An Associate Professor and Head, Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr. Mohammed Buratai has taken a different stand on the agitation for the provision of constitutional roles for traditional rulers saying that under the present democratic dispensation, constitutional backing for traditional rulers would create more problems for the country.

This was contained in a paper presented at the Banquet Hall, Arewa House, Kaduna State during the 2nd National Conference on Culture, Peace and National Security: The Role of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria’s Democracy”, organized by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on Monday, 26th May, 2014, titled, “The Place of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria’s Democracy: A Cultural Perspective.”

Presented on his behalf by the Head, Department of Theatre and Cultural Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Professor Emmanuel Dandaura, through a historical analysis of the roles of traditional rulers in the governance of Nigeria, Buratai established the relationship between traditional rulers, democracy and culture, saying traditional rulers had played vital roles during the colonial era but wondered what role they would play now given the diversity of the traditional institutions in Nigeria.

Under the present democratic dispensation, it appears clear that the Constitution has not provided for traditional rulers, perhaps in appreciation of the possible conflicts of interest that might be generated through that act,” he stated.

Continuing, Burarai said: “In principle, it is not that the traditional rulers have been totally removed from the system; in fact the State Councils of Chiefs is still in existence and indeed very operational. There is also in place, a Ministry for Local don2Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the States of the Federation. In other domains of national life, traditional rulers are very active ceremonial heads of many governmental and non-governmental institutions, including primary functioning as Chancellors of our leading institutions of learning. At the state and local government levels, given that the State Councils of Chiefs are operational, they still occupy some advisory positions.”


“But whether they could or should be given constitutional roles as was the case during colonialism and indeed the first republic raises the big question. Certainly, there is no doubt that as leaders of the various ethnic/cultural groups they could serve as cohesive factors within their domain. However, it is doubtful if they could transcend this level given the rising profile ethnic ‘cleavaging’ in the body politic,” the university don averred.

He further maintained that given the nature of their succession based on lineage and heritage, the traditional ruling system is antithetical to the modern democratic system and therefore the two might find it hard if not impossible to mutually cohabit stressing that nations of the world that have aspiration for true democracy and where the traditional ruling system existed have long taken the decision about the institution because of the non-democratic or anti-democratic traits of the system.

According to him, other factors that worsened the effectiveness of traditional rulers include, the 1976 Local Government Reforms, which diminished the role of traditional institution in the democratic governance of local governments and the contradiction between traditional authorities and modern democracy.

Caleb Nor

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO, Abuja