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OPINION: The Cults Of Lagos

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By Suyi Ayodele

Those who used Oro to win elections on March 18 are already back in the churches and mosques for thanksgiving. The pastors and the imams did not chase them away. Their thanksgiving offering and sadaqah were well received and ‘blessed’. The Muslims among them will start the 30-day Ramadan fast later this week. Their Christian counterparts are observing Lent, already. I am also putting my pastorate on notice. Nobody should doubt my spirituality after this outing. Thankfully enough, I have another two weeks to do penitence before the next Holy Communion service in April. I would have been in the “State of Grace” to partake in the spiritual meal. God, forgive your son all his shortcomings (Amen). Let somebody shout Hallelujah! My people say a man lives according to the epoch he finds himself in. Let us do Oro today. First, my tribute to the owners of this world (iba awon to n’ile aye). Oro is not common. It is not a daylight affair. It is a deity that speaks to the deep of the night. The whirring sound by Oro sends fears into the spines of the non-initiates.

Eeeeeepaaaaaaaa!!!!!

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Oyi rerere! – The whirlwind!

Ori firi – You see it in a flash!

Oku firi – You die in a flash!

 

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There is a town called Ikole-Ekiti; it is the headquarters of Ikole Local Government, my local government area. Ikole salutes itself as one who knows not to do with children and sacrifices one to the gods (Ikole ri hun m’omo se, han modidi omo s’ebo). There is a short story behind the oriki (praise name). In those days when humans were humans, there reigned an Elekole, who had many wives and children. Among his numerous children was a particularly beautiful one, a girl, known as Eyinjuewa (the eyeball of beauty), his favourite. Being the king’s favourite, the princess became a spoilt brat, rude and arrogant. Ikole also has an Oro festival, Isemole (complete restriction), that is celebrated till date. During the festival, no woman is allowed to come out. We grew up to know that tradition.

 

One day, during the Isemole festival, Eyinjuewa got into an argument with one of the oloris. Being her brat self, the princess told the olori that she, being a wife to the king, had no right to talk down on a princess, especially the king’s favourite. The two women were in the kitchen, with Eyinjuewa stirring amala delicacy. Isemole was at its peak, with the Oro at its most whirring sound. Peeved by Eyinjuewa’s arrogance, the olori challenged her thus: “If indeed you are the daughter of Elekole, go out there and see Isemole like a true child of the oba”. Game! Eyinjuewa’s pride was challenged. She forgot tradition. In her madness to prove that she was full blue-blooded, she did the unthinkable. Eyinjuewa opened the kitchen door, holding the stirring stick in her hand and ventured out. Instantly, the legend states, she dried up on the spot! Oro did not spare her. It is axiomatic: that “bi obirin ba fi oju kan Oro, Oro a gbé” (when a woman sees Oro, Oro must swallow her)! After the incident, Ikole people composed a warning song to register Eyinjuwewa’s recalcitrance; a princess born into a cult but fails to observe the tenets of the group. That is the real Oro. It is a cult that women have no role in; they are forbidden to be initiated into the Oro cult.

 

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What is the place of Oro in Yoruba religion? Yoruba traditional system is controlled by three levellers of authority. Sitting on top of the hierarchy is the Oba and his council of chiefs. That is the only segment of the ladder that is open for all to see. The second layer is the Awos, which is made of cult members (Oro) and the ogbonis (the real Osugbo and not the modern day Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF), that accommodates all Tom, Dick and Harry. The third, which incidentally is the most powerful, are the real owners of the night; our mothers, the “eye buruku abi’ga winiwini” (the bad bird with beautifully arranged feathers), the witches, and to an extent, wizards.

 

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Oro plays important roles whenever a member of a Yoruba community is to be excommunicated. If for instance, a man commits an offence which punishment is banishment, the Oro cult is called in to escort the culprit out of the town. Such a man is never to return to the community. It is a deity that was used in the days before civilisation, to execute criminals. In 2019, Yoruba popular Fuji star, Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, KWAM 1, at the height of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode must go campaign, hinted that Ambode would be chased away from the Alausa Government House with Oro. Ambode, we all can recall today, lost the APC governorship primaries to the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu. That was four years ago. Why has Ambode not been able to return to the Tinubu political family ever since? That is what an Oro does when it is employed in the case of any adversary.

