Dear fellow Nigerians home and abroad, I’m sure that like me you also receive many messages and clips on your social media platform. Well I’m about to send you a clip (see below), but it’s not like any other clips you might have seen, hence why I felt the need to send this prelude before you watch the clip.
Why is this not like any other video clips, because it is the presentation of the Alaafin of Oyo, the Paramount Ruler in Oyo land, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, one of the longest reigning monarchs in Nigeria.
The event was the Security Summit convened recently to consider the deep insecurity across Nigeria, and in particular the South West. The special Guest of Honour was Engineer Seyi Makinde, the Governor of Oyo State.
Generally in Nigeria, traditional rulers are expected to avoid speaking on highly politically sensitive matter so that they do not upset the Government of the day and bite the finger that feeds them.
Traditional rulers are also expected to rise above partisan politics, as perceived ‘Fathers’ of the nation. Alaafin of Oyo, a long standing traditional ruler is very familiar with these expectations. But in a manner that seemed strange and baffling to some, he decided on this one occasion to throw caution to the wind, challenge the status quo, and speak truth to power as he sees it.
The serenity in the audience was palpable. Many have pobably never seen a highly revered traditional ruler in Nigeria speak to boldly, so audaciously and so candidly. The question is WHY?
Another reason why I felt the need to provide this preamble to this video is that Kabiyesi Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, though fluent and erudite in his spoken English, chose on this occasion to intermingle his speech which is mainly in English, with his mother tongue, Yoruba language, in an attempt to reach his wider audience and domain who are Yorubas.
With growing demand for constitutional reform in Nigeria and a return to a genuine federal constitution, agitation for cecession from sections of the country, and a general atmosphere of distrust of government across the country, the question on many Nigerians’ lips is ‘how did we get here, and so quickly under this government?’
As a sociologist and policy analyst, I believe that the presentation of the Alaafin of Oyo on this clip provides some useful explanations. The Monarch is not naive. He is minded that his words would reverberate across Nigeria and beyond, given the wide media coverage. He is also mindful of the potential political fall out that might ensue after his remarks. Yet he remained undaunted. He spoke passionately and pointedly on pressing political issues in the country.
The state Commissioner of Police was present at this security summit, so were representatives of all the other Armed Forces of Nigeria. The representative of the State Security Service was on seat. There were also many other traditional rulers present.
The Alaafin of Oyo boldly and unequivocally declared that Nigeria can never be fully secured based on the current constitution which has treated the country like a unitary state.
He condemned the way the security aparatus of the country has been used largely to serve the economic and political interest of only a section of the country, much to the detriment of the rest of the country.
He lamented the numerous times when people in his domain had been kidnapped by, yes, Fulani Herdsmen, and he had personally contacted the Police, but to no avail.
The Alaafin brought out his personal file provided by one of his aides, and reeled out cases and incidents of when and how he, as the Paramount ruler has had to lead the efforts to raise the large sums of ransom being demanded by the kidnappers of his people.
As if to corroborate his point, he asked all the Obas (Kings) in his domain whose subjects had been kidnapped, to rise, and amazingly many of the traditional rulers rose on their feet – all of whom have suffered in the hands of kidnapping bandits.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi lamented how about 70% (yes seventy percent) of the farmlands and farm settlements in Oyo land had been abandoned due to the fear and threat posed by Fulani herdsmen.
Interestingly, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics recently reported an alarming 20% increase in food inflation in the country.
This is no brainer, it is only logical, that when farmers abandon farms for their lives, it is only a matter of time before we start to experience food shortage and scarcity. Activities of the herdsmen has now slowly constituted an existential threat to the country.
More worringly however, the Alaafin of Oyo, in the presence of the State Commissioner of Police, cited several incidents when the local vigilantees have successfully overpowered the rampaging, raping and kidnapping herdsmen, and have handed them over to the state police command, only to discover later that these herdsmen had been released by the police.
Other people have corroborated this experience, that offending herdsmen arrested and handed over to the police, are almost without exception freed. This has caused grave distrust in the police by many local communities across the country, who have suffered huge injustice at the hands of the herdsmen.
Communities in many parts of Nigeria have lost confidence in the objectivity and neutrality of the Nigeria Police.
The Alaafin concluded his presentation by stating categorically, that the country can simply not continue for much longer, with this manifest injustice to some sections of the country.
He publicly advocated for a restructuring of the country starting with a constitutional reform. He buttressed this point with the strong argument that the Governor (though given the appelage of the ‘Chief Security Officer of the State’), yet has no power or authority over the State Commissioner of Police.
The Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has hitherto traduced every critique of this Buhari led government as ‘fake news’. Will he also brand the Alaafin’s concerned observation as fake news.
The benign arrogance of this present government has known no bound, as they have rejected every opinion and voice of reason that is contrary to their own, whether it be from Father Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, or Professor Wole Soyinka, the renowned noble laureate, the security advise of the United States of America, the Ohaneze, the various regional socio-political groups across the country, not to mention the court of public opinion.
Every useful advice, opinion and positive suggestions have been shunned, yet the nation plunges further and farther towards the edge of the precipice.
Will this Government now heed the voice of a septuagenarian traditional ruler who has nothing to lose, but determined to salvage the only country that he knows and has.
A reasonable government would have a more private audience with the Alaafin of Oyo to consider his argument further, and investigate the evidences that he has meticulously collated and presented.
It is only a pretencious government that would dismiss the words of this sage and continue business as usual.
The Nigeria Police cannot be arresting young boys for carrying a laptop, and when the same police is handed culprits who have allegedly committed crimes of rape, pillage, kidnapoing and murder, only to just let those culprits go without trial. The human nature inherently gravitates towards justice and fairness.
There is a pervasive perception that the intruments of the state that is used to protect a section of the country, is then used coercively to victimise and oppress another section of the country.
These are the psychological and sociological underpins to hatred of the police in some parts of the country. They are seen as apparatus of oppression and coercion, which has to be resisted by any means necessary, and at any cost.
Why would the Nigerian people turn against the police if they perceive that police to be just, fair and acting to safeguard their interest.
Alaafin of Oyo’s presentation at this security summit has helped us in some way to answer, albeit partly, the question; “How did we get here, and so quickly.” Enjoy the clip.
Jimi Adeleye is the convener of the Public Policy Forum Nigeria; a policy think – thank.