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Role of Traditional Rulers in Community Development

Project Topic- Role of Traditional Rulers in Community Development: Case of Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State



Background of the Study

     In every society there is bound to be some people to lead and others to be led. It is a natural phenomenon and a need in every polity including the rural setting. Every people have their cultural norms and customs which are the standard upon which all the inhabitants of the place are required to follow. But every human society being unpredictable, there must be those who might, out of ignorance or self-esteem wants to do things the way they want or like but which does not harmonize with the norms of the society. This forms the primary reason why there are leaders at all levels of the society, so that the leaders or rulers will be showing the normal way to others.

     In Nigeria we have the president and his ministers at the federal level, the governors and commissioners at the state level, the chairman and the councilors at the local government level and the traditional rulers and their cabinet chiefs known as the red-cap chiefs in Igbo society at the community level. These traditional rulers and their cabinet members are the custodians of cultural laws, customs and the other norms of their domains. Everywhere in Igboland, there are the Eze, Igwe etc and the cabinet chief of that particular land who occupy the positions of leadership and are looked upon as the fathers of their domains. Nwankwo observes that the Igbo man has a deep rooted historical tradition of governance social and cultural practices created in his personality and mentality “so that his consciousness of norms and values of the society is profound” First traditional rulers exercise the powers of governance and guard the people’s norms and values very jealously.

   Ikwo local government is a part of Igboland and is in Ebonyi state.  Ikwo Local Government Area has five autonomous communities as follows:

Echara Community H.R.H Nwakpu Egbe

Igbudu Community H.R.H Olube Ekechi

Amagu Community H.R.H Dominic I. Alo

Eka Awoke Community H.R.H Dickland Onuma A.

Ekpanwudele Community H.R.H Nwigboji Nwokwa

1.2 Statement of the Problem

       The stool or title of our royal fathers is no doubt the one of royalty. Our traditional rulers are our fathers culturally, traditionally and customarily. Gboyenga Kushmotu observes that “traditional chieftaincy stool or title is a creation of custom of a particular clan or of a particular community or ethnic group or tribe”2. This creation is made for the purposes of chieftaincy matters and uploading the customs, culture and traditions of a particular locality. The royal fathers are the custodians of the local common law. These traditional rulers are maintained by the state which offers some generous concessions. In return, the traditional rulers must help in maintaining peace and security in their local places. The offices of the royal fathers in the country grow as many as the autonomous communities continue to increase. However, it is a surprising thing to note that this institution has no constitution role. Okey Nnamni seems to suggest that the problem is because democracy, in our system of government is not a home grown culture. He said “If democracy had been grown in Nigeria, there would have been a grassroots government level led by the royal fathers”3. Okey continued by saying that while others have argued that the royal fathers should be shielded from trivial matters, especially those that tend to be divisive or sectorial, and that royal stools should be kept sacrosanct as the occupants should strive at all times to live above board”4. In the wake of these arguments and suggestions, many administrations have come and gone without doing anything concrete about assigning a constitutional role to the royal fathers even after making some verbal promises. The Guardian editorial of 1st August 2003 reported former president Olusegun Obasanjo at his visit to the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ita Henshaw vi to have said that “he was personally in favour of assigning a role to traditional rulers whenever the subsisting 1999 constitution was amended” 5. He said that “the non-provision of a role for traditional ruler was one of the main deficiencies of the 1999 constitution”6. It appears that the creation of this office as has been noted is not in consonance with the foreign culture of our democracy. “Traditional chieftaincy stool or title is a creation of custom of a particular clan or of a particular community or ethnic tribe”7. From the above, it can be seen that constitutionally assigning a role to the traditional ruler is hard because the constitution is made to suit the democratic principles which is general almost all over world and not for any particular custom or culture of a people. At this juncture it is pertinent to ask, what are the roles of these our royal fathers in the communities with regard to the following areas of human-endeavor: peaceful co-existence of the communities, social and economic development and socio-cultural development of their domains.

1.3 Objectives of the study  

   The general objective of this study is to find out how the traditional rulers in Ikwo are having hand in community development or the actual roles they are playing in the community development of Ikwo local government Area of Ebonyi State. But to make this more specific, the following points of objectives are spelt out:

To find out the roles of the traditional rulers in maintaining peace and order in the communities of Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi state.

To examine the roles of traditional rulers in mobilizing the masses for socio-economic development in the communities of Ikwo Local Government Area.

To find out how the traditional rulers of Ikwo are involved in sensitization of their subject through a good flow of communication

1.4 Significance of the Study

       The issue of assigning the traditional rulers a role or roles to play in the society has been a kind of dilemma to both the past and the present administrations. This is not because they cannot do anything useful or that they refused doing it but because policy makers seem to be confused as to the best duty to assign them. This work has in its diligent and careful dissection of the polity and the workings in the rural areas of our communities found out that these traditional rulers have work and are doing it. Like a new discovery, this study has a lot in store for many categories of people.

   The policy makers will find this work very useful in that it will open their eyes and minds towards the capabilities of the traditional rulers. The rural populace will find it important because through this, they are acquainted with the knowledge of how the traditional rulers are representing them in social, economic and cultural spheres.

       The young generation abroad will also know the importance of these fathers in the village since they will see that they are there in the village protecting their parents and siblings interest in many areas of endeavor. The work will also serve as a good reference material to students, academics and others who have research interest in this area.

1.5 Scope and Limitations of the Study

       The study is billed to cover the activities of the traditional rulers in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. It actually focused on the traditional rulers role on community development in Ikwo Local Government Area. It examined the areas such as the role of the traditional rulers on social, economic and cultural development of the communities in Ikwo.

