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Sikiru Olaide Okuleye V Alhaji Rasheed Adeoye Adesanya & Anor (2014) LLJR-SC

Sikiru Olaide Okuleye V Alhaji Rasheed Adeoye Adesanya & Anor (2014)

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BODE RHODES-VIVOUR, J.S.C. 

The appellants’ as plaintiffs claim against the respondents in an Ijebu Ode High Court was for:

(i) A declaration that the 1st respondent is not a member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House of the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy and that he is therefore not entitled to be nominated and/or appointed as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode.

(ii) A declaration that the Late Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku was neither the Head of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House nor the Head of the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy family and that he was therefore not entitled to convene a meeting of the said Ruling House for the purpose of nominating a candidate for appointment to the vacant stool of Olisa of Ijebu-Ode, not to present any candidate and in particular the 1st Defendant hereof to the Awujale of Ijebuland for his consent and that any purported presentation of the 1st defendant as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode by the said late Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku is a nullity.

(iii) A declaration that the traditional kingmakers of the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy family under the Registered Declaration have not appointed the 1st defendant to the vacant stool of Olisa of Ijebu-Ode pursuant to the Registered Declaration for the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy and as required by the Chiefs Law Cap, 20 Laws of Ogun State of Nigeria.

(iv) A declaration that membership of the appropriate Ruling House and an appointment by the traditional kingmakers of Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy are conditions precedent to an approval of the candidature of an Olisa by the Ogun State Executive Council, and that in the absence of such membership and appointment – the purported approval conveyed by the office of the Executive Governor of Ogun State in its letter reference No.5/26/T/2 dated 29th July, 1993 is a nullity.

(v) A declaration that the 2nd plaintiff having been properly nominated by the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House and having been properly appointed by the kingmakers is entitled to be considered for approval by the Ogun State Government after the consent of the Awujale of Ijebuland would have been obtained thereto.

(vi) An order quashing the purported installation of the 1st defendant as the Olisa of Iiebu-Ode.

(vii) An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant from parading himself or from exercising any power and/or authority and from enjoying any benefit as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode.

At the inception of the case there were four plaintiffs and three defendants. The 1st to 3rd plaintiffs were Alhaji Rabiu Adekoya Olayemi, Prince Salau A. Mabadeje, and Prince Kunle Surakatu Mustafa Buraimoh, while the 2nd defendant was Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku. All of them are now dead. After amendments to pleadings trial was concluded on a 2nd further amended statement of claim filed on the 17th of November 1999. The 1st defendant’s statement of defence filed on the 23rd of June 1999. The 2nd defendant’s statement of defence filed on the 5th July 1999. Statement of defence for 3rd defendant filed on the 14th day of March, 1995.

Reply to 1st defendant’s statement of defence filed on the 17th of November 1999, and Reply to 2nd defendant’s statement of defence filed on the 17th of November 1999.

At the trial which commenced on the 17th of January, 2000, the plaintiffs called three witnesses, while the defendants called two witnesses, fourteen documents were admitted as exhibits.

The facts are these. On the 5th of August, 1991 Henry Fowakan, the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode from Wunumo Matuluku Ruling House died. After the death of Henry Fowakan, it was the turn of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House to nominate the next Olisa of Ijebu-Ode. The Secretary of Ijebu-Ode Local Government informed the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House that it was their turn to present a candidate. So, on the 22nd of May, 1993 Chief S. B. Kuku, (the 2nd defendant now dead) the Head of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House convened a meeting at which the secretary of Ijebu-Ode Local Government was present as an observer. At the meeting the 1st respondent, Alhaji Rasheed A. Adesanya was nominated to become the Olisa. On the 24th of May, 1993 the kingmakers of the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode chieftaincy met and appointed the 1st defendant Olisa of Ijebu-Ode. The Awujale of Ijebuland subsequently consented to the appointment.

