When the news broke that a royal father from one of the communities in Lagos State, the Baale of Shangisha, a district in Magodo, Chief Yusuf Ogundare, had been kidnapped, many thought that the kidnappers, already on rampage, had gone haywire. Others saw it as another proof of failure on the part of the Police to effectively protect Nigerians. If the custodians of the people’s culture and tradition are now targets of those criminals, then the crisis is beginning to defy resolution.
Six days after the purported kidnap along the road leading to the Centre for Management Development, CMD, in Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area of the state, it became clear that it was all a scam, that Ogundare was out to cause mischief and he almost succeeded. When he was apprehended by the police, he confessed that it was part of an effort to implicate the Oba of Magodo and, in the process, blackmail the State Government. While he was allegedly kidnapped in Lagos, investigation had revealed that he was driving around in Ibadan, went to Ilorin and Iwo on a frolic.
The first reaction of the government of Lagos State as the saga progressed was to suspend him pending the outcome of further investigations into what actually happened. When convincing evidence emerged that, indeed, the Baale was implicated in the faked kidnap incident, the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, relying on extant laws, did not just depose the local chief but also barred him, henceforth, from discharging any duties attached to chieftaincy matters. This kidnap episode calls to question the character of those who find their ways into the exalted positions of the traditional institution. Not too long ago, it was reported that a traditional ruler raped a youth corps member posted to his domain. There are also incidences of traditional rulers colluding with shady characters to commit crimes, indulge in land grabbing and wife snatching. Some of these lower cadre chiefs are into all kinds of indecencies that put the institution to disrepute. Most of the touts at motor parks, markets and other neighbourhoods are so daring because these local chiefs give them the kind of cover that make them carry on as if they are above the law. In return, the incorrect characters pay them homage.
Until now, most of them have been getting away with these illegalities because the communities themselves that claim to have tied their lives to the institution hardly want to accept that their ruler is human after all and is fallible either out of fear, dread or cowardice. Those who summon the courage to challenge the oddities from the throne, as it were, are seen as rascals and non-conformists and they do so at the risk of their own very lives.
What all these point to is the fact that it is about time the authorities take more care in choosing who to allow close access to such exalted positions that have direct relevance to the people. The importance of such official discretion becomes even more demanding when it is realised that the people, at that level, are given to having near absolute faith and respect that border on reverence not just for the institution but also for the occupant at any given time. What happened in Shangisha is a desecration of the values of the people, a distortion of their worldview and a shock on their conscience and innermost being that is capable of shaking their confidence in the traditional lore and history that bind them together as a community and people.
We are with the Governor in his decision to relief the Baale of his traditional duties. We are also in support of plans by the Police to make him face the rigours of the law and if found culpable be made to kiss the rod. But we think that punishing the Baale, while advisable, must not be the end of the matter. The government should set machineries in motion to find out how such a character became a Baale in the first place. Royalty to which the stool of the Baale is part of is revered and even sacred. Among the Yoruba, there is a saying that there is nothing like a small Oba as they all have their roles to play in the lives of the people. To that extent, therefore, we suggest that the authorities concerned take appropriate measures to save the people this kind of embarrassment in the future.
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