He may be a monarch, but Alhaji Abdulkabir Alabi Adebara, the Oba of Jebba in Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State, is treated with contempt by the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Kolapo Sulu-Gambari.
The Emir, actively abetted by the state government of Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed and his godfather, Bukola Saraki, the Nigerian Senate President, has refused to recognise Adebara as the Oba of Jebba. And for 11 years, beginning from the time Saraki became governor, the state government did not pay Adebara his entitlements. The Emir continues to claim that Jebba is under the Ilorin Emirate despite a 1997 court ruling (in suit KWS/231/89) stating otherwise.
In October 2014, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), a Yoruba socio-cultural group, drew attention to the ill-treatment of Adebara, notably marked by the state government's studious refusal to recognise him a third class traditional ruler even after two courts had affirmed his status.
“Six monarchs from Asa, Moro and Ilorin East Local Government Areas – Ohoro of Shao, Oba of Jebba, Alapado of Apado, Baale of Afon, Dado of Okeso, and Magaji Aare of Ilorin – submitted memoranda for the exercise, but none was deemed qualified even though they all met the criteria set out in the advertisement,” the organisation said.
At the Jebba Muslim praying ground on July 6, 2016, Oba Adebara was attacked after the Eid-el-Fitr prayers in a disturbance that resulted in the death of three persons and injuries to 12 others. The attack was reportedly sponsored by members of Okedare family, who want one of them to be Oba of the town. Among the Okedares, who are loyal to the state government and the Emir of Ilorin, are Matthew Okedare, Deputy Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly; Simon Okedare, Clerk of the Assembly; and Kayode Okedare, the Principal of Government Secondary School, Jebba.
Adebara's unfortunate situation persists despite the fact that suits filed by the state government in various courts against his claim to the Jebba stool have been decided in his favor.
Adebara became the Oba of Jebba in 2003 and was given a letter of appointment, which categorised him as a "Third Class" traditional ruler, by Governor Alhaji Mohammed Lawal (now late), whose tenure as governor was about ending and was later succeeded by Saraki.
Adebara's ordeal began a few months into Saraki's first term of office when the state government ordered that he should no longer be paid his entitlements because Jebba was yet to have a traditional ruler.
He was subsequently arrested and detained at Okekura Prison for 19 days on criminal charges. He was later released on bail.
Shortly after, the state government dragged Adebara before a Chief Magistrate's Court, alleging that he was parading himself illegally as Oba in violation of both the state and local government orders as well as well as giving evidence in a suit before a High Court as the traditional ruler of Jebba when he knew that his action contravened the "Chiefs Appointment Deposition Law and the Penal Code." Adebara, a retired civil servant, pleaded not guilty to the charges, affirming in his examination-in-chief that, "I am presently the Oba of Jebba and I became monarch since May 16th 2003, having succeeded the deceased Oba Ahmadu Adebara."
Adebara's counsel, Joseph Bamigboye, successfully contested the jurisdiction of the magistrate's court to entertain the matter, as it was criminal in nature.
The matter (Suit No. KWS/2c/2006, The State Vs Alhaji AbdulKadir) then moved to the state High Court, where, SaharaReporters learnt, two judges were forced to withdraw from the case on account of pressure from the Emir of Ilorin, supported by the state government.
Before the third judge, Justice Hannah Ajayi, the state counsel, Mrs. FB Ishola, called four witnesses, while Adebara called two. Ishola told the court that all the prosecution required was to prove that Adebara paraded himself as a monarch in violation of government order. She averred that Adebara kept on parading himself as such despite a letter from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, dated November 3, 2003, instructing him to stop doing so and revert to the status quo. She further submitted that Adebara failed to prove that he was appointed by kingmakers, saying the town had no kingmakers as claimed by the four prosecution witnesses.
Ishola maintained that Adebara's refusal to revert to the status quo made him criminally liable for advertising himself as what he is not. Ishola similarly argued that the prosecution had successfully established a case of an "illegal parade" as a monarch against Adebara and urged the court convict him as charged.
In Adebara's defence, his counsel submitted that the letter the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs claimed to have written was not addressed to any person or stool in particularly, arguing that its content was imprecise.
For the prosecution to show that the letter was addressed to Adebara, the counsel added, it must prove, among other things, that his appointment as Oba of Jebba in 2003 did not comply with the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law of 1963. He further submitted that no evidence had been tendered before the court showing the provision of the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law of 1963 that was breached by Adebara's traditional and governmental appointment. The counsel also told the court that the prosecution failed to adduce any evidence to suggest that Adebara did not take an oath of office upon his appointment as is required by law. Adebara's lawyer then proceeded to punch holes in the prosecution's claim that the Oba's appointment provoked huge protests in the town, arguing that the Jebba community, including 33 surrounding villages under it, expressed massive support for the appointment. "There was no challenge to the appointment of the accused within the ruling house and there was no acknowledged petition to the Governor over the appointment and that there was no lawsuit against the appointment," said Bamgboye.
The counsel further argued that government's appointment and grading under the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law were strictly for the government recognition of the appointment, adding that "the purported government withdrawal of appointment and grading will only withdraw the recognition under the referred law, but cannot withdraw the traditional appointment.
"Where an Oba is not appointed by the government and is not graded, he is still an Oba within the Interpretation Act once he is accepted by his people and the kingmakers.
"Even where his appointment by government and grading are subsequently withdrawn, he remains an Oba under the Interpretation Act, but not under the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law.
"In effect, the purported letter, including the two, which emanated from the local government, do not and cannot act as instruments of deposition. The Oba still remains an Oba by virtue of his traditional appointment and is competent to parade himself as such," Adebara's lawyer told the court.
In her judgment, delivered in January 2014, Justice Ajayi said there were contradictions in the testimonies of the four prosecution witnesses, while those given by defence witnesses were found to have been consistent.
The judge decided that the prosecution had failed to prove that Adebara's appointment in 2003 contravened the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law of 1963. She subsequently pronounced a no-guilty verdict on Adebara, subsequently discharging and acquitting him of the two-count criminal charge and affirming his status as the legitimate traditional ruler of Jebba with third class status.
The court also ordered the state government to pay all the arrears of Adebara's entitlements for 11 years, which it has failed to comply with.
Dissatisfied, the state government headed to the Federal Appeal, which upheld the judgment of the lower court.
On Monday July 18 2016, the Kwara State Governor announced the elevation of a number of chiefs to "First Class" traditional rulers, one of those elevated includes the Olupako of Share who is Oba of the Governor's hometown. The Olupako of Share and the Oba of Jebba were both recognised as Third Class in 1983. The Governor still won't recognize and accord Oba Adebare of Jebba his entitlements and court ordered status.