Royal Fathers: Their Power, Influence, Relevance...
In 1999, a poll conducted in parts of Britain gave a damning verdict on the prestige and awesomeness of the position of the Queen of England. The poll suggested that in 50 years time, the prestige that will be left of the office and title of the Queen would be so little that getting someone in the royal family to occupy the office might pose serious problem. In other words, what the poll was trying to point out is the growing unpopularity and irrelevant of the traditional institutions within the realities of an open society that is built on free choice, liberty, and democracy. For England, there may be little to dispute in the verdict of this poll. But since Nigeria, along with other African countries, is in the last coach of the civilization train, the poll cannot be said to be a true reflection of the present status of the Nigerian traditional rulers. But to assume that the poll has no relevance is to disregard the corrosive impact the very principle of freeness, of this continuously shrinking global village, has on the prestige of the traditional institution. It is certain that in several communities in Nigeria, traditional rulers still enjoy a high-level of voluntary reverence from their subjects. And by this, they can be said to still wield some socio-political influence, which they continue to deploy. It has become very difficult, despite past efforts, to divorce the traditional rulers from the western democracy that Nigeria has adopted. But the notion of traditional institution itself bears no relevance to the concept of democracy. This obvious contradiction has, however, continued to puzzle the political leadership since independence. And amidst this reality, the royal fathers continue to wield so much influence within the polity and the business community. Why are they really so powerful in Nigeria? Perhaps, in an attempt to get to the root of this puzzle and assign a definite role to traditional institution, the present administration has embarked on a mission to find a balance between the reality of the power and influence of the traditional rulers and the obvious danger inherent in granting them constitutional roles within the democratic set up. Oma Djebah, Collins Edomaruse, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Agaju Madugba and Oke Epia examine these issues

As Nigeria enters another chapter in her democratic process, traditional rulers are showing more than a passing interest in the politics and economy of the nation. In fact, because of the premium presently being attached to the role of traditional institutions in the present dispensation, intense jostle for royal seats and thrones have heightened in recent times. Thus from South-West to North-East, South-South, North-West, North-Central and South East, the jostle for royal thrones have become intense owning to the influence being exerted by traditional rulers in the politics and economic life of the country.

An indication of the fierce battle for royal seats reached its crescendo in Oyo state late last year when former National Chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Adisa Akinloye battled unsuccessfully to be installed as Olubadan of Ibadan hope was, however, dashed as Olubadan Advisory Council disqualified his lineage from the succession line.

Akinloye, 85 years old, had claimed at the time that his chieftaincy line, Seriki, was qualified to ascend the Olubadan of Ibadan throne.

His pronouncement however infuriated the Olubadan-in-Council, the highest decision making body, which in anger described the octogenarian's pronouncement at that period as "a deliberate attempt to distort the history of Ibadanland."

Consequently, at a news conference addressed by the advisory council, the Asipa Balogun of Ibadanland, Chief Stephen Adewunmi, had said that "Akinloye's move would cause confusion and chaos to an otherwise orderly arrangement which had been the hallmark of obaship succession in Ibadanland since 1957."

Akinloye had claimed then that a Supreme Court judgment "accepted Seriki as the third succession line."

Adewunmi had, however, debunked Akinloye's claim, saying that there were only two main lines, the Otun Olubadan and Balogun Olubadan succession lineages.

He had said: "Akinloye knew very well that in 1992/93 when he became Osi Seriki that he would end up as Seriki. "The Seriki line is a dead end because on the attainment of the Seriki chieftaincy, Akinloye knows that for certain,"

Adewunmi said Ibadan people had been rejecting Akinloye since 1982 with one voice. "Even the Oloko Commission of inquiry rejected Akinloye's clamour to become the Ekerin as contained in Oyo State Gazette 27 Vol. 26 of July 16, 2001.

"Nobody could change the Ibadanland declaration of Chieftaincies as every Nigerian knows very well that the system of succession to the throne is the best and acclaimed as such by all the citizens as peaceful and devoid of litigation and rancour," he said.

In a way, the intrigues that followed which saw Akinloye being effectively neutralised despite his famed political clout only goes to show the high level influence most potential royal fathers and indeed the royal fathers themselves wield in the political affairs of the nation. But it did not just begin today as it dates back to the past.

First Republic Experience...
All things considered, it can be safely said that traditional rulers involvement in politics dates back to the First Republic. The practice of parliamentary system of government in the First Republic, made constitutional provisions for royal fathers in the political affairs of the country. Thus the parliamentary system which established Regional Houses of Chiefs, allowed traditional rulers to participate in politics. It was not therefore surprising that the Regional Houses of Chiefs had royal fathers like Sir Muhammadu Sanusi, Emir of Kano, Alhaji Usman Nagogo, Emir of Katsina, the Makama of Bida, and the Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Aderemi.

Infact, following the crisis that broke in the old Western Region, which culminated in the declaration of a state of emergency in the region by the late Sir Tafawa Balewa-led Federal Government, many royal fathers took up political appointment in the emergency government headed by its Sole Administrator, Dr. Moses Majekodunmi.

As a result of the suspension of all members of the Western Region's government, Majekodunmi had named six royal fathers as commissioners whom he appointed to work with him. The Obas, named as commissioners, to assist the Sole Administrator in the running of the affairs of the state were: The Oba of Benin, Akenzua II; the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona; the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Rewogboye II; the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Akinyele; the Olu of Warri, Oba Erejuwa II and the Olu of Iwo, Oba S.O. Abimbola.

