Barrister Hannatu Musawa can be reached via Twitter and Instagram @hanneymusawa.
Obadiah MaiLafiya, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, dropped a bomb a few hours ago on Channels Television.
In that interview , Dr MaiLafiya maintained that the same bandits were armed in preparations for a civil war ahead of an anticipated refusal of the then incumbent president to hand over power. But Jonathan handed over. But the people that invited the horde of killers turned their backs on them.
Even though the ex banker turned activist did not substantiate his claims with any proof, events unfolding before our very eyes are substantial enough for us to take Dr Mailafiya serious.
We still remember that the president said that the wars in Mali and Libya caused the inflow of arms into the country. In the wake of the slaughter in Benue State in which over 77 people were killed, the president started making another round of excuses. He blamed the people of the affected communities for not being tolerant of other people.
Our president and his cabinet have always been in the defence of the armed bandits terrorising all of us. Wait a minute. The same president who told us that the killers are foreigners is the same person who tried to introduce land grabbing policies to appease the aggressors.
On a daily basis, these people are waxing stronger, more vicious, more daring, more emboldened, more outspoken, more menacing and more recognizable. Yet, nothing seems to be the concern of the authorities. This has also encouraged their spread to other parts of the country like the south east, the south south and the south west. Of course the middle belt has been vanquished a long time ago.
Nigerian roads are now terror corridors. People travel with their hearts in their mouths. Nigerian s are now being kidnapped, killed and maimed daily. Kidnapping and demanding for ransom has become a hobby and an occupation for the bandits.
The emboldened hoodlums have started assaulting schools. In my last piece, I discussed what the effects of banditry are, to the region, to every sector of the economy and to national cohesion. How is it that the police and army that descended on the #EndSARS protesters are not able to bring the menace of the bandits to an end?
We just discussed the Kagara kidnap saga in which some school boys were carted away from school. Sheikh Ahmad Gumi promptly jumped into his car and accompanied by journalists, went to see them.
Since Gumi’s visit to the bandits, a lot of revelations have been made that have the potential of causing damaging backlash in the country if not quickly addressed. Beyond paying bandits and patting them on the back, there is a large industry being created for the jobless youths in the north and Nigeria at large.
A society that rewards crime instead of meting the commensurate punishment is creating an abyss into which the entire society would fall sooner or later. Let us outline the effects of this criminality step by step.
First, Gumi’s attempt to further escalate the already dangerous situation is worrisome. He was seen openly on television telling the bandits that only the non Muslim soldiers were killing the bandits. Then he came out and started making excuses for them, citing ethnic differences as the reason they went into crimes.
The Zamfara State governor whose state has been under constant attacks still came out and said not all bandits are criminals. The governor of Bauchi state also justified the free use of AK47 assault rifles by the bandits. In his own excuse, he mentioned self defence.
MaiLafiya may not have any concrete evidence but let us put side by side his allegation with the echoes of justifications for crime resonating from the north of the country.
With time every youth in the north, seeing that nothing has ever happened to criminals, would get arms and go into criminality. It is obviously being endorsed by local authorities. This is a return to the Hobbes society.
Why waste years studying in the traumatic universities in Nigeria when all you can do is buy a gun and get tow or three guys to form a kidnapping gang? It is even easier in a society where morality is at its lowest ebb, a society where every street urchin belongs to one gang of miscreants or the other, a society where drug abuse is at its highest.
The political class doesn’t seem to care to fix this because they obviously think that the rise of urban gangs avails them the arrange their individual ring of gun runners and killer squads. This is because the Nigerian electoral system, if we may call the sham we have an election, is a festival of violence and chaos. The person whose squad can outgun the other’s is declared the winner.
The shame is that religious leaders like Gumi are busy creating a blend of religion and politics of violence by endorsing violence and making excuses for it. I find his utterance thoroughly embarrassing for a so called peace maker. As long as our religious leaders and traditional leaders are folding their hands or ramming the embers of discord, there would be an escalation of what we presently have. It is not a prophecy, it is a statement of fact.
Usman Okai Austin
Writes from Abuja.
Spoken Word: Embracing the message of understanding, by Barrister Hannatu Musawa
As Iliyasu Adamu woke up to the news that the first sliver of the new moon had been sighted the night before, he felt a sense of optimism that he had not felt in a very long time.
Burgundy was Iliyasu’s favourite colour; he had always wanted to wear a burgundy Sallah outfit. But it was not a colour that was traditionally used to sew Babbar Riga with; men usually wore neutral, plain or pastel-coloured Babbar Rigas.
About four years ago, on a trip to the market, Iliyasu’s eye caught sight of the most beautiful burgundy coloured material he had ever seen.
