BY PATRICK OCHOGA, Benin
Tension has mounted in Iguobazuwa, the administrative headquarters of Ovia South West local government area of Edo State following a dispute over occupant of the traditional stool.
Prior to the dispute, the oldest man in the community (Odionwere) is recognised as the traditional head of the area from time immemorial.
However, a member of the community, Mr Friday Obaruyi, who enjoys the support of some chiefs, is laying claim to the office.
It was learnt that succession crisis over the stool started in 2019 when some members of Iguobazuwa alleged that the present Odionwere Pa Sunday Omokaro’s ascendancy to the stool fell short of the traditional and spiritual rites.
He (Omokaro) was subsequently suspended by the head of traditional chiefs pending when the issues surrounding his claim to the stool were resolved. His suspension, it was gathered, created a vacuum.
However, Obaruyi told LEADERSHIP Friday that he remains the recognised Okao of Iguobazuwa, adding that he had documents to back his claim to the stool.
Obaruyi presented a letter showing that he is duly appointed Okao/traditional head of Iguobazuwa. In the letter signed on behalf of the Oba of Benin by the Benin Traditional Council’s secretary, Frank Irabor, states: “I write to inform you with reference to your letter No: OSWLG/742/T/22 of 31st January, 2020, which was acknowledge and replied in my letter Ref. No. BTC. A40/Vol.LV111/150 of 14th February, 2020, on the confirmation on the title of Chief Friday Obaruyi as the Okao of Iguobazuwa.
“The Benin Traditional Council is officially aware now that Chief Friday Obaruyi is confirmed with the title of Okao of Iguobazuwa (Traditional Head) by His Royal Majesty, Omo N’ O a N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare 11, Oba of Benin.”
The tussle, which caused pandemonium in the peaceful community, drew the attention of the lawmaker representing Ovia South West/Ovia North East federal constituency, Hon Dennis Idahosa, who waded into the feud.
Idahosa, a member of the House of Representatives, at a meeting held last weekend in the community to resolve the crisis, urged the people to place premium on what binds them together rather than what separates them, pledging that he would work for the amicable resolution of the matter.
He said apart from being the lawmaker representing the constituency, the matter was dreary to him and should be resolved without any form of violence since he is from Iguobazuwa.
Idahosa said: “As an indigene of Iguobazuwa community, Odionwere has always been the head of the community; I will do everything with your support to bring peace to our community.”
On behalf of the youths, Julius Idehen, a youth leader, said, “Since the inception of Iguobazuwa community, the recognised head has been the ‘Odionwere and not Okao’.
“Now, one Friday Obaruyi is parading himself as the ‘Okao’ of Iguobazuwa, declaring himself as the traditional head of the community and sidelining the traditional protocols.”
Idehen said his decision to seek the intervention of Hon Idahosa was because he hails from the Iguobazuwa community.
Also speaking, Mr Goodluck Uyigue, a former aide to Governor Godwin Obaseki, who is an indigene of the community, alleged that Obaruyi is not a native of Iguobazuwa.
“He is from Ikoha. He does not have the credibility to lead any community not to talk of imposing himself on the people of Iguobazuwa,” he stated.
Uyigue asked Idahosa to wade into the feud to avoid any form of communal crisis.
Igoubazuwa has in recent times been in the news over the issue of the headship of the community between the Okao and the Odionwere.
But Obaruyi in a quick response said those claiming that he is not from the community want to stand the truth on its head. He said he remains a true son and head of Iguobazuwa community.