By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN —
When an elder stoops so low as to play rough with kids, he loses not only the respect of the kids but also the respect of everyone else.
A lot of people including myself actually doubted that Oba Rilwan Akiolu made the derogatory remarks attributed to him against the Igbo until I saw the video evidence. We saw and heard him, in broad daylight, telling the honorary Igbo kings (ndi Eze) and representatives of the Igbo to vote for Ambode of the APC or see what would happen to them after the Lagos governorship elections.
In what could be likened only to the incantations of a witchdoctor, one of the most respected monarchs in Nigeria condemned only would-be Jimi Agbaje Igbo voters to the lagoon. The refusal of the palace to adopt the only path of honour — a public apology — makes it all the more disgusting, to say the least. But, to be honest, I know that to expect an apology is to expect a camel to walk on two legs. If the Oba, upon all his years as a senior law enforcement agent, could forget that the constitution in which the right to freedom of association is firmly enshrined supersedes everything, including the doctrines of any lagoon hippo or mermaid, then, it would be safe to presume anything could come out of his palace but an apology.
This man and his cronies are bringing the esteemed throne to disrepute. The only thing decipherable from their response is a most insulting message: we only saw and heard but didn’t understand what we heard and saw. I pray Nigerians in general, not only the Igbo, are not being used to test the potency of the Oba’s lagoon spirits.
Now I understand some traditionalists would want to preach about the implications of an Oba apologising in public. But if anyone would stoop so low, then they should be ready to face the bitter truth: no traditional ruler or father (to borrow from their context) should dabble into politics publicly in the first place, for the simple reason that a father should not be seen to love a child more than the other. They have every right to tell me I don’t understand their customs and traditions as much as they do, but I come from a place with the highest reverence for traditional institutions in Nigeria: the north. In ancient Nigeria, northern Emirs were the most powerful monarchs with practically unfettered authority, while the Yoruba Obas had the closest thing to a democratic structure where other officeholders served as a check on the Oba and could present him with an egg symbolizing death if he had overstepped his bounds. My knowledge of these issues may not be to- notch but I believe I have not said anything wrong.
The Igbo are the most pleasant guests I know. I grew up with a lot of them in Kaduna. This much you may be able to tell if you heard them giving the Oba a round of applause while he was issuing the threats.
If Lagos was the Oba’s as he claimed, then, he popped up in the wrong generation. And even if that was the case, it would surely miss the Igbo if he kicked them out or bewitched them into relocating to the marine kingdom. Imagine what Alaba International Market would be like, for starters.
As a Muslim, I take offence with the Oba saying Insha Allah (God willing) while sentencing a people to the lagoon. My religion leaves no one room to swing both ways, so to speak. He cannot be a servant of Allah and the king of Lagos marine kingdom at the same time. And, less importantly, I have just found out that Prof. Pat Utomi is not a serious fellow. How a man like this could suggest the Oba might be joking is unfathomable. Let us assume he was: would any reasonable person accept a joke that silly from a man of that age? I don’t think so. This is one of such moments where silence is golden and the only edible words are ones that convey an apology. No publicist alive can possibly spin this.
I look forward to something Oba Rilwan Aremu Akiolu said he would do after the elections: fulfilling a promise to expose corrupt Nigerian leaders. From the look of things, it is best I lower my expectations because the lagoon spirits might just have instructed otherwise.
— Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.