Before AbdulRahman desecrates our culture

By Wahab Oba

I appreciate the reactions to my intervention on the apparent usurpation of the traditional protocol at the Eid prayer ground by the Kwara State Government. I would like to point out that I did that piece as a bonafide son of Ilorin who was, and still is, concerned about an aberration that I believe must not be condoned due to its effect on our collective heritage as a community. And that aberration has not abated. It is gradually becoming institutionalized. It was evident during the Durbah, where the Waziri Ngeri and other prominent sons and daughters of Ilorin were conspicuously absent.

My concern is not about any individual. No! It is about the image and sanctity of our revered traditional institution. The Emir represents our collective identity as a community and rallying point of our people. Before we speak of our political identities, we must, first of all, speak of our identities as indigenes of Ilorin. We must, therefore, collectively protect the heritage our fathers handed over to us from power-intoxicated politicians with little or no regard for the institution, so that we do not hand over to our children battered versions of our heredity.

Politics or no politics, we share common values and identities. This generation inherited Islam and a stable but revered traditional institution headed and fully controlled by the Maimartaba, supported by his council of chiefs. The current actions of the state government are not just an existential threat to the esteemed traditional institution but to the Maimartaba Ilory.

Political power is transient. I have been privileged to lead the most dynamic and competitive sector of Nigerian journalism, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council. Today, if I venture to the secretariat, except for my picture on the wall of the congress hall, there are younger journalists in that council who might not know me. I will not blame them. They too must understand that a time will come in the future that they will come to the same secretariat and would need to be introduced.

I have also held a political office as Chief Press Secretary to a governor. Yet, I am sure there are journalists in Kwara state today who might not know me well, some five years after our tenure ended. That is the ephemerality of political office.

But wherever I go, whoever I am, Ilorin remains. I may be denied entry into the Lagos NUJ Secretariat if we have in that office someone who does not know me. I may not be allowed into the Press Centre at Government House today if someone feels I do not deserve it. But no one can say I am not from Ilorin; that I should go back from my father’s house. That is the big difference between the office and the home. To me, Ilorin, is not a city, in the sense of a big, sprawling settlement with modern amenities. It is not a town either, in the sense of such a settlement with far fewer opportunities than a city. To me, Ilorin is a community; a communal space of people linked together by various ties, and sharing similarities in several distinct dimensions.

Flowing from the feedback to my first intervention therefore, I agree that there is a serious job for some stakeholders in the emirate to avert the total condemnation of our heritage, going by what is becoming a pattern of the government intervening in what is purely a traditional issue. The first time was when the governor unilaterally postponed the Durbah in 2021. Remember? What was his excuse? But then since nobody kicked against that step, he followed it up with another usurpation on Eid day. If we do not stop this again by speaking the truth to power, sooner than later, this governor will decide to choose our chief Imam and our Balogun. God forbids.

I will, therefore, first speak of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) which continues to champion many noble causes for our community. I will humbly ask the umbrella body that unites all of us to also take up this challenge. As I noted earlier, this is not about politics. IEDPU, which is apolitical, should be bold in calling the attention of the governor to the fact that he cannot ride roughshod over our traditional system. If he continues to lay this bad precedence, someone may come tomorrow to do worse things. And so, if our union does not speak now when those times come, they may not be able to justify their current silence, not be bold enough to condemn that future misdemeanour. IEDPU, over to you.

Secondly, I want to ask that as many as are nonaligned, as many as understand the need to preserve our collective heritage, some of whom have reached out to me since the publication of that intervention, should step out and find a way to speak truth to power. Whatever we do today will become history tomorrow. Our renowned Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has warned that the man dies who keeps silent in the face of oppression.

The governor has only eight years maximum in office but if we allow him to desecrate our traditional institution further, the effect will outlive those eight years. It is Bukola Saraki, the Waziri Ngeri today, who knows whose turn it will be tomorrow? Whether we like it or not, one day Bukola will be no more, he too will go the way of all mortals. But the seat of Waziri Ngeri will remain. If that seat is bastardized today because of politics, envy, and hatred for the occupant, what happens to the next occupant?

Today, our governor is writing his history and that of the family. I wish him well. I pray for his success. But a quick reminder: no one bastardizes a revered throne and lands safely. May AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq land safely.

My thoughts!

­Wahab Oba is former Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council and former Chief Press Secretary to former kwara state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed. 

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