In the pre-colonial era, Obas in Yorubaland were the highest authorities and the council of Obas was the supreme decision-making body. People awarded respects to traditional titles holders, because of the intelligence and their moral values attached to the positions. Even during the colonial regime in Nigeria, our traditional rulers were the leaders, who the colonial masters were interacting with. Whatever the monarchs said at that time bounded on their subjects, without any question from members of the community.
That signified the respect, trust and loyalty the people had for the traditional rulers then. That occurred, not because of their powers, but because of the confidence people had in their traditional institutions, as a based on the goodwill, character and humanitarian services of the traditional rulers. Holding traditional titles in Yorubaland signifies the honour and the contribution of the holder, to the development of his or her immediate society. Monarchs, traditional chiefs were highly respected because of their values in the society.
Recent unfolding events across the country, particularly in Osun State, have severely dented the integrity of the traditional rulers, our custodians of culture and values. Issues of a monarch raping a corps member, traditional ruler beating his wife, dethronement of monarchs are no longer news in the country. However, it is still strange to hear a traditional ruler in Yorubaland forcing a 14-year old girl, small enough to be his granddaughter to marry him.
A case of marrying a minor and human rights abuses being handled by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Osun State Branch, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone II and the Osun State Police Command, has further smeared the image of traditional institutions in the state.
Esther Alake was just 14 years old, when the Owemoloore of Odo-Owemo-Ijesa, Oba Oginini Aderogba, allegedly abducted her and subjected her to housewife activities, including sexual intercourse. Oba Aderogba, an octogenarian, abducted Esther on the pretence of obtaining the West African Examination Council (WAEC) form for her in August 2007. The traditional ruler took her to Ibadan, after deceiving her parents with the pretence that he would obtain WAEC form for her and as well supervise her examinations.
Narrating her experience, Esther said; “I met Oba Aderogbo Oginni, popularly called Adagin, sometime in 2007 in Ilesa, when he came to visit someone at a location close to our shop in Ilesa. He was like a father to me and he, even before the incident, had conferred a traditional chieftaincy title on my father. He asked me why I had not obtained WAEC form and I explained to him that we could not afford the cost. He then gave us N10, 000 to obtain the form, but as at that time, the form submission had closed before we could obtain it. Baba (Aderogba) then took me to Ibadan on the guise that he was going to obtain the WAEC form for me in 2007. When I got to his house, located No 3, Owemo Villa, Sawmill, Old Ife Road, in Ibadan, he did not obtain any WAEC form for me again.
“Some days after, I could no longer understand what was happening to me. I was confused. All I knew was that Baba had turned me to his housewife. Sometimes, he gave me fetish objects to eat, drink or rub on my body. I became fatter day by day. I regained my consciousness one day and I challenged Baba on why he turned me into his wife, instead of obtaining the WAEC form he had earlier promised my parents for me. Instead of providing any explanation, baba beat me mercilessly. He later got injured while beating me. All baba’s children were treating me as a wife to their father, but I was unable to conceive then.
“Sometime in 2009, two old people came to baba’s house in Ibadan, accusing him of using their daughter, Laitan for ritual purpose. Sister Laitan was Baba’s girlfriend. She got sick and became very lean before her death. She eventually died in April 2009. Laitan’s parents came to our house after her death and they beat up Oba Aderogba, who they alleged of killing their daughter. He threatened to arrest Laitan’s parents when they were harassing him. He later promised to take care of them and that they should forget about Laitan. I asked Oba Aderogba, if he knew anything about Laitan’s death and he then told me that she died because she was HIV positive. I still asked him why he did not contact HIV from Laitain and he replied that anybody above 60-years-old could not contact HIV. That was how he deceived me.
“I returned to Ilesa in November 2011, when baba returned to Odowemo from Ibadan for his staff of office. I rushed to my mother’s house and I explained to her what I passed through while staying with Baba. That was how I escaped from him”. Baba had since been threatening and intimidating my family members and my fiancé with policemen.
