Abeni Aso-Oke



Abeni Aso-Oke

Abeni Aso-Oke


The two days meeting of the North-West Peace and Security Summit in Katsina has brought to fore the need to revive traditional mechanism to arrest insecurity and its attendant Wahala.

Abeni Aso-Oke

The meeting of the Nigeria Governors Forum was to work cooperatively with one another to develop synergy towards a common policy to insecurity is an important turning point in reassuring us of a positive approach to unity in the overall national interest. I believe it will not be much harder to reach agreement even though their predecessors’ rhetorics in the past have not been encouraging. This time, they must sort out far more basic issues than settling on mediocrity.

Important new strategic question exist about the vulnerability of our community’s infrastructure. Previous attempts to proffer a way by urging Nigerians to stand up to fight insecurities have yielded some positive effect. Thoughtful Nigerians including my humble self debated whether arming Nigerians is part of the solution or could exacerbate the problem?


To begin to work with one another, even on divisive strategy is a welcome development. If, as the NWGF decided that it is willing to confront security challenges, we must therefore change our mind set and our ways. If we are not as willing, we must ask ourselves, what are our prospects as a nation?

The most important responsibility of this age is to provide an atmosphere of Peace and Stability in which our diverse communities – diverse in terms of size, custom, culture and religion can interact and fuse to form one virile prosperous nation.

The Vice-President Senator Kashim Shettima was quoted to have said, thus; “In all developmental issues in this country, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, I want to use him as a point of reference to recognise and appreciate all our royal fathers present here.”

It is in this contextual perspective that I intend to reflect on today’s burning topical issues.


VP Shettima could have impressed on the need to change the mind sets through greater belief in the traditional institutions, by calling on the NASS in collaboration with his government to review the constitutional role of Traditional institutions for greater participation to reflect their skill driven initiatives in conflict management, monitoring and prevention in the belief and the need to start the process of practising true federalism in the area of power devolution, anti-corruption crusade, attitudinal re-orientation, bureaucratic and legislative reforms.


The 1940s witnessed an advance towards decolonisation and representative government in response to growing nationalism in Nigeria. The Richards Constitution of 1945 used the native authorities as electoral colleges for selecting Nigerian representatives into regional councils in the North, West, and East of the country and, thence, into a central legislature.

In the 1950s, the country’s three regional governments assumed responsibility for the design and reform of local government. Thereafter, the history of Nigerian local government can be summarised in terms of three major waves of local government reforms, each of which was followed by periods of institutional decay and decline.

Unlike the two southern regions, the Northern Region was less inclined to implement a rapid transformation of native administration into a modern democratic system of local government. Instead, reflecting the enduring legacy of indirect rule in its Muslim Emirates especially, the North mostly preserved the powers of the Emirs and other traditional chiefs under a new 1954 law for its multi-tiered native authority system.

Significantly, the North retained the out fashioned and pejorative label of ‘Native Authority’ for its local institutions. Nonetheless, beginning with its non-Emirate sections, the Northern region gradually introduced varying proportions of elected members into the native authorities. By the 1960s, Emirs and other Chiefs in the country had effectively taken the role as sole administrators of the native authorities.

When the Western Region in 1965, suspended all councils members and replaced them with regionally appointed sole administrators or management committees, it triggered intense political crisis that led to the declaration of state of emergency and the military coup d’etat in the aftermath.


Military’s 1979 Constitution in Nigeria barely gives any constitutional recognition to traditional rulers. Instead, Sub national regional or State statutory laws and edicts regulated local government. Reflecting the soldiers’ desire to entrench the concept of three-tier federalism, the military-supervised federal constitutions of 1979, 1989, and 1999 included more or less elaborate provisions on the structures, functions, and finances of local government.
The 1999 Constitution entrenched Nigeria’s 774 localities, including 768 LGAs in the 36 states and six ‘area councils’ in Abuja

Despite its democratisation or liberalisation during the first wave of local reforms, the Nigerian local government barely lived up to expectations for a regime of accountable local representation.