       However, the researcher had some restraints in doing this work. First and foremost, was the cost of transport fares for the researcher to go to Ikwo from Abakaliki. Ikwo is still a little bit interior especially some inner parts of the Local Government Area. It was also difficult for the researcher to get information from the shy villagers. The terrain of the local government areas that dot the place make large portions un-motorable thereby making movements uneasy for the researcher and many other obstacles.

1.6 Literatures Review

       Literature review is an important part of research work. However. Reviewing literature on this subject matter is not very easy because, the checkered fate of the institution of traditional rulers in Nigeria makes it difficult. Actually, there have always been traditional leaders in every society the world over. This is because, the older men have always had to lead the younger ones, this has always been a natural phenomenon. The more enlightened and experienced ones will always point the way customarily, traditionally and culturally, for the less enlightened and experienced ones. This is so right from the family level to the village and community levels.

       Kusamotu rightly observed this and said : “ in recognition of the roles which the traditional ruler is expected to play in the administration of his local community, the colonial government introduced the system of indirect rule which made the Nigerian traditional chiefs the central figure around which system of administration revolved” 8. It could be seen here that the colonial masters cleverly used the royal fathers so as to be able to reach the grassroots in their colonies. Ironically now, they are being prohibited from going near to political terrain. The same colonialists, according to Nnanna, introduced “the policy of removing traditional rulers from civic and political relevance by improving the policy of their home country”9. The doubtful position of these royal fathers confuse issues at times. Oshisada quoting from Guardian of Friday, May,17, 2002 said that “the Benin Monarch lamented the sharp differences in position in subsequent national government”10   he said the military in particular had no role for them except when it fell back on them in times of crises as means of airing the policies. In the same manner, when the imperial government was faced with the problem of effective administration of this big country contending issues made it expedient for the British government to resort to the native system of government. In this system of government, defined traditional rulers constitutional role is a matter for concern.

       President Olusegun Obasanjo once suggested that the traditional rulers’ role should be enshrined in the constitution. He further said that the traditional rulers had “serious role to play in the social, economic and cultural lives of their people”11. According to guardian, this was not the first time that the president showed interest in assigning a role to royal fathers. At his first meeting with the Obong of Calabar , the president had said that he was personally in favour of assigning a role to traditional rulers “whenever the subsisting 1999 constitution was amended” 12 . He said that the non-provision of a role for traditional rulers was one of the main deficiencies of the 1999 constitution” 13. However, what was not and has not been made clear by him is what this extra role for traditional rulers, might be for naturally traditional rulers, like fathers they are one made to maintain peace and security in their different communities. This and other things ancillary to this great role should be their concern. Assigning them any other constitutional role might as well mean putting them into partisan politics which may not be the best for a father who should have the duty of reconciling his children wherever they have differences. The royal fathers are the custodians of the different cultures in their different domains. Knowing and being the custodians of their cultures enable them to work as advisers to the government through the institution of state council of traditional rulers. The traditional rulers institution according to their enthronement of a moral, cultural and traditional rectitude. So, trying to impose partisanship on the institution will make non-sense of their natural and original role. The traditional institution has their natural roles in the following fields as observed by Kusamotu. Under the customary law of different ethic groups or tribes or clans in Nigeria, the following roles seem to have been assigned to traditional rulers:

                     Preservation of public peace;

                     Settlement of disputes among their subjects

                     Assisting in the collection of taxes: and

                     Acting as the custodians of their subjects

                    And community customs and traditions”14

When the above things/issues are taken care of, there is bound to be community development, socially and culturally. It is when these are functional that, there will be what we call community development.

       The research having gone through the undefined roles of traditional rulers, A.I Ikeme & P.O.Uvere note that “development implies an increase in the capacity of a people to enable them solve their problems and needs”15. They further made it clear that this capacity is inherent in the people and it depended on the people’s outlook, knowledge and trainings to solve the problems posed by their environment by the systematic use of scientific methods. From the above postulation by Ikeme, it could be seen that community development actually demands mobilization in different ways. Mobilizing people actually means to prepare them in order to be able to tackle a problem. In the case of community developments, the people could be grouped in order to pool resources together in order to effect a change of some situations or structures. Ikeme also posited that development could be viewed as a dynamic and cumulative process of structural change of a society” 16. He noted that it is also characterized by three primary factors:

  1. Absolute and sustained economic growth
  2. Scientific and technological progress
  3. The social propagation of the benefits and effects of all sectors of the population.

With these in view, the traditional rulers will definitely have a role or roles to play in the development of the community. They are royal traditional fathers of the people and naturally, a father knows what to provide for his children. The royal fathers are living near the people than government does. They can help in planning with planning authority.

1.7 Methodology

       This study was done using the historical method of data collection and analysis. It relied on the secondary data in most cases although the researcher made use of interviews and group discussions. The research went through literature on the subject matter an appraisal of the role of the traditional rulers. Journals, newspapers and magazines collected from the library and some from friends and other academics were used. Survey of other traditional rulers’ activities in other Local Government Areas other than Ikwo were also made.

Definition of Terms

Community: This term refers to a people that are living in the same area, many at times, speak one language, have the same culture and interest.

Development: This term, simply put refers to economic, social and political progress of a people.

Strategy: This means planned series of actions for achieving a set goal.

Dilemma: Situation that makes choice a difficult action


—This article is incomplete———–This article is incomplete———— It was extracted from a well articulated quality Project, Research Work/Material

Project Topic: Role of Traditional Rulers in Community Development: Case of Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State

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