Prince Muideen Adebiyi Abisogun is a member of the Omowumi Abisogun Oniru Ruling House and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees set up to select the new Oniru of Iruland, Lagos. But the recent installation of Oba Gbolahan Lawal as the Oniru of Iruland has been rejected by some members of the family. Adebiyi tells GBENRO ADEOYE about the intrigues involved and how Oba Lawal emerged as Oniru
Why is there a division in one of the ruling houses in Iruland – Omowumi Abisogun Oniru House – over the installation of Gbolahan Lawal as the new Oniru?
First, let me correct the notion that there are factions in the family. I can tell you that there are no factions in the family. Members of the Omowumi Abisogun Ruling House are united and in support of Oba Gbolahan Lawal.
So, why did some aggrieved members of the family take the matter to court and called on the Federal Government to intervene?
I don’t believe the matter is in court because we have not received any court papers or been summonsed to appear in court. Well, they held a protest and it was one of the elders of the family that was behind it. I can tell you that not all his family members even joined in the protest. I mean, Alhaji Surajudeen Durosinmi.
Let me tell you about Omowumi Abisogun family. Omowumi had seven children; one died. The six children left formed the lineages we have in the family, which are Ogidan, Yemitoro, Orisayemi, Taiwo, Idowu and Fatolo. Baba Surajudeen belongs to Orisayemi. View it as a family tree with Omowumi at the top. The Orisayemi branch of the family started from Adebiyi, my forebear. After him, there was Ajose, followed by Ogunbambi. After Ogunbambi was Olaide, a woman. Olaide was Baba Surajudeen’s mother. After Olaide, there was Esubi, who didn’t have any child. Baba Surajudeen is like a father to me. Looking at the position of the children of Orisayemi, his mother would be considered as the fifth in line – fifth child out of six children. And Olaide had many children. Now, consider Baba Surajudeen’s position among Olaide’s children, and then consider that of his mother and our own. Let us now consider his position among the descendants of Omowumi and then consider his position among the descendants of Abisogun, you will see how far he is.
We have tried to meet with Baba Surajudeen to understand why he is not happy. He also had a problem with the late Oniru of Iruland, Oba Idowu Abiodun, who recently passed on. He sued him and the matter was in court till the late Oniru passed on. And now that a member of our family is on the throne, we want to see Baba Surajudeen to ask what the problem is again.
Apart from Omowumi, which other lineages or family branches are in Abisogun Ruling House?
Omowumi is one of the four family branches in Abisogun family. Abisogun has Ewumi, Omowumi, Omisade and Oresanya.
The aggrieved members of the Omowumi Abisogun Ruling House have alleged that Oba Gbolahan Lawal does not belong to the family, which of the family branches is from?
Kabiyesi (Oba Gbolahan Lawal) is from Ewumi.
What about the allegation that it is his mother that is from Abisogun family while his father is from the Ojora family, shouldn’t he be seeking to ascend the throne in Ijora?
I believe such things only come up when there are disagreements. That is when you would hear things like ‘he is not one of us; his mother was married into the family,’ and so on. Even the laws of Lagos State recognise the role of women.
In the tradition of the family, does a descendant of a female member of the family have a right to the throne?
Installing the child of a descendant of a female member of the family didn’t start with the new Oniru. Oba Dapo Tejuoso came from the lineage of a female member of the family and there was no objection to that. I’m happy they admitted that Oniru’s mother is from our family. Are they saying a child is not entitled to what his mother is entitled to in the family? When they share money among the descendants of our family annually, do you know it gets to the new Oniru’s mother? So where does that money come from? It comes from Oniru family.
The truth is that only God can crown anyone as king. I believe Oba Lawal was destined to be our king. They are saying he was brought to be the king, yes, that is how it happens. Many people will fight to get it but it is the person destined to get there that will get there.
Another truth is that many of us in the family are connected to it through our maternal side. For instance, Omowumi is a name given to females. Consider the privilege she must have had in her father’s family for her descendants to be qualified to ascend the throne. And all the descendants of Omowumi are accorded their due respect; nobody asked them to go to their father’s house.
The aggrieved members of Omowumi Abisogun Ruling House alleged that they were not consulted and that the installation of Lawal came as a surprise to them, do you think that is fair?
We cannot all be responsible for choosing the king. They call some people kingmakers, though because we didn’t really have that, what we did was to form a board of trustees. But many people did not want to be part of it as they were afraid of death. They said they could be killed. The initiative was new because the family that just left the throne spent 85 years there. So, when the turn of our family came, we had no kingmakers on the ground, which made us to set up the board of trustees.
