Affront on historical institutions

Affront on historical institutions

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The creation of additional four emirate councils from the already existing one emirate in Kano State by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje is an affront on historical institutions.

Although he is not the first governor to have done this, the reasons remain the same in all cases of local council creations– to whittle down the powers of the existing rulers, and to show them that political power is superior to traditional power.

However, this has succeeded in most cases across Nigeria. The military in their high-handedness did not do half of what civilian government has done since the return of Nigeria to civil rule in 1999.

Often, governors who are below performance are threatened when traditional rulers criticise them. They look for ways to show that they are above correction– this appears to be the reason for the development in the ancient city of Kano. The governor knew, such a project could not have been popular in his first term, as the implications could be grave on his political career.

But someone noted that such a decision by a governor to curtail “an overbearing” monarch, “is not new in Nigeria, even during the colonial era.”

But history students say that the above assertion is not altogether correct.

In the colonial era, what happened in the Benin Kingdom is far from what is happening now. Then, it was an external colony using a superior force of power (the force of the guns) to suppress the peaceful coexistence, but with less military power, of some rural institutions. Today, a subject rises up to destabilise an already existing institution that precedes his forefathers because of quest to grab political power.  

Going down memory lane, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (who ruled 1888-1897) was the ba (king) of the Kingdom of Benin up till the British punitive expedition of 1897.

The attempt by the colonial power to install another, apart from the first son of the Oba, as king met with resistance because the Benin Kingdom thrives in the principle of primogeniture (a situation where only the first son succeeds his father as the ruler). This is why the Benin Kingdom is still intact; the succession to the throne has not been distorted, even after the deportation of Oba Ovonramwen.

Oba Ovonramwen died January 1914 in Calabar, becoming the West African ruler who was the last independent Oba (king) of the 500-year-old Benin Kingdom. Oba Ovonramwen tried to maintain his independence in the face of increasing British pressure but was able to delay for only a few years the annexation of his kingdom by the colonial nation.

What Oba Ovonramwen tried to do then in the face of opposition and the colonial power forcefully deported him is exactly what the political governors are doing today to their various traditional institutions when they are corrected.

So, the situation is not exactly the same. In the colonial era, it was a case of invaders seeking better sources of raw materials, colonies and trade. But now, it is a case of witch-hunt and “dog-eat-dog” exercise.   



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