In the court of Aka Uka

Courtesy of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project on Integrated Peacebuilding, I had a recent mind-blowing encounter with the Chairman of the Taraba State Traditional Council and Aka Uka of Wukari, His Royal Majesty, Dr Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi. The cooperation I received in the community, the engaging private meeting with him on the first day and his entire traditional council on the second day on the dynamics of peace and security in his domain were facilitated, more than anywhere else I was, by a point of convergence: the University of Ilorin.
The Aka Uka is the longest-serving Chancellor of the University of Ilorin during whose impactful tenure the university seedling not only germinated to a healthy plant but also grew to become a formidable tree, an oak. For 20 years, between 1981 and 2001 specifically, His Royal Majesty presided over the University as Chancellor and laid a foundation for what it has become today as the most sought after University in the country. It was fascinating to feel the emotional attachment of the monarch to the University and the fact that he considers the University of Ilorin a true model of what a university should be.
As Chancellor, the Aka Uka worked with five Vice-Chancellors, including Prof. A O. Adesola (1978-1981), Prof. S. A. Toye (1981-1985), Prof. Adeoye Adeniyi (1985-1992), Prof. J. O. Oyinloye (1992-1997) and Prof. S. O. AbdulRaheem (1997-2002). That the University has been lucky since its inception with the quality of its successive leaderships is accentuated by the depth and versatility of the monarch who left indelible footprints on the sands of my psyche at the end of the two-day interaction that turned out to be an excursion through anthropology, politics, peace, security, governance and the traditional institution.
The foremost monarch is also an encyclopedia of history as he recalled dates and events with ease, including salient points about the origin and patterns of migration of the Yoruba, with whom the Jukun have some historical connection. As an epitome of generosity, he showered me with symbolic cash and material gifts including his autobiography, An Autobiography of the 24th Aku Uka, published to mark his 80th birthday and 40th coronation anniversary in 2016, an important book that provides salient answers to some nagging national questions, apart from being traditionally inducted as a son of the soil.
The former Chancellor of the University presides over the headquarters of the historical Jukun Empire, which had evolved over time to its current location in Taraba State of Nigeria, as traditional and spiritual leader. Originating from Yemen in 350 and migrating through Egypt in 579, the ancestors of the Jukun formed Ngazargamu and Kwararafa Empires in 596 and 1596 respectively. It was in the latter 1596 that Wukari was founded. With close historical links with the Kanuri, the ancient empire would become part of Muri Province in 1927, Benue Province in 1967, Benue-Plateau State in 1967 and Gongola State in 1976 before becoming part of the current Taraba State in 1991.
The wisdom shared by the Aka Uka and the depth of his grasp of socio-political developments of the country reinforced my belief that Nigeria may be under-utilising our traditional rulers in bringing about the much desired peace, security and development in the country. The monarch is convinced that though every human being ought to desire peace, such peace can only be built on the basis of mutual trust, confidence, respect for each other and justice. He identified injustice as a bane to Nigeria’s development.
On addressing the communal conflicts that characterise many parts of the country, the Aka Uka believes that households should identify and report illegal migrants in their communities to their ward heads who should further report to the appropriate authorities. He also urges religious groups to emphasise “only the positive aspects of their religions” to make for national unity and peaceful coexistence and advises every household and various levels of government in Nigeria to re-identify with the disciplinary and moral aspects of our education as was the case in the colonial days both at home and in schools.
Apart from tasking the Federal Government to clearly mark recognised state and local government boundaries to guard against boundary clashes among communities, the monarch’s recommendations also include, as stressed further in his autobiography, that Nigeria should tighten her borders with a view to checking illegal immigrants as no unauthorised persons or groups should be allowed in the country and that under no circumstance should the authorities allow formation of political parties along geographical, ethnic and religious lines.
On my remarks on the depth of the monarch’s knowledge and the grasp of issues despite his age, His Royal Majesty gave me an assignment that I should put a stroke between his age to read “8/4”. He then asked me of the age I would give to him between 8 and 4! Rather than goof in his court, I said as a researcher, I would research the answer first and the encounter ended on a note of laughte!
My mission to the community was a huge success and may the reign of the Aka Uka be long in good health and abundant blessings!
CPSS 10th Anniversary Lecture
It is in the light of engaging more with the traditional rulers as part of finding sustainable solutions to the problems of Nigeria that the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, deserves commendation by all stakeholders. Among other groundbreaking interventions under the leadership of the dynamic Director, Prof. Noah Yusuf, the 10th Anniversary Lecture of the Centre holds this Wednesday, December 11, 2019 on the theme, “Traditional Institutions as Catalysts for Peace and Security in Nigeria”.
The Guest Lecturer is His Royal Highness, Oba (Alh.) AbdulRaheem OladeleAdeoti, the Olomu of Omu-Aran and the venue is the University Auditorium, beginning from 10:00 a.m.
The programme promises to be another stimulating experience and everyone is invited.