The recent passing of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, His Royal Majesty Ado Ibrahim, is not only a solemn moment but also a pivotal one in the context of Kogi State’s political landscape.
This revered traditional ruler, known for his role as a guardian of culture and impartiality, leaves behind a legacy of influence and respect.
Yet, his passing is accompanied by the echoes of a frosty relationship with Governor Yahaya Bello. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of this rift, its historical underpinnings, and the implications it holds for the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State.
Ohinoyi’s life, his clashes with political power, and how these factors may influence the dynamics of the forthcoming electoral contest.
Across the nation, traditional rulers are universally acknowledged as the custodians of our culture and, by extension, are expected to be impartial fatherly figures within their respective domains.
Many of these traditional rulers hold such high esteem within their spheres of influence that they are also recognised for their spiritual authority. Rooted in age-old traditions and culture, their authority commands the unwavering respect of all their subjects.
In an ideal scenario, traditional rulers reciprocate this reverence by refraining from taking sides in contentious matters, including politics and legal disputes. This neutrality has earned them the reputation of being pillars of stability, not only in their individual communities but also within their states, and in some instances, throughout the country.
Until his demise, the paramount ruler affirmed his commitment to this cherished tradition of impartiality by extending a warm welcome to all governorship candidates in the forthcoming November 11, 2023 election.
Murtala Ajaka, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), had the honor of visiting the Azad Palace in Okene, where the Ohinoyi, the paramount ruler of the Ebira people, graciously received him and his campaign team. The Ohinoyi, in offering his blessings to Ajaka, reiterated that his palace is open to all the candidates.
In doing so, he encouraged Ajaka to pursue his political ambitions within the bounds of the law and with a fearless spirit, highlighting the essential role of traditional rulers in maintaining impartiality and stability in the political landscape.
“I am a father, and by age, I will be 95 very soon. What else am I looking for? What’s there to disturb my life, fear or what? Fear itself is afraid if you don’t fear. Hard work and courage make a man stronger. Do what you think is right, not what you have been pushed to do. I’m here for everybody, this is your home anytime you come here,” he said.
Early life and education
Born on February 7, 1929, Ibrahim assumed the role of the fourth traditional ruler and the late Ohinoyi of Ebiraland. Ebiraland is a traditional state centered in Okene, Kogi State, located in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. He was the son of the second Attah (now “Ohinoyi”) of Ebiraland, Ibrahim Onoruoiza, whose reign spanned from 1917 to 1954.
His educational journey was a blend of Western and Quranic teachings. He embarked on his primary education in 1940 at the Native Authority (NA) primary school in Okene, which was situated in the Northern Region, now part of Kogi State.
Subsequently, he continued his education at Ondo Boys High School before earning his graduation from Oduduwa College in 1949. In 1954, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the prestigious London School of Economics, followed by a master’s degree from Harvard Business School in 1959.
Reign as Ohinoyi
Following the passing of Ohinoyi Sanni Omolori of the Oziada clan in 1997, Ibrahim, who was based in Lagos and was the son of the second paramount ruler of Ebiraland, ascended the Okene throne. His accession marked him as the second Ohinoyi or the fourth independent traditional ruler of Ebiraland. This significant period commenced on June 2, 1997. Notably, his reign was punctuated by the construction of the Azad Palace, recognized as one of the most remarkable palaces in West Africa.
The late Ohinoyi’s influence extended into the realm of Nigerian politics. Notably, one of his children, Malik Ado-Ibrahim, took center stage as the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) as of January 7, 2023. This marked a notable extension of his family’s impact on Nigerian politics.
Rift with Governor Bello
It’s noteworthy that Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, despite being invited, did not attend the burial of the late Ibrahim. The late Ado Ibrahim had ascended to the role of Ohinoyi of Ebiraland in 1997, a position to which he was coronated by the late Abubakar Audu, the then-Governor of Kogi State.
