Once upon a time in an enchanted chiefdom of Onireke lived four mythical families, each a claimant to the chieftaincy stool of the great town. Legend had it that four brothers, Apoju, Ajegunle, Lakai and Akinogun, the quadruplet grandsons of Orangun, son of Oduduwa founded the confederacy of Onireke. It had been a long standing tradition to pass the stool from one family to the other once a Chief died. The incipient rivalry among the brothers never blew into bloodletting until now. Succession rites involved burying alive the first son of a dead chief with his father among many other rituals while consulting with the revered deity, Obatala, the god of right and wrong decisions, to pick a successor.
Many in Onireke who were not of ruling descent -commoners- had begun to murmur about the length of Adaje Ajegunle’s reign. Having reigned 46 years over the chiefdom, miraculously surviving three attempts at his stool, Adaje had come to be known as “Ijapa” meaning, “the tortoise” for his surreptitious grip at life and power amidst the serpentine scheming of the Apoju, Lakai, and Akinogun families.
Onireke’s stool was as cunning as it was unpredictable. The sly, sickly septuagenarian whose lust and wanton self-indulgence did not abate his fervor for worshipping the gods had all too suddenly decided to abdicate his stool. Adaje had never been the type of man to let go of power but now he was doing so. Indeed, he was not to be trusted. It was one evening after the monthly chiefs-in-council meeting that he announced that Yembo had appeared to him in a dream requesting that he abdicate the stool to go and live at the Ifa Monastery at Gbogan. Derision quickly turned to mistrust as the news filtered through the council chamber.
‘It is the will of our ancestors and we must accept it.’ Adaje insisted. ‘Ilape, my first son and his family will accompany me to Gbogan where I will live out my days while Ateleni is to serve as regent in my stead until word of my departure from this world gets to you .’
‘No son of my father,’ Ademola Lakai broke word. ‘We all know that the lizard doesn’t run in the day time except it is in pursuit or is pursued by a thing…speak to us in plain language so that we understand. Abdication has never been a subject in this confederacy, brother.’
‘Ademola, I know your claim to this stool but you must wait your turn. In fact, you all must wait your turns. ’ said the sly old man with a stern look, then he smiled and proceeded to leave room.’ Don’t worry I have asked Ateleni to pick a vice-regent from among your sons.’
Adaje raised the suspicions of the chiefs-in-council. ‘The tortoise has something up his sleeves,’ they thought aloud among themselves as soon as he left the room. Adimula, the chief-priest of Obatala who was part of the council, pretended to divine, splattering his cowries on the ground while chanting in sacred dialect, and then corroborated Adaje’s claim. The act was done.