Your Imperial Majesties,
On the October 5, 1992 issue of African Concord Soji Omotunde dropped the following prophetic rendition: A nation that is not ready to learn from the pitfalls of the past is existing on borrowed time. It might, sooner or later, exhaust all the luck earmarked for it.
In the catastrophic free fall that would follow, not even those who presume they are enjoying today would be spared.
Quite prophetic indeed beyond any spiritual comprehension if one would say; for even though it did not manifest right at the time and within the political space of its utterance, it has no doubt remained the sign-post of the present and the fear of the future.
Needless to recount at this stage the almost daily occurrences of the mass shedding of the blood of the innocent citizens of this nation spiced with well-calculated and organized kidnappings that seem beyond our immediate remedy.
But one fact which is clear beyond all reasonable doubts is that not even our revered traditional rulers are spared in this orgy of blood-letting, judging from the recent occurrences in Ondo, Zamfara, Borno and Yobe States.
To state the obvious, the only protected species of the Nigerian citizens in this regard are the political class who seem to possess a special protection spell that casts off both the armed bandits and their co-worker bandits far and wide their terrains of habitation; for not even the officers and men of our nation’s security forces are spared the untold agony of this avoidable tragedy.
And the position remains that so long as it continues to be so there will be no sublime seriousness and concerted effort on the part of the political class to squarely address the problem.
Some years ago, some of us who are trained historians read the story of the 1804 Fulani Jihad of Shehu Usman dan Fodio as a course of History in both our Secondary and University levels.
To us it was like reading one of Chinua Achebe’s novels especially the classic Things Fall Apart, or watching of James Bond’s movies. Today we are no longer spectators of fiction in history or history in fiction.
Both have become practical subjects of learning by direct and indirect experience.
Before us staring with the wide gap of the devouring jaws of a drunken hippopotamus is what Chinua Achebe meant when he quoted from W. B. Yeats’ “Second Coming” to adopt the title of his famous novel: Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
On October 12, 1960, the Parrot newspaper wrote, quoting Sir Ahmadu Bello ipso facto: The new nation called Nigeria should be an Estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power.
We use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to have control over their future.
The question here is, have we resigned our destiny to the above blistering re-colonization pronouncement which has never been debunked by the heirs and successors of Sir Ahmadu Bello to the modern Political Estate called Nigeria?
Could it therefore be said that against the background of the current spray of terrorism driven by Fulani herdsmen currently christened bandits that history is fast repeating itself before our eyes?
The great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-475 BC) admonished us to study the past if we would divine the future. Indeed to put flesh to Confucius’ admonition the noble 19th century Igbo son of Creole ancestry Dr. James Beale Horton (1835-1883) warned us that “what has been done can again be done.”
Thus it remains a matter of political fatality on our noble side to believe that what was done in the 19th century, particularly beginning in 1804 cannot be done again in this century. The Great English political philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1625) succinctly warned most of us who always hope for a bliss future without commensurate sacrifice that “Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” Or can those of us who are Christians question the biblical injunction that “Without the shedding of blood there can be no salvation?”
But the fundamental question before us is which is required to be shed and under what circumstance for the expected salvation?
In 1854 during his voyage up Rivers Niger and Benue, William Balfour Baikie had the privilege of reporting an eyewitness account of the character of Fulani devastation of the peaceful Nigerian communities of the time just in the same manner it is being carried out today.
Reporting on the destruction of the town of Panda by the ancestors of the present Fulani bandits at Page 83 of his book titled Narratives of an Exploring Voyage up the Rivers Kwora and Binue commonly known as the Niger and Tsadda in 1854, Baikie wrote: These Filatas formed part of the band which had so lately sacked Panda and killed its king Oyigu, and who, not content with the extent of their raid, were seeking for more plunder ere they returned home.
Baikie continued in page 86: The enemy, they said, did not come on openly; but for several days many of them have been arriving at Panda in small bands, apparently for trade, when suddenly one morning they arose and assaulted the place, so unexpectedly that but little resistance was made. Few were killed but numbers were made captives, the king being among the former.
