By Jude Atupulazi
A time was when the traditional institution was revered in Igbo Land. Then, even though the Igbos were and still republican in nature, kings or Ndi Eze, were held in such high esteem that some saw them as little gods. They were also rarely seen in the public except on special occasions. They were not controlled by anyone. Indeed, they were the ijele masquerade that does not appear often.
When the Whiteman came, he went to the palace of the king to pay obeisance; not the king going to him. That was in the far, far past.
Today, our traditional rulers have been tied to the apron strings of government. Often, you find yourself struggling for seats with them at government functions. And quite often, you see them receiving envelopes as transport money from government officials at the end of such functions. That is not all. They are also paid monthly stipends (I don’t know how much) by government.
Consequent upon this, the government now pulls the strings and decides whether or not to recognize a traditional ruler.
It must be noted however that not all traditional rulers are treated this way. The Obi of Onitsha rarely appears at government functions. And often times, visiting dignitaries to the state visit him at his palace instead of him going to receive them. He must have borrowed a leaf from the legendary late Igwe of Enugwu-Ukwu and Umunri, Osita Agwuna.
While he lived, Osita Agwuna, a First Republic politician and a Zikist, never set foot on any government house. Even if the president was coming, he would wait at his palace for the president to visit him. He was not one to seek for notice. He was fearless and would always not hesitate to look any leader straight in the face and say his mind. For sure, Osita Agwuna was one traditional ruler that was traditional in every sense. This earned him a lot of respect from many quarters.
Now, what has led to what we see today? Royal fathers, some of them, are not acting royal anymore. They have become government contractors and sympathisers; developments that have further taken their powers. They are now falling over themselves to do the bidding of any government in power and once they are perceived to have stepped out of turn, government descends on them with a sledge hammer.
We all know the ongoing case between the traditional ruler of Ukwulu in Dunukofia Local Government Area, and the Anambra State Government. He was believed to have been suspended and his certificate of recognition withdrawn because he did what government did not like.
At least this traditional ruler is fighting like a man and has not allowed himself to be intimidated by government. Mind you, every institution has rules and regulations guiding it and I’m sure same applies to the traditional institution in Anambra State. But then, such rules were set by the government which means that government will exercise some measure of control over the monarchs. This situation is not germane for the independence of our monarchy.
The traditional ruler of Ukwulu was believed to have suffered the fate that befell him because he took a stand that was against that of the state government. If that is true, I think it is not good enough. When traditional rulers who are supposed to be custodians of our culture and fathers over their subjects are stopped from saying their minds, how can society benefit from their supposed sagacity? But it is happening today and they are being gagged.
Communities are told when to conduct elections to elect their rulers and such rulers, if not liked by the government, are not issued certificates of recognition.
This has got to stop.
As a way out, traditional rulers should be made to be independent of government. They should be recognized as leaders of what should be called the fourth tier of government. Based on this, funds should be made available to them through a national legislation so that they will be paid directly from source. This way, they will not be tied to the jigida of their state governments. They will be free to tell government the truth and not be hounded. They will indeed become royal. This is something that will benefit everybody because if the subjects know they can run to their traditional ruler to address any perceived injustice they will be happy.
The scenario we have now must not continue. Government has no business with the traditional institution. The people from the various communities should be allowed to freely choose their traditional rulers.
If this above is adhered to, the embarrassment the Anambra State Government is facing now owing to the defiance of the Anambra Central Traditional Rulers Council will be avoided in the future.
OCHA Brigade or Terror Squad?
Last Thursday, members of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA Brigade) descended on a female journalist, Mrs Ngozi Obileri, and during an altercation, reportedly kicked her in the stomach.
She had come to the aid of another journalist who was apprehended by OCHA Brigade members for not wearing a face mask in public. While I do not subscribe to anyone disobeying the face mask directive, I am miffed at the crude way the enforcers, in this case, OCHA Brigade members, acted.
They are known to cart away traders’ wares and act with impunity in the course of doing their work. They have been reported to beat people up also.
Such crude manner has come to be their trade mark all over the state. These people should be called to order to avert future embarrassments to the government they are serving. Their uniform does not confer on them the right to bully people.
Before I sign off, I want to share something that had got me once again wondering the kind of country we have. It is as funny as it is outrageous. It was a piece written by my friend, Ikeddy Isiguzo. Read.