Seeking Relevance For Our Traditional Rulers

<strong>Seeking Relevance For Our Traditional Rulers</strong>

Over the years that Nigeria assumed the status of independence, our monarchical class often referred to as traditional rulers is still waiting to find political relevance in governance.

Owing to this, Traditional rulers have been clamouring for relevance with a request that the 1999 Constitution as amended should be reviewed to include specific roles for them as against their current ceremonial status.

The monarchs, under the auspices of the National Traditional Council of Nigeria, accused the military regimes of Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, Late, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, retd, and General Olusegun Obasanjo ,retd, of relegating the traditional institution to the background with no constitutional role.

Chairman of the council and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, said Ironsi’s 1966 Unitary Government Decree; Gowon’s and Obasanjo’s 1967 and 1976 Local Government Reforms Decrees, respectively, stripped traditional rulers of their powers and gave same to local government councils.

The council had averred that before the 1976 local government reforms, which stripped traditional rulers of their powers, Nigeria was at that time progressive, peaceful, decent and full of beautiful traditions and cultures.

The traditional rulers thereby called on the National Assembly Joint Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution to create roles for traditional rulers in matters involving religion, culture, security, justice and other ancillary matters.

The monarchs, in a memorandum presented to the Senate Constitution Review Committee by the Chairman, Coordinating Committee of the Council and Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, who represented the Sultan, blamed the government for neglecting the traditional rulers who would have helped to douse conflicts and ensure criminals have no hiding place.

Partly, the memo read, “Currently, traditional rulers do not have the constitutional or other legal backing to perform effectively as they are not even mentioned in the 1999 Constitution. This is a great departure from all earlier constitutions that recognised them, and even gave them some functions to perform.

”Constitutionally and protocol wise, traditional rulers are relegated to the ‘background. However, the colonialists needed them to consolidate their indirect rule, the politicians needed them to stabilise their governments and the military needed them to gain acceptance. All the respective levels of governments needed them to maintain peace and security; as traditional rulers were always at hand to douse conflict that the police, the military and the government officials could not contain.

“Traditional rulers should be accorded specific responsibilities for conflict and security management in their domains. This involvement, devoid of partisanship, would enable active participation of traditional institutions in matters pertaining to the maintenance of peace and security in their communities”.

It was also learnt that the royal fathers also sought to be involved in the recruitment into the police, army and other security agencies to help eliminate the possible recruitment of miscreants into the security forces. This they believe would screen out scallywags and touts who would not be screened out in a general setting as now provided in the recruitment process for many security organisations.
“This could be done by integrating traditional rulers into the screening process to ensure that officers and recruits are of good character. The official involvement of traditional rulers, particularly the districts, village and wards heads under the supervision of the kings, emirs and chiefs, in security matters will ensure that bad eggs do not find hiding places in their localities since new faces in the community will easily be detected and investigated.

”The constitutional provision should provide for states to enact state laws to cater for specific peculiar matters relating to traditional rulers in the respective states. In addition, the chairmen of the states’ Councils of Chiefs should be recognised by the constitution as members of the Council of State as it has been in all the Nigerian constitutions, except 1999”, the monarchs stated.

Much as the traditional rulers position in sync with today’s reality where hoodlums, terrorists and others masquerading as visitors end up as the tormentors of the nation, then, the smallest unit of governance which the traditional rulers govern should be involved we propose.

We agree that the need to engage the monarchs in more relevant functions to enhance governance is more than ever necessary, especially that most Nigerians belong to one space or the other in which these traditional rulers hold sway. Their lieutenants and palace chiefs are also community-based and are well-equipped to know who belongs to the eminent class to be engaged in community and national assignments.  

Just like the National Assembly leadership, we call for a deepening partnership between the traditional rulers and the various tiers of government so that they can synergise to fulfill the primary obligation of safeguarding the lives and property of citizens, especially at the grassroots.

It is reassuring that the NASS has assured that that the review of the traditional rulers role will be open, impartial, inclusive and transparent in order to afford all Nigerians the opportunity to contribute to the process but we insist that there must adequate consultations across various sectors to deliver an impeccable result that would stand the test of time.

We acquiesce to the reality that most traditional rulers derive their titles from the rulers of independent states or communities that existed before the formation of modern Nigeria. Although they do not have formal political power, in many cases they continue to command respect from their people and have considerable influence.  We think it is time for them to be granted more relevance constitutionally to save us from the unending security issues bedeviling us.

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