It has been 18 years on the throne of your forefathers. We know you have a good reason to celebrate, how do you feel today?
I give all thanks to Almighty Allah, the most merciful and gracious, for giving me life. I also thank Him for giving me the grace to ascend to the throne of our forefathers in the last 18 years. Precisely, on the 11 September, 2003. Before then, I served the Nigerian Army for 30 years. And I thank God for carrying out the duties related to the royalty well. I also thank our people for their love and for accepting us wholeheartedly. In all, our people have been working in love, peace, and harmony with a deliberate effort geared towards improving the living standard of the whole kingdom. So, we have a good and cordial relationship with the people.
While growing up, did you at any point imagine yourself assuming this exalted throne?
People of royal blood or status cannot shy away or run from royalty. Royalty is inherent. The aspiration of all in the royal family is to become a king. However, while preparing for the task ahead as an heir to the throne, Allah has his plans and has already divinely ordained who will become a king at the appointed time. Hence, if you are born into the royal family, you can only wish that one day you will become a king as a time will come when the seat will be vacant. Also, a time will come for the selection of a new king, and a new king among the people of royal blood will emerge. It is not a thing you plan for, as becoming a king is divinely planned by Almighty Allah.
From your ascension to the throne of your forebears to date, Nupe Land, and by extension, the state, has been witnessing remarkable improvements. Your Highness may wish to share with us some of the innovations you have brought to bear since ascending the throne?
We always strive to promote developmental initiatives. We consider the security, growth as well as well-being of the people first. We follow the footsteps of our forefathers, and we tend to improve on them to improve the social-economic status of the kingdom. For instance, we are blessed with good agricultural soil, and our people engage in subsistence and mechanized farming to earn a living. The women also engage in crafts, and we are encouraging them to boost their morale. These efforts, in turn, lead to development in the kingdom. We always encourage our people to be engaged and not idle.
We have also created a forum that unites us. Via this effort, a day has been set aside yearly to garner and gather all Nupe speaking tribes together, not just to sit and eat but to reappraise who we are, where we are and where we intend to be in terms of development. We feel it is necessary to do this. Precisely on the 26th of June every year is Nupe Day. The day also creates more awareness of the tribe called Nupe globally.
Insecurity is currently a serious challenge in the country amid rising cases of banditry and kidnapping, although less in your kingdom, how best do you think Nigeria can overcome these challenges?
Insecurity is everywhere even though the Nupe kingdom seems insulated and insecurity is not on a large scale here. However, we still experience security threats such as burglary and stealing most especially motorcycles, sadly, some riders are also killed in the process of stealing their motorcycles. To avert insecurity and the breakdown of all and order, we do alert our people that security is everybody’s business. We do tell our people to be security conscious, and for instance to always properly shut their door before sleeping, and making sure they guard themself properly. We also remind them of the traditional ways of securing their domain. In those days, when traditional institutions were working perfectly, nobody would enter into a community without the king knowing. The king is always briefed, via his ward head or district head, so information flows better during that period. When we see strangers in those days, we know them. But now, a visitor will come into the community, and nobody cares. The visitors will do whatever they want and go either positive or negative no one cares. So, we do encourage our people that when they see something strange, they should speak up. Also, we believe in prayers. We always encourage our people to pray and don’t joke with the five pillars of Islam. You must pray to Almighty Allah for His protection, guidance, and security of the whole community. So, at the moment, our intelligence gathering is very keen to make us respond to threats.
There has been a deterioration in the level of insecurity in the country with rampant cases of kidnapping for ransom by youths. In your opinion, how did we get to this pitiable state, and what is the solution to this rising insecurity in the north?
Northern Nigeria is where it is today because of imitation, increase in population, ignorance, poverty, and lack of direction. These factors are the cause and to be blamed for these menaces. If the political leaders are not sensitive to these issues and proffer solutions to tackle them, challenges might not be over as desired. If you travel around Nigeria, you will understand what I am saying. Sometimes, I go around the street, and I see people doing nothing. It is quite alarming. Graduates are churning out high institutions daily, while some people are totally out of school. Those who have jobs are underemployed and eat from hand to mouth. There must be proper planning and programmes to halt all these deficits and checkmate them. The nation’s population and poverty are on the rise. All these challenges must be addressed.
As the chairman of Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, the debate about whether or not to allow the traditional rulers some constitutionally guaranteed functions has been raging for long. Do you think there is a need to give the traditional rulers a clearly defined function in the constitution?
