Good day distinguished members of the press, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Prince Dr (Gen) Joseph Oluyemi Bajowa, OFR. I hold the traditional titles of The Jagunmolu of Ikale Land and Ojagbulegun from The Source (Ayeka Kingdom).
Our aim of calling this press conference is to make public, the views of the Ikale traditional rulers and all the sons and daughters of Ikale Land, both at home and in the diaspora, in respect of the dispute between the Araromi-Obu settlers and the Ikale people, which resulted to the crises we have at hand.
We would like to first and foremost extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the avoidable crises, whilst wishing those in the hospital speedy recovery.
The immediate and remote causes of the dispute between Araromi-Obu settlers and the Ikale people can be summarized as follows:
The Ikale people both at home and abroad, are disturbed by the turn of events between them and Araromi-Obu settlers who have lived and settled on our land since the 19th century.
Over the years, the Ikale people living around Araromi-Obu, have had to put up with a lot of indignities from the Araromi-Obu settlers because almost every Araromi-Obu settler has his mother or wife of Ikale origin. For example, the mother of the current Ajobu of Araromi-Obu, Oba Aderemi Adelola, is from Agirifon-Osooro, in Ikale Land.
Since Oba Adelola ascended the throne of the Ajobu, the relationship between Ikale people and the Araromi-Obu settlers nose-dived on all fronts. These settlers began to address the Ikale landowners as non-indigenes. This unwholesome non-indigene narrative wrongly enjoyed the full support of Odigbo Local Government.
Consequently, the relationship between Ikale people and Araromi-Obu settlers deteriorated. In 2004 Oba Adelola with some leaders of Araromi-Obu and Odigbo Local Government itself, filed an action in Suit No: HOR/2/2004, where they sought to evacuate the Ikale people from what they described as Araromi-Obu land which extended to and covered over 50 Ikale communities, all around Araromi-Obu.
SUIT NO: HOR/2/2004
When this suit was filed in 2004, Ikale people pleaded for out of court settlement, not because we had a bad case, but because the Ikale people did not intend to waste money on litigation and most especially, because almost every Araromi-Obu person is related, through their mother side, to Ikale people. The Ajobu, his Chiefs and Odigbo Local Government, derisively shoved aside our request for out of court settlement and chose the option of litigation!
While the case was on, Araromi-Obu settlers, including the Ajobu, embarked on a dubious scheme to take over the lands being used by the Ikale people for farming and started planting cash crops on the lands.
For a period of fifteen years, the Ikale people struggled with the case. We placed before the court hard facts which effectively contradicted the unfounded stories of Araromi-Obu settlers that they came from Ile Ife and not Ondo, amongst others. Apart from solid historical facts, records which supported our claims were effectively placed before the court. Amongst such records is a letter written by Revd. David Hinderer, one of the Christian Missionaries from the CMS in England, who spent three nights at the then Araromi-Obu camp and, in his report back home dated May 14, 1875; he confirmed that the Araromi-Obu settlers were from Ondo living within Ikale territory. Another is a document which reported a meeting held at Aiyesan on 12th and 13th of October, 1922, where “Desami the Ajobu”, confirmed his Ondo origin and the seizure of his crown by the Osemawe of Ondo.
The land case HOR/2/2004 ended in favour of Ikale people on May 13, 2019 when the court, in large measure, granted our “counter-claim” and restrained the Araromi-Obu settlers from trespassing unto the lands confirmed by the court of law to belong to the Ikale people.
The Ikale people waited for well over a month after the judgment, primarily to avail Araromi-Obu settlers the chance to evacuate whatever they may have on the land and to see if Araromi-Obu people wanted to disobey the order of injunction restraining them from further acts of trespass on our lands. While this was on, we caused necessary court forms to be issued and served with the notice of the judgement on the leadership of Araromi-Obu settlers. Having discovered that they have stayed away from the land, the Ikale people decided to continue their farming on the lands, as pronounced by the court.