Since picking up the finished garment from the tailor all those years ago, Iliyasu had brought it home and put it at the back of his cupboard where it did nothing but collect dust and smell of mothballs. He had never had the courage to wear it in public. That was until this Sallah when Iliyasu bought the burgundy masterpiece out.
As Iliyasu put on his work of genius and struggled to move in the over-starched burgundy regalia, he felt a sense of pride and contentment to be wearing a garment that reflected the optimism and brightness that he felt within himself. This was a special Eid; in fact, the most special Iliyasu would ever mark. As he and his outfit jerkily and stiffly proceed to the Mosque for the Eid prayer, his mind went to the other important task he had promised himself he would fulfil today.
Ramadan, the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset, was usually a spiritually fulfilling but difficult period for Iliyasu. While he was satisfied with the inner peace he felt when he prayed and beseeched God for forgiveness and mercy during Ramadan, the abstention from food was really a great challenge for a ‘tuwo’ and ‘fura’ loving Iliyasu. He loved food almost more than anything else in his life and the humungous size of Iliyasu’s stomach exposed his secret habit of stuffing 6 servings of tuwo and 10 cups of fura in one meal. Usually, Eid was a period that Iliyasu used to gormandize to make up for lost food during the month of Ramadan.
In the past Iliyasu had dedicated his prayers during Ramadan to seeking God’s intervention in the welfare of himself and his immediate family, but this year was a little different for him. Due to certain events, Iliyasu had experienced within the last 18 months, this year, he went into his Ramadan prayer to pray to Allah for different needs. For Iliyasu, this Ramadan was not just an abstention from food and drink, neither was it about praying for the welfare of his family. Rather, it was an exercise in patience, understanding and discipline; an exercise in which he needed to search his soul and learn what the true message of Ramadan represents in his life.
There was an inner feeling that Iliyasu nursed which, up until 18 months ago, he never let anyone know. Iliyasu had an innate and vicious hatred for anyone that practised a religion that was not Islam.
By the time Iliyasu realized that he nursed these deep feelings, he had tried to dismiss them because he worked with non-Muslims in his office. But over time, from one sectarian skirmish to another in his state, that hatred had grown into a severe loathing. From Iliyasu’s point of view, Muslims in his community were constantly accused, persecuted and targeted. The situation, in his mind, became worse because every time there was a sectarian and religious conflict, the media immediately put out a report saying that it was the Muslim community, which had launched the attack. This angered Iliyasu because he didn’t see the actions of the Muslims as an unprovoked attack but as retaliation for an earlier attack or injustice that was done to the Muslim community.
For over 8 years, Iliyasu had lived with his family in the same house. He loved where he lived because it had all the amenities that his family needed. But the one negative of living in the house for Iliyasu was living next to his neighbour, Cletus.
Cletus Samson and his family had moved into the house next door approximately 5 months after Iliyasu. In the 7 and half years that they were neighbours, the two men had barely spoken to each other. There seemed to be a silent understanding of hatred between born-again Christian Cletus and devoutly Islamic Iliyasu.
Although there was a lot of contempt between the two men, it was not until the campaigns and elections of 2019 that it came to a head. With each sticking posters of their chosen candidates on their verandas, the men found themselves, for the first time, arguing about which poster took precedence on the communal wall that linked their houses.
This feeling changed one morning when Iliyasu saw the face of a grieving, drained and dejected Cletus outside. Cletus looked by every definition a broken man. Iliyasu came to learn that Cletus’s son had been murdered on his way from school during the latest sectarian violence. Feeling a strange and unwelcome empathy towards his neighbour, Iliyasu had to stop himself from going to hold Cletus. From that day on, Iliyasu constantly thought and dreamt of Cletus and the broken look on the man’s face. Confused and irritated with his feelings, Iliyasu decided to use the Holy period to pray on the matter.
As this year’s Ramadan came, Iliyasu moved to the Mosque to be in complete devotion to Allahand pray to God for an understanding in patience, discipline, kindness and the message of Ramadan. He wanted to know and be enlightened as to the right and correct thing for him to do as a devout Muslim. By the end of Ramadan and his devotion to prayer, there was no doubt that Iliyasu had well and truly been touched by the essence of the Holy month and was satisfied in his heart that all his queries had been answered.
