If Amotekun does not take intelligence gathering seriously, it won’t fly —Alaafin
As the South-West state governors sign the Security Network Agency (Amotekun) Bill into law, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, has offered insight into what should be the focus of the security outfit. In an interview by TUNDE BUSARI, Oba Adeyemi also sheds light on his letter to the Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi. Excerpt:
In what ways can Amotekun be used to better the security challenges in our communities that are far away from the state capitals?
It is good that you recognise the fact that remote communities deserve much more attention on this security issue. Those places are important to criminals because they are their hideouts as well as their escape routes. Take for instance, the Oke Ogun axis shares border with another country and considering the porous nature of our borders, those criminals capitalise on the weakness to perpetrate their criminalities. Before you know it, they have crossed to the other side while you are here thinking they are still within Nigeria. Having said that, the government has the final say over the Amotekun matter, we have to especially respect the constitution which makes the state governor the ‘Chief Security Officer’ of his state. But I must say as I always do that we need to recognise the fact that there are fundamental defects in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended). We are supposed to be operating a federal system of government in Nigeria. That claim that we operate the federal system is sheer deceit. It is obvious that what we are actually operating is unitary system, where the central government has reduced the state governments into caricatures; the abysmal irrelevance which the Federal Government has arrogantly subdued the federating units into is being perpetrated with impunity.
Miyeti Allah asked to be part of the Amotekun Corps. As a foremost traditional ruler in whose domain some Fulanis have lived for over a century, is there a way these people can be relevant particularly when it is alleged that Fulani herdsmen are finding it difficult to cohabit with farmers now?
In this context, Amotekun symbolises the emotional, mental, psychological bearings of the Yoruba. It is total redemption of Yoruba from the political, economical and administrative subjugation of Hausa-Fulani oligarchy. Therefore, in the current scenario it would be extremely susceptible and suicidal to suggest or enroll the Miyetti Allah into Amotekun Corps. The Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba espouse two different diametrically opposed philosophy of life. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the sage put this succinctly: “Centrifugal force and Centripetal force can never meet.” And when Awolowo wrote or commented on any subject, go and check it, he was always on point because he must have subjected himself to rigorous study over such subject. Unfortunately, people like that are not understood by little minds. It is sad.
Don’t you think this comment would be seen as being too harsh on the Hausa-Fulani?
The late Sardauna of Sokoto who was the Premier of the Northern Region when Chief Awolowo was the Premier of Western Region, Ahmadu Bello, also recognized that fact. Again, it is unfortunate that little minds would twist such declaration because they are little minds. People should seek for knowledge. It is through knowledge they would be free from all these encumbrances. There is no limit to what you can learn if you are mentally healthy. If at my age I still read and read very hard, the youths who are easily misled have no reason to be stagnant or make themselves vulnerable to the mischief makers that feed them with wrong information. My position is not about being harsh or hostile but addressing the truth. Our world views are not similar, so is our lifestyle. What we consider a priority is less important to them. You are bringing me back to the issue of federal and unitary systems again. If federal system is sincerely operated as Chief Awolowo had campaigned till he died, this country would have progressed astronomically because we are generously blessed with resources which many countries don’t have. I am not an irredentist but a believer of true federalism in which each federating unit develops at its own pace based on its human and natural resources. What we achieved during regional government in Nigeria are still there for generations to see. That is what I mean. It is true that there are Fulanis who have lived here for over a century, these Fulanis don’t know any other place as their homes. It may interest you to note that I don’t have anything against these people because I know them. I have close interactions with their leaders who come to this palace to discuss issues of importance with me. They recognise the Alaafin as their father, hence they always run to the palace to seek guidance and advice. I know them and I have integrated them into what we do here, and the results have been wonderful. If you ask these Fulani about Miyyeti Allah, it sounds strange to them. I have a good relationship with the Fulani here. They are very helpful in going after those who perpetrate criminal acts under the guise of being Fulani. Our borders need to be secure because that is where the problem really is.
Can you give your final words on the Amotekun Corps?
All I can say is that any security outfit which does not take cognizance of intelligence gathering would not fly. This security matter we are talking about goes beyond media campaign. The undercover must be deployed in every nook and cranny where the criminals dwell. I know what I am talking about but here is not the right medium to spill it because security is a sensitive matter.
Last weekend, you sent a letter to the Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi and this has expectedly stirred reactions, especially in the social media. What did you set out to achieve with the letter?
