Otaru of Auchi: How we lost out in the bid to create Afemesan State
The Otaru of Auchi Kingdom is the 90th child of Momoh, who was the 1st Otaru of Auchi Kingdom, out of the 240 biological children. He is presently the 10th Otaru of Auchi. He is, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh. He was crowned on December 7, 1996 as the Otaru of Auchi (Ikelebe, translated, I do not want enemies III).
His Highness Aliru Momoh is urbane and has a very rich Islamic and English educational background. He studied at the University of London and trained as an accountant. He is a financial expert and a Fellow of the Nigerian Institutes of Chartered and Cost Accounts. Before he was crowned the Otaru of Auchi Kingdom, he had worked with Dillsworth, the Jewish National Fund Investment Ltd, Chelseborough Ponds International Limited (Vaseline Products Manufacturer-American Coy) and a host of other companies.
Twenty years since he became the 10th Otaru of Auchi Kingdom, His Royal Highness, Aliru H. Momoh, has brought dignity, honour to the throne of his forefathers. His hallmark is gentility. His personality is like magnets, attracting everyone who is nearby, simply because he is loved by his people for his gentle talk, his deep understanding of the political and economic issues, his good manners, alongside his noble deeds so far.
In view of his rich background, insight and the Otaru’s forthrightness, The Palace Watch, decided to engage him, in a range of issues covering the politics of Auchi and the Estakos, Edo State and Nigeria.
How come the direct children of Idaho, who was the father of Momoh, are the ones, who have dominated the rulership of Auchi Kingdom, even though there are other ruling houses like the Ikharo’s in Auchi?
There is no dispute about the fact that there are other ruling homes in Auchi. But the situation that today exists in Auchi, is that the emergence of an Otaru in Auchi Kingdom, is done by ballot. This process began with me. I was not just handpicked and made an Otaru. The position was keenly contested for and all the ruling families were very well represented, at the end of the ballot, I scored 10 votes, while my opponent from the Ikharo ruling home scored two votes. That was how I became the 10th Otaru of Auchi.
Now, to your question about the dominance of Momoh’s children as the Otaru of Auchi, I will say, over time, the people of Auchi Kingdom have come to trust the children of Momoh with the rulership of Auchi. It is simply a matter of moral soundness. Honesty, freedom from corrupting influence or motive; used especially with reference to the fulfillment of contracts, trust, uprightness which means integrity. People from other ruling families or homes are equally people of good character I must say, but the onus lies on the Auchi people to decide whom to be made the Otaru of Auchi.
Almost immediately you were installed the Otaru of Auchi Kingdom, you relocated the Otaru’s palace from its traditional place to a new location in Auchi. What were your reasons for the relocation?
You will agree with me that, that palace you are talking about, was built almost a century ago and was totally out of today’s reality. If I ever was going to live in a place like that, I needed to do complete renovation of the place. After weighing the cost of renovating the place, it became clear, that it was better to have a new palace, hence, the decision to relocate to a new place as our palace.
It was in that place almost all the past Otaru’s of Auchi were buried. What do you want to do with the old palace now that you do not live there?
We have already begun the reconstruction of the place. We are planning to turn the place, to a museum. You will see that we have started to erect some buildings in the front. After its completion, you have guesthouses for visiting traditional rulers to Auchi amidst other buildings alongside the Museum. It will be a place to behold when it is completed.
Anyhow, with regard to the burial of past Otaru’s in the place, I have told my people when it pleases God to call me home; I don’t want to be buried at the old palace. I should be buried in the public cemetery met for the Momoh’s family here in Auchi.
Yes, there were so many Otaru’s before you. Why are you so loved and cherished by the people and the people in the neighbouring towns and villages surrounding Auchi?
Winning the friendship of others is an art that is mastered by those that are noble and pious; a circle of people constantly surrounds me. Their mere presence in a gathering are a blessing, and when they are absent they are missed. These blessed people, such as my junior brother, Prince Tony Momoh, Professor Zekariyahu Oseni and Dr. Mohammed Mustapha Lecky, just to mention a few names have a code of conduct entitled: Repel the evil with one which is better. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly.
“A Muslim is the person whose tongue can do no harm to others. And the Believer is he whom others trust, with their blood and wealth.” The noble Qur’an puts it: “Those who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves the good-doers.”(Qur’an 3:134).
What would you say, is responsible for the intense political rivalry that now exist between the Estako and Esan people, when sometime back, the Esan and Estako people were clamoring for a single state, which they wanted carved out of the present Edo State to be known as “Afemesan State?
It is nice you asked this question. Whatsoever, the political rivalry there is between the Etsako and Esan, is unnecessary. We are all the same people. We can’t wish ourselves away no matter the situation we find ourselves. You see sometime in 1996, before Ekiti and other states were created by the Federal Government of General Sani Abacha, a committee was set up by the then Federal Government that went round the existing states in Nigeria. Before that committee came to Edo State, the traditional rulers of Edo State met and after serious deliberation and a critical look at the benefits that might accrue to our people, we resolved without any malice to work towards the creation of another state out of the present Edo State. We recognized the fact, that the present Edo South Senatorial District as presently constituted, is large and populated enough to stand as a state of its own. And if another state is created just like Ekiti was carved out of present Ondo State that means more revenue and infrastructural development will be coming to our people. We the traditional rulers therefore, agreed to ask for another state out of the present Edo State that will be made up of Esan, Etsako and Akoko Edo people.
