AIYETORO: Af­ter Three Years, Peace Re­turns To Ondo’s Com­mu­nis­tis­land

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - PALACE WATCH -

PEACE has re­turned to Aiyetoro Com­mu­nity in Ilaje Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Ondo State, as the peo­ple unan­i­mously crowned the sixth Ogeloy­inbo and spir­i­tual head of the Holy Apos­tles Church af­ter three years in­ter­reg­num.

The lat­est de­vel­op­ment was se­quel to prompt in­ter­ven­tion by Ondo State gov­ern­ment at the be­hest of the Deputy Gov­er­nor, Ag­boola Ajayi, who hails from a neigh­bour­ing com­mu­nity. He made stren­u­ous ef­fort to pre­serve the peo­ple’s rich her­itage and pre­clude in­tra-com­mu­nal war.

There had been king­ship cri­sis in the com­mu­nity since the last king, Oba Gad Asog­bon died on Fe­bru­ary 13, 2015, lead­ing to the clo­sure of the only church in the com­mu­nity, Holy Apos­tles Church, since 2016.

It has been a com­mu­nal ri­valry be­tween a rev­o­lu­tion­ary prophet, Olo­rumbe Ojag­bo­hunmi, grand­son of the com­mu­nity’s found­ing fa­ther, who has the com­mu­nity’s staunch sup­port and a for­mer diplo­mat to African De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADFB), Olaseni Micah Ajijo, who is sup­ported by a few elite.

Aiyetoro is an is­land and one of the last sur­viv­ing com­mu­nist com­mu­ni­ties in the world, founded by a group of 70 Saints, who were re­port­edly led by the Holy Spirit on Jan­uary 12, 1947, liv­ing a unique life and civil­i­sa­tion like Apos­tles of old in the Bible. It is a coastal com­mu­nity 160 kilo­me­tres away from the Eastern part of La­gos and sev­ered 40 kilo­me­tres from the main­land that stretches be­tween Ugbo and Ig­bokoda, the head­quar­ters of Ilaje Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area.

The an­cient town is a move­ment of the ce­les­tial or­der, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tion since cre­ation, is a theo­cratic sys­tem of gov­ern­ment that makes the com­mu­nity king also head of the church, as laid down from the first Ogeloy­inbo, Oba Peter Ojag­bo­hunmi, who reigned from 1949 to 1953.

The Guardian gath­ered that Aiyetoro, the land of the Apos­tles and City of Saints, as fondly called by the folk, be­came a refuge and place of com­fort for those op­pressed by the so­ci­ety.

Like the cru­sade by Mary Slessor in Cal­abar, the mother of the old­est twins in Ila­je­land was of­fered refuge in 1945 by the move­ment, which also spared the twins of an Olugbo, whose ex­is­tence then were re­garded as a des­e­cra­tion and a taboo.

But the lead­er­ship cri­sis be­gan when Ajijo re­port­edly stormed the com­mu­nity with gun­boats and se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives to de­clare him­self the Ogeloy­inbo-elect on Au­gust 7, 2015.

The church was even­tu­ally put un­der lock and the whole com­mu­nity wor­shipped un­der a big tent on the town’s Broad Street and ap­pointed Ojag­bo­hunmi as ‘Alakoso’ of the new church, while Ajijo set up a wor­ship cen­tre in his house, which he con­verted to his palace.

Ac­cord­ing to the folk, it is a taboo for any­body to be pro­claimed Ogeloy­inbo-elect be­cause as­cen­sion to the throne has al­ways been through di­vine se­lec­tion and ce­les­tial pro­ce­dure in line with laid down tra­di­tion by their found­ing fa­thers and holy apos­tles.

They also ac­cused Ajijo, who had been parad­ing him­self the self-ac­claimed king, of stok­ing cri­sis in the com­mu­nity by us­ing his in­flu­ence to op­press the peo­ple and erode their tra­di­tion by sta­tion­ing mo­bile po­lice post in the town for the first time in 71 years.

The 100-year-old Mother-in-is­rael of the Holy Apos­tles Church, Flora Ojog­bon, revered for be­ing one of the sur­viv­ing few who fol­lowed the first king to es­tab­lish the com­mu­nity, de­nounced Ajijo’s as­cen­sion to the throne.

She lamented that there was never a time in the com­mu­nity’s his­tory, when the peo­ple had Ogeloy­inbo-elect or a po­lice post, re­veal­ing that they re­solve their mat­ters am­i­ca­bly through the lead­ing of the spirit. The cen­te­nar­ian, who is also a mem­ber of the “Igharafa,” the Spir­i­tual Majesty-in­Coun­cil that con­sists of six apos­tles who help the king on ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters, de­clared that an Ogeloy­inbo’s as­cen­sion to the throne is spir­i­tu­ally bound and not by se­lec­tion or im­po­si­tion.

