As 2018 approaches, Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State is trying to connect the entire state, in a calculated attempt at hastening development. However, a road construction from Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, projected to link Ikere-Ekiti with other areas of the state, almost resulted in the breakdown of law and order in Ikere. Governor Fayose was, therefore, forced to abandon other official engagements to visit Ikere town in an effort to resolve a problem regarding a sacred tree that was to be pulled down. The road construction work at Ikere had to be halted for three weeks before Fayose’s personal intervention.
While His Imperial Majesty, Oba Samuel Adejimi Adu-Alagado, Agirilala-Ogbenuotesoro II, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti, gave permission for the tree to be pulled down, claimant to the throne Oba Ayodele Ganiyu Obasoyin, the Olukere of Ikere, said the sacred tree cannot be pulled down “because my life as the Olukere of Ikere is attached to the sacred tree.”
On why the tree cannot be pulled down, to pave way for the development of the town, the Olukere of Ikere said: “Contrary to all falsehood being peddled around the tree in question, it is not in the way of the road being constructed. The tree is at the Village Square, where Governor Fayose met with the people of the town on the very day he visited Ikere.
“The problem arose over the cutting down of a tree, which is revered and regarded as sacred by our people. Initially, the problem was mismanaged and wrong information was given to the governor. The road in question is from Oke-Ikere to Ikere town, all through to Odo Oja Roundabout. This particular road is a Federal Government road and begins from Ado-Ekiti to Akure.
“It is unfortunate that some people in government were just trying to make a big deal out of nothing. This particular problem was almost allowed to spin out of control when the Governor had to personally intervene. We thank the Governor for his prompt action. Sometime early this year, we sat down with him and thrashed out the details of what to do and he agreed to work on the dual carriageway, a major road that passes through Ikere town to continue without any hindrance.
“Some of our deities sited along where the road passes would have to be relocated. This was when the construction of the dual carriageway was about to start. So, some of my chiefs and I had to meet with Governor Fayose over the matter. At the spot in question, we had about five different deities/monuments. Before the road construction started, this spot was where the community usually performed the yearly “Oloshita” Festival. In 2016, Governor Fayose was there with us to celebrate that year’s festival. After our discussion with government, it was agreed that four of these deities would be removed, and placed close to the sacred tree at the town square. This is because we all agreed that the tree in question is sacred and can’t be removed from its present position. That tree has been there since the founding of Ikere-Ekiti. It was at this particular point that Ikere-Ekiti was founded.
“After we had officially reached these conclusions, the chief priest of the community, who was also with us at that meeting, was asked to calculate whatever it would cost to relocate these deities and take to the state Ministry of Works, so that all the relevant rites could be performed before relocation of the deities near the sacred tree. Expectedly, the State Commissioner for Works came and met with the representatives of the community and I, alongside the chief priest in my palace. This was after our initial meeting with the state governor. After this second meeting, my chiefs and I, alongside the state government representatives, moved to the town square to see things, as they were physically on the ground. It was at that spot at the village square that government engineer from state ministry of works and the construction company’s representative, who was also with us, brought out the new design of the town square for us to examine. Before leaving, we agreed that the sacred tree would not be affected by the construction.
“It was the second day after this visit when the commissioner called that the chief priest should come to collect the money approved by the government for the relocation of all the other deities from their initial location to somewhere near the sacred tree. When the chief priest and other people that accompanied him returned, they brought the sum of N850, 000. The chief priest said that was the amount they were given, from the initial amount requested for, which was N1, 550, 000. The chief priest said the commissioner told him that Governor Fayose only approved N1m for the rites, but that the commissioner ended up giving him N850, 000.
“When they brought the money, I had to summon all the priests in the three-quarters of the town, who assembled and decided on what to do and how to spend the money. It was after this that they removed the deities/monuments from their former places and temporarily placed them near the Sacred tree while waiting for the construction to be completed before repositioning them permanently. This was all needed for the road construction work to continue unhindered.
“To the surprise of many people in Ikere, around February or March, the so-called Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti, who has no stake in Ikere town, intervened. Even though he claims to be the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti, the people of Ikere-Ekiti never related with him as their Oba. This is a man who tells whosoever cares to listen that “he is a tenant, who has become more powerful than the landlord.” Honestly, Ogoga has nothing to do with our people, when it comes to spiritual, cultural and traditional matters. He went on air on a television programme to rupture our peace by saying: ‘The Sacred tree should be pulled down to give right of way to the road being constructed.’ This was when our people got offended and rose in anger.
