Alhaji Abdulsalam Mohammed is the Madaki of Ohikwo community in Ajaokuta LGA of Kogi State and youth president of Kwararafa kingdom. In interview with DAILY ASSET Correspondent Atabor Julius, he speaks on the roles of traditional rulers in curbing crimes at the grassroots, among other issues.
There was a reported mayhem during your installation on July 9 last year. What was responsible for that?
You know for sure that anything that is good attracts lots of people. What happened that day was that some people from the neighbouring Gadumo village were opposed to my installation. However the matter has been resolved.
How has your experience in security helped you in your new role as a traditional ruler?
WIth my little experience in security, immediately I was installed, I organised vigilante group in conjunction with the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Kogi state chapter. So far, I have recruited and trained over 150 personnel to man every part of our community. I have set up committees comprising vigilante and heads of various tribes in the community. With this arrangement, I have been able to eradicate, cattle rustling, and kidnapping. Kidnapping used to be a daily occurrence, but it has been reduced drastically. We organised regular security meetings. Our people now know who to call when there is a security breach.
For instance, there was a boy in our community who went to a woman with the intention to buy recharge card, but the moment the woman went inside to bring the card, he pulled out a gun and started to rob the woman of her belongings. The matter was reported to me, and we swung into action and the boy was arrested. We wanted to hand him to the police, but the parent came to plead for clemency. We disciplined him and warned him to leave the village, and since he left , the place has been peaceful.
There have been rampant cases of land grabbing in your domain. What could be responsible, and what are you doing to tackle it?
Yes, it used to be a problem. Before I was turbaned, I was the chairman of land allocation committee in Ganaja. We signed memorandum of understanding MOU with the state government on the sharing formula. What we do to solve the problem is this: after we construct the layout on the community land, the state government takes 65% while we will retain the remaining 35% and that solved the problems.
What is your relationship with other tribes living within your domain like?
We have created a forum to maintain peace. Every tribe has a leader. We have Igala , Yoruba, Igbo, Ebira chiefs who coordinate their people on how to maintain cordial relationship with their neighbours and to ensure security of the area as well. We also ensure that every transformer point is manned by a leader.
What is your take on Biafra agitation, and the quit notice by some northern youths to Igbos living in the North?
The agitation is just a mere rhetoric. It is not realizable because we have many things in common. For instance, the people of Eastern Nigeria rely on the North for their agricultural needs while the North and other zones also need the Igbos for commerce. Infact, there is no unity even among the agitators. With the hardship across the land, what took place in the past could not happened again, and I said, God should forbid.
What of those protesting over President Buhari’s ill health?
Sickness is from God. Nobody has the power to heal anybody except God. Even doctors only treat but God is the one that heals. We are all praying for his healing. Unlike the traditional stool, where the occupant remains there until death, the political office has tenure. No matter the situation, we should exercise restraint. His tenure does not last forever. I consider those praying for his death as inhuman unpatriotic. Life is sacrosanct and we are all were created by God We should all condemn those praying for his not returning home. What is happening in the country now is a lesson for all of us. God has a reason. We clamored for change, but we did not pray for a desired change. We got the change, but the change is biting everybody. We failed to realised that those who ran PDP aground are the same people going to APC. They are not angels. And the vicious circle continues. All we need is to pray to God to heal our land.
Do you agree with the notion that young people should be given chance to ascend the throne of their ancestors?
The saying of my people that what elder sees when he is lying down even if a child climbs the mountain he will not see, is apt here. we encourage our young people to learn from elders. They should be brought up properly. In my palace we observe our dos and don’ts. My people know what to do when they are in the palace. We play down on some cultural practices that cause troubles. When my people enter the palace, they would prostrate thrice, but some religious people are kicking against it. You can’t separate religion from culture. Unfortunately our society has abandoned our culture completely which is responsible for the social unrest across the country.
“In those days in the village, before a girl was given in marriage, certain rites would be performed on her for cleansing. These rites will cleanse her from her bad behaviours.
“You see that every tribe has its unique ways of paying homage to their rulers. Before I assumed this stool, I was the President of Kwararafa Youths. Kwararafa comprises communities in Taraba, Benue, Kogi Nassarawa states.
“ I have the full knowledge of the culture of the people in these states. When I was still serving as the youth president of the old Kwararafa kingdom, when a thief was caught , his ear would be sliced to serve as a deterrent to others. If you see a man with sliced ears you know that he was a thief and thus helped to reduce crimes tremendously.
“There is no way we can live without culture, both Christianity and Islam preaches peaceful coexistence.
What is your assessment of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration?
Leadership is not a tea party. He has his style. Good leadership is a function of good lieutenants. So. if he is performing, then, he has a good team, and, but if he does not perform, then his cabinet is populated by inept officials. He can’t work alone; he works with his team and if there is challenges, they shall all be blamed.
He has his concept and style which may be different from those of his predecessors.
I must commend him for appointing youths to the highest positions in the state, which has not happened before which is a motivation for the youth to properly organise themselves.
While he was taking care of the youths, traditional rulers were not left behind. He has smooth relationship with the royal fathers. He pays them regularly.
He has performed brilliantly in the area of security, Kidnappings and armed robberies have reduced since he assumed office. In the past kidnapping was a serious concern to the state and the nation in general, but he has in the last seven months turned the tide against criminals even Fulani / farmers clash has equally dropped.
Your advice for your people, and those of entire Kogi?
I am urging our people to remain calm and be law- abiding . We encourage ourselves to preach peace instead of hate speeches. It is when the society is peaceful that development can strive. I advise our people to live within their means let us work for peace for our state to prosper.
In politics we should allow choices. We should discourage thuggery. People should be allowed to exercise their franchise without fear of intimidation or molestation. We should encourage our people to vote for credible candidate and not only on party lines.
In the country today membership of a political party is not static, people moves easily from party A to party B so, we should not create enmity based on party affiliations.
I urge our leaders to avoid using money to breed thugs, instead they use their wealth to grow the economy. They use their resources to making farming attractive to our youth as alternative to oil.