Now he understood that the lessons of Ramadan were not just about self-discipline but about personal growth to becoming better in every aspect of a person’s life. He learnt that Ramadan teaches us to be more understanding of the needs of others, to be more compassionate, to be more sincere and to have a feeling of brotherhood towards everyone. He learnt that, as humans, we can not divest ourselves from the misery of others despite their beliefs; that we cannot shrug it off saying that it does not concern us because to do this would be an injustice to humanity. He realized that it was not his duty to judge others and that everybody has a right to practice a religion of their choice; the ultimate judge is God. He learnt that all of humanity is the family of God and the most beloved to God is the one who is of most benefit to his children. He read of the Holy Prophet’s (SAW) teachings to treat the people of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, with respect and tolerance. He came across scriptures, which stated that The Prophet’s (SAW) first acts after his emigration to Medina was to establish an agreement with the Jews, which would ensure their full protection, respect their beliefs and give them equal rights. In Medina, many of The Prophet’s (SAW) neighbours were Jewish and he would regularly visit them, give charity to those who were needy and exchange gifts with them. One day, The Prophet (SAW) was with some Muslims when a funeral procession passed them by. He stood up out of respect. His companions were surprised and informed Him that it was a funeral of a Jew. He replied, “Was this not a human soul?’ demonstrating his solidarity and sorrow for this loss to the Jewish family.
Iliyasu learnt that it is these practices together with the pillars that have an impact on the quality of our lives and death on earth and the hereafter. He wished that every other extremist under the misguided belief that they were promoting the cause of Islam by hurting those who share a different belief to them would be touched by the message of understanding in the way he has and embrace a peaceful co-existence with all in the way the Prophet (SAW) did.
With that realization, he knew what he had to do in order to become a better Muslim. Iliyasu decided not to hate anymore and not to be ignorant in his duty as a human being and as a Muslim. He decided that, by the end of the day, he would go to Cletus’ house, apologize to him, console him, offer his hand in neighbourly friendship to him and invite him over for Eid buffet.
It would hopefully be a new beginning for them; a beginning where they would respect each other, support each other in grief and look out for each other’s welfare as neighbours. That was the duty he was determined to fulfil by the end of the day.
Oblivious of the giggles and public stares of astonishment that followed his every move, Iliyasu adjusted his burgundy Baban Riga. Rustling and scrunching as he wobbled with his stomach ahead of him, he proceeded towards Cletus’ front door. Reaching his destination, Iliyasu smoothed his shocking garment over a stomach that was getting ready to be well and truly satisfied. He then rang the bell.
As a shocked Cletus opened the door to this huge burgundy and yellow eyesore, he froze in disbelief. Not knowing whether to laugh out hysterically or yell at the monstrosity before him, Cletus’ eyes fell on Iliyasus left hand, which held a bag that had a number of items wrapped in burgundy paper. Iliyasu outstretched his right hand gently towards Cletus in a gesture of friendship. A confused Cletus lifted his head to say something but quickly stopped when he saw the smile and look on his neighbours’ face.
At that moment, no words were necessary; both men had a complete mutual understanding of the conversation in their unspoken words. Instantly reading the regret, empathy, alliance and understanding on Iliyasu’s face, Cletus smiled back, nodded his head and stood aside to invite his neighbour into his house.
This Ramadan, as new friends Iliyasu and Cletus sit down to celebrate Sallah as neighbours, one hopes that Nigerians all over, despite their beliefs and identities, will stop the ignorant rants and hate and embrace the spirit of brotherhood, understanding and neighbourliness.
As we sight the first sliver of the new moon to mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations, here’s hoping that we can all embrace a spirit of compassion, respect, charity, forgiveness, understanding and peaceful coexistence much in the way Cletus Samson and a burgundy Iliyasu Adamu did.
I wish everyone celebrating Sallah, Eid Mubarak!
Political class and Conspiracy of Silence
The security situation in Nigeria has become wholly intractable.
The volumes of death, maiming and rape of women by violent herders have left the whole of the North Central states of Niger, Nasarawa and Benue a wide expanse of gnashing teeth and fearsome living. The macabre of death enacted by the orgy of violence by bandits in Niger State has divided the state under two sovereignties as the victims of banditry and Boko Haram campaigns have submitted to the regime of the men of the underworld in order to purchase their peace. Boko Haram now levies and collects taxes from the hapless citizens whose fate is better procured by self-help rather than the constitutional protection that the government ought to guarantee. Bandits have made Zamfara a deadly zone and the allures of gold that the government allowed to be exploited illegally have become a source of destruction and wanton loss of life and property. Kaduna State under El-Rufai has become a theatre of war.
Thousands of lives have been lost in the internecine conflicts between the southern and northern Kaduna characterized by ethno-religious dimensions. Now the bandits have made a beautiful Kaduna another home of kidnapping and huge ransom collection. The raging fire of destruction and devastation has spread to the otherwise peaceful areas of Oyo State as the whole of the divisions of Ibarapaland have been invaded by people referred to as foreign Fulani herders who are in search of land to graze, a home to call their own notwithstanding that any part they visit is not terra nullius, not hitherto occupied by anybody. Forceful eviction of the traditional and original landowners, killing and maiming of dissenting indigenes, kidnapping and laying of siege have combined to make the food-producing parts of Oyo State a place of terror.