Explaining why she released her daughter to Oba Aderogba, Esther’s mother, Mrs. Debora Alake said; “In 2007, when Oba Aderogba came to our house, he asked why my daughter, Esther Alake was yet to enroll for WAEC and Esther told him that we could not raise enough fund for the examination fee. Oba Aderogba then gave us N10, 000 for the WAEC form, but we could not obtain the form before it closed. Oba Aderogba then said he could help Esther to obtain the form in Ibadan and that his children would also sit for the WAEC exam with Esther. He therefore urged me to release Esther to him. I initially objected on the grounds that I could not lose my daughter out of my sight. Oba Aderogba then prevailed on my husband, who persuaded me to release our daughter to the monarch and I eventually concurred.
“I expected my daughter to come back within three days and when I did not hear anything from her, I called Oba Aderogba to ask about Esther. He told me it was not yet time for her to return. He said he had not obtained the WAEC form for her yet. I reported this to my husband, who told me to relax, saying that Oba Aderogba was like a father to him. Esther later returned after four months with strange behaviours. She failed to relate with me as she used to do before she left for Ibadan. I sensed something was amiss and I called my husband’s attention to it. We summoned Oba Aderogba with the help of other people to seek explanation on what had happened to Esther.
Oba Aderogba then told us that Esther had agreed to marry him, while she stayed with him in Ibadan. He threatened to abduct Esther if we failed to release her to him for marriage. I was surprised when Esther left the meeting with Oba Aderogba for Ibadan without even saying goodbye to her parents. I threatened to report the case to police, but people prevailed on me not to do that. She (Esther) refused to either call or come back home for almost three years, while staying in Ibadan with Oba Aderogba. I didn’t know how to contact or trace her in Ibadan.
When Oba Aderogba eventually returned to Odowemo from Ibadan for his staff of office in November 2010, Esther came with him and she told me that she was confused and that she could no longer understand what she was doing. She told me that Oba Aderogba had turned her to his housewife and that he did not obtain any WAEC for her. I then took Esther to various churches for deliverance, because I realised she had been hypnotized. That was how I separated Esther from Oba Aderogba and since then, he had been threatening my family members.
She added: “Sometimes in June this year, Oba Aderogba stormed my house with policemen from Ibadan accusing Esther of conspiring with some people to steal his N560, 000 from his house in Ibadan. The police arrested Esther’s fiancé, Bayo. The police arrested and took Bayo to a Police Station at Challenge Area, Ibadan, where he was detained. When I got to Ibadan, I explained my ordeal to the police and they were very surprised. While at the police station, two elderly men came in and informed the police that Oba Aderogba was a ritualist, who used young girls for rituals. They alleged that he had used a lady called Laitan for rituals in Ibadan. We were told that Laitan’s parents had attacked Oba Aderogba for using their daughter for ritual.
The police insisted on taking the case to court, but Oba Aderogba failed to prosecute it. I could no longer bear the pains and humiliation I suffered from the monarch and that was why I reported the case to the Committee for the Defence of Human Right (CDHR) for help.
Oba Aderogba had in April 2011, sued Esther and her mother at an Ilesa High Court, alleging them of terminating his three-month-old pregnancy, which he claimed was conceived for him, while Esther was with him. In the statement of claim attached to the suit numbered HIL/37/2011, the monarch claimed that Esther was his wife and that she packed-out of her matrimonial home in January 2011. The monarch added that Esther and her mother violently attacked him when they were packing-out Esther’s load, maintaining that he sustained injuries during the attack. However, the monarch has so far failed to prosecute the case at the court for reasons best known to him.
The state Chairman of CDHR, Comrade Rufus Oyatoro, has since petitioned Osun State governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Zone II, the Osun State Police Command and the Area Commander, Testing Ground, Ibadan. In the petition, Oyatoro reaffirmed that Esther Alake was a minor, when Oba Aderogba abducted her for the unholy marriage and that the refusal of the young lady to continue with the monarch marked the Alake’s family travails. The human rights crusader demanded for full investigation into the matter and proper prosecution of anybody found wanton.
However, OSUN DEFNDER learnt that the State Criminal Investigation Department of the Police Command had interrogated Esther and her mother last week Tuesday. As the time of filling this report, the police had not interrogated Oba Aderogba.