JAGBE TRADITIONAL INSTITUTION, NIGERIA

 

CHAPTER THREE

DEMISE OF OMOGWA

            24th April, 1979

            aah, ooh, iiinn, eehn Omogwa?

            It was a shock news and unbelievable and nobody could announce or talk about it. But it was real and true! Natural!! Omogwa the Onogie, the Traditional Ruler/Clan head joined his Ancestors on the 24th April, 1979. His demise on this day, closed an era and opened a new one. So, here, begins the new era of continuing hereditary, traditional Ruler/Clan head and the Onogie of Jagbe Clan in Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria.

 

TRADITIONAL RITES

All traditional and religious rites were put together, 3 days, 7 days, 14th days, 21 days and 40th days and performed respectively including announcing to the family, announcing to Afogie, the Kingmakers, Ihelanmen Ruling House and the Traditional Council and informing the Village Heads, Odionwele, Ediowele and course, Etsako and Esan Traditional Rulers.

Thereafter.

 

OFFICIAL RIGHTS

            A letter was addressed to the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the State and copied to Etsako Local Government Council and the Appropriate Authority in-charge of Chieftaincy Matters in accordance with the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict, 1979 by the Afogie, the Kingmakers. The Attorney General and commissioner for Justice sent a ‘Condolence’ reply. Details will be seen later on in this book.

 

IKHODALO COMMISSION

            Briefly, let it be reintegrated here that Omogwa, the  Late Onogie, Traditional Ruler/Clan Head of Jagbe attended Ighodalo Commission before he joined his Ancestors. This Commission was appointed to up-date and compile a list of all Traditional Rulers/Institutions in Bendel State which became autonomous of all the papers on the

Hereditary system of Jagbe Throne.

 

NOTHING IS HIDDEN UNDER THE SUN

            After the completion of all ‘rites’, a formal APPLICATION was sent to the Appropriate authority charged with the responsibility of Chieftaincy Matters by Afogie, the Kingmakers for Prince Umoru Omogwa to ascend the Throne of his Father, Omogwa Ogbekhiulu in accordance with the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict, 1979.

            Surprisingly, for quite a time, no response. It was here, the Kingmakers began to smell rat. Afogie, the Kingmakers straightaway stretched out their searchlights to exhume the cause of delays in responding to her Application. Thence, it was discovered that a ‘wrong and unacceptable Declaration’ was made for Jagbe Clan, which made Odionwele (gerontocracy) as the Clan Head of Jagbe instead of Primogeniture. But Traditional Ruler and Onogie were conspicuously excluded from the ‘wrong’ Declaration. The materials used for making the ‘vague’ declaration were full of gaps and contradictions. This you will see later in this book. The ‘unacceptable’ declaration was contrary to what Omogwa submitted to Ighodalo Commission. He submitted hereditary system. A system that is common and traced in Etsako, Esan and of course, in Benin and in particular, Edo State generally. Ruling House i.e. Palace, that is existing. Omogwa did not witness the final compilation and final submission of the Report to the government. On the other hand, Afogie, the Kingmakers were saturated with his burial. Whether any person or persons or a mistake of the Commission influenced the wrong and unacceptable declaration or the Government is left with God and Ancestors.

 

COURT ACTION

Till 1980, letters, publications and follow-ups were made. But when all attempts to correct the error failed, Afogie Ruling House and the other Village Heads/Jagbe Traditional Council took the Appropriate Authority to law court for legal determination. Although some people ignorantly were of the opinion that it would not have been proper to sue Government, others were firm in instituting legal action against the Appropriate  Authority charged with chieftaincy Matters  for making wrong and unacceptable declaration for Jagbe Clan, which disorganized the Community and sowed the seed of disaffection amongst the people.

             With the divergent  opinions, more Kingmakers went to engage the services of a Lawyer, Barrister John Alele,. Who initiated the legal proceedings which was completed by C.I Giwa Amu Esq. “Okpeaa-mien-eyen, Owuo-gbole abu-khoyuu”. Man see snake, woman kill am, so far ii die. It was the Appropriate Authority and not and Jagbe person nor persons that was sued to court, although some Jagbe people later applied to join.