The dark and lonely forests of Ondo and Ekiti states where D.O. Fagunwa created the entertaining fables of brave hunters of Igbo Elegbeje, Igbo Eledumare and Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale have today become real forests of horrors as gun-wielding herdsmen have replaced the gnomes, leprechauns and pterodactyls of Fagunwa’s fertile imagination. The nobility associated with the sojourn of the ancient characters of the creative mind of the writer is, however, foreign to the current occupiers of the forests as their articles of trade are kidnapping for ransom, killing and maiming of their victims. The Niger Delta with its characteristic violence birthed under the struggle for resource control in the fate of environmental degradation, has assumed another dimension as the lords of today are those youths born into squalor and violence in the ’90s and who have been deprived of any meaningful future by the terrible system that sees nothing good in good governance. The whole of the South-East today has bolstered itself ready for another civil war in the secessionist struggles of Indigeneous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose agitations have assumed a more dangerous dimension. The whole of Nigeria is witnessing all sorts of violent agitations and destructive elimination by dangerous fighters of no noble cause.
In the midst of the conflagration, a new business was born: mass abduction of schoolgirls and boys. Starting with Chibok, later Dapchi and Kagara, the records of mass kidnap today have assumed an unprecedented dimension. Schoolchildren and adults are kidnapped in their hundreds and ransoms are collected by bandits in millions of naira and dollars. A most conniving government has given fillip to all these undesirable elements by paying ransom to purchase freedom for victims.
A poor herder making a few thousands of naira monthly in the business of herding cattle from Kano to Lagos has discovered a more profitable venture in kidnap of Nigerians, terrorizing them until their relatives or the government pay. Thousands of lives have been snuffed out in their glory when these rapacious elements lay siege on our roads and force hapless citizens into forests. The government complains that the violent and dangerous herders who graze animals openly and kill the farm owners are foreign Fulani herders and yet it is not ready to enforce the criminal laws against these foreigners. This lends credence to the accusation that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is pro-Fulani and is only trying to eliminate other tribes to create a huge territorial home for Fulani invaders across Africa. The long silence from the President and his occasional warnings to bandits and Boko Haram elements paint the picture of a eunuch who only gives verbal expressions to his potency to impress women.
The worst aspect of it all is the average demented Nigerian politician who carries on campaigning for power grab in 2023 as if the whole security crisis in the nation is a tea party. We have seen them junketing from one local government to another mouthing their insane promises and wild projections. They keep quiet whenever the horrors being perpetrated by Fulani herders are being discussed. They maintain a tied tongue anytime their opinions would conflict with the sentiments of the Presidency. Their people are daily subjected to bloodshed and devastations and yet the Nigerian politician is insouciant in his reckless ambition to govern a burning entity. They are keeping quiet, except for a few whose conscience would not allow them to give further inordinate protection to party loyalty and collective insanity. It was quite impressive to hear Smart Adeyemi, the senator representing the Kogi West Senatorial District, the other day lamenting the security situation in the country. His genuine emotions could not contain his manliness when he burst out in tears calling on his comrades on the floor of the Senate to rise up in defence of the land. Ali Ndume has been heard on a number of occasions condemning the conspiracy of government and the elite in what is otherwise a consuming conflagration that is herding us towards Somalia, Liberia and Rwanda. Instead of the various political gladiators coming together to find a solution to the challenge of this vanishing country, they are busy strategizing over election into an office that is appearing to be a mirage. The elite in Nigeria, the civil society inclusive, have given all manner of justification in defence of Buhari’s government, from the sensible to the ridiculous.
At first, the body language of the President was dangled as the magic wand that would cure Nigeria of all ailments. Later they relied on the ignorance of the President and the man too was never aware of any evil happening around him. An excuse at a time was the incompetence and corruption of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, as if that was not what prompted us to elect Buhari. The elite community and the political class has forgotten that when Nigeria finally descends into Rwanda, they themselves would be dislodged from their Don Quixote horse and be made to worship the miscreants that would be in charge of the various streets. Many believe they would run away from Nigeria with their families, forgetting that no one can carry both linear and extended families into safety when the threatening war finally begins.
The sentiments against the Igbo have made many to see the demand for Biafra as a ranting of some lunatics. They have forgotten that to still such voices of secession, we need to have restructured the country genuinely to cater for all interests and the present government is too docile and criminally conniving to save the fragile entity that is about to explode.