An­other el­der in the com­mu­nity, Lawrence Le­mamu, 79, who is the Baba Ijo of the Holy Apos­tle Church and had been ha­rassed sev­er­ally along­side oth­ers with se­cu­rity agen­cies, noted that Ajijo and his co­horts were only forc­ing them­selves on the com­mu­nity.

A close aide to the third Ogeloy­inbo, the late Oba Charles Akin­luwa (1966-1992), the rev­o­lu­tion­ary who brought mod­ern and Western de­vel­op­ment to the com­mu­nity, Joshua Bankole, pointed out that the com­mu­nity has never had a king who was not a prophet.

Bankole, renowned for his in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal voy­age and ex­per­tise in the con­struc­tion of the leg­endary Western Ex­plorer ves­sel in the mid1960s, said: “I can sur­ren­der my wife, chil­dren and en­tire fam­ily, but will never sell out my com­mu­nity and the tra­di­tion of my peo­ple for any­thing; even if it leads to war.”

How­ever, a for­mer Chair­man of Ilaje Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, Mr. Tola Alabere and staunch sup­porter of Ajijo, re­counted that peace evaded the com­mu­nity since Ojag­bo­hunmi started his prophetic busi­ness in 2006.

Alabere al­leged that the prophet had also been run­ning a par­al­lel gov­ern­ment with sur­rep­ti­tious move to force­fully as­cend the throne, de­spite in­ter­ven­tion by the lead­ers, gov­ern­ment, po­lice and the Olugbo-in­Coun­cil un­der, Oba Fredrick Ak­in­rutan to

re­store peace.

The for­mer coun­cil boss said: “The al­le­ga­tion that Oba Micah Olaseni Ajijo was im­posed on Aiyetoro com­mu­nity and the church is, there­fore, false, ma­li­cious and a de­lib­er­ate mis­in­for­ma­tion.

“The ap­point­ment painstak­ingly fol­lowed due process in ac­cor­dance with the church’s age-long tra­di­tion and the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Holy Apos­tles Church, Aiyetoro.

“The hid­den truth must be told that the en­tire op­po­si­tion to the ap­point­ment of His Spir­i­tual Majesty, Oba Micah Olaseni Ajijo, which has been show­cased in Aiyetoro com­mu­nity till date has un­der­cur­rent of the failed vault­ing am­bi­tion of Mr. Oluwambe Ojag­bo­hunmi to as­cend the hal­lowed throne of the Ogeloy­inbo of Aiyetoro and Spir­i­tual Health of the church.”

He stated that the com­mu­nity would peace­fully re­sist any at­tempt by Prophet Ojag­bo­hunmi and his group to usurp the Ogeloy­inbo throne through “re­li­gious fa­nati­cism.”

Ajijo, who claimed with­out minc­ing words that he was legally in­stalled, ac­cused Prophet Ojag­bo­hunmi of brain­wash­ing some youths in the com­mu­nity un­der the guise of “prayer war­riors” to de­stroy both pri­vate and pub­lic prop­er­ties. As­sert­ing he is the Ogeloy­inbo and Spir­i­tual Majesty of Holy Apos­tolic Church,

Ajijo said: “He (Ojag­bo­hunmi) even paid me ho­mage in this same palace. It was un­for­tu­nate that he later de­clared him­self ‘Baba Alakoso and Gen­eral Overseer’ of the Holy Church, a po­si­tion alien to the com­mu­nity’s cus­tom.”

Mean­while, in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that the tus­sle for the throne was a class strug­gle be­tween some elite, who were ac­cused of aban­don­ing the com­mu­nity and cash­ing on ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to al­ways ex­ploit the peo­ple.

Aside that, there is the is­sue of roy­al­ties from oil com­pa­nies dredg­ing from the At­lantic Ocean and of­ten­times, the com­mu­nity sends rep­re­sen­ta­tives to at­tend meet­ings at Chevron, Agip and other oil com­pa­nies.

Some of the com­mu­nity’s angsts against the so-called elites in­clude aban­don­ment of the com­mu­nity, whose ex­is­tence is threat­ened by the re­cur­ring sea surge and al­le­ga­tion that some of them con­nived with a con­trac­tor to em­bez­zle the N6.5bn em­bank­ment project awarded by Niger Delta De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (NDDC). More over, some gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials of past ad­min­is­tra­tion were said to be pro­tect­ing some in­ter­ests in the on­go­ing cri­sis in the com­mu­nity, ei­ther for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons or fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits that come from the rich is­land.

How­ever, the state’s Deputy Gov­er­nor, Ag­boola Ajayi, re­cently in­ter­vened to rec­on­cile the two fac­tions and set­tle the king­ship rift am­i­ca­bly, fore­stalling break­down of law and or­der in the area.

