Funmi Ogundare and Joshua Odebisi
The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, has called on traditional rulers to refrain from partisan politics at both the federal and state levels, to enable them attend to matters affecting their communities and address the challenges of the people they preside over.
The Obi of Onitsha who was a guest speaker at a public lecture organised by the Yoruba Tennis Club in Lagos recently, also called on the National Assembly to amend the constitution in such a way that it would promote non-involvement of traditional rulers in partisan politics.
Speaking on the theme, ‘The Traditional Institution in the Modern Nigerian Society’, the Obi said: “traditional rulers have no business taking part in partisan politics.”
According to him, state governments have adequate laws that clearly define the role of traditional rulers and this should be implemented as well at the federal level.
“The laws governing the traditional institution are enacted at the state government level only and this provides strictly for consultative and advisory functions for the state traditional councils set up by these laws. There is no equivalent provision at the federal government level. It is therefore imperative that the roles of the traditional rulers are well captured and given legal backing in the constitution of the federal government,” the Obi said.
The constitution, he added, should recognise the role of the traditional institution in communal life, such as mobilising the community for enlightenment, education, economic empowerment, peace building, safety, security and custodianship and leadership in advancing our culture.
“It is also necessary for the constitution to guarantee funding for community development activities over the existing provision of five per cent of the gross statutory allocation to the local governments, which is not even guaranteed and is haphazardly implemented,” he said.
The Obi gave a brief history of Nigeria’s traditional rulers from the time of colonialism, through the military era, up to the age of the new political elites, and commended their roles in nation development.
According to him, “our traditional institution today is probably at its peak of popular acceptance, compared to other periods since the colonial times. A nationwide perception study carried out in 2010 by Prof. Sylvanus Cookey and four other senior academics, found overwhelming support in all parts of the country for the traditional institution as being relevant to the lives of the people.”
He said the reason for it was due to a combination of factors such as the counter reaction to globalisation, the declining confidence in modern political institution, and the rising calibre and leadership abilities of the emerging traditional rulers.