Oba of Jebba in the Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Adebara, 101, speaks to TUNDE OYEKOLA on his travails since ascending the throne
When were you installed as the Oba of Jebba?
My name is Alhaji Abdulkadir Alabi Adebara. I retired from the Kwara State Ministry of Finance, Treasury Division, on December 31, 1985, after about 30 years in the service of the Kwara State Government as the chief accountant.
After the service, I held political appointments; I was appointed as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and councillor for the Moro Local Government Committee, and I also served as a member of the Igbaja Chieftaincy Panel. I’m also into farming.
I was installed as the Oba of Jebba on May 11, 2003, by the late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal, the former governor of Kwara State, as a third-class chief, and all the traditional rites were performed by the chiefs of Jebba.
Jebba is a town in Kwara State, which was carved out from the defunct Northern Region by the military government in 1967; can you state the position of Jebba town now?
Jebba is a Yoruba town founded by two prominent brothers, Adebola Adebara and Adaso Adebara, who came from Ajase-Ipo, a prominent town in the Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State. But there are other prominent tribes in the town such as Nupe and Hausa as well as Igbo too.
Are there traditional festivals in Jebba?
In modern-day Jebba, the people practice Islam and Christianity, and we celebrate Ileya (Id el Kabir) and Ramadan for Muslims, and Christmas and Easter by Christians, but some people still practice African Traditional Religion by worshiping Sango, Egungun and Oya in their homes.
How many ruling houses are in Jebba?
Jebba has only one ruling house, which is the Adebara ruling house where all the obas of the town, including me, have emerged.
The story of Obaship in Jebba dates back to 1897 when our progenitor, Oba Adebola Adebara, was installed and he ruled till 1901.
His brother, Adaso Adebara, ascended the throne as the second Oba of Jebba and he reigned till 1930. The third was Oba Mohammed Ayoola Adebara, who was installed in 1930 and reigned until his death in 1943.
Oba Ahmadu Akanbi Adebara ruled for 60 years from 1943 to 2003. His reign witnessed the full-fledged modern Jebba and I’m the fifth Oba of Jebba. Since 1897 when the first king was appointed and crowned, it has been an orderly process as the ascension and coronation have been smooth.
The ascension of the successive Obas has been without rancour, devoid of internal family wrangling, and so it was with me.
What are the processes of choosing an Oba in Jebba?
The Oba of Jebba normally emerges through the selection made by members of the ruling house and presented to the kingmakers. The process starts with the report to be made to the kingmakers about the demise of the Oba.
After the burial, the kingmakers will send a message to the royal house to forward the name of the heir apparent to them. Once this is done, the kingmakers will also screen the candidates in line with the traditional processes and rites.
After the traditional rites, the candidate goes for assessment/fortification known as ‘Ayewo’ by the Elemoso and Baale. He is to spend three days each at these places.
The essence of this is for the Oba to learn some basic things, which include the rudiments of the palace, the throne and ruling.
In essence, it has to teach the new king how to behave on the throne and get inundated with the historical background of his predecessors, which all border on the smooth administration of the community. Once the traditional rites are completed, the installation proper will be done and the new Oba will proceed to the palace.
We use ewe Akoko (Akoko leaves) for the installation. The Akoko leaves and cap are the traditional items and symbols of installation for the Oba of Jebba in addition to other must-do traditional rites in accordance with Yoruba tradition.
Let me add that though, we use the turban as a symbol of installation in the modern day, but it is not compulsory.
Can you relate your experiences while on the throne as the Oba of Jebba for the past 21 years?
Many things happened while I have been on the throne in the last 21 years. I thank Allah that some developments have been recorded in Jebba and its environs. Jebba has about 32 villages, which are being administered by the Oba-in-Council.
But I want to recall two remarkable things that happened in the early part of my reign as the monarch. About a month after my installation and presentation of staff of office by the then governor, the late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal, there was a change of government.
Dr Bukola Saraki took over as the governor and the Kwara State House of Assembly was inaugurated by the governor, and its first assignment was the proclamation of the reversal of the grading of traditional rulers in the state.
Though I received a letter of appointment from the Kwara State Government as a chief on third-class grade, there was no letter from the government on the reversal of the grading. I was not given any letter that the grading of the stool had been reversed.
