NIGERIA: The old lion roars back

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A RECENT news item caught my attention ‘the deposed Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki said  the 36 states and 774 local governments in the country were gulping so much of the nation’s resources and under developing the country.

At a news conference to mark the 47 years of the late premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dasuki noted that in spite of the huge amount of money being allocated to the states and local governments in the country,it was not impacting on the generality of people due to corruption’.

Said Dasuki: ‘You can imagine that a wife of a local government chairman is given huge amount of money as wardrobe allowance. For what? Even councillors get the same allowances. Is that in the constitution? The whole thing is mixed up. Look at the local government funds. The chairmen have been marginalised. All they do is to go and sign the money in Abuja and they don’t know what happens to the money.They will say, well I was told to sign, and I did, I don’t know what will happen to the money. So the money does not get to the people down there. That is why the governors are pushing for a joint account with the local governments’.

According to him, “I was the only Permanent Secretary for Local Government in the entire Northern Region, with only one minister during Sardauna. Today, there are 19 local government chairmen, with 19 permanent secretaries. From one region, we now have 19 states.Tell me, what progress have we made. The cost of administration and the task of ensuring accountability is too huge. The problem with Nigeria is the 36 states and the 774 governments. We don’t need them, if we want to develop.

Why should we have 774 local governments, 36 states with 19 for the North?’

Whether one agrees with the views of Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki (89) is beside the point. The fact remains that the old lion is back in his familiar terrain-speaking passionately on national issues. You can take the throne from him but you can never take his voice and principle. Public service has always been his calling since he joined the Sokoto native Authority in 1943 as a clerk.

Before he became deputy secretary of the Northern Nigeria Executive Council in 1957 he served in diplomatic missions both in Sudan and Germany. But his greatest taste of politics was when he became chief private secretary to the then Premier of the Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909-1966), the then Sardauna of Sokoto.

He was the immediate boss of Alhaji Gidado Idris (GCON) who retired in 1999 as secretary to the government of the federation and head of service.

Alhaji Dasuki was the Barden Sokoto when he served as a member of the constituent assembly in 1977. He became the 18th Sultan of Sokoto in 1988 but was deposed in April 1996 on flimsy excuse by the then head of state, General Sanni Abacha.

General Abacha had utter contempt for the Dasukis, for reasons that cannot be explained. When he became head of State in November 1993, we all knew that the days of Dasuki as Sultan was over. Through his spokeman then,Alhaji Wada Nas, Alhaji Dasuki became the target of verbal assaults and if his son Sabo had not escaped from the country into exile he would have suffered the same fate as Ken Saro-Wiwa, in the hands of General Sanni Abacha.

On assumption to power, General Abacha appointed his military assistant Colonel Yakubu Muazu to be administrator of Sokoto state with the sole agenda of humiliating Alhaji Dasuki and this eventually led to the dethronement of Alhaji Dasuki as Sultan on April 20th 1996 and four months later he appointed Colonel Muazu Commander Brigade of Guards-assignment completed.

Alhaji Dasuki was banished to Nasarawa state and he suffered deeper humiliation. Incidentally, the same Colonel Muazu now has Emirship ambition for the throne of Katagun in Bauchi state when it becomes vacant.

It is to be hoped that Alhaji Dasuki will continue to speak out on issues that affect this nation. For we still need such voices from time to time.

Alhaji Dasuki’s ordeal is not isolated.

Sir Olateru Olagbegi(1910-1998) was the Olowo of Owo between 1941-1966. He was father to over 140 children of which over 121 are graduates. It was in his palace that the Action Group Party was formed on March 1 1951. With the courtesy of Olagbegi’s children, Wale, Gbuyi,Gbenle,Suyi,Yanju and others,  who are still my friends, I slept and played lawn-tennis in that palace in the sixties.

Following a protest organised by Chief Adekunle Ajasin for his role in early party crisis, Sir Olagbegi was suspended from the throne on June 9th 1966 for six months and exiled to Okitipupa by the then Military governor of the Western Region Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi.

On February 6th 1968, Governor’s Fajuyi Successor the then Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo finally dethroned him and the Obayori of Owo,Adekola Ogunoye succeded him as the Olowo of Owo.

Following the death of Oba Ogunoye, on November 2nd 1992, Governor Bamidele Olimilua the then governor of old Ondo state reinstated Sir Olateru Olagbegi as Olowo of Owo.