This marked the gradual but systematic involvement of traditional rulers in partisan politics. It is, however, instructive to note that given the very turbulent of charged political atmosphere in the old Western Region, it would have been most appropriate if the Belewa's government after its declaration of a state of emergency, had insulated royal fathers from the political crossfire of the time.

But as some political analysts noted "the appointment of royal as members of the Region's Executive Council as Commissioners, further enmeshed them in regional partisan politics, making them seemingly ineffective in the discharge of their primary role as custodians of culture and tradition."

The Present Dispensation
Recently, while receiving the visiting Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe to Aso Rock, President Olusegun Obasanjo observed that traditional rulers possessed the capacity to make themselves relevant in certain spheres of the nation's life, adding that ascribing constitutional roles for the royals would impact positively on the nation's development. Opposing views on the matter hold strongly that traditional rulers have become too politicised and might constitute parallel executive or legislative body which is out of sync with a modern presidential democracy.

A presidential committee on the review of the 1999 constitution actually recommended a constitutional role for traditional rulers. In the first volume of the review body's main report it recommended that, "constitutional recognition be given to the role of traditional rulers." It further noted that "traditional rulers all over the country made a strong case for the constitutional recognition of their role which they had been playing right from the pre-colonial times. They questioned the rationale for excluding their roles from the constitution whereas previous constitutions duly recognised them."

However, submissions in the report which opposed the constitutional inclusion of traditional institution in a fast changing republican environment argued that even Britain which is deeply rooted in monarchical traditions was fast shedding the influence of traditional institution which the people considered an undeserved burden on the tax payers. Apparently exploring middle-ground options the report maintained that "provision should be made for the establishment of state councils of traditional rulers as an advisory body in all states of the federation," recommending that provision be made for traditional council at each local government of the federation to serve as an advisory body on matters of traditional and culture. "These roles in no way confer executive, legislative or judicial function on them," the report however held.

The strident call for the abolition of the traditional kingship system considerably heightened during the regime of General Sani Abacha when the late dictator effectively used majority of the traditional rulers to advance his self-succession bid. Strangely, as Nigeria's recent history would appear to confirm, traditional rulers seem to find great relevance during military dictatorships. They became ready, willing tools used to suppress dissent by fooling their people that the military meant well, thereafter becoming enthusiastic recipients of mouth-watering largesse delivered periodically by the soldiers in power.

Notwithstanding these unseemly warts and pimples that have blackened the face of Nigeria's royals, advocates of constitutional roles for them believe they are still important in the nation's quest for political stability. Former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shenekan, at a recent book launch argued that Nigeria can only move forward if her cultural heritage forms the foundation of the nation's political system.

Without question, the switch from parliamentary to presidential constitution swept away many institutions, but certainly not the traditional institution. Even after the abrogation of the first parliamentary constitution in January 1966, the royals have continued in their role as guardians of culture and tradition of their communities. Against this background, the critical questions are: What are the cultural roles traditional rulers cannot play without constitutional recognition? Must such roles be entrenched in the constitution for them to be relevant to the nation's life as Shonekan appears to suggest? A common consensus, though not one to put smiles on the royals' faces, is that they still can be relevant without any constitutional underpinning of their roles, especially given the fear that it could dangerously politicise the institution and position them as parallel executives, aberrations in the extent milieu.

But whether there are constitutional roles or not, many prominent traditional rulers are already threading in the terrain of politics, business and indeed power. Thus with their actions and schemings these royal fathers are fast establishing themselves as high power brokers under the present dispensation. Who are these royals ?

HRH Rilwanu Akiolu, Oba of Lagos
Since the demise of the late Oba Adeyinka and the choice of Oba Akiolu as his successor, Lagos has been a centre of attraction due to the various rites of passage and installation performed. There was hardly a weekend this month when a rite was not performed for either the late Oba or the new one.

From the staging of the Adamu Orisa festival for Oyekan to the traditional Iwuye festival for Akiolu, the state had been a cynosure of all eyes. On August 9, the traditional Iwuye ceremony during which Akiolu was crowned as the 21st Oba of Lagos took place at Enu-Owa. A week before then, the colourful Eyo festival was staged at Idumota as a final rite of passage for Oba Oyekan and the beginning of formal public appearance for the new oba.

For Oba Akiolu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, the road to the throne was long. He waited patiently for the stool for more than 30 years. He never hid his preference for the stool than for any other vocation or occupational calling. Though, he joined the police force as a cadet officer, he never hoped to rise beyond the position of a commissioner of police. His life long dream was to sit on the throne of his forefathers.

Surprisingly, he was one of the closest princes to the late Oba whom he also said loved him passionately.

In an interview, he gave an account of one of his trips to Mecca for the holy pilgrimage. At the Ka'aba, he tabled his life ambition as a supplication before his God.

"I prayed that the God almighty Allah should grant the late Oba Oyekan long life but added that any day it pleases God to ask the kabiyesi to join his ancestors, I, Rilwanu should succeed him as the next Oba of Lagos", he said.

Friday, May 23, marked a turning point in the life of Akiolu. His greatest heart desire was realized. He had been named the successor of Oba Oyekan who joined his ancestors on March 7, 2003.

Akiolu had a distinguished career in the Nigeria Police Force before retiring as an Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of zone 8. He had also served in Lagos as commissioner of police in charge of criminal investigations bureau. Those who had been keeping close watch on his career growth said that these two strategic positions played positive roles in his emergence as the new Oba.

