Former deputy governor of Edo State and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Peter Obadan, has called out the Oje-designate of Ora Kingdom, Joshua Unuigboje Aisiku, a professor Emeritus, over his repudiation of the honourary title conferred on the governorship candidate of the APC in the September 19, 2020 poll, Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Apart from debunking the claim that he conferred the title on Ize-Iyamu as reported in a section of the media, Aisiku also dismissed the action of those who performed the ceremony as “null and void” because according to him, it was against the customs and tradition of the Ora people.
Recall that the APC candidate had on Thursday August 27 been conferred with the title ‘Oyahire of Ora Clan’ by the Okpojenaga of Ora, Joshua Akhikhiero when he visited his palace in continuation of his ward-to-ward campaign in the area. ‘Oyakhire’ means “The One who has come to wipe our tears”. Conferring the title, Akhikhiero explained that he was being so honoured because of his demonstrated competence and ability to solve problems. According to him, “We know that you are a Christian and we cannot give you a title that will make you start serving idols. The title is honourary and we gave it to you because we know you are a man who wipes away tears of people”.
But reacting to the conferment of the title at a press conference in Benin last Saturday, Aisiku said: “I refute that report categorically in the strongest terms because it is devoid of any iota of truth. I want to make it clear that I never conferred any title on anybody. Reports that Ize-Iyamu was conferred with the title of Oyakhire of Ora, and that I, Chief Joshua Aisiku, conferred the title on him is a lie and a scam. I didn’t confer any title on the APC candidate, Ize-Iyamu on the 27th of August, 2020”.
Aisiku insisted that “The report of one chief giving title to Ize-Iyamu is against the customs and traditions of Ora. The rally they claimed was held to give him the title was held in Eme-Ora not in Sabongida-Ora as reported in social media. The event took place in the private residence of Chief John Akhihiero, not in the palace as reported in the social media. He has no palace neither does he have any rights to call his residence a palace.”
Aisiku said Chief John Akhihiero claimed to be the Okpojenaga of Ora, noting that “there is no such title but Okpojenaga of Ohia. I was neither in Eme-Ora nor Ohia when this claimed title was given to APC candidate for the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State”.
Obadan was to fire back at Aisiku, stating pointedly that Ora had no Oje-elect as being claimed by the professor Emeritus. Obadan told Tell that the chiefs in the six villages that make up Ora Clan met in Ohia “where they gave POI (Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu) that honorary title and they specifically stated that it was not a chieftaincy title but an honorary title in recognition of his person”. He explained that Ora, being one of the children of Ozolua, direct descendants from Benin, actually ought not to have a king. “It was therefore convenient that we created the Ojeship which moves from village to village according to the seniority of the village. We have six villages in Ora and Ohia is the first. So, the last Oje came from my mother’s place which is Ovbiokhuarin. When he died, the Sabo people were now to pick; but the choice is not always by election. There is a process designated in the law establishing the Ojeship. But this said professor (Aisiku) just handpicked some of his friends who are from Sabo, because Sabongida is made up mainly of strangers; and they sat down and said they were nominating him as the Oje-elect. The other five villages kicked against it and said they had a process for nomination and more so there is another young man in his village in Sabo there, one Peter Evbhorokhai who they said is traditionally qualified person. So, the case is even in court”.
The former deputy governor noted that Aisiku had been “carrying the title of Oje-elect now for about four years and he is not. The other villages don’t recognize him at all. And he is not even from Ora. If he says he is from Ora, he should give us his lineage in Ora. He’s not from Ora. The name Aisiku means nothing in Ora. All the villages have chiefs, and the senior chiefs in all the villages met and did what they did. For him to wake up and say what they did was wrong …He is the one who wants to mess up the people”.
Obadan, an APC leader in the area, alleged that Aisiku, a professor of education, “is a PDP man. Yes, I met him two weeks ago when we met in Dr. Ahonkhai’s place; I met him there. He is a PDP man”. He wondered how somebody whose position is in dispute in the court could be collecting money from the local government council as a traditional ruler.
“The chairman in the local government council is illegally giving him money every month. You know all the traditional rulers are expected to collect money from the council because the moment he designated himself Oje-elect, I think they arm-twisted the chairman, and every month, he makes some money available to him. Iulleha has no traditional ruler; we have no traditional ruler; only Sobe and Ozalla currently have traditional rulers. There are four traditional rulers in Owan-west; two seats are vacant. Why should even somebody who says he’s an ‘elect’ be collecting money from the council; he’s not even qualified to earn what he is earning in the council. How can you be an elect for four years? The case is in court”.
In his response, Aisiku insisted that he is Oje-designate of Ora. He explained that his press conference became necessary when a section of the media reported that he conferred Ize-Iyamu with the title while in other quarters, “one person known as Chief Ikhidero, Okpojenaga of Ora” was said to have conferred the title. Aisiku however stated that such title does not exist in Ora.
Rubbishing the event, Aisiku said “The man who gave the title, Chief Ikhidero is the Okpojenaga of Ohia not of Ora. We don’t have anything like Okpojenaga of Ora; that is one. Number two, the case is pending in court. After my town, Evbiobe, Sabongida Ora had elected me as the Oje of Ora. I am the Oje of Ora-elect because they went to court to obtain injunction that I should not function as Oje of Ora, neither anyone in Ora, including Chief Akhikhiero, Ikhidero function as Oje of Ora”.
He said being told that he is not the Oje-elect contradicts the record of the court because “I am gazetted as the Oje of Ora. I use the appellation ‘elect’ because they had challenged, according to them, the process of my election, not that I was not elected by Sabongida-Ora. So, what you told me at the beginning of your question that somebody said I am not Oje of Ora-elect, tell that person to go look at the gazette. I don’t have the number here I would have told you the number of the gazette; that I have been gazetted, I have been appointed as Oje of Ora. It is in court because Chief Akhikhiero, Chief Ifijeh Ohimai, and one other chief went to seek injunction against my coronation. That is the true position”.
He also dismissed the claim that he is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, positing that he is not a member of any political party. He however admitted that “before this my appointment as Oje of Ora, if I must let you know, I was an elder in APC. But when this appointment came, I play the role of father of all. I am not a member of any party. I am not a member of PDP or any party. Two, that I am a law-abiding citizen; an appointed, elected Oje of Ora who is not functioning in obedience of court order till we resolve this issue of the process.
And thirdly, the people who are claiming that I am not, are those who are supporting the people who took me to court, including Akhikhiero. He’s not the judge to decide that I am not the Oje of Ora”. Aisiku however clarified that he had nothing against neither the state governor, nor the APC candidate, stressing that “I’m father of all and I stand by that. Obadan, or whoever told you that, are being partisan and they shouldn’t be. I did not confer any title on Ize-Iyamu. None of the chiefs, by the tradition of Ora, can confer a title on anybody. So, what they did could be regarded as null and void. By academic standing, I am Professor Emeritus, so I know what is right, what should be avoided. Those who are now making claims of conferring titles, by Ora tradition and culture are not obeying the tradition”.
On the allegation that he is not from Ora, and the challenge that he should state his lineage, Aisiku said “That will be nice. Please note, if you trace family tree, I am more Ora than anybody can be because my fore, fore, fore fathers are Ora. My grand-father, when enlisted into the First World War by the British army, his place of birth was Sabongida Ora in Ubiaja local government area. That time, Ora was under Ubiaja in Esanland. And my house, as we speak now, is in the heart of Sabongida Ora on Obe Street. If I know your source of that allegation, I am prepared to take steps; I am from Sabongida Evbiobe-Ora. I am ready to give my lineage. It dated far back as five generations; I’m prepared to do that”.