Nothern traditional rulers
Recent call by the Alayetoro of Ayetoro-Ekiti, Oba Samuel Olufisan Ajayi, seeking roles for traditional rulers in the nation’s security architecture and the suspension of the Emir of Yandoto Tsafe Local Council of Zamfara State, Aliyu Marafa for conferring a chieftaincy title on a notorious bandit leader and criminal, Ado Aleru, represent two inconsistent positions about traditional rulers’ involvement in security management in the country. The condemnable Zamfara event, is a contradiction of Oba Ajayi’s proposal, and provides ground for rejecting any special role on security for traditional rulers.
While lamenting the state of insecurity in the country, specifically the southwest, the Ekiti State monarch had urged the federal government to give specific roles to traditional rulers in the management of security in the country. Indeed, Oba Ajayi’s proposal may not be illogical since as he rightly argued, no one knows the local terrain more than the traditional ruler. In time past when a stranger enters a community, it is customary for the traditional ruler of that community to be aware.
On the other hand, whereas the action of the Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle in checking the controversial Emir is commendable, there is evidently no presence of government in some communities in the north west. Studies carried out in some local councils have shown that indigenes in some communities feel more secure with the bandits’ occupation than with the administration of their elected officials. In some cases, with bandits’ administration there is security and relative peace. In fact, it has been observed that indigenes defer to them, while community leaders pay them allegiance for self-preservation given government’s crass failure to secure citizens.
Palace officials of the emirate, who justified the turbanning of Aleru, had described the bandit leader as a “peace maker” who was instrumental in reconciling bandits and the communities in the emirate. Besides, given the status and VIP representations at the chieftaincy ceremony, it is evident that powerful individuals in the society are behind Aleru and his activities. What is apparent is that law and order in that domain is an area where the state and local government have failed woefully.
Notwithstanding, there is every reason to be worried about what happened in Zamfara. Firstly, there is the culpable naiveté of a public official and community leader, who without qualms, would flagrantly express distrust for the state to provide the necessary structure for security and enter into a deal with bandits for peace and security in his community. Furthermore, whatever the good intention of the emirate, this paper vehemently condemns the action of Marafa because the bandits who Aleru leads are criminals who have killed about 100 people. Ordinarily, it is at such events that the police and relevant security forces would professionally carry out their duty of putting a halt to the event, swooping on the bandit leader and arresting him and his cohorts. However, what was observed was a grand display of impunity and die-may-care attitude to the law, with unscrupulous elements adorned by police protection.
No one needs to be convinced that this is a clear tell-tale sign of a compromised security system or a negligent government unserious about security of vulnerable people. In one breath, this government expresses its punitive powers by invading the homes and communities of law breakers and arresting perceived offenders, and in another breath a traditional ruler is giving chieftaincy title to a criminal. While the suspension of the emir is a step in the right direction, a mere suspension from office is not enough. The emir should be arrested, prosecuted to face stiffer sanctions that will serve as deterrence to others. If nothing is as shameful and scandalous as this, then what is? It is only the failure of the Nigerian state that can be adduced as a reason for this recklessness and impunity.
There is merit in the claim that traditional rulers are very conversant with their vicinities; and, in any event, security being the business of everybody, traditional rulers by virtue of their status should be in the forefront of providing security for the community, through appropriate counseling and the passing of useful information to community and state police. All they need is to exploit this position to the full; and not abuse it, the way it was done in Zamfara.
To allow traditional rulers another role beyond the ones provided by their traditional positioning is to expand the latitude of importunity that has bedeviled this country. They should rather be content with their role as custodians of culture and tradition in their localities, and then work with legally recognised security agencies.
Just as security is the business of everybody so it is for traditional rulers. Since indigenous traditions have made them custodians of indigenous customs and culture, traditional rulers should use this good position to know the goings-on in their vicinities. They should put into maximum use the influence and prestige of their office to work with security agencies for successful outcomes. They should be concerned about the terrible level of carnage and destruction in the land.
In seeking out solutions, their allegiance should be to the civil authorities, and not to outlaws. Marafa is now a scape-goat of what a traditional ruler or a community leader should not be. Royal fathers and community leaders should not, like him, cross the line of legal authority or abuse the privilege statutorily bestowed on them.