The politicians have been carrying on as if nothing mattered except securing a place at the top; 2023 is too much of a paradise to jeopardize by the present hell of calling for the country to be preserved. One wonders if there would be anything to govern when Nigeria finally descends into the steaming cauldron of civil war with its unceasingly flowing currency of bloodshed. One wonders if there would be a President effectively in charge of different parts of the country under various warlords the number of which is sufficient in Nigeria of today to make every street a sovereign state under its own government of hoodlums and miscreants. The multitudes of thugs we have produced, sufficiently armed and deployed in the past to unsettle democratic process through rigging and violence, are enough to make Rwanda a child’s play. The last EndSARS protest with the aftermath takeover by vagrants in Lagos and many other cities is a pointer to the lugubrious imminence of government of the thugs, by the thugs and for the thugs.
This is the time for the Nigerian politicians and elder statesmen to rise up. This is the time to call a spade a spade and let the devil both home and abroad be shamed. This is the time for the civil society to jettison its silly and empty sloganeering of fighting corruption in its roundtable approach and call for the government to do something serious about the insecurity in the land. While politicians can afford to run away, the question is where will you run to when the crisis finally embraces the entire land. Few peaceful spots in Nigeria that have not been effectively visited by these so-called foreign invaders are already under the spy gaze of their agents who are only waiting for the call to action.
Nigerian politicians in their elite conspiracy have been in soulful silence of an irresponsible egoism. They dare not voice out their concerns, they do not want to be regarded as an enemy of the government. Remember that when the chips are down, when the die is finally cast, the money you have kept, the offices you currently occupy, the privileges you fear to lose will not be available to save you and the nation. The time to speak out is now.
ATTAH IGALA STOOL: issues of Law and Tradition As Tussle Enters Stalemate-By Sule Sani Ogala
These days very few persons among the Igalas of Kogi ever discuss Achor Oboni. As a matter of fact fewer still have even ever heard his name let alone know his significance in Igala recent history.
(Reigned 1946- 1956)would have occupied the throne. Ameh Oboni, the most popular Attah in Igala contemporary history would have probably lived and died unknown and unsung except to members of his immediate family.
During the reign of Attah Obaje Ocheje (reigned 1926 to 1945) Achor, being the eldest surviving son of Attah Oboni Akwu (Reigned 1905 to 1911) was without dispute the heir to the throne from the Ruling House of the the Aj’ Ocholi which is next in line in the order of rotation to Aj’ Aku, the House of the then incumbent Attah Obaje Ocheje.
At a point around 1937 it was said Prince Achor had become impatient and tired of waiting. This followed news Attah Obaje was had come down with a debilitating illness that many thought he wouldn’t survive for long and Achor’s hope of soon ascending the throne heightened as a result. But rather than succumb to his ill health the King remained incapacitated in the palace but stayed very much alive. A frustrated Achor, knowing Attah Obaje was already a lame duck, so sick that he had no physical strength left to exercise the enormous power and authority of his office and yet clinging tenaciously to life, was said to have moved to Idah and began acting like Attah. Traditional music makers at his residence kept playing the Odechi Royal Rythm reserved only for the Attah in Idah.
The terminally ill and weakened Attah Obaje reportedly felt harassed and humiliated and lamented to whoever will listen how Achor was stampeding him to his death.
Many indigenes of the Kingdom reportedly abhorred Achor’s impudence and open disrespect of the reigning King, but because Attah Ocheje was in a death bind and could die at any moment which means Achor too could become King soonest, nobody had the courage to stand up to him.
He was the eldest son of Oboni Akwu so everybody knew he was going to be the next King and nobody wanted to incur the displeasure of the King in waiting.
But this was never to be. In 1938 Achor slumped and died, mysteriously.
The entire Kingdom was thrown into confusion. How could the King in waiting, the all powerful Achor Oboni just die like that? Suspicion immediately fell on his younger brother Prince Ameh Usman Oboni, next to Achor in the line of seniority in the royal family of Attah Oboni Akwu.
Ameh was believed to be very ambitious, but given his second ranking in the seniority in the house there was no way he could ever become Attah, since the throne automatically goes to the eldest surviving son, except such a son fails to meet the physical, mental and biological criteria to ascend the throne. Or if he dies.
But Achor was not just alive but was said to be very rich and powerful in the Kingdom untill he died mysteriously.
When Achor was to be buried the Aj’Ocholi Ruling House in collaboration with other chiefs and traditional priests of the palace insisted Ameh must swear to an oath which involved him picking and eating a kolanut placed on the corpse of his elder brother.
Ameh pleading his innocence picked and ate the Kola, swearing that he too should die if he was responsible for his elder brother’s death or was in anyway directly or indirectly involved.