Thereafter the Executive Council of Ogun State approved the appointment of the 1st Respondent as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode with effect from the 28th day of July, 1993. The action arose when there was the urgent need to appoint an Olisa after the death of Olisa Henry Fawakan. The appellants’ case is that they are members of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House and are entitled to present a candidate for the Olisa stool. They say that the 1st defendant is not a member of the said Ruling House and so not qualified to be nominated and appointed as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode.

Dismissing the appellants’ claim the learned trial judge said:

“………that 1st defendant descended from the Demoku branch and therefore is a member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House. He was qualified to be appointed and was validly nominated and appointed from the Ruling House. This declaration must be refused and it therefore fails.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the learned trial judge, the appellants lodged an appeal. It was heard by Ibadan Division of the Court of Appeal. On the 24th of April, 2006 that court affirmed the decision of the trial court. It found that the trial court was correct. That the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House has two branches Rade and Demokun and the plaintiffs do not come from either of them, but the 1st defendant comes from the Demokun branch and so was qualified to be appointed Olisa of Ijebu-Ode. This appeal is against that judgment. In accordance with Rules of this court briefs were filed and exchanged. The appellant’s brief was deemed duly filed and served on the 15th of July 2009. The 1st respondent’s brief was deemed duly filed and served on 24th of March, 2014, and the 2nd respondent’s brief duly filed and served also on the 24th of March, 2014.

Learned counsel for the appellants formulated four issues for determination. They are:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal was right in affirming the decision of the trial court preferring the evidence of traditional history given by DW1 to that given by the plaintiff’s witnesses on the evolution of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House of the Olisa Chieftaincy and whether the court is right in its conclusion that the 1st respondent is a member of the said ruling house and therefore entitled to be nominated and appointed as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode.
  2. Whether the Court of Appeal was correct or showed any appreciation of the case in holding that the decision of the trial court that Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku was the head of the entire Olisa Chieftaincy rather than being the head of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House thereof, did not affect the judgment.
  3. Whether having regard to the provisions of the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy declaration exhibit 1 the kingmakers have a role to play in the appointment of the Olisa, and if so whether their being denied a role in the appointment process of the 1st respondent vitiated that appointment contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal.
  4. Whether the lower court was correct in describing the attendance of the Secretary to the Ijebu-Ode Local Government at the meetings of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House and the Olisa Chieftaincy kingmakers meetings as mere presence at Family meetings and whether it was right to have decided that such attendance did not vitiate the decisions at the meetings to appoint the 1st respondent as the Olisa, having regard to the provision of sub-section 15(1)(d) of the Ogun State Chieftaincy Laws and the proceedings at the meetings evidenced in exhibit 11 and 12 tendered at the trial.
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Learned counsel for the 1st respondent also formulated four issues for determination. They read:

  1. Whether in view of the appellant’s pleadings, evidence at the trial and even the summary of his case in this appeal, the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the appellant has failed to establish the gravamen of his case that only the descendants of Chief Rade of which he claimed to be one, could succeed through Adelu (Rade’s son) to become the Olisa and the effect of such a finding in law on this court.
  2. Whether if only for the purpose of argument, the appellants having failed to establish the threshold of their case that they are the only relatives/descendants of Olisa through Chief Rade are entitled to become the Olisa, the Head of Olisa Chieftaincy has any role to play in the appointment of the Olisa
  3. Whether PW3 having admitted that Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku was the Head of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House and in the absence of any other person as the rival Head of the Ruling House, the said Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku performed or played his role creditably in the installation of the 1st respondent as the Olisa
  4. Whether the mere presence of the Secretary to the Local Government at the meetings of the Ruling House violated the Chieftaincy Law.

Three issues were formulated for determination by learned counsel for the 2nd respondent. They are:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal was right in affirming the decision and findings of the trial judge with regard to the evidence given by the parties on the history of Demoku/Aboki Ruling House, the headship and the membership thereof of the 1st respondent.
  2. Whether the provisions of the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode Chieftaincy Declaration were complied with in the appointment of the 1st respondent.
  3. Whether the fact that there was no written authorization in the council’s file for the secretary of competent council to attend the meeting of /Demoku/Aboki Ruling House vitiates the meeting of the Ruling House.