This is the second time that the grading of the stool of the Oba of Jebba would be reversed. In 1983 during the reign of my predecessor, Oba Ahmadu Akanbi Adebara, the then Kwara State governor, Alhaji Adamu Attah, gave official recognition to the stool and graded it as third-class chief along with the Ohoro of Shao, but the grading was cancelled by the military government headed by the late Group Captain Salahudeen Adebola Latinwo.
About three years after my installation and presentation of staff of office, I received an invitation from the then state Commissioner of Police, who told me that the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, wrote a petition against me that I was calling myself Oba of Jebba when the stool was still vacant. I was charged to a magistrate’s court on two counts of parading myself ‘as the Oba of Jebba when you know that the stool was still vacant’ and that I swore to an affidavit at the Kwara State High Court and was parading myself as Oba of Jebba to testify in the case of Rahamanu Adio Vs Okedare and two others.
The presiding magistrate ordered that I be remanded in the Federal Correctional Service facility at Oke Kura in Ilorin and I was locked up for 19 days between March 9 and March 27, 2006.
I was incarcerated, humiliated, and disgraced at the Ilorin prison for 19 days. But while in prison, I was able to read and recite the Holy Quran twice.
The case lasted till 2009 when Justices Hannah Afolayan and Halima Salman ruled that the magistrate’s court did not have jurisdiction over the matter.
Just a month after the court decision on the case, the state government filed another case against me at the state High Court before Justice Hannah Ajayi, which was decided on January 29, 2014
The case lasted eight years before Justice Hannah Ajayi of the Kwara State High Court discharged and acquitted me of any wrongdoing.
The court upheld my appointment and grading as a third-class traditional ruler as legal, valid, and subsisting.
What are the steps you have taken to ensure that the judgment is implemented?
Since the aforementioned judgment was delivered, several letters have been written to both the past and present governors for the implementation of the court judgment, starting with the payment of all withheld salaries and emoluments, but all to no avail.
How many months are you being owed by the government?
Before I was appointed as the Oba of Jebba, my predecessor, Alhaji Ahmadu Akanbi Adebara, was paid the salary for March and April 2003. I was appointed in May but the salary of May was not paid to me up till now. Altogether, I’m being owed 21 years’ salary by the state government.
What recent efforts have you made to appeal to the government for the payment of the backlog of salary?
We have written many letters of appeal to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. I wrote a letter in August and another one dated October 3, 2023, requesting the payment of my emoluments and the implementation of the court judgment.
The governor referred the letter to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, who also sought legal advice from the attorney-general and commissioner of justice, whose advice was promptly given to the effect that the salaries and emoluments should be paid.
Since the receipt of the legal advice, the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs has refused to revert to the governor, while the subject file has suddenly disappeared from circulation.
Even the reminder letter written with reference HRH/OBJB/S.P/GOV/12/2023 dated December 18, 2023, on the subject matter has not been replied to.
What do you think is responsible for non-payment of your salary?
I have strong reasons to believe that one or two traditional rulers are behind these things; they are out to frustrate the payment of the accumulated salaries and allowances.
They had vowed that as long as they lived, I would not earn any salary. That perhaps is their second worst option having failed woefully to prevent me from ascending the throne of the Oba of Jebba.
Given the circumstances, what do you want the government to do for you?
I want the injustice meted to me and the people of Jebba to be corrected. The government should implement in full the court judgment delivered by Justice Hannah Ajayi in 2014, which pronounced that the stool of Oba of Jebba be graded and that I was duly appointed as a graded chief, while my salary should be paid in full from May 2003 till date.
I want to also appeal to the governor to carry out the immediate upgrading of the stool of Oba of Jebba to first-class status in line with my contemporaries of 1983 like the Elese of Igbaja in the Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state; the Olosi of Osi in the Ekiti Local Government Area; the Olupako of Share, in the Ifelodun Local Government Area; the Etsu Tsaragi in the Edu Local Government Area, and so on.
Even stools that were not graded by 1983 are now of first-class status in the state.
The government should also implement the judgment of the state High Court delivered in October 1997, which declared that the Moro Local Government Area, where Jebba is situated, is not part of the Ilorin Emirate system. The government should immediately constitute a separate traditional council for the Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State as declared in the judgment.