…Involving Traditional Rulers Is Panacea To Country’s Problems
On Saturday March 24, 2018, His Royal Majesty Pere S.P. Luke-Kalanama VIII (JP), the Pere of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom of Delta State will be marking his 20th coronation anniversary. Palace Watch had an interview with the 53-year-old monarch on his experiences on the throne and sundry other issues.
How has the journey been?
It has been a very nice experience, though there have been many ups and downs. There have been so many afflictions, but the Almighty God, Who started the journey with me, prepared me from inception and has been my guide, has helped to see me through these difficult years of my life.
How have you been relating to other traditional rulers in the state, considering the fact that you ascended the throne at 32?
I would say there is no classification of traditional rulers in Delta State. Once you are appointed a traditional ruler, you are in the same class with other traditional rulers. So, we have no first, second or third class traditional rulers here. The individual traditional ruler’s carriage and longevity on the throne and the population of one’s kingdom are all factors that make the difference. Since my ascension to the throne, all the traditional rulers in the state have shown me tremendous love, and for this, I am indeed grateful.
On my part, I have been able to relate peacefully with almost all the tribes and their traditional rulers. Very many of these traditional rulers hold me in high esteem and my relationship with them has been very cordial.
Lately, there has been renewed advocacy for traditional rulers to play a more active role in the governance of the country.
What is your take on this?
The fact you must not ignore is that traditional institutions came into being long before the country’s creation. So, the only way to help find solutions to the numerous problems currently afflicting the country is to get traditional rulers and traditional institutions involved in the day-to-day running of affairs. If this is done, most of the problems we are presently dealing with and see as insurmountable will be easily resolved. And Nigeria will start running smoothly again. The reason for this is easy. Before the amalgamation in 1914, traditional institutions were used to govern almost all parts of the country. It was this particular system the British colonial masters built upon. And during that period, the problems we are now experiencing, especially with regard to the incessant uprisings were not there. And if they existed, they were minimal and under firm control. Does it now make sense for this time-tested institution to be ignored, just because we are experimenting with new systems of governance?
So, the earlier we retrace our steps, the better for us as a country. When the traditional rulers were managing the country’s affairs in their various domains, there was good governance. The type of stealing and looting we are experiencing today was unthinkable. It could never have happened under a traditional institution. But when Nigeria was created and all manner of people, who ordinarily would not have tasted governance under the traditional system, entered and took over top government positions; that was the beginning of the moral decadence that has snowballed into deep moral retrogression, which has now become the order of the day.
The role to be given traditional rulers should be embedded and enshrined in the constitution. If this is not done, I see these agitations across the country continuing. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good, if not effectively managed and controlled. I pray that this candid advice is heeded, so that every sector of Nigeria will continue to enjoy peace again.
How seriously is traditional rulers’ input taken in Delta State?
From 1999 till date, beginning from His Excellency James Onanefe Ibori to His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the incumbent, His Excellency Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, the governors have never taken any major decision on critical issues without involving or seeking our opinions as traditional rulers, especially in the areas of governance, security and provision of infrastructure. So, to a very large extent, the state government takes our input into consideration in the running of the state’s affairs.
There is also the renewed agitation for restructuring. What is your opinion?
My take on that issue is very clear, and I have had to voice out this opinion in several other fora before now. Do not forget that we are operating a presidential system of government, and in the United States, where this system is copied from, all the federating units are allowed to develop at their own pace, not at the mercy of the Federal Government or the government at the centre, as is the case with Nigeria. Most of the problems we are facing today are as a result of bad governance.
But when we restructure, in line with the 1963 constitution, which allows the various regions to develop at their own pace, all these issues of militancy and herdsmen, alongside other crises we have been experiencing of late will be a thing of the past. Recall that in the 50s and 60s, when the various regions were allowed to develop at their own pace, there was absolute peace and healthy competition. The west, where the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was premier, was developed with the proceeds from cocoa. In the east, where Zik and the late Chief M.I. Okpara operated, efforts were made to develop it with proceeds from coal and palm oil. The Sardauna of Sokoto also ensured that the north had its fair share of development from proceeds of the groundnut pyramids, hides and skin and among others. They were all developing at their own pace. All the problems and crises we are experiencing today were not there. Whatever was got in all these regions were properly accounted for. The massive looting that is now the order of the day was not there, because if you dared do a thing like that, the people would know and you would be made to pay for it.
