RE: THE OKERE OF SAKI.
Most Yoruba people are aware that apart from the Supreme Being they serve in their religious practices and their parents which they held in high esteem, they also have some societal authorities they must respect or serve. The Okere Chieftaincy institution as the Crown Monarch is a unique establishment that is adored and respected by the people of Saki. The imperial dynasty of Okere of Sakiland like similar monarchical institutions in the Yoruba Nation remains the bedrock of the people’s cultural institution. The institution provides a unique part of the historical essence and the pride of the people; demonstrates the positive side of the socio-cultural history as well as providing the inestimable guide to he people’s custom and traditional life. The Okere as the paramount ruler of Sakiland has an ancestral trace to the seven children of Oduduwa the Yoruba progenitor as well as Ile Ife, the ancestral headquarters of the Yoruba nation. This is assertion is made more profound because the ancient town of Saki has a unique, undiluted and a straightforward monarchical institution. Unlike many towns and villages in Yoruba land where the founders of many chieftaincies were commoners, mostly brave hunters, Saki derived its institutional monarchy from the Alaafin royal lineage. Not only was the first monarch Okere Akinbekun the son of Alaafin Oranmiyan, but he was also the son of Princess Egilolo the daughter of the King of Bussa in Ibariba land (Bada 1966). Some writers e.g. Lakunle (1998) asserts that Oranyan was never an Alaafin and that the first Alaafin Oyo was Sango. This submission cannot be admitted from the facts of history. According to the renowned historian Professor Biobaku, cited in Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org) Oranyan was the first Alaafin and was succeeded by Alaafin Ajaka. Although Ajaka was deposed because he lacked Yoruba military virtues, he was replaced by his brother Sango but later restored after Sango’s death as the third Alaafin succeeded by Alaafin Kori who masterminded the metropolitan conquest. It would also be recalled that the fundamental prerequisite to Kingship from the ancient times was that all the principal rulers of Oyo Empire, to show the validity of their claims to royalty must trace the relationship by one way or the other to the Alaafin of Oyo who is the direct descendant of Oranyan son of Oduduwa. This is so because:
“They are infested originally with power from Oyo wither they usually repair to obtain their titles, the sword of justice being given by the Alaafin at their installation. Every one of them as well as every important Bale has an official at Oyo through whom they communicate to the Crown” (Johnson 1897: 76 pp 1).
Thus, any Provincial King represents the Alaafin as the King for the tribe of the division of the country. It then follows that the claim to Kingship or royalty in any of the provinces simply implies that the children and the offspring of Alaafin were the chief rulers over the different parts of the territory. The maternal and pertanal profile of Okere Akinbekun was not peculiar to him alone given that another son of Alaafin Oranyan, Alaafin Sango the third Alaafin of Oyo also had his mother as a Nupe woman. With Akinbekun holding his paternal roots to the royal household or Oranyan dynasty, it meant that from the earliest times he and his descendants could be king in any of Oyo provinces particularly where they were domiciled. Oyo Empire was properly organized as an absolute monarchy with the Alaafin as the supreme head of all Kings and Princes of the empire. Saki, which was in the western Province, had its monarchy modeled after what obtains in Oyo Kingdom with the royal office essentially hereditary in the same family and not necessarily from father to son.
Since the evolution of Okere dynasty, it has had 31 rulers to date. Although many local historians had argued that the Okere dynasty began in the 16th century, we could equally make some deductions to arrive at a probably date. For instance, if the old Oyo fell between 1516 and 1546 (Morton Williams cited in Ojebisi (2010) and the Alaafins had lived in exile at Oyo Igboho for eighty years (See Robert Smiths: Alaafin in Exile) the Okere imperial dynasty must have been in existence for over one hundred years before the fall of Old Oyo providing formidable and impregnable defense for the Yoruba country in the Western division. This is evident given that Alaafin Egunoju who founded Oyo Igboho as a temporary capital had equally sought refuge in Saki and died at the Aafin quarters near Ayekale although he was taken to Igboho for burial at the Royal Forest.
