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At NICO conference, stakeholders seek help of traditional rulers in peace building


Traditional rulers at the seminar

Leaders of traditional institutions, government agencies and other stakeholders recently converged on Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital, to deliberate on the task of forestalling peace and unity across the country.

The platform was the fourth national conference organized by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO).

Although the programme was initiated in 2012 to underscore the cultural dimension to the nation’s quest for sustainable peace and security, stakeholders held that the conference has become more imperative in the present situation in view of the escalating cases of hostility and hatred among various tribes and religious groups in the country.

Tagged, ‘Culture, Peace and National Security: The Role of Traditional Rulers’, the event recorded high turnout of traditional rulers from across the country.

Some of those present at the event included the Ibinanaowei of Gbarain Kingdom, Bayelsa State, King Funpere Gabriel Akah;  Obol Lopon of Ugep, Cross River State, Obol Ofem Ubana Eteng;    Chairman, Enugu State Traditional Council, Ambassador L.O.C Agubuzu; Estu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar as well as the Alara of Aramoko, Ekiti State, Oba Abdul-Azeez Olu Adeyemi.

Others are Emir of Tsafe, Zamfara State, Abubakar C. Ibrahim; and the Emir of Kaltungu, Gombe State, Alhaji Saleh Muhammed. Aminu Adbulmumin Kabir represented the Katsina Emirate; Alhaji Ado Danrimi Garba came from Bauchi Emirate while Alhaji Idris Mai Saleh represented the Fune Emirate at the conference.

Welcoming his guests, the Acting Executive Secretary, NICO, Mr. Louis Eriomala, stated that the conference was born out of the urgent need to address key issues capable of escalating conflicts, such as poverty, ethno-religious conflicts, electoral violence, nepotism, inequality and marginalization.

He added that failure to address the issues timely could lead to diverting resources originally meant for human development, to military and security interventions.

“We are convinced that if Nigerians are adequately sensitized to appreciate the critical importance of peace and security to the fulfillment of their yearnings and aspirations, threats to peace and security will be drastically reduced.

“This strategy was adequately expressed in the preamble to UNESCO constitution which states that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

“We also feel strongly that if the cultural dimension is adopted in addressing our peace and security challenges, remarkable achievements would be recorded.

“In this regard, a constitutional role of traditional rulers is imperative. A bottom up grassroots mobilization approach steered by our highly esteemed monarchs will greatly complement the efforts of our security agencies”, Erioamala stated.

In a paper titled Managing Nigeria’s Security Challenges: The Role of Traditional Rulers, a lecturer in the department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, Dr. Obi Iwuagwu, decried the fact that Nigeria currently ranks 149 out of 163 countries on the Global Peace Index (GPI).

He held that some of the major security challenges confronting the nation emanated mostly as a result ethnic, religious and political differences.

According to him, since several measures adopted by the government have failed to ameliorate cases of crime and hostility, many have advocated a return to the pre-colonial tradition, where traditional rulers as custodians of the people’s norms and customs, were charged primarily with the responsibility of guaranteeing the security of lives and properties within their domains.

“The traditional institution in Nigeria appears to be the most enduring legacy of the country, having survived through the various stages of political history to the present time.

“While the degree of importance of this institution might have depended largely on the whims and caprices of the different political administrations, the institution has however never been completely ignored by any administration in Nigeria.

“This is because traditional institutions are usually understood and seen as instruments of social organization, which have been tested and chosen after sustained periods of social selection.”

Iwuagwu added that traditional institutions constitute the root upon which social changes take place in the society.

He said: “Traditional rulers are enthroned for the progress and development of the entire society. Therefore, nothing can hinder them from performing their roles in the society.

“Although such roles may have changed overtime due to so many factors, yet their relevance in the governance and administration of the country cannot be over-emphasized.”

He insisted that failure of modern security architectures should be blamed on the exclusion of traditional rulers in the security administration.

He found it ironical that traditional rulers have always been called upon to participate in issues relating to the security of the nation, yet, there were no constitutional provisions that clearly spelt out their legal jurisdiction.

He stressed that such exclusion has drastically limited efforts of traditional rulers in effectively addressing security challenges within their respective domains.

He added that while several options were opened to ensuring national peace and security, he would choose empowerment of traditional rulers to enable them play their leadership roles among the people.

While seeking constitutional powers for traditional rulers, he however warned that they must remain politically neutral and uncompromising as the symbol of integrity and people’s unity.

At the end of the two-day meeting, it was resolved that sensitization of the public was necessary towards embracing the culture of peace and security, and that traditional rulers should be granted constitutional roles to effectively discharge their historical responsibilities.

It was also recognized that the media hold enormous powers and urged that such be deployed to promote social cohesion in order to facilitate healthy cooperation among government agencies and other relevant authorities towards peace and security in the country.

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