It is even good that this development came at the right time to tell traditional rulers to henceforth come together and identify with one another to protect the traditional institution as contained in their oath during installation rites. An executive governor is a chief security officer of his state but a traditional ruler is a custodian of culture and tradition of his town and communities under him. You can now see that we are the most relevant on culture matter. That is why I said in the letter that the Pelupelu that grades a group of traditional rulers in Ekiti State is too ancient to be tampered with. There is nothing personal about this issue because it is a fundamental issue concerning the root of the state. And no Alaafin would sit back and watch this fundamental issue being trampled upon. If it happens in other places, Yoruba culture is totally different. You would agree with me that I am in the best position to always enlighten government and public office holders on the essence of the Yoruba cultural heritage which every monarch is traditionally assigned to defend even at the expense of his comfort, including laying down his life. Anyone who cannot lay down his life for his town cannot and should not be installed a king of his town. The throne goes with sacrifices, hence a new Oba needs to pass through rites to understand the nitty-gritty of his new status.
But Ogun State House of Assembly is treating a bill on review of some rites for traditional rulers, are you on the same page with them?
How would I be on the same page with an attempt to desecrate our tradition which I am expected to protect? Is it not laughable to you too as a Yoruba man born and bred in Yoruba cultural environment? What is the motive behind it? Notwithstanding, whatever motive they are out to serve, the issue is an attempt to demystify Yoruba culture and tradition which specify certain rites for traditional rulers as their status requires.Traditional rulers’ rites are surrounded by myth which has been preserved from time immemorial. What do they say is wrong with those rites? What I see is a topic to stir controversy, which I won’t be a part of. But as the Alaafin, I am duty bound to say the implications of a thing like this.How much of rites surrounding the Queen of England do we know? These rites are not public affairs.
The matter addressed by your letter about Ekiti State and not Oyo State, why did you get involved in it?
I considered my intervention through that letter as a sacred responsibility based on my status in Yorubaland. History is there to verify the leadership role which the Alaafin had always played in Yorubaland. One of those roles is succinctly explained in the letter to the governor. I went down memory lane and reminded him of the Kiriji War which the Alaafin facilitated to end in 1886. This matter is not about ego or playing to the gallery. It is about facts, which are well documented by the colonial government in charge of administration then. What I am saying is that the Alaafin cannot afford to fold his arm and watch. Whenever I have a function here in the palace, don’t you see Obas from Kwara and Benin Republic seated?
In the letter you said that you had informed some traditional rulers before you wrote it. What were the responses of those traditional rulers when you broke the news to them?
In fact, their responses excited and encouraged me before I wrote the letter. They were happy. The Awujale even made a joke that ‘they don’t know Alaafin.’ I got unanimous approval, which showed that they were having the same feeling I was having when the news of the query of 16 crowned kings came from Ekiti.
Can we say your experience on the throne also informed the letter?
How will my almost 50 years count in this matter? Don’t forget that I have worked with different governors since January 14, 1971 when I became the Alaafin. It is blessing of God to enjoy long reign on the throne. And a way to appreciate God is to make use of experiences which one has gathered for the benefits of young traditional rulers and government. Against this backdrop, I can say that I am duty-bound to guide any governor of Yorubaland on matters affecting culture and tradition. If we look at Ekiti State, you see that it occupies a strategic position to the strength of Yorubaland as a result of the role the people of the state played during the Kiriji War when they demonstrated unequal valour and resilience in the battle field.
How best can you describe the letter in few words?
The letter to Governor Fayemi is a message from a father to his son with a view to calling his attention to likely implications of giving query to those respected traditional rulers who had paid their dues in their different professions before they ascended to the throne. In terms of academic accomplishments, Ekiti State remains the pride of Yorubaland in that every compound boasts of a professor. Such people should not be taken for granted under any circumstance. It is my hope that Governor Fayemi would see my letter from the objective perspective as one who, in the past, has demonstrated high level of brilliance on public issues. Governor Fayemi is an academic who is expected to see things dispassionately. So, I am sure the letter would not be misinterpreted.
That the letter went viral on social media irked some sections of the public, alleging a deliberate act by the Alaafin’s palace. Did you leak it to the public?
I don’t think you should be part of those who would take such seriouslybecause you know me. Have you seen the Alaafin taking panicky actions? The Alaafin is not expected to act under any fear or what you call in journalism pseudo name. That letter has an addressee which is not social media. So, I cannot say what I don’t know, including how the letter got to the public. I am using this opportunity to again advise that social media should not be abused and used as a platform to vent anger or settle score. There are too many sensational items on social media which affect the image of other people. The youths should rather take the best advantage offered by technology to better their lot and compete with youths from other parts of the world.