This absence of the governor at the burial ceremony, which took place on a Sunday, in accordance with Islamic customs, raised significant concerns.
What exacerbated the matter was the absence of any government representatives at the event, the community delayed the burial proceedings as they waited the arrival of the Governor or his delegates.
The Governor’s non-attendance at the burial stirred speculations among residents, with some attributing his absence to a strained relationship with the late traditional ruler. Many community members expressed their disappointment over Governor Bello’s absence, especially considering the revered king had passed away the previous day.
A source who pleaded anonymity said: “No government personnel even attended the burial and the community had to delay the burial till around 8 p.m., hoping that the governor would attend or send representatives.”
The trouble between Governor Bello and the late Ado Ibrahim started when the Ohinoyi did not show up when the former Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari visited Kogi in 2022 to inaugurate some projects, one of which was said to be in the Ohinoyi’s domain.
The government subsequently issued a query to the paramount traditional ruler, asking him to explain why he failed to attend the welcoming ceremony organised for Buhari.
Read also; President Tinubu mourns Ohinoyi of Ebiraland
Historical undercurrents unveiled
Delving into the annals of history, it’s evident that Governor Bello’s family has a unique connection with the family of Alhaja Atta, who was the wife of the current Ohinoyi’s father. This familial link forged a close bond between Yahaya’s father and Ado Ibrahim, uniting them as confidants. However, at one juncture, their relationship soured due to certain unresolved issues.
Many within Okene speculated that it was these deep-seated sentiments that led Bello to obstruct the road leading to the home of the Ohinoyi’s father from the Total junction.
This blockade forced travelers to take an alternative route through Osinsin, Ogamnana, and rejoin the Lokoja Road. Eventually, the Ohinoyi himself intervened and cleared the blockade, reinstating the normal route.
Nonetheless, an additional, credible source offered an alternative perspective. According to this account, the primary reason for the Ohinoyi’s absence during President Buhari’s visit was an explosion that occurred barely 40 minutes before the President’s scheduled arrival. Security advisors to the Ohinoyi, considering his age of 94, advised against his presence in light of the potentially unsafe conditions.
The death of a traditional ruler can potentially impact an election in several ways:
Effect of Ohinoyi’s passing on the governorship election in Kogi State
The passing of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, the conflict involving Governor Yahaya Bello, and their potential influence on the upcoming governorship election in Kogi can be viewed through various lenses:
Ohinoyi’s Influence on Local Politics: The Ohinoyi of Ebiraland traditionally wields significant influence at the grassroots level. His endorsement or lack thereof for a candidate could sway local sentiment and impact voter choices in the upcoming election.
Also, the demise of a traditional ruler like the Ohinoyi may disrupt the stability and social order within Ebiraland. Such disruptions could raise concerns about security, potentially influencing voter turnout and the willingness of candidates to campaign in the area.
The process of selecting a new Ohinoyi could also lead to power struggles and disputes within the community. These disputes might spill over into the political arena, creating divisions among candidates or voters.
In addition, the Ohinoyi’s death could prompt candidates to seek new alliances and endorsements from the successor or rival traditional leaders, potentially reshaping the political landscape in Kogi.
In regions where cultural and traditional practices hold great significance, the death of a respected traditional ruler may lead to a period of mourning that affects the timing and dynamics of political activities.
Obviously, traditional rulers like the Ohinoyi often symbolize the cultural and historical identity of their community. His passing may lead to a shift in local sentiment, with voters gravitating toward candidates who align with the values and traditions upheld by the previous ruler.
Political candidates may find it necessary to adjust their campaign strategies and messaging to accommodate the changed local dynamics following the Ohinoyi’s passing.
It’s crucial to emphasize that the impact of the Ohinoyi’s death on the election in Kogi can vary significantly, depending on the specific circumstances, local customs, traditions, and the level of respect for traditional authority within Ebiraland. These factors collectively determine the extent of the influence on the governorship election.