The British spent well over three hundred years in India. Their indirect rule policy saw them make use of the traditional rulers to administer the extremely vast country. When the Raj gave the Hindu dominated country on August 15 1947, they opted to do away with the traditional rulership system in order to become a complete republic.
The British still used the traditional rulers in their ninety-nine year rule of Nigeria. When independence came, the politicians didn’t vote to abolish the system as many of them were involved in partisan politics either from behind the scenes or by holding appointments.
Then came the clash between the politicians and the traditional rulers as they both battled for political supremacy. The then Alaafin of Oyo and father to the present Alaafin, Oba Adeyemi was deposed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1955. Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola removed the Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Aderemi as the Governor of the Western Region and reduced his salary to one penny. The Late Oba of Lagos, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan was prevented from becoming the Oba of Lagos in 1949 because of his sympathy for the National Council for Nigeria and the Camerouns (NCNC), The then Olowo of Owo, Sir Olateru-Olagbegi was deposed because of his affiliation with Chief S.L Akintola.
The military didn’t spare recalcitrant traditional rulers as the Late General Sani Abacha deposed the then Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki who was critical of his governance style.
The Governor of Kano State Abdullahi Ganduje who came to national notoriety when he was videoed collecting dollar bribes from a contractor recently balkanized the ancient Kano emirate into four — Raya, Bichi, Gaya and Karaye. Through the stroke of the pen, he altered the course of the 214 year emirate which was created in 1804 after the jihad led by Uthman Dan Fodio.
Ganduje’s action came as no surprise as the acerbic tongued Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had been overtly critical of his administration. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the lack of support from the erstwhile CBN boss for his second term in office. For the first time in history, Kano now has five emirates.
The governor defied a court order not to break the emirate into five by presenting the new emirs with the staff of office last Saturday. This shows a flagrant disregard for due process but do the political elite really give a damn about court orders that are not favourable to them?
The crowd that came for the ceremony could be an indication of Sanusi’s growing unpopularity or were they rented which will not be out of place?
Sanusi’s daughter went on social media to call Ganduje the worst governor in the state’s history. She was also supported by her brother who said unsavoury things about the governor. They obviously spoke on behalf of their beleaguered father who must be trying his best to keep his cool and maintain his composure.
The critical question to ask is what really is the relevance of traditional rulers especially in a democracy? What is their use? What role do they really play? How does their presence impact the people especially the masses?
There has been a clamour for the various governments to run a lean administration in order to cut costs and reduce profligacy. The various traditional rulers are supported by the governments which greatly add to the burden of governance.
Some of them are partisan which is not supposed to be and they receive the short end of the stick when they fail to support the party in power. Tragically, they have been reduced to mere errand boys to be used and dumped at will. The local governments have more or less usurped the functions of these Royal Fathers as they are constitutionally the closest government to the people. The function of the traditional rulers is now a needless duplication. Why should a sane state continue to financially support an institution not recognized by the 1999 constitution?
We recall that Sanusi said that he has never driven to a petrol station to purchase petrol for his car. Their lack of identifiable functions makes them invariably idle which doesn’t augur well for the Nigerian State. Many of them are nothing short of leeches with their parasitic dispositions stinking to the high heavens. A friend even made a joke about the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi still making babies at well over eighty.
Ganduje’s action will spark future ripple effects. What if a new governor who is pro Sanusi succeeds him and abolishes the extra four emirates? What will be the implication? What if his successor wants to enforce the court order that he snubbed? What will be the fate of the four newly installed emirs? Will the four emirs who would have enjoyed the trappings of office easily give up power which tastes as sweet as honey? Kano state has always been a very volatile state. Any action to dethrone the newly installed emirs may lead to a statewide violence. The crisis that will emerge won’t be easy to manage and may end up assuming the proportion of another boko haram insurgency.
After the jihad, the power to create emirates rested in the hands of both the Sultan of Sokoto and Emir of Gwandu. Ganduje’s action upset the apple cart of an over two hundred year tradition which clearly shows the supremacy of political power over the traditional. A flurry of court cases may emerge from the two aforementioned ancient stools who will want the emirate creation to be strictly governed by tradition. Other northern governors may use the style of the balkanization of kingdoms to whip errant traditional rulers in line. The blue-blooded heirs will be reduced to mere wimps who scamper at the sight of their overlords in the various government houses. How sad! How are the mighty fallen!
In view of the reality of dwindling revenues accruing from crude oil which defines our mono economy, I humbly suggest that the entire traditional institutions be scrapped. Like the National Youth Service Corps, they have outlived their usefulness and have no place in the jet setting, fast paced 21st century.
Enough of the needless wastage!
Ademiluyi writes from Lagos.