THE BUILD UP
Whist Ikale people were observing the reaction of Araromi-Obu settlers to the court judgement, we received information that militants were moved into Araromi-Obu with a view to using them to attack Ikale people. This information was passed to the security agencies. We also received information that Araromi-Obu leaders have acquired a cache of sophisticated arms and ammunition and we equally passed this information to the security agencies, but the information were disregarded by the security agencies who kept pressurizing us to keep the peace, as if we were the ones threatening its breach. We had no problem and there was no breach of the peace until the event of July 16, 2019 occurred.
INCIDENT OF JULY 16, 2019
On the 16 July 2019, when a group of Ikale people were on their way to their farms located on the way to Araromi-Obu, they were ambushed and attacked by Araromi-Obu boys who were armed with cutlasses and sophisticated weapons, so badly that the intestines of one of the Ikale farmers spilled out, while others received severe gunshot wounds. There were also unfortunate losses of lives during the sporadic firing by the aggressors.
Amongst the attackers were Okuyemi Sola (a.k.a Agba), Seun Akinbule (a.k.a. Oba Ilu kan), Folu Akinmadelo (a.k.a. Chief FAA) and Sunkanmi Ogundayomi, all were teleguided by the powers that be, with an indigene of Araromi-Obu, who is also a current Commissioner in the Ondo State Government, as their arrow head.
It was learnt that the aggressors hurriedly buried their casualties without autopsy or Police investigation. We also learnt that the Military Task Force drafted to the area made some arrests and recovered some weapons and ammunition from the Araromi-Obu aggressors and their militants, who were handed to The Police and State Secret Service (SSS). The Ikale people on their part evacuated their casualty whose intestine was spilled out with other wounded farmers, to the hospital at Ore, where they were presented with a non-negotiable bill of N1million. In the midst of this melee, some houses were touched at Ago Alaye and Araromi-Obu as reprisal attack by both sides.
However, while the houses of Araromi-Obu settlers torched in Ago Alaye were located along the roadside, those of the Ikale people torched in Araromi-Obu and its environs were located away from the roadside and immediate public glare. This apparently gave the wrong impression that Ikale people were the aggressors and also probably informed the reaction of the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, who formed an opinion before his visit to the palace of His Royal Majesty Oba George Faduyile, the Abodi of Ikale Land.
Co-incidentally, I was at the palace of Abodi of Ikale Land when the Ondo State Governor visited. I was shocked and horrified at the Governor’s public display and pronouncement of power, devoid of decency and protocol, by taking the Abodi of Ikale Land and other Ikale traditional rulers present, to the cleaners. He threatened to instruct the security services to level to the ground Ago Alaye and other Ikale villages in Araromi-Obu and its environs; he also threw caution to the wind, by boasting that he does not need Ikale votes for his re-election!
At this point, I had to cut in with reverence and cautioned against any bias and indiscriminate arrest of Ikale people. I also advised the government to abide by the rule of law, whilst I implored the security services to confine their activities to the established/standard operational rule of engagement, noting that we are in a democratic dispensation.
The Governor Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, then promised to set up a committee to investigate the Araromi-Obu/Ikale crisis. The Committee is yet to be put in place as at date!!
In our relationship with the Obu people, from the time they became our guests on Ikale Land until now, we have never, I repeat, never been the aggressors in any conflict. In actual fact, they initiated the legal action which led to the judgement at issue. There is no case in existence in which Ikale people are the Plaintiffs or Claimants against her neighbours.
THE GOVERNOR’S VISIT
The news that the Governor was visiting the area of conflict on the 18th of July, 2019 made some members of the surrounding Ikale communities to gather at Mobolorunduro (A.K.A. Ago Paul), a place located far away from the scene of the fracas located beyond Ago Alaye, to welcome the Governor and give useful information that could have led to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Instead of the Governor to address them as he did to the settlers in Araromi-Obu, the police swooped on them and arrested them, ostensibly to impress the Governor, who never addressed the Ikale people or listened to them. What a double standard!!
As at today, 15 Ikale persons including an 89 year old man have been arrested and all of them have been remanded in Prison custody. Incidentally, these are people who were not involved in the fracas, but were merely waiting for the Governor to give him information that could have led to a peaceful resolution of the crises.
Surprisingly, no police arrest had been made on the side of Araromi-Obu settlers and neither was anything heard about the armed Araromi Obu aggressors and militants arrested by the Military Task Force who were handed over to the security agencies with their weapons!