 

THE UNACCEPTABLE / WRONG DECLARATION

            IKHUA: Pa Johnson Usiahon of Ikhua was the Odionwele of Jagbe at the time Omogwa joined his Ancestors. He made attempts but the ram he brought to Idi-Mosque for that year vanished. Pa Usiahon’s era saw the break-up of the central Mosque and Idi- Mosque. Next was Pa Okpekpe.  By the unacceptance Chieftaincy (Odionwele) Declaration by Ighodalo Commission, only Pa Aruna Okpekpe was issued paper of appointment No. CH 176/348 dated 30th December, 1981 as Clan Head. The installation ceremony could not hold. Followed by successive Edionwele Pa (Alhaji) Sule Jibril and pa Chief Musa Ogun all of and in Ikhua. Subsequent attempts to prepare and progress papers in line with the unacceptable and wrong Chieftaincy declaration in question did not see the light of day.

 

            It was gerontocracy Ighodalo Commission, the vague declaration that Afogie Ruling House took to Court. The Court findings (page 22 “as of the original book”) were that the wrong declaration was full of gaps and contradictions. Also, the Etsako Traditional Council in its findings (Minutes of the Meeting held on Monday, 22nd October, 1990) labeled the unacceptable declaration as archaic, alien and retrogressive. By letter No. CH. 176/VOL.III/981 dated 11th June, 1990, the Chieftaincy Department, Directorate in Military Government’s Office, administratively appointed the Etsako Traditional Council to further look into the JUGEMENT and FINDINGS by Hon. Justice A.N. Maidoh, Judge of Auchi High Court dated Wednesday, 21st of February, 1990 for review of the vexatious Odionwele (gerontocracy) declaration. More than ‘one’ Ruling House is in fact, a conflict. Again, system outside Ruling House is problem.

 

AMENDMENT TO ORIGINAL SUIT

            When the matter was becoming politicalized, original suit was amended. Here, the then Governor was joined in the Suit along with Appropriate Authority. At this point, some Jagbe people applied to join the Appropriate  Authority to pursue the case. It has been said before that nobody sued Jagbe person nor persons. Those who were named in the suit at this period applied to join on their own. Probably on assumption that the Governor was above the law and could suppress facts.

 

FINAL PROCEEDINGS AND DETERMINATION OF THE SUIT

            No. HAU/11/81 of 21st February, 1990

            Excepts from some of the evidence and intriguing findings and final determination of the substantial Suit No. HAU/11/81 dated 21st February, 1990 by honourable Justice A. N. Maidoh of the Auchi High Court are as follow:

 

            Page 21 of the Judgment

            “…On the other hand the defendants tendered Exhibits 16 and 17 dated 27/5/79 and 31/5/79 respectively which were letters of protest inviting the Government to accord recognition to the 4th defendant as the clan Head. Exhibits 5 and 15 Bendel State of Nigeria Gazette of 28/9/79 BSLN 138 of 1979 recognizes that succession of Jagbe Clan is gerontocratic and devolves on oldest man (Odionwele) in the Clan. Exhibit 14 is Ighodaro Chieftaincy Commission dated 12/6/79. It is the declaration as set out in Exhibit 5 and 15 that this Court is asked to set aside. I shall come to this later in this judgment. “…On 28/5/79 the Honourable Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice and Local Government, Bendel State in Exhibit 2, addressed a letter to one Chief Emokpaire Ogbekhiulu of Afogie Ruling House, Jagbe. The 1st paragraph states: “The news of the passing away of Chief Omogwa Ogbekhiulu, the Clan Head of Jagbe” etc.

