The king had barely made it into his palace when the deadly gunshots rang out.
It was the Eid-el-Fitri celebration of 2016 and Abdulkadir Adebara, the traditional ruler of Jebba in Moro local council of Kwara State, had just returned from the prayer ground and was hosting a crowd that accompanied him home.
Suddenly, an 18-seater bus and two motorcycles pulled up outside the crowded palace. Men armed with guns and machetes spilled out, and opened fire, according to witnesses and police records.
“Commotion arose, with everyone running for dear life,” Yakubu Ekundayo and Emmanuel Tytler, two local chiefs in Jebba said in a joint press conference on July 11, five days after the incident.
“HRH the Oba of Jebba was ferried out of the venue by a courageous human shield formed around him.
“The assailants eventually beat a retreat leaving behind their bus and the two motorcycles.”
When the smoke from the guns cleared, three people lay dead, and 12 others sustained injuries, witnesses and police said.
MURDER WAS THE CASE
After the Eid el Fitri attack outside Mr. Adebara’s palace, the police declared 10 people wanted for the killings.
The suspects included Kayode Okedare, Yahaya Seriki, Olarongbe Kolawole, Tunji Moses, Oluwasegun Okedare, Maigari Marafa, Ibrahim Aremu Olopoodo, Bolaji Driver, Tunde Osie and Isiaka Atanda Masun.
Kayode Okedare, a school principal whose family is at the forefront of the opposition to Mr. Adebara’s kingship, was declared alleged mastermind of the attack.
According to Ajayi Okasanmi, the Kwara police spokesperson, the suspects disappeared after actively participating in criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms, and culpable homicide among others.
In the police’s First Information Report on July 6, it was stated that the Jebba police station received information “from good-spirited people that two rival factions of Adebara and Okebara family clashed over a lingering chieftaincy tussle in the community after Eid-el-fitr prayers” in which three people were shot to death and others sustained various degrees of injuries.
On August 16, the police charged eight suspects – Adetunji Okedare, Bolaji Akanbi, Babatunde Osie, Usman Wada, Adebayo Aweda, Garuba Zomo, Sunday Mose, and Fatai Ishola – before an Ilorin Magistrate Court for criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide, and illegal possession of firearms.
Kayode Okedare remained at large.
The State Criminal Investigation Department report stated that on the day of the attack, Kayode Okedare and some vigilante from Onikpako village, Jebba, loaded themselves into a bus with registration number XA 152 SHA and two motorcycles armed with guns and other dangerous weapons with which they used to perpetrate the attack.
“You thereby committed the above offences,” said the report by Jibrin Mahmud, an inspector, and dated August 14, 2016.
“Meanwhile, investigation is still in progress towards arresting other fleeing suspects,” it added.
In her ruling on September 2, chief magistrate I.O Olawoyin declined to grant a bail application for the suspects filed by the defence lawyer.
“I have carefully considered issues as raised by the defence counsel as well as the response of the prosecution to all the issues as raised and hold by Section 341(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, a person accused of homicide shall not be granted or released on bail,” said the magistrate.
“However, the court in Section 341(3) is enjoined to grant bail upon consideration of reasonable ground that there are sufficient ground for further inquiry and pending such inquiry – the accused may be released on bail.”
The magistrate said the defence lawyer had not provided enough grounds to justify granting bail to his clients.
“It is also trite that the court has discretionary power to grant bail. However, while exercising this discretion, the court is enjoined to be guided by these principles – the serious nature of the offence, the gravity of the punishment in the court of conviction, and the nature of the evidence available against the applicants.
“These factors though not exhaustive but considering the serious nature of the offence before the court – can it be truly said without any other extraneous factor that accused persons had placed before the court cogent and compellable reasons to suave the mind of the court on why the court should exercise his discretionary power in their favour?
“I will answer this in the negative and I so hold.
“Therefore the application for the bail of all the accused persons is therefore not granted.”
But two weeks later, a legal advice from the state’s Ministry of Justice recommended the discharge of all the accused persons.
“We therefore apply that the court should terminate the First Information Report against them,” Al-Hassan Jubril, the police prosecutor, told the magistrate.
The court immediately terminated the suit and discharged all the accused persons.
A copy of the legal advice seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed a state government’s account of events of the July 6 event entirely opposite from the police’ and witnesses’ versions.
For instance, the advice stated that the attack happened in Kayode Okedare’s house and was perpetrated by “some thugs believed to be from Adebara’s side and his house was to (sic) set ablaze but for the timely intervention of the police.”
“Some of the suspects were arrested at Jebba police station after being identified to be part of the suspects at the crime scene, obviously by a member of the Adebara family.
