Constitutional Review: Ironsi , Gowon , Obasanjo stripped us of roles in governance – Traditional Rulers

…Demand creation of Nat.Council of State 

By Ignatius Okorocha

The National Council of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria , has  blamed the Military administrations led by late General Aguyi Ironsi , Rtd Generals  Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo between 1966 and 1979 of making  traditional rulers redundant at all levels of  governance in the country. 

This is as Royal fathers called on the National Assembly to create a National Council of State position for traditional rulers  to play their role in governance of the country in the proposed amendment of the  1999 constitution.

For peace and Security to reign in the country particularly at the grassroots level,  the council demanded for constitutional role in governance as was the practice in the past from pre – colonial era , during colonial period and even post colonial era up to 1976.

Making their submissions before the Senate Ad – hoc Commitee on Constitution Review on Thursday at the National Assembly , the council led by Etsu Nupe , Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar who represented the Chairman , the Sultan of Sokoto , Alhaji Muhammadu Saad Abubakar , said exclusion of traditional institution in governance , created the problems of insecurity, religious and communal clashes the country is now facing .

According to him , traditional institution aside been the only platform of societal administration before the advent of colonialism , was also the veritable platform heavily relied upon by the colonialists during the era of colonialism , which made the Institution to be factored into the  form of  governance bequeathed to us in 1960 at independence .

” At independence and even before , precisely during the first republic , both the 1960 and 1963 constitutions , gave traditional rulers substantial roles to play in governance through bicameral legislature at the regional level with  the House of Chiefs in place along with  parliaments meant for  elected representatives .

” But the military interregnum which started with the Aguyi Ironsi regime in January 1966 to that of Yakubu Gowon from July 1966 to July 1975 and that of Obasanjo which carried out the local government reform in 1976, stripped the traditional rulers of any constitutional role in governance  .

“Unfortunately , before the exclusion of the Institution from governance , particularly at the grassroots, insecurity was not  problems for the country as well as well as religious and communal clashes being experienced in different parts of the country now ” , he said .

He specifically declared that the 1976 local government reform , carried out  under the Obasanjo Military regime , crippled  the Institution in the running of governance at the local level like arbitration on issues like marital , land theft etc , within an Emirate or community .

” No community or Nation can  thrive successfully without due consideration of its historical evolution , which was not considered by any of the provisions of the  1999 constitution .

” Even the ceremonial function given the Institution by the 1979 constitution with inclusion of Chairmen of Council of traditional rulers from each of the 19 states then , as members of National Council of States , was removed by the 1999 constitution”, he lamented.

Continuing he said,”We Urged the  National Assembly to ensure that a constitutional provision is made with a view to ensure creation of roles for traditional rulers in matters involving religion, culture, security, justice and other ancillary matters.

“The Constitutional provision should provide for States to enact State Laws t) cater for specific peculiar matters relating to Traditional Rulers in the respective States. In addition, the Chairmen of the States Councils of Chiefs should be recoznised by the Constitution as Members of the Council of State as it has been in al] the Nigerian Constitutions, except the 1999 one.”

The sultan therefore as contained in the 19 – page written memorandum submitted to the committee , demanded for reinstatement of status of traditional institution in the country as it was before , during and few years after the colonial era .

The Senate President , Ahmad Lawan in his remarks , assured the traditional rulers of cooperation of the National Assembly in acceding to their demands .

” If given the required constitutional role , traditional institution , will no doubt , add values to  governance in the country in the area of security , communal conflicts among others .

” Infact , if there is need for the Institution to be factored into the Nation’s security architecture , it should be done for security and safety of Nigerians across the length and breadth of the country” , he said .

He however advised them to ensure that each of the 469 federal lawmakers , is given a copy of the memorandum for the required consideration.

The Chairman of the Ad – hoc Committee on Constitution review in the Senate , Senator Ovie Omo – Agege in his remarks , urged the traditional rulers to lobby both the federal and state lawmakers for easy adoption of their requests, since according to him, all political office holders , elected or appointed, are subjects of traditional rulers .

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