Wednesday, 03 March 2021 16:22

Ondo state and the tango of Akeredolus (2) - Bola Bolawole

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On February 15, 2021, one self-styled Olupelumi Fagboyegun posted a sensational video on social media that quickly went viral like wild fire in the harmattan. In it, Olupelumi not only described himself as a “son” of the late business mogul, Johnson Olajide Fagboyegun, he also railed against the Chief Judge of Ondo State, Olutoyin Olanrewaju Akeredolu (Nee Fagboyegun). He called on “The Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (and) the Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ... to please come to my rescue and rescue me from the Ondo State judiciary which is being run as a family affairs; that if you don't know anybody, you cannot get justice”.

Olupelumi said he lived abroad for over 30 years and had come on holiday to Nigeria “to my father’s house because I share the same father with the Chief Judge of Ondo State (but) was arrested at my father’s place”.  He said he was locked up and was charged in court with forceful entry “into my father’s house”. He further alleged that he had been on “open remand” for three years for a crime that carries a maximum of one year prison penalty.

“This case has been going on for three years because the Chief Judge of Ondo State is using her power to influence the judicial system and I have been unable to get justice. They have changed judges five times. They have re-arraigned me five times. They have changed their charges five times and up till today that I am talking to you on the 15th February, 2021, this case is still pending.”

He then launched into an emotional tirade: “Please come and rescue me; come and rescue me; help me! Ondo State Government cannot help me because Ondo State Government is a family business. Help me, I am begging you, Buhari; help me from the hand of this woman. I want to go back to my family. I want to go back to my children. I am a single parent.

“This woman is keeping me here for the past three years for coming to my father’s house. Please, help me! I am begging you people. I want to go back to my family”, Olupelumi ended as he appeared to break down sobbing.

Social media exploded with the story the next moment. What surprised me most was that even dyed-in-the-wool journalists also fell for it. One of the golden rules of journalism is that we listen to the other side before passing comments or giving judgment. Audi alteram partem: Let the other side be heard as well. Another rule is, when in doubt, leave out. Hence, we say “facts are sacred (but) opinion is free”.

Commentators must have been swayed by the emotions whipped up by Olupelumi. But media practitioners owe it a responsibility to themselves and a duty to the public to play by the rules and honour their own professional ethics.

To be noted, however, is that in any seemingly victim/villain or weak/strong conflict, public sympathy usually masses on the side of the presumed weaker party. The people’s loss of confidence in our leaders has meant that “authority people”, as Fela called them, are usually deemed guilty as charged in the court of public opinion before they are ever listened to!

Mercifully, the other side of the story came out the next day (February 16, 2021) in a statement issued by the Fagboyegun family, stating quite emphatically that Olupelumi “is not a member of the (Fagboyegun) family”; that in 2010, Olupelumi filed lawsuit No AK/72/2010 “against our mother and the eldest male member of the family seeking for declaration that he is a son of our deceased father, among other reliefs. He wanted his remains exhumed for the purpose of DNA. He abandoned the case. After the demise of our mother, he broke into the Owo premises (of the Fagboyeguns) and our cousin who was on ground complained to the police. He is neither in detention at the police station nor in the prison to the best of our knowledge. This is a clear evidence of an attempt to malign our sister, the Chief Judge, and the family.”           

The fogs are begging to clear! Listening to Olupelumi’s video, I had wondered why a man who lived abroad for over 30 years came back home to his father’s house and it became an issue. Now it is clear that Olupelumi’s paternity as a “son” of the late Johnson Olajide Fagboyegun is the issue. Olupelumi says he is; the others say he is not. The matter went to court - whether abandoned or active. Until the court decides, can Olupelumi enjoy the status and privilege of Fagboyegun’s “son”? Can he enter Fagboyegun’s estate as a bona fide Fagboyegun?

After approaching the court, can Olupelumi resort to self-help? He who comes to equity, they say, must come with clean hands. In my view, the paternity of Olupelumi is the “koko” of this matter, as they say. Until the issue is resolved amicably by the Fagboyegun family or by the law court which Olupelumi himself has approached, he cannot properly, legally, and legitimately describe or parade himself as a brother to the Chief Judge of Ondo State, Olutoyin Olanrewaju Akeredolu (nee Fagboyegun).

To aver, as he did in his video, that he shares “the same father with the Chief Judge of Ondo State” is not only untrue, it is also malicious and defamatory. To also refer to the family house of the Fagboyeguns as “my father’s house/my father’s place” is avaricious and provocative. That was the shaky foundation upon which Olupelumi erected his sensational video and his case must necessarily collapse like a pack of cards.

If Olupelumi eventually returns to court to pursue his paternity case, it will be interesting to know why he waited until he was 55 years old before embarking on the venture. His presumed father, Johnson Olajide Fagboyegun, died on 30th July, 2008; Olupelumi filed his paternity case in 2010 and wanted the man’s body exhumed for DNA. Assuming but not conceding that he has a case, has he not slept on his right? His presumed “father” died and he did not show up to pay him his last respect! Usually in these parts, that is the proper and meet occasion when and where paternity dusts are raised.   

After Olupelumi’s trespass into the Fagboyegun’s property, was he detained and has he been in detention for three years? A statement by Bolatito Ajibade, Chief Registrar, High Court of Justice, Akure, said Olupelumi “has never spent a day in custody even when he jumped bail for over six months and was re-arrested”. She added that the Chief Judge did not at any time dabble in the matter.

In his own independent investigation, the erstwhile Ondo state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Titiloye, corroborated Ajibade’s statement when he averred that “Olupelumi Fagboyegun was granted bail by the trial Magistrate since he was arraigned on 19th March, 2018, and he is still on bail till date. It is untrue that he is under any form of custody”; meaning that Olupelumi lied deliberately to distort the truth, whip up sentiments and malign others!

What, then, is the meaning of the “open remand” that Olupelumi complained about? Some reports (with photographic evidence) said in last year’s Ondo state governorship election, Olupelumi erected billboards and drummed up support for Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s re-election as “the man for the job”! Maybe the governor will controvert that.

Justice (Mrs.) Akeredolu has, however, denied Olupelumi’s allegations that she used her offices to deny him of justice or slow down the process. While this should not be taken as an excuse for the judiciary, we all know – or have experienced - that the wheel of justice grinds slowly here; and attempts to obfuscate issues notwithstanding, the shenanigans of this battle of the elephants stick out like sore thumbs. The investigation conducted by Titiloye would enter the Guinness Book of Records – it took a record 48 hours! Titiloye said the nolle prosequi (will no longer prosecute) that he entered in the case against Olupelumi took place in the morning while the Ondo State cabinet of which he was a member (the pedestal on which he acted as Attorney-General) was dissolved in the evening of the same day! That Titiloye referred the CJ to the Ondo State House of Assembly for investigation also sounds weird to many.

“The more you look is the less you see” (Max Romeo)! “Wonder, wonder, wonder, wonder/Till you turn to wonderer”! (Femi Kuti). Olupelumi described both the Ondo State judiciary and government as "family business". We have seen that the two Akeredolus are not from the same family. And if the CJ has run into trouble waters, it is for jealously guarding the independence of the judiciary; so what does Olupelumi mean? Olupelumi’s case was on for only about a year (not three) – if we deduct COVID-19 lockdown and the fact he jumped bail. Still, justice delayed is justice denied. So, let the Ondo State Government extend the Olupelumi treatment to everyone else in similar circumstances if this is not all politics; calling a dog a bad name to hang it; and a revenge and vengeful mission gone awry!

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