Before the arrival of the colonial masters, the individual communities that were merged together to form Nigeria were administered by traditional rulers. At that time, the traditional rulers and their traditional governing structure were completely in charge of the administration of the community lands and its resources. The traditional rulers set up the government structure for the communities to take care of the different needs of the community. They had their distinct structures on security, welfare, economy, law and order.
With the advent of colonialism, the power over the land and its mineral resources was taken from the traditional rulers. The colonial government exploited the lands and resources before handing them over to a forged federal government. The civil government took over the rights for the resources in the different communities and also imposed a constitution that voids any traditional law that is not in agreement with its tenets.
In August 2016, the Ooni of Ife advocated for the assignment of civil government functions and recognition to the traditional rulers in the constitution of the nation.http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/08/ooni-ife-canvasses-constitutional-roles-traditional-rulers/ This call by the Ooni of Ife corresponds with the opinion of many others, who include Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, for the inclusion of kingship as a fourth tier of government. The advocates of the constitutional inclusion of the traditional rulers in civil believe that the official recognition will formally authorize the rulers to organize their respective communities accordingly in a modern form similar to England’s blend of tradition and modern democracy.
The need for the constitutional inclusion of traditional rulers in the government structure of the country becomes imperative because the peoples of the many ethnic groups that constitute Nigeria have strong genealogical and cultural attachment to their communities of origin. Despite the claim of one Nigeria and detribalization, Nigerian citizens still maintain their strong emotional attachments to their traditional roots. This attachment is often manifested in the times for national economic and political allocation and struggles.
Presently, traditional rulers under the present civil federal government serve as unconstitutional custodians of the civil law. Because the traditional rulers have more access to the people at the grassroots, they assist the civil government in the enlightenment and enforcement of policies on the community. They make use of the local dialects and traditional structures to enlighten the native population. They translate and diffuse national programs and policies into the traditional structure to make the programs and policies more presentable and acceptable to the people.
Also, they still retain some level of control over the communal assets of the communities, which they allocate with discretion. They make local laws for the community and settle cases, which do not amount to serious criminal cases.
Though they perform ceremonial functions in accordance with the traditions of the people, they have no constitutional function and may be disregarded or challenged in court by citizens who are not attached to the culture. They might even be prosecuted or jailed, since they do not have the same political immunity like the civil government.
But in all, they are the main custodians of the people’s system of value. For the proper organization of a better Nigeria, they deserve more than just constitutional recognition. They are needed to for official duties in reorganizing their communities for a healthy role in the whole body of the federal government.