 

The All Progressive Congress, APC, in Lagos last Saturday called out Oro cultists during the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections. The ‘initiates’ came out in their numbers and were on the street, performing ‘rituals’. I saw some of the videos. I listen to the voices of the Oros. I laughed heartily. An acada man, who was watching the videos with me, wondered why I laughed. I told him what he saw on the streets of Lagos were comedians. He did not believe me. The acada pointed out the all-white dresses and the white tattoos on the bodies of the Oro devotees and I asked him not to pay attention to the costumes or the marks on their bodies. My argument was that if the real Oro comes out, those Babajide Sanwo-Olu arinjo dramatists would flee in different directions. I mean it. My mind raced back home. I remembered Orangun (my family deity), whose cognomen is: “umole ko pa aaro re hi ku finrin finrin ke si gbohun ebeora (the deity that ‘kills’ its chief priest completely for him to hear what the gods have to say). How will Orangun be out, and some mere mortals will video it? How will Ajale be at its elements and women will be by their window blinds, recording it? Who will dare do that? Truly, Eko gba ole, o gba ole (The thief and the lazy are accommodated in Lagos). What you saw on the streets of Lagos on Saturday are not Oros. The pots and the hyssop and the concoction are not the Yoruba traditional “sesere and agbo”. But they achieved the purpose for which they were deployed. The victims of the hyssop dipped into the pots are the Igbo non-native of Lagos and others who got scared and stayed off the polling centres, leaving MC Oluomo and his goons to have a field day. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president-elect, was clear in the build up to the February 25 presidential election that it would not be business as usual. On more than three occasions, especially when he was in his Yoruba enclave, he called for Ayajo (invocations) on his enemies. I have a faint idea of the capabilities of Ayajo. I equally know that a man who openly asked for Ayajo has more than enough in his traditional kitty. It is therefore not a surprise that on Saturday, March 18, Tinubu’s APC called in the Oro Cult to save the lord of Lagos from a second humiliation.

 

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This is why I find the Oro cults the Tinubu political family employed last Saturday in its quest to secure for Sanwo-Olu, a much desired second term in office, despicable and condemnable in all ramifications. The act is a total desecration of the Yoruba tradition. Ironically, those who deployed that infamy said that they were preserving Yoruba from the domination of the Igbo. The whole exercise showed how desperate the political class are. Sanwo-Olu, I understand, is of the Christian faith. I have been searching the internet to see where and when he professed his faith by denouncing the activities of the various Oro cults called to scare away potential voters from the Saturday election, especially those whose ancestry are not Yoruba. An elder, who I tried to sound out on the matter, told me: “Iwakuwa laa wa òhun to ba so nu, lo difa fun eni ti obe re so nu to lo la Inu pepeye” (we search for whatever is lost in odd places is the diviner who consulted for a man who lost his knife and then opened the bowel of a duck to look for it). This is the level that Professor Yakubu Mamood’s INEC has taken our electoral system. Expectedly, winners and losers were declared at the end of the charade!

 

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The implications of the Lagos Oros are grave for our democracy. As much as I do not by any iota of imagination believe that the various Oro cults that were on display in Lagos last Saturday had any potency, my Yoruba background tells me that whether a gun has a barrel or not, no one should allow anybody to point it at him. The non-Yoruba residents in Lagos who stayed off the polling centres because of the Oro are justified. So, for the non-Yoruba residents of Lagos, who got scared and stayed off the voting centres because of the Oro cults, one cannot really blame them. Who could have said categorically if those jokers in white apparels and the equally theatrical ones slaughtering one unfortunate black goat had the capacity to harm people! While the acts were being perpetrated, where were the security agents? A system that allowed the Lagos scaremongers to perpetrate their shenanigan without repercussions, has set the pace for future anarchy. Very soon, a simple dispute between an indigene and non-indigene will lead to deities walking our streets naked. And I envisage that a day will come in Lagos, when the real ‘Lagosians’ will call out their Oros and non-indigenes will follow with canes. The days are numbered when Oro will turn to humans. Then, whatever is left of the vestige of Yoruba culture will be lost.

 

It was the Oro cult in Lagos. We had something else in other parts of the country. In many of the voting centres in Benin City, for instance, Igbo voters were completely shut out. This is what one of the respondents told me at the Ologbosere Primary School, Upper Sokponba, where there were 61 polling units and one could count the number of non-Benin voters by the fingertips: “You no be Yoruba, no be your people say make Igbo no come vote for Lagos”? I could not ask him further questions. His argument was that if the Yoruba could chase away the Igbo from voting in Lagos, why should the case be different in Edo? Sad, but valid. That is one of the negative implications of Lagos Oro on election day. This democracy is 24 years old. Not even in the days of General Olusegun Obasanjo’s “do or die” did we witness this type of perfidy. In one of the centres in Lagos, voters had to engage the services of ferocious dogs to protect themselves from thugs, who were moving about freely on a day that there was supposed to be restriction of movement.

 

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My summation of the March 18 elections is that humanity is lost in us all. Before you contest this, ponder on what Bayo Onanuga, one of Tinubu’s media aides said, after the Lagos charade: “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigeria state. It is not a no man’s land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business”. If these words came from the Onanugas of this world, what else do we expect from the MC Oluomos! We are back in the woods of perfidy!

 

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Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist in the same newspaper.

