Afonja - To Be Or Not To Be - Guardian Newpaper

Date: 2000-10-22

THE old time rivalry and mutual suspicion between the ruling Fulani minority and the Yoruba majority took a new turn on Saturday October 14 when six persons believed to be members of the banned Oodua Peoples Congress were killed by policemen on their way to the ancient city.

Ilorin itself was thrown into a state of near anarchy but for armed policemen that brought assurances that the citizens will be adequately protected.

No sooner did the smoke from the fire of discord disappear that the traditional institution of the town relapsed into its too familiar pastime; arguments, name calling and malice.

The picture is getting more complex by the day. To a casual observer, the quarrel is a straight one between the Afonja descendants and the Emir-led Fulani rulership.

True, the Yoruba (or is it the Afonja descendants) look determined to install an Onilorin of Ilorin in the city but there are other complexities that are giving the Emir, Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, some cause for worry.

Four of his Baloguns (one one of them is Yoruba) who are supposed to be his councillors in their various areas have declared 'war' against him. To show their seriousness about being upgraded, some of them are actually in court seeking legal interpretation of their demands.

As if that is not enough, the Baloguns joined by two king makers (Mogaji Aare and Baba Isale) severed relationships with the emir ñ subsequently they neither greet him, pay homage or visit him at the palace as the tradition required.

One might be tempted to say the face-off was between the emir and his chiefs but for the attempt to crown a new parallel monarch for Yorubas.

The two sides at loggerheads over the proposed Onilorin stool are the emirate council and the Afonja Descendants Union (ADU).

While the Emir's people say the ADU is a bunch of jesters, the Union says the emirship represents nothing but lies. They both try hard to prove that their different positions are supported by history.

Another serious point is that while the Emir and his supporters claim he is a father of all, his detractors say he leans entirely towards the Fulanis. They even claim that he removed Kolapo, the Yoruba part of his name so that no one will be in doubt about where his heart is.

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