What is your advice to President Muhammadu Buhari amidst insecurity as an ex-service man?
Actually, it is unfortunate that we are having this situation which is very tight because those people committing these crimes are within us. They plan their atrocities at night and mix with us during the day. In Liberia, your enemies are already defined, you know their camp and their location. In Liberia, when we finished the operation, disarming the rebels was very pertinent. So, they gave me a helicopter to locate them and have a peace talk with them. The fact is the helicopter could be shot down by the rebels and we would be dead by now, secondly, I could land there and they will not accept me, or there will be a fight and I would be shot. So, I prayed and entered their headquarters with seven of my men, and we landed there.
First, they did not allow us to land there, telling us to go. I had to remove my white handkerchief waving it to them to show that we are for peace, when they saw it, they told me to come down and when we came down, they surrounded us and told us to drop our rifles and we gave them our rifles. So, I prayed inside my heart that God should send an idea. I had a big kola nut inside my pocket, I asked if they wanted a kola for peace talks. One needs to be careful, so, I break the kola and I bite it myself before giving them to bite too and they change their attitude and say we should come.
They gave us back our rifles and we started talking with them while we were there, we faced some obstacles because, for the first time, they hide the functional rifles and brought out the wrong rifles and they handed it to us because for every rifle they surrender we give them $100 and they went and started bringing non-functional rifles.
But, here, our situation here is too tight and that is why I find it difficult because parents are harbouring terrorists, criminals, that are relating with their wife’s brothers, sisters and talking with them and unfortunately mobile phones is also making operation difficult, because it is used to give out information and I think that they are a lot of loose ends in addressing this situation from the beginning.
Loose ends in the sense that why this one is just like a normal police job, like internal security is a police job, you don’t know whether these people are arming themselves. The whole situation is very confusing because is it Boko Haram? Is it ISWAP? Is it kidnapping, or is it banditry? You know, they are all mixed. Having served in the military for this period of time I was wondering if I could go to Liberia and achieve a very possible peaceful situation. Why can’t we do it in Nigeria?
Actually, our troops are very determined and committed in doing this job, but because of mix up of who is who in this country, it has made the job very difficult and some people are even trying to blackmail or tarnish the image of the military and telling them that they are not doing anything but they are actually doing a lot but the nature of what they are facing is quite different. When Boko Haram started in Maiduguri, the military went there to quash it, but sentiment started coming in because some of the Boko Haram are inside the town and will come and stay with their family in the day and night they leave into the bush. So, when the military now discovered it, they resolved that the attacks were becoming too much and they were attacking military locations. So, they start tracking private homes, they will go into the homes and see if there are any Boko Haram members there and people start saying they are killing us while they are the ones killing themselves because they are hiding the criminals and military have no other alternative than to face any house or any suspected location, and that led to sentiment and sympathy to the Boko Haram, those who don’t even know about what was going on start joining them and saying that they are killing us. For now, the military is following them to their location and you will see that during this short time there will be differences.
Your royal highness, how has local intelligence helped in tackling insecurity challenges in your community?
We have been agitating for a change in the Nigerian constitution, but unfortunately our agitation has not really yielded expected fruits. We are still advising the government via Traditional Councils of Nigeria.
Nevertheless, at our own side we try to set up certain offices that can challenge, and help checkmate insecurities in our areas. We gather religious leaders, Christians and Muslims to pray against this and also alert our Village Heads, District Heads and Ward Heads to be very much alert to know who is coming in and out in the community, and to also know their mission. We advise them to pass the information quickly so with this we are able to curtail criminal activities within the city.
We still have some criminal element who actually want to make life very difficult for others to live because in Bida, one time, when we had this serious criminal attitude by some youths, during that period you dare not come out in the evening or before sunrise in Bida. They will snatch whatever you have. The case of women was even worse, they would molest the woman, so when we kept receiving such information, the police said they could curtail such activities so when the report continued, we had to introduce something new.
