*Can they command awe, amazement and hope as in the days of yore?
From Tunde Mohammed
Russell Kick, a conservative scholar aptly described tradition ‘as the wisdom of the race, the sure instrument of moral instructions…it teaches us the solemn veneration of the eternal contract which cannot be imported by pure reasons’. Our fascination with tradition therefore is not without reason. The assurance that we have an anchor in a past that still shapes our present and protects our future is important. Monarchs become a subject herein.
Sir Winston Churchill spiced this truism by adding, that ‘a love for tradition has never weakened a nation but has indeed strengthened nations in their hours of need’
All over, traditional rulers have been known and recognised as conservers of tradition, culture and they represent as well. They are major centre of attention taking precedence even over members of official government. Even though they have no major or formal political power, they command respect from their people with considerable influence. They served as veritable link between the people and government. That role significantly earned them a notable position during the colonial era.
Traditional rulers and democratic governance: With the advance of time and with the setting up of more democratic institutions and reforms by successive Nigerian governments, the roles of traditional rulers began to diminish. Where rulers had previously acquired office strictly through inheritance or appointment by council of chiefs, the government have become increasingly involved in the succession process. This probably can be said to account for the ‘carrot and stick’ relationship which commonly existed between our rulers and government.
But this control has little or nothing to do when it bothers on matters of preserving our values and morals. Traditional rulers have tremendous and limitless power if they have the people’s support. The people are the ruler’s backbone. It is from the richness of the people that the ruler’s councils are formed with people endowed with wisdom, tact, discipline, love and interest for the general well-being of their people.
In recognising the importance of traditional institution, the Nigerian Constitution provided for the establishment of state council of chiefs reasoning also that the exclusion of rulers from the constitution would rub the government of the needed touch for vital segment of governance. That does not however infer a master-servant relationship, rather a mutual relationship that should uphold our values and morality in the discharge of official responsibilities.
Rulers, values and morality: Regrettably today, there is a glaring paradox between rulers, values and morality. Rulers have abandoned their core responsibilities for self-aggrandisement. Unlike in the past when they were revered because of their good judgment, wisdom and self contentment, rulers now have grown penchant for deep pockets. Majority have lost that reservoir from where their people tapped.
Even as chief security officers of their people, they love to live outside their domain preferring all the beauties that the cities offer and parade. My best efforts to refrain from talking about Kwara monarchs and the contempt in which they held their subjects in the interest of what is worldly have gone to naught. Major aspects of their disposition and attitude have not received adequate coverage despite some ample commentaries it elicited. I add my humble bit to draw light heretofore left in the shadows.
Obeisance with caution: Your Royal Highnesses, I do not write here out of wilful disrespect for you all, nor do I intend to disparage you. May your tribe and broad increase and may your various land increase in size and wealth. This intervention is of a significantly different brew that it does more to contribute to a deeper understanding of the roles of rulers than it does to bore. A heart filled with hatred means a mind ruled by error. An understanding starts with a realisation that one is lacking and also one needed. Our traditional rulers in Kwara have for long held their subjects in contempt. They have treated their people wickedly and have served as accessory to their instrument of suffering.
Years gone by, traditional rulers formed union-like groups to advance the progress of their people and community. They compare notes by the growth and development that is taking place in other communities and its impact on the lives of their subjects in terms of economic progress. Heir to a throne must possess and display certain qualities and responsibilities which correlates with the dignity of the office he intends to occupy.
Therefore, the choice of an individual to a traditional stool is based on the individual’s strength of character, his dreams for his people and wisdom to lead them. This is why in modern times, educated and civilised persons are mostly selected as rulers of their community. The people do so because of their conviction that since education and civilisation drives advancement, such individual would take his advantage to move such community to modern times.
This is not the case in Kwara. One would search for reasons for this failure to no end. Here, our monarch have turned contractors, debt collectors and running errands that do not befit them in absolute abdication of their traditional roles. Because of what they want to become, they fall flat to government unreasonableness. They have turned ready tools in the hands of government and they name the price that is left for their people to pay.
They prefer to trample on their subjects than challenge government wrong policies. Except on matters of fanfare, their constitutional roles have turned to naught because of their insatiable appetite.
This failing have often accounted for their readiness to work against the common aspirations of their people when elections come. For pittance, they employ all manner of surreptitious intrigues on their community to do wrong against their conscience with the resultant hope of renaissance earlier held out turning at every instance into broken promises. Yet they insist their people not to tire of hoping. As bad as it is, the N10 million each which I understood accompanied the recent car gift to them may appear big money to many but to the giver, it is a negligible overhead of doing business – mere chump change. It is this type of cheap gifts that makes some of our rulers forfeit that sense of proportion and makes them see themselves more in the employ of government than their communities.
On the strength of this, they will be willing to continue to abet those who hold the progress of their people and community down with more tenacity and creativity than they would expend on their royal duties. It is not for nothing that one finds a subject not yielding to the calls of his royal father.
Tradition with modernity: This is not noble. The new Ooni of Ile-Ife, is a budding young man who despite all odds ensured that his heart resides with his people, marching them to economic recovery and progress. Within a space of time he embarked on projects that foster prosperity, environmental sustainability, peace and security. He is engaged now in reconciling tradition with modernity by championing computer skills for school children and micro loan scheme for young men and women. Beyond his community, people watch him with amazement and hope.
Part of the leadership dysfunction that Kwara suffers is its traditional rulers. They have continued to feign ignorance of events in the state even though majority of them still remembered with nostalgic feelings what Kwara used to be. Indeed, Kwara has suffered enough by ceding too much power to its rulers and it is high time that power returns to the people.
Our monarch’s relationship with their subjects is as deleterious as any coup if not more. If people can gather themselves against a military coup, we should likewise be more vigilant of another future coup of criminal pedigree. While the rest of us can afford to allow our rulers continue in what gives them pleasure, we demand that they also allow us to define our path to glory and freedom this time.