To avert insecurity and ensure peacebuilding, we have been advocating for a constitutional role for traditional rulers. Giving a constitutional role to traditional rulers will allow them to contribute their quota to national development. In the past when traditional rulers had such constitutional empowerment, the polity was peaceful, progressive, decent, and full of beautiful tradition and culture. We achieve this again by giving traditional rulers constitutionally guaranteed functions.
We must think in this direction, constitutional roles for traditional rulers must be inculcated into the system, and this is because the role of traditional rulers in securing the lives and properties of the people cannot be overemphasised. Traditional rulers are closer to the people. We need to adopt that system to achieve desired growth and progress. In other parts of the world, they do not abolish these practices. The US has its traditional security system, same with other countries. To date, they have a County Security Outfit in the US where a small group of people organise themselves to secure the people. If such a system is adopted in Nigeria, security will improve. Protection of lives and property would start from the family, community, society, state, and the nation as a whole. If this practice is properly harnessed and they work cordially with the security agencies, insecurity will be a thing of the past. We are not talking about establishing a force, we are also not trying to take the duty of the politicians but we will be part of the system, a process where our institutions are recognised, giving us a basic role to play legally and constitutionally. So, at the moment we are still sensitizing our people and ensuring they live in peace and harmony.
Is state policing the way forward, will it address security challenges in Nigeria?
We have shortcomings in policing Nigeria. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) lacks the needed training, manpower, and equipment to operate efficiently. At the moment, I can say our police lack the manpower to operate as their numbers fall below the international recommendation of policing. Their equipment is not of international standard too, their training is also poor in response to crime while their responsibilities are enormous. To address the issue of the deficit of manpower in the police, they will need to revert to the community and recruit more men to solve the challenges in terms of training, there is a need to train them in line with globally acceptable standards. It is obvious that most police officers are not properly trained, most of them are also handicapped in terms of the local language of the community they are posted to as they cannot speak the local dialect of the people. To avert this menace, people from the community who can easily understand the people should be employed with proper posting. In terms of equipment, our local equipment can be used to complement other sophisticated ones. The truth is the activities of criminals in the country can’t be solved by the present police force in the country. Community policing will complement the Nigeria Police Force via a deliberate streamlined network where no gap is left, and they work harmoniously.
It is over a decade since Nigeria’s government began a crackdown on Boko Haram, there is also a growing scourge of banditry and kidnapping, what are your counsels to the federal government on insecurity?
The fact is our challenges are enormous while our challenges are limited. There is a need for the government at all levels to introduce a new measure to solve the 21st-century crisis bedeviling the nation. The military is under staff. So, more personnel should be recruited into the military. They should also procure more equipment. And when talking about the equipment it should be sophisticated equipment that can complement the shortage of manpower. For instance, if you have equipment that can cover an area of maybe 100 by 100 or 200 by 200 kilometres all you need is a platoon, not a battalion. Sophisticated fighting power and equipment will drastically reduce the shortage of manpower.
Also, when you cannot deploy a brigade you deploy a battalion that will work perfectly to checkmate criminal activities. The government must address the issue of manpower and equipment and training and other logistics deficits viz a viz current day trend. Criminals are no longer using bows and arrows they are using sophisticated weapons so they will want to increase their mobility to achieve their nefarious aims so as a government you must also address such challenges to be a step further ahead of criminal elements both on ground and air. If you are to follow it, the men are fatigued, the same men you are using to fight bandits are the ones you are using to fight Boko Haram. The fact is equipment can work efficiently without much personnel.
Nigeria is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa, amid calls for the division of the country, what is your stance on restructuring?
The issues of restructuring and breaking up the country should not be brought to the fore at the moment, what we should do is to bring up suggestions, solutions, and also conduct a referendum. We should discuss to streamline what we are practicing now to advance. Countries or empires do not develop by balkanization or in one night, they develop by coming together and pursuing a developmental course. If you secede, you are going over 61 years backward as a nation or over 100 years when Nigeria came into existence before independence.
So, bring ideas that can advance us. America as a country evolved from past mistakes, and they are now where they are. The more you grow the wider your potential. You need to use your knowledge to proceed with positive solutions, but the moment you secede, I assure you that you are starting from the lowest part of the pyramid.
Many illustrious some and daughters of Nupe kingdom have been conferred titles, why do you deem it fit to confer these titles to them?
It is a two-edged sword. If we see anyone doing outstandingly well in a profession and performing credibly, give them the encouragement needed to do more. Encouraging illustrious sons and daughters of Nupe extraction will allow them to do more and allow others to emulate them. On one edge of the sword, we are promoting and encouraging them to do more and on the other end, we are getting the people behind to learn and emulate. In turn, it would help promote an egalitarian society.