FEATURE ARTICLE

Eric TeniolaSunday, December 4, 2016
teniolaeric@yahoo.com
Lagos, Nigeria

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OUR PRETENCE ON THE TRADITIONAL RULERS

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ne of the defects of both the 1979 and 1999 constitutions, is the deliberate denial of any role whatsoever for the traditional rulers.

Pardon me for referring to the constitutions often in my essays. I have to, as long it is the constitution under which we are being governed. If you go through the 1979 and 1999 constitution, there is not a single role for our traditional rulers. It was not so before.

Section 34(ii) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1963 states that (2) The Senators representing the Federal territory shall be

(a) The Oba of Lagos, who shall be an ex-officio member of the Senate; (b) a Chief selected in such manner as may be prescribed by Parliament by the White-Cap Chiefs and War Chiefs of Lagos from among their own number; and two other persons selected for that purpose in such manner as may be prescribed Parliament.

Section 4 of the Constitution of Northern Nigerian Law, 1963 states that There shall be a Legislature for the Region, which shall consist of the Governor, a House of Chiefs and a House of Assembly and which shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Region.

5 (1) The House of Chiefs shall consist of - (a) all first- class Chiefs, who shall be ex-officio members of the House; (b) ninety-five Chiefs having such qualifications and selected in such manner as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the Region (c) an adviser on Moslem law.

(2) The seat in the House of Chiefs of a Chief other than first- class Chief shall become vacant in such circumstances as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the Region. (3) In this section--- "Chief" means any persons who is for the time being recognized by the Governor as a Chief;" First-class Chief" means any Chief whose officer is for the time being graded as that of a first-class Chief under any law in force in the Region.

Section 4 of the constitution of eastern Nigeria Law,1963 states that there shall be a Legislature for the Region, which shall consist of the Governor, a House of Chiefs and a House Assembly and which shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Region. 5 (1) Without prejudice to the provisions of sections 9 and 34 of this constitution, the House of Chiefs shall consist (a) all traditional Rulers, who shall be ex-officio members of the House ( ) first class chiefs appointed to represent provinces in the Region (c) fifty-five Chiefs having such qualifications and selected in such manner as man be prescribed by the legislature of the Region; and (d) such special members(not exceeding five) having such qualification as may be selected by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier. (2) The seat in the House of Chiefs of a member other than an ex-officio member shall become vacant in such circumstances as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the other Region.

Section 4 of the constitution of the Western Nigeria law, 1963 states that there shall be a Legislature for the Region, which shall consist of the Governor, a House of Chiefs and a House of Assembly and which shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Region. 5(1) The House of Chiefs shall consist of--- (a) the persons for the time being holding such chieftaincies as may be prescribed by the Governor, who shall be ex officio members of the House; (b) eighty-seven Chiefs having such qualifications and selected in such manner as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the Region; (c) such Special members, being Chiefs (not exceeding four) as may be selected by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier; and (d) if he is not a member of the House of Chiefs apart from this paragraph, the President of the House (2) (a) The seat in the House of Chiefs of a member other than an ex officio member or a Special Member shall become vacant in such circumstances as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the Region; (b) The seat in the House of Chiefs of a Special Member, including a Special Member appointed by the Governor at any time before the coming into force of this Constitution, shall become vacant if he is removed from office as a Special Member by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier (3) In section-"Chief" means any person who is for the time being recognized as a Chief under any law in force in the Region.

The Constitution of Mid-Western Nigeria Act,1964 Section 4 states that there shall be a Legislature for the Region, which shall consist of the Governor, a House of Chiefs and a House of Assembly and which shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Region. 5-(1) Without prejudice to the provisions of section 9 of this Constitution, the house shall consist of---- (a) the Oba of Benin, the Olu of Warri and the persons for the time being holding such other chieftaincies as may be prescribed by the Governor, who shall be ex-officio members of the House; (b) fifty-one Chiefs having such qualification and selected in such manner as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the Region; (c) such Special Members, being Chiefs, as may be selected by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier; and (d) four members selected by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier, to represent the interests of groups of persons resident in the special areas within the meaning of subsection (4) of section 14 of this Constitution, being groups whose interests, in the opinion of the Governor acting as aforesaid, are not represented by members of the House of Assembly for constituencies in those areas (2) A person shall not be a member of the House of Chiefs by virtue of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section during any period when he holds office as Governor and the number of persons who are for the time being members of that House by virtue of that paragraph or paragraph (c) of that subsection shall not in the aggregate exceed ten (3) The seat of a member of the House of Chiefs shall become vacant--- (a) in the case of member other than the Oba of Benin, the Olu of Warri or a Special Member, in such circumstances as may be prescribed by the Legislature of the Region; and (b) in the case of a Special member, if he is removed from office as such a member by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier. (4) In this section "Chief" means any person who is for the time beign recognized as a chief under any law in force in the Region.

If you look at the present 1999 constitution and the 1979 constitution which we operated between 1979 and 1983 you will never find any role for the traditional rulers. We pretend that they don't exist yet when we have crisis, be it religious, ethnic, communal, land or political crisis we run to them for help.

I once asked my friend, Oba Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida, Afunbiowo II, (1950-2013),the Deji of Oyemekun(Akure) during his reign, whether the institution of traditional rulers will go into extinction or not in the face of modern day challenges, he replied "never, never . We survived the colonialists, we survived the politicians in the first republic, we survived the military, we are going to be around for a long to come".

No doubt that institution will be with us for long. They are our only link with our past. As Justice Oliver Wendel Holness (1841-1935) said" Historic continuity with the past is not a duty, it is only a necessity".

A constitutional amendment has become desirous so as to give the traditional rulers key roles in governance.

They are the last link with our past, unless we want to assume that we don't have a past.

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