Accordingly, progressive political party leaderships and corporate associations and bodies, to varying degrees, allegedly imputed that the tiers of local government were plagued by inefficiency, ineffectiveness, remoteness, repressiveness, unrepresentativeness, over-politicisation, jobbery, bribery, nepotism, and state government interventionism.

Many people, instigated the reforms by accusing the Emirates of political interventions, living a luxurious life styles, while in turn accusing the political leaders of peoples’ betrayals and deceit.
Many people also, prior to the political reforms, used to complain that the traditional institution did not deal with cases before them satisfactorily, and their complaint was, in many cases, a justifiable one.

The Reform was wanted and needed at that time; wanted by the people and the Progressives alike and needed because of the conditions in some Emirates.

I do not quarrel with that. What I do quarrel with is that the reforms came too suddenly, and altered, before we were ready for it, the customs of trust and reciprocity between the Emirates and the people.

Indeed my fear is, having observed the deposition of Emir Sir Sanusi in 1963 and that of Sultan Dasuki in 1996 was that the consequences in store for traditional institution are predictable. The deposition of these two very important personalities ought to serve as a wake up call to all traditional rulers to rally themselves and demand constitutional role and guaranteed non political interference on the tenure.

TWO: I saw, in the destruction of automatic hereditary rights to office, the beginning of the end of the Nigeria Chieftain Ship.

THREE: That there would be instability of office tenure (no longer until death do part) because political sympathy must be in unison to one another. Emirate council must work in tandem with political powers.

FOUR. The political coup against their leadership proves that their story could have been different today have they supported democratization, rather than accepting ordinances believing that the Military came to purify and clean up the polity for good governance. How wrong they were and still are.

The consequences of that terrible mistake over six decades ago, is what the Emirate as an institution is still struggling to deal with.
To acquire legitimacy, the military came up with the coinage that the traditional rulers are fathers of the nation to further blindfold them entirely. Every policy that was crafted at that time went to erode their social, cultural and political relevance causing them to develop a sense of inferiority complex.


The polarisation of our domestic politics along the regional/tribal/religious lines is one of the most obvious fault lines and striking phenomena of our time. The differences in attitude towards national unity as well as security policy, rooted in regional moral conceptions was reinforced by differing economic and political interests.

The dethroning of Emir Sanusi Muhammadu Lamido Sanusi II in 2020, the balkanisation of the Kano emirate from one to five Emirates, and, the recent sacking of the five Emirs consequent on the abolition of their Emirates, can all be traced to leadership crisis between the political and traditional demands and the people. That a government divided along ideological lines with incompatible demands of the peoples’ overall interest is a recipe for paralysis.

Some Kano Emirate Council members protested strongly against the reforms. This opened more fissures to the understanding of that political arrangement. Many have remarked that viewpoint about the dethroning of SLS transcending the unifying ideology. After all, it was to the unity of interests and social tranquility of the State that the political contest was fought.

Before now, as Ayuba Ahmad aptly put in his article titled, “The Many Dimensions of Kano Emirship Debacle”, the Kano emirate in its regal splendour and grandeur stood out as the flagship of the traditional institution in the north. That was unfortunately, as it is, before it was assaulted and demeaned by the avoidable squabbles of some people driven by their cravings for personal honour and glory.

The thought of reprimanding 1st Class Emir/Chief was considered senseless and repugnant to our custom, so believed by many people in our communities. Their words and deeds now must have the backing of the political authorities rather than their people.


VP Kashim Shettima implied that Progress is not synonymous with the destruction of the past and old, in favor of the present. He is telling us that, as we grope forward in these difficult times with insecurities, let us preserve these traditional Institutions which can make our path Safer and Surer to tread. I cannot agree more, BUT the government needs to do the needful to empower these traditional institutions to do more, and be participant on the mechanism for conflict prevention, monitoring and resolution.

Traditional Institution must be part of the ongoing effort on Peace and Security.

27th June 2024

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