Egungun is a generic name given to various kinds of Yoruba masquerades, traditionally believed to have connection with ancestor reverence. They are visibly seen in masks of various native costumes whenever they appear amidst crowd. Some 19 years ago, a popular Fuji musician, Abass Akande Obesere, hit the music genre with an album titled “egungun be careful” I could recall, vividly, no sooner had the album hit the air, than the news rented the air that the formerly cross dresser artiste, Obesere, had been held incommunicado. It was however rumoured, though, that the reason for his hostage was simply to “deal” with him by the Ojes, who are the innate practitioners of egungun, thus, an action purportedly taken to caution the Fuji maestro.
Until of recent, when the title of the album resurfaced as a witty colloquialism in the social media circle, many had forgotten the main message passed by Obesere with the figurative title, which is simply a warning, caution or caveat to a person who wants to or has embarked on an action.
Just like every other citizen of this great country, I heard, with a set of ambivalent thoughts, the news of the dethronement of the emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, as the 14th emir of the ancient city of Kano emirate, who up till then, bestrode the city like a colossus, since June 2014. The good, not because I wanted the exit of the emir, rather, it is sincerely because it was a forewarning that came into reality. The negative side, however, is the fact that, it is concatenation of political supremacy mixed with another brazen abuse of political power, propagating a system which until now, irrefutably, was foreign to Africa, but gradually dislodging our indigenous values and surprisingly been placed above our long-practised cultural heritage. Of course, the fact that the emir was dethroned is not a call for the uncommon, it is on record that this has existed, virtually in many ancient communities indigenous to Nigeria.
Reiterating, scores of monarchs had been dethroned in the past, but more often than not, this has been associated with political undertones, rather than the uncouth lies alluded to it. The capacity, circumstance or reason(s) given for Sanusi’s dethronement calls for inflammatory suspicions and wide range of condemnations. The covetousness for political dominance, privation of fair hearing, and then, the hasty appointment of Sanusi’s cousin as the new emir, happening less than 24 hours after the “vendetta”, which personally, I tagged as a conspiracy within, leave room for more questions to ask than answers.
The imbroglio is simply a caricature of abuse of political power, which depicts that, when the piper speaks against the undoing, infractions and corrupt practices of his principal that pays him, he is shamefully shown the way out.
Unfortunately, the powers of monarchs have been reduced to the monopolistic power of the chief executive officers of states. When the news for mallam Sanusi Lamido’s dethronement puffed out like a myrrh-scented cigarette, some fundamental questions quickly arrested my inquisitive thought, on what could be the real reason for the dethronement of the cerebral emir. According to the make-to-believe news, which the public was fed with, it was tacitly and amateurishly expressed that, what necessitated the sanction against the emir was his deliberate persistence in thumbing his nose against the state law and the constituted authority, which was considered as a recipe to breaking down of law and order. That, to the Kano government, was the torrid point where the egungun set on the journey of going to the express without the fear of being hound down by the government’s ruthless motor.
Without any room for a rigmarole, it would be stated, realistically that the dirty show of shame between the power-drunk governor Ganduje and the ever acerbic dethroned emir Sanusi Lamido is purely motivated by political ill-feeling. Nothing can be far from that naked fact. It is on record that the erstwhile emir has always been a vociferating voice for girl-child education, self-afflicting underdevelopment in the northern part of Nigeria, nepotism and undue favouritism to a section of the country at the detriment of the nation at large.
The imbroglio is simply a caricature of abuse of political power, which depicts that, when the piper speaks against the undoing, infractions and corrupt practices of his principal that pays him, he is shamefully shown the way out. No doubt, the whole saga of dethronement of emir Sanusi portrays the political sarcasm of the 80’s of “You Tarka me, I Darbo You”.
What does the removal of an emir has to do with masquerade, locally called egungun, dodo and mmanwu in the 3 major languages in Nigeria? Why the call of caution for it to be careful? The reason for my adoption of this title is a sheer sarcasm and a satire as well, deployed to caution whoever holds the office of a traditional institution to be wary of enthusiastically engaging in criticising the power that be, for risk of vendetta or reappraisal of attacks. For the revolutionist, who thinks the government has failed the nation, beloved, please tell him that his egungun be careful na express he dey go. For that crusader who is on a lone mission to liberating the downtrodden from the shackles of political desperadoes, please, do him good by ringing the bell of warning down to his auditory canals, that his egungun is going to the express, thus, should exercise every caution.
For that self-emboldened hero, who has assumed or wants to play the role of the legendary Don Quizoe de La Manche, who feels the truth is for the betterment of the society, perhaps, even for the generations unborn, you may do him some good, by ringing down to his auditory canal a note of caution that his planned action is asinine as thumbing one’s nose to the python-long truck of the government ready to crush whoever speaks truth to its face.
