Femi Ajayi's Outlook

Saraki might be sitting on the jaws of a volcanic eruption if care is not taking, with all known and unknown gadgets waiting for an opportunity to foment trouble in Kwara State, the 'State of Harmony'. ... I can see it coming.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Dr. Femi Ajayi



he recent development in Kwara State with the issue of Traditional Rulers might be heading to a very hard hit challenge for Saraki's administration. The Balogun's challenge to the Emir of Ilorin whereabouts their N36 million out of N42 million meant for the emirate; the mayhem in Emir's reaction to the petition against him over the said money; the delayed process in filling Balogun's position that have been vacant for a while; and the grading of the Kwara State Traditional Rulers recently published. These and other related matters might be heading toward an uphill task for Saraki's administration, and gradually coming like the 'Tsunami' or 'Katrina' storm to Kwara State.

Saraki might be sitting on the jaws of a volcanic eruption if care is not taking, with all known and unknown gadgets waiting for an opportunity to foment trouble in Kwara State, the 'State of Harmony'. It will be like 'trouble dey sleep, yanga go wake am up'. I can see it coming. Traditional issues and religion are the two dangerous weapons that could turn Kwara State into a battle ground. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. I have the highest regard and respect for any culture and tradition any where in the world, more so my culture.

The aged feud between Afonja and Fulani in Ilorin started showing its ugly head when a group of Afonja family members complained of the invasion of their farm lands by the Fulani cattle rearers. Dr. Bukola Saraki, through his Commissioner for Environment and Tourism, Dr. Bola Olaosebikan, under the "Clean and Green" program, waded into the matter and warned the cattle rearers to stay away from townships. Good enough.

The volcanic orifice was opened wider with the death of Mogaji Are of Ilorin, Alhaji Busari Alabi Alasa, the father of the immediate past Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Mohamed Lawal. His position was going to be filled immediately.

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented event in the history of Ilorin Kingmakers, the 'learned' Emir of Ilorin 'fired' all the surviving King Makers in Ilorin for probing the whereabouts their allowances. In return, the 'fired' King Makers removed the Emir of Ilorin with immediate effect. The 'fired' Baloguns are: Alhaji AbdulKareem Laaro Buhari, Balogun Gambari, Alhaji Shuaib Adio Mahmud, Balogun Alanamu and Alhaji Saka Alesinloye, the Baba Isale. They are the surviving kingmakers out of the six that ratified the choice of the monarch in 1995. The other three are, Balogun Ajikobi, Alhaji Sulaiman Tukur, Balogun Fulani, Alhaji Oba Fulani and the initial Mogaji Are, Alhaji Ibrahim Zubair.

In a quick reaction, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari, the 11th Emir of Ilorin, hastily turbaned the newly appointed Baloguns, especially the replacement for Mogaji Aare. This action and reactions from the 'fired' Baloguns brought about the loss of life and properties, when the newly turbaned Mogaji Aare headed to his newly 'acquired domain' of the century. People would imagine how a 'learned' Emir, a retired Justice, would make such a decision to 'fire' his Baloguns for petitioning against him for withholding N36 million out of their N42 million allowance money. Baloguns' petition was sent to Obasanjo and the State Government.

The Emir sent an inquiry to the petitioners for their disloyalty to him. In Balogun's joint reply, they denied the allegations of not given "proper and known respect to the Emir", and instead raised the controversial issue of a N42 million meant for the traditional rulers in the Emirate but from which they claimed the Emir only gave out N6 million. Even though the Emir has since denied this, but where is the freedom of existence if the Emir would not pay the Baloguns their entitlements, and turned around to 'fire' them? That is wrong.

The Emir was not happy about this development and queried the Baloguns for not obtaining permission from him before writing such a petition. In other words the Emir wanted the Petitioners to get his permission before sending it. Unless people's thinking faculty is under their feet, no human being would succumb to such order from the Emir to obtain his permission before writing petition against him. I do not see anything wrong for the Baloguns demand for their money. That episode that led to the killing in Ilorin should have been averted if the Emir has done the right thing of not 'sitting' on the Balogun's pay.

Commonsense would dictate to anyone that the petition was an indictment on the Emir of Ilorin that his Rulership in the emirate is questionable. Such matter should not have been known to the public that the Emir refused to pay the Baloguns their entitlements, under any circumstances. The worst decision was for the Emir to turn around and 'fire' the Kingmakers. What do we call that, enslavement, or intimidation in this age of high technology?

According to the petition,

"It is also on record that our arrears of allowances for June 2004 to date are yet to be settled by you".
The reply from Baloguns to the Emir's inquiry, dated September 14, 2005, stated
"We stand by the content of our letter or petition to the President dated July 4, 2005 in his official capacity, which we believe is a public document."