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OPINION: One Kano, Two Emirs

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By Suyi Ayodele 

There can be only one Oba (king) in a palace. That was how our forebears arranged our traditional settings. The saying in Yoruba that Oba kìí pé méjì láàfin, sùgbón ìjòyè lè pé méfà láàfin (there can be no two kings in a palace but there can be six chiefs), underscores the wisdom of our forebears. Modernity has since changed that. The Nigerian political class has further bastardised the setting. Nowadays, kings sleep as kings and wake up as commoners. Palaces used to be sacred in the days of our fathers. They are no more today! Nothing is sacrosanct anymore in our palaces. History has it that the first time an Oòni of Ife travelled out of his palace, all other obas in Yorubaland vacated their thrones until the Oòni returned. That is our culture; that is our tradition. Nowadays, kings travel from their domains to attend birthday gigs and other ludicrous social gatherings!

Today, our Obas, Emirs and Obis are all over the place chasing contracts and seeking favours from politicians. Monarchs wait for hours in the reception areas just to see common commissioners. Many wait at Government Houses endlessly to book appointments with the almighty governors. From the North to the South, East to West, occupants of our traditional stools are appointees of governors and influential politicians. Many monarchs who are without blue blood got to the thrones because they belong to the right political camp. A large number of them bought their ways to the palaces with good money. We have lost it with our traditional stools, and we may not get it right again; at least, not in this generation!

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Kano has been in the news in the last five days. There are two Emirs of Kano in that ancient city now. The two occupy the section of the palace they could grab before the other came. And they did that at the dead of the night. In my place, a man does not enter his house through the window. Emirs of Kano are entering their palaces through the windows, and in the dead of the night. The night is reserved for thieves, the wicked ones and Our Mothers. But Royals now choose the stillness of the night to climb their forebears’ thrones! Kano will never be the same again. This is not a curse, but the reality of the situation now in that commercial city. We have our politicians to thank for that. When a town changes monarchs the way a nursing mother changes diapers, the town cannot be the same again. We have histories to back up this assertion.

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One day in August 1967, Oba Muhamadu Olanipekun, the Zaki of Arigidi Akoko, Ondo State, woke up to a huge noise by his palace. He quickly dressed up. So did his Olori. One of the palace guards rushed into the inner chamber to inform Kabiyesi about the noise. A huge crowd had gathered to attack the palace. That was the second of such in three months; the May 1967 rebellion having been successfully repelled. Zaki was enraged. He went to the inner chamber and came out holding the powers Arigidi gave to him when he was enthroned. A man dies but once. Kabiyesi would not be disgraced twice by the same people. Enough is enough! But the Olori had a different idea. She went on her knees, chanting Kabiyesi’s praise names. She told the Oba the enormous powers he was holding. She affirmed the potency of the wand in the king’s hands. She said Kabiyesi could destroy the entire people if he wished. That was why he was their Zaki. Then she added a caveat. If Kabiyesi used the power he was holding, he would be like the fabled hunter, who killed an elephant with his fila (cap). She told Kabiyesi the wise saying of the elders: ojó kan ni òkìkí ode a fi fìlà p’erin (the fame of the hunter who kills an elephant with his cap lasts but one day). She besought Kabiyesi to leave the palace.

She assured His Majesty that in years to come, the same people would come begging him to come back to the throne. Reason prevailed. Kabiyesi went back to the inner recesses of his ancestors to break kola nuts. Olori went outside to meet the people. She begged that the Zaki should be allowed to leave the palace in peace. The people agreed. Kabiyesi and his household departed. A few loyalists from Imo and Agbaluku Quarters of the town joined those from Arigidi Oja Quarters (royal family) to follow Zaki Olanipekun out of town. The mob set the palace ablaze! All attempts to install a new Zaki from outside the Arigidi Oja quarters were unsuccessful. The town drifted. Development became stalled and stunted. Twenty-five years later, the elders of Arigidi Akoko came together. They needed development in the town. But first, the injustice of the past must be corrected. They sent for Zaki Muhamadu Olanipekun. They begged for forgiveness. In 1992, just as his Olori predicted 25 years earlier, the Arigidi people brought back their Zaki to the throne. A visit to Arigidi Akoko today shows that a town can only develop when there is peace.

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Ooni Ogboru was the forebear of the Giesi ruling house of Ile-Ife. He was on the throne for over 70 years, according to history. His chiefs got pissed off because he had stayed too long on the throne. They wanted fresh blood. So, they conspired and got Ooni Ogboru dethroned. They did that by asking the old monarch to come to Atiba Square to see an object. As soon as the Ooni got to the square, they shut the palace doors against him. The old monarch knew that there would be repercussions for the treachery. He did not fight. Rather, he relocated to a place known as Ife-Odan, and he settled down with his family members and loyal subjects who followed him. Rejoicing that they had gotten rid of the old monarch, the chiefs appointed a new Ooni. But calamity struck, not once, multiple times! In six months, six different Oonis, or Ooni designates died! Nobody knew what killed them. Emissaries were sent to Kabiyesi, Ooni Ogboru to come back to the throne. The old man refused. Instead, he sent his son, Giesi to be the next Ooni. That was when the town began to enjoy stability.

