His Royal Highness Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, is marking his 18thanniversary on the throne today while tomorrow, Sunday, is his 69th birthday. To commemorate the two significant events, the chairman, Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, spoke to journalists on his experiences down the line, the reasons behind the insecurity currently ravaging the North, among others. AWAAL GATA was there.
How does reaching 18 years on the throne make you feel?
We thank Allah, the most merciful and gracious, for life and for giving me the privilege to ascend the throne of my forefathers 18 years ago, precisely on the 11th of September, 2003, after serving in the Nigerian Army for over 30 years.
Since I ascended the throne, I have been carrying out my duties according to the rules and regulations. I am also very appreciative of our people for being very supportive from the first day. I always enjoin them to be part and parcel of the development of the kingdom and progress, and all along, they have been responding very positively to advice, instructions, and aspirations.
While growing up, did you have the dream of ascending this exalted throne in your adulthood?
It is not a thing that one would run away from, once you are born in a royal family. The dream of becoming a king is automatically there, once you are a prince. But you don’t prepare for it because even before you were born, God had already ordained what you would become in the world.
What innovations have you been applying to achieve growth, peace and tranquility in your Kingdom and the whole of Niger state, as the leader of the state’s council of traditional rulers?
Whatever we see that would promote people’s ways of life and give peace and progress, we go with. It did not start with me. I have been following the footsteps of the previous Etsus. In the Nupe Kingdom, our land is fertile; therefore, our people do a lot of farming. We readily encourage them in it. Our people also have magnificent hand crafts. We are always sensitising the people to never be idle, for as it is said, “an idle man is a devil’s workshop.”
Also, we have created platforms on which we meet to understand ourselves and discuss progress and development. One of such is the National Nupe Day which is on every June 26. On this day, Nupe people from all over the world gather to celebrate. By celebration, I did not mean beating drums and dancing. I meant re-appraisal of who we are, where we are, and where we intend to go.
What are you doing to boost security in Nupeland?
We always alert our people that security is everybody’s business. So, everybody must put his house in order. Generally, there is a standing order in cities, towns, villages and hamlets that members of every community should properly guard themselves. We regularly remind people not to abandon the olden day ways of community security in which nobody enters a community without the leader of the community knowing about it.
How do the traditional institutions relate with the govt towards tackling insecurity?
We have been campaigning that the traditional institutions should be given a certain constitutional role to make our work very effective. Nonetheless, we are often adroit in community-policing and passing our findings promptly to the security agencies. We are not trying to take the duties of the politicians; we just want to be part of the system. We should be given certain roles and be allowed to operate legally so that we don’t do something and someone sues us. The missing link is the lack of constitutional recognition, nevertheless we are still doing our jobs by mobilising the people, sensitising them on how to live peacefully and legally.
And on state police, we are fully in support of the idea. Currently, there is low manpower in the police force, and having state police will address that. There are also shortcomings in training and equipment. To boost manpower, there is a need to go to the communities to fetch more men. Some police officers have been posted to areas they don’t understand, areas they have never been to. If members of a community police their community hardly would there be insecurity in that community.
The North used to be one of the most peaceful regions in the country; how did we get to the current dire situation?
Imitation, poverty, ignorance, population explosion and the lack of direction!
All these factors are now rife across the region. Whenever I drive across cities and towns and see the number of people sitting or roaming around doing nothing, it behoves on me that something is wrong. To upturn the situation, there must be proper planning and robust programmes by the government at all levels.
You often give traditional titles to illustrious and prominent Nupe sons and daughters; is that a strategy for inclusion?
It is a two-edged sword. If somebody is performing, he needs to be encouraged and placed in the limelight so that others can emulate him. If we see anybody doing an outstanding job, we encourage him to keep it up and even apply more force.