Haba Governor Lawal!

Every human being, at one time or the other develops interest in some personalities, who may be their sources of inspiration either through special attributes or accomplishment in different fields of endeavor. Even when most Nigerians are presently disenchanted by traits of some politicians, there are some that are still respected for their selfless service and exemplary leadership qualities. Such is one’s admiration for Governor Muhammad Lawal of Kwara State despite some of his obvious weakness in terms of respect for elders and traditional institutions, has performed well in youth development and economic empowerment in the state through some of the social infrastructure he has put in place, like in transportation, road networks, provision of drinking water and development of housing estates etc.

But the recent development in the state, especially with regards the traditional institution and by extension, his aides’ reported molestation of political opponents, leaves much to be desired. The state government capped these with announcement of governor’s father, Alhaji Busari Alabi Alasa, as the successor to the late Mogaji Are of Ilorin, Alhaji Adisa Zubair. It came as rude shock to many observers who have been following the melodrama and unfolding political events in the state.

It may be recalled that late Zubair was the most senior Yoruba chief in Ilorin Emirate before his death on Thursday, October 31, this year after a reported brief (some say protracted) illness. Unofficially the Mogaji Aare is seen as the Oba of the Yoruba elements in the ancient town. According to the statement signed by the state’s Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Abdulrahman Iliasu in Ilorin, Alasa’s appointment was in consonance with the Chiefs Appointment and Disposition Law, Cap 20 of the Applicable Law of Kwara State. The statement stated that “the Kwara State government had in the exercise of the power conferred by the Chiefs Appointment and Disposition Law Cap 20 of the Applicable Law of Kwara State and on the advice of the traditional selection committee hereby approved the appointment of Alhaji Busari Alabi Alasa as the Mogaji Aare of Ilorin.” In other dailies’ reports (Guardian November 10, 2002 p3) stated that the appointment was sequel to the admonition by the state’s chapter of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) that only a prompt announcement of Zubair’s successor could guarantee true representation of Yoruba interest in the town. According to OPC Coordinator in Kwara, Mr. Bayo Ifabiyi “the OPC members in Kwara urge the government not to waste time in the installation and crowning of the new Oba elect as soon as possible for the sake of posterity.”

The turbaning of Seventy eight-year-old Magaji Aare was made immediately the day following the announcement at the Idi-Ape family compound of the chief and performed by a local Imam in the area in the presence of his son and aides. (Tribune and Post Express November 11, 2002) It may be recalled that on August 2, 2002, the state government announced the upgrading of the stool of the Mogaji Aare as well as the Etsu Tsonga and Etsu Tsaragi to the first class status, while the Baloguns were promoted honorary first class chiefs.

By Ilorin Emirate tradition, the Mogaji is the direct descendent of Afonja family or the Yoruba dynasty in the ancient city. By virtue of the first class status bestowed on traditional title holders, it would go into record as the first time in a given Nigerian city when more than one customary chiefs have the same high position. Since there is no other enviable status after First Class except zero class which is failure. Unfortunately a day to the official announcement of the new Mogaji Aare, three mobile policemen attached as security escort to the Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Muhammad Lawal as well as civilian driver lost their lives in a ghastly motor accident near Offa in Asa Local Government area of the state on their way from Lagos after escorting the governor to an official assignment. It may be pertinent to note that this was not the first of such gory accidents probably due to reckless driving or otherwise of the governor convoy. It would be recalled that at the height of the fuel crises in 2000, ten mobile policemen also on security attachment with the governor lost their lives on Bida-Mokwa Road, when their reserved fuel in Jerry-can exploded and burnt them beyond recognition. Another two were said to have died on their way from Abuja on the Lokoja-Ilorin road a year after(Thisday November 10, 2002 p3.)

The announcement by the Governor’s aide on the appointment of Alhaji Busari Alabi Alasa, as the 11th Mogaji Aare of Ilorin, automatically gives His Excellency the title of the Crown Prince. Coincidentally or deliberately, the new appointment came just a week after the death of the former title holder. In contrast, the government announced appointment of Alhaji Bamidele Malai Adegbite as the 10th Ohoro of Shao in Moro Local Government Area of the State years after the stool became vacant. The question here is why the rush in announcing the governor’s father’s appointment within the short time of the death of the former Aare when the government and the people of the state should be mourning the loss of former Mogaji and that of government House staff? If it took the government years to announce the name of new Ohoro of Shao, why wouldn’t the announcement wait at least a few months, probably after the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Though traditional rulers have useful roles to play in a given society, they lack constitutional responsibility. The hurried announcement and turbaning thus have no meaningful effect since there is no defined statutory function for the new chief apart from being a glorified title. The new scenario also points to a new dimension in politics where diversionary stratagems are employed daily to hoodwink and divert electorates’ attention to frivolous issues that are of no significance to their livelihood and economic well-being. Though it is said that he was amongst the eleven contestants for the exalted stool in 1983 where he was defeated by the late Adisa Zubair, the new Magaji Aare is the eleventh in the hierarchy in his domain just as the Emir of Ilorin Justice Zulu Gambari is the 11th monarch in the Emirate. Does it mean there is going to be stiff competition of supremacy between the established traditional ruler and the status enhanced Magaji Aare? In addition, does it mean other rightful contestants to the stool would remain mute or is it possible for all of them including the children, to have unanimously accepted and approved the conferment of the title to the governor’s father or are they afraid to confront the powers that be? One may also ask that when did the OPC become so credible to the extent of advising the government on chieftaincy matters and on policy direction. This trend is indeed very scary from every perspective. When an outlawed organisation, with little positive impact, widely associated with violent crimes such as abduction and killing of innocent souls in other part of the country at that become advisers to government, then the situation has called for immense prayers for God to save our souls.

The unwholesome political mockery has further created division and disharmony amongst peaceful natives of the city. These poor souls had almost forgotten the lamentable history of the past between the Afonja, the alleged earlier settlers, and the Alimis the jihadist conquerors. The children of the old warring parties have now started digging out historical facts for blackmail, vendetta and battle of wits which would take no one anywhere. How one wishes that the Governor would listen to the clarion calls from every quarter to redirect his energy and attention to developmental effort, minimise his interest in traditional institution and give respect to whom it is due. Some of the government policies so far as regarding the emirate do not only have negative effect on the cultural lives of the people but have impacted on their faith. Opposing sides are now cautious of the mosques where they pray. It is quite disappointing that the three most senior Imams of Ilorin ie that of Fulani, Imale and Gambari were conspicuously absent at his father’s turbaning. It is necessary to plead with the governor not to allow hungry advisers to mislead him into sacrificing his humble and respected father in the muddy waters of political intricacies in the state. It is not late to retrace his steps in this regard. He is sure to win more admirers and get popular supports if he ignored mischievous advice and praise-singing of political prostitutes and hypocrites whose tool in trade is destructive speculations.

This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Nigerian Tribune Nov 19, Daily Trust November 21, Post Express November 20, 2002

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Yushau Shuaib