Monarchs deserve clear roles, says Mafe
In the euphoria of the inauguration of Oba Babatunde Ajayi as the new Akarigbo of Remoland in Ogun State by the governor, Ibikunle Amosun, majority leader of the State House of Assembly, Asiwaju Yinka Mafe, spoke with ABIODUN FANORO on how traditional monarchs could be made agents of change with constitutional roles. Excerpts:
New roles for monarchs
Yes, an Oba could be an agent of change, by first of all being the conscience of the people because we need Oba like the Awujale of Ijebuland who can speak the mind of the people without fear or favour. We need an Oba that can stand on his own. This is what we have in Oba Babatunde Ajayi because he is somebody who is not only a lawyer, not only a Masters Degree holder in Law; he is also a professional Accountant. He is everything you want to think of. Yes, I intentionally compared him to the Awujale because I have seen traits of that quality in him.
We had issues with the Police recently and the side he took has always been on the side of the people. He condemned impunity, he condemned what is not good and I think that those are the kind of things Obas should be looking for. We want Obas that will take a position that is good for their people, a position that is not anti-government but a position that even the government would be respecting them for. I think we need such Obas and this is an opportunity for me to call on other kingdoms that are in search of leaders to look out for qualities like these that will let a man see good and says it is good.
As a lawmaker, what is your position on the clamour for constitutional roles for monarchs?
It is very important for our Obas to be given more responsibilities. That is why places like Spain and Britain can grow the way they are growing. Because their tenure is for life, they can act as check and balance apart from the legislative and the judiciary. An Oba can outlive ten governors and a governor will only work with one or two Obas at most. The Obas have the experience to advise the government even if the constitutional responsibility is advisory. It is now left for the politicians to take it or not. I will be happy to do that if a motion is brought before the State Assembly.
What role can the monarchs play in curbing insecurity in their domains?
It has a lot to do with modernization and civilization. The Obas have little or nothing to do now in terms of security, apart from just providing information to law enforcement agencies. That is why we are clamouring for community policing because if you want an Obas to be in charge of his kingdom, he has to be able to control or contribute to the security apparatus in his community. And that is why community policing is still the best you can have. It is difficult for us to have somebody say from the northern part of Nigeria to be a Policeman in Shagamu for instance who does not understand the language and the terrain of the area, the culture and all the rest even though we have a few of them who are gentlemen like the Area Commander of Shagamu, a complete gentleman even though he is from the north, he loves the community, he is a traditional person.
But apart from that we still have to understand the fact that Obas cannot control the Police, they don’t have the power to do that. Maybe if we have Community Police or State Police where the Oba can be part of the security decisions, things would be better. Sometimes it is difficult for Obas to even release information to the Police for fear of reprisal attacks. Many Obas have had cause to call me and asked what we could do about security threats. They sometimes feel that the DPO will not be happy that it is the Oba that is reporting him. But it is in the case of Community Police where their contributions will be accepted, it will go a long way to assist the community nip in the bud, some of these security challenges in Nigeria before they skyrocket.
Is it therefore your view that monarchs are strategically placed to help in issues of kidnapping, ritual killings and cultism which have now become rampant?
Yes, of course, it is my view that it will go a long way in curbing many of such crimes. I grew up in Delta State and I know that it is very important for local vigilante to do their job and I have been in Shagamu since 1998 and I know that as a Prince too, it is very important that the Oba in a community knows what is going on in that community. People feel safer and more comfortable to go to the Oba to volunteer information. The Oba gets information from the people more easily and that is why the Yoruba say “Ogiri leti” meaning the walls have ears. I think that our Obas should be more equipped constitutionally or otherwise to deal with issues that concern the people.
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