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Monday, March 4, 2024

Àgbà tí ò kẹhùn sọ̀rọ̀…

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One of the stories my grandfather told me while growing up was that of a King who refused to act when he should.

A hyena was killing the people of his village. Each time someone was killed by the wild animal and it was reported to Kábíyèsí Igbákejì Ọbàrìsà, he would ask if the hyena was caught. The moment the villagers responded that the animal escaped, the Ọba will simply shout Òrán lọ (Calamity is gone)!

Kábíyèsí will enter iyẹ̀wù (inner chamber) and asked for Ẹmu Ògidì (original palm wine) and Ẹran Ìgbẹ́ (bush meat). His youngest Olorì (wife) will be massaging his legs while doing justice to the bush meat and using the palm wine to wash it down.

To the king, it was the duty of the villagers, his own subjects to secure themselves from the rampaging hyena and pray to the gods for protection.

Of course the villagers never stopped praying for solution and somehow, their prayers was answered by the gods one day. That day, the King’s only son was attacked and killed by the hyena, right behind the palace.

It was the wailing sound in the palace that woke Kábíyèsí from his siesta. He came down from his room to see everyone weeping and before he could ask what happened, Olorì Àgbà (eldest wife) broke the news to him.

“Kábíyèsí, Ìkokò ti pa mí l’ọ́mọ o (hyena has killed my son), ogúnná kan soso ti bọ́ s’ómi (my only child is gone).”

Kábíyèsí looked up, he looked down, and shouted Òrán dé (Calamity has come)! Call the Olúọ́dẹ (head of hunters) for me, I want him here before I open these eyes that I closed. In a twinkle of an eye, Olúọ́dẹ had arrived.

The visibly troubled King said; “Olúọ́dẹ, Olúọ́dẹ, Olúọ́dẹ! How many times did I call you?”

Olúọ́dẹ responded, ìgbà mẹ́ta ni Kábíyèsí (three times Kábíyèsí).

“Mobilise all hunters in this village and the neighboring villages that are under us. That evil hyena and any other wild animals around here should be killed and particularly, I want to see the dead hyena latest by tomorrow,” Kábíyèsí told Olúọ́dẹ

By 6am the following day, the hyena was already lying lifeless in front of the Obas Palace. The hyena’s corpse was accompanied by those of other wild animals killed by the hunters.

Face to face with the hyena that killed his only son, the King looked at the hyena, shook his head and lamented loudly, àgbà tí ò kẹhún sọ̀rọ̀, dandan ni kó kẹ’tan sáré (literarily meaning an elder who refused to act when he should, will face the consequences).

An elder in the village who heard the King’s lamentation, moved closer to him and said, “Kábíyèsí, àmíkàn ni t’àgbà, akọ

igi ò gbọdọ̀ s’oje. But you and I know that the death of your son and other villagers who were killed by this evil hyena would have been averted if the proactive step taken yesterday, had been taking the first time the hyena struck. But all that you were saying was Òrán lọ and now, Òrán ti dé.

“Kìnìún pa ọmọ tálákà, ẹ ní ó ún fọ ìlú mọ́, kìnìún ti wá pa ọmọ olówó, ẹ ní ó fẹ́ pa ayé run – Lion was killing poor people’s children, they said it was clearing the town of destitute. Lion has now killed the child of the rich, they are saying it wants to make the town desolate.

Same is what is happening on the unfortunate killing of Najeeba Al-Kadriyar, who was kidnapped alongside her five other sisters and father on January 3, 2024, in the Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.

The kidnappers demanded for a sum of N60 million as ransom for the five girls to be released.

At the forefront of raising this N60 million ransom were former Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami and his counterpart in the Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar-Farouq. They both served under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Both Isa Pantami and Sadiya Umar-Farouq made announcement, seeking donation to pay the N60 million ransom while also offering prayers for the release of the remaining five girls. According to Pantami, a friend of his has offered to pay N50 million ransom to the kidnappers to secure the release of the five remaining sisters who were abducted in Abuja.

Good and humanitarian gesture no doubt. But as good as this may have appeared, it further advertises the level at which kidnapping has been elevated in Nigeria.

It is a dangerous trend, as it will further strengthened that business of kidnapping in the country. Most importantly, it showed the hypocrisy of the leaders of this country.

For eight years, Pantami and Sadiya Umar-Farouq were key figures in the government of Buhari. In particular, Pantami was in charge the National Communication Commission (NCC), a government agency in charge of telecommunications. They heard of the killing of thousands of Nigerians. They knew about the abduction of several citizens of the country. They did nothing!

Even the killings that they knew the perpetrators, they did nothing, they said nothing too.

On May 12, 2022, Deborah Samuel, a Christian and a 200-level student of Home Economics at Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, was murdered by a mob and set ablaze. Her offense? She advised her classmates against posting religious materials on their WhatsApp page.

On July 9, 2016, Eunice Olawale, a female Christian preacher was murdered by suspected religious extremists while evangelizing in Abuja.

In the Middle-Belt States of Benue and Plateau alone, several thousands of Nigerians were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Same in Southern Kaduna.

Malam Nasir el-Rufai, who was the Governor of Kaduna State then said that the government traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities.

On Monday, April 25, 2016, destruction was unleashed upon Ukpabi-Nimbo, in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State. Scores of heavily armed Fulani herdsmen executed a ferocious attack on the community, killing dozens and seriously injuring many others.

A few days after the attack, one Mohammed Zure, a suspected Fulani herdsman who allegedly took part in the attack was arrested in Kogi State. He reportedly revealed how he and his syndicate planned and carried out the attack.

He personally took pictures to show his family members that he was actually successful and participated in the killings and confessed that they were more than 100 and were selected from different states especially from Taraba, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa, Kas­tina, Niger and Kaduna states. Up till today, nothing has been heard about him and others who carried out the killings.

One can go on and on.

While all the killings and kidnappings were going on, the government under which Pantami and Sadiya served did nothing.

The Service Chiefs who failed in their duty to secure Nigeria and its people were even rewarded with extension of their tenure.

For those eight years, the line of response was always the same – Condemn, Commiserate and Assua (assure) you.

Even when the killers of Deborah were known, they were left to live their lives as heroes.

Then, a certain leader in this country had to delete and disown his tweet, condemning the murder of Deborah. The likes of Pantami and Sadiya said nothing then.

Perhaps, if they had acted as they should then, there would not have been any reason to do public fundraising for any Nigerian to be freed from kidnappers.

Najeeba Al-Kadriyar, Folorunsho Ariyo and the two other people killed last week by their abductors as well as others whose lives have been taken by kidnappers would have lived.

Today, hundreds of Nigerians are in kidnappers dens owing because the immediate past government of Buhari allowed kidnapping to become a thriving enterprise.

President Bola Tinubu however, has the rare opportunity to change this stories of woe. He has the opportunity to restore Nigeria to a country where citizens won’t have to be afraid to travel from one place to another. The President has the chance to take Nigeria out of that pitiable state where citizens raise funds to pay ransom to kidnappers.

As of now, the situation still looks scary. Nowhere is safe. As I write, more than 40 travellers who were kidnapped in Benue State last Thursday, are still in captivity. Relatives of the ones abducted in Bwari, FCT, are still running helter skelter, looking for millions of Naira to be paid as ransom to get their loved ones freed.

I only hope President Tinubu will not act like those Àgbà tí ò kẹhùn sọ̀rọ̀, under Buhari, that are now kẹ tan sáré, looking for money to pay ransom.

Only time will tell.

Lere Olayinka lives with the Irunmales of Oke Agbonna in Okemesi Ekiti

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