Jonathan: the Emir, Alaafin, and now the Omo N'oba
By Johnson Momodu
He is supposed to be a seasoned diplomat, but when he called the other day to see the president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, he left no one in doubt as to why he was in Abuja. A few thought he should have been diplomatic, but he was just a son, a special messenger, delivering a missive from his father, and like a Benin man with clear instructions from his Oba and his father, he had a brief.
And he carried out the brief to the letter, even giving journalists, who thronged him, an insight into the brief. Was that also part of the brief, talking to journalists? If so, what was the strategic importance of going public after a closed-door meeting? Only time will tell.
The monarch's first son and heir-apparent, Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa, accompanied on the visit by the Chairman, Ocean Marine Tankers Limited, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, declared to the journalists: “I am here on a special mission and having been an ambassador to many countries, I can say I am a special envoy who is carrying a special message on behalf of my father who sent me here to convey this message to Mr. President that we have been following the things that have been happening in the country.
“My father is praying for Mr. President in the Benin Kingdom. He is praying fervently for him to be able to withstand the pressure. He sent me to let Mr. President know that the spirits of the ancestors of the kingdom are with him and they will see him through. He also prayed that the opportunity will come for him to continue the good work he is doing in Benin and other parts of South-South for at least another term. That is the commitment we have in this kind of special prayer coming from the Oba of Benin. He sent me as his eldest son, so you can imagine the importance that my father attaches to such a message.”
Apparently explaining why he came in his father's stead, he disclosed that the monarch no longer travels due to old age, adding that his father also requested that Jonathan finds time to visit him in Benin so that he could offer him fatherly advice that would help in nation-building as well as bless him.
If many think royal fathers, like religious leaders, should not do the dance of politics in the market place, the revered Oba does not think so. At least, that is what his son's open moves have shown to all and sundry with the prayer about the opportunity of another term for the president to continue his good work. Perhaps, the Oba has seen what many other mortals unlike him have not seen, but all that remains to be proved in 10 months' time. My Benin friends think that the Oba, like the Pope, is never wrong, but there are others, from the same kingdom, who disagree. They will, however, not seek to be identified.
Political watchers have suggested that this may be the first open endorsement of the President's second term bid, which deservedly many have said he should grab with both hands and run with. Many recall that such an endorsement for Adams Oshiomhole gave him the upper hand against other competitors in the 2012 governorship election in Edo State; and, is the reason why the diminutive governor is coasting to the end of his second term in office.
It is ironic that while the most prominent traditional ruler from the All Progressives Congress (APC) enclave has endorsed Jonathan, the opposition party is enmeshed in a congress politics that is putting the divisions in the party in the open for all to see and know that it is a party to dine with using the proverbial long spoon.
Mid February, the President was in the North to visit the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, while on the same day flying down south to meet with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubusi; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; and Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Lukman Akiolu, in what many believed was the first tentative steps ahead of his re-election bid.
In Kano, the emir harped on the non-negotiability of the unity of Nigeria and assured Jonathan that his administration would continue to receive support from him and the emirate. His emirate, he added, would work with counterpart traditional institutions for the peace and unity of the country.
He commended the Jonathan's administration for its efforts at maintaining peace in the face of insurgency. Read him: “Nigeria has come of age, and as a nation state it has survived multi-faceted upheavals that as it is today, it would be difficult for it to break up. Nigeria may be going through hard times peculiar to developing nation states but the pointer remains clear that we shall overcome the travails and become stronger than we are before. Nigeria as at today is an embodiment of one strong nation and I have not seen anything in the horizon that would divide us.”
Disfavoured and disgraced former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was there for his own reasons as a prince of the emirate, even parroted the emir: “The position of the Emir is very clear. He is always praying and advising for peaceful co-existence. The Emir said this is one country, one indivisible nation with one President. He said they will continue to support the President as he continues to work and create an environment in which every Nigerian will feel he belongs. I am sure that message is encouraging and is a message of support, prayers for peace and development and also for the unity and security of this country.”
If the visits to the palaces of the Ooni and Alaafin did not yield much information as the one with the Emir, it was clear to the politically discernible that much of it, in the private meetings, was a thumbs-up for Jonathan. Perhaps the president's comment after meeting the Alaafin spoke volumes: “I thank not only the people of (Oyo) state, but the entire South-west for the support we received in 2011 and I have come to reciprocate the gesture with the hope that things will continue as well. We are one, I remain your own.”
Now that the Omo N' Oba and his contemporaries have spoken, it will be a wonder what the increasingly confused opposition will want to take and show to Nigerians as an endorsement from the traditional institution.
Momodu writes from Warri, Delta State.