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Monarchs And Politics: Any Backlash?

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TOPE FAYEHUN writes on whether or not there is backlash for any traditional ruler who engaged in partisan politics

Unlike before when monarchs are respected and referred to as the second-in-command to God on earth, most current monarchs have been rubbished by politicians who see their involvement in partisan politics as a crime.

Prior to this time, the main primary function of any traditional ruler was to advise politicians in achieving stable democracy in their respective domain and the country at large.

Presently, most of the traditional rulers who now involved in partisan politics are believed to have committed unpardonable offence before their subjects. Even, some of them who are card-carrying members of one political party or the other are currently seen as having eaten the forbidden fruit.

From time immemorial, traditional rulers acted as the heads of government of their respective domains. They were so powerful to the extent that when they spoke thunder struck.

They were the only authority after God because they were the custodians of the customs, traditions, and conventions in their respective climes, hence, the law and jury and they governed with maximum force before the advent of colonial rule and later politicians who came like a thief in the night to displace them.

Despite that, LEADERSHIP learned that owning to their influence, most traditional rulers could not be discarded by the colonial powers and they later became the servants of the imperial masters under the indirect rule.

LEADERSHIP investigation revealed that between 1951 and 1966 when Nigeria practised parliamentary system, many of the traditional rulers were appointed members of the House of Chiefs in the North, East, West and Midwest regions.

Pointedly, the Ooni of Ife, the late Oba Adesoji Aderemi, was elected into the House of Representatives and appointed a federal minister.  Oba Aderemi served as the governor when late Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the Premier.

Indeed, LEADERSHIP gathered that prominent traditional rulers actually were part of the executive and legislative arms. The likes of Oba Olateru-Olagbegi who became minister without portfolio and a leading member of the House of Chiefs in the Western Region, the Sarki of Arigidi-Akoko, Alhaji Olanipekun, who was also a member of the House of Chiefs and  a minister without portfolio. The late Oba of Badagry, Oba Claudius Akran, who was elected into the House of Assembly and served for 12 years as minister under Awolowo and Akintola.

Even, in the old Oyo State, the late Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Iyiola Matanmi, served as commissioner without portfolio in Bola Ige’s  administration. So many of them were also appointed into the ceremonial Senate then.

However, the era of political monarchs came to an end shortly after the 1966 military coup, and when the presidential system was introduced in 1979, traditional rulers finally lost their powers.

To further add salt to their injury, military rulers treated the monarchs as an appendage and exposed them to ridicule with a series of indiscriminate deposition, until the 1999 constitution cemented the loss of their powers.

The recent happenings in some states, particularly, Kano and Plateau, further showed that the traditional institutions have no relevance in the current system of government in the country.

In Kano State, there have been reports of disagreement between the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and the Emir of Kano Malam Muhammad Sanusi II.

Like a scene from Kannywood, in Kano State, it was learned that the government felt betrayed and decided to deal with the monarch with mutilation and dismemberment of his age-long Emirate, as against centuries of historically centralized Emirate.

Pundits traced the root of the disagreement between the Emir and the governor, to the Emir’s comment at the last Kaduna State Investment Forum, where he criticized the Kano State Government for its Light Rail Project.

Although, both the Emir and the governor were said to have been in a frosty relationship, and this further became obvious when the Emir was said to have described the project as not economically viable to the state and its citizens.

After the whole drama that greeted the comment and some reactions from the government, a probe was initiated to investigate the finances of the Emirate Council and that the state government planned to depose the Emir after the investigations.

The move of the government then was halted by some important personalities in and outside the state, who brokered a truce between the two.

Although, this was not the first time the same step would be taken. The late Abubakar Rimi attempted to do the same in 1981 /82 but failed. Analysts described the recent development as more of a political vendetta than development.

Political observers noted that the way it was perfected within a short period of time showed that there was more to it than met the eye. They observed that the state House of Assembly while on recess was immediately reconvened on Monday, 6 May 2019 and the Bill Kano State Emirs (Appointment and Deposition) Amended Law 2019 (1440 AH) was presented at plenary.

In an unprecedented move, the assembly immediately constituted a committee asking it to report back the next day on the issue. Within the next 24 hours, the bill splitting the Kano emirate into five passed first, second and third readings.

Before the close of work the same day, the governor hurriedly signed the amendments into the law, making it arguably the fastest law in Nigeria’s democratic history, and equally went ahead to give effect to the new law by appointing four additional emirs.

According to the new law, three thrones that were in existence before the Fulani Jihad of 1804, that is, Karaye, Rano, and Gaya, which was subsumed under Kano as the recognized emirate in the region, was separated and a new seat in Bichi was created.

The governor, therefore, elevated the heads of the institutions in Rano, Gaya, and Karaye to first class emirs, as provided by the law, and appointed Aminu Bayero, a son of late Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, to head Bichi.

The law also changed the pattern of emirate councils in all the five emirates and the exclusivity of choice of council members by the emir is changed. The amendments also made local government chairmen, secretary to the state government and five appointees of the governor into the councils mandatory.

Before the governor handed over a staff of office to other four Emirs, a High Court sitting in Kano stopped him from implementing the decentralization of the Emirate. The court also stopped the Kano State House of Assembly and the attorney-general of the state from recognizing the new four emirates.

An expert motion, dated May 10, 2019, and filed by one Sule Gwarzo, before Justice Nasiru Saminu, had asked the court to restrain the respondents from taking any action of creating four additional Emirates. In an order of interim injunction, the court directed all parties in this suit to maintain the status quo, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

Despite a court order restraining him, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, proceeded with the presentation of the letter of appointment to the new Emirs, claiming that he was not aware of the injunction.

A statement by Abba Anwar, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, said the governor did not receive any court order restraining him from further action concerning “the newly appointed emirs of Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Bichi Emirates.

Analysts, however, viewed the move of the Governor as a move aimed at reducing the influence of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, due to his political view which against that of the governor.

Although, Ganduje defended his decision to create four additional emirates in the state, denying accusations that the aim is to ridicule the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.

Ganduje insisted there was no vendetta against the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, but the latest move was meant to bring the traditional institution into full participation in governance.

The governor, who spoke with State House correspondents in Abuja, also dismissed the views that he had destroyed Kano’s cherished heritage dating back to 800 years, adding that those holding such views were entitled to their opinions.

Ganduje added, “Well, they are entitled to their own opinion but we are taking Kano to the next level and we need the active participation of the traditional system, especially in the areas of education, security, agriculture, we need the effectiveness of the traditional rulers.

“By decentralizing it, we are following history. Years back even before the 800 years you are referring to, the situation was not like that. So, if something developed 800 years ago, things are also developing now and there will be another 800 years. So, look at the history.”

Ganduje added, “It is not vendetta; I am not against him, in fact, he is supposed to be reporting to the local government chairman according to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“It is the local government chairman that he is supposed to discuss issues with and not the governor. So, this is celebrated by the people of Kano and we will make sure that the new emirate councils are effective in terms of developing Kano State.”

Also, the Commissioner for Information in Kano State, Mohammed Garba, offered explanations as to why the governor of the State, fell apart with the Emir.

Garba said the revered monarch got involved in partisan politics contrary to the tradition of the throne.

According to him, “What happened actually as a result of the creation of the new Emirates. You should remember that it was not the government that initiated the petition. It was a group of lawyers who felt that there was a need for them to have additional emirate in their own area.

“And they wrote to the Kano State House of Assembly and the State House of Assembly, from the information available to us, read the petition or whatever submission that was submitted to them and they felt that all the issues raised by the concerned citizens and lawyers are serious issues that should be looked into.

“The State Assembly decided to do their own constitutional responsibility by looking at it, initiating a bill, did one or two corrections, went through the normal process of the Assembly. At the end of the third reading, they presented it to the executive.

“If you remember the pronouncement of the Speaker when they were presenting this bill to the state governor. He said that they strongly believed in the bill, that should the governor fail to assent to the bill, they would come back to the House and use a two-thirds majority to pass the bill, which means that the Assembly is completely convinced.

“And they came to the State House and made a presentation to us and the governor looked at it critically and we felt that in the interest of the people of Kano, especially those who are living in some of these local government areas and the rural areas, we felt that it is something that would further develop these areas bearing in mind that some of the local governments in our neighbouring states like Jigawa – look at Ringim emirate for example.”

The same scenario is also playing out in Jos, Plateau State capital, where a joint traditional council chaired by the Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, has been split into Jos North and Riyom traditional councils by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.

The development was also seen by many as Governor Lalong’s effort to reduce the power of the paramount traditional ruler, Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba

After forming new chiefdoms and promoting the status of others such as the Anaguta chiefdom in Jos north and that of the Aten of Ganawuri in Riyom in 2018, Governor Lalong presented a first-class staff of office to the Ujah of Anaguta and Atar Aten of Ganawuri.

According to a statement by Dayyabu Garga, the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, to the chairmen of Jos north and Riyom local government areas, the governor directed the new traditional councils to comprise all the graded chiefs, district heads, village heads, and their staff who are from both local government areas.

Although the move has been seen as an effort to tame the power of the paramount ruler, the statement claimed that the state government’s resolve was in accord with Section 91(1) of the 2016 local government law, adding that Section 91(3) of the law also states that the most senior traditional rulers in each local government shall be presidents of Jos North and Riyom traditional councils.

This has brewed tension in the state as some are now of the opinion that Jacob Gyang would cease to be Gbong Gwom Jos, will henceforth be described as Gbong Gwom Berom.

However, many analysts who commented on the development noted that traditional rulers should be seen to be neutral in term of politics. They noted that since they are referred to as the father of all political parties, they should stop taking sides in terms of politics.

Some of them who spoke with LEADERSHIP, also objected to constitutional roles for traditional rulers which they have been clamouring for in the constitution for some reasons.

They are of the opinion that involving them in “dirty politics” of the country would drag them in the mud. Others believe that royal fathers cannot cope with political insults, bickering, prevarications, sabotage and character assassination associated with Nigerian politics.

A public analyst, Mr. Toyin Fadero, noted that” our traditional rulers should not be seen to be a card-carrying member of any political party. Look at what happened in Lagos State in 2015, where a monarch was threatening some people with lagoon if they failed to vote for his preferred candidate.

“It shows that the monarch is not a father to all but a sectional father. When you assumed the position of a monarch, you have become an institution that people will run to whenever there are problems. So, if you have rubbished yourself, would people mind you? You have lost your respect.”

To Engr. Adegboyega Lawrence, monarchs should be involved in politics because of their position as a father and the development of their various communities.

When asked whether it is good for their image, Lawrence said, “You must be known for something. If not you fall for everything. Look at what Oba of Lagos is doing. People know him to be a supporter of the ruling APC government and this has brought development to the state. He openly identified with the APC and it is better for him.

“But most of our governors don’t have respect for this institution. It is bad the way they are treating most of the monarchs because of their political stands. Look, the governors only have four years and if they are lucky, they can only spend eight years. But a monarch can spend 40 to 50 years on the throne. That shows that soldier goes, soldier comes, barracks remain. They should take it lightly with them because of the history.”

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