No one can assuredly say that all is well in Anambra State at the moment, even though the state is not at war with any external force. While the state seems at peace from the outside, a simmering crisis has been building up from within across many communities in the state.
The crises at both monarchical and town union leadership levels have become cause for concern, as, if left unchecked, may not augur well for a state going into a major election; the governorship, this year.
In many communities today, it is either a case of the traditional ruler versus the state government; or the town union versus same. Last December the Anambra State Government sacked three traditional rulers for their role in their journey to Abuja to see the president of the country.
The sacked monarchs are Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo of Nawfia; Igwe Anthony Onyekwere of Owelle and Igwe G.B.C. Mbakwe of Abacha.
There were also problems in some towns following town union elections; notably those in Agulu and Aguluzigbo, both in Anaocha Local Government Area.
While the town union leadership problems are bad on their own, it is the suspension and sacking of some traditional rulers that had caused and still causing the bigger problems, with some communities reportedly having two monarchs. This isn’t good enough.
The cause of these problems, most times, is the interference of government, due largely to what is clearly a faulty law. For instance, insisting that traditional rulers must notify the government of their movement, especially when travelling outside the state, is something that may generate problems as it has done now; given that it may assume political coloration.
While we do not encourage rascality by traditional rulers, we believe that the traditional institution should largely be devoid of government control.
They are the custodians of our culture and traditional values which should be separate from politics. In that vein, their election should remain by their people and not government. Any disputes arising from there should first be settled by the people, failing which government can come in.
Communities in Igbo Land have always chosen their traditional rulers from time immemorial without big issues arising. It was only when politics started creeping into the institution that issues began to arise on a more regular basis.
Thus today one reads about government seemingly imposing traditional rulers on people by recognizing unpopular choices because of political considerations. Same also applies to the choice of Presidents General of Communities.
The traditional institution should be spared of any form of government control as long as choosing them is concerned. Same applies to leadership of town unions. The people must be allowed to choose their leaders freely and their choices respected. They should also be allowed to conduct elections when they want without government interfering.
The traditional institution should be given the respect and reverence it deserves so that such leaders can look government in the face and tell them where they are getting it wrong. Indeed, they should be free to criticize government policies since they represent their people and know what is good for them.
A situation therefore where traditional rulers or town union leaders are sanctioned for speaking out against the government must stop, especially since we claim to be practicing democracy.
If individuals can criticize government, why should their leaders in various communities not do same? Government’s interference in traditional or communal matters will only do more harm than good.
Any law empowering government to wield unnecessary powers over the traditional institution should be amended, or else, the monarchy and town union leadership may totally be subject to government control. Whatever financial obligations by government to these institutions should be honoured without expecting them to kow-tow to government.
Not meddling in the affairs of the traditional institution by government is the only way to ensure peace in the communities. The state cannot afford to open up many frontiers of war at a time it is going for an election which is expected to be hotly contested.
We can certainly do without these distractions at this moment.