We thought that within our domain we have young people who are genuinely committed to live peacefully so we group this people against criminals, and formed security committee and told them to come and volunteer that anybody you see on the street constituting nuisance or molesting people should be beaten severely and when we start doing that some people that couldn’t discipline their children started coming to beg us to come and discipline their child for them. So, at this level, our traditional way of handling issues worked because if a child is not trained that child will be a problem. Home training starts from the root and who are these roots? They are the father, mother, and the community leaders. If a father can come to you to discipline his child you know you are a leader and you are supposed to do that. Maybe he has left the child so loose to the extent that he can’t correct him by himself so we still believe that this institution should be put into focus. That is why we are agitating that we believe that any policy, any programme the government wants to do since we are very close to our people, we know what policies are beneficial to our people and we will be able to advise immediately.
Can you share some significant aspects of your early life in the Military before you switched to the position of your forebears as the Etsu Nupe?
Actually, some of us were privileged to serve in the military for over 30 years and before retiring I ascended the throne of my forebears. I was in the military for 30 years and three months before the announcement. The military period gave us a lot of advantages in terms of who we are, what we can do, and understanding our potential. The discipline, training, and understanding was indeed exceptional.
We also have what we call collective group discipline whereby you are joined by people with different opinions, backgrounds, tribes, and religions. You can be grouped together to carry out a certain task and at the same time save lives and protect properties. If you follow the right group, you may achieve your objectives, but if you deviate there is a tendency that the objective will fail.
However, coming from a royalty background, I already have the training to be tolerant, understanding, and have mutual respect which was very important. As a royal blood you must understand your fellow human beings, you must respect them because you cannot say you are all good. You must be tolerant. You must respect each individual to accord you your own respect.
You tolerate certain actions because you’ve been forced to work in a group, so, maybe, in that group, there are certain behaviours which you don’t like, what do you do? You tolerate it because your main objective is to achieve something. Anything going on in that group is your utmost objective is to achieve your goal. You have to tolerate and understand the situation so that the collective goal can be achieved. What we gained in the military is what we are using to live today.
Yes, I know I am from a royal family. Inside me, I was praying that this position should come. I remember during my coronation most of my friends and associates were very surprised because they didn’t know that I am from a royal family and I did not show any sign of pride or royalty. I will roll with them, laugh with them, and do anything with them. Most of them didn’t realize that I was a king in the making and I am from royal blood because they feel like a royal prince should not be doing some dirty dirty jobs like running in the waterway. They can ask you to crawl inside the waterway and I consider it to be part of the training, when I see other people like me doing it, I join them. After the fatigue in NDA, we will go and wash up and become fresh people again. So, as I became the Emir, it surprised them, but since my childhood, I have been praying that Almighty God should let me become the emir.
When the opportunity became obvious, they sent me to apply and I was still in the military at that time. Yet, I applied and God in his infinite mercy made it possible. That was not a thing that I was preparing for but I had it at the back of my mind because I was already born in it. So, it was what God made me to be. God will always equip you because when you say you are preparing; what are you preparing for; is it how to talk to people or satisfy people?
The kinship hasn’t got any preparation, it is inbuilt, and it is ordained. It is not like a doctor, if you want to be a doctor or engineer you must go through training. But, if you want to be a king, no training, only your behavior, and attitude. You have to be good and accept anything that comes to you from Allah and the moment you ascend the throne, God will provide you with knowledge and you also continue to pray to Almighty God to give you people that can help you and support you because if you don’t have them, it will affect you. Getting good people will assist you in your assignments and in unfolding your vision and mission for the people.
However, I always encourage people to farm because it is part of us. Anytime, I am going to the farm, I abandon all the palace activities and when people come to see me in the palace, they will tell them that the Emir is on the farm and the news spread all over the place so ordinary people sitting down at home seeing that the Emir has gone to the farm will also want to and encourage farm. I see farming as what anybody can do and if you do, you will reap the fruit of your labour. You can’t say that because you have finished secondary school, graduated from university and you can’t be a farmer. No, you should also see farming as a source of income.