The city was then burnt, after which most of the Filatas retreated towards the town of Toto, about which spot they were supposed to still be lingering.
The point here is whether there is any fundamental difference between what is happening presently and what Dr. Baikie reported in mid-19th century?
How many people are aware that the rightful claimant to the current crisis-ridden succession to Zaria Emirship is the present Emir of Suleja in Niger State whose great-grandfathers were driven away by similar Fulani bandits as we have today?
Today he stands akimbo helplessly watching as strangers from Futa Jalon Region of Guinea and Senegal struggle over his ancestral heirloom, just as the Afonja descendants do today in their native Ilorin city.
Suffice it to state that the often cited Fulani invincibility can only occur if there is internal conspiracy and collaboration among their enemies.
Otherwise there is nothing in history to prove the so called invincibility of the Sokoto Caliphate during the Jihad of 1804 outside the collaborative support of quisling Hausa elements led by Maikala Abdulsalami; just as we have today in the person of Alhaji Shettima Yerima of the ill-famed Arewa Consultative Youth Forum who is still living with the Stone Age mind-set of his Hausa-Habe ancestors.
Shettima Yerima stands with the most outrageous omission of historical consciousness to still believe in One-North while the Fulani had finished creating a separate ruling caste nationality as before through Miyetti Allah.
Nor could a better account be rendered in respect of the Idoma-born Chief Audu Ogbeh—one of the finest gentlemen Idomaland has ever sired, yet obviously bereft of any sense history, acute judgment, ethnic pride, and subconscious knowledge of what being a non-Fulani Middle Belt indigene connotes within the historical dynamics of Northern politics.
One is yet to fathom the sense with which he proudly wears the toga of Chairman of an Arewa group bearing in mind that the term “Arewa” from all historical and cultural perspectives stands for core-Hausa identity. Or does he not know that the terms Arewa, Habe, and Hausa stand for one meaning and one people?
The Idoma man, no matter how he attempts to circumvent his obsession against Tiv political domination, should be the last person in Middle Belt to proudly wear the toga of Hausa identity, just as Chief Audu Ogbeh is doing today because the Idoma are more Igbo than any other ethnic group in Nigeria.
It is important to point with explicit historical evidence that demographically, Sokoto Caliphate never occupied more than one-quarter of the whole Northern Region before the coming of the British colonial conquerors but only appears to be so by the act of British colonial magnanimity who thereafter lumped the once independent chiefdoms under the control of various coterminous Emirates which subsequently transfered the artificial allegiance of these people to Sokoto Caliphate; otherwise there was no basis of the Sultan of Sokoto assuming the title of Amir al-Muminun of the whole Muslim faithful in Nigeria outside the jihad enclaves of Northern Nigeria when such Muslim Empires and kingdoms as Borno, Argungu, Gumel, and Ningi who severally routed the Fulani forces each time they met are there with a proud history to tell.
Nor could the Yoruba Muslims explain their allegiance in similar terms except for the people of Ilorin Emirate, since there are no records suggesting that Islam came to Yorubaland through the Jihad of Shehu Usman dan Fodio.
Indeed if there is any Muslim potentate who best merits the title of Amir al muminin it is the Shehu of Borno who has a rich and deeper history of Islam and even Christianity to tell than any other Muslim King in Nigeria. The Borno Empire through its predecessor Empire of Kanem-Borno was not just the gate-way of Islam in Nigeria but was once the citadel of Coptic Christianity in Nigeria. Islam came to Kanem-Borno as far back as the 9th century AD long after Christianity had reached the kingdom.
Even Kano and Gobir were all centres of strong Coptic Christian influence before the arrival of Islam presumably in the 14th century, all of which took place before the wave of Fulani migration from Futa Jalon Highlands of Guinea and Senegal around the tail end of the 17th century.
The Scottish explorer Captain Hugh Clapperton who visited Kano in 1824 made us to understand that the people of Kano at that point of their history still regarded themselves traditionally as Coptic Christians with symbols of the Christian Cross as their official religious symbols amidst the new Fulani ruling class. So there was no question of the Sultan of Sokoto claiming superiority over the Shehu of Borno if not for the British Indirect Rule System.
