By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A group called Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria, PMNN, on Monday demanded the inclusion of well-specified traditional rulers’ roles in the constitution amendment by the National Assembly for a new and effective approach to address many challenges facing governance at the grassroots.
This demand was made by the President and Founder PMNN, Yahaya Ndu, at a press conference held in Abuja.
According to Ndu there is confusion, despair, and desperation everywhere one cares to look in today’s Nigeria. Insecurity, unemployment, immorality, bestiality, corruption, unrest, violence, as well as disrespect for constituted authorities, is common, and Nigeria and Nigerians by popular confession have never had it so bad, to say the least.
He also recalled that traditional rulers had constitutional roles under the 1960 and the 1963 constitutions, and under those constitutions, the Council of Chiefs was established in the regions; and as a matter of fact, some of the traditional rulers even rose to become regional Governors.
He further stated that even in the 1979 constitution, traditional rulers were represented in the National Council of State.
He added that before the coming of the white man; before the advent of colonialism in Nigeria, the areas that makeup Nigeria were largely governed and administered by the Ezes, the Obas, the Emirs, and so on; and governance structures were rooted in the traditional institutions.
When the white man and his colonial rule came, traditional authorities were gradually uprooted and increasingly made irrelevant and redundant and even cosmetic to the extent that today there are no specific roles for Traditional Rulers in the extant 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said: “In all the 36 states of Nigeria, as well as in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, traditional rulers are in place in their various constituencies.
“But strangely, the role of traditional rulers was totally and inexplicably expunged from the extant 1999 Constitution. That opportunity is the ongoing review of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
“I, therefore, with all sense of history and patriotism, urge the National Assembly of our beloved country Nigeria to lead us back to the right track, to restore the glory, honour, and dignity of our traditional rulers; and to create and ensure specific roles for them in the constitution of Nigeria.
“Virtually all our traditional rulers are among the best brains we have in this country. Most of them are extremely well-traveled. Many of them are successful captains of industry that have proved their mettle in all works of life.
“They are solidly grounded in the culture and tradition of their communities and people. They are patriotic. They are civilized and civil. They are the embodiment of all that is good and regal and exemplary in society.
“Let us restore their glory, honour, and dignity; and by so doing, we shall inevitably engender a new lease of life for our nation Nigeria.”
He also said that in creating and setting out the specific roles for traditional rulers, some areas and sectors to be in the amended constitution include “Security; Traditional institution is the closest tier of government to the people, to the communities, much more than even the local government authorities and what have you.
“They are also the institutions that make the most sense to the people whom they serve. Therefore, the traditional rulers should by all means have specific roles as regards security within their domains, even if such roles are to be limited to gathering of intelligence.
“The roles should be sacrosanct and should not be at the whims or pleasure of state Governors who are essentially and even constitutionally partisan.
“Culture and Tourism; Nigeria, our country, is groaning from debilitating massive and chronic unemployment, poverty, etc. Common sense if nothing else should compel us to use our staggering cultural and tourism endowments, potentials, and attractions to create employment for our people, especially the youth and women.
“Most instructively, culture, and tourism create employment for the people where they are. In other words, those in the rural areas, for instance, will have gainful employment created for them right there in their rural areas, where they reside.
“So, in this light, there is simply no attendant rural-urban migration to contend with.
“Agriculture; One of the most strange aspects of the neglect we have entrenched regarding our traditional rulers is in the area of agricultural development, initiative, and interventions.
“For a nation profoundly blessed with arable lands, the most populous black nation on earth, it is indeed most strange that hunger is starring us in the face so much so that we are perpetually asking for foreign aid to feed our people.
“I urge the National Assembly as it reviews the constitution to ensure that specific roles are also assigned to our traditional rulers in the area of agricultural development if we are serious about conquering hunger in Nigeria.
“Environmental Sanitation; All over the world and through all generations known to man, environmental sanitation is instrumental to the health and well-being of people.
“Today, when we have reduced our traditional rulers and institutions to mere ornaments to be displayed as governors see fit and when we have visitors etc, the reverse is the case.
“Solid Minerals, Oil and Gas, and other extractive industry; Traditional rulers should by law be involved in all extractive industrial activities conducted or undertaken within their domains.
“This arrangement amongst other things will help in reducing restiveness and insecurity as well as unemployment in the localities.”
He also called on NASS to consider emoluments for traditional rulers in the constitutional amendment, which should come directly from the consolidated revenue of the Governments and a percentage of the revenue internally generated from the domain of the traditional rulers resulting from viable endeavors and enterprises initiated by the traditional rulers in their communities.
On appointment, he said, “Traditional rulers should be appointed, suspended or removed as the case may be, not by State Governors/Governments but their constituencies themselves following their respective culture and tradition.
“Dispute between traditional rulers and government or between traditional rulers and their subjects should be settled through the instrumentality of their cultural norms and the courts.”
In conclusion, he said, “In so doing, we have exposed our society to the ravages and vagaries all that is evil and negative with the attendant immorality, ungodliness, disharmony, and boundless catastrophes.
“Experience has shown us abundantly that we have erred. Yes, we have erred and fallen down the slopes; and racing towards a bottomless pit.
“But fortunately, all hope is not lost and an opportunity to make amends and move ourselves to the right track has presented itself.”
However, he (Ndu) decried the alleged treatment some State Governors are treating traditional rulers, which has made the traditional institution a doormat and relegated to the backburner.
“These traditional rulers are now appointed and hold office at the pleasure of the state Governors and can be dethroned or suspended at the whims and caprices of the Governors.
“Paradoxically, traditional rulers are said to be the custodians of the culture and traditions of their Peoples.
“The social dislocation that has resulted in this aberration is glaring for all to see. Interestingly, the National Assembly populated by representatives of all the people of Nigeria our country is in the process of reviewing the 1999 operational constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, he said.