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I am too educated; too enlightened an Oba to comment on any video clip – Owa Obokun Adekunle Aromolaran

Two days ago, we refreshed memories about conduct of government businesses in two different dispensations – military and civilian or democratic regimes. We published information about a few patriotic roles of Kabiyesi,  Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba 11 in times of peace and crises. Many critics are most certainly not aware that leadership is a very critical and tasking issue. But sometimes, feelings could point in the direction of the fact that in democracies, leaders put themselves forward to serve their people and must be prepared to offer the best.  There are many lessons to learn and pray about from this story. First and foremost, we must pray for our leaders, because when God’s judgment comes, even the innocent may not escape the outcome. Next, the conducts of royal fathers on these occasions show that they could stay on the side of their people if convinced that is the best position to adopt.

THE RESPONSIBILITY ATTACHED TO GOVERNANCE: Children of God must always know whether any assignment they are given is of God or of the devil, and they should ask God for wisdom to go about it. That was the saving grace for the Awujale who visited the Aso Rock Presidential Villa and came out fell back on his endowed wisdom to wriggle out of the then delicate problem on commenting on what was widely reported in the media as ‘’Diya attempted Coup.’’  Islam’s injunction is for believers to know that: ‘’Allah regards governance is a trust which everyone who chooses to accept would be questioned about. ‘’To accept the responsibility to govern, therefore, is like accepting to bear the burden of everyone else on one’s head, so that when others are resting, you are working; and while they are sleeping, you are watching; and if anything goes wrong, you will be held accountable even when you were not directly culpable.’’(Muhammed Al-Ghazali)

A REPLAY OF THE ASO ROCK OCCURRENCE: Governance is not restricted to political governance. It is exercised directly and indirectly in both the public and private sectors, educational and religious institutions, and even on family units, in which the husband is the governor, and the wife is the deputy-governor. Series of political logjams arose during the military era of 1993-1999, especially during the reign of late General Sani Abacha who had a transmutation agenda that would have enabled him become the President.  Sycophancy was the order of the day. Only a few people dared say the truth.  The polity dangled precariously towards precipice, headed for an imminent destruction.  Both civilians and the political class contributed phenomenally to the evolution of military dictatorship as the society engaged in deceitful organization of pro-government demonstrations supporting the Abacha regime.

It is not very clear to most people that traditional rulers are Public Officers on account of the fact that they are maintained with public funds. It is not a question of denigration, but a statement of fact. But they are the fathers of all, who have the responsibility of promoting general development in their domains. And development includes peace.  It is also true that royal fathers are not completely insulated from partisan politics because they are human beings who are not infallible. The account narrated here is highly significant and was written and first published to celebrate and congratulate the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland, Oba (Dr) Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran on the attainment of a memorable milestone of 80 years a few years ago. It would at least shift the focus of readers, albeit momentarily, off Coronavirus or COPID-19,  It also forms part of my reminiscences an accounts of my involvement in my outings in government, first as Chief Press Secretary from 1994-2000; and later Special Adviser on Policies, Programmes& Plans Monitoring/Head of the Governor’s secretariat in Osun State from 2003-2010.

THE COUP VIDEO: The period of the military rule was a dangerous epoch in Nigeria’s history.  Even those in government were not sure of where the ship of state was heading.  In 1997, Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Donaldson Oladipo Diya (retd) went through the ‘’valley of the shadow of death’’. Diya had been accused of masterminding a coup plot against his boss, late Gen. Sani Abacha and was in detention waiting for the final hour. He was going through the dark tunnel in company with senior military officers like Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju,(retd) late Major General Abdulkarim Adisa, and eight others,  for allegedly plotting to overthrow the military government. Eight others, included Colonels Daniel Akintonde, Edwin Jando, Peters Akinyode, Emmanuel Shoda, Major Olusegun Fadipe, and Diya’s political adviser and criminologist, Professor Femi Odekunle were lucky to escape recommendation of guilty as charged,  for the  maximum punishment. The inclusion of Prof. Odekunle, a special adviser to Diya in the investigations confirmed the warning those of us who served got that we could be charged for both martial and civil offences, if any untoward occurrence was recorded!

