Essential Things About Nupe Kingdom
Essential Things About Nupe Kingdom is a revelation by the 13th Etsu Nupe and Chairman, Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, Dr Yahaya Abubakar, on the occasion of its 18th anniversary. The revelations, earlier published in Punch Newspapers, is reproduced below in OpenLife Nigeria
How would you describe your reign on the throne in the last 18 years?
I give gratitude to Almighty Allah for allowing me to, once again, observe and witness the anniversary of my birthday and ascension to the throne of my forefathers. September 11 (2021) marks my 18th year on the throne as I ascended the throne on September 11, 2003, and I thank Allah for the opportunity. Having served in the military for over 30 years and before I retired from the military, the opportunity came for me to be the 13th Etsu Nupe. Since ascending the throne, I have been very grateful to our people because they have been giving me respect, honour and guidance in terms of how to administer our people.
Our people have been supportive. They have been listening to me in terms of mobilisation in the area of economic activities, to improve their standard of living. Any time we hear or intend to do anything that will promote their standard of living, they always support us by coming together. I have hope to improve agricultural activities.
I have a farm I use as a demonstration farm so that our people can see how serious I am at promoting agricultural activities in our domain because we are blessed with arable land. The rivers passing through the state are an advantage to us as our people are mainly farmers and we see the God-given land as an opportunity to better the lives of our people by encouraging them.
In the area of handicrafts, we have been engaging a lot of our people in handcrafts, including the women, with the production of some items which we encourage them to do more. And, God willing, they listen to us and are all up and doing. I have also been engaging the government at all levels and I make sure the advice I give them yields results. I’m happy and thankful to Almighty Allah and our people for the support because anytime we call on them they are always willing to listen to us and promote whatever I present to them and ensure there is peace in our domain.
There is widespread insecurity across the country. Is this a major concern to you as a monarch?
The way things are being left and done resulted in the insecurity we are now experiencing.
How do you mean?
In those days, our native authorities had all things done by themselves by administering justice in their domains but now, the traditional institutions have been pushed aside and things have been left totally dismembered in the sense that we don’t connect. Those who govern and the governed don’t connect. With that, we have been seeing a lot of negative results in the areas of security, job creation, insincerity among the people, corruption and many more. All these are rampant because there is a disconnection in our affairs as a people or society.
There should also be stages in the administration of affairs in society from the grassroots, which comprise family units, that are in turn controlled by the traditional leaders. The moment the link from the family unit is broken, you see things disconnecting; there would be crises, and people would not have a sense of belonging anymore, which in turn gives rise to corruption and may lead to the creation or agitation for another unit that may be illegally achieved.
Community, family and societal relationships must be revived so that everybody will have a sense of belonging. Since that relationship broke, we have been trying to adopt other people’s way of life and found ourselves in more trouble. We need to go back to the way we used to be as a people; that is the only way we can reach our potential as a people. As traditional rulers, we are doing our best, despite that we are not given any constitutional role; we are doing our best because the day-to-day activities of our people are being monitored and supervised by us.
What has been the most interesting part of being Etsu Nupe?
The most interesting part is the idea that something you perceived to be simple turned out to be very hard. Many times, when you listen to people’s problems or issues which you adjudged as very simple, they become very difficult before they present them to you as a traditional ruler. In my God-given wisdom, I try to let them understand how realistic issues are and how they ought to have been handled to avoid crises or problems. When people, especially couples, present their matters, from their explanations, one could deduce that they lack a certain understanding which one expects them to have at their age but I don’t assume or get tired of showing them the right thing to do. There is this satisfaction that comes with my ability to influence people’s thinking and understanding which turns out good for them.
Were you treated specially while growing up, indicating you were being prepared for the throne?
No. My father was a pure agriculturist who was purely into big-scale farming before he retired and my mother was a teacher who taught at an infantry school back then. I grew up in such a background of learning and working at the same time. I enjoyed learning and working under my parents because of their background. For me, I didn’t enjoy any kind of special treatment; nothing of such happened. The most important thing I did was to pray because the more one gains knowledge, both Islamic and otherwise, the more they have the fear of the Almighty Allah, who has been piloting the affairs of my life.
