The gruesome murder of Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode II, Soun of Ogbomoso, on July 1, 1969, in his palace, during the Agbekoya peasant uprising that engulfed several cities in Yorubaland from early 20th century could be attributed to some fatal mistakes.
The Agbekoya, a peasant movement, composed of farmers, hunters, artisans and the low class in the society, vehemently protested the increase in tax imposed by the military government of the defunct Western Region, which the people considered excessive and unbearable in view of the poor income obtainable from cocoa sales especially that year leading to excruciating economic downturn. Chaos erupted across the land, several towns went up in flame and anarchy descended.
In Ogbomoso, Oba Olayode II was at the centre of the crisis and he was unfortunately consumed by it. He was gruesomely murdered when the rioters stormed the palace at Oja’gbo. It was the darkest hour in Ogbomoso history.
ogbomosoinsightonline.com looks at the three fatal mistakes or misjudgements that provoked the death of the first educated Oba in Ogbomoso.
1. Inviting the police: Though it had been claimed that the Oba was not the one that invited security agencies, the invasion of the town by the police, from Osogbo and other places, and who upon arriving started shooting at the people was an act of provocation. It was learnt that the first batch of troops came through the Ora end and upon seeing a road blockade fired at the protesters. News of the shooting took wings and flew round that the Oba had indeed invited the police to compel them to pay the new tax tariff. Earlier that morning of July 1, 1969, many farmers, hunters and other people had converged at Ile-Abo in Ijeru fully armed with dane guns, charms and amulets spoiling for revolt over the rumour that law enforcement agents would be drafted to the town to arrest tax defaulters and evaders. A delegation led by the leader of the motley group, Jimoh Adisa, was sent to the palace to jaw-jaw with Oba Olayode, his chiefs and other elites, the meeting ended in a convivial mood and the rumour was dispelled. Upon receiving the report, anger subsided and the Agbekoya warriors were dispersed, many who came from the surrounding towns and villages returned and those in the metropolis retired home, all relieved that peace had been achieved -“Peace in our time.”
But it was not to be. Shortly after, policemen armed to the teeth hit the town firing at people on sight. Messages were thus swiftly dispatched and in a jiffy the retreated warriors regrouped and the invading troops were engaged by the revolting peasants. The provoked peasants decimated the police, thereafter, a band surrounded the palace, breached the security, overpowered the Oba and mowed him down in cold blood. Some of his chiefs and closest associates also fell in battle. Some suspects were later arrested, tried and convicted. So, the invitation of the police at such tense period and with the police failing to exercise restraint aggravated the crisis.
2. So much leaning towards the government: Another fatal mistake committed that instigated the peasants against Oba Olayode was his seeming unbridled loyalty to government. But he had no option than to demonstrate fidelity to the government of the day as an Oba even as it is demanded of all citizens. But Oba Olayode’s excessive passion made him overshoot the limit of loyalty to government; he failed in diplomacy against his subjects, who began to cast him in the mould of an accomplice to oppression and tyranny. So, when push led to shove, the angry peasants saw in him an unfaithful monarch, who joined their oppressors to dehumanize them. He failed to gauge and manage public opinion that could have guided his utterances and actions and so, when the critical moment came, he could not extricate himself from the evil stereotyping, and this ignited his brutal fall.
3. The fifth columnists: The exalted position of Oba inevitably engenders envy. There is no doubt that Oba Olayode II the moment he was enthroned as the Soun of Ogbomoso, then in his forties, he turned a sitting duck for conspiracies. He became intricately woven in a web of diabolical schemes and so, conspirators probably hijacked or fueled the tax revolt to get at him as was rife in the grapevine subsequently.
Meanwhile, speaking on the abhorrent episode, the first son of Oba Olayode II, his Crown Prince (Aremo), currently Mogaji Odunaro ruling house of Soun dynasty, Prince Stephen Ilufoye Layode, described the incident as destiny. “…all l know is, it is destiny.”
Coming soon in ogbomosoinsightonline.com … text of interview with Prince Stephen Ilufoye Layode, Mogaji Odunaro ruling house, commemorating the 52nd anniversary of his transition.