29th September, 2023




Amid prolonged controversy over the harassment of Yoruba kings by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a human rights advocacy group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has called on the National Assembly (NASS) and state Houses of Assembly to liberate traditional rulers in the country by repealing laws that give state governors power to depose kings.



MURIC made the proposal on Friday 29th September, 2023 in a statement circulated by its Executive Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.


The full statement reads:


“Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo recently denigrated Yoruba kings at a state function in Oyo State by commanding them to ‘Stand Up!’ and ‘Sit Down!’



“It was a most unpolished, extremely demeaning and categorically disparaging behaviour. Obasanjo left his manners in Otta Farm the day he attended that programme. It was a display of tramadolised authoritarianism characteristic of most military rulers past and present all over the world.



“By commanding Oyo State traditional rulers in that manner, Obasanjo subjected them to public opprobrium and, by inference, he dragged all Yoruba men and women in dirty mud. It was a most audacious, tendentious, and egregious attitude that must be condemned not only by all Nigerians but by every man and woman who originated from the African continent and who is conscious of his Africanness.



“But above that, Obasanjo’s outrageous behaviour must be seen to have gone beyond Oyo State, beyond Yorubaland and even beyond Nigeria as a country. His provocative treatment of traditional rulers is a heavy slap not only on Nigerian culture but also on the collective identity of black Africa.



“By logical extension, Obasanjo has shot a poisonous arrow into the heart of the institution of monarchy all over the world. Nigerian traditional rulers are also symbols of kingship everywhere else. From Britain to Canada, from Norway to Spain, from Cambodia to Thailand, from Denmark to the Netherlands and back to Africa from Morocco to Swaziland, Obasanjo has committed infra dignitatem. He has offended the world and degraded humanity.



“MURIC therefore backs calls for the retired general’s apology. But this provocation must be escalated particularly because Obasanjo himself has remained recalcitrant. He must therefore be made to realise the implications of what he has done. This retired general must apologise to all traditional rulers in Nigeria, in Africa as well as to kings throughout the world. He must apologise to humanity at large.



“Besides, there must be worldwide condemnation of his unacceptable behaviour towards the crown. Failure to tender unreserved apology to the whole world should attract peaceful protests against his presence at any event anywhere in Nigeria and abroad. No Nigerian who values his tradition must sit with him at any table.



“Anyone who invites him to his or her event must be prepared to face the embarrassment of guests leaving because of Obasanjo’s presence. Nigerians must not stay in the same hall with this arrogant ex-soldier. Our culture, tradition, norms and values tower above any uniform, be it military or police. African youths must embarrass Obasanjo each time he travels abroad.



“We call on foreign embassies of countries who cherish kings and honour them to deny Obasanjo entry visa. We also implore such countries to declare him persona non grata. This man must be completely marooned until he apologises profusely.



“The Muslim Rights Concern is concerned because even the Glorious Qur’an commands obedience to constituted authority. It says, ‘Obey Allay and the Prophet and those in position of authority’ (4:59). Kings are also in position of authority to a large extent. The Shari’ah also recognizes custom except where it conflicts with the oneness of Allah. This is why Muslims also respect traditional rulers.



“The Glorious Qur’an also gives kings a special status as people enthroned by Allah. It describes Allah as the King of kings who enthrones whoever He wishes as king and removes kingship from whoever He desires (Qur’an 3:26). This presupposes that respect must be given to kings by all and sundry, by presidents and governors, even by serving and retired generals.



“But there is more to Obasanjogate than mere apology. Nigerians must put on their thinking caps and ruminate on what gave Obasanjo the temerity to assault the traditional instituition. His repugnant action must be traced to the deliberate debilitation of the traditional stool.



“Don’t blame Obasanjo alone. Nigerians have long thrown the traditional crown to the dogs. We weakened royalty and strengthened democracy. We took the whip from the kings and gave the guns to soldiers and politicians. That was what we did when we enacted laws that empowered governors to depose our traditional rulers. Nobody does that and goes scoot free.



