Exemption to the Land Use Decree

This past week has been crazy but hugely rewarding. I am glad that my decision to inform people of recent murders at Alapata, Toro generated so much interest.

I remember a few people who are aware of Modakeke/Ife crisis over land ownership were in awe – surprised this old age conflict hasn’t been put to rest.

Well, it hasn’t reached full-blown since the recent one was settled in 2000. Having said, that there has always been perpetual killings going on that our newspapers  don’t carry.

On Monday at 8:45 am, a friend texted to say hello, the last line of her message reads “Please pray for Ife/Modakeke.” The few words say a lot than to ignore.

A few calls later, I learnt 2 (or 3) people were killed at Alapata, Toro – a man on his Okada carrying a student. They were killed by the Ifes who were on their way to Toro.

Toro is a village in Modakeke.

Thankfully, with the help of telecommunications, enough people were informed to drive away the land grabbers so it did not go further.

Given the way human lives are so cheap in my part of the country – nobody is supposed to talk about this, after all the ‘Elders’ intervened in the end.

Hearing this, I went on the Nigeria FB page to talk briefly about this especially to inform those that are not aware of the perpetual killings over farmland is still an issue.

What ensued was several messages exchange – some helpful, lots were reciting 1400 history but others were only there to say how dare I brought this ‘forgotten’ issue to limelight even though I reiterate that was a few days ago incidence.

At the end of these exchanges, I learned a few things:

1. Nigeria government must do more to clear up the ambiguity of the Land Use Decree of 1978. A few Ife guys who contributed to the FB thread thought the rent over 200/300 years must continue and if Modakeke did not oblige, bloodletting will continue.

This begs the question – Who owns all the land within Nigeria territory? This question seems to cause more uproar than the deaths of the people but if Ile Ife benefited financially from federal purse, why should it exempt from the Land Use law?

And if indeed compensation must be paid, how many lives do we need to sacrifice before government intervene?

2. An academic paper by Dr Oyerinde was pulled up. In this, the author looked at two different villages in Nigeria and how land ownership conflicts have been resolved in the past. The problem with this paper was that the author was comparing two completely different scenarios – Famia is a village within Modakeke town and has been the case for the last 300years or so while Ominigbo is a village on its own founded 65 years ago (?)

The author’s report of 1997 – 2000 crisis confirmed my suspicion. This was a recent and most brutal crisis to have happened. The author mentioned 5000 people were killed in Famia when no single soul was injured and in fact this is the place most people in town were heading for refuge during the crisis, I know this because I was one of the crowd.

This bothered me – if academic paper failed to report obvious facts, what hope do we have?

All in all, I learned that the only way to get our ‘Elders’ to see this perpetual killings as crime against humanity is to keep talking about it and if they are our elders enough, something permanent must be done.

Underdevelopment as a result of cycles of violence

The talk about poverty has gained momentum in the last year, we talk about how the rural areas can be better developed, government deservedly gets lion share of the blame for mismanaging nation’s wealth however, we rarely talk about how our many royal families have contributed to the underdevelopment in their various regions.

Poverty and violence go hand in hand. In recent years, the commonly talked about violence in Nigeria is Boko Haram, however, before BH became globalised  there has always been less talked about violence in many of our regions contributing to underdevelopment.

On a Facebook forum the other day a picture of Oba Adesoji Aderemi was pulled up. He was the king of Ile Ife from 1930-1980. As usual, everyone said what they thought of him – in general royal families are celebrated, such was the attitude.

Then a lady asked – How come Ile Ife is so underdeveloped given all the privileges it has enjoyed over the years?

Ile Ife town has the second university in the southwest, founded in 1962 currently have about 35,000 students from all over Nigeria.

Prior to the university, Ile-Ife has for a long time enjoyed other privilege such as Isakole (proceeds from land lease) from neighbours.

This is a very important question that I have always thought not enough attention was given.

Not too surprising, most commenters decided to talk about the significance of Ile Ife to Yorubaland, all the glamorous bits that are in total contrast to the reality on our streets.

To the lady who did not shy away from asking a difficult question, I explained that it is true that our past history is distorted, sometimes hard to know what to believe. However, one of the reasons why Ile Ife remained underdeveloped despite a 50+ years old popular university in town was largely because of internal conflict that was ‘renewed’ in 1981, a few months after the sitting Ooni of Ife Oba Sijuade became king.

I shared a bit of what I witnessed and how growing up in the area has changed the way I view of our monarchs. How fights over land ownership has gotten the best of our elders, they kill, grab the land and sold on.

While many of the killings did not make it to the media outside of the region, words do get round hence investment is rarity in the area.