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Before Ooni Ogboru, there was Alaafin of Oyo, Alaafin Ajuan or Ajaka, who was also dethroned. The people accused him of being too peaceful. They needed an Oba who would be a warmonger. They chased Alafin Ajaka out and banished him to Igbodo. Sango, his younger brother, was installed as Alaafin. And for seven years, Alaafin Sango showed the people what is known in the street parlance as shege. For the seven years he was on the throne, the entire Oyo Kingdom fought battles upon battles. The oba was too restless. At his death, Sango was deified, till date. The people then made a comparison. They knew the peaceful era of Ajaka was more desirable. So, they sent for him and crowned him Alaafin for the second time. But then, Ajaka had become a changed man. According to The Rev. Samuel Johnson’s account of the second reign of Ajaka, the Alaafin waged about 1,060 wars! (See The History of the Yorubas, page 175-183).

One of the ‘current’ Emirs of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, also known as Muhammadu Sanusi II or Khalifa Sanusi II, became the Emir of Kano on June 8, 2014. He succeeded his late great-uncle, Ado Bayero. Due to his inability to control his tongue; as he carried on the way he was when he was the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the government of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje dethroned him on March 9, 2020. His cousin, Aminu Ado Bayero, was enthroned in his stead. The dethronement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II followed that of his grandfather, Mohammadu Sanusi I, who was deposed in 1963, having reigned as the Emir of Kano for just nine years. The beneficiary of that deposition was Sanusi I’s brother, Ado Bayero. It was therefore not shocking, when upon the dethronement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II in 2020, his nephew, Aminu Ado Bayero, was appointed the Emir. In Kano, it has always been the case of Gambari pa Fulani, ko lejo ninu (when a Hausa man kills a Fulani man, there is no case).

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Ever since the June 9, 2020, removal of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II as the Emir of Kano, the city has been on the edge. A section of the city loyal to the deposed emir never left anyone in doubt that it would do anything possible to bring back the former CBN governor to the throne. The opportunity came when in the 2023 governorship election in the state, Ganduje could not win the state for his All Progressives Congress (APC), and the state slipped into the hands of Ganduje’s estranged godfather, Rabiu Kwankwanso’s New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), and Abba Kabir Yusuf became the governor. From May 29, 2023, the new governor, Yusuf, has dedicated his energy and state resources to undoing everything Ganduje did in his eight years. One of such was the last Friday event when the governor signed the bill passed by the Kano State House of Assembly, abolishing the five new emirates Ganduje created in 2020, into law. By that singular act, Aminu Ado Bayero ceased to be the Emir of Kano and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, who was dethroned as the 14th Emir of Kano, was returned as the 16th Emir of Kano. Since Friday, May 24, 2024, till date, Kano has been on edge. Ado Bayero, obviously backed by shielded federal power, also returned to Kano as the Emir. In Kano today, while Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II occupies the main palace in the city (Gidan Rumfa Palace), Bayero occupies the Nasarawa Palace in the same city! The question to ask is: who is the authentic Emir of Kano?

While the next few months would, no doubt, witness a lot of legal fireworks in Kano and other courts across the northern state, one thing that is certain is that wherever the pendulum swings, the Kano throne has lost its virginity! The sacredness of that throne is lost, I daresay, forever. I do not know why Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who accepted his dethronement in 2020 with equanimity, fought behind the scenes to come back. I equally wouldn’t know why Aminu Ado Bayero would abandon the doctrine of his faith that Allah gives, and Allah takes, to want to do a fight-to-finish in this matter. All that my mind tells me is that there is something enticing about the Kano throne that the royals are not telling us. Why are royals not behaving as nobles again? Wherever Ganduje is today, I need someone to tell him that the legs of the corpse he buried four years ago are sticking out of the grave!

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OPINION: Kano’s Midnight Kingdom

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By Lasisi Olagunju

Today, those whose ancestors snatched Kano are fighting each other over the city and their spoils. The Yoruba would look at their drama and sing for them the song of Ambrose Campbell/ Ebenezer Obey: Eni rí nkan he tó fé kú torí è/ Owó eni tó ti so nù nko? I won’t translate this!

Their victims are taking sides. I shake my head for them. May I never be found on either side of siblings feuding over whose turn it is to loot me.

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“Emir Sanusi II should be referred to as the 59th Emir of Kano (and) not the 16th – unless the history of Kano started after Dan Fodio’s Jihad and imposition of Emir Sulaimanu in 1807.” With these words, Journalist Jafaar Jafaar on Friday started an online war which is still raging as I write this. So, two wars are being fought simultaneously on and over Kano. The first is the game of thrones between brother and brother over the city’s kingship and its pricey palace. The second war is on social media being fiercely fought between a conquered people and their conquerors over when the history of the city started.

Jafaar, a Hausa, maintained that “from King Bagauda in the 10th century to Muhammadu Alwali in 1805, there were at least 42 Habe/Hausa rulers documented by history that ruled Kano.” He went on to claim that most of the symbols of authority of today’s Emir of Kano predated the Jihad and the ascendancy of Fulani rulership of the city. The charge and the pushback have been enormous online. Whatever is the fate of the Hausa of Kano today was foretold and it is recorded in their history.