I have examined the issues formulated by counsel and I am satisfied with the issues formulated by learned counsel for the appellant. I must observe that issue No. 1 is the substance of this appeal. If this court finds that both courts below were correct in their findings that the appellants were not authentic members of the Demoki/Aboki Ruling House, and that the 1st respondent was a member of the said Ruling House that alone would be enough to settle the appeal and it would be unnecessary to consider any of the other issues.

At the hearing of the appeal on the 24th of March, 2014 learned counsel for the appellant, Mr. A. I. Adebayo adopted the appellant’s brief deemed duly filed and served on the 15th of July, 2009. He urged this court to allow the appeal.

Learned counsel for the 1st respondent, Mr. O. Oshobi adopted the 1st respondent’s brief deemed duly filed and served on the 24th of March, 2014. He urged this court affirm concurrent findings of fact and dismiss the appeal.

Learned counsel for the 2nd respondent, Mrs. A. Akeredolu, adopted the 2nd respondents brief deemed duly filed and served on the 24th of March, 2014. She observed that at the very best the appellants belong to a breakaway faction of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House. She urged this court to dismiss the appeal with substantial costs.

ISSUE 1

Whether the Court of Appeal was right in affirming the decision of the trial court preferring the evidence of traditional history given by DW1 to that given by the plaintiff’s witnesses on the evolution of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House of the Olisa Chieftaincy and whether the court is right in its conclusion that the 1st respondent is a member of the said Ruling House and therefore entitled to be nominated and appointed as the Olisa of Ijebu-Ode.

Learned counsel for the appellant observed that it was wrong for the learned trial judge to come to the conclusion that the 1st defendant was a member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House without examining the evidence of traditional History on both sides. He further observed that the learned trial judge did not refer to evidence offered in proof of facts pleaded before concluding that the plaintiffs were not member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House but the 1st defendant was a member of the said Ruling House. Reliance was placed on the evidence of PW1 and PW2 Mogaji v. Odofin (1978) 4 SC P. 91

Concluding he submitted that the findings of the two lower courts were clearly perverse as they cannot be justified by the totality of evidence before the courts. He urged this court to reverse the findings of the courts below as they have led to a miscarriage of justice.

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Learned counsel for the 1st respondent observed that both courts below were correct to conclude that the appellant failed to establish the gravamen of his case that he is a descendant of Demoku/Aboki. Relying on AG for Ekiti State v. Daramola (2003) 10 NWLR Pt. 827 p. 104.

He submitted that once that crucial finding is made the issue is settled. He urged this court to dismiss the appeal on this point.

Learned counsel for the 2nd respondent observed that on a close scrutiny of PW1 and PW3’s testimony it is clear that they are confused as to their own origins, she observed that Chief Stephen Kuku was the Head of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House, and that both courts below were correct in their findings that the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House consists of two branches and the 1st respondent is from the Demoku branch. Concluding she submitted that this court should not disturb concurrent findings of fact that the 1st respondent is a member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House, while the appellant is not a member of the said Ruling House. She urged us to resolve this issue in favour of the Respondents.

If pleadings are to be of any use the parties must be held bound by them. See

Akande v. Adisa & anor (2012) 5 SC (Pt. i) P. 1

Ohochukwu v. A.G. Rivers State & 2 Ors. (2012) 2 SC (Pt. ii) P. 103

The case for the appellants is that they are members of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House, and they should be considered to fill the vacant stool of Olisa of Ijebu-Ode, and not the 1st respondent who is not a member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House. A party who relies on Traditional History to assert that he is a member of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House of the Olisa Chieftaincy must plead the names of his ancestors, and link them to the said Ruling House so as to show to the satisfaction of the court, a continuous chain of devolution. That is to say they must plead genealogy. After this is done there must be tried and tested evidence to establish the traditional history pleaded. Both sides pleaded genealogy, but that is not enough. The position of the law is that pleadings must be proved by oral evidence. Before the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court it examined testimony of witnesses as follows: PW1 Sikiru Olaide Okuleye was interested in becoming Olisa. In cross-examination he said:

“I do not know the names of Rade’s wives and never knew where they came from and when they married Rade. Neither my mother nor any of my great grandmother downward had any room at Isado. However my ancestor being a son of Rade must have a room in Isado. I also do not know where Olowonirekende’s room was in Isado. Also I do not know anything about Rade family house at Isado. I do not know the apartment of Adesanya in Isado. None of the Otulanas and Olowonirekende ever met me at Isado, I do not know the name of Adelu’s mother and never knew her origin or when she married Rade. Ademoku and Aboki are not the same.”

