•Reveals The Roles Of Iba GANI ADAMS & T.B. JOSHUA
You couldn’t possibly be meeting Prince Olatunde Olanipekun for the first time and not notice a few things about him. One, he is a man who carries himself quietly with impressive dignity. Secondly, no matter how hard he tries to conceal it, he oozes royalty. It’s so unmistakable you can’t but notice it. This very accomplished Chartered Accountant who is presently into private practice and Consultancy following his retirement in 2014 is one of the illustrious sons of Arigidi-Akoko in Ondo state where he hails from. An incredibly articulate man who has traversed the corporate community, Prince Olatunde Olanipkekun is from Irara, the only ruling house in Arigidi-Akoko. He has made tremendous contributions to the development of Arigidi and was seen as the perfect choice as the Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko over ten years ago when it was time to choose a new Zaki (king) for the town. But another member of the ruling house, Alhaji Yisa Olanipekun, also indicated his interest to become the king. And after a selection process that was described as a ‘kangaroo process’ by Prince Tunde Olanipekun, Alhaji Yisa, who is presently the Zaki of Arigidi, was installed. The case has been in court ever since and a final judgement is yet to be passed. Weeks ago, The controversial Zaki, Alhaji Yisa Olanipekun granted City People an interview in which he talked about all the issues surrounding the fight between him and Prince Olatunde over the throne. He also shared with us the role played by Aare Gani Adams in his installation. In this interview with City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, Prince Olatunde sheds more light on the entire saga and reacts to some of the contentious areas the Zaki spoke about. It is revealing. We will serve you the concluding part next week.
There’s a whole lot we need to talk about, Kabiyesi, but let’s go one step at a time. First, tell us a bit about your background, your growing up years and family background.
Thank you very much. My name is Prince Olatunde Bolarinde Olanipekun. I was born in Arigidi some 65 years ago. I attended St. Paul School, Arigidi Akoko, went to Victory College, Ikare for my secondary and A-levels. I’m a graduate of University of Ife where I bagged a Second Class Upper Division in Economics in 1978. In 1978/79, I did my national service in the old Sokoto state and came back to Lagos where I trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1981 and became a fellow of the institute in 1992. I have traversed the corporate world. I started my career with Dunlop Plc where I rose to become the Chief Accountant. I was in Dunlop for ten years before I got a job as a Finance Director in the old Glaxo Nigeria Plc and then later Evans medical Plc where I was Finance Director as well. I then crossed over to Fidson Healthcare Plc where I was also the Finance Director and I retired in 2014 as Finance Director. I’m presently in my private practice, I’m into manufacturing and consulting. Coming back to Arigidi matters, I’ve been involved in Arigidi development since my youth. I was formerly the secretary and then president of Arigidi Triangular Stars, the club that started the Arigidi Day celebration in 1991/92. I later became the president of the federation Arigidi Progressive Union made up of about 53 clubs and societies and among other things we achieved was that we were able to bring together all the communities of Arigidi and forge unity. We were also able to start Arigidi Development Bank and we were also at the forefront of the fight for the creation of a local government for Arigidi as the headquarters. And to my credit, we fought gallantly when Akoko-North West was created and the headquarters was located at Oke-Agbe. Along with other well-meaning Arigidi people, I was one of those who made a case for Arigidi, that it was unfair for Arigidi to be under Oke-Agbe. So, that’s just a bit about my background.
If I can recollect, sir, this tussle for the Obaship of Arigidi started about eleven years ago, tell us, Kabiyesi, what was the genesis of this problem?
Thank you. I am from the Irara family, the only ruling house in Arigidi Akoko. When the late Zaki of Arigidi died, of course, my club and I took a very active part in the burial ceremony and afterwards the family called for nomination and I put in my interest. I was probably the only person that put my interest in writing to the kingmakers and visited them personally. About four of us showed interest. Eventually, when the selection was going to be made, we saw it was going to a kangaroo selection. Two of us out of the four candidates are based in Lagos, they were going to have a selection at 10 a.m. the following morning and they went to drop a letter of invitation in my father’s house 8 pm in the evening, that I should come for a selection that was going to hold at 10 a.m. the following morning. Of course, it was not humanly possible for me to travel down and so when we sensed that it was going to be a kangaroo selection, I quickly instructed my father to get Lawyer Olagunju of blessed memory to file an injunction to stop the selection, which he did at Ikare High Court. Of course, they went ahead to do the selection and the outcome we all know. We went back to court to nullify the selection. Of course, there were connections here and there, though not wanting to mention names, I can say that Otunba Gani Adams then pitched his tent with the other fellow, using his connections or closeness with the deputy governor of Ondo State then and got him to be given a staff of office. Of course, we went to court insisting that what the Ondo State government did was wrong. And Justice Dehinde Kumuyi who was the chief judge of Ondo State at that handled that case. He nullified the approval and said Alhaji Isa Olanipekun should not parade himself as the Zaki of Arigidi and he went to court. As a result of that judgement, he unleashed mayhem on the town. All my perceived supporters were hounded, some are yet to return to Arigidi as I’m talking to you. My house was set ablaze, (he presented pictures of the burnt house) my father’s house was vandalized, my uncle’s house and shop were vandalized, some ancestral homes in Arigidi cannot be rebuilt today because they were razed down.
