It was a matter of great irony for the Ebira people in Kogi Central Senatorial District when President Muhammadu Buhari visited them and the traditional custodian of their culture was largely missing.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic no governor had been able to draw a sitting president for a commissioning tour.
Presidents only passed through to solicit for votes. That was until Yahaya Bello touched ground with a spate of projects that pulled President Buhari to undertake the first presidential state visit to Kogi State on December 29, 2022.
For the Ebira people, the feat accomplished by homeboy, Yahaya Bello echoed with the presidential adulation.
“We are an Administration that prides itself in the fulfillment of our electoral promises to the Nigerian people, at both national and sub-national levels. This is why I am glad that we have an impressive array of legacy projects through your own state government as proof of our stewardship in Kogi State,” President Buhari said.
It was, however, a matter of irony that the traditional leader of the Ebira, that is the Ohinoyi, Dr Ado Ibrahim was absent and was laid up in his private palace on that day as the president poured out his commendation at the new Ohinoyi palace built by the state government.
The absence of the Ohinoyi was not surprising for many. Dr Ado Ibrahim who came to the throne in 1997 through a controversial selection process has since then lived and abided with his subjects in a love-hate relationship.
It is remarkable that Governor Bello who is the first Ebira born governor of the state facilitated the construction of the palace for the Ebira monarch. However, that gesture even if welcomed by the great majority of the Ebira people appeared to have been disdained by Dr Ado Ibrahim.
Why? Dr Ado Ibrahim before his emergence as the Ohinoyi was among the richest persons in Nigeria. Some believe that his money bought him the throne.
Despite the rancour that brought him to the throne in 1997, Dr Ado Ibrahim did not consider it worthy to live in the palace but allowed it to rot as he converted his majestic building in Okene into a palace.
That was about the first point of discontent with his already unhappy subjects.
Following the removal of the throne of the monarch from the traditional palace to the private mansion of Dr Ado Ibrahim, his next objective appeared to be the transformation of the stool into his personal image.
That objective was the king’s apparent decision to change the title of the monarch from Ohinoyi of Ebiraland to Attah of Ebiraland, perhaps to fit in with his family name.
It was a move that was stoutly resisted by the Ebira people who took him to court even seeking his removal from the throne.
The monarch narrowly escaped dethronement as the case got to the Supreme Court but with the injunction that he must revert to the title of Ohinoyi of Ebiraland.
Even more, they recall how the monarch suppressed the implementation of the court judgement granting Uhuodo community autonomy and entitling them to a separate Ohi stool in Okehi Local Government.
The monarch was believed to have suppressed the implementation of the judgment because he wanted to be the only first class monarch in Kogi Central.
If it was to be the only monarch, some may have understood. But how the monarch also fought to stop eligible Ebira in their bid for the governorship of Kogi State is another story.
The well-liked Senator A.T. Ahmed who made attempts to contest the office of governor of Kogi State was reportedly opposed by Dr Ado Ibrahim.
He was also dismissive of the bid by Gov Yahaya Bello to become governor.
If he had remained in his lane and allowed his people to live, some may have forgiven him. But going ahead to mock the governor, supposedly his son was seen as a betrayal.
Ahead of the governor’s bid for a second term, the Ohinoyi in an interview with Sunday Trust rained several allegations against him apparently with the intention of demarketing him.
Hear him in the interview with Sunday Trust in April, 2019:
“there is this issue of the boy not knowing what he should do because he has extremely wrong people around him. Bello is a nice young man and highly intelligent; that is why I recommended him at that time.
“Two, he had money to do it, and that money is what has misled him so far. A good person should always put money aside and put reality in the front. Money should just be a palliative anytime you need it. For the assessment, I can’t say much, I can only talk about what people are saying and what I read in the papers.”
However, the people of Kogi Central and indeed, of the state snubbed him and re-elected Yahaya Bello.
Was this the reason for the snub of the government and the monarch’s reason for despising the good works of the government especially with the construction of the new palace of the Ohinoyi?
Whatever, it is evident that the majority of the Ebira people are against the monarch as seen in the communique of some prominent Ebira who backed the recent query served on him over his absence at the commissioning of the new palace.
The prominent Kogi indigenes made their positions public earlier in January, 2023 in a statement, titled: “Ohinoyi’s Query Is Perfectly In Order”. It was co-signed by Isa Ozi Salami, OFR, Ohiotenyete of Ebiraland and President, Nigeria Institute for Industrial Security; and HRH Salihu Abdullahi, Ajimasi Idu Eyire Uhuapa Ebiya and Secretary, Ebira Peoples Human Rights Defence, Okene.
What these prominent people have seen from their advantaged position is sufficient enough to say enough is enough!
*Ahuoiza Hamza-Abubakar, a medical doctor/public affairs analyst, is based in Australia.