How Kwara govt, Ilorin Emirate oppress our people – Jimoh, Moro Concerned Elders Movement President
President of Moro Concerned Elders Movement, Alhaji Isiaka Jimoh, speaks with TUNDE OYEKOLA on the alleged oppression of some Yoruba monarchs in Kwara State by the Ilorin Emirate
How did Moro become part of Ilorin Emirate?
Moro Local Government Area was created by the military regime under the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo (now retired), but before 1967 when Kwara State was created, Moro was part of Ilorin native authority comprising Offa, Oyun and Igbomina/Ekiti. In 1968, the late Brigadier General David Bamigboye, who was the first military administrator of the state created Igbomina/Ekiti and Oyun local government councils from Ilorin Native Authority. So, the rest became part of Ilorin Emirate.
The Emirate was a Fulani invention. Our people were not given freedom to lead themselves. Eighty per cent of Ilorin Native Authority then was made up of Yoruba, Ibolo and Igbomina extraction. Before 1968, the Emir of Ilorin used to appoint representatives and post them to all these areas to govern and collect taxes from the people. But when David Bamigboye was appointed, being an Igbomina man, he created Igbomina/Ekiti and Oyun local government areas out of Ilorin Native Authority.
What happened after Igbomina/Ekiti and Oyun local government areas were carved out of Ilorin Native Authority?
We started to write series of petitions and attended many commissions of enquiry and in 1967, Moro and Asa local government areas were carved out of the old Ilorin Native Authority but despite the constitutional provisions that each local government would have its traditional council, the Emir of Ilorin never allowed Moro and Asa to have their own traditional councils. He even appointed people from Ilorin as Daodus and village heads to lord it over our people. Even in 1987, the government of Grp Capt Ibrahim Alkali gave an order that Ilorin should stop appointing people as village heads in Moro and Asa local government areas but the emir has continued to flout the government order.
On our own, we asked, ‘What should we do?’ We went to court to stop the emir from appointing people from Ilorin to govern our people. The court heard us and said we were right; it said nobody should be appointed from Ilorin to Moro Local Government Area. Those appointed were not natives of Moro Local Government Area and do not have a single land but yet, they continue to oppress our people. We won the case in 1997 but because the Fulani were powerful and well connected, they have flouted the order of the court up till now. Since then, we have been fighting. If you go to Moro today, you will see how a local government area created in 1976 cannot boast of having a hospital. There are no roads and no good water for our people to drink.
You spoke of oppression, how have you been oppressed?
The type of oppression we are suffering from includes physical, mental and emotional. Shao had been existing for several years before Ilorin was founded by some Yoruba hunters. In history, Ohoro of Shao was recognised by the colonial administration in 1903 and graded as a fifth-class chief. The monarch was presented with a staff of office in 1919; this is stated in the book, "The History of the Yorubas," written by Samuel Johnson. But as usual, the emir suppressed the relevance of the title during the first civilian administration because of their (Fulani) connection in the North.
Another type of oppression we experience has to do with the case of Oba of Jebba who was taken to court for writing on a letterhead, stating, "Oba of Jebba". The emir complained that he was not a recognised chief and could not call himself oba. They took him to court and the Ministry of Justice was represented there. He was detained for 49 days before he was released by the court.
In 1983, the government of Alhaji Adamu Attah graded Ohoro of Shao and Oba of Jebba as third-class chiefs. In 1984, the military came in and suspended the grading. Again, in this Fourth Republic, the former Governor of Kwara State, Mohammed Lawal, who has passed on, graded the Ohoro of Shao and the Oba of Jebba again in 2003, but during Bukola Saraki’s administration, he suspended the grading of the two traditional rulers for reasons best known to him.
What are the injustices that your people have also suffered?
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They are numerous. The subsequent grading of our traditional rulers was cancelled, is that not an injustice? Speaking of development, Moro is the second largest local government area in Kwara in terms of land mass but there is no development to show for it. It has no hospital and school of high standard. People have asked me: 'What about the Kwara State University sited at Malete?: I want people to know that the university was sited there to feather their nest. It was established to cater for the interest of the ruling hegemony in Ilorin; they did it for themselves.
If you say the people of Moro have benefited from it, well, I can say the food sellers, pepper sellers and petty traders are the people of Moro that have benefited from it. In terms of appointments, no Moro indigene has been given any notable position there. Our people who are more qualified to be the vice-chancellor, registrar or occupy other high positions were disqualified because they are from Moro. No Moro person has got any appointment at the federal level. No Moro man has been given appointment as chairman or member of a major federal agency. The paved roads in Moro such as Ilorin-Jebba Road are federal roads.
At the state level, no one from Moro has been allowed to occupy a recognised position be it as governor, senator, member of the House of Representatives and so on. They only cheat us. Go to our local government area today, they (Ilorin people) bring their children and lord it over our people because they have money and connections.
In an open letter you wrote recently, you mentioned a 1997 case in which you said the court granted recognition to the Ohoro of Shao and Oba of Jebba. What happened thereafter?
Yes, the court affirmed the recognition of the two traditional rulers in that judgment such as the judgments in the suits KWS/231/894 of October 22, 1997 delivered by Justice Afolabi Ibiwoye and that of Justice Oluyemisi Ajayi in 2014 respectively. But the government has refused to do the needful. That is why we are calling on the present governor Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to do the right thing. We want justice. We hope this government will tread the path of honour and restore the traditional rulers to their position.