Similar accounts of invincibility before the Fulani jihadists could be said of Ningi people of the present Bauchi State who moved all the way from Kano to settle there and successively routed the combined Fulani forces of Bauchi, Kano and Zaria.
But most sensationally formidable of all the indigenous Northern kingdoms of Hausa extraction who flatly routed the Fulani forces on many occasions and each time they met was the Kanta Kebbi Kingdom of Argungu which is situated within a radius of forty miles between Sokoto and Gwandu.
Writing on the nature of relationship between the Caliphate headquarters and the indigenous Hausa chiefdoms within its vicinity, the British Complier of Sokoto Provincial Gazetteer stated: It should be noted in passing that Kebbi and Gobir were never completely conquered.
After a century of warfare the European Occupation found the old Sarkin of Kebbi Samma, of Argungu, Sturdily maintaining his independence, while the Gbirawa from Sabon Birni and Chibiri were constantly raiding the eastern and north-eastern districts of Sokoto.
The successful resistance of Argungu is the more remarkable since it lies between Sokoto and its twin capital, Gando, about fifty miles distant from one and less than thirty miles from the other.
It is therefore an established fact that even within the nucleus of the Caliphate itself the jihadists never had a continuous stretch of territory under their sovereignty. Constantly threatened by the indigenous Hausa Chiefdoms, the Caliphate was humiliatingly forced to make peace with these independent chiefdoms in 1866 and 1867.
Indeed the renowned historian of Sokoto Caliphate Murray Last further gave account of the routing of the combined Sokoto and Gwandu forces in the battle of 1892 during which Sokoto Caliphate lost her war drums to the fearless forces of Serikin Kebbi.
Similarly the Darkarkaari—the indigenous people of the present Kebbi State known generally today as Zuru Emirate in 1899 defeated the Fulani forces under the Sarkin Sudan of kontagora—Umaru Nagwamache at Fakai, only for the British occupation of Kontagora in 1901 to end the conflict and subsequently saved the Emir from final annihilation.
Even the British pro-Caliphate Colonial officer and author C. L. Temple was quick to note that the following ethnic groups of the present Southern Kaduna-Niger-Kogi Axis were never under Fulani dominion: Gwari, Kurama, Kadara, Jaba, Keje, Petti, Katab, Rukaba, Ikolu and Kuturumi, while no less than eight distinct, though closely allied tribes, Runuma, Sruba, Kaibi, Kinno, Kituni, Dungi and Guri, inhabit the small range of hills known as the Curi-Srubu Hills in the Kaura District.
It is therefore necessary to point out that Sokoto Caliphate on the eve of British conquest was no more than a patchwork of isolated Emirates separated by multiple non-Muslim kingdoms, chiefdoms and non-centralized States who proved formidable and invincible to the jihad schemes of Shehu Usman dan Fodio, only to be humiliatingly caged under the dominion of the same Sokoto Caliphate they defeated by the British contraption of Indirect Rule.
Thus people should not see the current upsurge of banditry by Fulani herdsmen as the continuation of an invincible jihad scheme.
It is a problem that can easily be handled if only the people concerned are willing to confront the conflict head-long with a strong sense of primitive determination devoid of self-serving quisling interventions. Governors Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Jolly Nyame of Taraba State put the situation under control during their tenures, an action for which they are suffering today in the name of corruption without people asking the question whether they were the most corrupt political leaders of their time.
Dariye had to suffer a humiliating six-month state of emergency for the only reason of trying to protect his people in their own ancestral land against Fulani banditry, an action only taken by President Olusegun Obasanjo in his bid to placate his Caliphate patrons.
There is no doubt that the current debilitating political situation needs be squarely confronted by a strong spiritual will power driven by the strong force of a tradition with pristine ancestral commission.
This is the only workable approach that can bring visible positive result against the present state of political precipice.
It is the only platform that can insure with the least equivocation that all the people currently besieged by the Fulani forge a common front and defend themselves, otherwise they risk going down the way of the 19th century.
It is the only effective traditional bulwark that can withstand the age-long Fulani strategy of sowing the seed of discord among their perceived opponents and prospective foes in order to render them less formidable to withstand their onslaught.
