Give Traditional Rulers A Constituional Role To Play in Governance

Our Reporter 

The need for African leaders to define roles for traditional rulers in the constitution of their respective countries due to their significant closeness to the grassroots as a way of curbing the persisting insecurity and promote economic stability.

The Emir of Yashikira in the Baruten Local Government area of Kwara State, Alhaji Umaru Usman Sariki, made this call on Monday while delivering a lecture at the 6th colloquium of Science, Culture and Technology at the Universite D’Abomey-Calavi in the Republic of Benin.

In a lecture titled: “The Place of Traditional Rulers in The Constitution of African Modern States”, the Monarch extensively explained how traditional institutions can be used to curb the numerous woes befalling African States.

The monarch also faulted the successive constitutions of Nigeria noting that the architects of the 1979, 1989 and 1995 respectively failed provide any meaningful political roles for traditional institutions adding that, “The sentiments of those constitutions was that traditional rulers were irrelevant within the context of a Nigeria democracy that emphasizes achievement rather than ascribe status”.

According to the Emir, “What Africans value most is their culture and traditions which in many circles are considered as best options of attracting foreign currency into our countries through their tourist attractions, artistic products, music, dances, medicine among others.

“A people without culture is like a tree without roots. Are we really proud to be what we are as either Yoruba, Nupe or Baruba? It is unfortunate to note that Africa s continuously loosing these values by gradual extinction of our indigenous languages, social norms and practices and the outright refusal to give a position to our traditional institutions in the constitutions of our respective nations.”

The Emir who was also conferred with the Honorary Doctorate Degree of the University also emphasized that traditional rulers are enduring part of the nation’s heritage stressing that they play significant roles as the custodian of culture and traditions.

At the well-attended lecture, Alhaji Usman further noted that,  “Traditional rulers are closely linked with the grassroots and therefore, understands the problems of their people intimately. In our search for peace, order and stability in our society, the institution could be a veritable instrument.”

His words: “Despite the spirited denial of formal political roles to traditional rulers in the four most recent constitutions, traditional rulers continue to exercise enormous power and influence over lives and well-being of millions of Nigerians. In addition, traditional rulers control substantial economic and financial resources including land and forestry.

“In many rural areas of the country, the indigenous political places, there is a total absence of the paraphernalia of the modern Nigerian State. Law and order are maintained through traditional political structure structures. Even as the federal and state governments try to
diminish the political significance of traditional leaders, they nevertheless continue to rely on them as the link to the people in the rural areas. Although, politicians use us to get in touch with our people during campaigns are usually forget us after their election victories.”

The Emir, therefore, maintained that “Despite the fact that some traditional rulers are as corrupt and incompetent as their counterparts in the modern state structure, there is still a great
deal of reservoir of goodwill for the institution in the minds of many Nigerians who lack ready access to the institutions of the state. The state also treat them with contempt and unresponsive to their needs and aspirations.”

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the Universite D’Abomey-Calavi, Professor Brice Sinsin, commended the Emir for his efforts and advocacy towards re-positioning traditional institutions in African states.

He added that the University will continue in its efforts of ensuring that cultural heritage and historical values continue to enjoy prominence through research and improved learning and teaching among staff and students.

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