"By the grace of almighty Allah, whatever it will take me, it must stop and it will stop, no matter what it will take".

He further started that "those of them who depend on that for their living, we would put them on gainful employment or teach them how to bake bread, how to make soap, how to do tie and dye, carpentry work, tailoring and also try to set them up. Even those of them who want to be driving commuter buses, we would help them to be useful citizens. I have put papers on the drawing board, you would see, I am very serious about improving the lots of my people".

With a retired senior cop on the throne, Lagosians are also expecting that the issue of security of lives and property in the state would be urgently addressed in the right quarters, while the era of inadequate police personnel to keep watch on the 14 million residents of the state may soon be over. But beyond this, the main expectation of lagosians is that as a lawyer and a former top cop, the monarch would use his influence and contacts to reposition the royal throne in the state. According to those who are familiar with the new Oba, these are issues he has already mapped out for implementation.

Alhaji Shehu Idris, Emir of Zazzau
A highly accomplished traditional ruler, the Emir of Zazzau, His Highness Shehu Idris has been on the throne for almost three decades. As a notable businessman the Emir made his mark before he was installed as a monarch in 1975. He had been a director in several business concerns including UAC, Nigeria Tobacco Company Limited, amongst others. But his rise to the top was a gradual process. First, he began his working career, as a primary school teacher from where he became Private secretary to the late Emir of Zazzau and later local Authority council in old Northern Nigeria. Politically, the monarch is seen as one of the most powerful traditional rulers from the North.

In fact because of his awesome influence, his words are seen as law to his subjects. Perhaps this was responsible for his being accused of being behind Kaduna crisis of last year for allegedly making some pronouncements. Idris' denial had come on the heels of wide speculation that he was involved in the Kaduna crisis to forestall the state government's plan to create additional chiefdoms or emirates from his domain, the Zaria emirate, a move many believed would have reduced his (Idris) influence in the state.

The Emir had at the time denied the allegations. "Furthermore, there is no truth whatsoever in the allegation that His Highness left the country to avoid being arrested. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, His Highness travelled on a routine visit to United Kingdom and USA with full knowledge of the Kaduna State Government," Alhaji Bashiru Aminu, Iyen Zazzau had said in the statement .

Already, there are strong indications that the powerful monarch may relocate his palace from Zaria, to Kaduna as part of measures to consolidate his influence in the area.

What gives vent to this speculation is the fact that a major renovation work is on at the Sarkin Zazzau House, at Aunguan Sarki, in Kaduna metropolis.

A competent palace source in Zaria told THISDAY that the relocation of the Emir may not be unconnected with increasing agitation by the Gbagyi (Gwari) community to install a Magajin-Gari (traditional head) for Kaduna.

The traditional ruler of the Gwari Kingdom, the SA Gbagyi, Chief Danjuma Barde, has in recent times put up spirited campaigns for the appointment of a Gwari chief as the traditional head of Kaduna metropolis and environs.

Apparently worried by the implications such a development may have, the source described the Emir's planned relocation as inevitable, "in the circumstances."

However, according to the source, "the Emir is not likely to abandon Zaria completely. He wants to establish his presence in Kaduna, to remind everybody that the Zazzau Emirate extends to Kaduna and beyond."

Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the governor, Mallam Muktar Sirajo, denied knowledge of the impending relocation of the Emir. He, however, noted that, "you should know that Kaduna is part of his domain, the colonial masters having ceded Kaduna to the Zazzau Emirate".

According to Sirajo, the Emirate Council was capable of funding the rehabilitation of the Emir's house adding, however that "any assistance from government may not be out of the way."

In the past, the influence of the Emir of Zazzau had extended as far as parts of southern Kaduna State, then known as southern Zaria. But over the years, government has carved out a number of chiefdoms and other semi-autonomous entities thereby depleting the Emir's influence.

HRH Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha
Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe before his ascendancy into the paramountcy of Onitsha's traditional institution, was an accomplished petroleum engineer who retired from the services of Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Nigeria after 30 years in service. It is believed that his professional background and experience in the oil industry, partly recommended him for the chairmanship job of a Federal Government committee on fuel scarcity constituted early this year. But that did not stopped pundits from suggesting that his appointment into that committee at that point in time was a ploy by the President to warm his way into the hearts of the traditional institutions of the South-East as the general elections drew near. However for the 21st Obi of Onitsha who only got coronated in May last year, his political standing is not in doubt. During his coronation which coincided with the traditional ofala festival of Onitsha people, the presence of certain personalities made some statements about his status. Dignitaries which included business moguls, politicians and diplomats came to grace the occasion. Even the Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar made his presence available during the period. The Onitsha monarch is also considered a political moderate given his not too prominent role in the politics of Anambra State and the country at large. He was reported to have said at his coronation that his "first priority is to build peace and restore love and good relations amongst us, and between us and other parts of Igboland and indeed Nigeria." This was at a time the political and security situation in Anambra State had reached alarming proportions as the gruesome murder of the Igwes had just occurred. The monarch counseled: "In our relations, we must adopt a win-win approach for the greater good of all rather than follow a destructive winner-take-all route." But the Obi who bagged an MBA from Columbia, USA is also believed to be well connected in the business and corporate world, having served in the top echelon of the world's biggest oil giant. They point to the support he received from various business and professional interest groups during the tussle for the Obiship, which was eventually resolved by the courts.

