Ekiti Killings: Oba kó ló nilè!
By Busuyi Mekusi
Soyinka once talked about the ‘Climate of Fear’, which remains a strategy that the weak deployed to hold the strong down. Fear is an instrument that the biblical Satan uses to cow his victims, and little wonder that the messages of prophets and spiritual leaders that admonish adherents in the bible also disapprove of fear in all its shades. While it is natural for man to nurse or express fear, in demonstration of human vulnerability, objects and instruments carved by humans are also used to shore up the capacity of people to inflict harm, or instill in the other the desired fear. It is true of some that they are not given to fear, which has a subjugating torment, but it is also believed that certain happenings would precipitate fear in someone, notwithstanding the fearless attributes that the person parades. Therefore, it is opined that when one gets to the place of fear, one must show it.
Reasons for fear are countless, and they range from physical hurt to accidents; from sicknesses, either treatable or terminal, to death. Fear has no positive attribute, but has: a baffling fang that subordinates one to one’s junior, purges one of reasonableness; alters one’s sequence in making informed decisions etc. It is given the foregoing that some are believed to have spiritually swallowed fear, by having an engagement with death, through recommended sacrifices. Fear and death are good companions! The two elements of fear and death are products that have been made popular in Nigeria in recent times. Deaths are visited on Nigerians at will, with the failing of successive governments, and the livings are enveloped in fear. Death is manufactured and dispensed today across Nigeria by bandits, bad roads, fake drugs and substances, poor health care, kidnaping, ritual killing, armed robbery, etc. Life expectancy is very low, and expectations from governments are nil.
Of the 200 million estimated populations of Nigerians, the majority is clothed in the climate of fear, as they die physically permanently, due to the brutality of life-taking devices listed above, and in instalments. Privileged Nigerians that have the resources to sell, and initiate migration to other settled nations, have moved away to preserve their mental health, physical wellbeing and economic stability, as they celebrate their escape each time untoward occurrences in Nigeria reminded them of the frustrations they thankfully escaped from. The sense of fulfilment of exiled Nigerians is also buoyed by the fall of the naira against the currencies of United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, and other nations that have provided them a new home. This is, however, not to talk about the homelessness that batters identity formation and the shifting marginality that taint citizenship globally. The rants of Donald Trump and other white preservative apologists to send immigrants back to their native countries are not merely new challenges of hate and ownership, but an abrasive interrogation of old-term negotiations.
Nigeria is, no doubt, a slaughtering slab and the Alapata (butcher) are ferocious in their looting, maiming and killings. The audacious attacks on Abuja suburbs seem to be a warning that the beasts mean business, or a reminder that no government in Nigeria is able to deliver the citizens from the ignoble attritions. In recent times bandits are said to be taking over checkpoints in Edo State, collecting taxes up north, and killing Obas in Ekiti. The kidnapping of students and killing of two Obas in Ekiti are not amusing, as the usual choreographed responses of President Tinubu and the governor of Ekiti State, Biodun Oyebanji are not assuring. It may be true that Tinubu and Anjuri Ngelale are now using the template they inherited from Buhari and Adesina to respond to national loss and mourning respectively, but Tinubu must note that not only are his name and reputation at stake, but Nigerians may lose interest in democracy altogether.
Once upon a time, kings in Yoruba land were seen as owners of the land, with land being the physical space and its constituents. They had control and access to farms, as they were supposed to be fed by their subjects. Very economically strong ones owned farms and plantations that could serve as reservoir for the subjects. Kings/Obas expanded their bases by carrying out invasions on smaller village, cornering their valuables. The parcels of land for which modern ownerships are made, due to either accidental or exploitative possession, were huge quantum that nature or the supreme God emplaced for mammals. Physical spaces are now owned, gated, and controlled as a response to primitive accumulation of material wealth, and they largely define worth and relevance in postmodern times. However, as regulated and valuated as land is, they are rudely invaded, possessed and violated by dissidents.