Kano’s monarchy has a very well documented history. The best known by historians is ‘The Kano Chronicle’ – a list of rulers of Kano since the establishment of the Bagauda Dynasty in 998 AD. Long before Bagauda and his tribe of adventurers entered Kano, history says the founding ‘chief’ was a man called Barbushe. He was credited with enormous strength and spirituality – a man who could look very far and see tomorrow. The Kano Chronicle describes this strange man’s own ancestor, Dalla, as “a black man of great stature and might; a hunter who slew elephants with his stick and carried them on his head about nine miles…”

One day, spirit-possessed Barbushe told his people that in the coming years they would lose everything they had to a stranger.

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“A man shall come to this land with an army and will gain mastery over us,” he told the people of Kano.

If it was today, those people would snap their fingers over their heads and reject the prophecy. Barbushe’s people did not snap any finger, but they voiced their rejection in their own way. They told him: “Why do you say this? It is an evil saying.”

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The seer kept his peace; he ignored them. Then continued. He told the people that if their conqueror “comes not in your time, assuredly, he will come in the time of your children, and will conquer all in this country, and forget you and yours and exalt himself and his people for years to come.”

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The Kano Chronicle said the people were exceedingly downcast because they knew their leader told the truth of a future of slavery awaiting them. They believed him and asked: “What can we do to avert this great calamity?”

He replied them: “There is no cure but resignation.” Then “they resigned themselves” and have remained in that state of resignation till today.

It is a long story. My source is H.R. Palmer’s ‘The Kano Chronicle’ published in 1908. The prophecy is on page 64. You may read that portion and others and match that history with whatever is happening to these people today.

I remembered Barbushe’s prophecy when I saw the Hausa journalist and his online army asking questions and referring to their own ancestors as the ‘Habe’ rulers of Kano. The 19th century Fulani (and their successors) called any people they conquered ‘Habe’.

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The Hausa think the altered, contemporary king list of Kano city is rigged against their ancestors. They think it robs them of their royal and cultural essence. The people who enslaved them reset the calendar and the clock of their history. Their existence started with their defeat. Their fate is classic in how not to surrender to fate. Could the 1804 Jihad of Dan Fodio and its spread to Kano be the fulfillment of that promise of eternal subjugation; a rulership which history predicted would misgovern them “till they become of no account”? The prediction, and everything around it, even its myth and legend, appear to have come with a fatal ring of prescient finality wound around these people. Their resignation is proof that there is no medicine against destiny and no armour against fate.

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Students of Kano history would have no problem identifying successive emirs of the city as snacks of power. In some cases, governors munch, chew, and swallow them. Some other times, they try and fail. On January 1, 1954, Premier Ahmadu Bello installed his “close personal friend”, Muhammad Sanusi, as emir of Kano. The man succeeded his father, Abdullahi Bayero. But in August 1963, the friendship was over. Sanusi was dethroned even despite opposition from the federal. On June 8, 2014, Sanusi’s grandson, Lamido, became emir despite opposition from Abuja and its forces. He was there for six years and was dethroned by a governor who was deputy governor when he was enthroned. Last week, Lamido’s destiny brought him back to the throne even in the face of a blitzkrieg from federal forces.

Emirs are riverside reeds, precarious at all times. In 1982, Governor Abubakar Rimi had a big issue with the Emir of Kano and, in an interview, he described the emir as “nothing, nothing, nothing but a public person.” He said the emir was “holding a public office” and was “being paid from public funds” and his “appointment is at the pleasure of the governor of the state.” He said the emir “can be dismissed, removed, interdicted, suspended if he commits an offence.” Rimi said there was “nothing unique about Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano… believe me, if he commits any offence which will make it necessary for us to remove him, we will remove him and we will sleep soundly.” His listeners shivered. The PRP governor proceeded from there to plot the sack of the emir “for failing to fulfill government orders or to show due respect to the State Governor.” There was opposition from the streets with thousands shouting: “we don’t want the governor; we want the emir.” Ado Bayero survived that coup and soon ate the exit cake of Governor Rimi. The opposite appears to be the case now with Bayero’s son, Aminu.

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Perhaps, more importantly, the Kano case has just confirmed to us that the country now has judges without borders; they sit anywhere -in the air and at sea, in their wives’ beds and on their concubines’ laps. They work 24 hours; they operate with the speed of light such that cases can be filed at 11pm and judgment delivered at 12 midnight while the other party is sleeping. Whatever they do is valid. It stands. There is no control again; the steering wheel is rusted and stiff. The state backs its carefully selected judges with everything it has –guns, threats, excuses, lightning and thunder.

