Traditional ruler places curse on those linking him with deaths of Gbenga Owolabi, others 

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Traditional ruler places curse on those linking him with deaths of Gbenga Owolabi, others

Alabaa of Alabaa

 

Abaa, Ogbomoso in Oyo state, was the scene of a kidnap case in July in which the kidnappers reportedly took a ransom of N5m but still went ahead to butcher the two victims, Gbenga Owolabi, a US based businessman who owned a hotel at Abaa, from where they were abducted; one of his staff Rachael Opadele, a final year student of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso and the okada operator who conveyed the ransom bearer to the criminals. The heartless killings generated a lot of anger from Nigerians and led to a peaceful protest by the people of Ogbomoso. However, a rumour emanated that the traditional ruler of Abaa, designated Alabaa, His Royal Highness, Oba (Dr) John Ayanpoju Olounde I, was culpable in the whole saga with some even suggesting he should be detained and investigated, and someone querying, “How could his person who took the ransom to the kidnappers be the sole survivor?” Several are the rumours twirling against him. ogbomosoinsightonline.com spoke with him recently during which he related his own side of the story furiously placing a curse on rumour mongers. He also dwelled on his reign including the aborted efforts he made to get a police post for the community noting that if policemen were on ground that day, the perpetrators wouldn’t have escaped.

Excerpts:

When were you installed?

About 13 years ago.

Can you mention some of your achievements since coming on the stool of your forefathers?  

To God be the glory, we have been able to accomplish many things. These include road tarring and provision of boreholes. I spoke with many people, who have the means to do these things, and so, several boreholes have been provided. Also, we used to have only one transformer, which belonged to our father late Chief Adebayo Amao Alata, Babalaje of Ogbomosoland, which served his flourmills. But now, we have about four transformers; I frequented IBEDC office in Ogbomoso and the headquarters in Ibadan several times before this could be achieved. Also, I ensured we delimited the community into four districts, with each having at least 3, 000 houses, and I appointed chairmen for each district, who see to the affairs of their areas, only referring difficult matters to me. We have been able to do a lot to the glory of God.

How many Alabaas reigned before you?

The title used to be Onilu. Ogbomoso has many surrounding settlements with every settlement having big compounds within the metropolis. In Ogbomoso, my uncle was Otun of Ogbomoso, Chief S.T. Ojo and served Ogbomoso diligently. Then, my father was installed by Baba Soun, Baba Emmanuel Ayanpoju, who is now late. After him someone else was installed. Abaa was founded in 1709, I can confidently say that in this vicinity, there was no previous settlement, they all met us here. I was installed by the immediate late Soun. My father died on October 6, 1986. In all these areas starting from Aroje there was no Baale, Abaa was the first, because our family, our history cannot be divorced from Soun’s history. During the Fulani war, my fathers were thickly involved. We are descended from Oko Irese. So, our fathers protected this route, all other communities had been sacked, Abaa was not, we have been here since 1709.

How did the name Abaa evolve?       

My forebears were engaged in three different types of profession, they were babalawo (Ifa priest), afingba (calabash embellisher) and amuludun (entertainer). The popular drum at the time was bata drum. So, the phrase – abaa o dun bata (bata’s beating was not vehement), was a common saying, and from that phrase the name Abaa evolved. Our people are at Ibadan – Olohun daba and Oko-Ile, we are brothers.

That means you are related to Alaafin Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan, who founded Oyo-Ile, he also founded Oko) 

Yes. And we also constitute the chieftaincy family in Gbaja (Kwara state). Our history is contained in Iwe Itan Ogbomoso.

Are you a Baale or an Oba?

When I was installed I was a Baale. But during the regime of Ajimobi, I was elevated to Part II Oba in Oyo state.

Is Abaa in Surulere or Ogbomoso North local government?           

That is not what I can discuss now due to an issue extant. The issue of creation of local governments and delimitation of towns within councils is a matter that concerns government. When I was installed, according to the map in my possession, Abaa was within Ogbomoso North local government, but later another map put us in Surulere local government. That is an aspect we want the government to clarify, but wherever it is located my domain remains, it won’t be taken away from here and no other family can ascend to the throne of Abaa besides the Abaa family, which has a compound at Abaa compound in Oja’gbo, Ogbomoso besides Soun palace. The matter of local government is a concern of the government, I am not bothered.

What happened on July 28 in Abaa, when two persons were kidnapped, did something like that ever happen?

Never! Since my 63 years on earth (and I grew up here), something like that never occurred. What we were familiar with are issues of petty theft like they harvested my yam, they stole my bread, my fowl is missing, but something gory like that we never witnessed such a thing.

Were you in the palace that day?