As the Yoruba-born noble historian S. A. Akintoye informed us that, “The Fulani strategy for expansion was always to cause division among a people, ally themselves with the weaker to destroy the stronger and then subdue the former.”
This strategy was used against the people of Oyo kingdom through Afonja, after which he was killed and his city of Ilorin was appropriated by his new won friends up till the present day.
It was again used against the Yoruba through Samuel Akintola, and again through Moshood Abiola.
Currently Bola Ahmed Tinubu has his political legs in the same Fulani shoes and there is no escaping the same fate.
This strategy had worked effectively in creating the never-ending state of political mistrust between the Igbo and Yoruba all to the advantage and benefit of the Fulani political machine.
This same strategy is fast working to fruition among the Igbo and Yoruba through the agency of the APC with the carrot of the fortuitous 2023 Presidency being dangled before them. Neither Bola Ahmed Tinubu with his band of Eru-Hausa co-political travelers, nor the band of Igbo political con-men and harlots of Southeast have taken their minds aback to the events of the past to ask themselves some pertinent fundamental questions regarding their respective Presidential ambitions vis-à-vis Fulani arrogation of the right to determine who becomes or does not become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The first fundamental question in this regard is how far can a political friendship designed for the purpose of mutual sharing and transfer of power with a people who style themselves as “Born to rule” be sustained with equal rights, privileges and sincerity of purpose by both sides?
May be one can go a bit further aback in history to provide a fine taste of what trusting the Fulani meant to the people of Offa in the 19th century, courtesy of S. A. Akintoye.
The people of Offa had revolted against their Fulani overlords of Ilorin and invited the ferocious Ibadan warriors to support them.
While the siege of the town led by the brutish Fulani commander known as Kara was being effectively withstood by Offa with the active support of Ibadan warriors, a group of Offa quislings decided to make peace with their common Fulani enemy and subsequently resolved to surrender, leading eventually to the withdrawal of Ibadan warriors.
As Akintoye graphically narrated the event that followed after:The next morning when the fact became known, the new leaders of Offa trooped with drummers and dancers to Kara’s camp to offer their submission.
Later that morning Kara entered Offa in triumph and, after killing his new friends in cold blood, had the town sacked.”
This is the Fulani for you. The Mandingo-Mandinka and Soso of Guinea, the Wolof and Sera of Senegal, the Bambara of Mali, and the Mossi of Burkina Faso know them better and that is the reason the Fulani move according to their level among these peoples.
Even their patron British Colonial masters in Nigeria quite knew that they would never have a Southerner as a trusted ally but only worked assiduously have Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was their willing tool against the political bulwark of the South, all in frustration to the noble vision of Chief Obafemi Awolowo for a politically stronger Southern Nigeria.
In a dispatch from the British Intelligence Colonial record titled “227 CO 554/258, no 1 21 July 1953 [Political situation]: letter from A E T Benson to T B Williamson on a letter from Dr Nkrumah to Dr Azikiwe on the unity of Nigeria” A. E. T Benson revealed how myopic Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was by attempting to stab Chief Obafemi Awolowo on the back with the wrong notion of a trusted Fulani political leadership: In conversation with H.E. the other day (in the absence of Awolowo for once) Zik enlarged on how objective and reasonable Northern political leaders were and how easy it should be to get on a beam with them.
My own idea on this is:— (a) Zik realised very early what trouble the Action Group were making for themselves in attacking ‘the Sardauna Group’ and particularly the Emirs; and, as constantly, he sat back and let Awolowo strangle himself while at the same time pulling his (Zik’s) chestnuts out of the fire: (b) Zik fails to appreciate one hundredth part of the solid hatred felt for him personally by those same Northern leaders and for all those hyaena lieutenants whom he has gathered round him.
I fear conceit and a blindness to disagreeable facts is a common attribute of all our political leaders in the South.
Following this blind political alley Dr. Azikiwe joined the Fulani leaders to form a Coalition Government on independence which collapsed four years later. Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola tried in the same manner to reap the Fulani political fruit of Eve but ended up in disaster.
