Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent discourteous behaviour against some of the traditional rulers in Iseyin, Oyo State, has drawn an angry tirade from the public. Not unexpectedly, these comments have come as a mix of both the printable and unprintable words. For yours sincerely, the former president’s comments could only be viewed from two main perspectives.
The first is the pre-colonial era prestige attached to Nigeria’s traditional institution. During the period under review, traditional rulers were in full control to the extent that the then-visiting white men who later became their colonial masters were always at their mercy for acceptance to the kings and the locals. In their bid, the white men always came to these monarchs along with materials such as clothes, tobacco, salt, refined gold and beverages. In return for the perceived kind gesture from the white men, traditional rulers would always pack and sell or give our brothers and sisters who had either been bought or captured in inter-tribal wars as slaves as gifts in return to these foreigners. This relationship continued till it all culminated in what was later known as colonial administration.
It is also interesting to note that the colonial administration then brought the idea that traditional rulers needed to be subservient to the colonial administration. That was the genesis and the starting point of the gradual erosion of the power and influence of the traditional rulers in Nigeria. This was done to see the monarchs as middlemen through whom people were administered indirectly in the protectorates which in any case was resisted by the easterners. The Obas, too, really enjoyed it as it was seen in their fraternization and oppression of the people. But the monarchs had left their lofty positions and begun looking up to the white men or the colonial lords for decisions, directions and favours of all shapes and sizes in all things.
At independence, the colonial masters left, but they left behind the structure for the indigenous administration. Not only that they left, they also gave us a document known as the Independence Constitution which was meant to right all the wrongs of the past and restore the dignity of the traditional leaders, among others. The joy of independence of the year 1960 was however brought to a halt by a group of soldiers led by Major General Thomas Aguyi-Ironsi, who instead of sustaining the regional system of government that was in place, introduced the unitary system of government coloured in federalism, and that’s what has been in place, even till this day. That was how Nigeria went back to its colonial master-monarch relationship.
Needless to repeat, therefore, that Obasanjo and his co-travellers who later found themselves at the seat of power did not see anything wrong with the usurpation of the roles and powers of our revered monarchs. So, there’s no need to restore them. They went on as Nigerian leaders exploiting and further denigrating and desecrating our traditional stools. That is why governors and commissioners have been seen commanding and ordering these monarchs around against their wishes and those of their subjects.
Obasanjo could not have done less; and cannot do less. Here’s a man who places himself above others and with the colonial master’s mentality that is deeply ingrained in him. He sees himself as the eternal bank of the world’s knowledge. That’s why he could appoint and pay political advisers from the public coffers as a sitting president and still declare that he would not listen to them. On an altar of sheer arrogance, this man wasted the Yoruba slot for eight years by pursuing his agenda over that of the general public. For example, as a sitting president, he organized fundraisings that birthed his private university, revamped his erstwhile comatose farm project and established a world-class library for himself. He forcefully made his daughter Commissioner in Ogun, his home state, and senator representing the state at the National Assembly. Obasanjo was also reputed for the inglorious Third Term Agenda.
It is coming from this background that the former president believes that he has a lesson he must drive down the throats of the representatives of our ancestors, the Obas; and he did lead them in that Parade Ground of ‘E dide! E joko!’ (Stand up! Sit down!), which they sheepishly obeyed.
Too bad! Whereas Obasanjo finds it pleasurable to be denigrating Yoruba Obas, he most certainly cannot try the same with any Emir in any part of the North. In the North, monarchs are recognized in their statute books as a result of the penal code system in operation which is different from what obtains in the South. Here in the South, our monarchs are treated as errand boys for politicians.
Hear The Rev’d ‘Toyin Adesokan’s view on the propriety or otherwise of Obasanjo’s impoliteness to the traditional institution in Yorubaland: “I am aware that we have Kings in the Bible, from the Book of Genesis, to the Book of Revelation. Among the Kings were Pharaoh, Saul, David and Solomon. We have also read about Kings Ahab, Ahasuerus and Herod of the New Testament. They were all revered as leaders and as the aggregate of their people’s traditions and culture. Prophet Nathan never thought it right to confront King David even with the overwhelming revelation and backing of God in the case of Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, he treaded wisely. Prophet Elijah ran away from King Ahab and Joseph and Mary the earthly parents of Jesus Christ had to obey the divine instruction to escape the little Jesus to Egypt for fear of King Herod. However, what do you think would have become of Obasanjo in the presence of Kings like David, Pharaoh and Herod with that outburst?
“Finally, the Bible says about kings: “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it” (Rev. 21:24 NIV). We see here that Presidents, Prime Ministers and Governors were not mentioned. 1 Samuel 16:2 has also shown the paramount nature of the kings and how divine they are above the man-made presidents and governors.”
With the above from a priest of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Diocese of Lagos West, need Nigerians say more? After all, there are many ways to insult a Yoruba monarch and I’m sure Obasanjo knows them all.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!