Oba Michael Adetoye Obanuga
By James Sowole
Twelve years after ascending the throne of his fatherland, the Court of Appeal, Akure Judicial Division, has sacked the Jegun of Idepe, Okitipupa, Oba Michael Adetoye Obanuga and ordered him to vacate the throne with immediate effect.
The court in the lead judgment read by Justice Mojeed Adekunle Owoade, also ordered that a fresh selection process be initiated by the Ondo State Government immediately.
However, the court ordered that the process of selection must exclude the sacked monarch and the ruling house, which produced him in line with the chieftaincy law of the state.
The judgment of the Appeal Court upheld the December 14, 2005 verdict of an Ondo State High Court, Okitipupa Judicial Division, which sacked the traditional ruler over faulty selection process in December, 2005.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the suit that commenced in 2003, Obatuga approached an appeal court where he filed an appeal on 12 grounds and raised seven issues for determination.
The suit lasted nine years. The nine-year-old appeal filed by the monarch on December 14, 2005, was however, dismissed on the grounds that it lacked in merit and failed in its entirety.
In a unanimous verdict, and supported by Justice Sotonye Denton West and Justice Cordelia Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, the court upheld the decision of the lower court that the Oba was not selected at a proper or valid meeting of the kingmakers by the Jegun of Idepe Chieftaincy.
The court, in its judgment tackled the grounds of the appeal one after the other, with the seven issues raised and held that the appeal failed in its entirety, thereby upholding the position of the lower court.
Justice Owoade noted that the learned trial judge, Justice Akintoroye, found that 16 of the 26 kingmakers were denied their customary right to select a Jegun of Idepe in the exercise leading to the emergence of the Oba.
While ordering that the deposed monarch and his ruling house cannot partake in the fresh selection process, the court quoted Section 11(A) of the Chiefs Law of Ondo State which it said introduced equity and fair play into chieftaincy issues.
According to the provision of the law, “Where a ruling house whose turn it is to present a candidate to fill a vacancy in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of this Edict had been so-called and had presented a candidate who having undergone all the processes of selection prescribed under that section and 8A and was duly appointed to fill the vacancy and performed functions as such chief before his candidacy for whatever reason was subsequently annulled, that person so appointed shall be deemed to have reigned and it shall be the turn of the next ruling house to present a candidate to fill the vacancy, and where there is only one ruling house, that chief whose candidature has been annulled shall be deemed to have reigned and shall not be qualified to be considered again.”
Also, the presiding justice of the appellate court, Justice Denton West, in supporting the judgment, held that the kingmakers, like the candidates or contesting parties to a chieftaincy stool, are equally clothed with locus to challenge irregularities in a selection process.
He posited that “Section 6 (6) (B) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) expressly gave them “locus standi” in such a case.”