A committee was set up where the traditional rulers of Esan and Etsako agreed and signed for the creation of Afemesan State. After a lot of deliberation about the structure of the proposed state, agreements were reached in all areas. The issues that arose were, where will the capital of the proposed state be and which of the two groups in the marriage were going to produce the Governor? It was at this point that the late Dr. Christopher Igbelokoto Okogie, the proprietor of Zuma Memorial Hospital, Irrua, was asked to Chair the meeting. It was him, Okogie, who said for the matter to be resolved, there was the need to cast a ballot. One paper was written “State Capital” while the other was written “Governor.”The Esan representatives at the meeting picked State Governor, while the Afemah representatives picked the ballot that was written State Capital. We were all happy and went our different ways. We, the Afemah traditional rulers were therefore, surprised, when on the day we were to meet the Federal Government Committee on state creation, there was an advertisement in the Nigerian Observer, which disassociated the Esan traditional rulers from the agreement they had already signed. We, the Afemah traditional rulers were disappointed. We later discovered that it was Chief Tony Anenih, who persuaded the Esan traditional rulers to pull out of the agreement they had already signed, that was supervised by a very honourable man, Dr. Okogie. That was how the idea of Afemesan state was killed. We lost out as we could no longer push for it. After this ugly experience, states like Ekiti were carved out of present Ondo State. Today, Ekiti and Ondo States are developing political and infrastructurally side-by-side, no matter what anybody might say. This was when the political distrust between the Esan and Etsako people began. I only hope, at some point, some political actors from both areas will come to their senses and learn how to work together to achieve results.
What is your view about the way and manner partisan politics is being practised generally in Nigeria?
There is too much self-interest in the way and manner politics is being practised in Nigeria today. This is what has led us to where we are today, political and economic retrogression. No progress whatsoever is made, in the areas of economy; politics, infrastructural and human capital developments just to mention a few. Once people belong or find themselves in the ruling party, all they do and think about is how much they can use the party as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement. This attitude can never help a nation to develop. Nigerians, therefore, need to learn to assist their leaders to develop the country.
Permit me to go spiritual, the Qur’an says: “In any land or sea, where there are fornication, confusion and corruption, that land or sea is due for token torments.” What we have experienced all these years through elections is the stealing of the wealth of the nation. The Climax is the 2015 presidential election. There is a party in Nigeria called the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party once boasted that it was the largest party in Africa, but through recent revelations, Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the atrocities committed by some elements in the political party. This huge and massive corruption, led the former Prime Minister of Britain to describe Nigeria as “fantastically” corrupt country. You will agree with me, that, this is not a good testimonial for any country that is self-respecting. You see the corruption that is talked about, is much more than what we see or talk about today. It goes to show, that people involved in such level of corruption have a diseased mind and they need help. How else do you explain a situation, where a man is no longer in a position to know how much he owns, or his entire worth? Imagine a group of people in high offices in the country, going about collecting and recollecting all that belong to the country, in the process reducing the entire country to a situation of abject poverty, it is sad, what we are experiencing in this country. Our politicians honestly need to change for the better, for Nigeria to make meaningful progress.
One thing that most people must understand, is that President Muhammadu Buhari, was appointed by God to right the ills, which politicians have over the years entrenched in Nigeria.
It is upon the realization of this fact, that I donated my younger brother, Prince Tony Momoh, to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2003. I personally wrote him a letter about PRINCE TONY, telling him, that I have donated my brother to work with you to assist you in your divine assignment of becoming Nigeria’s President. That assignment is divine; there is nobody, in this country, who wants to devalue what Buhari wants to do in this country that will succeed. Buhari is a man sent by God to put this country right. No matter what people within and outside his party might want to do to undermine him while in office as Nigerian President, they will fail because when God is with any man, no matter the multitude that might be against him, they will not succeed and surely will fail. Nigeria is too great a country, for any party, community or a group of people to want to pull down. Now, God has brought up somebody in Nigeria, wherever he goes in the world, his honesty, integrity and forthrightness is admired and appreciated all over the world. What some people do not understand or realise is the fact, that the Almighty God that brought Buhari to power is still the same God making him to have all the good will wherever he goes. Whatsoever, the problems, we are presently facing as Nigerians, be it economic or political, with time, we are going to overcome them. And will surely have a better country, where every man and woman will be proud, where sanity and decency in office will be the watchword.
My take is for all Nigerians to cooperate with President Buhari, to make Nigeria work again. The deliberate efforts to bring the country’s economy to its knees are not the best option, no matter the grievances of the people of the Niger Delta. I am confident, that if given the time, President Buhari, will do all within his powers to ameliorate the suffering of the people of the Niger Delta areas. I will also want to seize this opportunity, to appeal to people behind the Boko Haram atrocities, to stop. The wanton carnage and destruction of innocent people’s lives is un-Islamic. Now is the time for President Buhari to get members of the National Assembly to work with him, so that we begin to enact laws that will enable us inflict the “Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings” treatment on corrupt persons in Nigeria. Rawlings did it in Ghana, heavens did not fall, instead, the new crop of Ghanaian leaders decided to behave themselves and respect the sanctity of office they occupy.
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