Nigeria: Modakeke Declares ‘Self Rule,’ Appoints ‘Chairman’

Osogbo — There can’t be sovereignty within sovereignty- Osun govt

Reminiscent of the declaration of “independence,” the Modakeke community in Ife, Osun State at the weekend proclaimed its own local government (Ife East) and named an interim chairman. He is Mr Yekeen Awopetu.

The action of the Modakeke community appears to be the climax to its threat some weeks ago to declare “self-rule government” in the event that the Federal Government failed to create a local government for the area in fulfilment of the reported recommendation of the Presidential Peace Panel (PPP).

The peace panel set up last year by President Olusegun Obasanjo and headed by one of the South-west leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Commodore Olabode George (rtd), was said to have advised the government to create a separate local government for the Modakeke as part of measures to ensure lasting peace in Ife/Modakeke.

Ife/Modakeke had been locked in age-old fratricidal war over geographical status. Whereas Ife considers Modakeke a “tenant,” the latter argues to the contrary. Between 1997 and 2000, the area was locked in bloody clashes over the creation of a local council by the Abacha administration on the Modakeke territory. Following the bloody conflict in 1997, the Abacha administration had reverted to the status quo ante.

While proclaiming Ife East last Friday inside the Town Hall, the Modakeke community said its action was not in any way to foment trouble but to meet the aspirations of the people to have government closer to them.

“We have duly informed the Federal Government about what we are doing today. What we are doing today is constitutional and anybody that has contrary view should go to court and seek legal redress,” declared Mr Awopetu, the interim chairman of “Ife East Local Government.”

Awopetu said the Modakeke people had waited for over 20 months for the area office to be created but to no avail, hence, the resolve “to begin this way.”

He explained that the community had to take the action as all efforts towards achieving “what our people were promised about two years ago” were being frustrated by the refusal of the state government to create an area office.

Awopetu, while expressing the community’s respect for the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, added that “we are not out to cause confusion or any problem.”

“Everybody is crying for peace without justice. There can never be peace without justice. We do respect the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade. If anybody is telling you that we want to destroy Ife, we don’t want to do that,” Awopetu said.

He stated further that the new approach would allow everybody to benefit “and we will share all things equally among our people,” adding that the “self-rule government” would give to the Modakeke what other councils in the federation are giving to their people.

Speaking on the composition of the self government, Awopetu said seven committees on land, survey and housing, health, education, information, revenue mobilisation, works and transport had been put up, adding “in our operation, we are going to be very careful and be more concerned about the boundary area between our local government and other adjoining local governments.”

He said the government priorities would be in the areas of rehabilitation of bad roads, restoration of street light and maintenance of existing infrastructure and maternity centre.

On how to fund the government, Awopetu said the community boasts of over 100,000 people and as such, financial assistance would not be sought from governments but added that donations from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) would be taken.

Contacted for the reaction of the Osun State Government, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Bisi Akande, Mr Lani Baderinwa, said he did not know the constitutionality or otherwise of the action taken but added “one thing is sure, there can’t be a sovereignty within sovereignty.”

He said that the government would be ready to distribute its resources equally while assuring that the state government was interested in implementing all recommendations.

“First and foremost, we may not be able to talk about the constitutionality or otherwise of such a move. But one thing is sure, there can’t be a sovereignty within a sovereignty.

“I am not sure if there has been any formal information from the good people of Modakeke to either the Federal Government or the Osun State government in this regard. However, the government of Osun State under the leadership of Chief Adebisi Akande will continue to take care of the well-being and welfare of the people of the state and that of Modakeke inclusive.

“Of course, the physical development of the totality of Osun State including that of Modakeke will continue to take a vantage position. As for the issue in contention, the Akande administration has always considered it essential having been part and parcel of the agreement.

“I can assure you, all the terms of agreement which the government subscribed to would definitely be implemented,” Baderinwa said.

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