Any traditional ruler, dabbling into the murky ocean of politics should be signaled that his revered royal regalia is calling the bluff of going close to a raging fire. In addition, to that political office holder, elected or appointed, who sees alignment with political hawks, gathering, whining and dining with the heists, whom are the power that be, should please be wary of the consequences of masquerading against the truth.
One may need to ask, whether this piece tries to advocate against voices that stand to speak the truth for the fear of one’s masquerade being jammed by the ferocious ruling government’s truck? The simple answer is NO! Rather, this is an exposition of the rulers’ innocuous intoxication withy power, inebriation at the expense of the good to the society.
In the pre-colonial times, many Southeast Asian nations were ruled by Sultans. In Indonesia, which is one of the world’s largest democracies with a long history of kings, Sultans were seen as a demi-gods, vicegerents, traditional office holders standing as the bastion of institution against any anti-people’s policies. In fact, in Indonesia, Sultans hold dual positions of being a monarch and unelected provincial governor.
In some years back, there was the struggle of power subjugation between the elected president and the Sultan of Yagyakarta, hamengkubowono X. there, it is believed by the substantial majority of the Indonesians that the Sultanate existed before the Republic of Indonesia was created so they staunchly believe that their president knows nothing. Unlike Nigeria, where the meddling of monarchs into the affairs of their subjects is perceived as an act of busy-body, and could be best cautioned by reverberating the melody of egungun be careful na express you dey go, In many part of South East Asia, the Sultan, an equivalent of an emir were treated with utmost dignity and seen as bastion of the protection of their culture and heritage, permissible in all ramifications to speak up against any institution, without any ill-feelings of whose ox is gored. What is obtained in this jurisdiction is that, unlike other countries, whose presidents or kings sit with their backs to the wall, for security or oppression of their citizens, the Sultans in this clime are expected and have been seen to sit in the middle of the wall-less hall. The philosophy behind this is that all winds can touch his body. The wind here symbolizes the voice of the people.
In Indonesia for example, Sultan Hamengkubowono IX staked his money and legitimacy on the fledging republic of Indonesia in its war against its former Dutch colonial masters. Just like the unspoken hatred to any outspoken or Emir, Oba, Igwe in Nigeria, it is on record that Sultan X of the Republic of Indonesia has made two abortive electoral bids for Indonesia’s presidency. This basically was the reason behind the tussle between Sultan Hamengkubowono X and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia.
The dethronement of Muhamadu Sanusi really portrays a step further in the climax of the indulgence in political abuse and mockery of our undeveloped, bastardized and derailed democratic peregrination. Every conscious political enthusiast in Nigeria should by now, know the real motive behind the division of the ancient Kano emirate into 4 emirates. The reason is not far-fetched, and contrary to what has always been adhered to as the reason for such division, which they claim is development, I can convincingly say that, it is basically for the greed of creating and sustaining political hegemony.
Our democratic system is besmirched to an abysmal level of incorrigible degradation, unpopular vendetta, and sheer distaste for truth. To this extent, the traditional system has been so suffocated, that the continued existence, efficiency and functionality of every institution solely depends on or at the pleasure of a man, whose seat is temporary and his power is as fugitive as marks scribbled on sand. Antonio Colaco, a Supreme Court justice of Portugal once expressed that the meaning behind a governmental procedure does not depend on how we classify or title a country as far as its form of government is concerned, rather, what matters is how they behave and their attitude towards the business of governance. This means that, where the government of a country came into power through a democratic means but decides to govern with autocratic disposition, a government that harbors constructive antagonism, then such is qualified to be termed a despotic ruler. A government that embraces distaste for dissenting voices to unpopular policies keeps its reign on the precipice of quarter to doom hour thus on a voyage to an apocalypse.
The mêlée between the political and traditional institutions in Kano state, and of course Nigeria, is pure confrontation between the light and forces of darkness, positive idea and unpopular ideology, prudence and Ratfucking, progressives and antediluvian idealists.
This brings one to the reality of life where one oscillates between the sharp horns dilemmas. In all, should our nose be shot away and mouth sealed against any derailing constituted authority who persists in breaching the social contracts between it and its subjects? I quip, should our egungun be careful for the fear of being dethroned, exiled, maimed, incarcerated, maligned, falsely charged, ostracized… by the power that be , even at the face of a crystal clear evidence of our failing society? I doubt that we should. Rather, it is the temporary office holders who are elected for limited period of time, but are strikingly intoxicated with power, and also masquerading as progressives that should clutch themselves metaphorically as egungun, occupying the radius of an expressway, dancing dangerously before a heavily loaded truck, speeding towards from just less than a meter away.
BALOGUN, A LEGAL PRACTITIONER AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST WRITES IN FROM LAGOS VIA: email@example.com