The Court then considered the testimony of PW3 in cross-examination: He said

“I am related to Rade family though Adelu. I do not know where the Rade family is situated. The only Rade family I know is based at Isado. I have never been to Isado Rade family house though I am Rade Family. Rade is male and I do not know from where he came but he had four wives but never knew their names. I do not know Adelu’s mother.”

PW3 in further testimony said:

“I have never been to Isado Rade’s family house. Nobody in Isado knows me as a member of Rade family. I have never attended the Olisa family meeting at Ilisa. I am not aware of any record where my grandmother father or myself have been described as being members of Rade family. While it is true that Kuku’s mother had a room in our family house at Isado I do not know why my own section has none in the family house.”

The Court of Appeal, after examining the above testimony which was given under cross-examination, concluded that the appellants depicted themselves as strangers to Rade family, observing that the appellant’s relationship to Rade family through Adelu is a figment of their own fantasy and imagination. The Court of Appeal examined the genealogy of the 1st defendant which was also pleaded and examined evidence in support of pleadings and concluded as follows:

“To my mind the evidence of DW1 appears plausible as it is not coloured. The learned trial judge had the duty to evaluate evidence gathered by him. This duty, he carried out creditably in my considered opinion. He correctly ascribed due probative value to evidence garnered by him. I shall not interfere with his findings.”

Learned counsel for the appellant in his submissions was of the view that the learned trial judge did not refer to evidence offered in proof of facts pleaded before concluding that the plaintiffs were not members of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House.

Before I give an answer to the above I must make further reference to extracts from PW1 and PW3’s testimony.

PW1 said:

“Chief Stephen Babalola Kuku was a member of the Ruling House before his death. Myself and these already mentioned are members of the Rade family of Ijebu-Ode. I know the 1st defendant in this case who is also a descendant of Rade family of Ijebu-Ode.”

Under cross-examination PW3 said:

“I am related to Rade family through Adelu. I do not know where the Rade family is situated, the only Rade family is based at Isado. I have never been to Isado Rade family house though I am Rade family. Rade is male and I do not know where he came, but he had four wives but never their names. I do not know Adelu’s mother.”

Demoku/Aboki Ruling House has two branches. They are Rade and Demoku or Ademokun. To be qualified to be nominated for appointment as Olisa of Ijebu-Ode in the exercise conducted after the demise of the late Olisa, a candidate had to be a member of Demoku/Aboki Ruling House, as it was the turn of that Ruling House of produce the Olisa.

Now, back to the answer for learned counsel for the appellant’s question. Proceedings in civil proceedings commences with evidence in chief. The plaintiff states his case on oath as he understands it.

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Thereafter he is subject to cross-examination by counsel for the defendant. Cross-examination is to test the credibility of testimony given in evidence in chief. Re-examination is an opportunity for the witnesses to restore credibility to his testimony. Cases are hardly won on testimony from evidence in chief. Evidence is reliable and compelling and must be acted on when it goes through cross-examination and remains reliable.

A party who relies on Traditional History to assert that he is a member of a Ruling House must plead the names of his ancestors and link them to the said Ruling House to disclose a continuous chain of devolution. He must plead genealogy. The pleadings must be supported by credible evidence to establish such traditional history.