It happened in the night, after seven I think, I was in the palace here. I was getting ready to retire to bed, already in my knickers, taking a nap on a camp bed in the compound when shrill voices strayed into the compound that Fulani people had surrounded Abaa and so, I opened the gate. Then, shortly after I opened the gate, I saw policemen, they had arrived, demanding, ‘where is Tana?’ I led them to the suite and I found Amotekun corps and Operation Burst operatives there too, the Area Commander was with us. They now asked me to go back home, I was not even putting on foot wears and I was in knickers. I have always been around, except I traveled which never exceeds two days.

You said security agents responded immediately, we learnt they immediately combed the forest but how come they didn’t find them? 

The youths and elders in the town fanned into the forests immediately, but you know I was not there again and I don’t know the security agents’ modus operandi, so, I don’t know and can’t say much because I was already in the palace.

At what point did the affected family, the Owolabi family, come to you?

I didn’t know any of them before.

Were you familiar with the man before?

The man (Gbenga Owolabi), I wasn’t the one that sold the land to him, he bought it from someone else. I didn’t know anything, he only came to me when he wanted to commission the place.

What year was that?

That day, there was a chieftaincy ceremony at Soun Palace; he came to me that he wanted me to be present at the dedication of the hotel. I commissioned the hotel, it was there I heard he was involved in other ventures.

So, it was after the abduction that you got to know his family?

Yes. The first person that came to me was Hon Adigun. I didn’t know him before. I saw him for the first time after the incident, he came to see me, he sat in the palace here. It was later the elder brother of the deceased came to Ogbomoso; he came to me in the palace expressing gratitude; he said he had nowhere to sleep. So, I only knew him after the kidnap.

From what we heard, the victims were hidden somewhere in this axis, how come they were not tracked?

I don’t know about that whether they were kept in this axis or not. But their corpses were found in Igbon vicinity, that’s where the corpses were found, I didn’t go there, I didn’t see the corpses but where they mentioned is between Aaga and Igbon, at the old road.

Kabiyesi, what happened that night after the family was able to raise the N5m!

On Tuesday, around 5’O clock, I was called that I had visitors. And I told the caller that they needed to wait that I would hasten my return. I rushed back home. I arrived and saw a car in the premises. Mr. Caleb Owolabi the elder brother of the deceased was the visitor.

Late Rachael Opadele

Was that his first time of coming?

That was the second time.

What did you discuss the first time?

It was just after the kidnap, we didn’t discuss much except to be praying together for the victims to secure their freedom. So, that Tuesday, we sat together to discuss. He told me, he had been having negotiations with the kidnappers, that they had agreed to take N5m ransom. He appealed that he was here for the purpose of securing their release that he was with the money. I prayed for him that his brother and the lady would be found and that God would touch the heart of the kidnappers, someone who came to invest in my town, to help us. As we were talking the phone rang, I detest a situation when I am discussing with someone and the person answers a call, but then he shouted, “It is them.” I said, “Who?” And he said the Fulani that abducted his brother. They conversed, the only thing I overheard was, “Are you ready with the ransom money?” He responded in the affirmative. He now stated the abductors would soon call back that we needed to be alert. Mr. Caleb now retorted, “Oga, I am just about to get to Ogbomoso, from Ibadan.” He didn’t say he was already in Ogbomoso. He asked where he was to bring the money. However, they blasted him, “Where will you take the money to? Go and ahead and bring it?” They further asked, “Are you with policemen?” And he said, “I am alone.” “How will you convey it?” He said he was with a car. But they protested that he should not come with a car but okada (motorcycle). “So, where would I bring it because I don’t know anywhere in Ogbomoso?” He told them that of all his siblings, he alone is in Nigeria and that he is not an indigene of Ogbomoso and didn’t know anywhere. “Tell me where to bring the money?” The kidnapper warned against coming with a car but with an okada. He pleaded he would have to look for those that would assist him convey the money that it would have to be two people. He now turned to me, “Baba, if they call back now, I don’t know anywhere in Ogbomoso, moreover, which okada man do I know to contact, I am to bear N5m! I don’t know any okada operator. Even if the okada man sees the heavy thing that I bear anything can happen.” They insisted he finds an okadaman. He was pleading with me and I advised him to call the council chairmen because I was aware the chairmen of Ogbomoso North and Surulere local governments were involved. He called a chairman, but that one responded that the person who conveyed that of Jabata said he could be recognized and so would not make the endeavour. He (Mr. Caleb Owolabi) was in dilemma, you know an elder talking and sweating, don’t we know he is crying? At that point, one of my children in the town just came in, he sat down and was hearing everything. After pleadings from Mr. Caleb that if they should call him now to bring the money there was no way he could go. So, voluntarily, the man that came in said he would assist asking, “Isn’t it just to give them the money and return?’ Then, the problem of which okada operator to convey the man to bear the money arose since the volunteer said he didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle and it must be a trustworthy person. I said if you go outside you would find one but he expressed concern that it must be someone I know and who is trustworthy, he further pleaded if I knew anyone that is trustworthy. That is how Idowu that was killed came into the picture. He was a trustworthy boy. The other victim that was kidnapped along with Owolabi was a resident of this town; she attended the same church with the okada operator, and she was a child to me too, everyone in the town is my child. So, we called him that he would assist in conveying the money, so as to be able to rescue the kidnap victims but they had not called. We told him however they had not called and so we asked him to continue on his work till they call but that he should not go far. As we were discussing they called that they should proceed to the Roundabout in front of the Winners Chapel, at Isale-General, to hand over the money. That gave us joy that it was within the metropolis. Idowu only helped. He didn’t know anything about the whole thing; nobody knew anyone was coming with money. They didn’t handover any money to me. So, Mr. Caleb Ayo Owolabi went to his car to retrieve the money. As I was told I didn’t see the money, N5m wasn’t a small money, they sealed the money even the bag was sealed. He watched them as they left. I didn’t see the money. And the person that bore the money couldn’t have unpacked the money. They went with Caleb Owolabi’s phone since it was the phone the kidnappers would call. After they left, at about six or seven in the night, we went into prayer. So, the kidnappers began their game, asking them to go to different locations – in front of Winners Church, Igbon, Egbeda, Agaa, deceiving them till it was dark and asked them to go beyond Egbeda (a nearby place). According to what I was told, they finally asked them to enter into the forest there. One thing I am sure of is that if they didn’t give money to the kidnappers, how were they able to kill the person they went together with (Idowu) at the same place? We were seated at the palace with the managers of Tana Suites. We were still there praying when the man that escaped called on phone, he was also shot, it was God that saved him. He revealed they sprayed them with bullets as the kidnappers retreated into the forest after collecting the money. That is his explanation. But what I know is that the person that conveyed the money did not know them, he only helped them and we were together on the seat. We even asked everyone to submit their phones after they left; even the person that assisted, his phone was with us. We were praying, I also dropped my phone even with the power bank, you can confirm from Caleb Owolabi.

