Some interesting details on why the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, might have ‘snubbed’ the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, at a public function recently, have emerged days after conflicting reasons were churned out by both the palace and concerned individuals seeking an effective management of the situation.
A source, who is a close friend and business associate of the Ooni, told THISDAY last night that the incident involving the two traditional rulers may not be unconnected to past business encounter between the two of them.
The sources told THISDAY that there was an unpleasant engagement between the Ooni and Oba Akiolu, before he became the Ife monarch.
As a businessman and property developer, the source said, Ooni had bought a large expanse of land on the Island for a certain project, a deal said to have been sealed and delivered with those concerned, including all the financial commitments resolved.
Oba Akiolu was said to have gotten wind of the deal later and allegedly stopped the development even when Ooni had invested hugely in it. But as one with royal upbringing, Ooni was said to have sought audience with the Lagos Oba and pleaded with him, reeling out details of how far he had come with the project.
But the Oba of Lagos, the source further said, declined all entreaties and insisted that for any development to continue on the property, Ooni must pay royalty, which was said to be running into several millions of naira.
“It was a lot of money, that even the Ooni was shocked Oba Akiolu could demand of him,” sources alleged.
Unfortunately, for the Ooni, it was said to be a large sum at that time for him because he had put in so much into the very development and found it difficult to raise the money.
He therefore sought Oba Akiolu’s understanding and pleaded for a reduction, which Akiolu allegedly declined to grant, insisting he either pays the sum or forgets about the development.
Thus, the Ooni, the source said, quickly rallied some of his dependable friends for assistance before he came up with the money. But as fate would have it, a few months after this encounter, Ogunwusi became the Ooni of Ife.
“That is the truth of this bitterness, at least, what we can link this to. The Oba of Lagos hasn’t completely gotten over the emergence of ‘Yeye and against the backdrop of how he treated him…
“We were always at the palace in Idugaran nearly every day, prostrating for Akiolu with ‘Yeye, just for him to relax his stand a bit, but he was adamant as if his sole aim was to jeopardise the project. ‘Yeye was at the palace for many days, only going to beg and plead with the Oba to reduce what he was asking for and not to dissuade him from asking for what was due to him. But all fell on deaf ears.
“’Yeye was forced to raise that money because a lot was at stake. But even if ‘Yeye had not become Ooni, he still has his respect for age and the throne as a child born into royalty, who was also raised with strict adherence to tradition. I mean, apart from that, ‘Yeye has never had any untoward interaction with Oba Akiolu that would warrant snubbing him in public the way he did.”
Efforts by THISDAY last night to get the palace of the Oba of Lagos to react to the allegation were futile.
Interestingly, the Lagos palace has come out amid the controversy to defend Oba Akiolu, saying the Lagos Oba did not snub the Ooni but only greeted him in line with the old tradition of the state.
One of the White Cap Chiefs, Lateef Aderibigbe Ajose, Opeluwa Onido of Lagos, who spoke on behalf of the palace contended that Oba Akiolu did not ignore the Ooni but that his response to Ooni’s greetings was the standard response and the culturally acclaimed way of greeting by a Lagos monarch.
He said each tribe had its own peculiar way of greetings and that the Oba of Lagos was basically trying to revive the culture and tradition of ancient Lagos with his greetings.
“The sign by Oba Akiolu signifies, ‘inu mi, inu e’, the culture of greeting in Lagos. If Oba Akiolu wanted to ignore, he would have turned his face away from Ooni,” he said.
But before the palace came public with its defence, the story that was in circulation in defence of the Lagos Oba was that he was visually impaired, having been allegedly battling glaucoma for almost 21 years, meaning he probably did not see the Ooni. Akiolu was reported to have publicly admitted this.
Although the Lagos monarch has been seen in recent times being ushered round by someone in public, an indication that he might truly be suffering sight problem, the palace defence has however punctured that narrative.
Meanwhile, Ooni’s palace has dismissed whatever happened at the event, saying he would continue to respect Oba Akiolu, because his main agenda as the Ooni was to foster unity amongst the traditional rulers in the country and South-west in particular.
“Nobody should castigate anybody for doing what he did because of the position he holds and because of his age. Ooni would not stop according his colleagues and every category of people the respect they deserve.
“The Ooni of Ife is not ready to make any official statement over what happened between him and the Oba of Lagos. He still holds Oba Akiolu in high esteem and what happened yesterday will not stop the Ooni from holding him in high esteem,” Ooni’s media office said.
Yet, the second reaction by the Palace of Ooni stated that, “Kabiyesi Ogunwusi is committed to his peace and unity agenda, which he has embarked on since he ascended the throne of his forefathers. We refrain from reacting officially, with a view to avoiding fanning any ember of discord as Oba Akiolu remains a respected monarch and the Ooni had established a very robust and healthy relationship with him before his installation as Ooni of Ife.”
Oba Akiolu was captured on video snubbing the Ooni at a public function on April 25 and the video has since gone viral. The 27-second video shows the Ooni as he arrived at the venue of an event, in Lagos, where he first exchanged pleasantries with the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe, and they both hugged.
But as the Ooni made to greet Oba Akiolu, who was next on the row to the Obi of Onitsha, he stylishly rebuffed him by waving his hand in a scowl. The development has since caused a rage amongst the people, all of whom condemned Akiolu’s action.