With a hasty dismissal of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as victims of self-induced embroilment in a power tussle, we are denied vital lessons for national development. Again, there is the cynicism that Ganduje who is allegedly steeped in corruption, fecklessness and vendetta lacks the altruism that should underpin his dismantling of the Sanusi monarchy. But until Sanusi secures judicial validation, his royal influence remains vitiated as his centuries-old Kano emirate is split into five.
We must appropriate the development in Kano State as an opportunity to assess once again the relevance of the traditional institution to contemporary existence. In Nigeria, like some other parts of the world, communities at inchoate stages of development where they lacked defined institutions for cohesion might have had a need for traditional rulers. But with the development of great institutions for self-regulation, Nigeria does not need the traditional institution.
However, there is always the counter that even in developed Britain, there is a flourishing monarchy. But the ready riposte to this is that even in Britain, the monarchy is faced with an uncertain future. It could have been useful in the past when it was the bastion of colonialism.
Having played that iniquitous role that conduced to the advancement of Britain at the expense of colonised societies, it no longer has a place in the modern life of the citizens. Let the names of all national institutions in Britain be prefixed with “Royal, ” the British monarchy cannot predict its own fate after the exit of Queen Elizabeth. In Britain, there is one monarchy which is a national symbol of its past. This is unlike Nigeria where there is a rash of monarchies that are struggling to outdo themselves to attain national limelight. Britain cannot be our inspiration since it is not the most developed country in the world. Indeed, the advancement of Britain might have been disrupted by its struggle between its modern epoch and its fossilised era located in its monarchy.
Again, there is the counter that today’s traditional rulers in Nigeria are highly educated. We are told that some of them are even professors. But we must insist that their education does not validate their existence. Their education does not stop them from adding under-aged girls to their harems. No wonder they cannot stop this plague in their communities. Indeed, the men who are prising these teenagers from the bosoms of their mothers are drawing their inspiration from them. Most of these professors who are fixated on their narrow disciplines are ready to defend a misbegotten system because they benefit from it. Again, being a professor does not automatically confer on one altruism. It is the same professors who fail to live up to moral expectations in their dealings with students and handling of official funds. It is the same professors who come to public office and get smudged with sleaze like barely educated politicians. How do we expect professors who would argue that the northern part of Nigeria is more qualified to get the benefits of oil resources because the oil in the Niger Delta flows from the north to repudiate the traditional institution?
Clearly, that we have chosen to perpetuate a monarchical system is one of the contradictions that this nation has failed to come to terms with. For this contradiction to be brought into sharp relief, we need to simply ask the question: Is Nigeria a kingdom or a republic? We say “the Federal Republic of Nigeria” and not “Federal Kingdom of Nigeria.” Since we pride ourselves on being citizens of a republic, we must not be weighed down by the incubus of monarchism. Even though we have been saddled with these pockets of monarchism for centuries, that does not make them right. Like many other contradictions in this country, we should rid ourselves of this unnecessary burden of monarchism in a republican society. But we are not oblivious of the difficulty of achieving this. The traditional rulers who are not useful to the development of our society are protected by politicians and other influential citizens who run to them for valourisation. During elections, politicians cosy up to traditional rulers to help them secure votes from their communities.
Sometimes, we are confronted with the bromide that traditional rulers play some roles. At the same time, there is the jaded demand for constitutional roles for monarchs. This is another contradiction. So, since they have not been given any role in the constitution they have not been performing any duty? So, it means that their existence all these years has been unnecessary? Nor can we consider their endless procreation on account of their ever-expanding harems a distinctive contribution to national development. How is this a contribution when armed robbers and kidnappers can lay claim to the same feat? In this regard, even the armed robbers and kidnappers are entitled to a higher honour since they procreate amidst planning and executing their crimes unlike traditional rulers who luxuriate in idleness. We have been warned that our national population is spiralling out of control. Save for the children of citizens who are still awaiting the joy of parentage, having more children from the five wives of a monarch cannot be part of our national achievement.
The traditional institution negates all sense of equity. The traditional rulers are not known to be the most hardworking people in the society, but they are part of the wealthy and influential class. Their flamboyant lifestyles are funded by the taxpayers who work so hard amid a mismanaged economy. While other citizens who work so hard can hardly survive, the traditional rulers have already planned ahead the wealth they would bequeath to their generations unborn. In the face of this inequity, where traditional rulers and politicians who do not work harder than the rest of the citizens get a disproportionate share of the national cake, it is self-delusion to think that the youths would brim with patriotic passion to serve their nation. No, they would rather look for any illegitimate opportunity to make money off the nation that would not reward excellence and industry.
This inequity in monarchism, especially its Nigeria’s version, is also seen in its patriarchal oppressiveness. In Nigeria, unlike Britain and some other parts of the world, the progenitors of royal lineages were men. Thus, it is only men who emerge from these lineages as kings. Yet, feminists would see nothing wrong with this. Rather, they would defend the inverted sense of freedom that would make their fellow women choose to be part of the harem of a traditional ruler.
However, we may make allowance for those who insist on being reminded of their distant past. In that case, there should be a system whereby at the level of a community, the citizens may have a traditional ruler. Such a ruler would be elected by the citizens who are equally eligible to contest for the same position. The traditional institution would thus be stripped of its hereditariness that seems to confer superiority on kings, queens, princes and princesses to the detriment of their fellow citizens. Worse still, through the hereditary process, the heir apparent always emerges as the king irrespective of the fact that he, like Ivan the Terrible, is a looney or a psychopath or a misanthrope.
Since we are in a republic, nobody should be considered superior to other citizens on account of their progenitor being a king eight hundred years earlier. Anyone who is actuated by a desire to be superior to the rest of humanity should attain that by his personal achievement. The other parts of the world that are advancing through their citizens are not relying on the achievements of some progenitors who died a thousand years ago. The young Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has not advanced his American society and the rest of humanity through the immediacy of interactions because his progenitor was a king a thousand years ago.
The richest man in the world today, Jeff Bezos, has not attained that position through which the American economy has been boosted and thousands employed because of his royal ancestry. How about Bill Gates, one of those who helped to make the world a global village through the computer? Does he belong to a royal lineage? The scientists and researchers who would find cures to cancer and AIDS and through that take away these plagues from humanity would not achieve these feats because their forefathers were kings. Even if these scientists and other people like Gates who have affected humanity positively chose to consider themselves superior to the rest of humanity, we would not begrudge them.
Since no benefit is conferred on humanity by the traditional institution made up of emirs, ezes, obis, olus, ivies, obas and others, it is high time we abolished it. This would save us time-wasting squabbles like the Ganduje and Sanusi’s.