However, the kingmakers responding to their removal said that the royal father acted without recourse to the appropriate authorities and constitutional procedure. In that respect,

"The Ilorin Traditional Kingmakers hereby announce the removal of Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari as the Emir of Ilorin with effect from today, September 24, 2005. A new Emir will soon be appointed to replace him. This unanimous decision was taken at an emergency meeting held today to deliberate on the new twist and turns to the prolonged crisis that has bedeviled the Ilorin Emirate Council for the past nine years out of the ten years so far spent by the Emir on the throne."

In his reaction Bukola Saraki stated that

"As a government, we are seriously touched by this unfortunate incident, it was a shock, we are sad and cannot but take deliberate steps to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the crisis and bring to book all those involved in it."
Kwarans believe that the governor should go beyond this and correct the mess the Emir has created for the State, while keeping that openness and neutrality in the Traditional matters in the State.

Alhaji Abdulkarim Olola Kasum, the national president of Afonja Descendants Union believed that the recent Ilorin crisis was

"palace-inspired and palace-sponsored crises the Ilorin Emirate which once constituted the traditional fulcrum of Ilorin unity and the catalyst of Islamic pre-eminence in this part of the world, is now a ghost of its former self with the four Baloguns (Ajikobi, Gambari, Alanamu and Fulani), the Baba Isale and the Magaji Aare of Ilorin being frustrated to withdraw their allegiance through the overbearing and haughty leadership of the current occupant of the palace."

In that line we may not subscribe to the notion from Alhaji Abdulkarim Olola Kasum

"that Saraki administration has pre-knowledge of the mayhem and also provided the logistics and funds for its execution…..which had shown open support for the action of the Emir in a statement credited to Alhaji Raheem Adedoyin that Kwara State government backed Emir of llorin's decision to depose and appoint chiefs."
This might caution any government official on their utterances either publicly or privately on any highly sensitive issue like that.

Kwarans may not have the full confidence on the current Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari, as revealed by the King Makers' petition. In addition, the history of his rulership, since he was installed about nine years past, as Emir of Ilorin, and to head the council of Traditional Rulers in Kwara State, has been stained with crises. On his ascension to the Emirship, he changed his name from Kolapo to Ibrahim, which is all right; any one is free to change his or her name at anytime disregarding their parents' wisdom in giving that name to them. The Emir went further to mandate all citizens within his domain to change their Yoruba to Fulani names. What difference does it make? The Emir did not stop there, he asked the Christians to relocate their churches outside his emirate. A good father does not tell his children rebellious stories about his relationship with their mother(s).

In the current fight against corruption, the EFCC should start directing its search light on the eccentric behaviors of some Traditional Rulers, especially those who have access to the public money. Dr. Saraki should extend his search light on the Traditional rulers, just like he is doing with the Local Government Chairs. When "Idi-Ape Disturbance, Destruction of Property and Loss of Lives Judicial Commission of Inquiry", headed by Justice Sulaiman Durosinlorun Kawu, submits its reports, the culprits must be "brought to book" regardless their positions in the community.

In the first place the Emir has been indicted by sitting on the remaining N36 million out of N42 million meant for the Kingmakers. Kwarans are awaiting the outcome of the commission after its three-month sitting. What is obvious about the incident is the withholding of the Balogun's allowances and their petition against the Emir. There must be a fair approach to this obvious incident.

In another development, Dr. Bukola Saraki remarked on Saturday, September 3, 2005, during his monthly media chat on radio and television stations in Ilorin that, his administration has no plan to downgrade traditional rulers. More important though that his administration was "for progress and not for retrogression". Unfortunately, the outcome of the Commission set up to look into the issue of Tradition rulers in Kwara State, out rightly downgraded some Obas especially from the Kwara South. That is retrogressive. Kwarans are holding Saraki to this statement and should right the wrong made by either the Commission, or the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari, or Chief Joel Ogundeji, the Deputy Governor.

The reversed grading of Traditional rulers is being received with mixed reactions from Kwara citizens, as a result of the final touch from the Emir of Ilorin. The "Omo Ibile Igbomina" was happy and the Ekiti Parapo is not. According to Omo Ibile Igbomina,

the exercise, as we see it has been done on the grounds of justice and fair-play and for this we wish to commend Your Excellency's bold decision in approving the elevation".
However, Omo Ibile Igbomina
"implored the state government to grade more traditional rulers in Igbominaland".
The last statement made it sound like one of the works done by Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychiatrist and founder of psychoanalysis, the most influential psychological theorist of 20th-century, that humans are endowed with an unconscious mind in reaction to some stimulus.