In 1979, Dr. Azikiwe bereft of every sense of history went into a political accord with the same Fulani which again did not last more than three years.
Then came the M. K. O. Abiola June 12 experience which is still fresh in the minds of some of us.
One may be tempted to ask, with the gradually manifesting hand-writing on the walls of politics regarding the fate of his trusted allies in Government, what makes Ahmed Tinubu think he could go as far as Moshood Abiola went in casting his political and Islamic lots on Fulani political table? To such band of Igbo political job-men as Rotimi Amaechi, Rochas Okorocha, Orji Uzor Kalu, and David Umahi, what makes them believe that the Fulani man would prefer them—classified unbelievers to Ahmed Tinubu—a political Islamist even though an antithesis to Fulani ideals? Most importantly, what makes these people, including Ahmed Tinubu believe that the Fulani will decide their political ambition under the present political circumstances in Nigeria except to use them as instruments of political conflicts and divisions among their people?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his Allocutus penultimate his sentence for treasonable felony by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa regime on 11 September 1963 stated prophetically in part: Peter, not Peter the Apostle, but Peter the hero of Hugh Walpole’s novel entitled ‘Fortitude’ said: ‘It isn’t life that matters but the courage you bring to it’….for some time to come, the present twilight of democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law, will change or might change into utter darkness.
The question again is, has Chief Awolowo’s prophetic utterance not persisted over time? There is no doubt that Nigeria owes Chief Awolowo greatly for his visionary utterances which have subsisted over time. Recall that the same Chief Awolowo had before then stated that Nigeria is not a nation but a mere geographical expression.
Yes! As Chief Awolowo rightly put it, “it isn’t life that matters but the courage you bring to it.” The question which comes up again at this juncture is, what courage have our Southern and Middle Belt political and religious leaders shown towards the solution of the current Wild-Wild political disorder?
But to be fair to the current Southern Political leaders of all political divides, expecting them to proffer solutions to the current debilitating security and economic situation of the country is like asking the Devil—the very handiwork of Satan to find solutions to the problems created by Satan.
The same cannot be denied of our Christian leaders who daily inundate their helpless flock with tales of after-death salvations spiced with untenable mundane brain-twisting hypothetical solutions to the current problems, yet without the courageous willingness to assume practical responsibilities towards their solution.
They utter such extraneous prophecies as who would win the American and Ghanaian Presidential elections, of the winners and losers of Governorship elections, and the winner of the English Premier League Match between Manchester United and Liverpool, yet none of them had predicted the emergence of Covid-19 Pandemic, the coming of the EndSARS positive action, or the solutions to the present intractable security and economic crises bedeviling the country or so far prophetically uttered their effective solutions.
The Igbo say “Okeye a di ano ewu a mua na agbiri”—an elder cannot be around and allow the goat deliver her babies in tether.
But the current situation in Nigeria has reached the stage where even the Church leaders are watching their own daughters deliver their babies with no one willing cut the umbilical cords of the babies.
In 2017, amid the Federal Government’s 100 Billion Naira Islamic SUKUK Bond for Road construction, coupled with increasing waves of murderous activities of the armed Fulani herdsmen now called bandits, the present writer addressed two different protest letters to the various Heads and Leaders of the Nigerian Churches and copied to some concerned Christian State Governors.
The first which came in the form of appeal was titled: “A CALL FOR RFLECTION ON THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE FACE OF THE SURGING THREAT OF ISLAMIZATION.” The second which came as a protest against the National Christian Leadership over the slavish silence over the Islamic SUKUK BOND was titled: “THAT DEPICABLE CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP COMMUNIQUE ON ISLAMIZATION AND THEIR UNCANNY SILENCE ON THE 100BILLION NAIRA ISLAMIC SUKUK ROAD CONSTUCTION BONDAGE.” Of the legion of Christian leaders addressed the two petitions only Pastor Enoch A. Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God with his Personal Secretary Pastor A. A. Olorunnimbe condescended enough to acknowledge the petitions with prayers, which are annexed.
