The Thursday, November 26, killing of a first class traditional ruler in Ondo State, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adelusi, marks yet another watershed in the painful history of the collapse of the security system in the nation called Nigeria. The death of Olufon in the hands of bandits, or herdsmen, or kidnappers, who rained bullets on his car, some few kilometres to his Ifon domain, is also very significant to the entire Yoruba race; particularly in the areas of traditions and sacrileges. By our culture as a people, obas don’t die; they simply sleep. But the Ifon case has since changed that.
Virtually every medium: traditional, social and electronic, which reported the ugly incident played up the stylistic gimmick of eyeballing, by ensuring that the verbal phrase, “shot dead”, was elaborately used. How on earth can you “shoot dead” an oba? By virtue of his position, especially in Yoruba mythology, an oba is an “Alase Ekeji Orisa” (the sovereign one who is next in rank to the deity); in some places, he is an “Igirabatalokun” (A big tree which sprouts in the middle of the ocean). Some obas, for instance in my native community, are “Amelilajetuotou (He who eats the native cow with its horns). It is not for fun that they are called “Ariragbenuokunyinbo” (The thunder which fires arsenals from the depth of the ocean). Obas are heads of principalities and powers in their domains; the terrestrial and celestial beings surrender to them. They are supposed to be powerful such that no mere mortals dare look at them, not to talk of “shooting them to death”. Abomination!
But it is happening right before us. Obas are being killed, kidnapped and even robbed. My community recorded a more gory incident some two years ago. Recently too, the sacred palace of the Oba of Lagos, the very Idunganran, was invaded by hoodlums, who did not only have their sumptuous breakfast in the hallowed chambers of the monarch, but equally went away with his Staff of Office! Incidentally too, more than a month after the sacrilege was committed, and with the white-robed individuals holding a procession, we are yet to see or hear about any calamity befalling the perpetrators of such abominable acts against our gods and ancestors!
What is wrong with our traditional system? Are the gods and the ancestors on sabbatical? And if they are not on sabbatical, have we offended them so much that they don’t give a damn about what happens to their representatives? With our traditional settings, our obas are the custodians of our security. But now, they are as vulnerable as the next door common man, if not more vulnerable. This is a case of the herbalist, who is expected to prepare the portion that will cure the patient, having a severe headache, what we call “efori tuulu” (migraine), himself. The fate of the patient is already known. Like we say, when a patient says the fish stock is bitter in his mouth, his relations should better start negotiating the cost of a casket.
Speaking from the point of a traditional setting, the killing of the Olufon is a big embarrassment to us as a people. Olufon’s death in the hands of bandits is a clarion call on the traditional institutions across the Yoruba race, to begin to look inward and do the needful. We should stop the compromise of our culture, tradition and rites to please any candidate who aspires to be our oba. Even the Bible encourages us to give unto Caeser what is Caeser’s and unto God, what is God’s. There should be no middle course to the installation of any Oba in Yorubland. The rites of passage must be complete, irrespective of the religious inclination of the would-be oba. Don’t get it twisted, I am not interrogating the processes that led to the installation of the departed Olufon; no! That notwithstanding, I sincerely believe that there is a disconnect somewhere and we, as a people, must find the missing link. There were bandits during the reigns of Olugbon and Aresa, our primogenitors, but the potencies of the sacred groove of their palaces were efficacious enough. An average Yoruba man or woman should just imagine the calamity that will happen, should armed robbers visit the palace of the present Oluwo of Iwo, when His Imperial Majesty is in one of his finest moments. That is the kind of situation we are calling attention to, so that the shame of having our obas killed on the road as if they possess no power can stop.
The killing of Olufon by bandits transcends the Yoruba race. That incident is a national shame and more of a shame of the political leadership of the country; especially, the most secured Aso Rock Villa, where the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), is holed up in a state of apathetic lethargy!
Within same hours the Olufon was mauled by bandits, a serving policeman in Ado Ekiti was “shot dead”, while providing security cover for some Chinese contractors handling the Iyin-Ado Ekiti Road. While one of the Chinese nationals was “shot”, the other was successfully kidnapped. Hours later, Mrs. Ale, wife of the Chief of Staff to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Mr. Olugbenga Ale, was kidnapped alongside other passengers along Akure-Owena Road. It took the intervention of the newly “commissioned” Amotekun Corps to rescue the woman and her fellow victims.
But before we could say “double jeopardy” for Arakunrin Akeredolu, another disaster of higher magnitude struck in far away Borno State. In an agrarian village of Zabarmari, Koshebe, Jere Local Government Area, some poor rice farmers, who were harvesting their produce, were swooped upon by the hydra headed Boko Haram terrorists and at the first count, 43 of the farmers were slaughtered like rams! That was on a Saturday morning. By Sunday morning, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of the state, had the misfortune of organising a mass burial for the victims. Some two years ago, his counterpart in Benue, Samuel Ortom, performed similar rites of passage for victims of killer herdsmen. Late Sunday evening, the United Nations (UN) announced that no fewer than 100 people were slaughtered on that rice plantation!
Image Boko Haram, which the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, repulsively told us years ago, had been “decimated”! The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, only last week, told us that the northern part of Nigeria remained the most unsafe place to live in Nigeria. According to him, in one single community, 76 persons were killed just like that.
But what do you get from the Commander-in-Chief, who has the responsibility to secure us all? Nothing but a lifeless statement of empathy and the affirmation of his empowerment of the almost nonexistent Armed Forces. He says: “I’ have given the armed forces all they need to protect citizens”. I still wonder how Garba Sheu or Femi Adesina feels anytime one of them has to speak on behalf of Aso Rock.
Which Armed Forces is Garba Sheu talking about, for goodness sake? Do the occupants of the Villa need a seer to tell them that the security apparatus in the country collapsed completely? Do they need to be told that the headship of all the Armed Forces are tired, mentally and physically; that they are as incompetent, as they are in effective at providing solutions to the myriad of security challenges we are facing as a nation? How on earth does General Buhari expect the service chiefs who have passed their productive stages in the services on account of either age or length of service, be able to rise to the occasion and save us all? What new strategies are the service chiefs bringing to the table such that years after they had been due for retirement, they remain irreplaceable! And to think that we still have almost three more years to live with this rudderless leadership is completely scary!
Suyi Ayodele writes for Nigerian Tribune.