chiefs get monthly remained the same.
“If you listen to what Osa said the day he spoke to newsmen on the matter, it was clear that the chiefs had been informed that the reduction in their salaries was Oluwo’s decision.”
The kingmakers were also said to be displeased, because they were no longer allowed to sit as Customary Court arbitrators and suspected that Oba Akanbi was giving tacit support to some princes, who currently resolve marriage issues for the residents.
A source close to the palace said some among the kingmakers had played the role of Customary Court arbitrators in the past.
But for several months during the administration of Aregbesola, it was gathered that the state government did not constitute the Customary Court panel.
Despite that, some chiefs, who were said to be arbitrators of the court in Iwo, have conducted sittings inside the palace of the Oluwo on issues brought before them and resolve matters for the parties.
However, some princes were said to have hijacked the duty from the kingmakers and acted as arbitrators and were conducting sittings inside the palace with no word of caution from Oba Akanbi.
A source close to the palace, who is familiar with the issue, said the kingmakers were displeased and many of them abandoned the palace long before the petition against the Oluwo got to the public.
The source said, “Proceedings of the Customary Courts are usually handled by the chiefs, especially in Iwo, where the 14 kingmakers used to act as arbitrators of the court and receive stipends for that.
“But for some months, Aregbesola did not set up a panel for the courts in the state. However, many of the cases that would ordinarily be treated by the court in Iwo were still being heard by the chiefs inside the palace.
“Without any formal notice, the princes, who usually sit with the king in the palace, started handling the matters and the kingmakers were no longer allowed to play that role.
“It even got to a point that the princes relocated the sitting of the court to another place in the town. While all these were going on, the kingmakers felt that the Oluwo did not stop the princes and they believed the monarch approved what they were doing.
“The relationship between Oba Akanbi and the kingmakers has not been smooth in the last two years and many of them do not even go to the palace again. The matter only reached a peak when the chiefs petitioned the governor to demand the monarch’s removal.”
But when contacted, Osa of Iwo, Bello, said he would not want to comment further on the crises and confirmed to our correspondent that prominent indigenes of the town had already intervened and were making efforts to resolve the issue.
He also denied claims that the issue relating to the usurpation of their roles as arbitrators in Customary Court was part of the reasons they fell apart with Oba Akanbi.
He said, “I dont want to comment further on this issue. But regarding the issue of Customary Court, we did not mention it or we accused princes of taking over our roles. On the allocation, if I had mentioned anything on allocation before, since the beginning of present Oluwo’s reign, we didn’t know how much is our salary.
“It has not been stable. I don’t want to comment further. Prominent indigenes have already intervened. They are talking to us to resolve the matter.”
When asked for reactions to the issues said to be the main causes of the disaffection between the Oluwo and the kingmakers, the Press Secretary to the monarch, Alli Ibrahim, declined comments.
Ibrahim, however, sent a statement from the Oluwo that read in part, “In respect of well-meaning elders, citizens and stakeholders of Iwoland, who are enlightened and want the best for the land, the palace of the Oluwo of Iwoland, Abdulrosheed Adewale Akanbi, has no comment.
“I am too busy serving my people. My priority is to take Iwoland to that enviable height of traditional, economic and prosperity. We are always on the move, no distraction.”
To prevent further escalation of the crisis and restore peace, several peace meetings were said to have been held by prominent Iwo indigenes on the matter.
Pictures taken at one of such meetings held in the palace were circulated on social media last week.
The Asiwaju of Iwo, Gbadegesin Adedeji, in a text message to our correspondent on the steps by the indigenes to address the crisis said, “Efforts are ongoing at all levels to broker peace between the warring parties. Be on the lookout for the outcome.”
Meanwhile, the Osun State Government, through the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, has yet to act on the petition.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Razaq Adeosun, did not take his calls and had yet to reply to a text message sent to him to seek information about the steps the government had taken on the matter.
But a reliable source in the ministry said the pro-Oluwo chiefs and another group of indigenes had written separate petitions to the ministry to counter the claims by the kingmakers in their letter to the governor.
He added that the two parties to the crisis had been using their contacts to draw the government into action on the issue.