            “…This is indeed instructive. (1) The letter was personally signed by the Hon. Att-General. (2) The letter referred to Afogie Ruling House. (3) The letter referred to Omogwa Ogbekhiulu as the Clan Head of Jagbe. “…PLACING THE EVIDENCE OF THE WARRING PARTIES ON IMAGINARY SCALE, I HAVE NO DIFFICULTY IN HOLDING THAT THE CASE OF THE PLAINTIFF (oral evidence and documents) IS WEIGHTIER (accepting the pleaded and tendered document) THAN THE COMBINED EVIDENCE OF THE OTHER DEFENDANTS. “…I MUST OBSERVE THERE THAT THE LINE OF SUCCESSION TO THE CLAN HEAD OF JAGBE AS GIVEN BY THE PLAINTIFFS HAS BEEN SATISFACTORILY TRACED…”

 

Page 22 of the Judgment

             “…Less impressive was the line of succession proffered by the 2nd – 5th defendants which were FULL OF GAPS AND CONTRADICTIONS…” “…However, there is a Registered Declaration under the Chief Law, regulating the selection of the person to be holder of the title of Clan Head of Jagbe. Let us now examine what the law says about such a situation.

 

Page 23 of the Judgment

            “…The said Exhibit 14 would appear to have fairly afforded the contesting Parties fair hearing which is a  fundamental constitutional right guaranteed by the Constitution of 1979; a breach of which, by the investigation / review Panel, will nullify the entire Commission and any action taken on the Commission will be a nullity…….

 

Page 24 of the Judgment

            “…This case clearly set out how a registered Declaration can be set aside.

“…The Supreme Court agreed with trial court and court of Appeal that the Chief Law CONFERS EXCLUSIVE POWER ON OTHER BODIES TO MAKE THE DECLARATION OF CUSTOMARY LAW IN RELATION TO THE CHIEFTAINCY. BUT THAT IT IS THE BUSINESS OF THE COURT TO MAKE A FINDING OF WHAT THE CUSTOMARY LAW IS AND APPLY THE LAW FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE CLAIM OF DECLARATION.

 

“It further held that form the CHIEFFS LAW THE COURT CANNOT ASSUME the functions of the Chieftaincy Committee as regards the marking of declaration of customary law governing the selection and appointment of traditional chiefs…

 

            “… In the instant case there is a Registered Declaration in respect of Jagbe Chieftaincy Succession. See Exhibits 5 & 15. they were based on Exhibit 14 and there is no evidence of any breach of Constitutional or legal provision in Exhibit 14.

 

            …”In the final analysis I hold as follows:

            “(1)            Actions against the 1st and 5th Defendants fail and are dismissed. No order as cost.

            “(2)            Joinder of the 2nd & 5th Defendants is incompetent and the names of these defendants are STRUCK OUT with N2,000 cost in favor of the Plaintiffs.

 

            On the basis of these Court PRONOUNCEMENTS AND FINDINGS, Afogie Ruling House formally and officially applied by letter dated …March, 1990 to the Appropriate Authourity through Etsako Local Government Council to set in motion the necessary machinery to review and revoke the unacceptable gerontocracy (Odionwele) declaration and to replace it with the ‘true’ PRIMOGENITURE (Hereditary) Declaration to enable the appointment and coronation of the Prince Umoru Omogwa now the Traditional Ruler/Clan Head and the Onogie of Jagbe Clan.

 

            The Appropriate Authority in its quick reaction, issued letter No. CH.176/Vol.III/981 dated 11th June, 1990, administratively referred the matter to the Estako Local Government Management Committee instructing that the Etsako Traditional Council “should take note of the judgment delivered by Hon. Justice A. N. Maidoh, Judge on Wednesday 21st day of February, 1990 and his findings thereto…” The Traditional Council found and recommended that the gerontocracy (Odionwele) declaration in question was “archaic, alien and retrogressive and it must therefore be amended to reflect the true system existing in Benin Kingdom – Primogeniture.

 

SUPERSTITIONS

            BEFORE, DURING COURT

            ISU and FATI: Isu Omogwa Oroavbunu was accused – such allegation that he seized “approval” (declaration) was leveled against him because he was very, very closed to Omogwa. Isu was taken to ‘alamonka’ and he was prevented from going to Mecca to perform Pilgrimage of that year.

            MADAM FATI: Fati, one of Omogwa’s wives was also accused for also responsible for the “approval”. An army was sent to her and her apartment destroyed; and she was banished along with her property. Why Isu and Fati were accused superstitiously of ‘seizing approval’ are left for history. But the question remains, why was “PALACE” part of Omogwa’s house destroyed under the cover or guise of Fati been responsible for “approval”?