“Recently on a Sunday, I got a call from one of the priests saying Governor Fayose was about to visit the town, that I should ensure I was around during the visit. With this information, I drove straight from Ado-Ekiti, where I was when the call came to the Town Square, where I met the governor. After exchanging pleasantries, Governor Fayose said: ‘Well, this tree must be pulled down, as it is in the centre of the road, hindering the construction.’ I responded: ‘Sir, we had earlier sorted out this particular issue months ago. Why is the matter coming up now? Is it because Ogoga said he would ensure that this tree is pulled down?’ I pleaded with the Governor to see things with me, as the community would do everything within its powers to ensure that this particular tree was not pulled down. I pleaded with His Excellency that I would not want crises in my hands. As this argument was going back and forth, the whole Ikere community was already assembled at the town square, telling the governor not to attempt to remove the tree.”
“Even as I kept pleading with the governor, he said: ‘No, no and no! You know, when I talk, that is final. I don’t have to change my decision here, as this tree has to be removed at all cost.’ It was at this point that I told him, ‘Your Excellency, my life as the Olukere of Ikere is attached to this tree, which can only be pulled down when the Olukere of Ikere is killed. If you pull down this particular tree, it is a kind of announcement to Ikere people that their king has been killed.’ I further told him: ‘Sir, why would you want to do a thing like this to me? If your order is eventually carried out, it is like you trying to kill me while alive. Of what benefit will that be to you, Your Excellency or to the state government if you unceremoniously killed me, while I am still alive?’ It was at this point that sanity prevailed and the governor rescinded his decision.”
However, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Samuel Adejimi Adu-Alagado, Agirilala-Ogbenuotesoro II, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti’s side of the story goes thus: “I was not the person that wanted the tree removed at all cost. The tree in question was planted at that spot by Alade-Uselu, the first Benin man that founded Ikere. If you want, I can take you to the spot, where Alade-Uselu sited the shrines in the places in question. So, when the issue of relocation of the deities and monuments arose, the Governor called me. He said he heard that there were some shrines in some places on the road to be constructed, and I replied: ‘Yes, Ikere people will take care of its removal.’ After that, I called the Alade-Uselu family and told them: ‘your progenitor sited these shrines where they are presently located. What do we do to remove them, now that a road is about to pass through the place? It is you people that know the origin and things used in siting these shrines. I don’t want these shrines to obstruct civilisation and progress of Ikere-Ekiti.’
“After some days, members of that family came to tell me here in my palace that they will relocate the shrines. They demanded a certain amount of money for the rites to be performed. It amounted to N152, 000, and I issued them a cheque of N200, 000. After that, I wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Works and attached a photocopy of the cheque I issued, stating: ‘Honourable Commissioner, the governor has told me that construction works on this road will continue in January. I told him that by December of 2016, the relocation of the deities and monuments in the way of the road would have been completed. So, you can resume your work on the road by January of 2017.’
“By the way, if there is a tree obstructing construction works on a major road, why should it not be removed? After all, some houses were demolished in the process of constructing this particular road, and heavens did not fall. As far as I am concerned, a tree is just symbolic, and if it has to give way to civilisation, why not? In the olden days, some rites and customs permitted the killing of people, who were buried with kings, when they joined their ancestors. That practice has long been abolished due to civilisation. In those days in Ikere town, when a family had twins, it was regarded an abomination and taboo. Such a woman would be driven into the bush because it was the belief then that the birth of twins was a strange thing, but this is no longer the case. Today, twins are celebrated in this town. Is this not part of civilisation? The tree in question is at the centre of a major road that passes through to Akure from Ado-Ekiti. If the tree is left at its present spot, it means if we were going to do any festival in the town of Ikere, we would have to block a major road. That, to me, does not make sense and does not show that we are embracing civilisation as a people.
“We had a bigger tree in the past, which was pulled down when some prayer warriors told ex-governor Olumiluwa that if he ever wanted to become governor of Ekiti State that particular tree needed to be pulled down, and it was done. Heavens did not fall. What this man, who is claiming to be an Oba is doing, is sheer mischief, which will not help him in the long run. The press, I must say, is not helping matters, by addressing him as an Oba. He is not an Oba and will never be one, by the grace of Almighty God. Journalists are supposed to be well versed in culture and traditional matters. Has Obasoyin ever shown anybody his certificate and staff of office as an Oba? No. He is not an Oba, please.”