The oath taken, the suspicion against Prince Ameh was supposed to have been resolved but many in the Kingdom still believed till this day that he was indeed the architect of Achor’s diabolical death and there were conspiracy theories on how he beat the oath by swapping the Kola nut placed on Achor’s corpse with one he already had in his mouth.
There were also speculations that the dying Attah Obaje may have cursed Achor over his acts of disrespect and humiliation. The old man it was claimed quietly cried out to the gods for justice and the gods heard and punished Achor with death. In fact there were claims that Attah Obaje had vowed that Achor will never taste the throne.
THE QUESTION OF SENIORITY
But very few people are convinced by this alternative theory on how the heir apparent expired so mysteriously just at the verge of ascending the throne. What was more logical to many analysts of the time was that Prince Ameh suddenly becoming the heir apparent when the throne was about to become vacant was just too convenient to be coincidental.
By the customs and traditions of the Kingdom, it is taken for granted that the stool of the Attah Igala was not open to contest between princes. It is automatically reserved for the eldest surviving prince among the sons of the last Attah from the ruling house whose turn it is produce the King. Except such a prince declines, has clear physical deformities, he’s a stammerer, he’s of unsound mind or he’s confirmed to be sterile in reproduction and other clear disabilities including genetical disorders like the inability to grow facial hair or beards. But if he doesn’t decline and suffers no disqualifying attributes, the Ruling House will have no choice than to present him as the nominee. There’s no record of a ruling house whose turn it is to produce an Attah ever bypassing the eldest qualified prince for a younger prince for any reason in the over 700 years history of the throne.
The Stool of the Attah Igala is rotated between Four Ruling House in the Ayegba Oma Idoko Dynasty beginning from the Ruling House of Aj’ Ameachor , followed by Aj’Akogu, Aj’Aku and finally Aj’Ocholi. The founders of these ruling houses were offsprings of Attah Ayegba Idoko who founded the present dynasty more than 700years ago.
Akogu and Ocholi are direct sons of Ayegba while Ameachor and Aku are sons of Akumbi, the first Attah to succeed the founder of the dynasty who is a direct son of Attah Ayegba. It so happened that sometimes estimated around the late 1600s Ameachor the eldest son of Akumabi died the very day he was coronated Attah without reigning even for 24hours. The Kingmakers known as the Igala Mela quickly decided that it would serve the course of justice to coronate another son of Akumabi next in seniority since Ameachor never reigned and therefore his brother Aku was made king.
That was how the ruling houses which were three at the time namely Aj’Akogu,Aj’ Akumabi and Aj’Ocholi became four with the Aj’Akumabi splitting into two-Ameachor and his brother Aku forming the new ruling houses. These ruling house take turns to produce the Attah.
Ever since, this rotation has continued seamlessly and succession had been devoid of the rancour and acrimony that comes with the cutthroat contest for power because the tradition totally abhorred contest. The rotation is followed religiously and when it’s the turn of any ruling house, the eldest surviving prince is automatically presented to the Igalamela College of Kingmakers by the House. No other ruling houses nor any other Prince except the eldest would dare openly show interest. The line of succession was always clear at all times.
That was why the sudden death of Achor was suspected to have been caused by Ameh Oboni despite the absence of any evidence linking him and in spite of his swearing to a life and death oath. He was believed to be ambitious and since the throne was not open to contest the sudden death of his elder brother and heir apparent was believed to be his way of eliminating the obstacle to achieving his ambition.
IMPOSITION AND DISTORTION OF TRADITION
Only once in the entire over Seven centuries of the throne of the present dynasty was there a deviation from the age tested tradition of succession. That was in 1956 when the Northern Colonial Government in Kaduna imposed Ali Obaje son of Attah Obaje Ocheje and imposed on the Kingdom ignoring every rule of tradition amd decency.
For one it was not the turn of the Aj’Aku Ruling House where the said Ali Obaje hailed from. Secondly the Aj’Ameachor which was due to present a candidate, had already endorsed Prince Opaluwa Oguche, eldest son of Attah Oguche Akpa (Reigned 1911 to 1919)and then District Head of Ogwolawo as its choice, and the nominee had gone through all rites obligatory to ascend the throne when the Northern Colonial Government struck.
Ali Obaje, a civil servant in Kaduna who wouldn’t even have made it as a nominee of his own ruling house( since he had an elder brother Prince Haruna Obaje who was clearly the heir apparent ) were it to be the turn of the Aj’Aku.
But Kaduna was only interested in a literate Attah Igala after the death of Ameh Oboni who stubbornly refused to be subordinated to government or authority. They blamed his intransigence on his illiteracy and limited worldview which deluded him into perceiving himself as the ultimate King, who is subject to no other power or authority under heaven. The colonial government didn’t want to take the risk of dealing with another illiterate Igala King imbued with the believe of the supremacy of the Attah’s stool over government or any other earthly authority hence they brought Ali Obaje, the only prince in the entire four ruling houses known to have acquired western education, into Idah in the dark of night and forcefully enthroned him as Attah Igala in 1956.
