ARIGIDI AKOKO: A TALE OF TWO PALACES, 50 YEARS APART

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The Yoruba adage about the consequences of a burnt palace being the cause of a beautiful transformation rings true on Saturday when the sons and daughters of Arigidi-Akoko in Ondo state commissioned a brand new palace, half a century after the old one was burnt to the ground.

Fifty years ago, after years of political schism caused by the fallout from the Action Group crises of the early 60s, the ancient town turned upon itself and moved against the Olanipekun dynasty, which is the only ruling house in Arigidi-Akoko,

The story, according to eye witnesses account, was the stuff of which legends are made.
When Akintola broke away from the Action Group to form NNDP, or Demo, as the party was known, the new government demanded absolute loyalty from traditional rulers in the region. Some of them complied, either out of self preservation or political leanings, while others who resisted were heavily sanctioned.

The then Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko, Oba Muhamadu Olanipekun, was perceived to be loyal to the government, while most of the populace were rabidly pro- Awo. This is based on the fact that people of Akoko were major beneficiaries of the free education programme, which gave them a big advantage over their cousins at the Kabba province in the then Northern Region, with whom they were formerly one division before the divide.

Anyway, nothing violent happened until the coup and counter coup of 66, which gave the people the opportunity to manifest what they perceived as oppressive tendencies by those who supported Akintola at the time.

The late Zaki, who explained to them that government is a continuum and he therefore must cooperate with whichever government was in power fell on deaf ears, as some interested parties wanted to use the crisis to wrestle the Zaki throne from the Olanipekun clan, the only ruling house since the town was founded over a century earlier.

The first attempt to physically remove the Zaki in May of 1967 was rebuffed. But the rabble rousers would not be denied. They came back three months later, in August of 67, and this time, they succeeded.

After trying to set fire to the palace and it would not ignite, one old woman stepped forward, recited an incarnation, and placed her left foot on one of the corners of the palace, and then told them to torch up the building.

Fortunately, it was another woman, the Olori , who stepped out of the palace, pleaded with the mob to allow the Zaki to leave, and without any dissenting voice, the crowd agreed, dispersed, and the Zaki went on exile, before returning to a make shift palace a few months later.

But unfortunately for the rabble rousers, there can only be one Zaki at a time, and despite legal challenges and government intervention, they could not destroy the age long tradition of only one living Zaki at a time.

So for fifty years, Arigidi-Akoko had no palace befitting it’s history and prestige.

Nine years ago, when the Zaki died, his younger cousin, Yisa Olanipekun, a businessman, became the Zaki, and despite numerous challenges, both inherited and current, made a vow to restore the glory of the institution by leading the quest for the construction of a befitting palace for the town.

But it wasn’t to be, until the town’s most famous son, Otunba Gani Adams, the National Coordinator of Oodua People’s Congress, Convener of Oodua Progressive Union and the Otunba of Arigidi-Akoko, during the Annual Okota festival, made a pledge to intervene.

And so, just a few months after the pledge , Arigidi-Akoko now has a befitting Palace to call it’s own. An act that effectively ended 50 years of communal strife in the ancient kingdom.

Goes to show that despite long standing political differences, blood is always thicker than water.

My Ten Kobo.

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