Like the case of the Ancient Roman Senators feasting at one end of the City of Rome while the Vandals were rampaging the another end, the Nigerian Senators, Legislators of all levels, Government officials and religious leaders are at presumably safe areas of the country debating how to redistribute the resources of the nation while the other areas defined as unsafe are gradually creeping into the stage of utter destruction. No one dreams of dying even though death remains inevitable to all men beyond remedy.
Much as the Bible tells us that “without the shading of blood there can be no salvation”, such shading of blood had never come from the ordinary folk.
History has shown that no nation which shaded the blood of the down-trodden innocent masses prevailed much longer.
The time has therefore come for those who are the real custodians of the land by act of providential commission to act in accordance with their sworn customary responsibilities to uphold equity, justice, and the security of the lives and properties of their citizens.
This call is necessitated by the fact that from all indications it is obvious that the pervading insurmountable security challenges of the Nigerian nation can only be effectively tackled by our traditional leadership, the custodians of the pristine ancestral heirlooms of all the component ethnic nations of traditional Nigeria and priestly intercessors of their people.
These are the people who possess the mental capacity, untainted moral conformity, the principles of spiritual checks and balances, and dexterous political will power to act without fear or favour.
For long before the institution of Sokoto Caliphate and the subsequent British Colonial administration they as our kings were our Presidents, our Heads of State, and our Commanders-in-Chief of our Armed Forces. Their Chiefs were the Cabinet Ministers and Members of the Executive Councils.
The Military Commanders were there with the able and willing foot soldiers patriotically groomed to defend the territorial integrity of the land of their ancestors.
We had kings whose kingdoms were multi-ethnic in character and whose imperial audacities were accepted without the perilous thesis of ethnicity or tribalism whichever applies.
We had the intrepid Imperial Dominion of Great Benin, the Spiritual Potentate of Ile-Ife, the Great Oyo Empire, the daring Igala Kingdom of Idah, and the fearless Jukun Kingdom of Kwararafa.
Added to these were the equally powerful less extensive kingdoms and Traditional Republican States all of which existed and were never conquered by the Sokoto-based Fulani Caliphate of Shehu Usman dan Fodio.
Today these kings still occupy their exalted stately offices with associated composite royal carriage, and pious wind of political influence.
Even though divested of their imperial authorities by the event of British Colonial conquests, they remain celebrated as the symbols of our proud past.
Their histories tell us of the rich remote ancestral connectivity of the diverse ethnic groups of modern Nigeria midwifed by imperial conquests, of cross-ethnic migrations and settlements, of mutual socio-economic exchanges, and above all of common remote ancestral origins.
All these impel us to redefine in more solemn terms the divisive conjectures of ethnicity and tribalism which were paradoxically flaunted by the British Colonial conquerors in their bid to mold the artificial nation of Nigeria.
Among the leaders of these exalted kingdoms of our glorious past who stand out most unequivocally as untainted symbols of our heritage are His Imperial Majesty the Ooni of Ife and Spiritual Potentate of Yorubaland Arole Oduduwa Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II and, His Imperial Majesty Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Okpolokpolo Ewuare II The Great, the Sublime Pope of the Church of Holy Arusha, and Shadow Political Potentate of Greater Southern Nigeria.
The fundamental question which poses a challenge to these two untainted Majesties is, if the Northern Emirs under the audacious auspices of the Sultan of Sokoto could frequently convene both secretive and open meetings to decide and redefine the future and course of Nigeria’s history at the detriment of the greater but politically cajoled part of this country, what then stops these two Majestic symbols of Southern unity from acting likewise and in time for the interest of those who solemnly look upon them as their kings both directly and indirectly for guidance?
Spiritually and remotely traditional with sublime regal carriage the Ooni of Ife presides over the combined ancestral heirlooms of the remote Igbo ancestors of Igbo-Mokun—the ancient city of Ile-Ife, the supplanting Oduduwa line of ancestors, and the imperial heirloom of the present Eweka dynasty of the Great Benin kingdom. A potentate ancestrally instituted by the unction of Olodumare—the Great God, traditionally propelled and guided by the pristine spiritual vibrations of his ageless ancestors from a point which cannot concisely be defined in time by historians, but with the relative conjecture of time by archaeologists as our only guide—a King never made to subordinate to any king of his like in Nigeria.
