Olofa Stool: How Supreme Court Judgment Altered A Community's History

Date: 2016-07-09

The July 1, 2016 judgment of the Supreme Court on the disputed Olofa stool in Kwara state has permanently altered the history of Offa community. In this report, ABDULLAHI OLESIN details the effect of the verdict on the community.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, there existed two ruling houses in Offa, the Anilelerin and the Olugbense in Kwara State. The incumbent Olofa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoye II hails from Anilelerin ruling house, just like his predecessor, the late Oba Mustapha Olanipekun. The apex court judgment did not only confirm the appointment of Oba Gbadamosi but also held that Anilelerin is the only authentic ruling house that can ascend the throne of Olofa. The legal battle spanned a period of six years.

The apex court, in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, held that the appointment of Gbadamosi by the Kwara State government was in line with the custom and tradition of the people of Offa.

It dismissed the claim of Olugbense as a ruling house in Offa on the ground that there was no history to that effect and, therefore, prohibited the family from further laying claim to the throne. It equally dismissed the Olugbense’s claim on the principle of rotation between it and Anilelerin ruling house, saying that if there was rotation as claimed by Olugbense family, the principle of rotation would have taken off before the ascension of the immediate past Olofa, Oba Mustapha Olanipekun.

, the court also faulted and prohibited the Kwara State government’s gazette of 1970 which recognised Olugbense as a ruling house that can ascend the Olofa throne. It said the gazette was null and void because it was contrary to the customs and tradition of people of Offa.

Justice Onnoghen said, "From the history, customs and traditions of the people of Offa, it is clear that Anilelerin is the only ruling house that can ascend the exalted throne being a male line is the authentic and only ruling house backed by native law and authority.

"This court also found, as a fact that there is no rotational policy in existence as far as the stool of Olofa of Offa is concerned and therefore the claim of the Olugbense family has no historical backing and therefore the claim of Anilelerin, through a counter claim of Oba Esuwoye on the issue succeed and is hereby affirmed".

The court also held that the ascension to the throne is by election and not by rotation as claimed by the Olugbense family. The apex court counselled Kwara state government to follow due process of the law if it wishes Olugbense family to be recognised as a ruling house in Offa. It also advised the people of Offa to consult themselves and resolve the issue of Olugbense family amicably if they are desirous of giving the Olugbense family the opportunity to ascend the throne of Olofa.

The Olugbense family had through Alh Saka Adeyemo, Prince AbdulRauf Keji and Prince Saka Keji challenged the appointment of Oba Gbadamosi on the ground that it was done in contravention of section 3(3) of Kwara state government edict on appointment of and deposition of Chiefs law of 1970, which they claimed made provision for rotation between their family and the Anilelerin family.

In their originating summon argued on their behalf by Mr. John Baiyeshea(SAN), the plaintiffs claimed that it was their turn to produce the Olofa in line with the principle of rotation and the edict. The Supreme court however, set aside the victories recorded by the plaintiffs at Kwara state High Court and the Court of Appeal, Ilorin division on the ground that the two lower courts have jurisdiction to have entertained the matter.

However, the last stroke that broke the camel's back was the instant acceptance of the apex court's verdict by the Kwara state government, the Offa Descendants Union( ODU) and a cross section of eminent Nigerians of Kwara origin. Also, the wild jubilation that erupted at Offa after the court's verdict was indicative of acceptance of the long awaited judgment by the people of Offa.

Residents of Offa, including youth and women in their hundreds took to the streets chanting praises immediately news of the verdict spread to the town. Oba Gbadamosi was in Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj at the time of the judgment. In his reaction, the Kwara state governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed congratulated Oba Gbadamasi on the affirmation of his emergence as the Olofa of Offa by the Supreme Court.

Ahmed in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, said the judicial victory should give the monarch the necessary impetus to consolidate his passion towards development of Offa and indeed, the state. He, however, advised Oba Gbadamasi, as the father of all, to see the judgment as a no victor no vanquished by extending hands of fellowship to all parties in the dispute.

"I urge the aggrieved members of the royal family to regard the Olofa's victory as a victory for all by coming together to solidify the royal knot and develop the community", Ahmed said. The governor prayed God to give the Olofa the wisdom and the necessary guidance to pilot the affairs of the town and contribute more to the growth and development of Kwara state.

In his reaction, Oba Gbadamosi described the apex court verdict as an act of God and praised the judiciary for finally upholding the truth and reaffirming the choice of the Offa people. He said the six year chieftaincy tussle in Offa has now finally come to an end and appealed to the entire sons and daughters of the community to rally for the unity and progress of Offa.

The Olofa also thanked the entire people of the community and other well wishers for standing firmly by him since he was installed as the Olofa and since the legal tussle started. The monarch urged the people of offa to go about their businesses and avoid any crisis and equally enjoined the Olugbense family to join hands with him, saying that he victory was not only for him or the Anilelerin ruling house but for the entire Offa community and the whole state and even the nation at large.

Oba Gbadamosi cautioned that no indigene of Offa should bear grudges against, any one adding that the royal family is one and inseparable just as the entire Offa people is one and should remain one for the progress of Offa town.

monarch restated his pledge to use his wealth of experience to improve Offa, adding that after the hurdles of litigation what is next is to commence a new era of development in Offa "because it is a new Offa in which all the people are living now".

The National President of Offa Descendants union, (ODU), Alhaji Najim Yaasin pleaded that all Offa sons and daughters should come together to ensure that Offa is moved forward.

Also, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Special Duties, Alhaji Moshood Mustapha hailed Offa people for maintaining peace, before, during and after the Supreme court’s judgment Mustapha who is the enjoined all sons and daughters of the town to continue to maintain the peace and join hands with Kabiyesi in further making Offa relevant in the scheme of things in the state.

He expressed optimism that with the court’s judgement, the Olofa and his chiefs in Offa would now settle down fully to ensure that more physical development is brought to the town and as well bring in more investors. Mustapha, however, urged Oba Mufutau to continue to dialogue with various groups in the town so that peace could permanently reign supreme in the ancient community.

Also, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje hailed the judgement of the Supreme Court. Baraje in a congratulatory message to the Olofa commended the judiciary for allowing justice to prevail and the voice of the people in the choice of their monarch sustained.

He appealed to the Olofa not to see the victory as his personal victory but that of the entire people of Offa community and a divine direction to further work for the development of Offa community.

The APC Chieftain also enjoined the monarch to strive to bring together all the factions in the Obaship matter so as to achieve the desired growth of the town.

Baraje added that he should continue to see himself as father of all. However, effort to get reaction from the Olugbense family proved abortive as they decline comment on the court verdict.

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