At this time Prince Opaluwa Oguche had fulfilled all the rites and requirements necessary for ascension and was just in the process of getting coronated before the Kaduna debacle.
He kicked and rejected the imposition. He went to court. He openly taunted and disrespected the government imposed Attah but alas, he had to submit to fate and give up in 1972 after fighting for 16 years. This followed pressures from several well meaning stakeholders of the Kingdom who felt the conflict was affecting the unity, peace and harmony of the land. Opaluwa Oguche succumbed to the appeals and withdrew his case from the Supreme Court in 1972.
The imposed Attah went on to spend 57 years on the throne and became the longest serving Attah in modern Igala history .
INJUSTICE AND THE LAW THAT SAVED THE DAY
But at his demise of Attah Ali Obaje in 2013 the Aj’Amechor and Aj’Akogu no longer had any surviving son of the previous Attahs from their lineage.
By the extant tradition which restricts succession exclusively to direct sons of previous Attahs those two houses had literally gone extinct as ruling houses due to the injustice of imposition in 1956.
Thus when death of Ali Obaje created vacancy in 2012, for the very first time in history of the Kingdom the stool of the Attah was openly and rancorously contested for by princes from all the four ruling houses in total deviation from the practice and tradition that had endured for centuries before the distortion occasioned by the imposition. Most of the contestants vied as individual candidates except the Aju’Ameachor and later the Aj’Ocholi who presented the eldest surviving sons of their Ruling Houses as their sole candidates. In the case of Aj’Ameachor who presented Late Peter Adebo Opaluwa, they fell short of the qualification as Peter the eldest surviving son of Opaluwa Oguche was actually a grand child of a previous Attah since the throne was snatched from his father who was never coronated .
At the end of the day the candidate of the Aj’Ocholi, Prince Idakwo Ameh Oboni prevailed and was coronated Attah to the chagrin of the two ruling houses of Aj’Ameachor and Aj’Akogu who could no longer satisfy the condition of presenting the direct offspring of a previous Attah.
A prolonged crisis was however averted when the then Governor of the State, Capt Idris Ichalla Wada sponsored a law which redressed the injustice suffered by the two ruling houses.
Known as The Igala Area Traditional Council (Modification of Native Law and Customs) Order 2015, the legislation granted grand sons in the (male lineage)the rights to ascension where there are no direct sons and even great grand sons (in the male lineage ) where grandchildren are no longer alive to be chosen in a ruling house due to produce the Attah.
But apart from this new amendment the law reinforced all other traditions in the selection of an Attah. It states clearly that preference must be given to the the eldest of the male children among interested princes.
Most importantly the law in Schedule 4 and 5, reserved the right to receive applications, screen, reject or accept and nominate a candidate to the stool of Attah exclusively to the Ruling House whose turn it is to present an Attah.
All other bodies or authorities in the process thereafter including the Igalamela were imposed with duty of endorsing and forwarding the choice of the Ruling House to the next higher authority until it gets to the governor of the state who is required to approve the name forwarded to him through all the layers of selection. In the case of the Igalamela the law provides that “ The Igalamela Kingmakers shall meet, consider and appoint person so nominated as the Attah Igala” (Schedule 9)
BREACH OF LAW AND TRADITION
“There is no provision for rejection of a candidate already chosen by the ruling house” says Ladi Apeh a lawyer.
“The law is very clear. The duty of all other parties in the selection process is to endorse the choice of the ruling house. In the case of the Igalamela the law used the word ‘appoint the person nominated by the ruling house’. Their job ends there. They have no duty to screen, interview, interrogate, refuse, reject or by any means perform any other function other than ‘appoint’ and forward the same name nominated and submitted to them to the Achadu in writing as ‘Attah Igala Designate’.
“ Neither The Etemahi and his colleagues or the Achadu or the Igala Area Traditional Council can alter, reject, change or in anyway present any other name except the one already chosen by the family.” Mrs Apeh insisted.
Indeed there’s a consensus among legal luminaries that the several committees instituted by the Etemahi, the Head of the Igalamela believed to be the Kingmakers or the Igala Traditional Council led by the Eje Dekina was totally arbitrary and extraneous to the Igala Area Traditional Council (Modification of Native Law and Customs) Order 2015 and even the customs and tradition of the Kingdom in the selection of an Attah Igala.
Thus many are confounded that a law so explicit without ambiguity or
lacuna could be so wilfully and profoundly violated as indicated by the outcome of the selection process recently announced by the Kogi East Council of Chiefs which named Prince Mathew Oguche Opaluwa as the new Attah Igala.