“Those who forget their sources always regret doing so. Obasanjo must be regretting his action already. That is why he now embarks on a daily tour of palaces to prostrate all over the place. He is like a sick man whom the priest asked to say ‘To’ to get healed. Instead of just saying a single ‘To’, he retorted, ‘How can I say to, to, to, to, to, to, to, for ordinary healing’, Well, he ended up saying seven ‘tos’ but received no healing.



“Obasanjo was the greatest beneficiary of our general juvenile delinquency which, in forgetfulness of our great past, we tagged democracy. We empowered the politicians and weakened the kings.



Exempli gratia, Section 38 of the Obas and Chiefs Law of Lagos State empowers the governor to suspend or depose an Oba. The governor must also approve an Oba before he is installed.



“That is why Makinde is using that power according to his whims and caprices. The name of the Alaafin nominee picked by the Oyomesi has been on his table since November 2022 but he has not announced him because his eyes are on someone else. This is one example of how Nigerian governors abuse their executive power on traditional rulers. They have become the Alpha and Omega.



“Another example of our draconian laws is Section 6 Cap 26 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria which empowers state governors to depose traditional rulers. The axe has fallen on many traditional rulers as a result of this excessive power given to politicians over the kings.



“In the South East, Anambra State governor recently deposed three traditional rulers. In the South West, Chief Obafemi Awolowo dethroned the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi Adeniran in 1955, for hobnobbing with an opposition political party. The Olowo of Owo, Sir Olateru Olagbegi, was removed in 1969 by Governor Adeyinka Adebayo.



“In the North, the former governor of Kano, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, removed Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi ostensibly for breaching Section 13 of the Kano Emirates Council Law 2019. The most irritating, most complicated and most dangerous was the dethronement of Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki on 20th April, 1996 because by so doing, the governor of Sokoto, had removed the leader of all Nigerian Muslims.



“It is nauseating that even an ordinary local government chairman can give orders to the king in his area. He can also issue query to him. No traditional ruler must travel outside his local government without getting permission from the local government chairman. It is as bad as that.



“It is not yet Uhuru even if Obasanjo apologises in Oslo (Norway) in the morning, in London in the afternoon and in Morrocco in the evening. We need to go to the root of the matter if we are really interested in protecting the dignity of our traditional rulers. We must not treat the symptom, we must deal with the cause. No experienced firefighter will turn the hose towards the smoke. The real fire must be his target. Obasanjo is mere smoke.



“At the root of it all and the real fire which must be extinguished is the colonial factor and a political class bent on sustaining the current neo-imperialist mentality. What many did not know was that it was the colonialists who first weakened the powers of traditional rulers by introducing enabling laws for their deposition. Awujale Fidipote fled Ijebu Ode to Epe on self exile in 1883 to avoid dethronement by the colonial governor. Many traditional rulers were dethroned during the colonial period.



“This proves that dethronement clauses in our laws are inherited from the colonial masters. It is unAfrican. Traditional rulers were not deposed in our culture in the past unless they committed sacriledge. The colonialists embedded those laws in order to diminish our culture. Why must we continue to don the garb of colonial mentality? It is time to emancipate our kings from the hawks and agents of neo-imperialism.



The solution lies in liberating traditional rulers from the tyranny of politicians by using the same political and democratic process to take the power of dethronement away from governors. This will be the holistic approach to solve the menace and the excesses of state governors.



“MURIC therefore charges state lawmakers in Nigeria to rise to the occasion. Our Obas, Emirs and Obis are the custodians of our tradition. They are the very quintessence of our customs and our norms. Whoever rubbishes them has diminished our essence. They are the embodiment of our values. You are the only ones who can save them from constant embarrassment from power-drunk political charlatans.



“Those draconian laws targeted at our traditional rulers must be repealed as quickly as possible. Laws like Section 38 of the Obas and Chiefs Law of Lagos State, Section 6 Cap 26 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria and Section 13 of the Kano Emirates Council Law 2019 must go.



“The Herods in government houses must be stopped from messing up with our traditional rulers. MURIC is waiting for the first state assembly that will bell the cat. Who will champion the revolution? Who will save our traditional rulers? Where are the ‘Speaking Speakers’?”







Professor Ishaq Akintola,

Executive Director,

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).




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