In spite of reporting the unprovoked attack and injuries sustained by Ikale people to the Commissioner of Police, the Police have neither investigated our petition nor ask about our injured. We were forced to lick our wounds.
Ago Alaye has been placed under a 24 hours curfew since the 18th of July, 2019 making it impossible for Ikale people to go to their farms, trade their wares, take their children to school, visit their people or cater for the sick in the Health Centers, while Araromi-Obu settlers remained free, moving about and destroying Ikale properties, leading Police to break into Ikale houses, killing their animals, harassing and arresting the residents for no just reason. The Ikale people in the area are under seige of the Araromi-Obu settlers and the Police. These have devastated the lives and economy of Ikales people at Ago Alaye and Agirifon villages. Ago Alaye has now become a ghost town and a shadow of itself.
As result of Government partial actions, the Araromi-Obu settlers have been emboldened and have resorted to ordering all Ikale people to leave Araromi-Obu. Just as Araromi-Obu is home to many Ikale people, Obu settlers are also resident and are accommodated in almost all Ikale towns and villages. We want to use this opportunity to appeal to the settlers to avoid anything that can aggravate the regrettable situation by allowing Ikale people to continue to stay in their ancestral land.
PREVIOUS ACTS OF HOSTILITY
I would also like to point out that this is not the first time Ikale people will be subjected to very brutal, deadly and unprovoked attacks. In 2009, whilst their case was still on, Oba Adelola backed and assisted by Odigbo Local Government, attempted to stop Ikale people in Agirifon from celebrating their annual traditional festivals. A festival they have been celebrating on the land even before the arrival of the Araromi-Obu settlers in Ikale Land.
The Ajobu and Odigbo Local Government, insisted that Ikale people must go back to Ilutitun/Osooro in Okitipupa Local Government Area to celebrate their festivals forgetting that it was from these villages that some Ikale people moved to establish Ilutitun/Osooro in 1920.
In order to forcefully prevent the celebration, in the morning of July 20, 2009 when their case against Ikale people (HOR/2/2004) was only five years old and then ongoing, Araromi-Obu settlers led by the then Supervisor for Works in Odigbo Local Government Area (Hon. Biyi Temenu) riding in his official vehicle with Registration No LG209REE led thugs in five vehicles (Buses and Cars) and over 15 Motorcycles and swooped on the Ikale people where they were peacefully having their celebration and attacked them with machetes and guns. They were left largely for dead.
In an audacious move, they kidnapped the then Oloja of Agirifon and 3 others and took them to the Palace of the Ajobu, stripped them naked and attempted to set them ablaze, before the abducted men managed to escape.
Our petition to the D.P.O. at Ore Police Station on the attack, dated the 22nd day of July, 2009 was never investigated.
Araromi-Obu settlers have again repeated their unprovoked aggression using Government machinery on Ikale people by arresting them and remanding into prison. In other words, the Nigeria Police which is supposed to be neutral and protect the citizens has been turned to instrument of oppression in the hands of the Local Government.
THE ROLE OF ODIGBO LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Except for the purpose of using Local Government funds for private litigation, we still do not see the justification for Odigbo Local Government Area to join Araromi-Obu settlers in an action for declaration to title to our land!
It got so bad that the Odigbo Local Government attempted to stop the burial of Oloja of Agirifon village, who they never recognised, at Agirifon. They insisted his corpse should be carried to Ilutitun-Osooro, for burial!
Odigbo Local Government has never given recognition to any Oloja of the communities that are wholly Ikale and located within Odigbo Local Government Area. The only exception was in the case of Oloja of Aiyetoro. The Ajobu hoped to use him in the case (HOR/2/2004) and attempted to exploit a disagreement between the Oloja and his people by taking him to Odigbo Local Government for recognition. That was as far as he succeeded!
In spite of all these, Ikale people who cannot abandon their land for strangers, have continued to perform their civic duties to Odigbo Local Government but, the Government lends support to actions that are turning a section of the citizenry to endangered species, hence the incessant breaches of peace in the area.