I can count four or five houses of my perceived supporters and ancestral homes that were razed down. There was riot all over the town. He went on appeal and the Appeal Court said they upheld the judgement of the High Court, that he should not parade himself. But the Appeal Court said no, that judgement of High court should not affect that of his selection. So, he went to Supreme Court appealing that judgement of the Appeal court. We, too, had a counter appeal, we appealed that section of the judgement that said the selection was proper and that matter is still in Supreme Court now as we speak. We wrote petitions to governor Agagu when he was governor of the state, we did same to Mimiko. Of course, I personally met Mimiko who said when it comes to chieftaincy matters, he tries to be very careful, that when matters are in court he allows the status quo to remain until the court finally determines which way to go. When the Appeal Court gave their judgement, the Ministry of Justice, Ondo State wrote to Chieftaincy Affairs on their interpretation of the Judgement and they said the man should not be accorded any recognition as the Zaki of Arigidi and Chieftaincy wrote to Akoko north-west conveying that decision to him. Again, his people unleashed mayhem on the people. So, I would say emphatically that in a civilized society, that gentleman should be behind bars for contempt of court because as things are now, in the presence of the Law, Arigidi has no Oba because the Appeal Court has said he should not parade himself. He himself has gone to court, he is in Supreme Court. So, it was laughable when I read that he said he has won all the court cases four times because in High court I know I won, Appeal Court I won, so which one has he won? The only case he would say he has won is when the Appeal Court judge referred the substantive judgement to another judge, that it should not be handled by Justice Kumuyi because he had already pleaded biased on the side of Kumuyi that Kumuyi is my friend, they now said the case should be tried by another judge. And that was the substantive suit where we questioned the mode of selection. But that suit is back in Appeal Court in Akure. The Appeal Court has adjourned several times, I think a case is still coming up by March this year, so that would be the only suit he can claim to have won. And we have gone to court for the correct interpretation of that judgement. Does that judgement supersede the one in Supreme Court? Can the judgement of a lower court supersede the one in Appeal Court or the one he has taken to Supreme Court? So, right now, we’re waiting for a date both at the Appeal Court for that case and for the Supreme Court to either affirm the judgement of the Appeal Court or dismiss it.
There were allegations made by the Zaki insinuating that you probably shouldn’t have come out to contest for the Obaship in the first place and that the people of Arigidi Akoko were never in support of your aspirations in the first place, what do you say to that?
Well, to begin with, I just told you about my community service in Arigidi, let him point to what he has done in Arigidi. We grew up together, he never went to school. He was a mechanic apprentice who later went into the car business and then moved to Jos. I have participated in all developmental efforts in Arigidi. And let me state here very categorically that eminent people approached me that I should show interest. They said the family had no better candidate. I would like to quote Chief Olakunle Orojo of blessed memory, a respected figure in Arigidi and in Nigeria when he was told that I was showing interest. He said if Tunde is truly showing interest, then Arigidi should jump at it, that was Chief Olakunle Orojo’s statement. My initial position was that the family should put forward their choice candidate themselves but the people said no, that would be considered arrogant of you. So, I indicated my interest and put it into writing. That’s why up till tomorrow, all the elites of Arigidi, both home and abroad, still consider me as their Kabiyesi. That’s what they call me. Let him show us who, among the elites of Arigidi, that are proud to associate with him. Maybe Aare Gani Adams, who has ever since regretted in private ever toeing that path. He said it to some of my club members and even vowed that he would no longer dabble into chieftaincy matters in Yoruba land anymore because of his experience dabbling into that of his town. So, he’s regretted his role in that saga. Yes, he has tremendous respect for me. Everytime he sees me, he calls me ‘egbon Tunde.’
If you can look back, sir, can you recall if you and the Aare Onakakanfo ever had differences in the past that warranted him pitching his tent with the Zaki and worked against you? Did you know him personally?