Beside the imposing Spiritual sovereignty of the Ooni of Ife stands the Oba of Benin— the Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Okpolokpolo, the Sublime Pope of the Church of Holy Arusha and the shadow Imperial Potentate of the greater part of the present Southern Nigeria. Although unquestionably Ile-Ife by ancestral root, yet historically Igbo by remote linguistic and cultural origins as with Ile-Ife, thanks to R. E. Bradbury and Isola Olomola respectively of Benin and Ife historical project fames, as well as His Imperial Majesty the Ooni of Ife and spiritual potentate of Yorubaland Arole Oduduwa Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi.
Nevertheless the Oba of Benin remains today the most revered, most adored, most celebrated, most ancestrally patriarchal and by extension the most powerful traditional potentate with equal sentimental attachments that go beyond the traditional confines of his kingdom and across multi-ethnic sections of Southern Nigeria.
From the extreme Niger Delta City-State of Bonny to the extreme Southwest kingdom of Badagry, and to the extreme Southeast Abam-Ohafia Clan, the Oba of Benin echoes as both the effective and paternal king.
Among the peoples of the present Edo, Delta, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, and sections of Anambra, Imo, and to add Abam-Ohafia Clan, Abia States, the Oba of Benin remains their paternal imperial potentate.
Thus the Oba of Lagos His Royal Majesty Rilwan Akiolu could be confident enough to snub the much revered Ooni of Ife and Primate of Yoruba tradition of royalty on account of his ancestral link with Oba of Benin, yet without thinking deeper in history to note the paternal linkage between the same Oba of Benin and Ooni of Ife. Such is the wild sentiment caked in historical attachment that often accompanies historical links with Benin Kingdom. Indeed the Oba of Benin is the only monarch in Nigeria with the highest preponderance of multi-ethnic claims of paternal origins.
In 1903 the then Colonel Frederick Lugard dethroned and appointed two Sultans of Sokoto successively. But the British could not do the same with Benin monarchy. They it was impossible to do such within the orbit of Benin monarchical tradition.
This is the celebrated invincibility of the throne of the Oba of Benin which no other king enjoys in Nigeria.
The Oba of Benin is therefore the only King in Nigeria that was never dethroned or appointed by the British; for even after the Oba of Benin was sent on exile in 1897 he remained the Oba of Benin up to the moment he joined his ancestors in 1915 to the chagrin of the British conquerors, who found it impossible to do unto him what hath been done unto the Sultans of Sokoto.
Which kingship and which king could therefore be as sacrosanct as the Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Okpolokpolo in Nigeria? Let the fact therefore be stretched forth: We Have Our Kings Superior and Never Fulani Conquered! Never British dethroned! And Never British appointed!
One historical truism we cannot deny today is that the Oba of Benin was the major fountain-head of Southern integration with a sword of sentimental unity that pierces through all ethnic boundaries.
The Igbo question in respect of Benin influence are well marked out by Abam-Ohafia tradition of origin and migration from Benin Kingdom—a people who inhabit the present Ohafia and Arochukwu Local Government Areas of Abia State on the Cross River and Akwa Ibom borderlands, and quite strikingly Olauda Equiano’s account of the 18th century Igboland which succinctly put his hometown—Ekkasa under Benin Empire.
Ironically modern Igbo and Yoruba political leaders often talk of building bridges of political understanding between the two people in the context of the present-day divided Nigeria.
But quite unknown to them, such bridges had long been built by the uniting forces of the Majestic Benin Empire. In other words not only were the Eastern Yorubaland with Lagos and Badagry inclusive, historically united with the Benin Kingdom, the Igbo were equally linked up with the Yoruba under the same imperial umbrella of the Oba of Benin.
The Pax Binica established by successive imperial Oba of Benin provided an atmosphere of free movements of people among the various multi-ethnic communities of the realm.
Although there are no evidence supporting the presence of immigrant Igbo settlements among the Yoruba during the period, there are however explicit evidence of settled Yoruba communities among the Igbo during the period.