Oba Okunade Sijuade, Ooni of Ife
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, is one prominent traditional ruler who has lately garnered considerable reputation for political adventurism. Early February, Oba Sijuade who fell short of rallying support for PDP from the podium, while Vice President Atiku Abubakar was visiting, said nothing could stop the ruling PDP from cruising to power again. He enthusiastically predicted total victory for President Olusegun Obasanjo and PDP till 2007 and beyond while stating that AD had betrayed his people of Ile-Ife who he enjoined to vote PDP.

Only recently, as Lagos State Governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, AIG (Zone II) Mr. Yekini Jimoh, and Chief Olabode George, the party's national vice-chairman South-west watched approvingly at the Ooni's palace, the royal father crowned Atiku with the chieftaincy title of Aare Adimula and his wife Titi-Yeye Aare Adimula. He told an elated Atiku that he deserved the honour because of the love he has for Obasanjo and "not rocking the boat."

By a sharp unfatherly contrast, the same traditional ruler while receiving visiting General Muhammadu Buhari, the ANPP presidential candidate at that time had told the ANPP presidential candidate that, "Nobody can stop anyone that pleases God to be crowned king and nobody can stand in his way."

With Ooni, there have been several negative controversies dating back to his perceived pro-military pronouncements during General Ibrahim Babangida and Abacha's regimes. Besides the General Oladipo Diya alleged coup video brouhaha, in retrospect, it was the Ooni while speaking on behalf of royal fathers after a parley with Babangida over the annulment of June 12 election who told Nigerians that he saw the documents that proved the veracity and authenticity of the annulment. The last nails on late Chief Moshood Abiola's political coffin are perceived to have derived partly from such inputs. Not surprisingly, it generated a lot fury from the populace.

But there is no denying the fact that the Ooni is a very powerful royal father. Apart from being a political power broker, the royal father has built extensive business empire even before his ascension of the throne in 1980. He is a director of many business concerns in the building and hospitality industry. Born on January 1, 1930 in Ile-Ife, Oba Sijuade has political influnce within the scheme of things. For instance, about two years ago when the demand for a national conference became loud, it was the Ooni who in collaboration with the Sultan of Sokoto that doused the flame by organising a mini-conference in Abuja. But analysts believe also that because of his influence he has had to contend with some wranglings within his fold who do not want to be dominated by the Ooni. For instance last year it was reported that relationship between the Ooni and the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland went sour over rivalry between the duo. Oba Sijuade was said to have invited Oba Aromolaran to accompany him to Abuja for a parley between Obasanjo, Alafin and himself (Ooni).

The frosty relationship between the two obas had worsened last year when the Ooni allegedly got a voice vote to scrap the position of vice president of the obas' council being occupied by Oba Aromolaran.

Owa Obokun turned down Ooni's invitation and in a letter he wrote to Ooni later, he had reortedly explained why he did not attend the peace meeting called by Obasanjo. The letter dated January 16, last year had stated that he could not attend the meeting because he was not invited by the President. He also attached a refund of a draft of N500,000 which the Ooni had sent to him as fuel money to Abuja.

"I was surprised to hear from you during the meeting of the Osun State Council of Traditional Rulers yesterday that the money you voluntarily forwarded to me through Mr. Olajide (your secretary) for fuel in respect of the Abuja trip had not been returned to you contrary to the instruction I gave my palace secretary. But you should have asked me directly since all these days!

"I also wish to let you know that my refusal to attend the Abuja meeting with you was not designed to spite you. As a matter of principle (and I have told you several times) I do not attend functions or meetings to which I am not officially invited. I cannot attend meetings on the ticket of other obas rather I have to be invited in my own right as the paramount ruler of Ijesaland. President Obasanjo invited you (and not me) to the Abuja reconciliation meeting between you and Alaafin. I have no quarrel with either the Alaafin or the Awujale or even your goodself, so I cannot therefore understand the role you wanted me to play in the whole scenario. Perhaps, you need to appreciate the fact that I, as the Owa-Obokun of Ijesaland, can never be a satellite to the Ooni of Ile-Ife," he had said.

All said and done, there is no doubt that the Ooni represents a powerful political and economic force under the present dispensation.

Omo N'Oba Erediuwa, Oba of Bini
The Bini monarch, Omo N'Oba Erediuwa, whose views are seen and taken seriously by people of the Kingdom, plays a prominent role in the politics of the state - nay- the nation. Armed with a robust background in bureaucracy and western education, his opinion on political issues provide road map of sort for political leaders who consult him on issues of political power sharing.

Born in 1924, the royal father studied in both Nigeria and abroad, picked up a job with the civil service on return from Europe and rose to the position of permanent secretary. The Omo N'Oba as he is popularly called by his subjects, dictated the direction of election in the state in 1991 as his favoured candidate in the governorship race of the state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, defeated Chief Lucky Igbinedion of the National Republican Convention (NRC).

Before then, the Bini Monarch had in 1983 rallied action against the regime of late Prof. Ambrose Alli who came to power under the banner of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

The governor incurred the wrought of the traditional ruler following the citing of the campus of the state university in his home town, Ekpoma, and his plan to create more traditional fiefdoms from the existing Bini Kingdom, actions which the Binis viewed as a slap on them. The payback time came for the late Governor when his party presented him for an election for a second term in office. The Oba led an opposition against his candidature by leading a peaceful procession from his palace to the city centre. This snowballed into a spontaneous civil action by market women and others against Alli, who eventually lost the election to his opponent of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia.

