There was tension in Ikere-Ekiti, headquarters of Ikere local government area of Ekiti state, on Tuesday over the move to uproot a tree obstructing the dualisation of a road project awarded by Ayo Fayose, governor of the state.
Residents consider the tree is located in a historical site in the heart of the community as sacred.
An attempt on Monday by the contractor handling the project to uproot it was disrupted by the youth and traditional religion worshippers who invaded the scene.
They held up traffic and lit bonfires at Odo-Oja area of the town.
The protesting indigenes claimed that the historical site known locally as ‘Ereja’ was the source of Ikere Ekiti, and uprooting the tree would result in dire consequences for the community.
They also claimed that the site of the tree was host to the annual Olosunta festival.
Fayose, who visited the scene appealed for calm, saying he would ensure that the traditional ruler of the community and Olukere of Ikere, Ganiyu Obasoyin, were sensitised on the need for the road dualisation project.
Earlier in the day, the residents placed fetish objects made with a goat and pigeon at the site while palm fronds were also tied around the shrine to scare away agents of the contractor.
Some of them also formed a human shield round the shrine in a bid to frustrate any plan to uproot the tree.
Addressing reporters at his palace, Obasoyin who is the custodian of traditional sites in the town, said “cutting down the sacred tree and demolishing the Ereja was akin to passing a death sentence on him”.
Present at the briefing were Oguntuase Atitebi, Alare of Are-Ikere, and Benjamin Owolade Elejoka of Ikuomoba-Ikere.
”It is when a king dies that the branches of the tree are cut off and I went to meet the governor that he should not pass a death sentence on me,” he said.
“The only way forward is that government should see reason with the people of Ikere and respect the people’s cultural heritage.”