Notable among these Benin Kingdom-inspired pre-colonial Yoruba communities in Igboland are the six towns of the Odiani Clan in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State—Ugbodu, Ukwunzu, Idumuogo, Ubulubu, Ugboba, and Ogodo, whose native language remains Yoruba with Igbo only serving as second, while bearing mostly Igbo names like the case of the former Captain of National Eaglets Nduka Ugbabe.
This bridge of historical political unity that was midwifed by the Great Benin Empire and metamorphosed into the struggle for common destiny by the entire people of Southern Nigeria, and to some extent the Middle Belt requires immediate invocation and re-enactment.
And we look up to no other person than the Oba of Benin— the Most Solemn Pope of the Holy Church of Arusha, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Okpolokpolo, His Imperial Majesty Oba Ewuare II The Great to act in accordance with primordial imperial commission, with the full Patriarchal backing of the Primate of Yorubaland and Ooni of Ife Arole Oduduwa Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II.
The Southern traditional rulers on whose onus lie the preservation and protection of the land of their ancestors should meet and decide the future of their subjects if not the whole Nigeria. We want them to take the bull by the horn and then the Afonjas among our traditional rulers will be exposed.
The problem of Nigeria today and which must be undone if the country must enjoy peace, unity and progress is as the International Crisis Group Report of 2012 rightly put it is that: British rule empowered the Hausa-Fulani community to subjugate the indigenes, and, by so doing, established the hegemony of the North over the country—which jihad could not achieve because Islamisation of the Middle Belt had failed.”
This is crux of the problem of the Nigerian nation today— the bottom line of the conflict that surreptitiously propelled Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule to state ipso facto that: Everyone has a gift from God. Northerners are endowed by God with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities.
The Igbo is gifted in commerce, trade and technological innovation. God so created us individually for a purpose. Others are created kings, servants and doctors.
We all need each other. If there are no followers, a king will not exist, if there are no students; a teacher will not be required etc.
If the above command is the portion of the teaming Igbo and Yoruba citizens of Nigeria and, by extension other peoples of the same nation not ethnical defined as Fulani, then the onus is on our Royal Fathers to redefine our status as rightful citizens of this nation. We ask this solemnly believing that our Royal Fathers as the custodians of our Ancestral Heirlooms are our symbolic earthly fathers and by the same token the umbilical cord that joins us with our Providence.
When a man beaten and battered by outsiders runs to his father for refuge and salvation, will his father not take heed to protect him?
Even the Holy Bible made us to understand that the father of the prodigal son did not hesitate to take the latter back as his full son with pomp and pageantry.
But we are coming as prodigal sons; we come as children who had fought and continue to fight the noble cause of our freedom and great battle of salvation for both the living and generations yet unborn. We do so with the solemn honour and respect to all those who had fallen before now in the course of this battle for our salvation.
Your Imperial Majesties, as a conclusion to this solemn appeal, may I humbly request to quote in part once again that solemn evergreen rendition of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his Allocutus before His Lordship Honourable Justice Sowemimo after judgment and before sentence on September 11, 1963: Since 1957 I have fought, as your Lordship remarked, with vigour against the feudal system in the Northern Region and for its eradication.
I have also fought to prevent the spread of this evil political system to other parts of Nigeria. During the same period I have strongly advocated the breaking up of Northern Region into more states in order to have true federation in Nigeria, to preclude the permanent subservience of the people of Nigeria to the autocratic ruling caste in the North, and to preserve peace and unity in the country.
In short, I have always fought for what I believe, without relenting and regardless of consequences to myself. I have no doubt, and I say this without any spirit of immodesty, that in the course of my political career, I have rendered services to this country which historians and the coming generations will certainly regard as imperishable.
Arole Oduduwa Kabiyesi! Kabiyesi!! Kabiyesi!!! Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Okpolokpolo, Laumogun! Oba Ato kpee Isee! Oba Ato kpee Isee!! Oba Ato kpee Isee!!!
Odogwu Nwankwo Tony Okoboshi Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Institute of African Studies/Dept of History & International Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Director, Nigerian Civil War and Genocide Research Network
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan, Delta State