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THE ROLE OF TRADITIONAL RULERS IN PROMOTING POLITICAL STABILITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY IN AKWA IBOM STATE, NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF THE TRADITIONAL RULERS COUNCIL OF AKWA IBOM STATE)
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
In any society, there is a requirement that certain people mange its affairs, the society or state realizes its objectives through the government which performs several functions which include; maintenance of laws and orders, protection of people’s lives and property, defense of the territorial integrity of the state(Olu, 2006). In pre-colonial era, Nigeria was under the administration of firm traditional institutions and rulers. Traditional ruler governed various communities, these rulers were often founders of the communities and so they assumed the position of leadership and controlled every activity within their domain. For example the Hausa/Fulani recognized the Emirs in the North as their head, the West had the Oba as the Yoruba ruler and the acephalous system reigned in the Eastern part of Nigeria. These traditional institutions were well administered and highly respected. They were seen as the custodians of the traditional norms and culture (Abdu, 2009). Their powers cover every aspect of their communities including social, military, political, economic and religious activities. They protected their area against external aggression and also maintain peace and security of the area (Aidelokhai, 2008).
In recent time, the traditional rulers in Nigeria had performed vital role in democratic stability ranging from the use of traditional mechanism to resolve communal conflict, this was because they were trusted than state government officials during post conflict situations. The well established traditional institutions serve as the formation for British indirect rule especially in the Northern part of the country (Barr. Abdulahi,2007). It is unfortunate that at the attainment of independence, the worth and functions of the traditional rulers gradually depleted. Military and civilian governments at many points have either tried to suppress or revive the usefulness of the traditional ruler.In 1967-1968 there was a change that powers over judicial affairs were significantly reduced. Although with the introduction of democracy in 1999 and the need to establish a more durable constitutional framework, the issue of Traditional Rulers have again come to the front. With the recent concerns on security challenges that is facing the country today, the role of traditional ruler in promoting stability and sustainable democracy in the country cannot be waved aside. Traditional Rulers have an important role in conflict resolution and in creating awareness of government policies and political development in their domain and in their state as a whole.
Therefore the premise of this study is on the role of traditional rulers on promoting political stability and sustainable democracy in Nigeria with particular reference to Akwa Ibom State.
This will be done by analyzing the Traditional Rulers Council of Akwa Ibom State
1.2 STATENENT OF PROBLEM
Right from the colonial time, the traditional institution has been involved in Nigerian politics especially in the era of Lord Lugard 1914-1919, when the indirect rule (Native Authority), as a system of administration, was introduced in Northern Nigeria. As a system of administration, it involves the use of traditional rulers and its institutions as agents or intermediaries to rule the native people. In an area where there was no existence of traditional rulers like in the pre-colonial Igbo system, the colonial masters appointed warrantchiefs to ensure an effective and efficient local administration. The traditional rulers were closely supervised and advised by the British and were expected to take instructions from these British residents and pass them to their people. In the protectorate where indirect rule was practiced, there were no legislative or executive councils but native council, (Udokang, 2006).
The Traditional Rulers in the pre-colonial era were so important and well respected that the people sometimes pay homage to them because they see them as semigods. As at this era, the traditional rulers were seen as the custodians of peace and stability amongst the people, but as Nigeria gained independence and make progress in modern government, the role of traditional rulers were displaced.At this juncture, some traditional rulers started losing relevance as most of them beganmeddling into politics, this made the chieftaincy title lose its integrity.In most cases, the government exercises her veto power over the traditional rulers and their communities. Although there are traditional council of chiefs and the kingsmaters to take decision for the communities they are been rendered powerless. Sometimes after careful selections of candidate for the throne, the government may still turn everything upside down and choose another candidate among those who are theirs to the throne. This is just because of their selfish interest.