At the national level, the Omo N'Oba is also a respected voice. He was one of the very few traditional rulers that resisted the invitation by the late General Sani Abacha government to watch the infamous coup saga video which portrayed Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya as the architect of the alleged plot to forcefully remove Abacha from power, because according to him "I was not convinced by the coup story."

Born June 24, 1923, Oba Erediuwa attended Edo College, Benin City, Government College, Ibadan, Yaba Higher College, now Yaba College of Technology and the University of Cambridge, England. Former commissioner of finance in the defunct Bendel State, the Oba also held chairmanship of several Boards including Tate and Lyle Sugar Company and National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).

As the federal government toys with the idea of amending the constitution, the Oba may as well make a far-reaching contribution that could ensure an adequate role for the traditional institution, amongst others.

Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, Sultan of Sokoto
In the North, the Sokoto Caliphate is regarded as the most reverred and powerful traditional and political institution.

All over history, whoever occupies the throne of the Sokoto Caliphate is regarded as not only the traditional and spiritual leader of the North but indeed the father of that geo-political zone.

Therefore, to say that His Royal Highness, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, the Sultan of Sokoto is very influential and powerful politically and economically is to state the obvious.

As Sultan of Sokoto, Maccido is the present President General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs throughout the country. Installed Sultan of Sokoto in 1996 following the dethronement of Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, Maccido ascended the throne of his forebears amidst pomp and pageantry during his coronation ceremony that year.

As a respected royal father, Maccido is said to be quite polished and not given to taking overt political stands.

Those familiar with these political permutations easily point to the fact that during the electioneering campaigns for the April elections all the aspirants who sought blessings from the monarch, regardless of party affiliation received them in abundance.

Thus, when former military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and former military President Ibrahim babangida rode in the same car to the palace of the Sultan for "reconciliation," the Sultan was said to have prayed for the duo.

Cool, calculated and highly matured, Sultan Maccido is no doubt one of the most powerful traditional rulers in Nigeria today.

In a way, his enviable prominence of influence is not accidental. Some historians believe that the Sokoto Caliphate is the most potent traditional throne in sub-Sahara Africa.

Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Alaafin of Oyo
Chairman of the Oyo State Council of Chiefs and Obas, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, is another powerful traditional ruler under the present democratic process. Installed as the powerful Alafin of Oyo since 1971, Oba Adeyemi is a highly respected monarch in Yorubaland. Apart from his influence within Yorubaland, he is also held in high esteem in the North. In 1978 at the birth of the Uthman Dan Fodio University, the Alafin was named as its first Chancellor. Born in 1939 in present day Oyo state, the royal father attended Tinubu Methodist School, Lagos and St Gregory College, also in lagos before joining the private sector. Perhaps it is as a result of his interest in the private sector that he has not relented in championing the cause of that sector. In fact, recently he had cause to urge the Federal Government to set up a high powered committee of technocrats to seek an urgent solution to the nation's economic crisis.

He made the suggestion recently while presenting a set of multi-media computer units to the correspondents chapel of the Oyo State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The Alafin, who deplored the nation's over-reliance on crude oil export as foreign exchange earner, said it has become urgent for the nation to diversify into a massive production of primary crops such as cocoa, groundnuts and kolanuts.

According to the monarch, "if the nation diversifies into those areas, which had sustained us in the past, the nation would witness a boost in not only the production capacity in the economy but also in the export earnings for the nation."

Also Oba Adeyemi recently condemned calls for the abolition of the traditional kingship system, saying that such an action was capable of causing chaos among members of the community and the larger Nigerian society. According to him, the system cannot be separated from the people because that is what they started with before colonization grouped people with diverse culture together. A vocal tradional ruler, the Alafin is not one to be intimidated or frightened from speaking up on critical national issues.

Alhaji Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero is a prominent traditional ruler from the northern part of the country. Being a historic bastion of the Hausa-Fulani race, the emirship of Kano cannot but attract much attention politically and otherwise. Highly educated and experienced in the field of administration, Bayero is more of a political moderate who meddles in politics only when the need arises. For instance, the role he played at the time the call for national conference was rife is easily remembered and perhaps his stewardship as a former diplomat has helped him in crisis management. Then the polity faced serious threats from burning issues such as the sharia legal system adopted by some northern states, the issue of ethnic militia and ethno-religious clashes. The royal father alongside his counterparts like the Ooni of Ife, the Sultan of Sokoto and others met with President Olusegun Obasanjo at Aso villa at the instance of the latter to discuss possibilities open for the polity which was already being overheated at the time. Their appeal for calm and the moderating influence they tended to bring into the polity at that point was generally seen as a fulfillment of the expectations placed on the traditional institution. Many saw their intervention at that period as timely and a confirmation of their status as non-partisan elderstatesmen in a strongly polarised country. Emir Bayero is one of the wealthiest royals around who command great respect across the nation.

Obong of Calabar, Prof. Nta Elijah Henshaw V1
For two harrowing years, the Efiks like the flock without a shepherd, remained without a king. This followed the demise of their last monarch, Edidem Boco Ene Mkpang Cobham V in 1999. Within this period, the politics of who became the Obong nearly tore the people and their heritage apart.

The Etuboms, which composed the traditional council of kingmakers, became the first and worst victims of that politics. At the end of the day, the council came out highly fractionalised.

The battle for the successor to the vacant stool was fierce, partly because of the awe with which the people of the kingdom in particular and the state hold the occupant of the office of the Obong. The man who eventually got the seat, Prof. Nta Elijah, was picked because the kingmakers saw the attributes of both traditional and political leader in him.