You said some other chiefs who were in the same category with Ohoro of Shao and Oba of Jebba are now first-class monarchs, who are these rulers?
Olusin of Isin, Olupako of Share, Olomu of Omu-Aran and even Elerin of Erin-Ile are all first-class monarchs in the state today. Even those in Kaiama and Baruten local government areas, who did not exist before, are now first-class monarchs. What we are saying is that they should place our two traditional rulers in the same position with their counterparts in Kwara South and Kwara North Senatorial Zones.
Is that your demand?
Our demand is that they should be graded and recognised as others in the state. Our general demand is that we should be given the same opportunities like other Kwara people. They should not leave us uncared for and regarding development, they should give us everything. There are no health care, water system, and electricity in many of our towns and villages.
Moro is categorised as being in Kwara North but you are claiming that it is part of the emirate, how is that so?
Although, politically, we were merged with Kwara North, every local council is supposed to be autonomous so they can have their own traditional council. Other local government areas in the state have their separate traditional councils and the law allows it. But the five local government areas in the emirate are not allowed to have their separate traditional councils. Even the five per cent of the Federal Allocation given to the local government for the traditional council does not go to the chiefs in Moro. No kobo is given to the chiefs by the emirate. We have made our grievances known to the President, the National Assembly and all those that should know; we are not hiding the problems.
The five local government areas in the emirate have no traditional council. The Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, is the only graded chief in the five councils. The 5 per cent of the allocation from the Federation Account is for the chiefs in the local council to maintain their areas and not for anything else. The emirate has been using its influence to deny our obas their rights. For instance, the Oba of Jebba has spent over 18 years on the throne and no kobo has been paid to him; they have refused to pay him. The emirate uses its influence to block him and the government has refused to pay him. That is the kind of injustice our people face.
You alleged that the administrations of Dr Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed refused to implement the 1997 judgment. What were their reasons for not implementing it?
I have said it clearly that the emir has been using his connection. If they wanted to do it, they would have done it because the court had given its judgment on it. The court gave them the power to do it. If they had done it, the emir would have stopped sending his stooges as Daodus to be the heads of the five districts in Moro. He is sending the people who don't have any land or house in Moro (there as district heads).
Did you approach the two administrations to complain about this?
Yes, we did. We wrote to them and attached the court judgment to the letters. Even when Saraki was the Senate President, he got a copy of our letter and even set up a committee but the matter was swept under the carpet because the emir persuaded him not to do it. If Saraki had wanted to do it, he could have told Ahmed to do it because he had a lot of influence on him. They didn't give any reason for not doing it. They did not even reply our letters.
Why do you think the Emir of Ilorin has refused to allow the grading of chiefs in the five local councils in Ilorin Emirate?
I cannot speak for the emir but I think it is to cheat our people. I told you that before 1968, the whole area now known as Kwara South, was under the emirate, but when Bamigboye became the governor and being an Igbomina himself, he used his influence to carve out Igbomina/Ekiti and Ibolo in Offa and Oyun local government areas and free them from the control of the emir. Today, are they not free? Unfortunately, we are left with them. Probably, if we had that kind of opportunity, what is happening in Kwara South today would have happened to us.
Afenifere (Yoruba socio-political organisation) is aware of what is going on and anytime they hold meetings, they always mention it. They also issued a statement on it. The Afenifere and other Yoruba groups are on the same page with us.
Apart from the chieftaincy matter, what are your other demands?
We have 16 local government areas in Kwara State; whatever is given to other local governments should also be made available to Moro.
If 11 out of the 16 local government areas are enjoying what the constitution says, why are the remaining five local government areas not given the same treatment? The state government should let us have our chiefs and traditional council in Moro Local Government Area. What we want is equality; we should have paved roads, potable water and our own administration. The emir should stop posting people as Mogajis and Daodus to Moro; he has been doing that and sending replacements when they die.
Since you have a court judgment that you say favours you, which has not been obeyed, why have you not gone back to the court to seek the execution of the judgment?
The court has given the judgment and the government is aware because they were represented by the Ministry of Justice. It is left for the government to implement it. The judgment was delivered and to the best of our knowledge, no appeal was filed. It is the responsibility of the government to stop the emir from violating the constitution of Nigeria. The emir is doing a wrong thing by sending people to lead us. The emirate is spending the money meant for the maintenance of our people. The emirate has not given chiefs in Shao, Jebba, Okutala or any town or village in Moro Local Government Area one kobo to spend on their people.
What makes you so sure that the government is aware of all that you are saying?
I know the government is aware because they know what comes in as federal allocation. We have not been silent about it. We have written many letters to the government and we have held many press conferences on the matter. The judgment was delivered in court. What we are now doing is to appeal to people's conscience. For instance, in the case of the Oba of Jebba who was taken to court unjustly, the court granted his release and ordered that he should be paid all his entitlements.
They appealed and the court said the man should be reinstated. The government was involved but it refused to obey the judgment.
I will advise the state government to act and honour the constitution because it is the responsibility of government to ensure there is peace and give justice to the people. That is why we are appealing to the present governor to uphold the constitution of Nigeria and ensure that justice is given to the people of Moro Local Government Area.
As for the emir, no single indigene of Moro has benefited from any scholarship from the emirate. It has not built any school or clinic in any of our villages. It has not built a borehole in Moro.