In these modern times are traditional rulers relics of the past or are they still important?
Thanks to the Oba of Lagos' faux pas (and alleged glaucoma) traditional rulers are trending.
Before the video surfaced, the trending rulers were Ooni of Ife for his globe-trotting ways and Emir of Kano for his political views. Now, the public discourse is about traditional rulers.
In 2017, do we really need traditional rulers and how important are they? Nigeria is one of the most multi-ethnic countries in the world. There are at least 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria and 526 different languages. Most ethnic groups have a traditional ruler who is a custodian of culture and tradition.
Before colonialism, traditional rulers were the sole authority. They had the power structure. Emirs, Sultans, Obas and Obis were the kings who ruled. They influenced, created laws, rules and customs for people to follow.
Colonialism broke the power monopoly of traditional rulers. The British brought their own political machinery. Traditional rulers were retained in this new set up and depending on their region had substantial influence.
As the decades have gone by with Nigeria moving from colonial rule, the parliamentary system of government to democracy, traditional rulers have taken the back seat to politicians.
In this era, traditional rulers are symbolic leaders who are custodians of our culture, history and tradition. Palaces are basically tourist attractions.
However, while traditional rulers no longer have political power they can influence political decisions. Depending on the status, a traditional ruler can be influential in local, state or federal politics.
Besides politics, the traditional ruler acts as a peacemaker whenever there are clashes in the community. In March 2017, the Ooni of Ife called on indigenes and non-indigenes to continue to live in peace and avoid any act that could-could threaten the peace of Ife kingdom in Osun.
This was during the Yoruba-Hausa clash which left five people dead. The Ile-Ife monarch was said to have intervened in the matter and urged security officials to restore peace.
Many traditional rulers play this role but some still question the relevance of monarchs. Some Nigerians feel they are part of the corrupt political process and a lot of money is spent on their upkeep.
Despite the argument, traditional rulers are respected. They are the last link between our culture and us before colonialism interrupted it.
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