The state gov­ern­ment held a peace meet­ing with Ojag­bo­hunmi, who was ap­pointed the Alakoso of the com­mu­nity and Ajijo, who de­clared him­self the Ogeloy­inbo-elect in 2015 and king even­tu­ally.

The sec­ond meet­ing was also at­tended by the two fac­tions, the State Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment (SSG), Ife­dayo Abe­gunde, the Chief of Staff to the Gov­er­nor, Chief Olug­benga Ale and se­cu­rity chiefs.

One of the for­mer king’s sons and com­mu­nity spokesper­son, Mr. Vic­tor Akin­luwa, main­tained that Ojag­bo­hunmi was unan­i­mously or­dained by the peo­ple as their leader and “Alakoso” of the theo­cratic com­mu­nity in line with the found­ing prin­ci­ples of their an­ces­tors.

Akin­luwa de­nied al­le­ga­tion that he was breed­ing a group of young boys who would serve as a re­bel­lion against the com­mu­nity’s doc­trines, say­ing it was a cheap black­mail against the com­mu­nity’s right­eous cause.

He said: “The whole com­mu­nity doesn’t like the kan­ga­roo ar­range­ment by the so­called elites, and that is why they kicked against it. Ojag­bo­hunmi has never pro­claimed him­self a king. It is the peo­ple that in­stalled him as the ‘Alakoso’ of the com­mu­nity, pend­ing the time God will choose a king for us.”

In a state­ment made avail­able to jour­nal­ists in Akure last Mon­day by the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Supreme Coun­cil of Elders of the com­mu­nity and church, Apos­tle Atimishe Ade­molu, Prophet Ojag­bo­hunmi was pro­nounced the new king.

Atimishe re­counted that the coun­cil, which is the com­mu­nity’s high­est ad­min­is­tra­tive coun­cil, had been mourn­ing the death of their for­mer king, Oba Gad Olofin Ashog­bon, who died on Fe­bru­ary 13, 2015. He ex­plained that there­after, they set in mo­tion prayers, fast­ing and other spir­i­tual ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at hear­ing from God the cho­sen one that would con­tinue the good works the suc­ces­sive five kings had be­gun.

He said: “We are ex­tremely joy­ous in the in­fal­li­bil­ity and sanc­tity of the lead­ing spirit of God that had pro­nounced through the prophets a man amongst the mul­ti­tude who lead us, feed us with the spir­i­tual truth and guide us in our pi­ous quest for eter­nal life in the king­dom of our Lord Je­sus Christ.

“The found­ing elders num­ber­ing about 70 and more, who are cus­to­di­ans of our age-long tra­di­tion of king en­throne­ment, have been dili­gent and un­com­pro­mis­ing in this sanc­ti­mo­nious se­lec­tion and are in ab­so­lute agree­ment with the process.

“For over 70 years, as­cen­sion to the throne in the theo­cratic com­mu­nity had been through lead­ing of the Holy Spirit and church, where a new king is crowned in the midst of the ser­vice.

“There­fore, the Supreme Coun­cil of Elders, who are the high­est de­ci­sion mak­ing body of Holy Apos­tles Church Aiyetoro and Aiyetoro Com­mu­nity have unan­i­mously cho­sen, adopted and crowned Prophet Oluwambe Ojag­bo­hunmi king of Aiyetoro Com­mu­nity and Spir­i­tual Head of Holy Apos­tles Church Aiyetoro.

“This puts an end to guesses, bick­er­ing and over three years of wait­ing. The wide ju­bi­la­tion and thun­der­ous shouts of Hos­sanna that rent the church and com­mu­nity are tes­ti­mony of the ac­cep­tance and con­fi­dence the peo­ple have in the char­ac­ter, courage, anoint­ing and lead­er­ship qual­i­ties of this cho­sen ves­sel.”

The elders, num­ber­ing 127 and other 78 per­sons who ap­pended their sig­na­tures, in­clud­ing women and youths of var­i­ous ages, lauded the peo­ple for their prayers, pa­tience and co­op­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially the Head of Prophets, Bola Ojonla.

They com­mended Gov­er­nor Oluwaro­timi Ak­eredolu, his Deputy, Ag­boola Ajayi and other neigh­bour­ing king­doms for their sup­port through­out the trial times.

“We pledge to con­tinue to sup­port and li­aise with gov­ern­ment in en­sur­ing that peace, law and or­der pre­vail in Aiyetoro com­mu­nity and in our ex­tended coastal en­vi­ron­ments,” the state­ment read in part.

The Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Supreme Coun­cil of Elders of the com­mu­nity and church, Apos­tle Atimishe Ade­molu( left); the Baba-ijo, Lawrence Le­mamu; the Ogeloy­inbo, Oba Olo­rumbe Ojag­bo­hunmi and the Head of the prophets, Bola Ojonla.

The Ogeloy­inbo,

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