The role of traditional rulers in contemporary Nigeria’s governance has been a subject of great controversy. The discourse led to different viewpoint among Nigerians. In some quarters, they argued that traditions are archaic, particularist and anti-democratic while some Nigerians believe that the institutions of traditional rulership should be preserved and allowed to co-exist with the democratic governance in vogue. It is in an attempt to resolve this argument that this academic exercise was necessitated. In this endeavor, the study was theoretical in nature literature. Basically, draw its arguments from secondary data including textbooks, journals, articles, newspaper publications. The study revealed that before the advent of colonialism, traditional rulers were the custodian of the people’s culture and tradition but the situation changed when their powers were eroded through colonialism, military dictatorship, constitutional review, and self- inflicted attitudes of the Royal Fathers. It is conspicuous that the unholy marriage of the traditional rulers co-existing with elected representative in the Nigerian Democratic order is anomalous. However, due to primordial sentiments and legitimacy which the traditional rulers still enjoy among populace, it would be better to disallow them from active party politics and cloth them with honors pending on when Nigeria would be able to modernize her political system.
- Background of the study
Government in Nigeria circled armed traditional ruler, prior to 1861 when Britain annexed Lagos. There is no doubt that traditional rulers in Nigeria have witnessed the erosion of powers in governmental activities of their respective kingdom. This political development had drawn out discourse and controversy among stakeholders on how traditional rulership and the modern political system collaboratively carry out the expected task of government differently. It is on this note that this research may be timely and necessary to re-examine the issues and challenges in the combined democratic governance and traditional rulership in Ogun State.
Traditional Institutions and their rulers have suffered far from the imposition of colonial rule, wars and post-independence political development in Nigeria.
Prior to the emergence of colonialism in the late 19th Century, the history of the era was turbulent, with periods when empires such as Oyo, Benin, Kanem-Bornu and Sokoto gained control over large areas, and other period when states were more fragmented. In the Yoruba pre-colonial era, beyond the political institutions in various kingdoms which stood as the threatre of politics and arena of governance, monarchy system was a common form of government in Yoruba land but it was not the only approach to government and social organization. The numerous Ijebu Kingdom city-states to the rest of Oyo and Egba people communities.
The Yoruba political administration had a decentralized structure. That is, power was constitutionally shared among all political levels of the kingdom. It revolved round many figures starting from the Oba: the political head, council chiefs: the king makers, the Baale, the army and the religion cult. The Ijebu kingdom is one of the most developed in the region with a complex and highly organized government. The capital is at Ijebu Ode where the Awujale has his palace as the administrative office. Counterbalancing the Awujale is the Osugbo, the Ogboni confraternity. It is a fraternal institution in the society that performs a range of political and religious functions, including exercising a profound influence on monarchs and serving as high courts of jurisprudence in capital offenses like many other African societies, Ijebu kingdom in Ogun state was also divided into three age ranks and these groups each had their own leaders. The kingdom is made up of several tons and stretches to parts of Lagos State and borders Ondo State. The state rose in power in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mainly due to its important position on the trade routes between Lagos and Ibadan. The Ijebu kingdom imposed sharp limits on trade, insisting that all trade through the region be conducted by Ijebu merchants as the economic policy of the kingdom. The monopoly brought great wealth to the kingdom, but also annoyed the Europeans.
The distinctiveness of these kingdoms, empires, and emirates in the 18th & 19th centuries are clear indications that traditional rulers were the hub of governance in their various territories. It further shows that the geographical spheres of these authorities were localized. It therefore means that no traditional ruler had jurisdiction over the entire geographical area which later become Nigeria.
The emergence of Traditional Rulership into the Nigerian polity could be traced to Lord Lugardian administration when he said thus:
Our aim…. Is to rule through the existing chiefs to enlist them on our side in the work and progress of good governance… (Our) is that we may make of these born rulers. Type of British officials working for the good of their subjects in accordance with the ideals of the British Empire (Whitetaker, C.S. tr., 1970:16).
The enlistment of traditional rulers into the indirect rule system further consolidated the power of these natural rulers. They became more recognized when the native courts were integrated into English legal system. While the evolving state drifted towards independence. However, things began to change when it seems as if these born rulers had reached their apogee with the introduction of democratic values and agitation by nationalists struggle. The situation became worsened when the military took over government from the elected leaders at the early years of Nigeria’s independence. The final blow came when the 1979 constitution refused to grant any executive role traditional rulers in the local government level. (Federal Republic of Nigeria: 1979). Many Nigerians became critical on what role traditional rulers should play in the emerging political order. Gbong Gwan of Jos, a traditional ruler on the Nigerian Television Authority’s National News Broadcast of 8th July, 2009 was reported to have opposed constitutional role for traditional rulers contrary to Senator David Mark’s opinion of finding a specific role for them in 2009 constitution following the review of the 1999 constitution.
These two views best capture contemporary thinking on the issue, on acknowledgement that there is a problem and a situation involving our royal Fathers and that something needs to be done. The dilemma however remains finding the best way forward in order not to compromise the ancient institutions that traditional rulers represent, which is that of acting as custodians of native customs, traditions, culture and as spiritual fathers of the members of their immediate communities. The most surprising issue is that this vital institution of traditional rulers that controlled their locality in the pre-colonial society up till the later part of colonialism has been questioned, should these traditional institutions be abolished?
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Despite the historical records of traditional rulership in the then government, the present democratic dispensation has relegated the political relevance of the traditional rulers to the background. From a position where they were chief executives of their respective domain, they are now serving as political adviser in the contemporary democratic system. The situation gradually changed as the independent approached.