Herders in Nigeria have been variously configured as unrepentant peripatetic invaders of others’ spaces, as they see themselves as owners of the Nigeria space, which is a gift from God to graze their pastures. Different initiatives taken to modernise pastoral commitment, stop itinerancy, and halt unnecessary invasions of others’ spaces failed in the past, due to the issue of agelong myths, poisonous history and habitual belligerence. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association has become the most powerful organisation in Nigeria, with the liberty for provocative outbursts and priggish recriminations. The group holds important parleys, mobilise powerful Nigerians to sympathise with and protect them, and threaten the unity of Nigeria very audaciously. Either rightly or wrongly, the itinerant herders are believed to be responsible for most of the kidnapping and killings that are recorded from Benue to Plateau, and from Kogi to Lagos. However, criminally profiling a race or ethnic group is as redundant as misleading.
Two Ekiti monarchs, Oba David Ogunsakin, the Elesun of Esun-Ekiti and Oba Olatunde Olusola, the Onimojo of Omojola-Ekiti, were said to have been ambushed by suspected kidnappers and gunned down while returning from a meeting at Irele-Ekiti. Another monarch, Oba Adebayo Fatoba, the Alara of Ara Ikole-Ekiti was said to have escaped. The style of the killing of these kings tallied with that of the late Olufon of Ifon, in Ondo State, Oba Israel Adewusi, who was allegedly killed by bandits on November 26, 2020. The ease with which Yoruba Obas are killed has been blamed on the unnecessary modernisation of the traditional institution, which was believed to be able to preserve itself from unnecessary attritions by detractors. In traditional times, kings were revered as having supernatural powers to relate to situations, and manipulate things to conform to their aspirations, including the spiritual enabler to disappear in the face of hurt and aggression. The Egbé or Ofe device is considered to be one of the methods a warrior was using to escape from trouble zones. The myth of invincibility is not limited to Africa, as Greek civilization is similarly rich with the escapades of personalities like Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, etc., but with an Achilles’ Heel.
The loss of steam of traditional institutions in Nigeria is not unconnected with the interference of government in the appointment and installation of traditional rulers. This appointing authority confers on the government has similarly provided for the power to depose. Yaya Bello exercised this power at the twilight of his administration when he removed and downgraded some traditional rulers in Kogi State. Vestiges of traditional inscriptions in kingship appointment are been eroded, very aggressively, as kingmakers who are custodians of the nuances for selecting a king have had their influence batched into by government, in utter display of absolute power. The brouhaha that greeted the selection, appointment and installation of the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Pastor Gandhi Olaoye, by Seyi Makinde, the Oyo State governor, was not without a threat by the government that dissidents to the decision, who went to court to challenge the process, would have an axe to grind with him.
Even though the monarchical influence of kings are still reflected in their feudal control of land and the constituent parts in certain instances, it evident that Obas are no longer the owners of land, no thanks to the postmodern religio-political new traits that now define traditional stools. I am not necessarily blaming modernisation for the erosion that took ‘land’, meaning influence and control more symbolically, away from Obas, since the new civilization has offered alternatives with which to contend with some of the challenges for which Egbé or Ofe would be needed. For instance, technology has provided alternatives like arms and ammunition, bulletproof vehicle, surveillance camera or space monitoring, etc.
Embattled Nigerians are awe-struck that the land that once belonged to Obas, and hitherto controlled by the government, has been taken over by non-state actors like kidnappers, bandits and terrorists, with spatio-temporal order willfully virulently violated, leaving subjugated citizens whispering in anguish, submerged by the climate of fear. PBAT must either identify with the generality of Nigerians, and frontally confront the enemies of the nation, or sustain his allegiance to some members of the monstrous ruling class, who have been identified as sponsors of terrors, but too powerful to be named as such.
Chinua Achebe might be right, after all, that there was a country, and the lands no longer belong to Obas!