The Ilorin Durbar 2023 would go down as the most colourful, elegant and most attended edition in history. It recorded several firsts including the use of all-time high 500 horses, a 6-day calendar of social and sporting events, the introduction of 2000-capacity seats, and more attendance by art and cultural enthusiasts and authorities from all over the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), National Theatre, National Tourism Development Commission and National Orientation Agency (NOA), among others were all on ground for durbar this year.
It also had far better reportage across the digital and conventional media. The adopted hashtag #IlorinDurbar trended on the micro-blogging platform, Twitter and got many of its colourful pictures featured on the pages of prominent national and continental dailies. It would also be remembered as one without a single record of accidents, loss of lives, missing person reports or logistical mishaps. The Chairman of the Durbar Planning Committee, Engr Suleiman Alapasanpa, said the flowers of the wonderful and auspicious moment in our history should be given to the immaculate leadership of Kwara Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for his cooperation and synergy with the traditional rulers, community development bodies, security agents and all other stakeholders.
However, for three years running — 2021, 2022, and now 2023 — Mr Wahab Oba, chief press secretary to former governor Abdulfatai Ahmed, has continued to sell Ilorin emirate short of its glory in the media because of his hatred for the government. The irony is that this man who would not spare the Emir, IEDPU and everyone from accusations of partisanship has not had the grace to see and mention others for any good deeds in the same period. As usual, the blind Oba didn’t see any improvements this year too, despite having already released two articles. They would join others he authored in the last three years as a volume, the only and biggest available online, of bad PR for Emir, IEDPU, durbar, and the entire Ilorin emirate.
This time he would join the eid to its content. Although much of an advertisement of his ignorance and pettiness, he is pursuing and selling a jejune narrative of unrest and political war in the city — at a period everyone cherishes the peace it holds.
Ilorin Eid prayer ground is a respected place of worship. It must remain so indeed. The sanctity of the place must be protected at all cost like the land was saved from being sold by some charlatans. Perhaps part of the steps should be to reiterate the protocols, order of sitting at annual festivals, for the education of all. I believe this could save the people the shame of a conflict entrepreneur tarnishing the image of the government, emirate, and the state.
With all due respect, the exalted post of Waziri N geri, is not a traditional title. It is an honorary one. Therefore, it is not the same class and breath as the four revered Baloguns, Magaji Aare, Baba Isale of Ilorin, among others. So, I was scandalised to read Wahab Oba saying Waziri N geri, the honourary prime minister, is next to emir in ranking, in the traditional setting, and should be sitting next to him.
At Eid, which is a cultural and Islamic setting, the standard arrangement of the front row has evolved over the years. Before the colonial days, the eid setting in Ilorin is reported to have the emir flanked at the right side by the four revered baloguns and other ranking traditional title holders while the selected social and community figures line up to his left side. This arrangement is almost reflective of the sitting pattern and hierarchy in the court and at other cultural events. It was only changed by the coming of the colonial masters, which had the representative of the British government, taking to the left side of the emir in court and other public events.
From the 70s, 90s through the 2000s, the Nigerian traditional system underwent more drastic changes. Under the current arrangement, the Governor of a state is the political leader and head of government. Consequently, it is often observed that the Governor and other ranking political leaders sit on the left of the emir whilst the baloguns and other chiefs sit to the right, at eid, and in other public events.
Quite importantly at eid, this arrangement only stands before and after the prayers. It is not effective during prayers. During the prayers, the people who stand right behind the imaam is a small line of ulamaas usually including Imam Imale, Imam Rabana, Mufty of Ilorin and others, who can correct or take over from him as and when necessary, according to Islamic teachings.
In Ilorin, Islam is our culture, Islam is our tradition, Islam is our way of life. Religion binds Ilorin together. And this has respect at the core of it. Although it is quite unfortunate things have gotten badly politicised in the last few years, the values and belief are enduring among the people. If not for the respect for leaders, people would really have questioned the basis for which some certain political leaders delayed the faithful for hours before they said prayers in those years, among other bad practices. Perhaps it would have come to the fore earlier that the privilege of leadership which they enjoyed, but was not eternal, was misunderstood. The rotten politicization of the traditional institutions could also be traced to this period. It is pitiful that it is now that they have lost power and crave it that they would know that the privilege and protection it afforded them was not fair. Nonetheless, this provides another opportunity for the emirate to retrospect, review the protocols of its institutions, and restore the full dignity by stopping to give honorary title holders prominence over the traditional title holders and ulamaas.
To be clear, Saraki or whoever becomes the Waziri of Ilorin after him is not entitled to sit beside the emir at eid under any traditional setting by law, convention, or history. The same for any honourary title holders. This is different from having the favour and permission of the emir to do so. I think he must have gotten entitled because he was in power and favoured for too long and could not recognise himself again or the limitations of his status.
Oba is ventilating an agenda of rivalry and showmanship along political lines. But there is no reason for enmity or showmanship at eid between Saraki and Governor AbdulRazaq ever or anymore. When you read his pieces, you would think Senator Bukola Saraki’s head is wanted. One will think that he is a threat or competitor to anyone other than himself now, not to talk of anyone banning him from the city.
However, it was the same Saraki, same people, at the same ground in the last two years. In July 2021, when both attended eid together for the first time, there was no fight over seat! A year later in June 2022, Governor AbdulRazaq even did it better, leaving his seat, to exchange pleasantries with the former senate president to the full applause of the people. This was in the heat of the electioneering. Or who has forgotten that legendary handshake that is believed to set the tempo for peaceful elections in the state?
We should really not go down this road any longer. But it is really very terrible Saraki is only left with people who have reduced his dignity, values, and power to fighting and winning a seat at eid just some four years out of office.
The disagreement over seats also has no basis as Saraki was not even at the prayer ground. Under present adamadi arrangement as it is being adopted, he could have well taken the front seat with the emir or even the governor like other prominent figures if he came early or at all, and now has the largeness of heart to relate freely with fellow leaders and stakeholders. After all, these are people who have shown to have more forgiving spirit and blood for community supremacy in the last four years.
I personally think he needs to review his carriage and relations with traditional institutions and stakeholders. First, the hiccups in relations in Patigi to Tsaragi, and now Ilorin all in the space of four months. It was perilous and would forever be to think times are the same and he would be treated as a lord who inherited the people and state as a part of his estate. I have a fear someone could not differentiate tolerance from acceptance in the last two decades. While at this introspection, this review should start with discarding old, crooked voices like Wahab Oba from bearing his message. Sometimes, the message is as good as the messenger. Or even, the messenger is as good as the message. It really has to stop how Oba uses Saraki as a shield to pierce the integrity of our leaders without check. Or better still, it really has to stop how Saraki uses Oba to ridicule the heritage and culture of the people just because they are out of office. After all, whenever the road beats him back, this Ilorin emirate is where he calls his home. It should not be ground for unhealthy political strife and showmanship, and assault from fake news. This should be the last of this nonsense by Oba, the Kakaakin rugudu.
Ibraheem Abdullateef is former special assistant to Kwara Governor on Communications.