“Some of the suspects (sic) was arrested while paying homage to Alhaji Kayode Okedare at his house as a community leader in Jebba.”
Mr. Okasanmi, the police spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES that the police had concluded its assignment in the matter.
“You know when a case happens and it is reported to the police, it is our duty as policemen to arrest and investigate and possibly prosecute if the case is worthy of going to court. And that’s exactly what we did,” Mr. Okasanmi said.
“You should also remember that we have separation of powers, where our duty ends is where another person’s starts. So our own primary duty is to arrest, investigate, and possibly charge to court.
“Whatever happens in court is at the complete discretion of the court. That’s what happened. The court will not have recourse to us before giving judgment or telling us the aftermath of their judgment. We have done our own and that’s just that.”
Mr. Okasanmi said since the Kwara State Ministry of Justice (Department of Public Prosecution) had said the arrested suspects had no case to answer, the matter is now beyond police control.
“As far as the case has been properly investigated, charged to court, and if the Kwara State Ministry of Justice (Department of Public Prosecution) says there is no case to answer, as policemen we have done our own duty by charging the case to court,” he said.
“If there are other evidence that were not gotten before, we can still re-arrest the suspects and charge them to the same court. All in all, all our duties end at the court, and that’s what happened.”
Asked if Kayode Okedare is still wanted by the police, Mr. Okasanmi said he does not know.
“If there is any suspect declared wanted, if we see him, we are going to pick him up.”
TUSSLE FOR THE THRONE
For years, the Adebaras and the Okedares, two prominent families in Jebba, had engaged in a tussle over the control as well as land ownership in the community.
The clash came to a head in 2006 when Mr. Adebara, after his coronation as the Oba of Jebba, was arraigned in court for impersonation. He subsequently spent 19 days in Ilorin prison before he was granted bail.
In the suit (No. KWS/2c/2006), Kayode Okedare served as the principal witness for the Kwara State government which was opposed to Mr. Adebara’s ascension to the throne.
Eight years later, the high court in Ilorin affirmed Mr. Adebara the legitimate traditional ruler of Jebba with a third class status.
He was discharged and acquitted.
The Kwara State government is still challenging the court’s decision and has refused to pay Mr. Adebara his entitlements as a traditional ruler since 2003 when he was crowned king.
And the Adebaras have continued to accuse the Okedares of conniving with the state government in an attempt to remove the Oba from the throne.
For instance, following last year’s violence at the palace, the state government did not issue a statement to condemn the incident; rather they sent a tersely worded query – five months later – to the King demanding an explanation of the cause of the attack.
“It has come to the attention of the Kwara State Government that during the last Eid-il-Fitri Sallah celebration on 6th July, 2016, the public peace of the people of Jebba and environs was disturbed,” read the later dated December 19 and signed by H.T Muhammad, Commissioner of Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs, and Community Development.
“It is on record that before the intervention of the law enforcement agencies, some people had lost their dear lives and many others sustained varied degree of injury. It is to be stressed also that the dastard act took place in front of your palace and before your very eyes.
“I therefore have the directive of His Excellency, the Governor of Kwara State, to demand for an explanation from you on the cause of the incident and the role played by your personage.
“Your response is expected to reach this office within 48 hours of the receipt of this letter.”
Ibrahim Adebara, a member of the royal family, told PREMIUM TIMES the letter was so disrespectful to the throne that it referred to the king merely as ‘Alhaji Adebara AbdulKadiri.’
He added that the letter was delivered to the palace on December 29 “unconventionally” – through a commercial motorcyclist.
The palace responded to the government’s query on December 30.
The traditional ruler said the police had arrested some suspected masterminds of the Sallah day violence before they were “obviously embarrassed” by the Department of Public Prosecution’s advice.
He added that the case had been taken over by the Inspector General of Police’s office for further investigation.
“I wish to emphasize that my loyal subjects and I were in a celebratory mood, the attack was a surprise, carried out in cold blood and unprovoked,” the traditional ruler said.
“It was particularly a surprise (because) such had never happened in Jebba. We are doing our best to ensure that justice is done, and we are confident this is also the interest of government.”
Ibrahim Adebara described the entire incident as “shameful.”
“You can imagine that the state government did not issue a statement to condemn the attack on the Oba,” Ibrahim Adebara told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We wrote to the Speaker of the House as well as various committees in the House after the attack, we did not get any response.
“The latest move now is that they are planning to make an announcement to banish the Oba from the community.”
Babatunde Ajeigbe, the Kwara State Commissioner for Information, did not respond to repeated phone calls and text messages.
