From time immemorial, the role and status of women in Nigeria have continuously grown. However, the image of helplessness hopelessness, oppression, and marginalization of the female gender looms large and has persisted to undermine their potentials. Little attention has been accorded the various unquantifiable functions that Nigerian women have performed throughout history. This is very sad indeed. Today, we shall continue our self-imposed task of x-raying another Nigerian heroine, Queen Idia of Benin. We must never allow the labour of our heroes and heroines past be in vain. On my part, I shall never allow this.
QUEEN IDIA OF BENIN:
A WORLD RENOWNED WARRIOR, SKILLED ADMINISTRATOR, MYSTICAL WOMAN AND THE FIRST QUEEN OF ANCIENT BENIN KINGDOM IN NIGERIA
Iyoba Idia popularly known as “Idia ne Iye Esigie”, was a renowned warrior-Queen, skilled Administrator and the first Iyoba (Queen Mother) of the Kingdom of Benin, capital of the present Edo State in Nigeria. Iyoba Idia’s visage is the most widely known face of an African royal woman after the Egyptian Queen, Ahmose-Nefertari or Nefertiti. Her face has gazed on us from countless museum pedestals the world over. It has been widely reproduced on commemorative trays, cups and plates, jewelry, ebony and brass plaques, and on textiles, specifically, george materials of the Intorica and Indian Madras labels, wax design cotton prints, and tee-shirts. Idia was first an Olori (royal wife) of Oba Ozolua, a military strategist cum mystical warrior, before becoming an Iyoba, as well as the mother of Oba Esigie (1504-1550 CE), who was the first King of Benin to ascend the throne with the title Esigie in about 1504 and was the first leader in the West-African Sub-Region to establish diplomatic relationship with a European country.
IDIA’S LEGENDARY VICTORIES AND EXPLOITS
The kingdom of Benin (in present-day Nigeria) was plunged into a state of turmoil at the end of the fifteenth century, when Oba Ozolua died and left two powerful sons to dispute succession. His son, Esigie, controlled Benin City, while another son, Arhuaran, was based in the equally important city of Udo, about twenty miles away. The ensuing civil war severely compromised Benin’s status as a regional power and undermined Benin City’s place as the political and cultural centre of the kingdom. Exploiting this weakness, the neighbouring Igala people sent warriors across the Benue River to wrest control of Benin’s northern territories. Esigie ultimately defeated his brother and conquered the Igalas, thus reestablishing the unity and military strength of the kingdom. His mother Idia received much of the credit for these victories as her political counsel, together with her mystical powers and medicinal knowledge, were believed to be critical elements of Esigie’s success on the battlefield. To reward and honour her, Esigie created a new position within the court called the “Iyoba”, or “Queen Mother,” which gave her significant political privileges, including a separate residence, with her own staff.
QUEEN IDIA: THE FACE OF FESTAC 77
Idia’s face was immortalized in the sixteenth century ivory mask presently tucked away in the British Museum. It became famous when the Nigerian military government chose it as the emblem for the Second Black Festival of Arts and Culture, known as FESTAC ‘77, which Nigeria hosted in 1977. The visibility of the mask increased when the British government’s Museum refused to release it on loan to Nigeria, even after demanding two million pounds, which the Nigerian government put up. The late Oba Akenzua II, then reigning Oba of Benin, broke the impasse by commissioning the Igbesamwan (ivory carvers guild), to produce two replicas of the Idia mask that had been looted by British soldiers during the 1897 punitive expedition. The fine workmanship of the replicas has since established that modern Benin ivory carvers are consummate artists, as were their forebears, and like the latter, had responded with pride and reverence to the royal commission. The replicas were carved and Festac 77 successfully hosted the entire African continent.
(Next time, we shall continue our exposition into another Nigeria’s great female icon. Watch out).
CAN THE PRESIDENT SUMMARILY DIRECT THE SETTING UP OF STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLICE FORCES WITHOUT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT?
