By Wole Oyebade
|Olufon of Ifon land, Oba Adegoke Adeusi|
Two incidents in the last two weeks here gnaw the mind. The paramount ruler of Ifon Kingdom in Ondo State was abducted a fortnight ago in daylight. Hours later, subjects found the remains of their Oba in the bush. Several kilometres away, up north in the troubled Northeast region, insurgents abducted scores of rice farmers. At least 43 bodies were recovered in a mindless overnight slaughtering spree suspected to have claimed as many as 110 lives. Circumstances of the two incidents are not unconnected, which warrants a disturbing concern to elicit a clarion call on our royal fathers especially. Clearly, the two incidents sum up the insecurity malaise in the land, the underlining naivety of host communities and the greater doom that awaits us all in the Southwest, if we continue to pay lip service to irregular migration of total strangers.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s readily exposes one to a lot of witty sayings among the elderly. A number of their proverbial exchanges were thought provoking, if not perplexing. I remember a proverb that goes thus: Afefe t’o fe t’o ko aso ni yara, eni wo tie s’orun k’o ma se afira (where windstorm extracts wears from bedrooms, those lucky to have theirs on should be wary and make haste). I didn’t immediately get the logic of the saying as a child. How hard could a windstorm rage, to empty a wardrobe? But my skepticism didn’t last too long. On a July afternoon, it rained and blew so hard in our neigbourhood. A nearby house lost its entire roof, and the damned thing got smashed on another compound some yards away. When the rain subsided, the damage was unspeakable. It became self-evident that windstorms could do more than dislodge wears. Unattended, it can uproot roofing with its ceilings, electrical fittings and collapse an entire structure without a prior warning. Where that happens, it could only be a crisis moment. Unfortunately, that is where we are in today’s Nigeria. Sadly, many of our elite class, especially the royal fathers are still living in skepticism and behaving like an ostrich.
By our cultural constitution as Africans, it is rare to have a human community without a head or authority. That informs the makeup of the ruling royal families across the length and breadth of Africa, and beyond. The aftermath of colonial interlopers and entrenchment of democratic system of governance notwithstanding, traditional communities still retain the seats of their Oba, Obi or Emir, depending on cultural preference. As reiterated, the Oba, for instance, is not just another citizen or human being. He is a sacred being; the representative of the gods and deities of the land. In him resides the utmost power and eminence.
It is, therefore, strange that a first-class monarch, Olufon of Ifon land, Oba Adegoke Adeusi was abducted on his way home from a Council of Oba meeting in Akure and killed in cold blood. Reports have it that the traditional ruler ran into a barricade of kidnappers along Elegbeka, where he was allegedly shot and abducted. It suggested that the dastardly act was carried out either by those on the trail of the Oba or gunmen quite familiar with the Elegbeka area – a community that has indigenes and leaders! Bi iku ile o pa’ni; ti ode o to be. The question is: could complete strangers have invaded the town, without any knowledge or challenge from the residents? When herders were invading towns and farmlands, what did the residents, their Oba, State and local governments do in self-defence? Exactly when did the people become so defenceless? Or did they make peace with chaos, praying and hope that there will be no crisis?
Suffice to say that the pattern is quite familiar with the killing of farmers in Borno last weekend. According to reports, the farmers knew the insurgents quite well. Theirs are territories without government. They have perpetually been at the mercy of the terrorists, who occasionally waylay rice farmers to collect tax, tolls, logging and other valuables from them. But that is how they roll in the northeast and many of their leaders are comfortable with that pattern. Life therein has become nasty, brutish and short. Yet, they seem to see nothing untoward with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the security problem as long as his aides read out prepared condolence messages whenever innocent Nigerians get killed. After all, to many of the northern leaders, recommending restructuring as a panacea to insecurity or demanding justice against police brutality is to insult the president or orchestrate regime change through fake news! That is the predominant mindset in the North and they are happy with it. But the South cannot afford to travel that route. Never!
Besides commiserating with families of Borno 43 and Ifon people in Ondo, these should be symbolic warning signs to our royal fathers here and beyond; to put safety and security on the front burner. If there is ever a time to invoke powers of the land, foster regional cooperation, and get closer to the people, it is now. The ancestors that were disregarded in good times could hardly be expected to deliver in days of trouble. The second line of defence is the people of the land. They should have confidence in their Oba and vice versa. It is more of a question of how relevant the royal father is to the peoples’ plight. Ideally, every community should have its own security apparatus, which begins from the people, grassroots informants and armed units like the vigilante. The best time to rally behind the Amotekun security initiative is now.
Most important too is the primacy of eternal vigilance. And this brings to mind the disturbing disposition of many kings and local opportunists to foreigners migrating to Southwest at this period. In as much as laws of the land permit freedom of movement for all Nigerians, the exception is aliens and nuisance. Where things are not the way they used to be, States can only respect the rule with utmost caution. Unfortunately, the trend you would have noticed is a situation where officials of local councils and street urchins, in connivance with local chiefs and feudal lords alike, welcome foreigners as an additional source of revenue. Across Lagos State are all manner of tax agents on the street. They are waiting to waylay trucks, tricycles and motorcyclists. They issue private tickets and yield incomes to private pockets. It no longer matters the traders’ State of origin or nationality, but the remittances that exchange hands on a daily basis. In a small estate in Isolo, designated okada riders were just five about a year ago. Today, they are over 20, majority of whom speak no indigenous language, have no means of identification and lack a firm grip of the motorbike. Yet, they have the approval of both the LGA officials and the traditional ruler to do businesses that they know nothing about! They even have riders’ cards! Such illegality! That is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode, and the level of violent resistance now meted at law enforcement agencies says as much.
The bottom line is that we cannot be playing with fire and expect not to get burnt. Olufon is gone. For whom the bell tolls next, I don’t know. But I believe a stitch in time can still save nine for us all, with both leaders and followers becoming more responsible and not living in denial. Eyin Araba, e tun’ra mu o, odo ngbe Arere lo. Ire o!
In this article: