The dust is yet to settle in both Kano and Plateau States after the governors moved to splinter the domains of the Emir of Kano and the Gbong Gwom Jos. In this report, BODE GBADEBO writes on the emerging trend in which governors have tinkered with the settled traditional institutions and the resistance that has followed the move.
It is not a new trend. Political and military leaders had in the past disagreed with traditional rulers and it even resulted in deposition and banishment of some traditional rulers.
However, not a few Nigerians have blamed the traditional rulers for their plight, for dabbling into politics when they are supposed to be statesmen and fathers of all irrespective of political affiliation or beliefs.
In the First Republic, the Premier of Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bello, through the governor of the region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, in 1963 deposed the 11th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi I, who incidentally happened to be the grandfather of the current and embattled Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, over political differences.
In the first military era shortly after the collapse of the First Republic, the then military governor of the defunct Western Region, late General Adeyinka Adebayo, eventually deposed the revered Olowo of Owo in present-day Ondo state, late Sir Titus Olateru Olagbegi II, in 1968 after a protracted political crisis, which was a fallout of a feud between two political titans – late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola in the aborted First Republic.
However, Sir Olagbegi’s case was unique as he got reinstated to the throne decades later. His successor, Oba Adekola Ogunoye, died in 1993, paving the way for him to return to the throne until 1998 when he died.
In the Second Republic, there were serious attempts by the then governor of Kano State, the late Abubakar Rimi to whittle down the powers and influence of the then Emir of Kano, the late Ado Bayero, but the moves were thwarted by Rimi’s successor, the late Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo, who reversed the decision to balkanise the Kano Emirate.
Rimi had, on April 1, 1981, announced the appointment of four new Emirs who were declared to be co-equal with the Emir of Kano. They were for Auyo, Dutse, Gaya and Rano emirates. He then declared emirs to be “mere public servants working under the directives of their local government chairmen.”
There was no serious incident in the aborted Third Republic save for the aftermath. The most brazen was the deposition of the then Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, in 1996 by the Abacha junta.
Dasuki was banished to Zing in Taraba state for years before he later got a reprieve and was made to stay in Kaduna with his family, where he died a couple of years ago.
In the early years of the present Fourth Republic, another prominent traditional ruler in the North was deposed. The 19th Emir of Gwandu, Haruna Jokolo, was deposed by the then Kebbi State governor, Adamu Aliero, in 2005 over the allegation of making reckless statements considered inimical to national security.
Jokolo contested his removal in a Kebbi State High Court, which delivered judgement in his favour. The judgement was appealed and subsequently the Court of Appeal, in Sokoto, on April 14, 2016 reaffirmed the decision of the High Court, which had earlier re-instated the deposed Jokolo as Emir of Gwandu.s
The appellate court also ordered that all his salaries and entitlements for the 10 years he was out of office be paid to him as ordered by the high court.
Jokolo’s successor and present Emir of Gwandu, HRH Muhammadu Iliyasu Bashar, however, approached the Supreme Court, challenging the judgment of both courts and the matter is currently pending before the apex court.
LEADERSHIP Friday observes that even though political leaders are quick to run to palaces for blessing or endorsement of their aspiration or policies, they do not hesitate to invoke relevant laws to deal with traditional rulers, who fall foul of them.
In the recent past, it started in Oyo State in 2017 when Governor Abiola Ajimobi elevated 21 High Chiefs of the Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba Saliu Adetunji, and Baales under him as obas with respective domains.
On Sunday August 27, 2017, speaking at a coronation ceremony to present the new obas with crowns and staff of office at Mapo Hall in Ibadan, Ajimobi said the elevation was not to change the history, culture and tradition of Ibadan land but to consolidate and elevate the Olubadan and members of his council.
At the moment, there is no love lost between the Olubadan and his High Chiefs-turned obas as he has always insisted that they drop their crowns and return to his palace as chiefs.
The most prominent of them is that of the diving up of the Kano Emirate. A couple of weeks ago, tension was high in Kano State over the creation of four new emirates by the state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, a decision many believe is to get even with the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sunusi II, because of political disagreement.
The state government may have initiated the project to cut down the emir’s powers and influence, but apparently there are some misgivings from some quarters.
The Kano State House of Assembly curiously reviewed the law on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs seeking the upgrade of some traditional rulers to the status of First Class Emirs. This followed a petition by a team of lawyers led by Ibrahim Salisu Chambers and within 24 hours of the passage of the Bill by the lawmakers, Ganduje assented it immediately.
The state now has five emirates: Kano, Rano, Gaya, Karaye and Bichi. All Emirs would have equal powers and are to be on same first-class status as Sanusi.
Following this move, Haruna Sanusi, the District Head of Bebeji local government area of the state, resigned his appointment to show his rejection of the governor’s move and to affirm his loyalty to the Emir.
He cited “health ground and recent changes in the emirate system” as reasons for his resignation.
Similarly, the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, has stirred another hornet nest by carving out Jos North and Riyom Traditional Councils from the Jos Joint Traditional Council currently headed by the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba. This was seen by many as a move to reduce the influence of the paramount ruler.
The development has elicited controversy with many insinuating that Jacob Gyang would no longer be referred to as Gbong Gwom Jos, but Gbong Gwom Berom.
But Gbong Gwom Jos has resisted the splitting of his domain, asserting that no governor has the power to redefine traditional boundaries. The matter is still evolving.
In Ogun State, traditionalists, chiefs and residents of various communities have opposed the installation of 75 coronet Obas by the outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Amosun had on Monday, May 20, promoted 75 village chiefs, otherwise known as Baale, to coronet Obas amidst protests.
But traditionalists in some of the affected villages, including Eruwon, Kajola in Obafemi-Owode local government area; Olohunda in Abeokuta North LGA and Ibese in Yewa-North LGA have vowed to prevent the monarchs from entering their communities.
Another prominent public official to deplore the governor’s action was his commissioner of local government and chieftaincy affairs, Jude Ojuko, who tendered his resignation, saying the governor’s “directive on the issue of Obaship in some areas in Ota run against my conscience and yearnings of the people I represent.” His resignation was, however, turned down by the governor and he returned to office.
It is not clear whether Amosun’s decision is meant to settle political scores or not after his political god-son, Hon. Kabir Akinlade, lost the governorship election to Dapo Abiodun.
Also in Zamfara State a few days ago, a new emirate was created apparently for administrative convenience as no political undertone has been reported.
The Zamfara State House of Assembly on Tuesday passed a Bill for the creation of Bazai Emirate out of the current Shinkafi Emirate, among other developments.
The decision followed presentation of a Bill to it by the state government to bring the number of emirate councils to 18 from the 14 local government areas of the state.
Another governor who took action against the traditional institution was Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai.
In his case, he sacked 4,766 traditional rulers in 2017, comprising 313 district heads and 4,453 village heads, citing high cost of maintenance. Of course some aggrieved persons went to court to challenge the decision.
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