I have been bombarded with torrents of inquiries by people and practitioners of the electronic and print media houses, requesting me to comment on President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged approval of State and Local Government Police Forces. My initial reaction was to shout “eureka, he got it right this time around”. Yes, because I have advocated for state and community policing in the last 30 years of my life. Google it all. Yes, in serial media activism, TV appearances, lectures, campaigns, street protests, advocacy; in the court rooms; at the 2005 National Conference; Vision 2020 Conference of 2009; and at the 2014 National Conference. But, I told the media people that PMB, based on his antecedents and pronouncements, may not actually have the necessary courage and political will power to do it. And I was proved right. Presidential spokesmen came out and promptly dismissed alleged approval?
I had then decided to google the entire story. All I found was that the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission and Chairman, Presidential Panel on the reform of SARS within the Nigeria Police Force, Mr Anthony Ojukwu, had submitted his report on his assignment, recommending the dismissal of 37 Police Officers, 24 for prosecution and arrest and prosecution of others. I didn’t see anywhere the president actually said he had approved this my dream project. He merely gave further directives to some organs of government as regards actualization of the recommendations. What he said regarding the above was simply, “since the recommendations of the Commission that constituted the Panel are enforceable as decisions of the court, that the Inspector General of Police and the Solicitor General of the Federation/Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice meet with the Commission to work out the modalities for the implementation of the Report within 3 months from today”.
If PMB had set up the State and Local Government Police Forces, or still does in future, I will publicly applaud him for such an auspicious giant step. The euphoria had merely erupted from part of the Panel’s recommendation for “significant improvement in the funding, kitting and facilities of the Nigeria Police Force, strengthening information and Communication Technology of the Force, establishment of State and Local Government Police”. But, first things first. President Buhari merely directed “further action”. Second, mere recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission from which the Presidential Panel emerged can never “be enforceable as decisions of the Court”, as wrongly postulated by Mr President. The NHRC is not a competent court of law as enshrined in and recognised by section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered. So, Mr President cannot unilaterally, whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily set up State and Local Government Police without the necessary constitutional amendments to that effect under section 9 (1) of the same 1999 Constitution. This section requires two-third majority approval of the bicameral National Assembly made up of 109 Senators, 360 House of Representatives members, and also two-third majority approval by the 36 States Houses of Assembly and FCT. Sections 214 and 215 of the same Constitution establish the Nigeria Police Force, giving it powers and duties and its major operatives, such as the Inspector General of Police and State Commissioners of Police. Surely, our non-performing behemoth, unwieldy and elephantine organization called the NPF needs to be broken up into State and Local Government Police Forces, as we have it in more advanced countries of the world. In the USA for example, aside the Federal Police institutions of CIA and FBI, she also has State and County Councils (Local Government in Nigeria) Police Forces. Even Cities, tertiary institutions, such as Universities and Colleges, have their own Police Forces, e.g., NYPD, LAPD, etc. The result is great synergy of purpose and inter-agency cooperation in detecting, preventing, fighting and prosecuting crimes.
My take on the present rocus is this: whilst commending the president for even at all mentioning the establishment of State and Local Government Police (contrary to his earlier imperious stiff stance against its recommendation by the 2014 National Conference wherein I relentlessly crusaded for it), PMB should go beyond mere rhetorics, presidential directives and sheer populism, by instructing government officials to immediately draft and send an executive bill to the NASS for amendment of sections 8, 214 and 215 of the Constitution. Then, I will verily believe him and know he is serious about this project of giving Nigeria a new security lease of life. I will then do a piece wholly dedicated to applauding him for taking a gargantuan and major step towards devolution of powers and restructuring of the fundamentally flawed and un-working Nigerian project.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“If the president is allowed to suspend constitutional rights on his own personal whims, our free Republic has effectively ceased to exist.” (Steve Stockman).
Nigerians, thank you for keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D, even as you await the next explosive dissertation.