Here’s what one of the forum members had to say:

“I can’t even believe grown adults raising money to buy weapons to fight Modakeke. My dad gave hundreds of thousands of naira for weapons then. He abandoned the whole thing when he realised that there was no accountability on the money raised. He raised the issue of accountability in the palace and Ooni suggested that he should not talk about accountability so abstained from their agenda.”

To this guy I was grateful, not many people can be this honest even when not much is secret.

The second question was whether anyone has ever been arrested and brought to justice for the killings of the innocent farmers during and of Modakeke and Ife crisis.

To my knowledge, no one has ever been arrested let alone tried for any of the deaths.  The number of people that have been murdered both in towns and villages are in hundreds and counting since 1981.

I heard it’s all complicated.

Is it really?

I suppose what happens in a small town of a few thousand people is a reflection of our country as a whole – absolute power.

Cradle of Yoruba: Vandalism over market day today, what’s next?

In a society where we are oblivious to the changing world that we are in, it is inevitable that unresolved land ownership disputes will keep people hostile to their neighbours until they burst.

Vandalism is another consequences of violence that I just do not agree with because it only shows one thing – ignorance. Destroying properties just do not make any sense given most involved are farmers and worked hard to own any property at all.

Photo Credits: Realworld Empire
Photo Credit: Realworld Empire

Growing up with my royal familyI am well aware that disputes over land ownership affect quite a lot of small towns around those clustered around Ile Ife, however, Modakeke is most affected as they have bigger population and closer to the Ifes than other surrounding towns.

Now, for years Ipetumodu and Asipa have been disputing over land ownership, there are impending court case on many of their lands. Several years ago, they were near burst but it was curtailed, now last week the veil was uncovered – burning buildings, damaging properties leaving communities deserted, for what? – Because the king wants more land.

Traditionally, we have local markets that operate on rota, this must have been agreed by traders long ago for ease of farm produce trading, so market day don’t clash. People in my village usually trade between Famia, Akinlalu, Asipa and Gbongan, there is always something unique with each market – life is a bliss.

Two years ago, a new market was created by the Ipetumodu at Akinola Junction and the date that this market operates was deliberately fixed so it coincides with Asipa market. To an outsider, this should be no big deal however, to locals it is a very big issue because Akinola is situated on Ibadan Express road making it more accessible to traders than Asipa market and so basically ‘snatch’ traders from Asipa market.

In this case chiefs and kings playing mind games for no other reason than to provoke reactions. Beggar believe how they arrive at being crowned.

For those who believed Modakeke and Ife land dispute over land ownership is isolated,  well, now we can all see interwoven idiosyncrasies that is our tale.

This short clip says it all. Nothing more to it. One side says, “I am the original owner” the other says “It’s my father’s” As if that is not embarrassing enough, among these two people was a king! That we are supposed to listen to.

We might as well have feudal system. Incredible the number of kings we have in Yorubaland today. When I was little, I knew about five within 30 miles radius, today the numbers have quadrupled and with zero accountability.

By the turn of the century, every street will have a king, heaven knows who I will end up paying homage to.


Putting names to the victims of war

This year marks the one hundredth years since the First WW broke out. UK did massive poppy display representing each soldiers killed in the war by planting 888,246 clay poppies themed Blood Swept Lands of Seas of Red – The display was beautiful and moving.

I am grateful too as I have benefited in no small measures from the peace around me.

Tower of London poppy Display
Tower of London poppy Display

Then it occurred to me that my gratitude for brave men and women goes beyond British soldiers and the first WW. Mine included a very recent and less publicised one but war nonetheless because people died so others like me could live.

Old NEPA building on Ondo road, Modakeke is a popular landmark in town, not only because it once housed NEPA (National Electric Power authority) but also that in the 80s, Nigeria Guru Maharaj Ji once lived there – One God. Many ways of reaching Him. My people’s madness about One Way and My Way is fascinating. Little wonder #Bringbackourgirls occurred.

I digressed a little there.

Old NEPA’s building has lots of memories that has shaped my view of the world in more than one way. I lived about 300 metres away from it for seven years.

By December 1998, I was beginning to think this will be the end of it all, the killings have been going on for about a year and no end in sight. Nigeria newspapers reported the crisis as if it was foxes and Chickens.

Adegoke retired to his house Old NEPA building, in the heart of town. Behind his house was a swamp, really it was a stream, flows during raining season but stood still most time of the year for the path is clogged of household waste.

One day, Modakeke youths went to Adegoke to ask if he could lend out his garden hose, people have seen him using this on occasions on the compound weeds. Adegoke refused to lend out his machine demanded the youths to leave his compound at once. The guys were not only disappointed, they were furious for his refusal to be of any help.

