A timely intervention by the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, may have averted a major crisis involving the Oluwo of Iwo, Abdurasheed Akanbi and his palace chiefs on one hand, and the Iwo Board of Trustees (IBOT) and other stakeholders on the other over the staging of the annual Iwo Day festival.
The controversy reached a peak when the leadership of IBOT resigned their positions in protest against the Oluwo’s decision that the Iwo Day celebration, which traditionally held on the third Saturday of every December in the last 20 years, should be shifted to the fourth Saturday.
The disagreement whether the Iwo Day should hold on the third Saturday, which was December 16 or the fourth Saturday, December 23, threatened the holding of the event which attracts sons and daughters of Iwo land at home and abroad on a yearly basis.
Besides the resignation of members of IBOT, other stakeholders, such as members of the Iwo Action Council, (IWAC) led by Jire Anyinla, had shown apathy, threatening to boycott the event if it fails to hold on December 16 as scheduled.
Mr. Akanbi’s reason for the shift was simply that he would not be available at the event if it holds on the said date since he would be attending another important event outside Iwo during the period.
The monarch was said to have been incensed by the suggestion by one of the stakeholders that he should send a representative to the Iwo Day if he would not be around to attend it.
The Oluwo had told PREMIUM TIMES that the Iwo Day belongs to him and he would decide when it holds. He further said if he declares that the event should not hold at all, it would be so.
However, IBOT hinged their stand on the traditional date on the fact that all the necessary arrangements had been made, with invitation cards sent out to the special guests to the occasion.
The board, which also doubles as the organiser of the event, believed that changing the date would drive down the momentum of mobilisation which had already risen in favour of the event, as it was also meant to serve as a fund raiser for the development of the town.
The Osun State Commissioner for Special Duties, Oguntola Toogun, an Iwo son, and a partaker in the preparation for the celebration was particularly irked by the fact that the Oluwo would not consider the energy and finances already expended in the preparations before postponing it.
He argued that previous Iwo monarchs had the tradition of sending representatives to the event when they had engagements clashing with the Iwo Day event, and the present Oluwo should rather take a cue from his predecessors.
Some youth supporting the Oluwo later disrupted a meeting of the board of trustees as they protested the resistance waged by IBOT against the wishes of the monarch.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said that, ”no other Iwo Day that would hold after December 16”, just as the Oluwo insisted that, ”there was no Iwo Day without the Oluwo’s presence.”
While many Iwo sons and daughters had concluded that the standoff between the monarch and his subjects had jeopardised this year’s celebration, Governor Aregbesola stepped in and succeeded in persuading both parties to shift grounds, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
In two separate meetings held in Osogbo between the governor and the parties, the governor succeeded in getting both parties to reach a truce.
The event has now been scheduled for Saturday, December, 23 as earlier proposed by the Oluwo.
However, the governor got IBOT to agree on the new date on the grounds that he would mitigate the financial losses suffered already as a result of the postponement and also raise financial support for the celebration.
It was gathered that the governor also persuaded the chairman of IBOT, Oluremi Atanda, to withdraw his earlier resignation.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the governor had declared that the shift in the date would only be allowed for this year alone.
He said henceforth, the Iwo Day would hold every third Saturday of December of every year and that no shift in the date would be allowed, ”even if the Oluwo would have an engagement elsewhere.”
A statement from the governor’s office which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES said stakeholders from Iwo on Wednesday night agreed that, as from next year, 2018, Iwo Day celebrations will be taking place every third Saturday of December.
“Governor Aregbesola expressed his readiness to support the 2017 Iwo Day during a meeting with the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Adewale Akanbi and members of the Iwo Board of Trustees, led by its President, Dr. Oluremi Atanda,” the statement read.
“The Governor said his financial intervention became germane as a result of the urgent need to lessen effects of the unanticipated change in the date of the annual event which had earlier been slated for its traditional, usual third (Saturday of )December of every year, which fell on December 16, this year.
“Governor Aregbesola expressed sympathy with members of the organising committee whom he lauded for their dedication towards the 2017 Iwo Day, saying the circumstances that led to the change in the date for this year was regrettable.
“The Oluwo of Iwo also called on all Iwo indigenes to join him in his desire to take the city to a new enviable height.”
Fresh invitations have since been issued to invitees, signalling the end of the faceoff.