Fellow Nigerians, our country is afflicted. On one hand, we are assailed by kidnappers and on the other by political vandals, like governors, who on account of politics would desecrate traditional institutions that have existed for centuries. No need to speculate. Yes, I am talking about the unfortunate convergence of the terrible kidnapping sprees in the country that have taken a heartbreaking turn and the vandalism Governor Yahya Bello wrought on the traditional institutions in Kogi State.
Here is the sad and unfortunate truth: Nigeria is on the path of becoming a Karo-Karo Republic. For those unfamiliar with the term, karo-karo is the Hausa expression for community contribution, where members of a community would chip in their widow’s mite—a coin here, a coin there—to help dig a well for the community, send an indigent child to school or build a roof over some orphan’s house.
Since the beginning of the year, average Nigerians have been running from pillar to post to crowdfund for about N300 million to save the lives of several Nigerians abducted by bandits who are busy posting videos on tik-tok while casually murdering women and policemen.
The unfortunate abductions of residents of Abuja, including almost the entirety of the Al-Kadriyar family taken from their Bwari residence, alongside that of the Esther Itegiri, and other corps member travelling from Edo to Benin in the course of their national youth service (for who a ransom of N50million has been demanded), as well as others, have launched several social media fundraising campaigns by Nigerians. Millions have been raised, and millions paid. None of that guarantees that the victims would return. Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar won’t. And neither would another kidnap victim whose family paid his abductors N6 million only to learn that he had been murdered a week before.
This is a difficult situation to be in. Not only for the family of the victims, of Nabeeha, a 21-year-old final year student at ABU Zaria, who was murdered in cold blood and her corpse dumped alongside other victims but the whole country as well. The audacity of the kidnappers to arbitrarily raise the ransom from N60 to N100 million because the family, and kind-hearted Nigerians have raised only N30 million, after murdering some of their victims is stunning and heartless. Where do they expect these families to raise that sort of money?
In the end, when carefully considered, it is not only the victims and their families who are being held to ransom. Our conscience as a nation, as a people, is being held too at gunpoint. When these criminals shot and killed Nabeeha and the others, they were sending a message to all of us, a message that this is a new era, the era of karo-karo ransom.
Again, the government’s response to this has been rather underwhelming. The president hasn’t said anything about these stories and the new direction of these criminality. It is concerning that a whole nation is being held to ransom, such as we have seen since the beginning of this year, and the leader of the nation has decided not to talk, not to address these concerns, not to assure of our security.
If the president had come in with a plan to address the security concerns in the country, now would be the time to start implementing those strategies and reclaiming our country from terrorists and criminals.
While all these was going on, Gov Yahya Bello of Kogi State, whose tenure in office is due to end in a matter of weeks decided to unleash his brand of terrorism on the state when he desecrated the traditional institution in Kogi, dethroned the much-loved and venerated Ohimege of Kotonkarfe, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Isa Koto and the Olu of Magongo, Chief Sam Bola.
“Bello Bombs Traditional Institutions…” one newspaper headline proclaimed. Quite dramatic but fitting. A fitting headline that cast the appropriate pall to the actions of the governor, one that looks more like political terrorism perpetrated by the chief security officer of the state rather than a carefully considered decision of a wise and experienced leader.
It seems to have been taken right from the Obasanjo playbook of political vendetta. In 2007, after the former president failed to secure his third term ambition, he devoted incredible resources, energy and passion into scuttling the political ambition of those who did not allow him to succeed.
It must be acknowledged that the governor has had an antecedent of using political might to bend the people of the state to his will. In his 2019 re-election bid, we all remember how the governor used the force of the police, the military and political thugs to intimidate voters and re-impose himself as governor. Several people lost their lives to pave the way for the governor to return to Lugard House, the most prominent being Salome Abuh who was burnt alive in her residence.
Governor Bello’s dethronement and banishment of the monarchs in Kogi smacks of a desperation to punish those he perceives as not playing ball. While state governors have the legal prerogative to dethrone monarchs, these powers should not be exercised as a means of coercion to force people into voting a certain way. This is, especially coming after the governor still bulldozed his way to install his chosen successor as governor.
Having the power to do something does not mean one has to do it. Presidents who have the power to detonate nuclear weapons do not go about pushing the buttons, do they? The UK government has the constitutional power to dethrone the British monarchy but the government has not held this power over the monarchy like the sword of Damocles, have they? But in Nigeria, we have seen this happen several times already. In Kano, then Governor Abdullahi Ganduje decided to vandalise the Kano Emirate. It takes some grace to exercise power judiciously. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.
In this instance, the governor has not petitioned the Ohimege of Igu and the other deposed rulers and their wrong doings, if any, have not been deliberated upon. And because of this, it seemed as if this act was more about some perceived vendetta than any kind of public good.
This is especially the case considering the state in which the governor is leaving Kogi State, far more impoverished than he had met it, with a backlog of unpaid salaries and no meaningful infrastructure growth. To also reap away the traditional institutions that have been in place for centuries is one violation too many. One that hopefully the courts will address in due course.
These are institutions that have stood the test of time and should be treated with regards and veneration. While the functional role of these monarchs has remained a subject of debates over the years, their roles as custodians of culture and history of a people will remain preeminent. To violate them is an act of political brigandry that a governor like Bello should have outgrown by now.