The Towulade of Akinale in Ogun State, Oba Olufemi Ogunleye, has advocated that specific roles should be ascribed to traditional rulers in the Nigerian constitution in order to give the nation’s traditional institution its pride of place in leadership and true democracy.
Oba Ogunleye, who spoke at the May edition of the monthly business meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Ogun State Chapter, held in Abeokuta, urged government to see monarchs as partners in governance and development of the country.
Delivering a paper titled, “Roles of Traditional Rulers in Strengthening Democracy,” the monarch lamented that the attractiveness of participatory democracy had been obstructed in Nigeria because constitutional democracy practice gave little recognition to the country’s monarchical history.
Oba Ogunleye noted that during the pre-colonial era, many African kingdoms, including Nigeria, had structured government mechanisms that comprised legislative, executive and judiciary with large armies for defence of their domains which were crippled by invasion of British rule.
He said, ideally, the law must derive its authority, legitimacy and efficacy from the history, customs, traditions and ethos of the people whose lives the law seeks to regulate but unfortunately, the practice of Nigerian democracy has relegated traditional rulers to the position of obscurity on issues of leadership.
His words: “Nigeria’s contemporary democracy is anything but a reflection of the history, norm, culture and background of Nigeria, as a largely monarchical milieu.
“The constitutional democracy in Nigeria today has relegated Nigerian traditional rulers to the position of obscurity in issues of leadership, especially when compared to the admirable position they had during the pre-colonial eras. The traditional rulership institution currently has little or no constitutional recognition or responsibilities despite their important role in governance.”
In order to make the traditional rulers adaptable to Nigeria’s constitutional democracy, Oba Ogunleye recommended that specific roles should be ascribed to them in the constitution of the country.
He added, “Government should see monarchs more as comrades and partners in he governance and development of the country, rather than be suspicious of them. This will enhance the co-existence of the two forms of leadership for growth and development and will align with the tested theory of mixed governments, which has and is still working effectively in other climes.
“The monarchs should continue to do the good work they have been known for, and they should shun partisan politics in order to help retain their respect, dignity and trust of their people.”
The Towulade enjoined the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary to “evolve a synergy strategy” with the traditional institution to incorporate learned traditional rulers into the administration of justice, particularly, in the area of alternative dispute resolution, in their domains.
The monarch also called on both the federal and state governments to provide enabling annual budget for the traditional councils to augment the pittance of five percent direct deductions from the local government allocation to the traditional councils in the states.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Ogun NIPR Chairman, Mrs Oluwaseun Boye, said the input of erudite traditional rulers like Oba Ogunleye whom she described as a veteran public relations professional, journalist and lawyer, cannot be disregarded in nation-building and development, while calling on everyone to emulate the fatherly role of the revered Kabiyesi.
Highlight of the meeting was the introduction of Mr. Kunle Somorin, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, and Mrs. Modupe Apanisile, a senior Public Relations and Information Officer with the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta as newly inducted members to the Chapter.