The testimony of the plaintiffs now appellants collapsed under cross-examination. They were unable to show that they belong to the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House or that they are descendants of Rade. Their testimony was confused as to their own origins, depicting themselves as strangers to Rade family. On the other hand, the testimony of DW1 was straight to the point when he said that the 1st defendant ascended the Olisa chieftaincy by virtue of his being a member of the Rade family. A testimony that was unshaken in cross-examination and was arrived at after the DW1 traced his genealogy linking his ancestors to the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House to the satisfaction of the two courts below and this court. The testimony of the appellants on their genealogy is not credible. On the other hand that of the 1st respondent cannot be faulted. It is compelling and very credible.

This court would not upset concurrent findings of the two courts below unless the findings are perverse, or there is a miscarriage of justice, or improper exercise of judicial discretion has been established in the courts below.

R. Benkay Nig. Ltd v. Cadbury Nig. Ltd (2012) 3 SC (Pt. iii) P. 169

Mil. Gov. of Lagos State & 4 Ors. v. Adeyiga & 6 Ors. (2012) 2 SC (Pt. i) P. 68

Arowolo v. Olowookere & 2 Ors. (2011) 11 – 12 SC (Pt. ii) P. 98

In this case the trial court found that the plaintiffs now appellant are not members of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House. This finding was affirmed by the Court of Appeal. The appellant has been unable to show why this court should interfere with the decisions of the courts below. Would there be any need to consider issues 2, 3, and 4 after this court has found that the plaintiffs’/appellants are not members of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House, but the 1st respondent is a member of the said Ruling House

The facts in this case are not unlike facts in AG Ekiti State v. Daramola (2003) 10 NWLR Pt. 827 P. 104

In that case the action arose when the stool of Ajero of Ijero had to be filled by a candidate presented by the Arojojoye Ruling House. The plaintiffs claimed to be entitled to bring the action by virtue of their membership of the Akate family which they claimed was a stock of the Arojojoye Ruling House. This court found that Akata family was not a member of Arojojoye Ruling House and so the plaintiffs were not members of the Ruling House settles the matter.

Applying the reasoning above to the facts of this case, it is clear that since the plaintiff’s/appellant’s claim to membership of the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House was not sustained, their right to challenge the nomination of the 1st respondent and his subsequent appointment as Olisa of Ijebu-Ode falls flat. Since they failed to prove the former the latter surely cannot be considered.

I must comment on the observation of the Court of Appeal on the brilliant address of learned counsel for the appellants. The closing speech by counsel no matter how brilliant, and alluring never takes the place of legal proof required. There can be no substitute for evidence. See

Chukujekwu v. Olarere (1992) 2 NWLR Pt. 221 P. 86

Bello v. NBN (1992) 6 NWLR Pt. 246 P. 206

Ishola v. Ajoboye (1998) 1 NWLR Pt. 532 P. 74

The appellants would have succeeded if they were able to lead credible evidence to support their pleadings on their genealogy. This case collapsed under cross-examination. No matter how brilliant an address on their behalf may be the case can no longer by salvaged, and this is due to the fact that the only evidence from them ended up as very unreliable.

Both sides agree that it is the turn of Demoku/Aboki Ruling House to nominate one of its own to be Olisa of Ijebu-Ode. An Olisa is presented by the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House and appointed by the kingmakers subject to consent by the Awujale and approval by the Governor of Ogun State. The 1st respondent, Alhaji Rasheed Adeoye Adesanya was presented to the kingmakers by the Demoku/Aboki Ruling House as their sole candidate. The kingmakers approved his candidature and appointed him Olisa. The Awujale, the Oba of Ijebu-Ode consented to the appointment which was subsequently approved by the Executive Council of Ogun State in accordance with the Chiefs Law. Documentary evidence to wit: Exhibits 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11A, 12 and 13 support the fact that the appointment of the 1st respondent as Olisa of Ijebu-Ode was properly done.

I must observe that the appointment of the 1st respondent as Olisa was approved by the Governor of Ogun State on 28/7/93. It took the appellants about six months thereafter to file this case on 17/1/94. Such matters are to be filed timeously. A delay of about six months raises grave doubts that the appellants are only trying to see if they have a chance. The courts are not set up for such antics.

There is no merit in this appeal. The appeal is dismissed with costs of N100,000 in favour of the Respondents.


SC.236/2006

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