3 February 2013

Nigeria: Helmet and Shield for Our Kings


The report, "Unsung Heroes of Kano Emirate" on January 27, 2013 in the Sunday Trust reminds me of what Fr. Benjamin Dara Cssp told me in 1985 that "if you take care of your parishioners, your parishioners will take care of you." The report revealed that "the palace guards of the Emir of Kano are resilient, loyal, trustworthy and lovely". Two of the guards laid down their lives, shielding the monarch from a barrage of bullets that rained on the 83-year-old monarch's car. Their heroic act has become a subject of eulogy among residents of Kano city.

My discussion with the Catholic Bishop of Kano, Most Rev. Dr John Niyiring OSA reveals that the Emir of Kano truly loves his people and leads them with his wealth of experience. The Emir was attacked while coming from a religious duty to encourage the young students. If a leader loves his or her people and provides for them, the people in turn will do everything to give him or her protection.

The recommendation of a constitutional protection for the royal fathers in my publication "where is Africa's royal reverence" on Sunday January 27, 2013 in Sunday Trust and Pilot newspapers, have attracted some reactions. The first is that the helmet and shield the royal fathers need go beyond constitutional protection. Another person asked if the kings will not be robbed of their royal relevance if they are actively involved in politics and given political roles in governance. My recommendation however was the need to actively involve the royal fathers in identifying and fishing out suspected criminals in their various domains. This is by making them aware of cases within their areas before a suspect reaches the police net, through the traditional intelligence report. This will charge them with the responsibility and accountability of their office of taking care of the people.

This however should not be seen as a political appointment and a substitute for the duty of the police. It is a fact that "man knows man" in every community. In my village for example, some people know the people that are peaceful and the people that are troublesome. It follows that a traditional ruler is in a position to know those who upset the shared existence in their land. This is where the traditional rulers become very relevant. They can use their traditional means like age groups and the masquerades to fish out those who are thorns in the flesh of the communities.

From the dialogue with the people in "the public parliaments" and "traditional amphitheatre" it has been revealed that the first protection of the king lies in his own personal helmet, shield and breast plate. This means that the king must protect his personal integrity by giving traditional relevance to the royal crown and the staff of the royal office. If these symbols are carelessly desecrated, the king would not be protected even by the ancestors.

History has revealed that in some parts of the globe, some kings have died in the process of robbing their own subjects. Some have been accused of enabling kidnappers while some have been found to be directly involved in the acts. Some have also been accused of ritual killings and corruption to make money. These are some of the ways some kings have sold their royal crown, helmet, shield and their breast plate.

The crown is the symbol of authority, the shield protects the king from poisonous arrows and the breast plates prevent the sword from piecing the heart of the king. These symbols mean that the king needs the head and the heart to lead his subjects. The strength of a leader is found in his wisdom, courage, patience and prudence. A King worthy of defence whose subjects can lay down their lives for is a king who has won victory over his own temperaments. The rage of a king and any leader must not be seen to be cheap. Spontaneous rage and easy burst of thunderous anger are serious indicators that the king or leader has lost his inner peace and security. This is also an indicator that the content of the character of the leader needs reformation in the handling of the affairs of his people. Braveness is deeper than external manifestation of anger because "what the cock uses to catch the hen is hidden." The king ought to be a man of few words and resilient in action. Our people say that "the bird that knows the worth of its feathers does not fly low." Again, a loud noise reveals the emptiness of a heavy drum.

The global atomic age has shown that people are no longer respected just because of their positions and titles. In the past, a priest was respected just by seeing him in his cassock or in a clerical collar. A king was respected just because he wore a royal crown and sceptre. This age of enlightenment has shown that people now have to earn their individual respect. It may therefore be deluding for anybody to use the symbol of his authority or title as a guarantee to force respect out of people.

The perfume and aroma of authority spread freely and naturally from a golden heart that reveals the noble content of character. Very often the power you have over a person ends when he or she leaves your jurisdiction and you may guess the implication of that action.

Alexander III who was the ancient Greek king of Macedon around 323 BC was known as Alexander the Great not because of the power he wielded over his subjects. He was not protected by his helmet of bronze but by the fact that he was buried in the heart of his people who held him in zenith esteem. This explains why he was able to raise an army that made him the most successful military commander in history. He was never defeated in battle. His "Linen Cuirass" was traditional Greek body armour that was made of stiffened layers of linen with steel scales around his waist as a symbol of chastity. His respect for women kept him undefiled and fortified against any form of distraction through lust.

Similar attitude is expected of the African king to win the favour of the ancestors, the protection of Almighty God, and the support of the subjects who will be eager to obey whenever the royal majesty gives a command.

Father (Prof) Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja, and Consultor for the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (CRRM), Vatican City

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