No, we never had differences. As a matter of fact, if you ask him, he will tell you that he never knew Yisa from Adam. Somebody came to introduce Yisa to him. But we have had instances to interact. When my younger sister was getting married, he was in town. Uninvited, he came to that ceremony, in deference to me. After that, I think he was burying his mother, I was going to return to Lagos the following day, but that morning I visited him. He appreciated it. He asked some people to leave the sitting room so he could receive me and my people who went there together. There was also this gathering of Arigidi people where we met in Akure. I remember vividly that when they formed a committee Gani insisted that if Egbon Tunde is not a part of it, he will not be a part of it. I think that the only problem Gani had with me, from what I’ve heard people say, is that I was too close to his arch-enemy, Prophet T.B. Joshua. And again, they said he wanted a Zaki that he could have some measure of influence over because apart from the fact that I am older, I am a very independent person. But apart from all these, we never had any issues together. But they believed, wrongly or rightly, that the prophet was my supporter and Gani then decided to pitch his tent with his opponent. Sometimes, I hear that they say everything that I have pastor Joshua brought them for me. My houses, cars, they said he bought everything. So, as a Chartered Accountant of almost 40 years, I am not expected to be able to afford all these things myself? I just laugh when I hear these things. And before God and man, one kobo has never transpired between me and the prophet. Often times, I don’t bother to respond to these things, but when I read the Zaki’s interview and saw the blatant lies, I felt I had to react. You know, sometimes, when lies are repeated often and nobody counters them, they might be taken to be the truth.
It’s interesting, sir, to hear you speak of Aare Gani Adams in this light considering that he is Zaki’s strongest pillar, the one who can be rightly said to be behind his installation. One would’ve thought that you would talk about him in distasteful terms and be up in arms against, not just the Zaki, but anyone showing him support…
Let me tell you this, all my life my interest has been that of Arigidi Akoko. Gani is a prominent son of Arigidi- Akoko and Pastor Joshua is also a prominent son of Arigidi-Akoko. What took me to Synagogue was that I just said to myself, this guy is from your town and he’s doing wonders here in Lagos. And I went to him and introduced myself as president of so and so, and that whatever you want to do in the town, I am available. And the man was very impressed, that many people always come to me with their problems, this is somebody that is coming to offer his services. So, that has always been the basis of our relationship. The same thing Gani, he is a prominent son of Arigidi and that’s the way I’ve seen him. I remember years ago when he was incarcerated, we were one of those that made releases in the papers asking the government to release our son. I encouraged my club to visit his family in Abule-Ado and gave the wife our token and a bag of rice, just to show that we were with him. In fairness to him, anywhere he sees me, he accords me respect that I will say is mutual. Like sometimes last year, some of the goons of Alhaji Yisa went to my house, the security guard accosted them and a fight ensued. By the time words got to Yisa, he got some policemen and thugs to go and beat up my guard and then dump him inside the police cell. The police said they would not release him until they hear from Zaki. And for the first time since this obaship case started, I called Gani Adams. I said Aare, please, talk to this man, this and this are the things he’s done. And the man was like, what kind of thing is this? We are praying for trouble to subside, this man is fuelling it. He said, please, egbon, I will intervene and call you back. After the guy was released, Gani called me and said, egbon, ema binu, the guy has been released. I have spoken with Yisa, he was just saying things that weren’t making any sense. He said I told him (Yisa) this is the first time this egbon will be calling me to intervene in any situation between both of you, out of respect for me he called me on this matter and I’m talking to you and you’re saying something else. Gani said he told him I have never spoken to him concerning the case before because I believe that in politics everybody has the right to support whoever he likes. And it’s not a do or die affair. If the court decided tomorrow that Yisa is the Oba of Arigidi, let it be, but before the eye of the Law, Arigidi has no Oba.
People often fondly refer to you as Kabiyesi, everywhere you go they all call you Kabiyesi, how did that evolve?
Well, I guess it’s because they were the people who said I should put in. To the majority of people in Arigidi, as far they are concerned, I’m their preferred choice, and that’s why they call me Kabiyesi. Since that battle started, they have all identified me as their king. And like I said, all the prominent sons and daughters of Arigidi they see me as their choice. And that is why Arigidi is where it is today. The people are not encouraged to go home. The aftermath of his reign of terror was the unleashing of the so-called palace boys who were beating and harassing innocent people. If you go to Arigidi today, you’ll be sorry that you’re from that place. That’s why when I read that development is going on in that place I just laughed. Where are the developments after 10 years? If you go to Arigidi right now, the whole town is in darkness, the only place you’ll see life is in Agbaluku. ….
(To Be Concluded Next Week)