A surgeon by training and medical practitioner before his coronation two years ago, Obong Henshaw, V1, was born on November 18, 1928 in Calabar. Educated at Hope Waddell Training Institute and the University of Durham, England, the royal father, has since ascension to the throne, had his footprints boldly on the sand of time in the development of the state.

The 75-year-old ruler was at a time, a leading voice in the struggle for the emancipation of some of his subjects who were trapped within the Bakassi Peninsula when hostilities that followed ownership dispute of the oil rich zone between Nigeria and Cameroon lasted.

Demonstrating his resolve to have the trapped people freed, he endorsed several pressure groups in concert with the state government and moved the campaign to the presidency, where the Obong led delegation of traditional rulers from the Kingdom was emphatic that it would not cede an inch of the Peninsula to the Cameroons who were then terrorising the community with gendarmes.

As a member of the respected Natural Rulers and Eminent Persons Advisory Forum, the Obong has played a pivotal role in shopping for and enforcing peace and unity in several flash points in the country.

Alhaji Umaru Ndayako, Etsu Nupe

Alhaji Umaru sanda Ndayako is a highly regarded paramount traditional ruler recognised across the country by virtue of his over three decades of involvement in the public life of Nigeria. Born in 1937, Ndayako attended Government college (now Barewa College), Zaria; Nigeria college of Arts, Science and Technology and the University college, Ibadan, now University of Ibadan. His influence in public life inadvertently began during his series of service in the local administration of Northern Nigeria. He was an appointed assistant secretary in the ministry of local government, Kaduna between 1962-64. He also served as assistant district officer in charge of Tiv division in 1964 and by 1965, he was assistant district officer, Kano Urban. Having acquired immense experience in public administration, Ndayako moved into the academia where he served as Chancellor, then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU. He was also one time chairman of Council of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria. In no distant time however, his services became needed by the traditional institution of the Nupe people as he was coronated Etsu Nupe in 1975 and has since remained the paramount voice in matters that affect their traditional interests. Ndayako's leadership capacity has also been put to use in his days as chairman of Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers and in the larger national sphere, he remains a member of the National Council of States. Pulling leverage both at the home front and nationally, the recognition of his service to the country earned him the deserved conferment of a national honour, Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic on him in 1982.

And till date, he has not relented in his service to the country as he currently chairs the technical committee on the review of the structure of local government set up by President Obasanjo in June this year. His current assignment is a further indication of the influence and clout which the Etsu Nupe commands in political circles in the country, though some may argue that given his antecedence in grassroots administration, there could not have been any doubt about his competence to deliver sound recommendations.

The committee is to among other things, diagnose the crisis of local government system in the country and propose viable alternatives that will ensure that local governments serve as agencies for grassroots development. According to the President, the committee is to "review the performance of local governments within the last four years and consider the desirability or otherwise of retaining the local governments as the third tier of government as it now stands. Also and in that regard to consider the adoption of a modified version of the pre-1976 local government system of government." It will be recalled that the Etsu Nupe was an active participant in the pre-1976 system to which the President refers. This indeed has raised speculations that the Federal government is out to create a role in grassroots governance for traditional rulers in the country. And if such speculations turn out to be true, then His Royal Highness, Ndayako would have boldly written his name on the political history books of Nigeria.

Alhaji Mustapha El-Kanemi, Shehu of Borno
The Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Mustapha Umar El Kanemi is the second ranking traditional ruler, next to the Sultan of Sokoto in the whole of the North. His importance, especially in the North predates Nigeria. His influence stems from a deep-rooted traditional institution of the great Borno Empire of the eighteenth century.

Alhaji El Kanemi has however been able to establish his influence in the political arena in a way that placed him in a respectable position in the politics of the North, and Nigeria.

He however has managed to remain behind the scene, yet playing important role in the political affairs of Borno State. He is certainly going to be a big beneficiary of the on-going reform of the local government administration, which president Obasanjo has promised will give role to the traditional rulers.

He had played such important role in the past during the Native Authority era, under the provincial government. It will be a return to the good old days if the planned reform eventually grant them constitutional roles.

Oba Oyebade Lipede, Alake of Egbaland
The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oyebade Lipede is one tradional ruler in present day NIgeria that commands respect, authority and admiration across the country. The royal father who has been on that throne for decades, is one of the oldest royal fathers in the country today. Highly assertive and a monarch with a strong sense of history.

Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, Emir of Ilorin
Justice Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari (retired) gravitated from the reverred accolade of His Lordship to the respected appellation of His Royal Highness when he decided to become the Emir of Ilorin in 1994. Born in April 1940, Sulu-Gambari received his education from Kings College, Middle Temple London, University of London and the Nigeria Law School from where he launched his legal career. His career in the bench reached its peak when he was appointed a justice of the Court of Appeal in 1983, straight from his previous appointment as Judge, High Court of Borno State between 1978-1983. As a retired jurist, Sulu-Gambari is known to wield considerable influence in the politics of Kwara State, because the Ilorin Emirate which is his domain, is the hotbed of the state's politics. The measure of his political influence can be understood to the extent that he threw his support behind the incumbent governor of the state, Bukola Saraki during the gubernatorial elections. He had crossed paths with the immediate past Governor Mohammed Lawal because of the latter's perceived antipathy towards him. It would be recalled that Lawal had shortly before the expiration of his term, upgraded some chiefs in the Ilorin Emirate to the same first and second class. This was done in order to spite and hit back at the Emir for his perceived support for the Saraki. So, it was pay back time when the elections came and the Emir reportedly directed his subjects to vote out the Lawal government that was seeking re-election for a second term in office. And once, Dr. Bukola Saraki came into office, the chiefdom positions were reverted to the status quo ante, a further confirmation of the royal father's political clout and influence.

