LET me begin by quoting Sen.Dino Melaye, who said, If you speak, you die, if you also refuse to speak, you die. So why not speak and die ?
Some part of Nigeria constitution envisioned the respect for human rights hence the enjoyment of Political rights. These political rights enable citizens to actively participate in the political process and activities of the State.
Concomitantly, there are limitation on the extent an individual can engage in political activities depending on the position, status and role the individual play in the community or nation.
In Nigeria, certain professions or staff of certain State institutions cannot fully participate in political activities because of the role they play in national development. Such Institutions include the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Security agencies, Civil Servants, traditional leaders etc.
This is why I want to discuss why traditional leaders or chiefs should not engage in active partisan politics. It also focus on the dangers that are bound to occur when a traditional leader engage in partisan politics.
“Chief” means a person, who, hailing from the appropriate family and lineage, has been validly nominated, elected or selected and enstooled, enskinned or installed as a chief or queen mother in accordance with the relevant customary law and usage. (Delta chiefs law)
In addition the constitution also prohibits chiefs from participating actively in party politics
In recent times many traditional leaders/chiefs have pledge their support and openly declare their affiliation to political parties this is against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
These and many others dominate political discourse. Most people condemn such attitude by our highly respected chiefs.
Although the laws allow its citizens to participate in politics but traditional leaders/rulers who is a symbol of unity in his jurisdiction should not engage in active partisan politics. If such a leader participate in partisan politics it undermine that unique position and bring division in the community because people may oppose his party.
Another reason why it is peril for traditional leaders to engage in partisan politics is the judicial power vested in them to adjudicate minor disputes in their territory.
Engaging in partisan politics will undermine the confidence and independence of them in the dispensation of their judicial functions. This is very common in the rural areas.
Traditional leaders play a vital role in the development of their community. They lobby for developmental projects such as school hospitals roads etc. They also serve as a link between governments, non-governmental organizations and their people. When traditional leaders openly declare their support to a party and that party does not win election it will hinder the rate of development in the locality
Traditional leaders who meddle in partisan politics are often faced with challenges in the administration of people who belong to different political parties.
In conclusion traditional rulers should exercise their political right but should have in mind that they have a responsibility to protect the dignity of chieftaincy institution by remaining neutral in political activities. Chiefs are actively involved in the task of improving the effectiveness and the quality of development in the country especially those in the rural area.
Governments have a fixed tenure of office but traditional leaders do not, hence they should not be lured by appetizing offers and gifts by politicians to openly declare their support for them. Traditional rulers should remain neutral in politics and must be prepared to work with any government to ensure national development and safeguard the unity peace and security in their communities.
By Udoka Emmanuel Chika-dibie
Onosakponome of Niger Delta.