 

At what time did the man that escaped call? 

It should be about ten pm. It was not at the spot they killed them that he got the opportunity to call. He said he trekked for about one hour thirty minutes in the bush without knowing where he was headed before he came to a road, where he was hearing sound of vehicles and that was Igbon-Gambari market. He called a number he knew offhand with someone’s phone in the market and it was that person that called us where we were praying.

The abduction victims had not been killed by the time they took the ransom there?

According to what he told us the man (Tana) already had suffered a great deal, he was in the throes of death already, he lay face down. They beamed light from a lamp and asked him, ‘Do you know this person?’ He retorted ‘No.’ And our man responded, ‘I helped your family to bring the ransom I don’t know you.’ They beamed light at the okada operator and asked if he knew him, he said no again and that one said he was contracted to convey the ransom bearer. I am not sure if known faces were there. Relaying what he told us again, the criminals were well armed, and with necessary instruments, they tore open the bag containing the money and confirming it one of them slung it on his shoulder and as they retreated without turning their back, they were spraying bullets on them but if not for the grace he received he said he would have died too, and if not for him, we wouldn’t have found their corpses or what happened.

There is an insinuation that the kidnappers recognized Idowu.

I was not there.

Some even opined how the man who was unharmed was able to escape that he had no wound!      

No one knows how God works. All humans who seek to unravel how the Almighty God does his work are left to God. Accident would occur twenty persons might be in the vehicle and only one of them would escape unscathed. And at another time everyone would die, it is God’s mystery.

We also heard that before he left that day, the man performed some rites

He is not an herbalist or an Ifa priest.

So, what do you think is the reason they want to implicate you? 

They do say an juwon kose wi lejo, ija ilara ko tan boro (It has its root in envy). Anyway they know the reason and the Lord knows. I have heard many things too, but if I should allow those things to disturb me, one will just die of hypertension. But God knows them and their motive and He will definitely pass judgment.

We didn’t even know we will meet you at home, I thought you would have been picked up by the police, based on what we were hearing.