The traditional rulers over the years from pre-colonial society were the custodians of the people’s culture and traditions. They were actively involved in the western government as introduced during the colonial period. In short, records had it that some traditional rulers were members in the western regional government.
The focus of this research is to critically examine the roles of the key traditional authorities in Ogun state: Oba Sikiru Adetona (Awujale of Ijebuland) and Oba Adedotun Gbadebo (Alake of Egbaland ) respectively in comparison to the roles of their predecessors before and during the control of the British Empire, to know whether Traditional rulers are well fitted for modern governance arguing that tradition institutions are outdated.
1.3 Research Questions
- How have the traditional rulers- Alake of Egba land and Awujale of Ijebu performed in their political responsibilities in Ogun state?
- How have these roles contributed or influence democratic governance in Ogun state in the past two decades?
- What are the challenges faced by these traditional ruler in contemporary democratic?
1.4 Objective of the Study
The research is aimed at disclosing the functions of the conventional rulers, their influence on government, and how they can subscribe to a more viable united Nigeria. In this undertaking, the researcher shall dig into the past and shall critically explore the present to permit him to extend into the future. These objectives are:
- To inspect circumspectly the functions of traditional rulers in the current democratic governance.
- To assess their positions and cogency over the years to the existing representative government.
- To examine whether they have become additionally or slightly relevant and deduce why they are so as the case may be.
- To generate suggestions that are suitable to the local administration and other phases of government for the improvement of the Nigerian polity.
1.5 Research Methodology
Foundations of Data: This paper is situated within the qualitative method which describes qualities or characteristics using narrative style of social research. The paper which is theoretical in nature basically extract its arguments from secondary source of data including existing legal frameworks and other related policies, journals, textbooks and publications. The data collected will be in the form of descriptive words that can be examined. This research methodology is adopted to understand the different perceptions of different people on the issues and challenges faced by the existence of the traditional rulership and democratic governance in Ogun State.
Furthermore, these accounts and documents shall be reviewed as they relate to the role of the customary establishment in the locality.
1.6 Significance of the study
The research task is proposed at rendering to the understanding of the country political affairs. These include:
- It is geared toward discerning the pertinence of the traditional establishment, functions, and assistance to the modern Nigerian democracy.
- It is also crucial in realizing the magnitude of involvement of traditional rulers in this representative dispensation.
- The research is also of considerable prominence since it shall disclose the alliance that exists between traditional rulers and democratic government.
- It shall also signify the area of deficiency so that development and adjustments can be made to enhance the Nigerian state.
1.7 Scope of the study
The scope of this study covers two of the major communities (Ijebu and Egba) in Ogun State being ruled over by the Awujale and Alake respectively as they were Yoruba kingdoms in pre-colonial Nigeria and are still kingdoms to date. The influence of the contemporary democratic government on the above mentioned traditional rulers as accommodated by this research could be traced back to 1999 till date.
However, this study is limited to these two communities and period because of the significance of the contact the British Empire had with them, especially the history of the British Empire with Ijebu Kingdom.
1.8 Limitation of the study
The study is carried out within the period of traditional rulers and the modern governance in the present day Nigeria.
However, data shall be collected from various traditional institution ,in Ogun state, Nigeria, having access to the principal traditional rulers was difficult due to procedure and old age of some of these royal fathers which make the information not sufficient enough.
Also, issue of financial constraint was also a challenge as the research struggling for so much despite being a student.
Time frame for the research was from another impediment, efforts was focus on the project and job engagement too.
1.9 Operational Definition of Terms
In order to understand this research work, the following terms are needed to be defined and explained.
Traditional Ruler– Any head or representative of a traditional institution. It could also mean the paramount ruler of a kingdom, emirate or locality.
Traditional Authority: Traditional authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a regime is largely tied to tradition or custom.
Community: First, a community is a group of people who interact with one another, for example, as friends or neighbors. Second, this interaction is typically viewed as occurring within a bounded geographic territory, such as a neighborhood or city. Third, the community’s members often share common values, beliefs, or behaviors.
Governance: Governance has been defined as the rules of the political system to solve conflicts between actors and adopt decision (legality). It has also been used to describe the “proper functioning of institutions and their acceptance by the public” (legitimacy). Governance encompasses the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account
Colonial Administration: The policy or practice of a wealthy or powerful nation maintaining or extending its control over other countries especially in establishing settlements or exploiting resources. It was ruled by the British Empire from the mid-nineteenth century until 1960 when Nigeria achieved independence.
Indirect Rule: is a system of administration in which the British Colonial government adopted as its colonial policy in dealing with people by using traditional rulers, the traditional political institutions administrative, culture and judicial structures as intermediaries while the British officials mainly advised where necessary, enforced colonial regulations.
Democracy: The Webster New Encyclopaedic Dictionary (1995) defines democracy as a government in which supreme power is invested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through representation. Democracy, in modern usage, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body.
Good Governance: Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment. Also refers to a system of government base on good leadership, respect for the rule of law, and due process, the accountability of political leadership to the electorate as well as transparency in the operations of governments.
Awujale: Awujale is the royal tittle of the king of Ijebu kingdom. The holder is addressed as the Awujale of Ijebu land.
Alake: The Alake of Egba land is the paramount Yoruba king of the Egba, a can in Abeokuta Ogun State, South-western Nigeria.
Kingdom: A country, state or territory ruled by a king or queen