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Traditional Institution, An Endangered Specie



The traditional institution in Nigeria was once the bulwark of the society prior to the coming of both colonial administration and the democracy it littered. The members of that circle, limited by ascribed rights and privileges, held the society and the people together preserving the tradition, culture and other intricate fabrics by which the people define who they were. They were the bastion of the philosophical and religious nuances of the people. The functions of the royal fathers at that time was a combination of legal, administrative, religious and political. They served the people well because they were regarded as the centre of the cosmos, the universe the people understood to be an ordered, integrated and harmonious whole.

In that era, there were pockets of excesses that bordered on despotism and exploitation of the weak and poor as is to be expected of a human situation. And it was not peculiar to this clime. Royalty everywhere is seen as a burden and parasitic. This was even as they play their role of keeping the system running with varying degrees of success.

This was the arrangement the rampaging colonial adventurers met when they landed on the shores of the country. The traditional rulers were the compass they needed to navigate through the labyrinth of the so called primitive society they met on their notorious civilising mission. Since then, the system has remained, with the traditional rulers acting effectively as the viceroy of the supreme deity who demanded absolute obedience to their will. The system was not democratic but its wheel rolled efficiently, especially in parts of the North and South West of Nigeria.

The colonial overlords managed to impose their will over the system they met rearranging the institution as they deemed fit just as they discovered that the institution itself was literally indispensable if their plan of ‘civilising the dark continent,’ as they had to think, was to succeed.

The colonial overlords made attempts on the institution they met. In all, they left it almost intact. The royal fathers played a defining role in the fight for independence and in the democratic dispensation that emerged when self-rule was achieved and instituted. Quite a few, for political reasons, insisted that perhaps, they should be part of the democratic process. Some level of duty though was given them. But, in the main, the politicians remained suspicious of the royal fathers. However, nothing that happened in those pre-colonial and colonial days can compare with the ongoing rumbles in the royal palaces. The raid on the institution suggest that the traditional institution, as it is known today, is on the verge of becoming an endangered species. And it makes this newspaper worry as to the driving voice behind this attack on them. From across the country are reports that some royal fathers are on a collision course.

For the record, and in the ongoing democratic cycle, traditional institutions have very little official duty other than what is grudgingly extended to them by the elected officials. And that explains the arrogance of the political class and the confusion they are capable of. When they are not dismembering the geopolitical areas of influence covered by the royal fathers, they are dragging them into indignities that are intended to get the people run away from the system.

In the opinion of this newspaper, the traditional institutions, being part of the society, should not expect to be treated any differently if it’s incontrovertibly proved that they have a hand in the vibrations of insecurity and many other reported malfeasance across the nation. But as we argued previously on this page, such issues go beyond them as they too fall victims of the cruelty of the rascals. To that extent, we must be careful not to weaken the moral foundation on which the society is based. In our view, what the royal fathers represent go beyond the political. And that is why they outlive the political leaders who superintend over them.

Having said this, we posit that it will be a dangerous move if the political class, in their vainglory, create the impression that the traditional institutions are endangered species that must be done away with. If that is the reason for the humiliating actions against these icons of history and tradition, then, the overdrive is certainly in the wrong direction. We insist that the political institutions must co-exist with the traditional institutions. The two are vital to the effective and efficient management of the interests they serve – the people. The witch-hunt of the royal fathers must, at all costs, stop.



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