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Traditional rulers meet to build confidence ahead general elections

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No fewer than 100 first class traditional rulers across the country recently gathered in Abuja for the yearly National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN) General Assembly meeting. The theme of meeting was: “Building a synergy towards free, fair, credible and violent-free 2019 general election – The role of traditional rulers.”After close of proceedings, Palace Watch spoke with His Royal Majesty, Pere S.P. Luke-Kalanama VIII (JP), The Pere of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom of Delta State on the essence of the gathering.

What informed the theme, since traditional rulers are supposed to be apolitical?
Definitely, we are all apolitical. But as traditional rulers, to whom the people run whenever things get sour, especially during political periods, you do not expect us to fold our arms and watch until things get out of control before intervening. That informed our decision to invite the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Mahmud Yakubu, to rob minds with members of the council on what the commission is doing to ensure a credible and violent-free elections.

The people in attendance at the meeting were the first and second Chairmen of the state chapters of NCTRN, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The main objective of this body is to, among other things; work with government to create an atmosphere of peace in the country. As traditional rulers, our role is to advise governments at all levels on various policies. It is also our business to translate various government programmes to our subjects. The essence of this meeting was to create the required awareness among the traditional rulers, and to also educate them on the electoral guidelines for the forthcoming elections. This meeting enabled traditional rulers to liaise with various organs of governments, as well as discuss ways of improving traditional rulers’ welfare.

The INEC chairman delivered a keynote address, after which traditional rulers were given the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions.In his address, the INEC Chairman said his commission was prepared for credible elections. Professor Yakubu also explained the various strategies put in place to ensure success at the polls. He was asked such specific questions as to whether or not it was possible for hackers to hack into his commission’s website. He said it was impossible, as the body had put in place structures to checkmate such moves or plans.In some quarters, the NCTRN meeting is regarded as attempt to compromise traditional rulers and make them work for the victory of certain political party…

It is very sad that the country has so degenerated to the point that no matter how noble the intention of people are, especially traditional rulers, citizens still read unwholesome meanings into them.Traditional rulers are first and foremost Nigerians. Nigeria is our country, and our major concern is for there to be credible elections, so that peace will reign in the country.

By the way, who has the money to buy a man like the Sultan of Sokoto, the Ooni of Ife, Obi Nnaemeka Anichebe, the Obi of Onitsha and my humble self, just to mention a few among the traditional rulers that gathered in Abuja? We are not for sale, but for the collective good of Nigeria.If there is a crisis, we all have no other country to run. We have to remain here and manage it. So, it is possible to avert any crisis before it happens? Why should we as traditional rulers not do what we consider to be in the best interest of the country? We are not supporting any political party. Our concern is to make sure the electoral umpire is unbiased and does the right thing.

For instance, we had an in-depth discussion with the INEC
Chairman on the methods his commission is planning to use in the transmission of electoral results. We also got him to explain to us what INEC is doing to assist voters that are visually impaired, since it will be very difficult for them to identify the party of their choice. In his response, he gave the instance of the recently concluded Osun State Governorship election, where his commission provided some of these people with magnifying lens, when the need arose. 

We also discussed what INEC was doing to assist people with disability, especially people with leprosy that can’t thumb print. He explained that INEC presiding officers are expected to use their discretion to assist such persons. He spoke to us about all the measures his commission is putting in place to assist all categories of people with disabilities to ensure they do not suffer unnecessary hardship during elections.We as traditional rulers are not comfortable with the unnecessary tensions politicians create, when general elections draw near. It is,therefore, our business to come together, rub minds and come up with statements that will put them in check, so that they learn to play by the rules and not to plunge the country into deep crisis.

Mind you, politicians are also our subjects. We have been doing this long before now. We are from different states, different kingdoms, and there is no way all of us will come together just to endorse any political party.Aside political matters, we also discussed the continuous and embarrassing ASUU strike, just because, it has not been properly managed. This, no doubt, has affected Nigeria’s development because once our universities continue to turn out half-baked and semi-illiterates; the country is the worse for it. 

Since many traditional rulers are presently Chancellors of these universities, we agreed that the Federal Government should set up a body of Chancellors, so that traditional rulers can also be part of the negotiation teams. Remember that these traditional rulers that are Chancellors are professionals in different fields. So, they have the hindsight and the know-how to come up with meaningful discussions and reach acceptable agreement on these issues. We felt the Federal Government should do the right thing in the matter.

The general insecurity in the country was also of concern to us. For instance, in 2015, there were killings and violence mostly in the Northeast. Sadly today, violence is almost in all the states of the Federation, which we felt is not good for our country. We, therefore, called on the Federal Government to step up its game, by ensuring that the welfare and well-being of all security agencies are properly taken care of, so that they will concentrate on their primary assignments.

We also talked about the deplorable state of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country. We are aware that various bodies have raised alarm that the IDPs are not well catered for. We appealed to the Federal Government to change this narrative for the better.We equally appealed to Federal Government to endeavour to rebuild some of the communities that have been destroyed, so that the IDPs can return to their original or ancestral homes or settlements.

We discussed the menace of kidnapping, which has become the trend in some areas in the country and asked government to do something drastic about it.
We are not happy about the resurgence of Boko Haram, and their recent attacks on military formations.We made it clear to the politicians that it is only when there is a country, that a leader can emerge and as such, they should do their utmost best to keep the peace of the country.


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