Prior to his arrival at Saki with his numerous people, the young Prince Akinbekun was very popular with the masses and when his attempt to become King after the death of his mother’s father failed to materialize in Borgu Kingdom he came with the paraphelia of a Prince to his native Yoruba country and eventually settled in Saki, which had no King at the time. Akinbekun wore the crown (Ade Sesefun) and other regalia of office which he brought from Bussa to show his claim to royalty. He also came with trumpets, scepter, Gbedu drums etc. Succeeding Okere of Saki used the same materials until the reign of Okere Sabi Ogbegbe who died in 1819. The tussle over who was to succeed their father between Agbomabini and Ogori Gbangbalaka led to the destruction of the crown other treasures by Agbomabini. The action of Okere Agbomabini could be likened to that of Aremo Lawani Agogo Ija the father of Alaafin Ladigbolu on the death of Alaafin Adelu in Oyo. Aremo Lawani struggled to succeed his father but was rejected by the Kingmakers (Oyo Mesi). Lawani then went to the palace and denude it of all its treasures with bonfire and was subsequently banished to Ibadan. Nonetheless, the blood relationship between the Okere of Saki and Alaafin Oyo had conditioned the cordiality between both towns.
Johnson (1897) listing of the names of the established monarchs in the four provinces of the old Oyo Empire as listed below gives credence to the authenticity and the acknowledgement of the Saki Monarch from the ancient times. He writes:
1. In Ekun Osi or the Metropolitan Province: The Onokoyi of Ikoyi; Olugbon of Igbon; Aresa of Iresa; Ompetu of Ijeru, Olofa of Ofa.
2. In the Ekun Otun or the Western Province: Sabiganna of Igana, Oniwere of Iwere, Alasia of Asia, Onjo of Oke’ho, Bagijan of Igijan, Okere of Saki, Alapata of Ibode, Ona Onibode of Igboho, Elerinpo of Ipapo, Kihisi of Kihisi, Aseyin of Iseyin, Alado of Ado, Eleruwa of Eruwa, Oloje of Oje.
3. In Ibolo Province: Akirun of Ikirun; Olobu of Ilobu; Timi of Ede; the Atawoja of Osogbo; Adimula of Ife Odan.
4. In Epo Province: The Oluiwo of Iwo, Onidese of Idese” (1897:76 pp 2).
This revelation highlights what Johnson (ibid) refers to as one of the legacies of Oranyan, which was the distribution of offices to the Princes to strategically hold the country while his brothers continue to engage with him in the war of political expansionism. He comments:
“Oranyan and his army as well as his brothers pushed on their conquest on every direction, the princes and the warlords were stationed in various parts to hold the country and from the many provincial Kings at various ranks and grades now existing” (1897:15 pp 4).
The importance of the Okere to the social, political and religious life of the people of Saki is profound. First, the stool is usually filled by men of sterling qualities, proven integrity, honesty, courage, impartiality and men who can place premium on honour and good name above financial or material rewards. This is in addition to the capacity to meet up with the requirements of established traditions and other specifics of the ancient times to Kingship. The Okere of Saki as a recognized ruling house chieftaincy to which the provisions of Part II of the Chiefs Law Cap, 19 have been applied is well contained in the Declaration made Under Section 9 (A) of the Chiefs Law, CAP 19 1959, of the Customary Law Regulating the Selection to the Okere of Saki Chieftaincy (AND AS APPROVED BY THE GOVERNMENT 7TH DAY OF DECEMBER 1967 following Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of Balogun Commission of Enquiry. However, the amended Declaration of 1967 reduced the number and identities of the entitled ruling houses from three to two namely: Iji Ejiele and Ado Ruling Houses. In effect, Government had accepted the findings of Balogun Commission of Enquiry that Iji Ejiele and Latubi royal households listed as separate ruling houses before 1959 Declaration were members of the same extended family and should therefore claim their right to royalty under a single ruling house.