The case should strengthen us to double down on our insistence that Nigeria is a federation and must be so governed. A Nigerian Federal High Court sat in the United States of America and plunged a knife into the tendons of Kano chieftaincy. And we are excusing the perfidy with lexis and structure of e-judiciary. You would think under our laws, chieftaincy matters are state and local government matters. That is what our law says but the offshore judge did not think it was necessary to respect that law. Popular comedian, Mr Macaroni, would ask: “Are you normal?” We are not.

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Section 251 of our constitution clearly states what areas the Federal High Court has jurisdiction over. The section has three subsections. Subsection 1 gives that court jurisdiction on matters relating to the revenue of the government of the federation and allied matters. It lists those matters. Subsection 2 gives it “jurisdiction and powers in respect of treason, treasonable felony and allied offences.” Subsection 3 gives the court powers to hear cases “in respect of criminal causes and matters in respect of which jurisdiction is conferred by subsection (1) of this section.” Nowhere in that section or anywhere in the constitution is the Federal High Court empowered to sit over chieftaincy matters. Yet, a judge who was not even in the country, assumed jurisdiction under the cover of midnight darkness in the Kano emirship tussle and, aided by candies of impunity, signed an injunction. That judge is, very soon, going to the Court of Appeal on promotion. One day, he will become the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

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Power and its allure rob society of order. In William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’, we see how man with power enjoys the anonymity conferred on him by darkness. We see how control is lost and he strays calmly from goodness to savagery. America’s second president, John Adams, in March 1801, stayed up till midnight of the eve of his last night in office creating courts and signing appointment memos of his friends and supporters as judges to fill his freshly minted courts. US history remembers those judges harshly as “midnight judges.” The court ruling at the centre of Kano’s emirship logjam walked in from the United States at midnight on Thursday. The reinstated emir, Muhammadu Sanusi II, jogged into the palace midnight on Friday. The deposed emir, Aminu Ado Bayero, sneaked into the city under the canopy of darkness before dawn on Saturday. The security forces of the federal government soon filed out and took embarrassing positions. The hinge of their involvement was the tokunbo court order from a midnight judge who sat across the seas. Our courts no longer dread darkness and its forbidden fruits; they have become like hired killers, their fingers stained with the blood of justice.

Yet, the judiciary had seen better days – even in the so-called dark days before the white man came with his civilisation. There was a time in Kano when what distinguished judges were learning and piety. Sulyman, emir of Kano from 1807 to 1819, had a very tough mother and an upright alkali (judge). The emir’s mother was found on a particular day ill-treating a private citizen. She was charged for it at the court of Alkali Yusuf al-Hausi. The court found the queen mother guilty and pronounced corporal punishment. Emir Sulyman could neither shield nor save his mother – she served her sentence. Thirty-six years later, Emir ‘Abd Allah Maje Karofi took over the throne of Kano and was there till 1882. At a point during his reign, the emir bought a horse from a Tuareg and refused to pay despite repeated demands. The Tuareg took his case to court and Alkali Ahmad Rufa’i found the king guilty. The king’s punishment was an order that the emir’s confidant named Kasheka, who represented him in court, be seized and sold into slavery to settle the debt. A shaken Emir Karofi quickly arranged for the money and paid his creditor, the Tuareg. My source for these stories is Professor Tijjani Naniya’s ‘The Dilemma of the Ulama in a Colonial Society’ published in the Journal of Islamic Studies in 1993.

The period of those judgments was a time when kings feared and respected the law. It was an era when judges knew the law and applied it as they should, entertaining neither fear nor favour. Today’s judge would jail the creditor and shout rankadede to the debtor-king. The jungle of our judiciary has matured and the beasts grown in all departments.

In my moments of devotion and meditation, I watch wild animals on TV channels. Right before me is a vulture, hyena and lion sizing one another up over a banquet of skunked meat. What we witnessed between Thursday and Saturday night in Kano was exactly that. Beastly fights over meals are a natural feature of life in the jungle. Bayero was dethroned and Sanusi enthroned. Enthronement and dethronement are not strange with monarchies. It didn’t start today in Kano and elsewhere; it won’t end with this Kano matter. How did Sanusi become emir in June 2014? Was he the favourite of the kingmakers? Aminu Ado Bayero, the dethroned emir, how did he get the throne four years ago? General Ibrahim Babangida once said that the moment you get into power through a coup, you should expect that a coup would be staged against you one day. It is delusional not to accept this. It is like Napoleon thinking his revolution would be the last. Russian writer, Yevgeny Zamyatin, says exactly this in his novel ‘We’ – described by a reviewer as “a prediction of the natural conclusions of totalitarianism.” It was from ‘We’ that George Orwell pinched the whole idea of his monumental ‘1984’. In “We” is the warning to all who stand but who think their stability is forever: “How can there be a final revolution? There is no final one. The number of revolutions is infinite.” One era will be succeeded by another era just as one preceded it. There is no goodnight in power politics. Sanusi is back; Bayero is out, but may yet come back. There is no end to snatching and running away with power.

