The Dein of Agbor, HRM Ikenchukwu Keagborekuzi 1, says the dollarization of politics in Nigeria is destroying the nation and the economy is suffering from it. In Arise Television ‘Headlines Today’, monitored by DAVID LAWANI, the Agbor monarch also talked about the roles for traditional institutions, among others.
What is wrong with the nation and why are we seen as a failed nation?
We cannot allow this nation to fail. How did a nation that has produced so many giants across the world in every field? How do we fail? How do we go abroad and are successful then come back to Nigeria and we fail? There comes a time we need to tell ourselves the truth. And that simple truth is, whoever is not politically ready should make sacrifices. Because leading is about making sacrifices. Whoever is not politically ready to make a sacrifice should not be standing up to say he wants to lead the people. The present PDP crisis and the present crisis in APC are things I can confide in my friends that I know. For example someone like Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Atiku Abubakar. These are two people that I know have a listening ear that I know. I have worked with Okowa for more than 20 years now. And I know he has a listening ear. I cannot talk to those I do not know. But those that I do know I ask privately. Let us change the formula. The formula we have for Nigeria right now is not working. We cannot continue like this. It is not sustainable.
One of the issues raised by election observers is vote buying. As we saw in Osun and Ekiti state elections. What role do you think traditional rulers can play to stem this tide?
My thoughts on this issue are that I met the Oba of Benin and the former Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade. These are traditional rulers whom I grow up with and around. I came back to Nigeria as a young monarch. I was brought up by Emir Bayero, Sijuwade like the Ooni of Ife. And Oba Erediawa, Oba of Benin. And I know if these men were alive now, I will be very sure that they will show examples like Oba Bayero. They would have had so much to say to our leaders privately and I know the people have had a great deal of respect for these monarchs. I am not taking anything from my brothers who are currently there. The current Ooni of Ife and Oba of Benin, because I understand they are very new to the system, and it is going to take some time before they can integrate and the nation needs to give them that tie. Buying of votes, how do you explain it to the electorate? How do you explain to a voter who has never seen dollars before? The dollarization of our politics is destroying the nation. It is destroying the economy. If we want others to respect our currency, if we want others to respect our naira, we have to respect ourselves a whole lot. We have to appreciate it. What have dollars got to do with our current political situation? I wish these monies being spent were in naira. We must put values into our naira. Any country’s currency is a reflection of the value of that nation. Our value is going down every day. Yet, I know that Nigerians are worth more than what we are seeing right now. To put the onus on the traditional rulers might not be fair. Traditional rulers cannot speak out publicly when it concerns party issues. I know a number of my members have done as much as they can privately to speak to some of these politicians. And we will continue to do so. And I thank God there has not been a total breakdown between the traditional rulers and the political class. There is still a very good bond between them. But I will like to encourage my brothers that even if it is in private you need to be honest with the politicians. But unfortunately, I see, again and again, the so-called big men when you are in traditional leadership, sometimes, you can be so busy with what you see in front of you and around you such that it can become murky and with blood. These are not supermen. They live, get hired ad get paid. Please all of you who are surrounding our big men, our top politicians be truthful to them. Tell them the honest to God truth. We are in a critical situation in the country right now. And, if we o not get things right, I fear for the country. We must be able to shun some of these things we have done in the past. And I think we do know what fact. That we are not moving forward. We move sideways, in circles and we have yet to move forward. And, I find it very disheartening that in a country that I believed that has produced top intellectuals not just in Africa but internationally. We need to change the way we are doing things.
What do you feel about the role of traditional rulers, don’t you think there is a need to modernize their roles o that they can begin to engage more effectively?
If you do not modernize, you die. It is as simple as that. The presidency is a modernization of the monarchy. The presidential system, Prime Minister, and the government system like we are having now, all modernize from monarchy till date. This is where we are. Every day, we modernise. You cannot stay stagnant. I will continue to say. Man is not meant to serve traditions. Traditions are meant to serve man. If you have an outdated tradition, for example, the way we treat women is very courageous. It is very disrespectful. How do you take women who give birth to you to remain and we continue to deny them simple rights/? For any nation that doesn’t respect women, we cannot move forward. If you do not respect the very vessels that bring you to this world, the vessel which the Almighty God, Allah in his wisdom chose to bring our Prophet and our successful men through, how do you move forward? So, many things need to be modernised. Our youth, like you, mentioned the Olu of Warri, a brother that I am very proud of. I will support him anywhere. I support him throughout the situation that came about in Warri. I was not happy about it at the time. Because I know that the Olu of Warri’s father personally told me that he wants his son to take over the throne. And I thank God that as he wants it to be it has come to be that way now. If we look at him, he is doing an amazing job. I think the young generation of traditional rulers will still come to do that amazing job. One of the critical things I am quite concerned about is the gulf between the youth and the elders. We cannot allow this gulf to continue. The elders need the youth and your need the wisdom of the elders. I don’t know where I will be working today if I do not have these old men. I wish the father of the Olu of Warri was alive. I met him since. We need our elders. We cannot separate them from each other. The thing is that I keep telling people that any youth that disrespect an elder one day will become an elder. When you are an elder, would you want to be disrespected? At the same time, I say to my elders to take it easy. The youths don’t want you to go. But there comes a time in your life that you must be willing to give way to the youth. Elders don’t go to war but they plan the wars. They orchestrate the wars. They are not the one that fights on the battlefield. They are not the ones that lose their lives. We need to respect our youths. We don’t need to spoil them with money and weapons. We need to get away from the current situation that we are in. We must get it right and ready in Nigeria right now.
