Traditional rulers as fourth-tier of government
Dear Kabiyesi, I bring you warm greetings from the street. May your reign be long and your tenure most rewarding. I do not belong to the class of those that wish you more children given the battalion you already have from multiple Olori. But may you live long enough to train them successfully, and accomplish enough for the envy of your ancestors. Ase.
Kabiyesi, I was particularly worried by your recent endorsement of the proposed creation of a fourth-tier of government for traditional rulers, and that warrants my letter to you. Please, forgive my audacity to address the subject. As a son of the soil, I know that a kolanut matures only in the mouth of an elder. However, without the youth having a bite of the proverbial kolanut, the elder cannot be enthroned. The elder is just as important to nation building as the youth, so you can forgive my flippancy, Kabiyesi. I made efforts to deliver this message in person, but your overzealous guards denied access to the palace, like they have always done to matters of urgent public importance.
I reckon that the subject-matter has been long in coming and its justification is not far-fetched. Indeed, your forefathers were the early set of ‘politicians’ that held the rein of affairs before the coming of colonial interlopers. When the jegudu-jera oyinbo people were dislodged at independence, it was anticipated that Awolowo, Azikiwe, Balewa and co. would return to the old political structure of having traditional rulers at the helm of affairs. Sadly, they did not and the stool has since remained an appendage. Things further went south for traditional stools at the 1976 Constitutional reform where Royal Fathers were subsumed under the new Local Government Authority.
Kabiyesi, I feel your enduring pains of inadequacy in the current arrangement. I’m aware of how wayward and condescending most of the politicians have become. Both the stool and royal concerns rarely matter much to council chairmen because they have the proverbial yam and hold the knife too. You and majority of your comrades are just there hanging, and at the beck and call of politicians. It is for that reason that your counterpart in Obimo Community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, Igwe Spencer Ugwuoke, recently called on the Federal Government to make traditional rulers’ institution the fourth-tier of government. He argued that traditional rulers were not backed by law to arrest and prosecute criminals in their respective communities. “The traditional rulers know the criminals in their respective communities but they have no power to arrest them,” the Obi had said, and you agreed with him.
But on the flipside Kabiyesi, if your subjects have misgivings about creation of another tier of government to give constitutional powers to the traditional rulers, it is with good reasons. We your subjects are as worried about the worsening security problem ravaging communities. Most disturbing is that you and other monarchs know the source of the problem because it is mainly of your creation. And if you are part of the problem, forgive me Kabiyesi, a constitutional endorsement of royal rascality cannot be the solution. Truth is bitter; otito oro, omo-iya isokuso ni.
Let us take a look at how we got here. You would agree that across grassroots to date, tradition is still partially revered. All major events of significance still sought blessings of the traditional stools. Ditto for all aspiring political office holders; they still seek your approval despite you not holding any constitutional role. But you hold traditional powers as the representative of the ancestors, the dead and the living. You are revered as a god among men, which is far superior to any public office in the land. That was the perception of old that majority still identify with.
Unfortunately, many of your contemporaries have desecrated the stool, diminishing its honour, respect and the far-factor (eru). How many of the traditional rulers still respect customs and traditions while laying claims to modernisation? Like you know, not many of your colleagues honour traditional rites anymore. Where are the ancient landmarks that are not meant to be destroyed, Kabiyesi? Have they not been dislodged and the land sold to highest bidders? Even you and your chiefs have become regulars in churches and mosques, kneeling for prayers before ‘the man of God’. They even hold deliverance sessions in the palace, yet you expect abandoned gods of the land to show up on the day of trouble. No!
So doing, you not only lose the gods, you are losing the people too. Your subjects could see through the smokescreen that the stool is more self-serving than for public good. Kabiyesi, of all deplorable roads in the community, how come it is only the palace road that is paved? The truck of diesel that is meant to power streetlights gets diverted to the palace. Why? You have the power to mandate local authorities to fix broken primary schools and healthcare centres in the community, but they never get done.
Rather than ease the burden of subjects, you are worsening their plights. Your army of weed-smoking urchins has taken over streets, hounding okada, keke and dispatch riders for levies. Everyday, they railroad you and your chiefs a percentage of their extortions from traders and transporters. Recently, scores of keke riders led a march to the palace in protest of an upward review of daily charges from N1600 to N3200 per keke. They didn’t leave until you brought it down to N2500. Since then, distances that cost N50 now go for N100. And to amass remittances, your agents are welcoming foreign bikers of no verifiable nationality into the community. Kabiyesi, that is the source of the problem and a disaster waiting to happen. No amount of constitutional powers will assuage these problems of your creation.
The politicians can as well see through this jeun-koku, chop and quench plot that royalty has become in many places. Don’t forget that they all rode on your back to offices and routinely settled the palace. But you cannot have it both ways; being the king and the gadfly at the same time. They are bound to be rebellious to the king that has become overbearing and of insatiable greed. The king could have retained its eminence by acting on behalf of the people and in checks and balances to the political class. Like I once proposed to you Kabiyesi, all those seeking public offices and making grandiose promises should swear before ogun, sango, amadiora and other ancient gods that they will neither steal public funds nor fail pledges. Active oath taking should return to political space for sanity, and that is a campaign you should lead.
At a time the country is looking for ways to prune wastages in governance and in feeding the bloated political class, further widening the net and enlarging appetite is uncharitable. Ideally, traditional rulers should retrace their steps, both in symbolism and substance, to earn their essence once again. Traditional rulers are meant to keep the ancient pathway sacred and stool unblemished, as the real foundation and springboard of our modern development. Take a look at first world countries today; they recognise that a river that forgets its source will dry up. Therefore, they have preserved their heritage amid innovations in science and technology. Nigeria cannot be different.
In closing, I will advise those monarchs angling for political offices and constitutional powers to simply cross carpet from palace to party secretariat, buy the ticket and contest elections like politicians do. I thank you for your patience, Kabiyesi. Ire o!
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