Two weeks later General Sanni Abacha sacked all the elected Governors, including Governor Olumilua.

Sir OlateruOlagbegi died in October 1998 and his first son, the London trained Barrister,Folagbade David Victor Olateru Olagbegi was crowned on February 21st, 1999 as the Olowo of Owo to succeed his father. He was given the staff of office, by Governor Olusegun Agaguin 2003.

Of all the rulers of Kano in modern times, none was more controversial than Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi, who was the Emir of Kano between 1954 to 1963. He was a member of Tijaniyya Muslim fellowhip, a quasi-mysticalsufi order which rejected the conservative acceptances of Islam. This group aligned with Mallam Aminu Kano Northern Elements Progressive Union(NEPU) and constantly challenged the rule of Sir Ahmadu Bello the then premier of the Northern Nigeria in many instances.

AlhajiSanusi was popular but controversial and Sir Ahmadu Bello thought, for peace to reign in Kano, Alhaji Sanusi had to be dethroned.

He sent his emissary, Alhaji Isa Keita to Lagos to brief the then Prime Minister, Sir, AbubakarTafawaBalewa(1912-1966) of his decision, in 1963.

‘You can’t do it for Kano will be of fire’,the Prime Minister told Alhaji Keita. In the presence of the then powerful Minister of Defence, MuhammaduRibadu (1910-1965),Alhaji Isa Keita replied’ Sir, I am here to inform you not to seek an approval for the Sardauna had made up his mind and there is no going back’, adding that it was the Northern Region constitutional responsibility and not that of The Federal Government.

The Emir’s son, Aminu, who was a diplomat in Cairo in Egypt, rushed home to plead onhis father’s behalf but it was too late. The emir was dethroned and sent to Azare in the Katagun province where he died. He was succeeded as Emir by Alhaji Muhammad Inua.

AlhajiInua reigned for less than a year before he too died,only to be succeeded by the then Nigerian ambassador to Senegal at that time, Alhaji Ado Bayero,who is still on the throne.

AlhajiSanusi’s son,Aminu later rose to become the Permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign affairs, and Aminu’s son Lamido, is the present Governor of Central Bank.

Sir Ladipo Samuel Ademola was the Alake of Egbaland between September 27, 1920-1962), following the death of Oba Gbadebo. He was crowned on 27 September 1920 at a spectacular ceremony attended by the British governor and crowd of 10,000. Although annexed to Nigeria in 1914, Abeokuta retained much of its earlier traditional system, which nevertheless was altered by the early impact of Christianity and Western education. Oba Ademola is recalled as having fitted well the somewhat unusual requirements of the natural ruler of the Egbas, who in 1930 celebrated under him the centenary of Abeokuta. Educated men were appointed to traditional positions by the Oba. And he favoured Western Education allowing his own son Adetokunbo (born in 1906) to go to England to complete his education, and providing help for others’ schooling. In 1935 he was awarded the CBE.

In 1948 a protest against him by market women led by Chief (Mrs.)FunmilayoRansome-Kuti (1900-1978),daughter-in-law of the Reverend Josiah Ransome-kuti who had been a friend to the Alake led to the Alake’s  temporary exile on July 29 1948.

The then British Resident deported him to Oshogbo in the interest of peace. The Alake’s deposition was followed by major reforms in the taxation policy of the Egba native authority which brought relief to the market women.

Oba Ademola came back to regain control of his throne after two years in exile, he later became a senior member of the Western region house of chiefs. He died in 1962.

The last of the independent rulers of the Edo kingdom of Benin was Oba Ovonramwen. During the nine years he reigned (1888-97), he sought to preserve the sovereignty of the Edo state as well as well as its economic interests which,in the end, led to the British armed invasion of Benin in 1897. The Oba lost the battle and was dethroned and banished into exile for life while his kingdom was merged into a wider political unit under British administration. By 1912 that unit, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria had been fused with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria to become the entity of Nigeria. In 1914 the monarchy was restored under Ovonramwen’s eldest son, Eweka II, who was succeeded in turn, in 1933, by Akenzua II.

Like Dasuki, King Pepple of Bonny was dethroned in 1854, Jaja of Opobo in 1887 and Nana,the King of the Ishkeri was also dethroned in 1854.

King Federick William Koko (1853-1898) who led the people of Brass and Ijaw was dethroned in 1896. He fled from Nembe,and went into exile at Etiema. He died on 25 February 1898 having apparently committed suicide.

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