How about traditional rulers dictating to their subjects how to vote during elections, how do we reverse this so that they can maintain the sanctity of their roles?
First and foremost, I think every people and kingdom should be very careful of their roles as traditional rulers and monarchs. We do not need a situation where our traditional rulers are placing themselves in harm’s way. They will be dabbling directly into politics, and they can be very open to several things that can happen. So, whether we like it or not we saw what happened in Kano. It was a miserable situation. We thank God that it has been resolved. And the kingdom and the state have been able to move forward. But where you have a situation where traditional rulers are directing their subjects where to vote, what happened should they lose that post? I know one of the candidates at one point told me that a traditional ruler refused to see him. And, I know how that candidate felt. And, I know what he says to me. And if the candidate had won. It would have been a different thing. Why would you want to play such a role in such a situation? I wish to see any political party I wish. And, I will pray for them accordingly. And if I think you are not leading in the right direction, will sit down with you especially in private. And I will give you my opinion. I can only give you my opinion. You are a man or a woman, and you will decide for yourself what you do with my opinion. But I will give you my opinion. And I will always base my opinion on not what is privately best for me but on what is best for the nation. We all need to think about what is best for the nation all the time. Understand that the goose that lay the golden eggs is what is important. Not the golden eggs. If we refused to take care of the goose that lay the golden eggs, that goose will continue to get skinned. It will continue to get smaller. And, some people will say at a time we should eat the goose that lay the golden eggs. And by the time we finish the goose that lay the golden eggs, we are doomed. We need to be smart, and we need to move forward. This is why I and the Olu of Warri, Emir of Kano, are visiting the North and other parts of the country. We are doing this as part of our roles as traditional rulers to make sure that when our people see us together, then maybe we can pull down some of these rivalries.
Many people do not understand why Kings don’t have harems. Kingdoms don’t have harems because their libidos will be high. That is the wrong reason. We have more than one wife because we marry from different areas. For instance, if we are in wartime now, if myself and the Emir of Kano, were warring and our kingdoms are at war, if I marry the daughter, can our kingdoms go to war any longer? No, they cannot. Are we united or not? This is what happens in Europe. Europe was at a one-time brawl, but by the time they started to inter-marry and started having these relationships, they find that they will get along together than being at war. Once again, we are in a very sensitive position right now. I am thinking and begging our politicians. Let us get this right. I don’t know a dumb politician in the county. All the politicians I have seen are exceptionally bright. They know what is good for them. If you can know what is good for you, then you should be able to know what is good for your brother. Let us start being your brother’s keeper. Enough of this nonsense. We are an amazing nation. Let us use our diversity to our benefit. Let us not make it like something that should destroy us.
Are you impressed with the collaboration with security agencies and traditional rulers; do you see the level of communication with INEC and security as what you expect for the 2023 general elections?
It is not a matter of what I will like to see play out. It should be what we all want to see play out. I am tired of us doing what we want to do in Nigeria. Then the same people that do not want to follow the traffic rules, follow the rules and regulations of Nigeria, will go to America and as soon as they get off the plane, he will not shout any more. We will not abuse each other anymore. There is no single Nigerian that can go to America and insult a police officer. You do that and you will spend the night in jail. But, we come back to Nigeria and see sirens blaring and we stay in the way of the police. It could have stopped injustice. When are we going to start respecting ourselves? We cannot go to England and America and suddenly we come private citizens. But the same country we call our own, we get back here on the plane and as soon as we get to the airport, we will be insulting each other and berating each other. And, I believed one of the things traditional rules can do is foster that communication among ourselves. Like what we saw the Emir of Kano does, he came here during the burial of Nduka Obaigbena’s mother. He didn’t go to the burial because traditionally, Muslims will not do so. But he flew in to give that support to Nduka Obaigbena and flew back out. And he flew back in again for the program that he had with the Olu of Warri. If that is not dedication to southern Nigeria, I wonder what else that is. I want peace and that is why I and the Olu of Warri, didn’t have the necessary time. We had to fly to Kano for the wedding, stayed a few hours and we came back. Why show solidarity? So, the Northerners saw two powerful first-class traditional rulers, young monarchs from southern Nigeria attending their occasion as our brothers. I am learning how to pray as a Muslim. Because I must respect my Muslim brothers. They are all watching me.
What we need is peace. If you are a true Christian, go and read the Koran. If you are a real Muslim, well, almost all Muslims do know the Christian bible. You must be tolerant. The Koran teaches that both the Jews and the Christians will all go to Jena. All go to heaven. So, those who are promoting this very sadistic form of religion didn’t come from this side. We have seen Christian anarchy as it was in the past. So, anybody who is teaching violence from Islam that is not Islam. It is a religion of peace. Do not get it wrong. A peaceful man is not going to be peaceful all the time. If you pull the tail of the tiger, expect to get bitten by it. But right now, I think there are too many tigers in the forest. We need more love and peace right now. The bloodshed in the country and insecurity has driven away all our international funding. Nobody is going to come and do business here. If we cannot do business with ourselves. This country should look like Dubai. Why doesn’t this country look like Dubai? Gradually and slowly, I can see that the Olu of Warri will soon make Warri look like Dubai. Going to Kano, I saw the development and I was amazed. Let us put our heads together. Enough of this shouting. Don’t shout at me because if you do you are to communicate with me. For as long as you are shouting we cannot hear each other’s view. And, if we do not listen and appreciate each other’s view, you don’t need to agree with my view, but you should appreciate my view. Without this, our nation is doomed. And I don’t want to believe that this country, this powerful country, this amazing country, can ever see doom. By God’s grace, it will not be our portion.