Tension in Iwo as Oluwo triggers fresh controversy over Iwo Day celebration

Abdulrasheed Akanbi
Oluwo of Iwo, AbdulRasheed Akanbi

The crisis rocking the forthcoming Iwo Day celebration, an annual event of the people of Iwo land, has further degenerated following the standoff between the town’s monarch, Abdulrasheed Akanbi and members of the Iwo Board of Trustees(IBOT).

The President of the IBOT, Oluremi Atanda, a revered personality in the town, on Wednesday tendered his resignation along his two deputy, Bola Asafa and his Secretary-General, Tayo Giwa.

A statement issued by Gbolagde A.W, on behalf of the Secretary-General of IBOT, said the officials resigned due to “circumstances beyond their control.”

PREMIUM TIMES however learnt that they left in protest of the Kabiyesi’s insistence and the manner he had handled the efforts to resolve the matter.

At issue is the date of the Iwo Day celebration, traditionally the third Saturday of every December and which the Oluwo seeks to change for reasons believed by those opposed to him for ‘his personal convenience’.

A meeting of the planning committee on Sunday was disrupted by angry youths in support of the Oluwo, triggering tension in the town and sending signals that there might be security breaches if the crisis continues.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on telephone, the Oluwo said he would be attending to a very important matter affecting the development of the Iwo town on December 16, the traditional date of the ceremony.

He said the people should respect his opinion as the king, to change the date from 16 to 23 December when he would have arrived from his trip.

According to him, the Iwo Day belongs to him and he should be present at the event, in which he would not want to be represented.

“They have been trampling on the past kings in Iwo land, no respect. But this time, it will not happen. I am the king of Iwo land, and without the crown there will be no Iwo,” he said.

“The controversy that you see is not anything. It is a breach for anyone to contest when the Oba says the Iwo Day is moved to the next day. Even if he says it is cancelled for the entire year, there should not be any problem.

“In this land there will not be any chaos, but some people will like to test the king, because the past kings, they tested them and dictated for them. It is not about advising. If you are advising me it’s different.

“But some people want to dictate. Even in chieftaincy, they want to dictate. They have tried it with other kings and they were successful, but during my time it is not going to be like that. The town has been going backward because of lack of leadership, but now I have brought leadership, I am a decisive leader.

“I will not be available on the 16th. I have something very, very important for the progress of the people and success of the land which I have been working on for the past two months. I have spent money, it is a great mission that I must be there, and it has been settled, and I have told the people.

“You can do Josiah Day, you can do IWAC Day, that is not my business. If I choose, I can come there or not. But for Iwo Day, it is for the king. Go and check the fake I.V they made for that day, you will see that they wrote it there, ‘His Imperial Majesty, Oluwo of Iwo land cordially invites…’ and yet they claim I am just a visitor to the Iwo Day, how can that be and yet I am the one inviting people.

“It is a contradiction. Without the crown, there will be no Iwo. The crown owns Iwo, and therefore, Iwo Day. It’s like saying you want to register Nigeria Day and you say the President is not important. IBOT agrees that it is the Oba’s day and the can decide which day he wants, and the Oba has decided December the 23rd. but some miscreants are trying to skip the power of the Oba. They want to make themselves somebody and they are nobody.”

The Oluwo added that those who disrupted the meeting of the planning committee were youths protesting “peacefully” in support of his position on the Iwo Day celebration and were not thugs.

He said he had asked them “to cool down” otherwise, the town would have been in flames, adding that there would be no breach of the peace as long as he was the traditional ruler of Iwo.

He said politicians in Iwo should leave Iwo Day for him, because it was his day, and should allow him to decide what date the event should hold.

Commissioner for Special Duties, Osun State, Oguntola Toogun, a member of the IBOT, in his narrative on the crisis, said the monarch was overreaching his powers in trying to foist on the people a date alien to the Iwo Day celebration.

According to him, the event had been celebrated since 1980, and in all the instances where the town’s traditional ruler would not be present, he sent a representative, adding that there had not been any time the event was shifted for reasons of clashing with the Oluwo’s other engagements.

“About one week and a half ago, the Kabiyesi said he was shifting the Iwo Day by one week. He did not tell anybody about it earlier because the planning committee had been making preparations since the last Iwo Day,” Mr. Toogun said.

“We said no, he cannot shift it. Iwo Day has become an institution. If we have to shift it, then the energy and all the resources put into it will become a waste. Iwo Action Council and Iwo Development Council are the two bodies that constitute the Iwo Day planning Committee under the umbrella of the Iwo Board of Trustees.

“I told him that he cannot change it, but he said he will change it. I told him that the power of the oba is not so important that he is ascribing to himself. He is answerable to the Chairman of the Local Council, who is the Chief Security Officer of the council, and under the law the traditional ruler must get permission from the Governor before he can travel outside his domain. He is not as important as he thinks, he should allow peace to reign. He said no.”

Mr. Toogun recalled that the first three Iwo Day from 1980 when it started had no traditional ruler on the throne attending because there was none at the time.

He also recalled that when Oba Tadese reigned, there was an Iwo Day that clashed with his OON award by Mr. President. He said the monarch sent a representative and went to Abuja for the award. “Thereafter, two consequent Iwo Day celebrations were done without the presence of the Oluwo. He sent the Osa to represent him,” Mr. Toogun added.

He noted that the meeting on Sunday was disrupted by thugs mobilised by the Oluwo and that he was almost killed by the attacking mob.

He explained that the last Iwo Day attended by the current Oluwo was the worst Iwo Day ever held, saying the monarch arrived the event at 2.30pm when all the important guest had left, because he went to attend a wedding ceremony held by a popular Yoruba actor, Baba Suwe, for his child.

According to Mr. Toogun, that wedding he attended went contrary to the regulation which the Oluwo himself instituted that no event should hold in the town on Iwo Day.

He said by Saturday, more members of the IBOT and the planning committee would resign following the Oluwo’s conduct so far.

He said the town’s stakeholders had agreed that the Iwo Day celebration would go ahead on 16 December, a date already well publicised and that all sons and daughters of Iwo at home and abroad were conscious of.

He said it would be difficult to go back to those who had been invited for the event to announce a change in date when invitation cards had been sent and all arrangements made for the celebration.

Meanwhile, the President of the Iwo Action Council(IWAC), Jire Anyila, is hopeful that there could still be a middle ground for all parties, but noted that the resignation of Mr. Atanda and his deputies was a result of the monarch’s action who he said misrepresented the outcome of a meeting they held with him in his palace.

The Oluwo had issued a statement that the matters had been resolved with the IBOT and other elders and that it was agreed that the date should be shifted.

Mr. Atanda said that position was untrue, as the IBOT President and other elders only went to plead with the monarch to consider the traditional date for the sake of sustaining the tempo of the celebration.

“They resigned because what they said at the meeting with the Kabiyesi is not what was made public at the end of the day,” Mr. Ayinla said.

He however, noted that a meeting of IWAC and IBOT would hold on Thursday and by Friday the issues and stand of the stakeholders would be made clearer.

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