Your Highness, I want you to take us through your early life as a youth as well as your announcement as the Etsu Nupe?
I grew up in a rare family setup where they inculcate a lot of discipline. My father was an agriculturalist and my mother was a teacher, everybody knows that teachers are disciplinarians and as an agriculturalist, he was used to nature and nurturing. What I meant was that when it is raining, he knows when he must go to the farm to plant and when it is time to nurture them, and the right time to harvest.
I grew up in that atmosphere and those are the advantages of having a teacher as a mother and a father as an agriculturalist. So, respect for elders or regard for your peers became automatic in us. So, anybody, we see above our age we respect them. After I finished my primary and secondary school, I proceeded to join the military. I sat for an entrance exam for Nigeria Defence Academy and I passed, I proceeded also for the interview and I passed, that is Course 14 in 1973. Then we got admitted and left the NDA 1975 and from there we were Commissioned as Second Lieutenant. As military officers, we pass through military obstacles, operations, and hazards. Some were very risky; got promoted and got appointed and some don’t even like the appointment but have no choice.
They will send you to where you don’t like but since it’s your appointment you have to ask yourself what you are expected to do when the challenges come to you. As the Commander, you are supposed to lead your troops and take care of their welfare and know that they are well protected in terms of operation you know before you launch troops to operation, you must let them know what is before them and the challenges before them and give them adequate equipment to fight the battle.
You can’t send soldiers to go and attack a place with stick or mouth they will not go and if they go some might not even come back, so if you are sending them to an operation, you must equip them and give them moral support because they are going there for a purpose and when they get that mission accomplished, they get promoted. So, that it will give them the zeal, intention, and energy to go and face the challenges, that is the work of the commander because you don’t just command with word of mouth, you command through persuasion, enforcement, and equipping them. I always remember when I was in Liberia for the ECOMOG Operation. Anytime I wake up, I conduct small training for my troops, and ensure that they test their equipment because they can fail anytime and if it doesn’t work what happens? So, every morning you must check your rifle and clean it properly and ensure that it is working, and do training to checkmate them to know if they feel satisfied, and encouraged to face the enemy, not that you will leave them not prepared by getting used to the sound of bullets and all that.
Military training gives you a lot of knowledge and discipline. If you are well trained, if you hear any sound, you will know the direction already, if it’s coming from the right, left, front, or back and that is training, and if you are not trained you will not know all these and understand other tactical operations.
Tell us about your riskiest experience as a military officer?
One of the riskiest experiences I have had was when I was moving with my men to a new location in Liberia. We only saw the location on map, we were to move there to capture the place because the place was acquired by rebels, right from the day one I was preparing myself but at night I couldn’t sleep, my men were sleeping and resting, but I couldn’t sleep because it is a new location, and we’ve never been there before and don’t know what we were going to meet. So, I removed the sleep from my eyes. My boys would wake up and tell me, Boss please sleep but I could not. I was asking myself questions about our security and couldn’t answer them, but we must go and capture that place. At 3:00 am I woke everybody up because we were supposed to leave that place before sunset. 100m away from where we stayed, we saw the enemy coming and that place was a jungle and had a lot of forests. We couldn’t see who was firing and we heard a lot of gunshots. We just pinned down and tracked where the fire was coming from and then we returned the fire.
You know when we did not know where the fire was coming, we had to calm down and listen to where the fire was coming and we thank Allah. You need to see what we saw inside the forest; they were laying down for us and they were planning to ambush us. It was very risky, when we finished, I was wondering how we passed through that fire, although they killed two of my soldiers. One was with our radio and when I turned to talk to him to collect the radio to return to our base, he was already dead because the bullet came and hit him from the back and he just put his head down. It was a terrible experience but thank Allah if it was not yet your time to die, you will not die. That day was very risky, it was a place we’d never been to before and the visibility was poor when we were walking. We couldn’t see the sky because it was a forest and it was raining.