Adegoke has drunk, eaten on the soil. Even raised his family and Modakeke good enough for him to settle after years in the Nigeria Army. We were not asking him to fight given he is from Ikirun (or somewhere close in Osun State) but only fair that he help in his capacity to support our efforts to defend ourselves and livelihood from the Ifes.

The guys wanted to tell the old guy he was a traitor but must be cautioned as Adegoke has plenty of powerful guns so they left his compound.

Retired Captain Onigbinde assured the aggrieved youths he’ll have words with his old-time friend. Onigbinde walked up the stairs as he had done many times before, only to be carried out in a body bag, all the boys hanging about the building were taken down within minutes that followed.

Aremu Baba Elero Ata at Oke Amola, who has been fighting intensely for the last few weeks and tired was on his way home when he heard the news, made a detour to Old NEPA so as to stop Adegoke – him too was sent to a journey of no return within minutes of arrival.

Within 24 hours, Adegoke killed more people in Modakeke than the total number of people killed by the Ifes at the borders.

Was Adegoke an enemy within? Or was his action triggered by years in the Nigeria Army where killings has become a ‘child’s play’ and not enough psychological help to follow-up with soldiers to be sure they were not danger to their communities after retiring?

Must see what happens to Adegoke, next day I sat among tens of youths at Olanrewaju in a two-storey beside Baba Liadi’s building. There you can see Adegoke’s compound clearly, there was a stray bullet near this building yesterday but if others didn’t get shot, I will be just fine too.

This is history, must see.

Adegoke had resources, had a working landline phone from the then Nitel – his lawyer from Moro came by and whizzed him away.

“Remember Femo, the powerful undefeated Ife man who once rode Oba Sijuade’s horse to events?” A friend asked. I responded in affirmative.

See, my point here – No one benefitted absolutely from Modakeke and Ife crisis, but the bruised egos are still adamant to accept defeat to move to 21st century where it is not acceptable to demand for lease after centuries of ownership on farmlands.

None of the kings and chiefs children were victims. Actually, during this time four of Oba Sijuade’s children were in the USA studying and yet ordered children of his people to grab lands of the Modakekes do or die style.

Grandfather’s chest box

“If someone has bitten you, he has reminded you that you have teeth.” Kenya proverb.

I asked my father what the deal was with his Iroko chest box. I have known this box to be special since I was little, it stays under his bed and in it were journals and diaries of my father from before I was born.

“Apoti Baami nuu” – “My father’s chest box”, he said to me. Your father’s? I was ecstatic! All of my grand parents from both families were long gone before I was born  and apart from the house in the village and the farm that belonged to my paternal grandparents, there were nothing personal around that I knew of, not even a photo! By the time I was old enough to appreciate stories about my paternal grandparents, my father had lost his voice so took solace in his pens and journals.

My mother chipped in to talk about my grandfather’s dentures and how they became his ‘little babies’ the first few weeks he got them. My grandfather had dentures? How could he have afforded those close to sixty years ago? Where did he get them done?

Everything becomes clearer by the day why there will always be endless conflicts and lots of it in Nigeria if government continue to turn deaf ears to landownership crisis like the one in Modakeke and Ife

My grandfather got his dentures fitted at Ibadan, likely to be LUTH.

My grandfather’s dentures and his chest box have nothing to do with what really is boiling in me however, they were crucial clues to the lives people of his time lived in the village – He was not rich, however, he was content. He lived well, he was able to afford the cost of his health services and food for his family.

What has changed:

My grandparents had seven children, four were male so family farm was divided between them (leaving gender inequality for another time). Only one was educated to Standard Six, others enrolled in various apprenticeships. At one point all of them returned to the village, each working on his portion of the farm.

Any mystery as to why there were ongoing conflicts when Ife insisted on Modakeke to continue paying Isakole on three hundred years old lease?

There’s just not enough to keep feeding idle hands of great grand children who relied on proceeds from informal lease between great grand parents. Simple.

The same piece of land has not and will never increase in size, however the population has quadrupled in the last century – why is our elders not seeing this and find constructive ways of dealing with the conflict in the way that a group of people are not alienated on their land?

Lease on land met brick wall in the 1980’s after Oba Okunade Sijuade decided to reintroduce his rights to absolute power for good reasons but now outright chase of people from their farms is the new strategy.

My question is, those people especially in Ogudu Village, will they remain quiet for ever? They are hurting, no one is listening or think they are making any sense.

Yet, our president Jonathan Goodluck had time to visit the “Notable Yoruba Kings” yesterday in my hometown to discuss politics – Well, we all know these Obas do not give a hoot about the common people and neither did GEJ.

I have a word for all of them – Ile ti a fi ito mo iri in yio wo – A house built of saliva will collapse when dew hit.