The role of traditional rulers in Nigerian political governance and landscape

Traditional rulers in Nigeria typically are not considered political figures openly involved in the democratic system of government practiced at the national levels. This is due to many reasons, including Nigeria’s past history of war, the ethnocentric cultural reasons, the function of the traditional rulers as intermediaries and representatives of culture and tradition in modern society amidst globalization, to name a few. Almost every ethnic region in Nigeria holds tight to their traditional culture and way of life, and placing traditional rulers beyond this primary requirement of the position, might open a can of worms which could destabilize and intensify the current state of war.

Traditional rulers are seen as “exclusive” to the people of a given region, and oftentimes, attempts to broaden or “widen” this exclusivity is met with fierce resistance either sooner or later. Resistance which often leads to a power shift and change of the status quo from what it was before.

The question here is, what are the pros and cons of moving traditional authority positions into the general, national political arena, and do the pros outweigh the cons or the cons outweigh the pros.

Do democratic processes par with traditional governance and way of life, can the two meet or should they run parallel? Criss cross? Zig zag?

Is war inevitable and as such, would keeping traditional rulers out of the political landscape be considered a vital step in unification and peace processes?

The electorate being governed, most times are not open to  dialogue which would involve their losing their sovereignty or land. Would they be open to their traditional rulers being given  political posts, and if yes, would they be open to equal representation of other electorate groups at the different tiers of government and  the private sector. Noting the fact that imperialist ambitions might be found in groups which would undo the peace process and provide further imbalance beyond what is currently known.

Does moving traditional authority onto the national scene signify an absolute declaration of war?

The rulers are the representatives of the grassroots who are the actual people being governed and who hold the power at the most basic level (the foundation so to speak, of the government). They (rulers) are the official intermediaries between the grassroots and the elected political leaders. Would moving them into the wider arena create a void, vacuum or breed too much resentment to have a progressive impact on the wider scale?

A look at Nigeria’s history does not really or necessarily give hope in such scenarios.The southwest region brokered peace after spending much of the 19th century embroiled in civil wars which ravaged the region. To their credit, (some of) the traditional rulers brokered this peace by reaching out to the colonial powers (and missionaries) to intervene as neutral seeming parties, which they did. Although, by doing so, indigenous independence was lost and the modern Nigeria became a reality. However, the era of  wars saw massive displacement of peoples, widespread destabilization, overall loss of productivity and destruction of the family and cultural units which made up the society. Peace meant  attempts to transform the region into a wasteland, were halted and reconstruction could begin. Regardless of the fact that it was a long and tedious process beset by many woes and reminiscent of “the enemies at the gate” described to Nehemiah in the bible who were dedicated to making sure Judah was never rebuilt.


This little piece is a subjective and personal reflection on globalization, not intended as a discourse on any current events or persons. Any resemblance to either, is to be regarded as coincidence. No affiliation with any group, organization, etc either, save what I conjure up in my own imagination.


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