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Let’s democratize chieftaincy institution

By Ayodele Fagbohun

To stem the ill tide of the ever growing armed banditry, kidnapping, ritual killings and other related security breaches across the country, a critique of chieftaincy institution is of necessity to the review of its role with a view to living up to mandate of the true custodians of people’s culture, norm and tradition.

Unfortunately, the role of Obas and chiefs as the custodians of the nation’s cultural heritage has become irrelevant and anachronistic, it is gradually being blown off by the gale of republicanism and herculean challenges of the millennium.

The institution has undergone various traumatic experiences in the hands of the military juntas. The advent of democratic experiment has not reviewed the bizarre tactics which the ex-military dictators employed to stampede our chiefs, otherwise regarded as the true conscience and repositories of our culture.

With the venal and mischievous manner the affairs of the state is being conducted, the lot of the chieftaincy institution is far from being improved upon courtesy of the banal military adventurism and incursion in politics.

Politics was thereby reduced to a game or pastime of the underdogs brazenly hijacked by some gangs of ruffians to maim and kill, more often than not to settle personal scores and for the enhancement of filthy lucre.

This was a grand spill-over effect of gross indiscipline and corroding maladies which the preceding military rule foisted on the country. It is nauseating that the military rulers violated the hallowed sacredness of the chieftaincy institutions and turned our erstwhile revered Obas and chiefs to toothless bulldogs.

The chiefs were then brought into odium and lured with filthy lucre, thus desecrating their exalted position. Thereafter, they were sent on dastardly suicide mission as mere colonial errand boys with suit-case to embarrass, cajole and hook wink with the sole object of selling an aberrant military rule or at worst diarchy to the gullible and the heavily traumatized people as a fait accompli.

Bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, the retired old Anglican cleric, fearless critic of prolonged military rule in Nigeria and incidentally a devout church man, whose nurture and respect for the preservation  of Yoruba culture is not in doubt, stirred a hornet’s nest, by way of press controversy against the immediate past late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II as the greatest embrassment facing Yoruba land.

The former Anglican Bishop of Akure, Dr. Gbonigi well versed in exegesis and Yoruba culture averred that chieftaincy titles were sparingly and scrupulously bestowed on well deserved, tested and socially eminent citizens for their outstanding contributions to the community.

Chieftaincy titles are earned and not bought. It is a matter of grave concern that some natural rulers display morbid adherence and apish loyalty to their clans which is quite detrimental and inimical to the general well being of the entire nation.

Some natural rulers in the modern trends are doubtless very spineless; and vacillate in taking coherent and proactive decisions to advance the people and their communities to enviable heights where lives and property are fully secured. By invoking primordial and extant status of divine potentates conferred on them.

For, it was unheard of abhorrence to dignified Yoruba cultural norms and tradition for common political hoodlums to have unleashed an orgy of violence on eminent elderstatesman and political dynamo of Yoruba politics, Uncle Bola Ige SAN, first elected governor of old Oyo state (1979-1983) right inside the palace of the Ooni of Ife in the broad day light in the name of politics!

Dr. Tai Solarin, the late erstwhile foremost and inimitable social reformer and redoubtable educationist that ever lived in this country pooh-pocked and avoided like a  plaque being decorated with an encumbrance of a chieftaincy title throughout his useful and veritable sojourn here on earth. Perhaps, Tai Solarin considered chieftaincy as a social stigma  of complete, obsequious subservience and enslavement to lewd tradition which used to carry a tag of backward, benighted and indolent, dark continent of Africa.

Efforts by some impetuous politicians with Marxist-Leninist leaning to take up chieftaincy titles from their potentates with a view to introducing radical changes to tradition and the status quo ante is rendered a nullity for, tradition die hard as some of the chiefs are still bent to hold fast to tradition which is ever shrinking daily and clearly repulsive to modern influence.

Some chiefs themselves have allowed the institution to flounder and toss on the high waves of their own indecisions of insincerity of purpose, nepotism and greed to dine and wine with the establishment especially the former military adventurers in total disregard and affront to the well being and corporate existence of the country.

It is time our natural rulers and their protagonists stopped canvassing for recognition and clear-cut roles as amendment to constitutional provisions. What should be uppermost in their minds is first and foremost  to put their house in order, act as catalyst of progressive change and enlightenment in their domains now bedeviled by violence, armed banditry and insecurity.

Above all, our traditional or at best natural rulers must be more vigilant, resourceful, security conscious and at all times alert in the social milieu.

Since all right thinking nations across the globe have fillip and fully assert to constitutional democracy as a way of life, the institution of chieftaincy must imbibe the whole gamut of democracy to take firm root in their respective domains.

It should cease forthwith as an inhibitor of growth, virility and progress of the nation lest the chieftaincy institution suffer atrophy or natural death!

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