Ogiame Atuwase 11, Olu of Warri
In the last six years or so, the relationship amongst the three dominant ethnic groups of Warri has been one of mutual suspicion, outright distrust and unhealthy rivalry. When there are no open confrontations amongst them, an uneasy calm usually pervade the atmosphere especially in those areas where they live side by side.

Each group is usually very conscious of its separate identity, distinct history and political position, even as each clings tenaciously to the ownership of the city as though a common patriarch had bequeathed it to the group secretly and as a personal possession.

The cat and mouse relationship among the major ethnic groups in the city of Warri was created in the 1960s by former Action Group government which held sway in the old Western Region including Warri. The title: Olu of Itsekiri as it was then known, was changed to the present status as a compensation for the support given the defunct Action group during its electioneering campaigns. The title was gazetted by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo to spite the Urhobos and Ijaws who supported the defunct National Council of Nigerians and the Cameroons in the same parliamentary elections.

This is exactly the situation the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwase 11, has found himself. A lawyer and former commissioner in the defunct Bendel State, the Olu, although influential and his views respected at the national level, merely commands the respect and honour of Urhobo and Ijaw citizens within his kingdom.

At a glance, one might liken the Warri scenario to the cat and mouse relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But unlike the Jews and their Arab neighbours, the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo ethnic groups of Warri do not lay claim to a common patriarch in the mould of Abraham.

The ethnic friction in Warri is rather a struggle by the three groups to protect their individual group interest in such a way that they could gain some political and economic advantage over the other competing ethnic blocs.

Regardless of his seemingly dwarfed stature at home, the Olu remains a respected voice in the affairs of Delta State and the country at large.

Major Mustapha Jokolo, Emir of Gwandu
Early last year, the Emir of Gwandu, retired Major Jokolo led a powerful delegation of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on a mission to the Middle Belt to try and woo back states in the region who in the North's perception were backsliding from the unraveling political monolithic one North construct. The mission on the behest of ACF is vintage realpolitiks from perhaps a region where the theoretical de-linking of Emirs from politics is alien in practice.

Beyond the Middle Belt offensive, the Emir of Gwandu could perhaps illustrate the shortcomings in attempting to traditionally isolate young, articulate and dynamic men politically, against the background of emerging republican, presidential democracy.

The Emir of Gwandu had also come to the defence of General Muhammadu Buhari against accusations of corruption. This position is perhaps natural given that the ANPP presidential candidate was his boss in the army. But the Emir of Gwandu is highly respected not just in the North but also in the South. In fact, Jokolo wields much influence in the scheme of things, a factor being attributed to his military and royalty background. Born in present day Kebbi state in 1952, young Mustapha enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1973 from where he rose to become the aide-de-Camp to General Buhari when the later was military Head of State. Jokolo has served as chairman of the Kebbi state council of Chiefs and member of Tradional Rulers and Elders Committee. Apart from being influential politically, he is also said to be a royal father with immense financial clout.

Alhaji Aliyu Mustapha, Lamido Adamawa
The Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Mustapha is a particularly powerful traditional ruler. The Lamido mounted the throne as the 11th monarch of Adamawa Emirate in 1953, the same year as the Queen of England. He has continued to wield enormous influence within the government circle, both in Adamawa State and in Nigeria as a whole.

He has the distinguish honour of being the traditional ruler of Adamawa, where the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar hails from. He has spent 50 eventful years on the throne.

At the Lamido's 50 years anniversary as traditional ruler, which held last month, the Governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna recalled the Lamido's memorable times: "Lamido was indeed one of the last historical figures of contemporary Nigeria. He had survived the colonial powers, seen the nation's attainment of independence as well as lived through the civil war. Alhaji Mustapha survived all the military regimes as well as the five attempts at democratic governance in the nation and is currently actively enjoying the computer age with the rest of the people."

Lamido has always been an advocate of the need for traditional ruler to be involved in governance at the local level. He is highly respected even without having administrative control over his people. He however feels there should be constitutional role for the traditional rulers in the country. He said recently during his Golden Jubilee anniversary that the past 50 years have witnessed some changes and challenges in Nigeria's existence. According to him, one of these changes is the gradual eroding of the official powers of traditional rulers across the country. However, traditional rulers have been able to readjust and to remain the most reliable channels for the maintenance of peace and stability throughout the country."

Highbred Mommoh, The Otaru of Auchi

The story is told of how the Otaru resolved the seeming impasse in the ambition of some of his subjects who individually wanted his blessing to contest the local government election. Turn between whom to support, he lean on the wisdom of King Solomon. The Otaru is said to have summoned all the aspirants to his palace.

And the test was administered. All the aspirants were asked to write their names on a separate piece of paper each. Under the supervision of a 6-year old girl. That done, all the papers were wrapped and squeezed together. They were then told that each person will pick one of the piece of papers and that anyone who picked his own name will be the candidate endorsed by the gods for the election and that all others will have to support him. With that agreed by all, each of them was made to go through the process of picking one wrap. By a curious twist of fate the only person who initially kicked against the process as undemocratic eventually picked his own name. And immediately all others pledged their support.