‘THEY ATTACKED OUR PEOPLE’
Weeks after the incident, Bukola Saraki, the Senate president, mandated Abdulraheem Adisa, a former commissioner in the state, to brief him on what transpired in Jebba on July 6th.
In his report obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Adisa, who served as commissioner when Mr. Saraki was the state governor, noted that from all available records, the Adebara family had always been favoured as the authentic group that has the right of claim over the land in Jebba town as well as the ownership of the traditional throne.
The report accused the Okedare family of being used by external agents to foment trouble with the Adebara family in an effort to forcefully depose Oba Adebara from office.
“It may interest Your Excellency to note that the suit filed by the State Government in 2006 against the Oba of Jebba saw him being railroaded to Oke-Kura Prison Yard in Ilorin for 19 days before he was eventually accepted to bail,” the report, dated August 4, 2016, stated.
“That unprecedented episode has since created some wounds in not only the mind of the affected Oba but also members of his enlarged family and the diverse peoples of Jebba, who are not up till this moment convinced that the act perpetrated then was not the handiwork of members of the Okedare family…
“I may wish at this juncture to draw Your Excellency’s attention to the fact that both the Oba of Jebba and the Ohoro of Shao have suffered the same fate of the withdrawal of their grading as Third Class Chiefs twice (1984 and 2003) by past administrations in Kwara State for no just cause or good reason other than what might be described as sentimental.”
Mr. Adisa confirmed he authored the report but declined to go into details over the phone.
PREMIUM TIMES was unable to reach Mr. Saraki and Kayode Okedare.
Phone calls and text messages were not responded or replied to.
But Kayode Okedare’s brother, Matthew Okedare, the Deputy Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, who was also accused of being behind the attack at the palace, described the Adebara family’s account of the incident as well as the Saraki committee’s report as “lies.”
“They are the people (sic) initiated the attack against our people, although I’m not there,” Mr. Okedare told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Jebba is under Emirate. We have five local governments – Ilorin East, Ilorin West, Ilorin South, Moro, and Asa. All these are emirates, there is nothing like Oba in emirate. This man is claiming that he is Oba, whoever is following Okedare, they take them as enemy.
“They started attacking people who they see as friends of Okedare or Emir of Ilorin. The same people who accompanied the so-called man who call himself Oba, the same vigilante…because on Sallah days they do engage vigilantes accompanying the emir.
“So when the fracas started they are the people shooting. They are just claiming Okedare… up till this time what is their achievement? Can they name anybody?”
Mr. Okedare said the bus and motorcycles torched during the fracas were conveying supporters of his elder brother back from the prayer ground.
“So is it Okedare that burn the vehicle conveying themselves again? They burn the vehicle, they shot the vehicle, they burn two motorcycles. The Adebara children did that. The vehicle is at Jebba police station now. You’ll see 25 points on the vehicle. So they are just formulating lies about,” Mr. Okedare said.
The lawmaker’s claim addresses what observers say is the root cause of the crisis in Jebba. The state government and several prominent personalities in the state refuse to recognise Mr. Adebara as a monarch despite a court pronouncement.
The lawmaker also said the court judgment affirming Mr. Adebara’s legitimacy as the traditional ruler of Jebba with a third class status is among the lies being spread by the family.
“Whoever challenged them in court? Nobody ever challenged them. What happened in the court ruling, the case against the state government and the man who claim himself to be Oba, there was a gazette that said nobody…. because during the Lawal time, you know politicians when they are looking for election, so he created many posts, he created that of Jebba, that of Shao, he created even his own father at Ilorin, unceremonial Grade One Oba.”
“All those have been cancelled. That is the time he denied that he’s not calling himself Oba. Which court ruling they are saying about telling people lies?”
An Ilorin High court did, indeed, pronounce that the Kwara State government was unable to prove their accusation of impersonation against Mr. Adebara, according to a copy of the 82-page court judgment seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
Judge H.O Ajayi said the state government failed “to prove its accusation of impersonation against the traditional ruler beyond reasonable doubt as required in a criminal matter.”
Mr. Okedare also denied his elder brother was ever declared wanted by the police, despite evidence to the contrary.
“Is it Okedare that shot the vehicle, burn the vehicle, burn the motorcycles that accompanied them? Police have done investigations.
“He (Kayode Okedare) was never declared wanted,” Mr. Okedare insisted.
“When the thing happened that very day, those people they sent soldiers, those soldiers at the bridge entrance to Jebba, those people some of them are friends to the Adebara family, they used soldiers to go and bombard his house.
“But he was able to escape from that house, because DPO was there, he left him. The following day, he reported to the state CID. He passed all the due process of police scrutiny.”