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The author, Dr. Lasisi Olagunju is the Saturday Editor of Nigerian Tribune, and a columnist in the same newspaper. This article was first published by the paper (Nigerian Tribune). It is published here with his permission.

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OPINION: My Pension, Your Pension In the Hands Of ‘Lagos’

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By Suyi Ayodele

Lagos does not have restraints when it comes to spending money. His first name is Nínál’owó (Money is meant to be spent). His middle name is Gbogbo ejò jíjeni (All snakes are edible). But I won’t keep quiet while he puts my future in the incinerator of his ways. Lagos is like an agbara ojo (erosion). Yoruba elders say àgbàrá òjò ò’lóhun ò nílé wó, onílé ni ò nì gbà fun (the mission of erosion is to destroy the building; it is the owner that will resist it).

The Yoruba word for spendthrift is àpà. There is Arungún (ruiner of inheritance) sitting very close to àpà. Both are relations of ikán (termites) in Yoruba semiotic. No matter the semantic shift exercise one carries out on each of them, they give the same meaning; denotatively and connotatively. Àpà is a waster. Arungún, otherwise known as Omo òsì (child of misery) is a destroyer of inheritance or estate. He is a typical reverser of fortune. Nothing is too precious for an àpà or an arungún to destroy. Termites eat up anything, no matter how precious.

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There is an Ekiti folk song that warns of the activities of an arungún. The song warns of the implications of leaving one’s inheritance in the hands of a waster. Èhìn ayé enin/ kò se fi sílè fún omo òsì (One should not leave one’s estate for a waster child). No parent prays to have such a child to inherit his or her estate. No matter how many years it took the parents to build their estates, once such are inherited by an arungún, the estates go into ruins within a short period.

Years ago, an elderly man, a senior journalist, pointed at a telecommunications mast on Ugbague Street, Benin, to me. “You see that mast over there, Suyi”, he said. I followed the direction of his pointed finger and affirmed. He continued: “Will you believe me if I tell you that that plot of land and all the plots that have now turned to market once belonged to an Esama of Benin Kingdom?” I answered that it was not possible. My little knowledge of Benin chieftaincy matters tells me that only the wealthiest becomes the Esama of Benin. The elderly fellow affirmed that, and added that the owner of the property was once a wealthy man and was conferred with the title of Esama by the reigning Omo N’Oba then.

But upon his death, his arungún children sold off the estate the man had such that nobody could remember that their forebear was once the richest man in the Kingdom. The elderly fellow told me the story behind the ruinous heritage of the once prosperous Esama. I reserve that story for another time when we would have the time and space to discuss it. Pray you don’t have an arungún to inherit your estates; they leave such in ruins! Terrible!

Arungún omo abound in our localities. We have wasted estates of once prosperous parents in our neighbourhoods. Nothing can be worse than for people to say the family of Mr. Làkásègbé was once wealthy. Once an arungún manages an estate, the siblings end up as paupers! Because of an arungún, children of butchers beg for bones, and those of the wealthy roam the streets in abject poverty. Nigeria has been unfortunate with its arungún leaders, especially those we have had since the collapse of the First Republic. From the North to the South; from the West to the East, all the legacies left behind by the founding fathers of the country have been laid waste by the arungún children who took over leadership positions.

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Nigeria is a typical example of a family once in wealth but now in poverty. Our case is not because our natural resources have dried up. No. God has blessed us more than many prosperous countries of the world. We have many other natural resources that we have not even tapped. Our problem lies in the fact that we have had termites as leaders. We have been unfortunate to have wasters in the helms of our affairs, at virtually all levels of government. We are a nation led by leaders who don’t save for the future. We have been ruled and ruined by those who eat the yam tubers and the seedlings for future planting seasons. They are the type called òjusu jègùn (he who eats both the yam and the sprouting seedlings) in my native tongue. The elders of my place, again, say an òjusu jègùn has eaten the next harvest (òjusu jegùn; àmódún ló je).

Nigeria is the only country where people work in the civil service for over three decades and retire into penury. We are not known to pay gratuities to retirees at the point of their disengagements from public service. Many of them die without collecting their gratuities. While Kayode Fayemi was governor of Ekiti State, he came up with a ‘novel’ solution to gratuity payment. He asked retirees willing to get their entitlements to let go of as much as 25 percent of their gratuities, otherwise, they will wait till only-God-knows-when! The last set of retirees in the state who got their entitlements were those who retired in March 2014. In the last 10 years, no retiree in Ekiti State has been paid his gratuity. Worst hit are local government and primary school teachers’ retirees, who have not been paid gratuities since 2012! The same thing goes for the monthly stipends to retirees known as pension. Stories abound about how senior citizens die on the queues while waiting to collect their pension. These are people who spent their youthful years serving their fatherland!

To address the problem, the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), in 2003. Under the scheme, both the employers and the employees are compelled to contribute a certain percentage of the employees’ salaries to the fund on a monthly basis. The funds are also placed in the hands of independent financial institutions known as Pension Fund Operators (PenOP) to manage. The beauty of this scheme is that while government intervention in the management of pension is eliminated, employees in the private sector (corporate bodies), who were hitherto at the mercy of their shylock employers, are also accommodated.