Fortunately for me again, by the time I realised where I came from, God had already prepared me because, throughout my youth, I never showed any toughness as a prince. I behaved modestly, in terms of associating with people in the schools I attended and everywhere else I found myself, especially in military school. In fact, most of my military schoolmates and instructors were surprised when they heard the news that I had been chosen to become the new Etsu Nupe. They asked me why I never showed I was a prince during our training at military school, or never showed I was tired of being pushed around. God prepared me ahead as I never showed anyone I was a prince and I told them if I had told them I was a prince, they wouldn’t have allowed me to enjoy my military training because they would punish me more and say one day, I would become a king and order them around. It surprised all of them and they said I should have told them.
How did you react when it was announced that you would be the new Etsu Nupe in 2003?
I was grateful and frightened when I heard the news. Frightened in the sense that, all my life, I was in the military being disciplined and I am professional in whatever I do. But going into another aspect of life, I thought of how life would be and how I would handle it and switching from such a lifestyle to a new one. In the military, we issue orders but in my new life, I have to persuade and convince people but in the end, I just prayed to God, who ordained that I was going to be on the throne, to give me wisdom and guidance. And I must say that it has been God all the way.
How would you compare the two lifestyles?
The comparison is not even there but they are complementary. The training I had in the military actually gave me some edge. Military life prepared me ahead for the position I’m occupying now because it gave me a wide scope. I met people with different backgrounds, religious beliefs, cultures and environments. I was given the responsibility of material and personnel to manage and it turned out as a preparatory ground for me. Then, I came back home to administer people of my tribe, community and background, what I learnt about human management became an advantage to me. The only difference is in issuing orders. While I issued orders in the military, I do more talking and persuading as a traditional ruler. You assume people understand what they come for but they won’t agree until you persuade them.
What’s one Nupe cultural belief that civilisation has not taken away?
Our culture mostly is seen in our mode of dressing, eating and behavior. They are the most important ones that we can retain and sustain despite civilisation. Our mode of dressing is still intact. Our meals, which are acceptable by all standards, are still sustained because no matter who you are or where you are from, you can eat and enjoy our meals. Nupe people are known to be hard-working, which is why we have a lot of handicrafts in our place for both women and men. Our people don’t like being idle. If you go to any place of work now, be it government or private, you will find our people there.
Can you mention some of the cultural festivals being celebrated by the Nupe?
To maintain our culture, on an annual basis, we celebrate Sallah and during the period, we have the horse riding festival and some cultural display of masquerades. We have big and small masquerades. Sometimes, we also organise shows to showcase the types of food we grow to attract investors to our area. Remember, I told you we have very fertile lands in Nupe on which we grow a lot of things. Another one is Nupe Day. We are trying hard to revive our cultural heritage. On Nupe Day, which is celebrated every June 26 annually, we display all sorts of cultural activities and our people from all walks of life witness it.
Is there anything forbidden in Nupe culture?
Our religious beliefs are very strong and anything against such is dropped. Certain things that used to be done traditionally before, like going to a shrine, no longer exist. Our forefathers used to go to shrines if there was no rain to ask for it. It is no longer like that. If there is no rain, now, we go to a mosque to pray while the Christians go to a church to pray. Or when there is a pandemic or disaster, women would dress half-naked and remove their scarves, but it is no longer like that because religion won’t allow us to do that.
What do you hope to see Nupe become during your reign?
I pray that Almighty Allah would allow our people to be more aware and be dedicated to developing themselves by themselves and then help others. Secondly, I pray for Nupe to grow and that is why I said we have God-given fertile land; we should be more dedicated to developing it by facing farming. We are even exploring oil in our place, which is another plus for our people. Once they (explorers) start getting oil from our place, more economic value will start coming to us. Our people should work hard and have the fear of God in them and love one another for us to have peace. The hands that have should extend to those who don’t have.
How can the government learn from the traditional ways of settling disputes and uniting people?
The issue of learning from us does not even arise in the first place. The traditional institution should be accommodated by the government; we should be brought into the system and be given constitutional recognition so there would be certain roles the government would assign to us. The government is an institution of the people, for the people and by the people. The issues of respect, security, education and others start from the grassroots which is the family unit we deal with directly as monarchs. What the government doesn’t have, we say, “Come and take.” Let’s be part of policy formulation and implementation. Or who will help in carrying out all the government policies? How do you mobilise people without the traditional rulers? We don’t collect someone else’s property and give it to another person. The government and politicians do that. The government and politicians should borrow from us, truth and justice.