Akarigbo Oyebajo

Akarigbo Oyebajo was the first educated ruler in Ijebu. Born in 1866, he ascended the throne in late 1891, just a year before the British conquest of Ijebu which brought him to prominence. The Lagos colonial governor, McCallum’s disdain of the proliferation of king titles in Akarigbo’s domain led to his being recognized as the paramount king in Ijebu Remo in an agreement establishing British protectorate over the area in August 1894. In 1903, the Lagos state government, having consulted the Ooni of Ife, recognized him as one of the few traditional rulers in Yorubaland entitled to wear a beaded crown, stupendously improving his image.

Oyebajo’s chiefs fell out with him for his reluctance to share the stipend he received from Lagos government, which they, by native custom are entitled to expect a portion. Relations between Oyebajo and his chiefs deteriorated when he had four of them arrested and arraigned on charge of conspiracy. When chance came in 1911, the chiefs, notably Awofala and Oluwole retaliated by having him charged for theft and extortion. This, the eyes of the no-nonsense colonial Commissioner of Bribery and Corruption, Duncombe cannot behold. Oyebajo was acquitted and Duncembo was berated for his overzealousness. Startled by the humiliation the District officer subjected him to during the case, Oyebajo had started treating Duncembo with contempt, an act that would be punished by reduction of his stipend. Oyebajo was finally disposed in June 1915 for better substantiated charges of judicial misconduct. By this time, Awofala and Oyebajo had become excessive and alienated from other chiefs.

When Oyebajo’s successor, Awolesi died in 1916, after only nine months in office, it became clear that public opinion had fallen on the deposed king’s side. A young man in his camp was chosen instead to weaken the camp’s position. Mortified by this decision, Oyebajo who had now been allowed in the spirit of reconciliation to stay in the Remo town of Sagamu, began to involve himself in suspicious activities. The British colonists, especially unsettled by his association with Herbert Macaulay who was a pain in their neck, had arranged for Oyebajo’s deportation to Calabar where he suffered depression and general ill health. He was allowed to return to Sagamu in 1932 where he died in 11 July.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer