In retirement, community service finds refreshing swing in Liad Tella
After over 40 years of meritorious service to his fatherland as a journalist, public servant and academic, septugenarian Alhaji Liad Tella is returing to his country home of Iwo, Osun State with a fresh and voluntary mandate of providing public service and leadership in his community while greying gracefully in retirement.
His new assignment is defined by the conferment on him of a religious title of Asiwaju Musulumi of Iwoland whose turbaning is billed for October 12, 2019 at Oluwo’s Palace Square. The mandate, according to Hadj Tella, involves “guiding, unifying and promoting cooperation among Muslim Ummah in Iwo land.” It also entails building linkage between the league of Imams and Alfas in Iwo land, Osun State and Nigeria. To him, serving as “guiding light to promote unity and botherhood among Muslim brethren and Christian compatriots in Iwo and all over Nigeria” is a worthy endeavour to wrap up one’s sojourn on the earth.
The political scientist was once the General Manager of the defunct National Concord newspaper, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the rested Monitor newspaper and chairman, Pilgrims Welfare Board (Muslim wing) in Osun State. Between 2006 and 2011, he served as National Commissioner (in charge of Policy, Personnel Management and Finance) of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and until April 2019, he was Senior Research Fellow, Department of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, Kwara State.
Even before his official coronation as Asiwaju Musulumi, Tella appears to have begun discharging his obligation dutifully as he is building alliances to ensure harmony and cooperation among Muslim Ummah (especially the league of Imams and Alfas) and royal institution in Yoruba land.He is bringing his training and experience to bear on the tension over the installation of two respected Osun State Muslim indigenes supposedly for the same title.
It happened that the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Rasheed Akanbi, last year, installed Sheikh Yaqub AbdulBaqee (a native of Iwo) as Waziri of Yoruba, while in early September 2019, the League of Imams and Alfas in South West conferred the Wazirul Mumineen of Yoruba on Alhaji AbdulLateef Ahmed Tijani Adekilekun (an indigene of Ede). The development has not only reopened the old rivalry between the two ancient cities, it has also generated uproar, leading to emergence of cleavage in the ranks of Muslim Ummah in the state.
While cautioning the supporters of the two principalities, warning them against making mountain out of a molehill, Tella clarifies that the Waziri title conferred by Oluwo is not an Islamic title, but rather a palace title. “One, the Waziri title is not an Islamic title. It is a palace title. And that is what it is in the Northern part of Nigeria where the Waziris are appointed by most palaces in the emirate. Although, Iwo land is not an emirate, but the Obaship system is based on the principle of Islam. Before anybody can be crowned as the Oba in Iwo, he would first of all, be turbaned as Ameerul Mumineen of Iwo land. It is after the turbaning as the Ameerul Mumineen of Iwo land, that he wears the crown.”
He explained further that the Oluwo, being an Ameer has the right to honour anybody with the title of Waziri of Yoruba land. “If Oluwo says he is Ameer, he is right. Ameer is a title, which also means Emir in Hausa-Fulani language. So, Oluwo has the right to appoint the Waziri of Iwo land. And if he extends it to Yoruba land, it is his own choice. We have powerful ancient Obas that also have enthroned people with different titles and there was no conference of Obas at any time before these titles were conferred.”
Similarly, he saw no harm in the installation of Ustaz Adekilekun as the Waziri Mumineen of Yorubaland by the League of Imams and Alfas, saying “If the Muslim Community decides to appoint anybody as the Waziri Mumineen of Yorubaland, so be it. Let them do. There is no cause for worry about that. When the United Muslim Council (UMC) appointed the late MKO Abiola as Asiwaju Musulumi of Nigeria, was there any of these bodies? When Folawiyo was appointed Baba Adinni of Nigeria by the same UMC, were other Imams all over Nigeria consulted? A title is a honour.” He insited that Obas do not appoint Wazirul Mumineen, adding that, “Oluwo of Iwo has not done that. What he has done was to install Sheikh Yaqub AbdulBaqee as the Waziri of Yorubaland, and that he has the right to do so given his power as a traditional ruler. Therefore, there should be no controversy whatsoever on the title.”
Tella is passionate about Nigerians living together as one united entity. He decries insecurity and banditry ravaging Nigeria and calls on all and sundry to rally governments in finding lasting solution to the menace. He underscores the need for Nigerians to eschew parochial labelling and sterotyping in order for peace and harmony to reign.
“This Fulani herdsmen crisis, go to Ojoba or Odori market in Iwo, you see products from our farms on market days trooping in large vehicles from all over the places. If truly the Fulani herdsmen had destroyed our farms and made farming impossible, where are these products coming from? Can people reason? Are people unmindful of their environment that we take to undue stigmatisation and xenophobic attacks?
“In Iwo my own town, Gaa compound (Fulani settlement) has been in Iwo for over 500 years. And the leadership of the progressive parties in the history of Nigeria from the days of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo till today, the headquarters is rooted in that Gaa compound. And Oluwo said it that Iwo has the largest settlement of Fulani in the entire western region and there is no crisis.
“People should come to learn how we manage ourselves. The Igbo are the recent settlers in Iwo. Come and see Eze Ndigbo and his wife, dancing konkoma, the Yoruba dance. They build homes in Iwo. They are dominating commerce in areas that they are specialists. Are we going to send them away? For what? They are marrying our children. Fulani are part of Iwo. I interviewed a Fulani man, Ahmad. He is the Sarkin Fulani of Iwo land in Oba Moro, Ekonife side some 15 or 20 years ago and he said he had prayed to God that if He is recreating when he dies, He should, please, kindly return him to Iwo. He has a large farm, hectares of land that he bought long time ago. And many rich Yoruba men are also herders.
“Go and find out. Many of us rear cows. Many rich Yoruba men have up to 500 cows. Every cow you see in Yoruba land is not owned by Fulani. It is owned by the Yoruba. The Fulani that are in Iwo now, their children have gone to school. They don’t have real herders again. They have to employ herders from other places like Zamfara to come and help them to feed their stock and pay them monthly allowances. So, people still see herdsmen as the ancient bush Fulani type. It has transcended that. That is the truth.”
He urges the media to dig deep into the issue and bring out the truth. “I feel sick and worried over the xenophobia attacks on the Fulani. What are the total hectares of land available in Yoruba and the East that we are complaining the Fulani are taking over our land? Which land? The total land area in the South-west and the South-east is about 1/5 of the total area of land in the North. And anybody who says the whole land in the North is desert is a nincompoop, not well informed. I served in the Nigeria Population Commission, NPC, in 2005-2006 census preparatory programme, as a member of Publicity Committee in Taraba, Adamawa and Yobe. These are thick forests in Nigeria. That is where we have Mambilla Plateau and all these waterfalls. If Nigeria concentrates and organises fishing in that area, we will export and export and export. I wonder what the local governments are doing. What would it take them to establish a fish factory, process and begin to export?”
He corroborates community policing as the answer to tackle the insecurity permanently. “We need to officially establish linkages between community policing and local vigilante groups. When you do that, you are likely to get to the roots of the crisis. There is no part of Nigeria where criminals in their midst are not known. So, federalisation of the Nigeria Police is the major problem. State police is inevitable, community police is inevitable. In those days in the First Republic, we had local police. And we had regional police as we had federal police. So, what happened? We must go back and re-invent the wheel of security. Let the chiefs, the monarchs and so on be brought into this.
Particularly, the government needs to organise a kind of open forum for Muslim and Christian preachers for talk because they are the ones setting the country ablaze. What they always say in their places of worship is never in the national interest. It is in the interest of their pockets. And anybody that is not bold enough to preach against the Federal Government is not seen as a good preacher. The more you abuse, the more recognition you get and the more money you acquire. Religion is said to be the opium of the people. But, we need to know that it is not totally opium. It could be an instrument of national unity to galvanise progress.
“A Nigerian, just recently was recognised by Britain and admitted into the British Empire by the Queen of England. Many of those are happening inside Nigeria. We are making progress. So, let us glorify our success and talk less of our failure. If we celebrate our failure, failure will continue to hunt us. That is another panacea to our problem. Let us stop talking evil of our country and stop cursing our leaders because the curse would bounce back on you.”
Although, trained as a political scientist having obtained first and second degrees in Political Science at the University of Ibadan (1978) and the University of Lagos (1984) respectively, Tella etched indelible imprints on Nigerian journalism firmament as a great reporter, perceptive foreign affairs analyst, incisive policy and public commentator, civil and human rights activist and mentor behind many achievers.
Armed with a Diploma certificate in Journalism from the Times Journalism Institute, Iganmu, Lagos, he began his career as a Senior Reporter at the Daily Times in 1978 and rose to become Chief Corespondent of the old Kwara State in 1982 before he moved to the Punch as News Editor later in 1982. He served the newspaper company also as Group News Editor and Acting Editor before he moved to Concord Newspapers Limited as Foreign Affairs Editor in 1984.
He remained in the service of the National Concord till 2001 serving in various capacities as News Editor (1986-89); Deputy Editor (1989 -96); Manager, Manpower Development and Training (1997); Chairman, Task force on revenue generation (1998); and General Manager, Sales and Circulation (1998 -2001).His exploits as a reporter included the coverage of the Chadian civil war in 1980 as he spent 41 days at the war front and had one-on-one interview session with President Hussein Habre of Chad in 1981. He also covered the Western Sahara wars involving Morocco and Polisario over the control of Spanish Sahara.
The climax of the assigment was also an exclusive interface with King Hassan of Morocco in 1983.His movement to National Concord as Foreign Affairs Editor in 1984 heralded what could be described as Tella’s golden moment as journalist. He was the guest of the British Government twice in 1984. In 1986, he participated in Sino Nigerian dialogue in Lagos, covered Africa Information Conference in Cairo, Egypt as well as OIC conference in Morocco as the only Nigerian jurnalist. The coverage of the opening of Hungarian parliament in 1987 offered him opportunity to interview the female Speaker and the Prime Minister of Hungary.
He had also served as member, United Nations Information Mission to the Middle East on Palestinian/Israel Crisis; member, Nigeria Union of Journalists Delegation on Educational Exchange Programme to Bulgaria and Soviet Union in 1986; and covered the first direct peace conference between Israel and Palestian in Madrid, Spain, 1996.
National assignments he undertook included membership of National Committee for action against Apartheid (1981 – 1986), Nigeria Foreign Policy Consultative Forum (1986 -1988), Lagos State Police Command Community Relations Committee, Media Committee on Hajj (1983, 1988 and 1998), National Publicity Committee on Movement to Abuja (1985 – 88), and National Publicity Committee for 2005/06 National Census.He was Chairman, Aviation Sub-Committee, Presidential Committee on 2006/2007 Hajj. Chairman, Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, 1998-99, pioneer chairman, Osun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (1992 -94), and Chairman, Oodua Printing Press (1986-87).
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