Education is now a criterion to the throne. An illiterate candidate cannot get to the throne, even when the oracle and the traditional council of elders confirmed and approved him as the next king or chief, it is seen that the tradition and customs of the people are now been set aside and traditional rulers and regulations are ignored in order to be current in the democratic dispensation. The corruption in the society is having a great effect on the traditional institution in Nigeria. Traditional rulers can no longer be distinguished from the politician due to their conduct in the society.
The respect that surrounds the traditional rulers is fading out gradually. They now run arrands for those in political offices and they can be called upon at any time to attend function either relevant or not. Traditional Rulers who are supposed not to be seen everywhere according tocustoms and tradition now parade themselves in government offices looking for one favour or the other. They feature prominently in political rallies and became politician themselves in order to find favour from those in government. It is seen that failure for them to identify themselves with the politician or government of the day attract penalty and other forms of punishment that affects the physical development of their communities.
People have divergent views on the functionality and the role of the traditional rulers. In line with the foregoing, the research question briefly put is:
How much has the traditional rulers contributed to promoting Political Stability and Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria with particular reference to Akwa Ibom State?
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to assess the role of Traditional Rulers in promoting Political Stability and Sustainable democracy in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, focusing on the Traditional Rulers Council of Akwa Ibom State.
This study will also identify the challenges of the traditional ruler in promoting political stability and sustainable democracy in Nigeria. This study will help to proffer appropriate recommendations on how traditional rulers can effectively carry out their task.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The powers of traditional institution have deteriorated since the emergence of the colonial rule in Nigeria the post colonial era did not see any relevance to the Traditional institution also, probably because the Traditional institution did not play an active role in the independence of Nigeria. This study is important because it will show reason why Traditional Rulers should play a role in promoting political stability in their communities in Nigeria as a country. The roles that traditional authorities can play in the process of good governance can broadly be separated into three categories:
-Conflict resolution function
-Information dissemination function
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
This study attempts to provide answers to the following questions formulated
To what extent have traditional rulers positively impacted political stability and sustainable democracy in Nigeria?
To what extent have traditional rulers negatively impact political stability and sustainable democracy in Nigeria?
1.6 HYPOTHESIS OF THE STUDY
1.Hi: Traditional rulers in Akwa Ibom State have a positive impact on political stability and sustainable democracy
2.Hi: Traditoonal rulers in Akwa Ibom State have a negative impact on political stability and sustainable democracy
3.Ho: Traditional rulers in Akwa Ibom State do no have a positive impact on political stability and sustainable democracy
4.Ho: Traditional rulers in Akwa Ibom State do not have a negative impact on political stability ad sustainable democracy.
1.7 SCOPE /LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The research focus is on the Traditional Rulers Council of Akwa IbomState. The Akwa Ibom State traditional council is made up of men with knowledge and integrity, who also have vast experience in their various cultures. It was established and created by the Akwa Ibom State Traditional Rulers Law cap. 134 Laws of Akwa Ibom State volume 6,2000 which law established a Traditional Rulers’ Council for each Local Government area in Akwa Ibom State. It comprises of Traditional rulers from the three senatorial districts of Uyo, IkotEkpene and Eket whichcovers the 31 Local government Areas in the state. The traditional Rulers council is made up of: Paramount rulers, clan heads and village heads.
Akwa Ibom State is located in the south-south region of Nigeria. Formerly of the old calabar, Akwa Ibom State was created on the 23rd of September 1987. The state is made up of three major ethnic groups which include: Ibibio, Anang and Oron and has 31 Local Government Areas.
The researcher was limited by insufficient amount of funds to carry out the research, the researcher was also constricted by time as she could not get across to all the traditional rulers in the state in order to get all their opinions on the roles traditional rulers are playing to ensure political stability and sustainable democracy.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Traditional Institutions: This is refers to the indigenous political arrangement where by leaders with proven track records are appointed and installed in line with the provisions of their native laws and customs (Orji, &Olali, 2010:402)
Political Stability: The term political stability refers to a situation where the government of the country is able to maintain peace and order within its system
Sustainable Democracy: The word democracy has often been simply defined as government of the people, by the people and for the people.