THE ROLE OF RUBBER ESTATES NIGERIA LIMITED (RENL)
We want it stated clearly at the outset that Ikale people are not, by their complaint against the roles of the Rubber Estates Nigeria Limited (the company), making any claim in relation to the acquired land. However, the company has turned out to be an engine of oppression against Ikale people in the hands of the Araromi-Obu boys who exclusively dominate its middle level management positions.
In R.E.N.L, no indigene of Ondo state outside Araromi Obu is allowed to hold any middle level management positions. For this and other beneficial purposes, there is a clear and strong dichotomy between indigenes (Araromi-Obu settlers) and non-indigenes (every other person).
This discrimination exists, even against Ikale people who own the land, notwithstanding the fact that Araromi-Obu settlers were paid compensation exclusive of Ikale people, for the acquisition of the land from our common wealth.
It is conceded that due to political and administrative conspiracy at that time, when Ikale people were in Government opposition, Araromi-Obu settlers cornered the compensation for the acquisition of the land upon which the rubber plantations and the company are now established.
The Ikale people have since put this unfortunate mishap behind them and have moved on, but since the current Ajobu ascended the throne, the Araromi boys in the employment of RENL, especially in its Security and Community Relations Departments, have turned the company into an instrument of oppression against Ago Alaye people, which is predominantly occupied by Ikale people.
During the trial of HOR/2/2004, Araromi-Obu settlers tendered documents which showed that RENL was funding them under its community relations programme in the guise that they are the host community to RENL.
We caused a letter to be written to RENL on this, where we informed them of the fact that the ownership rights of Araromi-Obu which made them qualify as Host Community was being litigated in the case. We advise them to keep such funds in an escrow account until the court case was determined in respect of the ownership of land.
When judgement was delivered in our favour and the entire Ikale Obas wrote to them and made phone contacts, they were snubbed like lepers. Instead, they recruited more MOPOL, as if the letter from the Ikale Obas asking for an appointment came from Boko Haram.
R.E.N.L. has become an engine for fanning the embers of violence against Ikale people. Their contempt for Ikale people, with whom they relate directly on daily basis due to close proximity, has no limits. Apart from, and in addition to treating every Ondo State indigenes as subordinate to Araromi-Obu boys, RENL has never dignified any of Ikale’s letters or complaints with a response.
In conclusion, we the Ikale people want to state unequivocally that the Ajobu and his chiefs were settlers in Ikale land after Ajobu attempted to wear a crown and escaped from Osemawe’s wrath into Ikaleland as a refugee, and finally settled at the current site of Araromi Obu as customary tenants of Ikale people by the Lisa Oladokun of Osooro. Hence, they adopted the new name “Araromi-Obu” (Araromi meaning: we are at ease at Obu)
Under the Colonial administration, the Ajobu resumed the wearing of a crown and wore it to the Palace of the Osemawe for a meeting. Osemawe seized the crown and imprisoned his chiefs. Ajobu escaped arrest and went into exile, first at Ubu, and later at Lomiro. It was at this time that Baale Nigwo of Igbotako-Osooro installed Adetimehin as the Baale of Obu after consultation with the Abodi of Ikale Land.
Obu settlers were largely farmers who easily inter married with Ikale people. The letter written by Rev David Hinderer in 1875 about Obu is a documentary evidence, from a third party who had no interest to serve and at a time when the current dispute was not anticipated, supporting the claim of Ikale people as the Land owners of Araromi-Obu and its environs.
In view of the foregoing, we are requesting in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, that an independent administrative enquiry should be set up by the Government to look into the immediate and remote causes of the incessant crisis between Araromi-Obu settlers and the Ikale people.
Odigbo Local Government should desist from sponsoring the hate campaign by Araromi-Obu settlers in the unlawful and unethical demand for the evacuation of the Ikale people from their ancestral lands; and debarring the Ikale people from performing their traditional and customary rights in the land of their heritage.
Finally, the Rubber Estate Nigeria Limited (RENL), should be prevailed upon to stop treating our people as slaves on their land and give equal opportunities to Ikale people and indeed all citizens of Ondo State, in conformity with the recent court judgment and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Thank you all and God bless. 01 August 2019