DISBELIEF: Abacha’s critics and cynics disbelieved the coup story, claiming that it was part of the transmutation plan of Gen Abacha. The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) in its reaction said the coup story was diversionary, and an attempt to distract attention from the death of Major-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who was Chief of Staff (Supreme Headquarters) when Gen Obasanjo was military Head of State from 1976-1979.  In order to eraze doubts from the minds of the masses, video recordings of scenes where the alleged coup planners confessed were released.  Notable people from key segments of the society were invited to Abuja to watch the video. Human rights groups condemned the release of the video. Indeed, Nigeria and Nigerians owe a huge debt of gratitude to pro-democracy activists and their financiers. Femi Falana, SAN, an activist and legal practitioner asserted that the fairness of the trial had already been prejudiced by the showing of the video clips on the electronic media. There were several funny developments. For instance, no pro-government rally really succeeded in Osogbo, as anti-government people waiting for the pro-government rally procession on the bridge near the old governor’s office drove them back with stones and other dangerous objects, barely 200 metres from their take-off point. Surprisingly, on some occasions, when it was the turn of anti-government protesters, some security agents who were sympathetic to the cause being championed by NADECO, discretely urged pro-democracy activists on. It was very serious such that in the heat of the June 12 1993 crises, royal fathers on the way to Osogbo for their routine meeting turned back in order not to run into violent protests.

COUP VIDEO IN OSOGBO — ROYAL FATHERS KEEP MUM: To give some measure of credibility to the story, Military Administrators were summoned to Abuja and given copies of the video recordings, in addition to a brief on the situation. On his return from Abuja, Colonel Anthony Obi (retd) summoned a meeting of the Osun State Council of Traditional Rulers and briefed royal fathers on the alleged coup plot and the contents of the coup video recording at the Exco Chambers of the governor’s office, Osogbo. Quite naturally, there should be a response to the administrator’s speech.  It was a scene to behold. The President of the Traditional Council, the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okuade Sijuwade was the first to collect the microphone after the military administrator’s address. Instead of responding, Oba Sijuwade passed the microphone to the Owa of Ijeshaland, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran, who was next in rank to the Ooni. Ooni Sijuwade and Owa Aromolaran had a way of cracking some jokes between them.  Oba Sijuwade would say: ‘’Owa of Japan’’; to which Oba Aromolaran would respond: ‘’Ooni of London.’’ Oba Aromolaran too took the microphone and on-passed it to the late Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Oyewale Matanmi, a lover of peace, who was next in  hierarchy. Late Baba Orangun William Adetona Ayeni who was third in hierarchy of the Traditional Council was not in attendance. Baba Orangun would most probably have spoken on account of his boldness and old age.  Late Oba Matanmi too threw the microphone to another royal father; and it became a ‘’ding-dong’’ affair. None of them was willing to comment or condemn Diya for the coup plot.

GAUGED THE MOOD OF THEIR SUBJECTS: Sensing that the matter might not succeed if he stayed with them, the administrator informed the royal fathers that he would go out for them to be able to take a decision, and would be back after 15 minutes. He watched proceedings from the closed-circuit television in his office and discovered that the royal fathers would not budge. In the military, officers feared as at then that if you failed to deliver on an assignment, they (superiors) could go and wait for you at a good point to ‘’pepper’’ you when your assignment was concluded. Hence, Colonel Obi’s anxiety could be understood. He was a complete gentleman who never wanted to court trouble at all.  The royal fathers apparently knew that the mood of their subjects was not conducive to their making any statement in favour of Aso Rock Villa, and later dispersed; but not before a team of reporters who knew royal fathers who could be daring accosted Owa Adekunle Aromolaran who told them point blank that: ‘’I am too educated, too enlightened an Oba to comment on any coup video’’

RECALL: Reporters recalled that during the period following the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections, people attempted to mob some royal fathers on their way to Osogbo, on account of their purported support for the annulment of the June 12 elections.

They had to make a detour and return to their domains. One royal father was later quoted to have jokingly stated in Ijesha dialect, when asked why he turned back that: ‘’Yesi a barin!’’, which translates into: ‘’who will wait to be consumed by June 12 agitators’’ when reporters accosted him later. A few years later, the word: ‘’Yesi O na ko!’’   a hilarious question surfaced in Osun State’s political lexicon. That is for another day.

May the good Lord Bless Osun State; and may the Good Lord Bless Nigeria.