Concerned natives and residents expressed joy over government recognition of Folami, a prince from the Folami Ruling House of Kirikiri town. The only other royal family, from which Folami’s predecessor Waheed Sumonu Agunbiade hailed from is the Agunbiade ruling house.
Both royal families trace their common ancestry to Chief Tumbulu, who became the town first baale in 1879. The town has historically asserted some autonomy in the handling of its traditional stool.
But a 1978 Supreme Court ruling prescribed Kirikiri as a village under the dynastical authority of Alahun of Imore and Apapa kingdom. This implies that the ruler of Alahun kingship dynasty performs the ceremonial installation of whom the two ruling houses in Kirikiri town approve to be their traditional head.
Following Agunbiade’s death in March 2020, after 38years on the stool, the ruling houses on April 9, 2020 installed Folami his successor.
Folami’s installation was welcome by all but one person – Babatunde Babalola Shabi who is also laying claim to the stool.
Shabi, a land merchant and originally native of Ogun State, decided to put himself up for the stool. The installation was swift and blessed by his associate, the Alahun of Imore and Apapa Oba Taofeek Adegboyega Akeju. The installation had none of the ruling houses in attendance, since Shabi has no links to any.
Baale without royalty
The claim Shabi is not a royal has not been denied by either himself or his supporters. No doubt, Shabi enjoys support of the Alahun of Imore, along whom he currently faces litigation for alleged land grabbing. He also has the backing of the Community Development Associations in the town, whose members he allegedly handpicked and bankrolls.
To justify Shabi’s entitlement, the CDA leaderships reportedly claim Kirikiri is a cosmopolitan with no indigenous kingship lineage. But those with knowledge of Kirikiri village claim otherwise.
“Kirikiri had long been established a traditional stool, with records dating centuries back. As for Shabi, he came to the town as a 13-year-old waif and was doing odd jobs by the waterside. He grew in influence through brigandage and subterfuge, and now believe he has acquired enough power and money to install himself the Baale,” said a septuagenarian who spoke under the condition of anonymity.
He added: “ He (Shabi) has displayed impunity, so much that fearing him is the beginning of wisdom for the hapless residents.”
Who is Babalola Shabi?
Shabi reportedly strayed to Kirikiri waterside at age 13, according to those who know. Then, he took up odd job of loading sand suctioned from the river onto waiting tipper trucks. At a point, Gilbert Cardoso, an influential landowner, reportedly took Shabi to be his protégé. Under Cardoso’s tutelage, Shabi learnt the business of land prospecting and worked for the former as an agent.
Aside the Cardosos, another family owning vast land in Kirikiri is the Mosheshes. With the unexplained deaths of his former employers – Cardoso and Musheshe, Shabi reportedly became self-appointed agent managing the families’ land in Kirikiri.
He engages with land buyers both individuals and corporate entities as ostensible agent of the two families. He is said to have leased expanse of land belonging to the Mosheshes to oil companies to cite tank farms.
With land being a prime asset, Shabi grew in influence and wealth.
“He is rugged, connected, affluent, and will stop at nothing in getting his wish done,” said another elderly citizen who also does not want his name published.
“Once Shabi is interested in your house, forget it. He is the one person rolled together – the citizen, police, judiciary, and even a government unto himself and his hirelings,” said he.
Given his rising influence, Shabi decided to designate himself the “Asiwaju” (the leader) and “Chief Security Officer” of Kirikiri.
Shabi, the Law?
Babalola Shabi is also said to have his way with the police and could order the anyone’s arrest right from his bedroom. ‘No one dares Shabi, and none is spared his brute,’ according to a prince who said he is from the Agunbiade family.
This medium gathered Shabi in 2013 ordered the arrest of former Baale of Kirikiri late Waheed Agunbiade and four others. The police subsequently preferred a five counts assault charge on the five persons, including one that accused then 83years-old Agunbiade of attacking Shabi, who at the time was 53.
As cited in a petition by the law firm of Taiwo Lakanu & Co. dated july 31, 2020, Shabi had ‘attempted to dethrone the baale by unleashing his thugs on him and his family’.
“The baale’s house was attacked twice and on both occasions he and his family members barely (sic) escaped with his lives, while his palace was destroyed by Shabi’s armed thugs,” the petition stated.
After the attack, Shabi decided to sue Baale Agunbiade and his chiefs on “trumped up charges.” But, he (Shabi) would later apologise to the baale for his actions, at a peace meeting facilitated by some elderly citizens in the community.
“He prostrated that he should be forgiven. The baale was very bitter and sad. But we placated the baale to forgive him and insisted that he place his hand on Shabi’s back and pronounce his forgiveness. The baale did, though grudgingly. On his part, Shabi was told to offer appeasements including a white cow for atonement of his sacrilegious actions”, said someone privy to the meeting.
Aside the police, Shabi seem friendly with the magistracy. According to a lawyer, anytime Shabi institutes a suit within the Kirikiri magistracy, his pliant magistrates will chose to hear the matter on a Friday.
The magistrate would then issue stringent bail conditions, which the suspects are usually unable to meet. Failure to meet the conditions for bail means the defendant’s remand in prison custody.
“The prosecutor to verify the address of the suspect would suddenly disappear, thus ensuring the suspect (s) spends the weekend in prison custody …but often times the suspect can spend weeks or months in prison as sureties after sureties are rejected by the magistrate,” said a petition by a lawyer, E.A Otokhina & Co to the state attorney-general.
The petition dated August 14, 2020 cited the case of one Bolaji Cardoso, one of the four sons of Shabi’s former principal, Gilbert Cardoso.
Shabi had ordered the younger Cardoso’s arrest after he resisted him. The police would later charge Bolaji Cardoso with conducting himself in a manner likely to breach the peace. It became the turn of a pliant magistrate, a certain Mrs. Ladipo to hear the matter. Ladipo ultimately dished out stringent bail conditions for the suspect’s release. Bolaji’s layer, Chief Otokhina said he challenged the magistrate and threatened to raise a petition over her conduct. To his surprise, Chief Otokhina said the same magistrate who declined his earlier entreaties would later send for him.
“While at her office, she offered me a sit but I declined. She asked why Bolaji Cardoso was disturbing Shabi, among other things,” said the lawyer.
Due to the bail conditions and rigmaroles by the police prosecutor, Bolaji Cardoso spent a month in prison custody. Two weeks after his release, Bolaji Cardoso died.
The deceased was the last of the four sons of Gilbert Cardoso, Shabi’s former master, to die under questionable circumstances.
As for Magistrate Ladipo, she was eventually disgraced and sacked over multiple petitions on corrupt practices against her.
Although without any formal education, Babalola Shabi has plays the chess master’s moves. With him as the land agent for the Cardosos and Musheshes, infighting within individual families is a common phenomenon.
“He employs divide and rule, setting members of the individual families against themselves. He would sell or lease their land for hundreds of millions and would dangle Five million naira before them. And, those ones will start fighting among themselves while he consolidates his power,” said one of Shabi’s neighbours.
The neigbhour also told this medium that Shabi petitioned the police against them because they changed Mosheshe Estate to Creekview Estate. Shabi lives in the estate where he built on a two plot of land.
“He raised a false security alarm that we were trying to burn down tank firms. I read in a report where he said we ought to defer to him, because he sold the land to us. What utter rubbish,” said the engineer.
Shabi currently faces a four counts charge filed by the Inspector-General of Police against him and one Wilfred Cardoso for breaking into the Cardoso family house in 2017.
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