One major factor of note on the grading of Kwara traditional rulers, is the 'trust' of the Commission's report been given to the Emir of Ilorin to advise on the new grading. When I read the government decision to submit the report to the Emir of Ilorin for his comments, sometimes in May 2005, I knew immediately that the whole exercise has been politicized, tainted with disingenuousness, would be biased, and highly polluted with an unfair outcome. I felt very cold when Dr. Bukola Saraki remarked,

"we told you about one and a half years ago, that the last exercise was not done with sincerity, it was politicised. The committee we set up has submitted its report, one year after they began working. I want to tell you there are many requests, particularly from Kwara South. I have written the Emir of Ilorin only this morning as Chairman of the traditional council, to review the report and comment, so that we can move forward. So please tell your media houses in Lagos, some of whom were very unfair to us when we canceled the first one that we have shown that we have nothing to hide."
Saraki's administration may not have "nothing to hide", but the Emir of Ilorin could have a lot hidden in his closet on this subject, especially with Kwara South. What most Kwarans would say to this one is that it has been more politicized, and the most unfair report ever, on issues affecting the grading of Traditional Rulers in Kwara State.

It might be an uncontrolled volcanic eruption, stronger than the Hawaii eruption, coming to Kwara State. Based on the trends of events in Ilorin and the rulership of the current Emir, no one would trust such a sensitive matter with the Emir of Ilorin? It is a divisive, one-sided, heavily biased decision, possibly on the current Emir of Ilorin. I doubt if he should be trusted with such matter. I could bet a trillion dollars if justice and genuineness from the Emir would bring out the good result on the grading of Traditional Rulers in Kwara State. It has been grossly politicized.

After all, the agitation for another State within the current Kwara State may not be a bad idea after all, if the other parts of the State would not be accorded their respect and rightful places in the State as to their needs and culture. Grading some very highly placed Obas in Kwara South as third class Obas, is incongruous, to say the least. Do we have to question the reasoning for making Songhai Emir a first class Emir: Was it based on population, resources, contributions to the building and development of Kwara State, or what? These people from Kwara South have been suffering in silence for years among which is the grading of their Traditional Rulers which has been highly tainted, sullied, and politicized. We are failing in our callings for disrespecting the traditional rulers of our great ancestors if we continue to interject politics into the traditional matters in Kwara State. This is a day light robbery of our traditional rulers' positions. The only thing that I could give to the immediate past Governor, as stated in my previous articles was the issue of the grading of Traditional Rulers in Kwara State.

In reference, it is an insult to grade the Owa L'Obbo of Obbo Land a Third Class King. Obbo-Aiyegunle, for instance has two Wards just like Osi that is given second class Oba and Ekan-Meje with 2nd class. Songhai does not have much population, nor his people made as much contribution to the development of Kwara State as done by the Obboland. If not for the rain that brought pigeons with chicken together, if I may literarily say that, how on earth could Owalobbo's position be graded as third class whereas his counterparts in Ekiti State are first class Obas, while in the whole of Ekiti Kwara the highest Oba is that of Obbo land.

May be we forgot that Yorubas constitute people living in most parts of the Kwara and Kogi States, and mostly in Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Lagos, Ekiti, Lagos States. The group has a considerable dialectic variation, a common language, and a common culture; this is remarkably persistent in spite of the great political, geographical, and religious differences that have arisen over the past three centuries. Yoruba traditions have been identified with Sudanic people. Urbanization among Yoruba is both basic and traditional. According to T.G. O. Gbadamosi in his book, The Growth of Islam Among the Yoruba, 1941-1908 (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1978), "the cohesion of Yoruba life has prevented any high level of sectarian conflict", as witnessed in the north in the 1980s, "even where traditional beliefs have been challenged simultaneously by Islam and Christianity", until we started adding another variable in our relationships.

Although some Yoruba felt the influence of Islam in earlier centuries, it was not until the early nineteenth century, following the Fulani Jihad, that old Oyo came within Moslem influence. J. D. Y. Peel in his piece titled "Religious Change in Yorubaland," Africa, 1967, 37:3, pages 292-306, revealed that Ilorin fell to Moslem rule under a line of Emirs that persist to the present. Notable among the Yoruba subgroup that resisted Fulani conquest are the Ekitis. Part of the Ekitis that later came under the old Ilorin Province (now Kwara State) paid, and are still paying, the high price of nonacceptance of Islam. Saraki's administration should be made aware of the long history of suffering by the Kwara South.