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Speaking recently at a meeting with PenOP, Obasanjo said that one of the major reasons for the pension reform was his pain at seeing so many pensioners queuing up to collect their pensions, especially during his first term in office. The retired General stressed that he was particularly pained to see military men who had served the nation, spending hours or days to collect their pensions. “With this in mind, we resolved to see how the government could make pension management and administration private sector driven and more in line with global best practices. I was pleasantly surprised at the growth of the pension assets over the last 20 years as my administration instituted the pension reforms, and pushed to have a bill to reform the way pension administration was done in Nigeria. They did not think that the assets would grow this quickly and have the positive effect it has had so far.” The former president enthused. In the last 20 years, the funds in the various pension accounts, contributed by workers in the public and those in the private sectors, have grown to over N20 trillion. That is how leaders grow estates. That is how forebears take care of the future. But hand over such an inheritance to an arungún omo, the people will be in pain afterwards.

The over N20 trillion in the pension funds account is the next nectar that the Lagos man in charge of our affairs is targeting to lick in the name of building infrastructure. Having drained all the available resources, the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration is taking his predatoriness to the pension account. To many of us, we don’t find this behaviour strange given the fact that it fits perfectly to the financial identikit of President Tinubu as a Nínál’owó. Expectedly, since the Tinubu administration, through its Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr.Wale Edun, muted the idea of taking the owó ojú eégún (money kept in the masquerade’s grove), hell has been let loose on the government. Also, many groups, obviously members of the government’s Hallelujah orchestra, have been unleashed on the media space to defend the government.

Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, while reacting to the development said that the move is “illegal”, as “there is NO free Pension Funds that is more than 5% of the total value of the nation’s pension fund for Mr. Edun to fiddle with.” Atiku, who was with Obasanjo when the pension reforms that resulted in the over N20 trillion being coveted by Tinubu and his Lagos boys warned: “Even at that, this move must be halted immediately! It is a misguided initiative that could lead to disastrous consequences on the lives of Nigeria’s hardworking men and women who toiled and saved and who now survive on their pensions having retired from service. It is another attempt to perpetrate illegality by the Federal Government. The government must be cautioned to act strictly within the provisions of the Pension Reform Act of 2014 (PRA 2014), along with the revised Regulation on Investment of Pension Assets issued by the National Pension Commission (PenCom). In particular, the Federal Government must not act contrary to the provisions of the extant Regulation on investment limits to wit: Pension Funds can invest no more than 5% of total pension funds’ assets in infrastructure investments.”

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As it is wont to do, the Tinubu government unleashed his attack Rottweilers on Atiku and every other person that has risen against the intending daylight robbery of the pension funds. One of such nondescript groups, the Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI), equally led by one Niyi Akinsiju, I am told he played the same under President Muhammadu Buhari, said that by voicing his opinion against the move to use the pension funds for infrastructural developments, Atiku had merely become “a government critic and opposition leader.” One wonders what Atiku is expected to do if he could not criticise bad government initiatives! The group quoted sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.15 of the Pension Reform Act, 2014, to justify why the light-fingered Federal Government of Tinubu could dip its filthy hands into the pension pockets and spend the funds therein. Ridiculously, IMPI assured Nigerians that after tampering with the funds, the government would guarantee its safety on the jejune argument that the “…FGN issued securities are considered as the safest of all investments in domestic debt market because it is backed by the ‘full faith and credit’ of the Federal Government, and as such it is classified as a risk-free debt instrument.” Nonsense! Balderdash!! Bunkum!!!

It baffles me why some people deliberately choose to be fatuous. If the Federal Government could guarantee the safety of the pensions, why was the need for the pension reform in the first instance? Where was this Akinsiju of a mould, when pensioners were dying in their hundreds on the queues waiting for their pensions? Is he that ignorant to note that what this wastrel government intends to spend belongs to workers in both the public and the private sectors? That the pension funds belong to workers of the government’s civil services and those from the infamous AFAMACO JOB (work without pay) of Benin? Can Akinsiju and those in his caste tell Nigerians how many of those things committed to this government in the last one year it has been able to secure? Can he tell us how this government met our economy and how low it has taken it? What was the cost of living before Tinubu came on May 29, 2023, and what is the cost of living now? How on earth would anyone want to commit the future of hapless Nigerian workers both in the public and private sectors to the hands of these thriftless individuals who spare nothing? How long would our leaders behave like common arungún and we would clap for them?

 

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I have no doubt that this government is both deaf and dumb. I suspect also that compassion is in abysmally short supply in this era. I am equally of the strong opinion that neither President Tinubu, nor his boys and hangers-on, have any soupcon of respect for the Nigerian masses. But I want to quickly tell them that the pension fund is the life and last hope of many Nigerians currently working in the private and public sectors. If I were Tinubu, I would not touch their money!

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