Abisogun family has four branches and we picked four representatives from each of them to have 16 members. Each family branch was represented by the head of the family and three others. Then, the Olori Ebi Abisogun (head of Abisogun family) became the Olori Ebi General for the board of trustees. With him, we had 17 members in the board. I was the board chairman; in the absence of the Olori Ebi General, I could stand in for him.
The aggrieved members of the family have alleged that due process was not followed which involves consultation with an oracle, can you share the process that was followed by the board to select the new Oniru?
We considered everything but other people contested the position with our family and we needed a strong personality. A family was there for 85 years; if we presented someone that could easily be beaten, they would see us as unserious and our family could lose the position. Oniru is not a small place; I can tell you that people from Oniru will form 90 per cent of those who have investments in Eti Osa. So, others were interested in it because of their investments. If we had presented someone that could be beaten easily, our family might have to wait for another 85 years. That was why we chose to have an election. No oracle was used; we felt if we used that process, it would endorse all of them and say their time individually would be good for the people. Eventually, it would leave us to choose one of the candidates. So what else would we do if Ifa had said all four candidates would be good? There were four candidates.
The contest was between Hakeem Ajasa and Adesegun Oniru for long but suddenly, Lawal was installed, how did he come into the picture?
Adesegun is not from our lineage; he is from the lineage of the king that passed on and they were interested in continuity, but Ajasa said no. Even though, Ajasa did not eventually get there, I will call him a warrior. Initially, Kabiyesi (Oba Lawal) was not in the race but only God knows how it happened. What is involved goes beyond our knowledge too. But with faith, everyone accepted the development.
Many people suspect foul play due to this development and they alleged that a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, working through the Lagos State Government, influenced the selection of the new Oniru…
We know there is politics in everything in this country. They are pointing fingers at Tinubu, but there are things that are beyond his reasoning. There are things he just does and after three months, you will start seeing that he must have been a genius because of the decision.
But should politics be allowed in traditional institutions and in the process of selecting a king?
This would not be the only one that politics would be involved in. In the North, there is politics involved in the selection of emirs and it is also like that in the South-East. Why is so much being said about Oniru stool? If anyone of them is asked what our Kabiyesi did that makes him undeserving of the throne, they will have nothing to say. Those of us in the board of trustees are the ones that should be making a noise, but we are not doing that. We accepted it faithfully and joyfully. And the signs we have seen show God had a hand in it.
If you accepted it, have the other candidates accepted it?
Yes, have you heard that they went to court? One of them is also talking to Baba Surajudeen to find out the problem. What we want to find out from the man is what he is angry about. He was saying the kingship should come to Abisogun family and it has come to the family, what is it again?
Why did Ajasa make a last-minute decision to withdraw from the race as he was the only one left?
Only God knows everything and what is in everyone’s mind. I told you that kings are chosen by God. We were looking at Hakeem Ajasa but God said it would be Lawal.
There are allegations that some of you (family members) supporting Oba Lawal were paid by a power-broker in the state, did anyone offer you money?
If you collect money from a politician, they will say it openly that they paid kingmakers. And it will also not be easy for us to have access to the Kabiyesi because he will feel that after all, he has paid for it, so what else do we want. Even now, Kabiyesi consults with the board of trustees. And with his years of experience in the public service, he will run the affairs of Iruland very well. Those alleging that are only trying to discredit us and win public sympathy.
The new Oniru last week asked banks handling Oniru family’s finances to freeze all its accounts, don’t you think that came too soon?
If some of them were there, they would do more than that. No matter how perfect a man is, some people will want to rubbish him. One, some people were in charge of the accounts for 85 years and they were asked to account for their stewardship and they didn’t do that; the case is still in court. You know, the family properties are scattered all over. If anyone gets to a position, the first move will be to freeze accounts. It is done by public office holders like governors and presidents.
Account signatories will be changed and so on. He has not set up the body that will work with him; his signature cannot be used now. Every transaction has been suspended for now, which is a normal thing a new administration is expected to do. It is also like telling people not to buy any Oniru property and not do any business transaction with the family for now. When it is time, the accounts will be unfrozen. He already has a staff of office so he has the power to take such a decision.
If the aggrieved family members who have gone to court win, will you and others accept the decision?
Why won’t it favour us? Will they tell the court that our king is not from this family? If you say he is the child of a female member of the family, are you saying his mother is not from the family? The money they share among descendants of the family every year gets to his mother too. And when they need to contribute for anything, she contributes too. Even Baba Surajudeen who protested, he is in every way connected to the family through his maternal side. First, he is connected through Omowumi and down the family tree to Orisayemi, who had Olaide, who was his mother.