An ingenious way to resolve a conflict of ambitions among his subjects, no doubt. But that is vintage Aliu Highbred Momoh, the 10th Otaru of Auchi . He is arguably one of the most influential traditional rulers in Edo state today. He welds enormous political influence on the lives of his people. Every aspiring politician must seek his endorsement to pursue his or her political ambition.

A solicitor of law and a Chartered Accountant by training, he seats atop the ancient kingdom of Auchi, with a predominantly Muslim population.

Since his ascension to the royal prestigious throne in 1996, he has brought his enormous managerial experience on the affairs of the kingdom. Reputed to be the most educated and most enlightened Otaru ever produced in the history of the kingdom, Momoh who made friends across business circles as Group Director of Finance of Christlieb. He retired and went into full time business before he was elected to the royal throne.

He has re-asserted the authority of the Otaru of Auchi above all the clans, mobilized all the traditional rulers of Edo North and Esan land to more prominence in the affairs of the state.

He is also of the champions and promoters of Afemai National Council, a forum of Afemai professionals who regularly meet to deliberate on the way forward for the Zone.

Alhaji Suleiman Adamu, Emir of Bauchi

Alhaji Suleiman Adamu is one traditional ruler that commands considerable influence and respect in the traditional circle of the country. Politically, he is also a figure whose views are well respected and taken seriously. In the height of the rife disputations that trailed the results of the April Presidential elections, Adamu was reported to have attempted some reconciliatory moves especially between President Obasanjo and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd). Shortly after his return from abroad where he had gone for medical treatment, the royal father disclosed that he had plans to convey a meeting of senior traditional rulers to reconcile Obasanjo and Buhari over the frayed nerves generated from the outcome of the April 19 elections. Emphasizing his overwhelming concern for peace in the polity, the monarch said that "we must put our heads together for a peaceful country, for the sake of future generations, we must build a solid political foundation, for the overall development of our society."

Prince Ado Ibrahim, Ohinoyi of Ebiraland

Prince Ado Ibrahim is one paramount traditional ruler from Kogi state whose pedigree is strong enough to attract political patronage if he so desires. But his royal highness does seem to believe that a dichotomy should exist between politics and the traditional institution. In the run-up days to the last general elections, the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland was quoted to have denied allegations that he was supporting a political party while relegating the others: "I don't belong to any political party but I belong to the people. I belong to President Olusegun Obasanjo. I will always remain his friend." Perhaps not to ruffle the powers that be in the state, royal father quickly added: "I am a friend of the Kogi state governor but I am not a politician. I was in politics long time ago and I made my mark without blemish." However, some pundits have argued that being both the President's and the governor's friend as Ibrahim claimed, could be tantamount to being close to the corridors of power where he could influence political benefits if the need arises. And as if to stamp his belief in the separateness of politics and traditional rulership, the Ebira monarch had once taken on a prominent senatorin the immediate past senate, declaring him a personal non-grata in his domain. The royal father had alleged that the senator was among those responsible for the incessant crisis, which plagued his community claiming lives and properties worth millions of naira. Ibrahim emphasized that it was his responsibility to ensure that peace reigned in his domain, adding that he would not fold his arms and watch anybody disrupt the existing peaceful co-existence of his people. He also vowed that appropriate disciplinary action would continue to be meted out on disloyal subjects in his domain.

Born in February 1929, Ibrahim holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He also attended the London school of Economics and the Fletcher school of Diplomacy. His wealth of educational experience has been put into building a considerable private business, which he still oversees till date despite his commitment to the traditional institution of his people. Besides maybe employing his political contacts for the advantage of his business empire, it is to be seen how much clout he can actually pull on the political front.

Oba Oladele Olashore, Ajagbusi of Iloko

A traditional ruler in Osun State, who is also said to be influential is the former Finance Secretary in the defunct Interim National Government, Oba Oladele Olashore, the Ajagbusi-Ekun of Iloko-Ijesa. Born on February 17, 1935 in present day Ogun state, the monarch attended the University of Ghana as well as the Leeds college of Commerce, England between 1961 and 1963. It was from this beginning that he built a career in banking, culminating in his appointment as the managing Director of IBWA in 1980. And in 1993 he was named Secretary for Finance during the Intrim National Goverment. And in a way, since then he has not shied away from national issues . For instance recently he commended the Federal Government's economic policies even as he demanded for specific roles for traditional rulers.

Olashore, said that "government is actually pursuing credible economic development programmes but has its limitations."

"Although there is much to show for economic development there is little for growth. we still have a long way to go but the mistake of many years cannot be corrected in a short time," he said.

The monarch who is also the Chairman of Lead Merchant Bank, cautioned that government should start pursuing a political system that would suit our "own background and circumstance."

"It is imperative that we reconstruct our civilian government. Our system should suit our background. We are aping people who are not of the same mental attitude as we are" asking "in America or Europe how many times have you heard them talking about impeachment?" Under such a system, he noted royal fathers should be accorded their dues.

"If we want to talk of grassroots, government, we are very close to the people and every traditional ruler has a role to play to the people. Since I became traditional ruler, I have been able to see the extent of neglect of the rural people, poverty, ignorance of the people and lack of infrastructure," he said. While noting that such roles, if granted, would enhance development, he argued that traditional rulers would know the relevant projects to suit his people best.

Who Are We ? | About | THISDAY People | Contact Us
© Copyright 2000 Leaders & Company Limited