By NBF News
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Five aspirants have declared their interests in the race to fill the vacant stool of the Ataoja of Osogbo, Osun State. The last Ataoja, Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi 111, died on Wednesday night after a brief illness. He reigned for 34 years.

Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that immediately after the burial ceremony of Oba Matanmi on Friday, interested candidates from the eligible ruling houses in the city commenced intense lobby for the vacant stool.

Investigations conducted by Daily Sun revealed that top on the list of contenders for the Ataoja stool were; the member, House of Representatives, representing Osogbo/Olorunda/Orolu Federal Constituency, Hon. Leo Awoyemi and incumbent President, Osogbo Progressive Union (OPU), Dr. Jimoh Agboola, who is also a former Director at the Abuja office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Others in contention for the stool, according to a palace source include Mr. Kayode Adebisi, the Director of Administration in Obokun Local Government Area of the state and two others whose identity was yet to be known as at press time. When contacted on his rumoured interest yesterday, Awoyemi also replied in a terse text message that 'his royal family is in the race'.

Already, ruling houses in the city have been meeting over how to present candidates that would be acceptable to both the kingmakers and the state government. Interestingly, Daily Sun gathered that the search for the new Ataoja may not be limited to the next ruling house, which Daily Sun gathered, is the Larooye ruling house.

Speaking with Daily Sun yesterday on the nomination process, the second-in-command to the Ataoja and the Ajaguna of Osogboland, Chief Gabriel Ojo Oparanti, disclosed that the kingmakers will be meeting today (Monday) to decide which of the ruling houses should present candidates for the Ataoja stool.

'We are still mourning the death of the late Ataoja of Osogbo. As from Monday, the kingmakers will have to meet and decide which ruling houses will present candidate or candidates before we forward the names to the executive governor of the state for ratification.' Oparanti stated.

He explained that five ruling houses exist in the town among whom the kingmakers would decide which among them are to present candidates. Oparanti dismissed any provision for regency in the Ataoja traditional system, saying as the second-in-command, he also doubles as the regent in the absence of Ataoja. 'As far as my understanding is concerned, I am now the regent. That is why you see all these traditional chiefs in Osogbo here. I ordered them to be present in the palace from 10a.m to 6p.m so that all the visitors coming to mourn the death of the great Ataoja will meet them here and whatever we can give to them for their transportation will be given to them,' he added.

Although, it was gathered that another Ataoja might emerge before the end of November, the Ajaguna said he could not speak on the timing to produce another Ataoja until the kingmakers meet today. Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in Osun State, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola, has said, 'the demise the Ataoja of Osogbo has left a huge gap in the cultural evolution of the entire Yoruba race and Nigeria .

There are incontrovertible facts that Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi III was a lover of peace.'

Aregbesola in a statement said further, 'throughout his 34 years on the throne of his forefathers, Oba Matanmi carried himself as an astute cultural icon by his dogged commitment to the promotion of the Yoruba culture and tradition while not shirking in his responsibility to guarantee religious and social harmony.

His efforts contributed in no small measure to the elevation of the annual Osun Osogbo festival to a UNESCO-recognized cultural event. It is also remarkable that Osogbo, his domain was peaceful and prosperous through his sheer commitment to the development of man and his environment.

It was with shock and disbelief that I received the news of the death of Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi at a time when his services were required to strengthen the drive for a better developed Osun State,' the politician noted.

'Now that he has passed on, we pray to the Almighty God to grant him eternal rest and provide a worthy successor who will carry the people to the next higher level of development, amity and concord. We mourn him deeply.'