Several rumours are peddled but are untrue as is the case with rumours; they are wishing me evil they wish would be the portion of their generation. It is inevitable the police would invite me, it happened in my town, so, it is the traditional ruler of the town that would be summoned first. It is always like that. Two years ago when a young man was killed during #EndSARS riot, and they vented anger on Baba Soun, did he order the shooting? They said a VIO officer was murdered they took his corpse to Soun; Fulani herdsmen killed someone in Ikoyi the people dumped the corpse at Soun palace, and so on like that. So something similar had been the experience of our late father, however it’s amazing how our people reason, awkwardly. Many peddle rumour on the basis of ignorance. The wishes of the evil one will not come to pass against me. At times, people do persecute an orphan, if they think the Baba that put me on the throne had passed on, and they feel they could pounce on me, one of his children, I leave them to God. But all that happened, the negotiations, I did not know anything about it, they should contact the family of Olugbemiga Owolabi. And how he was kidnapped let them seek the truth from his staff, I was not there. I am even confused, myself, I am not driven by cupidity for wealth, I am contented by whatever God does for me. They claimed that when they struck at the hotel, they were about nine or ten in number, and that when they collected the ransom, with their informants, if they share the money, how much would each take? And they are shouting Alabaa – how much is N5m? Was I handed the N5m? Did I have a sight of the N5m? Did the money not get to the kidnappers or why would the okadaman be killed too? Anyone that is sensible would reason clearly that how much is the N5m that the Alabaa would share with the kidnappers? It is a thing of sadness to me but I believe God that the perpetrators would meet with violent death too. But all those seeking my downfall, I am not cursing them but God is not vacating His throne, and He will hand them judgment accordingly. Everyone should have the fear of God, and of the day they would die too. I am sorrowful because I suffer the death of two children at the same time in my town – firstly, a child of my friend, then, the father of the okada operator is my brother, whom I had close relationship with, he’s a boy I could summon to go on errand for me at anytime. If he entered this residence and I found him in the room of the Olori, I would not even ask him what he was doing there. I so much trusted him, because Idowu was a trustworthy person but God knows three things that are a mystery to us – the day we would die, how we would die and where?

What advice do you have for government on the issue of security?  

Firstly, they do say if water reaches the head it will certainly reach the leg; what is happening in Nigeria, government should rise to the occasion, and save us masses from this calamity, the federal government should improve the security situation in the country. I beseech the Oyo state government as well to assist us regarding security in Oyo state, I appeal to the Oyo state government to help us in Ogbomoso on the issue of security and I urge our local governments to make adequate efforts. One other appeal is that government and people should assist the bereaved families, the victims were young chaps, Idowu had little children, the girl (Opadele), her mother is a widow, government should please assist them. I also beg because they say that agba o si ni ilu, ilu baje, baale ile ku ile dahoro (In the absence of elders in a community, the community suffers deterioration, the family head dies, the compound becomes desolate). Government should help us find solution to the stalemate regarding Laoye family, for them to soften their stance so that we can have a new Oba. The crisis we are witnessing in Ogbomoso is traceable to lack of Oba, when Soun was alive we didn’t witness such things. Anything requiring sacrifices, His Majesty would have instructed that it be performed; what concerns the alfas it would have been taken care of; what should be handled by Christians it would have been seen to, that I knew of. I knew the days the alfas did come to offer prayers in the palace; I knew when Christians did come; I knew when traditionalists did offer sacrifices. Various vital sacrifices that Ogbomoso ought to be doing, since the demise of Oba Oyewumi Ajagungbade III they have been left undone. The Oyo state government should assist us, it should grant approval for the installation of a new king. I pray Nigeria will not be destroyed, Oyo state will not suffer calamity, Ogbomoso and its environs will not suffer evil and may Abaa be consoled, may Abaa be free.

Do you have police station in Abaa?

May it be well with you! Ah, it’s a most crucial question government should act on. I have made efforts in the past with others to ensure we have a police station but it was thwarted on the altar of conspiracy and lack of cooperation. What happened, if we have a police station the kidnappers would not have escaped! When the issue of security in Nigeria became worse, I convened a meeting of the people in my town and a well-meaning individual promised to assist us. The first land I gave them they said it was in a hidden place and so, not ideal for a police station. So, an individual purchased a land for us, and he pledged to build the structure and we started; we surveyed the models of different police stations, which one is most modern? We chose one but before we started the philanthropist advised me to summon a meeting of the community so that every district would have contributions towards the construction so that it would not be as if it was built by an individual, even if it is N10 that each area would contribute let them do so, so that everyone will have a sense that we all built it together and not by an individual. Different sections of the town partook and we have the record. We already roofed the building, and dug the septic tank, but suddenly some people came together opposing the move that we didn’t need a police station in the town. “Why?” They insisted we won’t have it that the policemen would be sleeping with their wives, secondly, the police would target yahoo-yahoo boys, and so, they vehemently opposed the work. In short, that frustrated the effort. In fact, they wanted to attack the philanthropist who was assisting us, they slandered him, went to his parents to warn them, and that is how and why we stopped. We call on government to intervene in this matter. It is not me o, I have good plan for the town, but enemies are active, they are the ones opposed to security in the town. That is what happened.

How old was the okada man that was killed?

He was about forty years old.

 

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