You can read more of the plight of Ekitis in Kwara State in Revolution and Power in Yorubaland 1840-1893 (New York: Humanities Press, Inc., 1971); C. L. Temple, Native Races and Their Rulers (London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1968); K. V. Elphinstone, Gazetteer of Ilorin Province (London: Waterlow & Sons, Ltd., 1921); S. J. Hogben and A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria (London: Oxford University Press, 1966); O. Temple, Tribes, Provinces, Emirates, and States of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria (Lagos: The C. M. S. Bookshop, 1922); C. S. Whitaker, Jr., The Politics of Tradition, Continuity, and Change in Northern Nigeria 1946-1966 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970). We won't like for Saraki's administration to be deceived of the significant of Ekitis in Kwara State, or the entire Kwara South, PDP registration or not.

For instance, as far back as the time of Lord Lugard, the Ekiti became part of the former Ilorin Province (in 2005, Kwara State) has been recognized as a separate and distinct cultural and political entity, written on pages 101-107 of Temple's Northern Nigeria Tribes and Emirs. Kwara Ekiti used to be an integral part of the larger Ekiti ethnic group, the majority of who live in Ekiti State today, 2005. However, the Kwara Ekiti has not been accorded a status befitting their historic position. In other words, the leading traditional ruler in Kwara Ekiti should be accorded First Class grading, and made a member of the Kwara State Council of Emirs, Obas, and Chiefs, whereas the preeminent Oba in Kwara Ekiti is the Owa L'Obbo of Oboland. As a matter of fact, the Obbo kingdom used to be part of the former Ekiti Parapo Confederacy which comprised 16 crowned Ekiti kingdoms, "Awon Oba Alade Merindinlogun," which are (in alphabetical order): Ado, Ara, Efon, Iddo, Obbo, Ogatan (Ogotun), Oke-Mesi, Otun, and Oye. See details in H. R. Palmer, Notes on Ekiti History (Ekiti Kings) (Kaduna: National Archives File #739/1919, 1917).

On page 101 and 102 of Temple's, and Hermon Hodge, Gazetteer of Ilorin Province, op. cit. Petition of Owa L'Obbo of Obbo-Aiyegunle to His Excellency, the Governor of Nigeria, in 1935, in the Ekiti Confederation, the Owa L'Obbo was fourth in rank with the Ore of Otun being the first in rank, the Ewi of Ado second, and the Elekole of Ikole third. At the later stage of the confederacy, the Owa L'Obbo was virtually recognized as being an equal of and jointly occupying the third place with the Elekole of Ikole.

Ironically, only Obboland was left in the old Ilorin Province (Kwara State), where there was the Emirate Council over the Christian Obboland. The Obboland has not been accorded its rightful historical importance. On the other hand, in the past the Kwara State Government has no respect for the historical position of Obboland. Owa L'Obbo of Obboland ought to have been accorded the First Class and not the Third Class position, so as to be of the same level as its counterparts in the Ekiti State, where there is a majority of 16 crowned Ekiti Chiefs. Dantoro Commission also found that to be true and factual.

What politics has to do with traditional rulers? Anything below First class status for Owa L'Obbo of Obboland with his counterparts in other parts of the world is unacceptable to the people of Ekiti Parapo in Kwara State. All Obas in Kwara Ekiti should not sell their conscience in the grading of other Ekiti counterparts in the State.

No one would ever trust the traditional matter with the current Emir of Ilorin. It is unfair and unacceptable to the people that are affected. Our tradition has existed before the exploit of the adventurers and we have to maintain and keep it for the sake of our children yet unborn. We cannot fold our arms while some selfish individuals or groups make a mockery of our culture. It is right for the sons and daughters of the affected places to address the unacceptable handling of the issue of traditional rulers.

Without painting anything beyond Saraki's good intention for the State, the area of traditional matters is a very delicate and sensitive issue. Like I said before, if care is not taking, Kwara could be turned into a battle ground, among the traditional rulers, and between the Fulani and Yorubas of Ilorin. Someone has to call the Emir's actions to order in his disintegrating policy. One of my friends echoed to me that I was only wasting my time because Papa Saraki does not even belief in the existence of Ekiti in Kwara State. No wonder each time I tell my friends that I am from Ekiti in Kwara State, they always remarked that I should keep on dreaming, calling me an individual with no home, ridiculous.

Regardless of our loyalty to Saraki's administration, Kwarans have to be accorded their rightful place in the State. It is very obvious the politically biased and unfairness in the handling of traditional matters in the grading of Obas in Kwara State, is not right.

An independent, unbiased Commission is needed to address the issue of traditional rulers in Kwara State, or bring back Dantoro Panel Report that was rich in its submissions. We need peaceful coexistence in Kwara State. However, the issue of our tradition should not be tampered with and should be kept clean from all the politics around.

'A stitch in time saves nine' so my people say. The Emir of Ilorin and Saraki's administration should make some serious adjustments with sincerity to Kwara South especially Ekiti Parapo in particular, on the subject of grading Traditional Rulers in Kwara State.