The only role assigned to the Igala Area Traditional Council by law is to receive the name of an Attah designate from the Achadu amd promptly forward it to the Kogi State Traditional Council. It is still unknown how the Igala Council came about assuming the authority to appoint an Attah when they clearly have no such power or role under the law.
NOMINATION BY THE RULING HOUSE
On November 19, 2020 the Aj’ Ameachor congregated at the family house of late Attah Oguche Akpa in a meeting convened by the eldest member of the Aj’Ameachor descendants as provided by the law and nominated the eldest of the Opaluwa Oguche sons among those who showed interest in vying for the throne.
Prince Samuel Opaluwa a retired executive of the Central Bank of Nigeria was unanimously chosen by the meeting as the sole nominee of the Ruling House to occupy the vacant stole.
In a video released by theRuling House, the same Prince Matthew now named Attah, by the Igala Traditional Council, a director with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not only fully participated in the meeting but he declared his acceptance of the choice of the family and called on his youngest brother Prince Ocholi Opaluwa, a Senior Customs Officer who was also showing vying for the stool to withdraw in the interest of the unity, peace and harmony of the family.
The head of the meeting convened specifically for the purpose of endorsing the candidate, Chief Yahaya Etuh, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police thanked Prince Matthew and appealed that all other princes should honourably withdraw their ambitions since the race was already over, so as not to embarrass the ruling house before the other ruling houses and the entire people of the Kingdom .
This admonition it would appear fell on deaf ears as even Prince Matthew who publicly
conceded to the family’s choice and the youngest Prince Ocholi, both of whom are said to have heavy financial war chests unlike the retiree Prince Samuel who was nominated by the family, continued to seek the throne through other routeS. Allegations and counter allegations of inducement of the Igalamela Kingmakers and the Igala Area Traditional council were freely bandied between the camp of Matthew and Ocholi.
In February it was widely reported that the Etemahi had submitted the name of Prince Ocholi to the Achadu, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom and the first authority that is required by tradition and law to know the name of the next occupant of the Attah Stool. Achadu was reported to have rejected the choice and allegedly complained that he received reports that the exercise was compromised. He was later said to have been persuaded to accept the name despite his misgivings and was to forward it to the next authority which is the Igala Area Traditional Council.
But before he could perform this role Achadu, His Royal Highness Samson Ekele Adejoh slumped and died at a public function at Ibaji on Saturday March 6, 2021 while breaking the traditional kola nuts and chanting incantations calling on the ancestors of the Kingdom.
The Etemahi has hardly been seen in public since the mysterious incident.
This created a stalemate as the law provides that when the Etemahi “appoints” the choice of the ruling house and forwards it to the Achadu, the Achadu in turn forwards the name to the Igala Area Traditional Council but with the Achadu no more and a new one yet to be coronated the process has ran into a stalemate.
Many stakeholders of the Kingdom started raising concern on the unusually protracted exercise .That was when the Igala Area Traditional Council led by the Eje Dekina Chief Chief Usman Obaje formed a committee to review the report of the Igalamela. They ended up interviewing all candidates who showed interest in the throne afresh. At the end of it, they announced Prince Matthew Opaluwa as their choice to become Attah.
There’s been disquiet since the announcement with several persons raising question as to the legality of their action. In effect the action of the Council has compounded rather than remedy the problem.
Right now there are three persons laying claim to the throne namely: Prince Samuel, the eldest prince nominated by the Aju’Ameachor Ruling House; Prince Ocholi who was allegedly appointed by the Etemahi and his Igalamela Council of Chiefs, a decision that was never formally made public and Prince Matthew who has now been named by the Igala Area Traditional Council.
The Aj’Ameachor Ruling House in its immediate reaction rejected the decision of the Council, declaring it as illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever and vowed to ensure the family’s choice prevails in accordance with Igala Area Traditional Council(Modification of Native Law and Customs) Order 2015. However there are indications that the family may have softened its tough talking hardline stance and commenced intense, conflict resolution measures to ensure that a consensus is reached.
The members of the ruling house its gathered are apprehensive that the raging intractable struggle for power between the princes could be used by government as excuse to intervene in the process and possibly deny them their turn to the throne once more.
It’s been 102 long years since this family last tasted the throne. The option of whether the jinx would be broken with the present opportunity or whether the family will continue to be on the sidelines is in the hand of the three princes who from all indications are more preoccupied with their own individual personal ambitions than the larger interest of the Aju’Ameachor to restore honour and pride to the family by having one of their own ascend the throne once more.
Dr S S Ogala is a lecturer and research fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences (FASS) ABU Zaria.
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