THE PUGILIST OBA OF AKURE
The King Must Dance Naked, writes Fred Agbeyegbe, the revolutionary playwright in his award-winning literary magnum opus of the same title. A king dancing naked? Never heard of that until Agbeyegbe's work suggested that possibility. Please, don't blame him. Only playwrights, dramatists, poets, writers and their kindred of the same spirit hide under the literary licence to engage in 'subversion' [of the literary kind] and get away with it. And isn't our society the better for it?
In Agbeyegbe's cerebral piece, the enraged subjects of a dictatorial monarch compel him to come down from his high horse to embrace humility, compassion and reason in his dealings with his people. The King danced naked because he had no option. The King danced naked because he had to bow to the wishes of his people. The king was forced by people power to the realisation that the differences between king and subject are to be found in the crown and beads. Nothing more. Remove crown and the monarch becomes man, flesh and blood. This, I think, constitutes the playwright's logic in The King Must Dance Naked.
Do I agree? I don't know. All I know is that in Edo, our revered monarch is more than crown and beads. We see him as the direct descendant of Osanobua[God]. We see him as the representative of the Most High. Every true Bini man or woman believes that after God, the Oba comes next. I don't see anything changing that, now or in the future. Oba gha to kpere![Long may the king live].
Back to the naked king. Those who say art imitates life would certainly be quite shocked at the bizarre turn of events in the ancient city of Akure, Ondo State, South-West Nigeria, where a first class traditional ruler was not forced, but out of his own volition, chose to dance naked, not metaphorically but literally. And guess the venue he picked? Smack in the market square, and in the broad day light!!
And the reaction of Nigerians to the shameful conduct of the naked Oba in the market square have swung from amusement to bemusement. We have seen all kinds of things in this country from election rigging to ballot snatching and stuffing; from official stealing[corruption] to kidnapping and bombing. But what happened in Akure still shocks Nigerians: an Oba dancing naked in the public, in the full glare of his subjects!
How else would you describe the action of an Oba who took domestic feud with one of his wives to the public, hired thugs which he physically led to beat up his estranged wife other than shameful and disgusting? How else would you describe the action of the pugilist Oba other than crude and barbaric? What kind of Oba throws away his royal authority to descend to the level of an area boy, no matter the provocation of his erstwhile wife?
According to the report which was given lavish treatment in the media, the Deji of Akure, Oba Oluwadare Adesina, decided to engage his Olori[Queen] in a street brawl after allegedly being provoked by the woman who had relocated from the palace as a result of the decision of the monarch to engage a new wife. The Oba, it was reported, hired a group of boys, put them in a bus and stormed the woman's place to retrieve his belongings which he bought for her while the going was good. The woman resisted the 'invasion' and allegedly ordered her brothers to smash the Oba's jeep. The outcome was a bedlam. A free-for-all. A show of shame, starring the Deji and his ex-wife. The photographs of the woman with bandaged hand and the 're-designed' jeep assailed Nigerians the next morning. It was unbelievable, just as it was confounding.|
Women rights' groups as well as, the Ondo Traditional Council, have come down heavily on the pugilist Oba. While the former have threatened to sue him for assault and battery, and violating the fundamental rights of his estranged wife, the Council of Obas have rightly slammed a suspension order on him.
Of course, every right- thinking Nigerian would support any kind of punitive action that deprecates the bizarre conduct of His 'Unroyal' Highnesss, the Deji of Akure, a man that shames other traditional rulers, his subjects and indeed, all Nigerians.
How come he didn't know that Kings don't walk about their kingdoms naked. Being embodiments of grace, they prance about their empires like peacocks, with pomp , clothed in outfits fit for royalty which they are in any case. Because they are what they are, kings are highly revered in every society, especially here. Even while some of them may have done things unbecoming of their status, we still hold them in awe and accord them the greatest respect, because they are what they are: kings, royal fathers, their royal highnesses or majesties or as the Yoruba would say, Kabiyesi. But tragically this Kabiyesi proved to be of a different breed.
But if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that the pugilist Oba's action is not an isolated case. It sadly reflects how low we have sunk as a people and as a nation. In the so-called elite class, we have corruption, moral bankruptcy and other social malaise as symptoms of a nation in reverse gear of development.
We may blame Oba Adesina for beating up his wife in public, but we know that there are many wife beaters and irresponsible men who pretend to be icons of moral rectitude in public but are in fact, domestic terrorists. We have paedophiles and child molesters in our midst, we have also heard of governors, ministers and other top government officials who engage the services of young girls in the universities whenever they need to let their heads down in their many wild parties. Oba Adesina only showed us in public what many people do in private. That is not to say his action is acceptable conduct.
To me, after all said and done, what we urgently need in this country today is complete moral rebirth which would see us building a new nation of men and women of integrity; new citizens who have the fear of God and man, who would shun the deadly vices ravaging our land and people. But isn't that a tall dream? Who would lead the moral regeneracy: the government, the legislators, the judiciary, the clergy, the school, parents? Who will cast the first stone? Who will bell the cat? Who will stand naked in the mirror of integrity?
…Maitama Sule and Nigeria's grandad presidential aspirants
Nigeria's former Permanent Representative to the United Nations and elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule, scored the bull's eye recently when he took a swipe at Nigeria's former leaders who are still jostling for the plum job. According to the ex-diplomat, it is high time these men in the late 60s and 70 bracket took the back seat for young, energetic and visionary men to lead our nation to the next level. In his view, if young men like David Cameron, 43, and Nick Clegg, less than 40, are leading one of the world's important democracies, he argued, there is no reason why men grand dads who in any case have had a go at the highest office in the land should continue to clamour for the job as if without them Nigeria would not exist; as if they are the only people for whom the presidency was made.
Alhaji Sule, brilliantly surmised that whatever experience the ex-leaders have should be passed on to the new generation for implementation. 'Where did these people get experience before becoming heads of state? Were they experienced? Whatever experience they have let them advise the young men who should naturally take over the mantle of leadership. Let them go and rest. They have done their bit to the best of their abilities.'
Ambassador Sule's views expectedly provoked those whom his missiles were directed. The argument from the other camp is that while Sule is entitled to his opinion, they believe it is the inalienable right of every Nigerian, irrespective of his age, to vote and be voted for. It doesn't matter if his name is Solomon or Methuselah, while the electorate should be allowed to play the role of the final arbiter.
This argument, logical as it may seem, does not hold much water with many Nigerians, including this writer. Yes, it is the legal or constitutional right of every qualified Nigerian to exercise his/her franchise, but elder statesmen like Pa. Sule have the duty to guide us on moral obligation, what is morally right. Even though some may argue that there is no morality in politics and power game, we still need moral conscience as road map to a greater nation. A nation without moral fibre is a nation waiting to die.
I agree with Sule: the grand dad aspirants should give way to a new generation of leaders. The Pat Utomis, Orji Kalus, Chris Okoties, Dele Momodus, amongst others, who have excelled in public service, business, pulpit and publishing are able to rise to the new challenge of leadership at the right time.