But what do we see today? Injustice everywhere! Because the Centre is trying to take resources of various regions and use them to develop certain places, especially Abuja, without bothering to put some of these resources in the areas from where they were taken. The government at the Centre takes a large chunk of this money and ends up giving pittance to state governments. The money not given to states, they keep for their personal use. This method breeds bad blood and increases agitation. That is why we have all these problems in Nigeria.
So, for Nigeria to have lasting peace and overcome the challenges arising from poor electricity supply and perennial fuel shortage, they must be effectively managed. But once the various regions in the country are allowed to control their resources, the country will be the better for it. This is why I am in support of restructuring.
If the Federal Government refuses to restructure and then comes up with the idea of state police, there will be more problems than we ever bargained for. The role of the police in the fraudulent manipulation of elections in the local government, states and Federal is not a strange act. Once there is state police, if the PDP, for instance, organises an election in a PDP-controlled state, they will win all the elections. The same will be the case with APC. If APGA conducts elections in Anambra State, they will win all the elections there. So what are we talking about?
If we go ahead and create state police without putting all the necessary structures in place, the various state governors will use it to their own advantage, and to the detriment of opposition parties and the people in general. It is the same way the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) is being manipulated by state governors. That is the way they will take inappropriate advantage of the state police.
Now, let me elaborate on the state police as being proposed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. The ruling APC government is trying to be clever by half. The APC government is now clamouring for state police because they have more states. But if the APC government truly wants a state police, let them first do what I would call “full blast restructuring”. There are certain recommendations in the 2015 confab, which needs to be looked into that will help effective restructuring of the country. But if APC is not ready to restructure, why does it want state police? If they establish a state police now, the motive behind it will be nothing more than scoring political advantage over other parties. It will be a deliberate attempt to rig the forthcoming elections, which will not be good for the country.
If they must create state police, let them restructure the country first. Why, after almost three years in power, has the APC suddenly realised the need for a state police without first restructuring? No, that is not the way to go now. There is more to this proposal by Osinbajo than meets the eyes. If the ruling party honestly wants a state police, we must first try to practise true federalism. I am not against state police, but what needs to be done is to allow all the federating units set up state police in their geo-political zones. With that type of structure or arrangement, there will be checks and balances, so that the party in power does not use the state police to perpetuate itself in office. So, at the geo-political zone, there will be officers in charge, who will be held accountable for the actions and inactions of the men in their zones. Already, Zamfara State governor, who is the chairman of Governors Forum, has come out to say, “State governors will back establishment of state police”. Why take the issue of state police alone and leave out all other recommendations that will help us create a true federalism? We are no children.
We must be very careful because as we speak, the country is so fractionalised that we should not further compound the problems. What the present administration should do is to work harder to deliver good governance to Nigerians. The situation on ground is not at all encouraging. There is crisis in every part of the country.
What are the challenges faced in your domain?
In these past 20 years, there have been series of crises, which are mostly fuelled by lack of education. In most Ijaw areas in the Niger Delta Region, we have a huge number of uneducated people. This is due mainly to the terrain we find ourselves. Most tertiary institutions are very far from our domains, which has made it very difficult for our sons and daughters to be educated. Most of our youths are uneducated. The fact is that educated people are very easy to govern but difficult to enslave. But because of the large number of the uneducated in this part of the country, governance becomes a big problem due to their lack of understanding. They are very shallow.
But having said that, there are also good memories one will like to cherish because among these groups of persons, there are some who know that they must work with their traditional rulers to get results for the communities and people. Working with such people has yielded some good results. In summary, since I ascended the throne, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly sides of my people. We must, therefore, give thanks to God that has seen us through these very difficult periods.
(SOURCE –TheGuardian Sunday March 4, 2018)