However, the amendment has generated a great deal of controversy among some sections of the royal household and local historians because they claimed the amendment lacks any credible historical evidence. In their condemnation of the merger, they assert that the Latubi royal family from the facts of history is evidently not of the same father with Iji Ejiele Royal household. Relying solely on the history of Okere dynasty, they argued that Okere Adarikosun from the Iji ruling house begat Abeo Asasi Agbako who was the mother of Ojo Akosolu. Akosolu was from the royal household of Onitede of Tede (See Kolajo 2008, Ojo Bada 1966). Incidentally, he became the Okere of Saki and the progenitor of the Latubi Ruling house when the princes of Saki refused to take over the Kingship over the alleged harmful medicine purportedly to have been planted in the palace by Okere Akanbi Agbomabini (1819-1823) because he was rejected by the people of Saki shortly after he became King. Ojo Akosolu was then invited to take over being the son of Princess Abeo Asasi Agbako and a close associate of Okere Agbomabini. His descendants now widely known as Latubi ruling house had produced five Kings till date (see the list of Okere from the Latubi ruling house later in this chapter). The evolution of the Latubi Ruling household in the 18th century (Ojo Akosolu 1823-1825) just like that of the Ado Ruling household in the 17th century (Alagbala Alabaniju 1775-1808) were circumstantial given that Iji Ejiele Ruling house which is the progenitor of the Okere institutional monarchy had been the only ruling house since the late 15th century before Alabaniju became the King. The century’s gap between Iji Ejiele Royal household, Ado and Latubi ruling houses according to Prince Fasasi Olatunbosun was the incontrovertible fact that Ado and Latubi royal households emerged as separate ruling houses respectively by evolutionary circumstances and not necessarily through paternal relationship with Iji Ejiele ruling house.
Other members of the Iji Ejiele royal family interviewed corroborated the evidence but expressed their dismay over the government decision to merge the two distinct families into one. According to Prince David Moranroola, by that singular decision the history of the Iji Ruling House has been distorted to posterity given that the two separate families Iji Ejiele and Latubi had no linear connections. He argued that the Yoruba tribal marks of Iji Ejiele ruling houses are Keke and Abaja, which is different from the Keke and Ibamu of the Latubi Ruling House. In other words, members of the Latubi ruling house are distinguished by their facial marks of ibamu added on the left cheek a line aslant from the bridge of the nose to the horizontal lines, which is for the purpose of family identity. The different facial marks according to other members of the ruling house are not peculiar to Saki but other Yoruba towns. For example, the double sets of Abaja, Keke or Gombo are those of the Royal family of Oyo and the single are those of the Basorun of Oyo. Thus, Iji Ejiele family would by such evidence not of the same father with Latubi royal household.
Pa Jimoh Yerumo who is the family head (Mogaji) of the Iji Ejiele royal household further argued that since Ado Ruling House is distinct from Iji Ejiele and its evolution derived from the female line through Alabaniju being the son of Princess Segilola Alabo Iji, the same family profile should be accorded Ojo Akosolu the progenitor of the Latubi Ruling House who was not just a friend of Agbomabini as presented by some historians but also a son of Princess Abeo Iji Asasi Agbako. It is against this background that Iji Ejiele Ruling House logged a protest against the merger of the two families through a Memorandum presented to the Justice Adenekan Ademola of the Oyo State chieftaincy Declaration Commission held at Durba Hall Oyo in March 1977. A chieftaincy petition was also filled in February 1978 by his legal representative of Prince Moranroola to the Oyo State Military Governor to express his dissatisfaction in respect of Government decision to merge the two ruling houses into one however; these efforts had not yielded any fruitful result.
Nonetheless, the amended Okere Chieftaincy Declaration of 1959 states the terms of eligibility of candidates to the Kingship, the persons who may be proposed by a ruling house and entitled to fill the vacancy in the chieftaincy shall be:
. Members of the ruling house
. Male members of the ruling house
. Succession may not devolve on the female line.
. The method of nomination by each ruling house to the previously 5 member but now 14-member kingmaker’s panel is as follows:
a. The ruling house whose turn is to provide the candidate shall nominate at a family meeting to be summoned by the family head (Mogaji) a candidate for the Kingship to be presented to the kingmakers.
b. The consent of Alafin Oyo is required to an appointment made by the Kingmakers but such consent may not be unreasonably withheld